Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc made the remarks as he was responding to reporters at a press briefing held Friday evening in Hà Nội, after the 36th summit and a series of related meetings where regional leaders spoke with important stakeholders in the ASEAN community.
As the virus situation in the Southeast Asian region is now starting to be under control, member states are looking to stimulate the domestic and intra-regional economy and they would appreciate if China and the US – both important strategic partners of ASEAN – could put aside their differences and cooperate to realise the goals of a prosperous, stable and peaceful region.
The Vietnamese Government leader said that Việt Nam and ASEAN would not pick a side, reiterating that the US and China are both partners with large volumes in trade.
ASEAN wants to organise meetings with China and the US to improve cooperation on disease response, maintaining trade and ensuring that the supply chains would go undisrupted, in the service of post-pandemic recovery.
“This would benefit China and the US as well as ASEAN member states,” PM Phúc said, adding that ASEAN has been finding ways to engage and cooperate with both countries in the challenging times in the past and in the future.
“We hope nations in the world could get closer, more united, and supportive of each other to rise above the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Vietnamese Government leader stressed.
Calling COVID-19 a massive loss, PM Phúc said ASEAN has carried out timely actions, with initiatives such as a COVID-19 response fund, regional medical supplies reserve and a standard protocol dealing with public health issues all highly appreciated by parties within and outside ASEAN.
South China Sea
Responding to questions over the impacts of COVID-19 on talks to complete the Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea between China and ASEAN, PM Phúc said peace and security in the region and the world at large lies at the heart of the ASEAN Community, therefore ASEAN has been making numerous efforts – from maintaining dialogues, promoting cooperation, and building mechanisms and protocols dictating behaviours on the South China Sea.
“This summit has reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitments to build the South China Sea into a sea of cooperation, development, security and safety, befitting its position as a critical component of the region,” PM Phúc said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily put a brake on COC negotiations, but Việt Nam and ASEAN have “refrained from acts that complicate the situation on the sea, and fully complied with international laws,” pledging to strictly abide by the stipulations in the existing Declaration of the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.
“ASEAN leaders agreed that while incidents and frictions might be unavoidable, we call on all parties to exercise restraint and avoid complicating the situation,” PM Phúc said.
High degree of consensus
Speaking on the outcomes of the plenary summit between ASEAN leaders, PM Phúc said that while this year’s summit is the first conducted online in more than 50 years of ASEAN history, all heads of states were present and have “attained a high degree of consensus on a number of key issues.”
He declared the 36th summit a grand success.
Member states have all expressed appreciation for the region’s response against COVID-19, with countries either managing to keep the caseload and fatalities low like Thailand or Việt Nam, or witnessing considerable improvements like Singapore or Malaysia.
Dealing with the pandemic and economic recovery efforts, especially commitment to avoid a resurgence of the virus, is among five priority areas discussed during the summit, PM Phúc said.
Building a robust and resilient ASEAN Community towards 2025, expanding and deepening foreign relations of ASEAN with partners based on mutual respect and mutual benefits, the need to uphold a peaceful and stable environment for development, and promoting the spirit of goodwill and rule of law in settling differences were also issues of discussion at the summit.
During the summit, PM Phúc said ASEAN leaders hoped that the Rakhine State issue in Myanmar would be handled “on the basis of humaneness,” and the issues between North Korea and South Korea would soon be resolved.
The Southeast Asian leaders have also expressed great interest in Palestine-Israel relations, the Vietnamese Government leader informed the media.
ASEAN leaders approved the ASEAN Chair's Statement on the outcomes of the 36th ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Leaders' Vision Statement on a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN, and the ASEAN Declaration on human resources development for the changing world of work. — VNS