The 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-53) took place online in Hanoi on September 9.

At the event (Photo: VNA)

This is the first of the series of the annual AMM and between ASEAN and partners, one of the key events in the ASEAN Year 2020.

During the event, ASEAN foreign ministers said ASEAN has been continuously and actively strengthening cooperation, maintaining the community building momentum as well as effectively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid developments and increasing uncertainty in the world situation, including the ravaging pandemic, the risk of economic recession and increased competition among major countries, ASEAN has reaffirmed its strong commitment to maintaining the region of peace, stability, security and neutrality, in which international law is highly respected.

They agreed to continue efforts to implement the initiatives and priorities for the year, promote cooperation in response to the pandemic, and prepare a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan.

The FMs adopted the five-year Work Plan (2021-2025) of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the AICHR Priority Programme in 2021.

Regarding external relations, they recommended conducting the ASEAN – Australia Summit annually, granting the development partnership status to Italy and France, while continuing to consider proposals on becoming ASEAN’s full dialogue partners of countries. They also approved measures to improve the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) working methods.

Discussing regional and international issues of common concern, the FMs reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.

They agreed that ASEAN should persistently hold onto its principled position, emphasising self-restraints, peaceful settlement of all disputes on the basis of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

Participants also reiterated the importance of fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), striving to build an effective, substantive Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in accordance with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.

They agreed that ASEAN needs to continue its efforts to jointly deal with non-traditional security challenges such as terrorism, transnational crime, maritime security and safety, climate change, and epidemics.

ASEAN countries welcomed Vietnam, as the Chair of ASEAN 2020, for proactively putting forth initiatives, maintaining and promoting the coordination in COVID-19 prevention and control as well as building the ASEAN Community and strengthening the bloc’s centrality.

For his part, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh suggested ASEAN exert more efforts and strengthen cooperation to overcome difficulties and challenges, maintain the community building, and fully implement priorities and initiatives.

The official asked ASEAN to conduct an overall assessment of foreign relations, build and amend the criteria to consider the admission of a new dialogue partner.

Amid regional and global changes and instability, Minh suggested ASEAN strengthen solidarity and cooperation in views and actions on the basis of agreed principles, including those specified in the Declaration on the Importance of Maintaining Peace and Stability in Southeast Asia on August 8, 2020.

He expressed his concern over complicated developments and serious incidents in the East Sea which run contrary to international law and the 1982 UNCLOS, violate legitimate rights and interests of littoral nations, worsen tensions and cause harms to peace and security in the East Sea.

Minh called on ASEAN to maintain solidarity and principled stance, stressing the bloc needs to continue promoting compliance with international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS.

Later the same day, he chaired a series of related meetings via video, including the Meeting of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Commission, the 27th ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) Conference, and the Special Session of the ASEAN Coordinating Council Meeting on Sub-regional Development./.

Meeting of Commission for SEANWFZ Treaty held

The meeting of the Commission for the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) was held online on September 9 following the opening ceremony and plenary session of the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hanoi.

Chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, the event reviewed the implementation of the SEANWFZ and discussed ways to further promote the issue in the near future.

Reviewing the implementation of the Action Plan to enhance the treaty during the 2018-2022 period, the meeting took note of activities conducted by specialised agencies in the fields of ensuring nuclear security and safety, use of atomic energy for peaceful purpose, and improvement of capacity to deal with radiation incidents and disaster.

Participants spoke highly of enhanced cooperation between ASEAN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and suggested ASEAN Secretariat actively work with IAEA to effectively realise cooperation agreement signed in September 2019.

Reiterating commitment to maintain the Southeast Asia free from nuclear and other mass destruction weapons, ASEAN and SEANWFZ member states agreed to continue discussing and tackling barriers so that countries with nuclear weapons could soon sign Protocol of the Treaty.

The meeting reached consensus on measures to uphold the SEANWFZ’s contributions to global efforts to non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons and other mass destruction weapons, including popularising the SEANWFZ at the UN’s meetings and forums.

ASEAN 2020: Vietnam lauded for leading ASEAN Community through challenges

Foreign delegates lauded Vietnam for her efforts in leading the ASEAN Community through challenges, while attending the 27th ASEAN Coordinating Council as part of the online 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-53) and related meetings that opened on September 9.

The video conference was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

It was joined by ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi, ASEAN foreign ministers, ASEAN senior officials of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC), among others.

Vietnam has made tremendous efforts in maintaining cooperation and implementing fully, effectively and substantially the ASEAN Year 2020 initiatives, the session heard, stressing those efforts have proved successful.

Participants heard a report of the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies (ACCWG-PHE) on ASEAN response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which was delivered by Nguyen Quoc Dung, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, ASEAN SOM head, and Secretary General of the National ASEAN 2020 Committee.

They praised the ACCWG-PHE Group’s role in coordinating the COVID-19 response, saying they have contributed to the joint efforts in the COVID-19 fight and overall post-pandemic recovery.

Participants reviewed the reports and proposals made by the group. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh urged the group to actively implement the initiatives and agreements, thus submitting reports to the 37 ASEAN Summit slated for November this year.

AMM 53 is one of the highlights of Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year. The event consists of 20 meetings via video conference, joined by 27 delegations from four continents of different time zones. They include the 21st ASEAN 3 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 10th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum.

ASEAN 2020: sub-regional development on table on AMM-53 first working day

Sub-regional development was among the key topics of discussion during the first working day of the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-53) and related meetings on September 9.

The special session of the ASEAN Coordinating Council Meeting on Sub-Regional Development was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh. This is the first time the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) has held a separate session on the issue.

Addressing the event, President of the Asian Development Bank Masatsugu Asakawa spoke highly of Vietnam’s initiative on the inclusion of the sub-regional development into the overall development of ASEAN, saying it contributes to the regional efforts for post-COVID-19 recovery.

For his part, President of Economic Research Institute of ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) Hidetoshi Nishimura said ASEAN has promoted its central role in connecting and developing sub-regions in the region, such as the Mekong region, the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), and the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT).

The Mekong region can be a role model for sub-regional development in ASEAN during the cooperation process for sustainable development and prosperity of the region, he said.

Participants shared ideas on the challenges facing the ASEAN sub-regions, such as development gaps, hunger, food security – water source – energy, environmental pollution, and climate change.

They suggested ASEAN nations focus on different aspects of each sub-region such as boosting regional linkage, human resources development, public-private partnership (PPP), reshaping regional supply chain, and taking advantages of science and technology and digital economic development.

Minh underlined the significance and role of sub-regional cooperation in the region. “Through unity, cooperation and the spirit that no one is left behind, ASEAN has been successful. It is now the time for ASEAN to uphold its role, coordinate and support the sub-regional development in the region,” he said.

Also on the first working day, participants discussed other ASEAN and international and regional issues of mutual interest, including COVID-19 response and post-pandemic recovery plan.

AMM 53 is one of the highlights of Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year. The event consists of 20 meetings via video conference, joined by 27 delegations from four continents of different time zones. They include the 21st ASEAN 3 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 10th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum./.VNA