Saturday, June 28, 2014

Time for ASEAN to assert role


The officials also discussed a strategy to help ASEAN better adapt to a new strategic environment while enhancing its common voice and responsibility on issues related to the region's strategic interests. — Photo Phuong Hoa

Viet Nam New - June, 28 2014 

HA NOI (VNS) — A special Senior Officials Meeting of ASEAN (ASEAN SOM) yesterday discussed ways to maintain the bloc's central role in protecting the region's strategic interests.

The officials also discussed the regional structure of the bloc after the planned ASEAN Community takes shape next year.

The Vietnamese delegation to the meeting was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh.

The Ha Noi meeting, initiated by Viet Nam at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Myanmar's capital city of Nay Pyi Taw in May, assessed the impact of recent geostrategic developments in the region and challenges posed by these to ASEAN's central role.

The officials also discussed a strategy to help ASEAN better adapt to a new strategic environment while enhancing its common voice and responsibility on issues related to the region's strategic interests.

They agreed that the geostrategic circumstances were changing rapidly in the region with many complicated developments "deeply affecting the environment of peace, security, stability and development."

The regional bloc is a crucial phase in the formation of the ASEAN Community by December 31, 2015, and the increasingly deep and extensive interference of big powers posed a challenge to the bloc's central role, according to the officials.

At the same time, growing regional economic connectivity through such frameworks as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Trans-Asia Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the trade liberalisation process within APEC are also testing ASEAN's ability to remain the primary driving force in the region.

ASEAN needs to consider new proposals on co-operative structures and the regional security environment. More than ever, member nations need to get together and strengthen the bloc's ability to promote and protect its common interests and seek ways to deal with major powers while proactively expressing its stance and proposing solutions for regional issues.

Accordingly, the officials said, ASEAN should strengthen mechanisms for co-operation within the bloc and between the bloc and partners with a view to enhancing its capacity in dealing with traditional and non-traditional security challenges, particularly sea and island disputes, natural disasters and epidemics.

National-regional harmony

They agreed that the bloc should push forward its consultation process in order to achieve consensus and a common voice by harmonising national and regional interests.

It should also continue building a regional structure on the basis of existing co-operative mechanisms while working harder to build values and basic principles towards the goal of putting in place a common code of conduct for the entire region.

All participants affirmed that the on-going complicated developments in the East Sea had seriously affected peace, stability, maritime security and safety in the region.

Therefore, they said, the developments were a matter of common concern on which ASEAN should raise its voice to demonstrate the bloc's central role and responsibility and the need to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.

The participants underlined the need to abide by international laws, in particular the 1982 United Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS), and related agreements in the region.

Regarding the latter, they stressed the need for "serious and full implementation" of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) to which China is a signatory, without the use of or threat to use force, while working towards an early adoption of a Code of Conduct on the East Sea (COC).

The meeting also discussed outcomes of the ASEAN-China Joint Working Group which took place in Bali from June 24-25, giving instructions on implementing the DOC and pushing for negotiations with China on the COC.

Proactive ASEAN

Deputy Foreign Minister Vinh said in the current regional context, ASEAN needed to promote unity and demonstrate its responsibility in issues related to peace, security and development in the region in order to uphold its central role.

In particular, the bloc should be more proactive in building codes of conduct in the region and bringing into play its core role in regional mechanisms such as ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM+).

Vinh provided updates on complicated developments in the East Sea as a result of China's illegal placement of its Haiyang Shiyou-981 rig as well as many escort ships including military ships and aircraft deep inside Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

He said Chinese ships had been continuously carrying out provocative acts like deliberately ramming and causing damage to Vietnamese law enforcement and civil vessels.

Such acts seriously violate international law, the 1982 UNCLOS and the DOC signed by ASEAN and China, he said.

He praised the statement of ASEAN foreign ministers issued on May 10 and called on the bloc to intensify efforts to ensure that international law, the UNCLOS, the DOC and ASEAN statements are enforced in reality.

First, China should end its violations and immediately pull its rig and ships out of Vietnamese waters, he said.

More than ever before, ASEAN should take the initiative in proposing mechanisms to ensure that stipulations of the DOC are respected and a COC is achieved as soon as possible, Vinh reiterated. — VNS

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