ASEAN Foreign Ministers Convene Series of Meetings amid Region's COVID-19 Spikes

8:57:02 AM | 8/3/2021

ASEAN Foreign Ministers convened 54th ministerial meeting (AMM) in virtual format on August amid complicated evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.

During the meeting, the regional foreign ministers reviewed the progress of the ASEAN Community building, the bloc’s external relations and regional and international issues of shared concerns.

The ministers welcomed the initiatives such as the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN Shield) [which was designed to enable swift and collective response in mitigating impacts of emergencies and disasters], and the Consolidated Strategy on the Fourth Industrial Revolution for ASEAN [which is expected to contribute to the region’s recovery efforts and its overall long-term resilience].

As the COVID-19 pandemic has re-emerged in several member countries, the ministers emphasized the need for ASEAN to intensify exchanges and experience sharing with its partners in research, development, production and distribution of vaccines.

They underlined called for prompt implementation of the ASEAN Action Plan on vaccine security and self-reliance, the ASEAN Regional Reserve of medical supplies for public health emergencies, and the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.

The ministers unanimously agreed that ASEAN would establish dialogue partnership with the UK and sectoral dialogue partnership with Brazil; welcomed and approved the proposals to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) by the Netherlands, Greece, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Denmark, while continuing to affirm the principles and values of the treaty in sustaining peace and security in the region.

The ministers had in-depth discussions on regional and international issues of common concerns such as the East Sea, the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East. In the face of complicated developments in the East Sea, the ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea, expressing concerns over accretion and other serious events, including damage to the marine environment.

The ministers reaffirmed the consistent position of resolving disputes through peaceful means on the basis of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), calling for exercising self-restraint and avoiding threat or use of force.

They also underscored the importance of full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), welcomed the resumption of negotiations for a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) between ASEAN and China, and stressed the need to maintain a favorable environment for COC negotiations, and to continue efforts towards an effective and practical COC in line with international law, including the UNCLOS 1982.

The participating countries reaffirmed ASEAN’s desire to support Myanmar to overcome its current turmoil and find a solution that would benefit Myanmar’s people. The countries also discussed the dispatch of ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy to Myanmar.

The ministers agreed on urgent provision of humanitarian assistance through the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management to help Myanmar cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing the meeting, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son reassured Viet Nam support for Brunei’s efforts in promoting the ASEAN Community building process and realization of priorities and initiatives this year as the country is currently the Chair of ASEAN.

In the face of the COVID-19, Bui urged ASEAN countries to utilize cooperation opportunities to accelerate procurement of vaccines and transfer of production technology while promoting the internal strength of a resilient and cohesive community.

He pledged that Viet Nam will continue proactive and responsible engagement in drafting ASEAN Community’s Post-2025 Vision, and appreciated other countries’ support for organizing a forum on sub-region cooperation by the end of this year.

Bui expressed concerns over complicated developments in such hotspots as the Korean Peninsula, the East Sea as well as non-traditional security challenges like cybersecurity, climate change, marine environment degradation.

He affirmed that peace, security, safety, and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea are in the common interests of all countries, but there are still activities that go against international law, thus he asked ASEAN to maintain the principled position and uphold international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

Bui emphasized the importance of the 1982 UNCLOS as the basis for determining the rights and legitimate interests of coastal states and as a framework regulating all activities in all seas and oceans.

Regarding the Myanmar situation, the minister underlined the need to implement the Five-point Consensus and asked for stepping up humanitarian assistance to Myanmar’s people who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 54th AMM will be followed by a series of related meetings, including the 23rd ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Council Meeting, the 29th ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forums from August 2-8.

Source: VGP