Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh made the statement in an interview granted to the media after three-day regional meetings concluded in Brunei on July 2.
Minh said as the 2015 deadline is drawing near, the ministers agreed to speed up the building of the ASEAN Community, considering this as top priority.
They called on all ASEAN member countries to mobilise all resources to realise the grouping’s key cooperation programmes, including the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC),and the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and Narrowing the Development Gap, now in the second phase of its Work Plan.
To this end, it is imperative to further enhance operational and coordination efficiency among agencies and organisations of ASEAN, especially the ASEAN Secretariat.
The ministers concurred that ASEAN should better perform its leading role in the evolving regional architecture, and its vital role in dealing with regional important issues, particularly in ensuring an environment of peace, security and stability in the region.
ASEAN should further develop political and security tools in the region such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS), and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM +), while strictly fulfilling commitments set forth in documents, including the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ).
It needs to effectively respond to traditional and non-traditional security challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, and diseases, they said.
In addition, they said ASEAN should further deepen relations with its dialogue partners, and encourage them to take part in making a positive contribution to the common objectives of regional peace, stability and development, and the establishment of the ASEAN community.
To date, 74 non-ASEAN countries have appointed Ambassadors to ASEAN, and in turn ASEAN has established 40 committees in the third countries.
Minister Minh said ASEAN is currently drafting General Guidelines on promoting relations with external partners, celebrating 10 years of the ASEAN-China strategic partnership, 40 years of its dialogue relations with Australia and New Zealand, 25 years of its dialogue relations with the Republic of Korea, and considering upgrading the relationship with the European Union to a partnership status. It is also drafting a plan of action to implement the ASEAN-Australia strategic comprehensive partnership.
An important thing is that all the partners voiced their support for ASEAN’s central role in addressing issues in the region, as well as within the framework of ASEAN +1, ASEAN +3, EAS, ARF, and ADMM +, Minh said.
According to the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, the East Sea took the centrepiece of many discussions at meetings. Representatives of the participating countries stressed the importance of peace, security, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.
In the face of the complicated situation in the region, most countries agreed that the parties concerned should restrain themselves from further actions, settle disputes through peaceful means, fully implement existing commitments, and adhere to international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and DOC. They stressed the need to build a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) as soon as possible to address the issue.
Minh said ASEAN and China agreed to work on COC formulation at the senior official meeting (SOM) level. The participating countries welcomed the move and hoped both sides would early kick-start COC negotiations.
He said at these meetings, Vietnam shared its stance on ASEAN’s future direction, saying after 2015 the grouping needs to build on its past achievements and promote its values, principles and standards of conduct to those of the whole region.
It emphasised the importance of ASEAN’s solidarity and its central role in maintaining an environment of peace, security, stability and cooperation in the region, by building and sharing the principles and standards of conduct, respecting the principles of international law, peacefully settling disputes, and bringing into full play the political and security tools in the region, such as the Treaty of TAC, SEANWFZ, DOC, ARF, and ADMM +.
Vietnam proposed “ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Cooperation on Disaster Management" to be issued at the upcoming 23rd ASEAN Summit in October 2013 to heighten the grouping’s central and leading role in this field.
As the coordinator of the EU-ASEAN dialogue relations, Vietnam co-chaired the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, discussing measures to enhance bilateral relations, encouraging the EU to actively participate in regional activities through the implementation of the Action Plan on Strengthening ASEAN-EU Partnership towards a free trade agreement between the two regions.
Vietnam proposed a number of initiatives, including promoting ASEAN’s potential and opportunities in the EU to attract European investment, especially from the private sector, and identifying the roadmap for upgrading bilateral relations and preparing for the 20th ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers Meeting.
It also made a significant contribution to boosting cooperation between Mekong River Commission countries and their dialogue partners, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the US. It proposed strengthening cooperation in proper and sustainable management and use of water resources, early conducting research on sustainable management and development of the Mekong River, associated with ASEAN’s connectivity and development programmes.
Regarding the East Sea issue, Minh said Vietnam proposed strengthening confidence-building measures, including establishing effective communication channels, cooperating in preventing incidents, developing a mechanism for search and rescue for boats and fishermen in distress at sea, and setting up a hot line between ASEAN and China on maritime issues. It also underlined the need for assistance and humane treatment for fishermen at sea.
Vietnam welcomed ASEAN-China agreement on official COC consultations at the SOM level, as well as the organisations of the 6th ASEAN-China Senior Officials Meeting and their 9th Working Group Meeting in China this September.