|ASEAN leaders at the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand
The summits were held as online meetings on April 14 and were chaired by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The focus of both meetings is for members to discuss co-operation in anti-epidemic activities, whilst also receiving support from Japan, the RoK, and China in the hope that they can help member states deal with the increasingly complicated developments of the pandemic.
At present the COVID-19 has hit over 200 countries and territories worldwide, causing approximately two million infections and more than 100,000 deaths, with these figures representing the severity of the epidemic. All 11 member states in Southeast Asia have so far reported cases, with some countries enduring challenges such as Malaysia and the Philippines as they close in on 5,000 confirmed cases.
The increasing number of cases has led to many health experts warning of the risk that Southeast Asia could become the next epicentre of the pandemic, a dangerous scenario bearing in mind the limited health care systems in some regional nations. With avoiding this potential outcome being the focus of talks, ASEAN members understand the urgent need to promote solidarity whilst taking up proactive adaptive measures to keep the pandemic in check, thus minimising the socio-economic impact felt among member states.
Immediately after COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the region, Vietnam has been active in performing its role as ASEAN Chair 2020 to promote solidarity, proactive adaptation, and co-operation between members and partners with the aim of taking drastic measures to halt the spread of the disease.
Moving forward, co-operation activities are to concentrate on sharing accurate and updated information regarding the ongoing epidemic situation, each member’s experience in epidemic prevention and control, research results, whilst also providing support in the form of medical equipment and supplies for those in need. Moreover, Vietnam has also chaired a range of meetings at various levels in a bid to ensure that all 11 ASEAN members have agreed on a common stance regarding the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nation has also put forward proposals to form a backup warehouse for medical equipment, in addition to building a common ASEAN response process to cope with the ever-changing situation.
In a recent interview given to a Tokyo-based VOV correspondent ahead of the two important summits in which Vietnam takes on the role of ASEAN Chair, Asano Katsuhito, former Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, said the country undertaking the role of ASEAN Chair at this time is appropriate due to the Vietnamese government adapting fastest and most effectively to implement anti-epidemic measures to combat the COVID-19.
|Asano Katsuhito, former Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan
Katsuhito also praised the nation’s epidemic prevention efforts by restricting entry into the country, conducting medical checks, isolating entrants, and strictly putting in place social distancing measures such as locking down areas where outbreaks were detected.
Regarding co-operation between participating countries to combat the COVID-19, the Japanese official stated that all ASEAN member states, Japan, the RoK, and China need to come up with a common institution capable of responding to the pandemic.
He underlined the urgent need to create co-operative institutions, enhance bilateral and multilateral ties, along with sharing information, technology, and medical research. The measures taken by the Vietnamese government in the fight against the epidemic serve as an exemplary model for other countries, he added.
The summits will discuss urgent measures aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, with a special emphasis placed on the key pillars of the ASEAN Community, as well as co-operation with its three partners China, the RoK, and Japan. Whilst these countries had once been the epicentre of the epidemic, they are each in a battle to prevent any recurring outbreaks.
With UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres affirming that no single country can beat the COVID-19 pandemic by acting alone, promoting ASEAN unity to repel the pandemic will be the primary goal of Vietnam in its capacity as ASEAN Chair 2020.