Solidarity is the key to the success of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in overcoming poverty and separation to become a united bloc with dynamic development over the past five decades, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has stated.

“The leaping development of ASEAN is the result of solidarity and unceasing efforts in the process to build an ASEAN Community on the three pillars of politics-security, economics and culture-society,” Deputy PM Minh wrote in an article on the occasion of the ASEAN Day (August 8).

Regarding the political-security pillar, the Deputy PM pointed out that the Bangkok Declaration that marked the birth of ASEAN in 1967 had clearly specified the goal of making joint efforts and sacrifices to ensure for their peoples and for posterity the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity.

Since then, ASEAN has adopted many important documents such as the Declaration of ASEAN Concord (1976), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC-1976), the South East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SANWFZ-1995), the Declaration on Conduct of Parties on the East Sea (DOC-2002) and the ASEAN Charter (2008). These documents have become standards for the relations among ASEAN member countries as well as between ASEAN and its outside partners.

For these reasons, ASEAN has attracted many major partners, with such big political-economic powers as the US, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India and the EU continuing to enhance their ties with the grouping through mechanisms initiated and led by ASEAN, including ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+).

In the East Sea issue, ASEAN has also demonstrated its role and responsibility in ensuring peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region. When China illegally installed its rig in violation of Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, threatening security and navigation safety in the East Sea, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting on May 10, 2014 issued a statement on the East Sea, strongly reiterating the principles on respecting international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The issuance of a statement dedicated to the East Sea issue for the first time in 20 years demonstrates ASEAN’s common concern over the tense developments in the East Sea. The statement confirms the bloc’s responsibility for peace and stability in the region as well as its solidarity in the face of difficulties and challenges.

Discussing the economic pillar, Deputy PM Minh stressed that ASEAN works as an important driving force for regional economic-trade linkages. Less than a decade after the establishment of the ASEAN Free Trade Zone (AFTA) in 1992, regional economic connectivity expanded to cover most major economic sectors from trading in goods to trading in services and investment.

When the financial crisis enveloped Asia in 1997-1998, not a few opinions hastened to forecast that ASEAN would draw back into trade protectionism. On the contrary, it was ASEAN that breathed new life into economic-trade linkages in East Asia with the formation of a network of Free Trade Zones with important partners in the region (FTA+1) such as China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. In addition, ASEAN actively pushed forward a range of economic-trade cooperative programmes with powers such as the US, Canada, the EU and Russia. Amid the gloomy global economic picture, ASEAN emerged as a bright spot with an average growth of 5-6 percent even during the most difficult time of 2011-2012.

Together with political-security and economic cooperation, socio-cultural ties is a pillar of the ASEAN Community which aims for a harmonious, united, sharing and caring community of ASEAN nations. At the same time, “unity in diversity” is also a unique feature of the bloc, a regional characteristic treasured and respected by ASEAN countries.

Looking back Vietnam’s 19-year ASEAN membership, Deputy PM Minh affirmed that the country has built its image and prestige as an active, proactive and responsible member which does everything it can for the association.

“A strong and closely-knitted ASEAN community is a priority and an interest that Vietnam pursues,” Minh said.

The top diplomat outlined the tasks that Vietnam, together with other ASEAN member countries, will carry out in the road ahead.

First of all, the bloc will devote utmost resolve and endeavours to the successful building of the ASEAN Community.

Secondly, ASEAN’s central role should be strengthened and upheld in different aspects and scales. According to Minh, ASEAN should continue to uphold its standards and codes of conduct such as its Charter, the TAC, SEANFWZ and DOC and using them as the foundation to build a common code of conduct for the region as a whole, while promoting the building of a multi-level regional structure in which ASEAN plays the core role. At the same time, the bloc should shore up its internal economic strength to serve as a basis for enhancing internal and external economic links.

Thirdly, mechanisms for both internal cooperation and collaboration with partners should be strengthened in order to respond timely and effectively to traditional and non-traditional security challenges, particularly those related to territorial and sea and island disputes, natural calamity, diseases and the environment.

Fourthly, a vision beyond 2015 for the ASEAN Community should be build based on the accomplishments ASEAN has made over the past nearly five decades. Minh said the year 2015 is just a milestone marking ASEAN’s transition to a new period of regional cooperation at a higher level towards more sustainable peace, deeper economic linkage and integration and more practical benefits for the people.

As an integral part and a responsible member of ASEAN, Vietnam’s future will continue to bind with ASEAN on the road towards regional connectivity and integration for peace, security, stability and prosperity for 600 million people of the bloc, the Deputy PM wrote in conclusion of the article.