Many foreign news agencies covered the teleconferenced 36th ASEAN Summit chaired by Vietnam on June 26, highlighting COVID-19 as one of its focuses.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the press conference following the 36th ASEAN Summit on June 26 (Photo: VNA)
Notably, AP reported that the event aimed to show unity and discuss a regional emergency fund to respond to the immense crisis brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
The news agency said the ASEAN leaders talked online due to regional travel restrictions and health risks that delayed dozens of meetings and shut out the ceremonial sessions, group handshakes and photo-ops that have been the trademark of the 10-nation bloc’s annual summits.
Despite this, Vietnam still organised a colorful opening ceremony with traditional songs and dances in Hanoi for about 200 Vietnamese officials and foreign diplomats. They showed up without masks and sat close to each other while the heads of state watched remotely on their screens, the article wrote.
AP also cited Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is a test for ASEAN, and it is fanning the flame of dormant challenges in the political, economic and social environment and helping escalate frictions among major powers.
Southeast Asian nations have been impacted by the pandemic differently, with hard-hit Indonesia grappling with more than 50,000 infections and more than 2,600 deaths, and the tiny state of Laos reporting just 19 cases. The diverse region of 650 million people, however, has been an Asian COVID-19 hot spot, with a combined total of more than 138,000 confirmed cases that have well surpassed those of China, where the outbreak started.
The economic toll has been harsh, with ASEAN’s leading economies, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, facing one of their most severe recessions in decades, according to the news agency.
AP noted that a high-priority project was the establishment of an ASEAN COVID-19 response fund which could be used to help member states purchase medical supplies and protective suits. A regional stockpile of medical supplies has also been approved.
36th ASEAN Summit makes history amid COVID-19: Malaysian news agency
Malaysia’s news agency Bernama has run an article titled “36th ASEAN Summit made history amid COVID-19”.
According to the article, the 36th ASEAN Summit, which was held virtually for the first time, witnessed leaders of the member states reaffirming their commitment for the need to further bolster cooperation in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although restricted by movement and space, where leaders of the grouping had not been able to meet physically in Vietnam this time – including to perform the ASEAN tradition of crossover handshake – the meetings and interactions had proceeded virtually and in high spirit,” it wrote.
Under the chair of Vietnam, the one-day summit, which carried the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, saw leaders discussing a wide range of issues and cooperation concerning the region, with focus on the need for a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan for ASEAN.
Bernama quoted Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his opening remarks at the 36th ASEAN Summit as saying that ASEAN must also be prepared to deal with the challenges ahead.
He said for the latter half of 2020, the challenge would be for governments of the ASEAN member states to lead ASEAN out of this period of adversity, adding that if succeeded, it will stand as a testament to the lasting values and vitality of ASEAN Resilient and Dynamic Community.
According to PM Phuc, in addition to maintaining good control of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN should promptly repair its damage, and revitalise the economy and resume our economic development.
The 36th ASEAN Summit will be an occasion for ASEAN member states to reassert our spirit of solidarity, our strong political will and commitment to rise above the adversities of the pandemic and keep forging ahead, he said.
The article said the Summit this time also saw the ASEAN Leaders' Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age – which was to affirm the leaders commitment to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and to enhance the role of women in building the ASEAN Community – being held for the first time.
The 36th summit was initially scheduled to be held on April 6 to 9 in Da Nang, but was rescheduled due to COVID-19.VNA