Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc gave an interview to The Nation newspaper of Thailand while attending the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok on June 22 and 23.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (front) at a plenary session of the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok
The followingis the full interview:
Reporter: What is the key message that Vietnam wants to deliver at thisSummit?
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc: First and foremost, we welcome the efforts made byThailand, the Chair of ASEAN 2019, to promote cooperation in accordance withthe theme this year "Advancing Partnership for Sustainability", so asto foster a strong ASEAN Community which is people-oriented, people-centeredacross all the three pillars. Vietnam endorses Thailand-sponsored initiatives,including those on strengthening social welfare for the elderly, enhancingthe complementarities between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the UN 2030Agenda for Sustainable Development, combating marine debris and illegal wildlifetrade, among others, and will actively participate in their implementation.
Given the complex developments in theregional and global environment, and growing strategic competition among majorpowers, Vietnam would like to join hands with other ASEAN member states to buildan ASEAN that is strong, resilient against all odds, and plays the central rolein the region. To this end, ASEAN needs to strengthen its solidarity, unity,sincerity, and candidness, and develop its one voice in response to the regionaland global issues.
We also wish to reaffirm that upon assumingthe ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020, Vietnam will continue building upon all theachievements made in the past years, thus contributing to realization of theASEAN Community Vision 2025 for a united, strong, resilient, and cohesive ASEANthat plays a key role in the region and the world.
Reporter: What is Vietnam's view on regional security issues, includingthe South China Sea?
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc: Maintaining peace, security and stability in theregion is the pre-requisite for sustainable development and prosperity of allnations. In the meantime, we are witnessing the strong emergence of bothtraditional and non-traditional security challenges, alongside multiplehotspots that pose serious threats to peace and stability in the region and theworld. These have caused major concerns for all of us.
It is Vietnam's position that securityissues must be satisfactorily resolved by peaceful means on the basis ofinternational law, so as to avoid their escalation into conflict hotspots,which may pose a threat to peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Inrecent years, ASEAN has made efforts to contribute to addressing regional securityissues, including the South China Sea, Rakhine State in Myanmar,denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, terrorism and transnational crimes, amongothers. Vietnam has been and will continue contributing actively to these jointefforts.
Regarding the South China Sea issue,there have been certain initial positive developments in the COC negotiationsbetween ASEAN and China. Nevertheless, developments on the ground remaincomplicated. Unlawful unilateral activities, including land reclamation to changethe status quo, militarization, collisions putting fishermen to danger areworrisome. These behaviors have eroded trust and are not conducive to promotionof dialogue and maintenance of peace and stability in the region. Against thatbackdrop, ASEAN needs to firmly adhere to its fundamental position on the SouthChina Sea, in which the parties concerned should exercise restraints, refrainfrom any action which may further complicate the situation, refrain frommilitarization and seek to resolve disputes by peaceful means on the basis ofinternational law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, strictly and fully implement theDOC, and strive to formulate a Code of Conduct (COC) that is effective andsubstantive in line with international law and endorsed by the internationalcommunity.
Reporter: Could you please specify Vietnam’s comment on the possibilityof the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership being ratified this year?
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc: Trade tension and protectionism are escalating. TheComprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP),to which four ASEAN member states are signatories, took effect in early 2019.In that context, the promotion of RCEP negotiations shall be of greatsignificance so as to create new drivers for rules-based multilateral economic integrationand trade liberalization in the Asia-Pacific, thereby contributing to maintainingthe role of the Asia-Pacific as the engine of global economic growth andintegration.
At the second RCEP Summitheld in Singapore in November 2018, I joined other RCEP leaders in reaffirmingour determination to conclude the RCEP negotiations within 2019. Currently, allmembers are making rigorous efforts to address the last pending issues of thenegotiation for its conclusion later this year.
In October, Vietnam will hostthe 28th RCEP round of negotiations, which is also expected to bethe final round this year before the third RCEP Summit in Bangkok, Thailand inNovember. Vietnam hopes that the RCEP members, in the spirit of expandingcooperation, ensuring fairness and for the common interest, will soon concludethe agreement as pledged.
Reporter: Please comment on theprospects and directions for the development of the Vietnam - Thailandrelations. What can the two countries do to promote mutually beneficialcooperation?
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc: I am pleased to note that the Vietnam – Thailandrelations have witnessed continuous growth, particularly since the twocountries established the Strategic Partnership in 2013. We would like tocongratulate the Thai people on the success of the recent general elections.The stable continuation of the Thai Government facilitates the growth of thebilateral relations in the years ahead, especially in the following four keydimensions:
First, there remain immenseroom and potentials for both sides to continue fostering trade and investmentcooperation. Currently, Thailand is Vietnam’s largest trade partner in ASEAN. Toattain the bilateral trade turnover of 20 billion USD by 2020, both sides needto further facilitate the two-way flows of goods and services, whileencouraging Thai businesses to increase investment into Vietnam.
Second, both countries need to maximize ourcultural, religious, geo-economic similarities so as to align our nationaldevelopment strategies in line with our respective priorities, expand and deepenconnectivity in the Mekong sub-region, and make good use of the existingcooperative frameworks, while promoting physicaland soft infrastructure connectivity to keep pace with the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Third, we need to make cultural, sports,tourism cooperation and people-to-people exchanges a key pillar of thebilateral cooperation.
Fourth, we should continue the tradition ofclose coordination and mutual support at multilateral frameworks, especially inASEAN. Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2019 facilitates our coordination into2020 when Vietnam takes over the Chairmanship, aiming towards a resilient,cohesive and adaptive ASEAN Community.
To this end, I believe that,in the immediate future, both sides should focus our efforts to (i) soonfinalize the Plan of Action on Implementing the Vietnam – Thailand StrategicPartnership for 2019 - 2024; (ii) increase mutual visits, especially at thehigh level; (iii) effectively implement the Memorandum of Understanding onlabor cooperation and the Agreement on sending and receiving labor signed in2015; (iv) coordinate our policies on the Mekong sub-region cooperation so asto foster land, maritime and air links between the continental Southeast Asiawith the rest of the region and the world; (v) coordinate to step up internationaleconomic integration for the common interest of both countries and the region;(vi) bolster cultural, sports and tourism cooperation and people-to-peopleexchange.
I am confident that with the effortsand determination of both countries’ leaders and people, the Vietnam – ThailandStrategic Partnership will ever flourish, thus contributing to building aunited and strong ASEAN Community for peace, stability, cooperation anddevelopment of the region and the world.-VNA