Vietnam stresses COVID-19 recovery, East Sea stability in US-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting
Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son attended a video conference between his counterparts in ASEAN and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, with issues on the agenda ranging from COVID-19 to the East Sea and Myanmar.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and ASEAN countries' foreign ministers attended the video conference held on Wednesday.
The diplomats spoke highly of the importance of the ASEAN-US partnership and their commitment to strengthening ties, especially amid serious challenges that are harming people's lives, development, security, and the stability of countries in the region.
Foreign ministers of the 10-member bloc reaffirmed their message to President Joe Biden's administration, which is the desire for a long-term commitment to the region, upholding of multilateralism and international law, efforts to control the pandemic and push for recovery, as well as climate change response.
The bloc’s member countries welcomed the US' continued support for ASEAN's central role in maintaining dialogue, strengthening cooperation, and jointly building an open, inclusive, rules-based regional architecture, and cooperate in handling challenges.
The US official underlined the Biden administration’s commitment to multilateralism and said the US cherishes relations with ASEAN and supports ASEAN's centrality, and that the country would promote its partnership with ASEAN on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefits.
The US Secretary of State said the US will continue to take the lead in promoting the global COVID-19 response.
The US has contributed US$2 billion of the total $4 billion, along with a commitment to donate 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, to the global vaccine sharing initiative COVAX Facility, and in addition, Blinken said, adding that the US has also allocated $96 million to help ASEAN enhance its pandemic response.
The US also proposed some orientations for ASEAN-US cooperation, with the focus on areas such as energy, transportation, empowerment of women and the environment.
Recognising that the regional and international environment poses many complex challenges, ASEAN and the US agreed to step up consultations, dialogues and cooperation, especially at forums chaired and led by ASEAN.
Discussing the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea) issue, both the US and ASEAN emphasised the importance of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in the sea.
The two sides also shared the expectation for an effective and substantial Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in accordance with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
On the situation in Myanmar, the US highly appreciated the recent steps taken by ASEAN in the process of supporting the country.
Blinken said ASEAN's five-point consensus adopted in April's ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting was an important step forward.
At the meeting, Vietnamese foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn stressed the importance of the ASEAN-US strategic partnership for cooperation, development, and peace and stability in the region.
Appreciating the role and contribution of the US to the global COVID-19 response, Sơn welcomed American vaccine aid to countries in the region, including Việt Nam, as well as the US' backing of the temporary lifting of vaccine copyrights within the WTO framework.
He said ASEAN countries are ready to facilitate US businesses in expanding investment and business activities in ASEAN markets given the current supply chain shift due to COVID-19.
Sơn hoped that the US would actively support ASEAN in narrowing the development gap, promoting sustainable development in sub-regions, and integrating the Mekong-US partnership with ASEAN's development.
Sơn said the region is facing many great and complex challenges, and countries need to uphold their responsibilities, maintain dialogue, and promote cooperation to ensure peace, stability and post-pandemic recovery.
Minister Sơn suggested the US work closely with ASEAN at ASEAN-led forums, creating a favourable environment for forming a rules-based regional order.
Regarding the East Sea, Sơn spoke highly of the role of international law and peaceful settlement of disputes, the need to maintain a peaceful, stable and favourable environment for development.
He also reaffirmed ASEAN's consistent principled stance on the East Sea issue and expressed the wish that the US would continue to play a constructive role and support ASEAN's efforts to maintain peace, stability and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea, as well as support ASEAN's efforts to stabilise the situation in Myanmar.