Viet Nam, ASEAN and the solidarity amid difficulties

Update: 14:38 | 12/11/2020
Ha Noi has been surprisingly creative in its diplomatic actions and made the best use of the situation, not only for Viet Nam but for the ASEAN community as a whole. This is the remarks of international press about Viet Nam's 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship.
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Assessing the ASEAN cooperation progress in the first 6 months of the year, the ASEAN Coordinating Council acknowledged Viet Nam's efforts to bring the Community to overcome challenges...

Cooperate in pandemic handling and remediation

According to Korea IT Times, since the beginning of 2020, Viet Nam has worked with other member countries to develop the theme of a "Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN" to promote the Community building process and ASEAN's role in a never-changing world. The sudden outbreak and the unprecedented consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic illustrate that this theme and motto are well-suited to the situation that the region is experiencing.

The Diplomat magazine said that, although Vietnam has succeeded in fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic, it has had an unprecedented difficult year as ASEAN chair. The traditional, physical ASEAN Summit was scheduled to be held in Da Nang in April, it eventually took place via video conferencing for the first time since the founding of ASEAN in 1967. While neighboring countries still struggles with the pandemic, Ha Noi has been surprisingly creative in its diplomatic actions and made the best use of the situation, not only for itself but for the ASEAN community as a whole.

Viet Nam has cleverly managed to shift its typical offline diplomacy to online platforms. Ha Noi hosted all the key events of ASEAN in 2020, including the first online ASEAN Summit 36 in June and the upcoming ASEAN Summit 37 in November this year. Especially, the ASEAN and ASEAN+3 Special Summits on Covid-19 have been praised by the international community.

Dr. Chheang Vannarith, a member of the Executive Board of the Asian Vision Institute (AVI) - Cambodia's leading think-tank has appreciated Viet Nam’s actions, saying that its efforts to coordinate these Special Summit are “really commendable”. Although online meetings are often not suitable for building personal friendships or trust, it is an important platform for information sharing and policy coordination among member countries, as well as among ASEAN and its dialogue partners such as Russia, USA, Korea, Japan, Australia...

The Chair of ASEAN for 2020 also announced a number of important initiatives and documents such as: "Chairman's Statement on ASEAN Collective Response to the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019", the establishment of the ASEAN Covid-19 Response Fund and a regional Reserve of emergency medical supplies; the creation of standards for disease response; the formation of a master plan for post-Covid-19 recovery, etc. which have been agreed by ASEAN member countries and become the common initiatives of ASEAN.

The Korea IT Times also pointed out that, despite having to focus a lot of resources on handling the pandemic, ASEAN, under Viet Nam's coordination, continued to implement the plans and proposed proposed from the beginning of the year. Of which, the two initiatives namely "Building ASEAN Digital Integration Indicator" and "Connecting ASEAN Innovation Centers" launched by Viet Nam were completed by the time of the Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers, while the remainings continued to be consulted, rapidly implemented and are expected to be completed within 2020, according to plan.

In addition, according to the Bangkok Post, the biggest challenge that ASEAN is facing is how to reduce the socio-economic impact caused by Covid-19. In the long run, ASEAN must stick together to minimize the potential impacts of the global economic downturn and other side effects. To do so, the organization must increase and diversify trade and investment within ASEAN.

Assessing the ASEAN cooperation progress in the first 6 months of the year, the ASEAN Coordinating Council acknowledged Viet Nam's efforts to bring the Community to overcome challenges, maintain cooperation, and completely and genuinely implement the proposed initiatives and priorities for ASEAN 2020.

Maintaining the ASEAN centrality

According to The Diplomat, in the face of increasing strategic competition among major countries in the region, as the Chair of ASEAN 2020, Viet Nam was determined to bring key and hot issues in the field of security and politics to the table at ASEAN fora, taking advantage of the opportunity to not only express ASEAN's views, but also be flexible in trying to maintain balanced relations with major countries, in order not to stuck in a position that force it to choose sides.

Specifically, at the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Viet Nam and ASEAN countries issued a Joint Communiqué, which strongly stated that ASEAN emphasized the importance of strengthening ASEAN's centrality and solidarity in cooperation with external partners through ASEAN-led mechanisms. ASEAN is speeding up the adoption of action plans for the next 5-year cooperation period with a number of countries such as Canada, China, India, and Korea...

For East Sea issue, ASEAN reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the East Sea and recognized the benefits of having the East Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity. They also further reaffirmed the need to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In terms of external relations, ASEAN has kept a fairly neutral position amid the escalating China-U.S. tensions. The association has also actively sought to widen its partnerships. ASEAN agreed to grant the status of development partners to France and Italy, while admitting Colombia and Cuba to the ASEAN Treaty on Amity and Cooperation. Recently, the U.K. asked to become ASEAN’s 11th dialogue partner.

The article on the East Asia Forum stated that Viet Nam, as the Chair of ASEAN is trying to make the most of the worst and thereby show its abilities as a leader. As for the assessment of The ASEAN Post, Viet Nam is among one of the most politically stable country in Southeast Asia. In particular, the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam plays an important role in giving strategic and decisive direction on all key policy issues. The article believes that all the aforementioned developments can put Viet Nam in the leading position of ASEAN, helping to continue to promote intra-regional solidarity.

Facing many difficulties and challenges in its ASEAN Chairmanship for 2020, Viet Nam is still standing strong while affirming and bringing into full play the role of ASEAN Chair, and take the right steps based on the theme "Cohesion and Responsive”, leading ASEAN to step by step overcome the crisis, promote solidarity and unity, maintaining peace, security and stability in Southeast Asia.

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