East Sea could be of central interest at 36th ASEAN Summit

ASEAN is set to continue encountering a range of complex security challenges in hot spots such as the East Sea (internationally known as South China Sea), the Korean Peninsula, and the Middle East.
June 25, 2020 | 15:15
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east sea could be of central interest at forthcoming 36th asean summit
China's actions in the East Sea have further complicated the regional situation (Photo: AP)

The remarks came during meetings held among the ASEAN Foreign Ministers (AMM), the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), and the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) which took place on June 24 through an online platform.

Traditional security challenges

Delegates at the meetings agreed that peace, stability, security, safety, along with freedom of navigation and overflight in the region should remain top priorities, especially in the current context of the global community redoubling efforts in a bid to cope with the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Participants underscored the importance of refraining from actions that serve to complicate the situation whilst promoting international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Furthermore, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) should be fully implemented, whilst negotiations on the Code of Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (COC) should be resumed in an effective manner in accordance with international law.

In line with these actions, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, in his role as chair of the meetings, expressed his concerns regarding recent developments in the East Sea, confirming the consistent stance of ASEAN in general and Vietnam in particular.

Deputy PM Minh also called on all countries to come together to enhance their sense of responsibility, dialogue, and co-operation for the causes of peace, stability, security, and safety of freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea. In this process, it remains essential to uphold international law, including UNCLOS 1982, whilst also exercising self-restraint to avoid actions that militarise and complicate the situation, and fully implementing the DOC towards building a valid and effective COC in line with international law.

Therefore, it is anticipated that the East Sea will remain as one of the major topics for discussion at the impending 36th ASEAN Summit on June 26. Talks will centre around trying to ensure peace, order, along with maritime and aviation safety in the East Sea. It is hoped that these things can be achieved whilst avoiding unnecessary conflicts and issues that may serve to escalate tensions.

east sea could be of central interest at 36th asean summit
A host of ASEAN meetings are held on an online platform due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

With efforts to boost ASEAN’s central role in the region, delegates are hopeful that the 36th ASEAN Summit will find a score of effective and practical measures that can successfully deal with the East Sea issue, as well as fostering co-operation among regional nations to address other traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

COVID-19 an issue which covers non-traditional security

While the East Sea issue represents a traditional security challenge that has long been a topic of discussion at ASEAN meetings, the COVID-19 has emerged as one of the non-traditional security issues that is capturing the attention of the entire world.

Also at the unofficial AMM, APSC, and ACC meetings, participants agreed that the global epidemic situation will continue evolving in a complicated manner, contributing to threaten the security and politics of many nations, disrupting the global supply chain, and seriously damaging economies. Most notably, it will take a considerable length of time to deal with the consequences caused by the devastating effects of the pandemic.

Despite being faced by these difficult and challenging times, delegates believe that ASEAN co-operation mechanisms have played an active role in helping mutual understanding step up to prevent the further spread of the pandemic. Clear evidence in this regard can be considered through the region’s success in controlling the disease, along with the attention, support, and co-operation of the international community and ASEAN partners.

The regional group has developed into a central force in terms of epidemic control while being able to maintain socio-political stability throughout the region, a delegate noted. Indeed, all participants have agreed that it is time for ASEAN to take on new steps in a bid to intensify prevention and control efforts to halt a second wave, whilst working out plans for post-epidemic recovery and development. In this process, dialogue and co-operation should continue to serve as a means of maintaining relations between members.

Sharing his views with delegates, Deputy PM Minh noted his great appreciation for initiatives such as setting up a COVID-19 Response Fund, creating a regional reserve warehouses containing medical supplies, building a standard epidemic response process for ASEAN, and devising a thorough recovery plan.

The Government Minister also stated the importance of solidarity and co-operation among ASEAN, while urging regional countries to implement these initiatives early and to draw up an overall recovery plan in an urgent manner. Results regarding the implementation of the initiatives will be reported to senior leaders during the 37th ASEAN Summit which is scheduled to take place in November this year.

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