Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and related summits were held virtually from October 26 to 28.
The meeting unanimously agreed to take an approach based on national circumstances and capacityfor prevention of Covid-19.
Vietnam’s initiatives as ASEAN chair in 2020 were appreciated and members agreed to stick to them.
The meeting hailed the establishment of the ASEAN Reserve of Medical Supplies and the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund initiative.
It welcomed the contributions from member states and others to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, which now has pledges worth USD25.8 million.
USD 10.5 million from the fund has been used to buy vaccines for the people of ASEAN countriesin the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2022.
Speaking at the conference, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh stressed the need to change of awarenessabout flexible and safe adaptation to the new normal and the importance of ASEAN solidarity in combating the pandemic.
He pledged Vietnam would donate medical supplies worth millions of dollars to the ASEAN Reserve of Medical Supplies.
One of the member countries to spare no effort to independently research and develop a vaccine, Vietnam proposed that ASEAN soon should transfer vaccine and antiviral drug-production technologies to countries to develop self-reliant vaccine supply chains at the regional level.
Another key priority for delegates was looking for solutions for post-pandemic economic recovery.
The meeting also highlighted the importance of fostering tourism recovery within the bloc and ensuring essential mobility, especially business and official travel, by operatingASEAN travel corridors.
PM Pham Minh Chinh said ASEAN needs to position itself to reshape the world’s political and economic relationships, and co-operate to integrate multilateral and multi-layered economic processes in the region.
To involve deeper in regional and global supply chains, enhance the attraction of its markets and boost post-pandemic economy recovery, ASEAN needs to consider using new elements such as digital transformation, digital economy, bio circular-green economy network, renewable energy, and highly qualified human resources,Chính said.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on member states to speed up ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement to foster post-pandemic economic recovery in the region.
Building intra-ASEAN solidarity, promoting multilateral co-operation
Amid the unprecedented regional and international changes, leaders shared their concern about maintaining solidarity and unity and upholding the central role of ASEAN.
Countries reaffirmed their shared commitment to promoting the centrality and solidarity of ASEAN in response to mutual challenges.
ASEAN needs to take responsibility actively and proactively for issues affecting the region, act more independently and be neutralin managing and balancing partnerships with major countries, they said.
Delegates discussed regional issues like the situation in the East Sea, Myanmar and network security, ASEAN’s role in the face of regional problems and the bloc’s partners.
Regarding the East Sea situation, concerns were expressed by some member states about the land reclamation and other activities and some serious incidents in the area, which have eroded trust and increased tensions, and could undermine peace, security and stability in the region.
The meeting hailed the growing co-operation with China and the progress made in substantive negotiations for an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that is consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, within a mutually agreed timeline.
Speakingat the summit, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for the unity, peace and preserving stability in the East Sea.
He said ASEAN needs to continue moving on this path in accordance with international law, including the 2016 arbitral award that invalidated China’s claim to the disputed waters.
At related summits with external partners like the US, Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, leaders voiced support for ASEAN’s principled stance on the East Sea, and welcomed its call for co-operation, dialogue and building trust in accordance with international laws and the 1982 UNCLOS.
Speaking in the 16th East Asia Summit (EAS), Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob referred to his country’s consistent stance on the peaceful and apt resolution of the East Sea disputevia dialogue and consultationatappropriate diplomatic forums and channels.
He reaffirmed the commitmentto accelerating a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in negotiations relating to resolutions of territorial disputes in the resource-rich sea, and looked forward to the efficiency and early finalisation of negotiations on COC.
With the theme “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper,” the 38th and 39th ASEAN summits and related summits underlined ASEAN solidarity and unity and voicing its common concernfor peace, security and stability in the region, effectively coping with emerging challenges and consolidating its central role and position.
Vietnam promised to continue making responsible contributions to ASEAN affairs./.