U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration of President Joe Biden attaches importance to the strategic partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and supports the bloc's solidarity, unanimity and centrality, along with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
It wants to promote the dynamic and effective strategic partnership with ASEAN on the basis of mutual respect and jointly building an open and inclusive regional architecture of prosperous development, he said.
Blinken affirmed that the U.S. will keep taking the lead in promoting multilateral cooperation in COVID-19 response and increase the production capacity to ensure sufficient supply of safe and effective vaccines.
The U.S. has provided funding of USD 160 million and will continue assisting countries in the region to cope with the pandemic, he said, adding that it will donate USD 500,000 to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund.
As the coordinator of ASEAN – U.S. relations, Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith applauded the U.S.'s commitment to bolstering its cooperation with ASEAN and the region, advocating multilateral cooperation, helping to improve the healthcare capacity of, and providing vaccines for ASEAN countries.
He also spoke highly the U.S.'s temporary waiver on vaccine patents within the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.
Participating countries welcomed the recent cooperation progress despite adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bilateral trade reached USD 308.3 billion in 2020, turning the U.S. into the second largest trade partner of ASEAN. Besides, the U.S. remains the biggest foreign direct investor in the region with USD 34.7 billion.
ASEAN and the U.S. agreed to continue giving priority to the pandemic response and supporting sustainable recovery, focusing on stronger cooperation in trade, investment, digital transformation, and energy and via the U.S.-funded development cooperation programs for the region.
ASEAN countries hope that the U.S. will continue assisting them in COVID-19 vaccine research, development, production, and distribution. The U.S. also proposed enhancing cooperative ties in such fields as energy, transport, women empowerment, and environment – climate change so as to contribute to even and sustainable recovery efforts.
Pointing out that the international and regional situation remains complex with new challenges arising, the two sides affirmed close coordination to help maintain regional peace, security, and stability, including security and safety of navigation in the East Sea (South China Sea).
The U.S. emphasized its support for ASEAN's principled stance on the East Sea issue, welcoming the bloc bringing into play its role in promoting cooperation, dialogue, and trust building in the region, ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and building an efficient and effective Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea in line with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) with the rights and legitimate interests of relevant parties respected and properly mentioned.
The U.S. Secretary of State lauded ASEAN's role and efforts to step up dialogue and reconciliation in Myanmar and help the country seek solutions to stabilize its situation. He also underlined support for the bloc to successfully carry out the Five-Point Consensus reached at the ASEAN Leaders' Meeting on April 24, 2021.
Addressing the meeting, Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son welcomed the U.S.'s extensive and intensive cooperation with ASEAN, stressing the country'
He highly valued the U.S.'s provision of vaccines for ASEAN nations, including Vietnam, asking it to keep assisting the bloc to gain timely and sufficient access to vaccines and soon transfer vaccine production technology to the bloc's members.
Vietnam expects the U.S. to help the regional countries improve their preventive medicine capacity via its regional representative office based in Vietnam, he said.
The ASEAN countries are ready to create optimal conditions for U.S. enterprises to expand investment and business in the region, Son noted, asking the U.S. to continue helping the bloc narrow the development gap and ensure sustainable growth in ASEAN sub-regions, including the Mekong sub-region, and via the Mekong – U.S. Partnership.
The Vietnamese minister affirmed that countries, including ASEAN and the U.S., share interests and responsibilities in maintaining peace, stability, security, safety, and freedom of navigation and over flight in the East Sea.
He underlined that all parties need to show their goodwill of cooperation, act responsibly, and jointly work towards the East Sea of peace, stability, security, safety, and protected environment.
Son also highlighted ASEAN's consistent stance on the East Sea, stressing the importance of building trust, exercising self-restraint, not militarizing, peacefully resolving disputes on the basis of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, promoting the full and effective implementation of the DOC, and soon finalizing an effective and practical COC in line with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.
He expects that the U.S. will continue playing a constructive role, supporting ASEAN's efforts to sustain peace, stability, and freedom of navigation and over flight in the East Sea, and backing the bloc's efforts to seek solutions to the Myanmar situation.
At the end of the event, part of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings, Indonesia officially assumed the role as coordinator of ASEAN – U.S. relations for the 2021 – 2024 period.
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