HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn attended the ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting held virtually on Tuesday, within the framework of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-54), to discuss COVID-19, trade and the South China Sea dispute.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said ASEAN always played an important role in China’s periphery diplomacy, China had always supported ASEAN Community building efforts and ASEAN centrality and wished to elevate the strategic partnership on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the relationship this year.
The official said China-ASEAN relations continued to achieve important results in the spirit of friendly neighbourliness and partnership, in the timely and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and efforts to promote commerce investment. China also announced it had supplied 119 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and would continue to bring more vaccines to ASEAN, as well as provided support to the construction of a regional vaccine production and distribution centre, in addition to provision of essential medical supplies.
The two will also soon launch the implementation of the ASEAN-China health cooperation initiative, strengthening cooperation within the framework of ASEAN-China Vaccine Friend Cooperation platform, and implement the ASEAN-China Cooperation Programme on Public Health Management (PROMPT) to support capacity building and epidemic response capacity for ASEAN countries.
On behalf of ASEAN, representing the country coordinating the relationship, Teodoro Locsin Jr., the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary agreed that the ASEAN-China relations had developed strongly and steadily over the past 30 years, and welcomed China’s active participation and contribution in the ASEAN-led mechanisms.
ASEAN thanks and appreciates China for timely and effective support for the bloc in terms of responding to COVID-19 right from the beginning, with a donation of US$1 million to the ASEAN COVID-19 Fund, as well as supply of vaccines and medical equipment.
ASEAN countries all expect ASEAN-China cooperation to be maintained despite difficulties caused by COVID-19. ASEAN and China continue to be each other’s top trading partners in the first six months of 2021 with a total trade hitting $516.9 billion.
With COVID-19 in mind, the two sides agreed to promote sustainable development, coordinate to facilitate trade and investment exchanges, make effective use of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), and work towards the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
With regards to regional and international issues of mutual concern, participants affirmed that maintaining a peaceful, secure and stable environment in the region, including in the East Sea (South China Sea), is a common concern and interest of the whole ASEAN and China.
The ministers welcomed efforts to resume negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) of the Parties in the South China Sea soon, including the 19th ASEAN-China Senior Officials Meeting on Implementation of the DOC on June 7, 2021, in Chongqing, China.
The ministers pledged to continue to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and promote the negotiations to build an effective and substantive COC in accordance with international law and UNCLOS 1982.
China welcomed the outcome of the ASEAN Leaders Summit held in April this year and reiterated support for ASEAN’s role in promoting dialogue and reconciliation, and assisting Myanmar to find solutions to stabilise the situation here.
Speaking at the meeting, Sơn said trade potentials between China and ASEAN remained vast, and that the two sides should take steps to facilitate ASEAN's exports – including those from Việt Nam – into China, and vice versa, boost infrastructure investment in the region and in the sub-regional cooperation frameworks such as Mekong-Lancang.
The Vietnamese official said the relevant parties in the South China Sea needed to show goodwill to cooperate and act responsibly, working together towards building a peaceful, stable, secure, and environmentally friendly South China Sea. He also underlined that involved parties should uphold the rule of law, and resolve disputes and differences through peaceful means.
Sơn said Việt Nam was committed to working with ASEAN countries and China to continue to fully and effectively implement the DOC, welcomed the resumption of COC negotiations and affirmed that Việt Nam would make maximum efforts to promote the negotiation process towards the completion of an effective and substantive COC in accordance with international law, UNCLOS 1982 and one that is welcomed and supported by the international community.
At the end of the meeting, Myanmar officially holds the role of ASEAN-China coordinator in the 2021-24 period. — VNS
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