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US joins with ASEAN to support South China Sea stability
  • | VOV | November 14, 2020 09:23 PM
Leaders at the 8th ASEAN-US Summit on November 14 in Hanoi vowed to unite to get through the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis while maintaining peace, stability, and security in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc addresses the 8th ASEAn-US Summit in Hanoi on November 14.

Addressing the event, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the chair of the summit, noted that ASEAN has maintained a close relationship with the United States on the basis of mutual trust, respect, and understanding for over four decades. These ties have been aimed at working towards a common goal of promoting stability, development, and mutually beneficial co-operation.

The Vietnamese PM sounded his great appreciation for the US’s constructive and responsible contributions to boosting trust, dialogue, and co-operation in the region through various ASEAN-led frameworks, especially when COVID-19 broke out, alongside traditional and non-traditional security challenges over the past year.

“One of the active partners, the United States has put forward many practical co-operation initiatives to assist ASEAN countries and Southeast Asia in general to improve their capacity to respond to the pandemic,” the Prime Minister stated.

He also expressed ASEAN’s desire to increase effective collaboration with the international community and partners, including the US, as a means of promptly and effectively responding to emerging challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be done in order to mitigate the negative impact caused by the disease, while maintaining a peaceful and stable environment so recovery and sustainable development activities can be stepped up.

In his address, US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said President Donald Trump regretted not being able to attend the summit in Hanoi. He lauded the Vietnamese role as ASEAN Chair during a challenging year which has helped to foster ASEAN’s centrality, as well as to strengthen the strategic partnership that exists between both sides.

O'Brien dwelled on the negative impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the global economy and people’s life, stressing that only when countries increase co-operation will they be able to come through the COVID-19 crisis.

According to the US official, the past four years has seen both sides strengthen ties in the fields of science, health, education, and security. The US has also allocated a sum of US$2 billion for education projects throughout ASEAN countries over the past 15 years. Currently there are roughly 500,000 students from ASEAN countries studying in the North American nation.

Furthermore, trade turnover between both sides has grown considerably, reaching more than US$354 billion last year.

O'Brien also voiced US support for ASEAN’s community building efforts, which he said are in line with his country’s interests as they make an important contribution to the joint strategic partnership.

US National Security Advisor O'Brien voices the US's support for ASEAN's ongoing efforts to build a united community, contain COVID-19, reboot the economy, and settle South China Sea disputes peacefully.

The US National Security Advisor also reaffirmed the US’s commitment to building and developing a mutual strategic partnership for the purpose of regional peace and prosperity on the basis of respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty, and a mutually beneficial collaboration.

It can therefore be seen that the US welcomes a decision to boost the Mekong-US partnership to a strategic partnership, according to O'Brien, adding that it is necessary to distribute benefits and resources in a balanced and responsible manner.

Moreover, the US reaffirms its support for coastal states in order to exercise sovereignty over marine resources in accordance with provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982).

ASEAN leaders acknowledged the fine development of their partnership with the US, vowing to facilitate the operations of more than 4,200 investors and businesses from the North American country in the region.

Moving forward, firms from the US will be encourage to prioritise a number of areas such as infrastructure development, clean energy, high technology, and the digital economy when doing business in the region.

ASEAN leaders noted their appreciation to the US for the US$3.5 billion in grants given in an effort to improve the public health capacity of ASEAN countries over the past 20 years, in addition to implementing the ASEAN-US Health Futures Initiative.

Both sides have agreed to closely work together to contain COVID-19, rapidly overcome the negative effects of the epidemic, gradually restore economic activities, and maintain regional production and relevant supply chains.

ASEAN leaders proposed that the US actively support the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies, which ASEAN had previously announced would be established within the framework of the ongoing 37th ASEAN Summit.

Both sides therefore expressed concern about the potential threats that exist to peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea, known as locally as the East Sea, emphasising the need to hold dialogue, build trust, adhere to the rule of law, not militarise, and take no actions to further complicate the situation. These things should be done in order to settle the dispute peacefully in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

The ASEAN leaders said they welcome the US for its active contribution to maintaining peace, stability, security, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. They expressed hope that the US will support ASEAN’s efforts to strictly implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and develop an effective, efficient, and appropriate Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), all of which will be in compliance with international law and UNCLOS 1982.

The summit adopted a Joint Statement on Human Resource Development. The Chairman of the summit issued a Chairman’s Statement on the outcome of the 8th ASEAN - US Summit.

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