US supports Asean’s principles on South China Sea

HÀNỘI – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member countries and the United States on Wednesday affirmed their determination to work closely together to contribute to maintaining peace, security and stability in the region, including maritime security and safety in the South China Sea (East Sea).

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn on Wednesday attended the online Asean-US Ministerial Meeting Conference, which was held within the framework of the ongoing 54th Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting.

Speaking at the conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration attaches great importance to the strategic partnership with Asean, and supports its solidarity, unification, and Asean’s perspective on the Indo-Pacific.

He said the US expects to help promote a dynamic and effective strategic partnership with Asean on the basis of mutual respect, jointly building an open, inclusive and prosperous regional architecture.

The US Secretary of State affirmed the US will continue to take the lead in promoting multilateral cooperation in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic in an effort to increase production capacity and ensure an adequate, safe and effective vaccine supply.

The US has provided US$160 million and will continue to support countries in the region to respond to the pandemic. The US has also donated US$500,000 to the Covid-19 Asean Response Fund.

On behalf of Asean, as the coordinator of the Asean-US dialogue, the Lao Foreign Minister welcomed the US commitment to promote strong cooperation with Asean and the region.

He also said the bloc highly appreciates the temporary lifting by the US of the copyrights on vaccine production within the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.

Despite the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, trade turnover between Asean and the US reached US$308.3 billion in 2020, making the US the second largest trading partner of Asean. At the same time, the United States still maintains its role as the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) source with US$34.7 billion invested in Asean countries.

Asean countries expect the US will continue to provide support in the research, development, production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. The US also proposed strengthening cooperation in areas such as energy, transportation, women’s empowerment, environment-climate change, and equitable and sustainable recovery.

Asean and the US confirmed they would work closely to contribute in maintaining peace, security and stability in the region in the future, including maritime security and safety in the South China Sea (East Sea).

The US emphasized its support for Asean’s stance on the South China Sea issue, and welcomed Asean’s role in promoting cooperation and dialogue, and building trust in the region, as well as in ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct in the East Sea (DOC).

The US also said it supports building an effective and efficient Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea in accordance with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Speaking at the conference, Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn welcomed the United States’ extensive cooperation with Asean. The Minister emphasized the important role of the US in the global efforts to respond to Covid-19 and climate change, and highly appreciated the US supply of vaccines to Asean countries, including Vietnam.

The Minister also suggested that the US support capacity building in preventive medicine for regional countries through the Regional Representative Office in Vietnam.

Asean is willing to create favorable conditions for US businesses to expand investment and business in the region and suggested that the US continues to support Asean in narrowing the development gap, ensuring sustainable growth in Asean sub-regions, including the Mekong, through the framework of the Mekong-US Partnership.

Minister Sơn said he hopes the United States would continue to play a constructive role and support Asean’s efforts to maintain peace, stability, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea, as well as support Asean’s efforts to find a solution to stabilize the situation in Myanmar.

At the end of the conference, the coordination role of Asean-US relations for the period 2021-2024 was handed over to Indonesia. (VNS