ASEAN Summit to discuss new East Sea developments

June 23, 2020 | 05:00 pm PT
ASEAN Summit to discuss new East Sea developments
Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung speaks at a press conference on June 23, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
ASEAN leaders will discuss recent developments in the East Sea during their first meeting of 2020 this week, says Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung.

"What has happened in reality will be put on the table, because every ASEAN meeting has a part for discussing regional and international issues," Dung said Tuesday at a press conference on the 36th ASEAN Summit.

Asked if Vietnam will mention recent developments in the East Sea with regional partners at the summit, Dung asserted that ASEAN leaders will not skirt the issue.

The 36th ASEAN Summit, with Vietnam as the bloc's chair, is expected to take place online on Friday due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

China has been taking intrusive and transgressive actions in the East Sea since the beginning of the year while nations in the area have been busy fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The waterway is also known as the South China Sea.

Beijing announced the establishment of the so-called "governed" administrative districts over Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands. It has sunk Vietnamese fishing vessels, unilaterally ordered a ban on fishing, claimed that harvesting vegetables on Paracel Islands can strengthen its illegal claims; sent diplomatic notes to the United Nations; made the infamous Four Sha claim, which has a broader range than the notorious nine-dash line.

For its part, Vietnam has firmly denounced and rejected all illegal actions by China as violations of its unshakeable sovereignty.

Deputy Minister Dung said that at the upcoming summit, ASEAN leaders will also discuss community building activities for the bloc in the second half of the year; orienting cooperation with partners outside of the region; regional and international issues; and coping methods for the Covid-19 pandemic.

As major countries intensify competition, ASEAN has agreed to maintain its own views on related issues to ensure the interests of the bloc and not take sides, Dung said.

He said ASEAN and China have yet to meet to discuss the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) because of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the last meeting in October 2019 in Da Lat, both sides agreed to prepare for the second round of reading the draft document of the COC. On July 1, ASEAN and China will discuss this issue at a meeting of their senior officials.

Dung said that ASEAN has long wanted to hold online meetings in order to reduce the travel costs of the delegates. After organizing online meetings since early 2020, Vietnam assessed that the meetings went smoothly, thanks to good technical quality. The only obstacle is that ASEAN will have to arrange a reasonable time to meet with partners outside the region, in the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, he said.

ASEAN has 10 members - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It has eight partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S.

Vietnam will chair one more summit (ASEAN 37) by the end of this year.

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