ASEAN Summit to discuss pandemic control, aftermath

By Phuong Vu   November 9, 2020 | 08:16 pm PT
At the 37th ASEAN Summit hosted online by Vietnam this week member nations will discuss measures to control the Covid-19 outbreak and mitigate its consequences.

The summit and related meetings, slated for November 12-15, "are the most important activity of ASEAN this year, attracting widespread attention both inside and outside the region," Nguyen Quoc Dung, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and General Secretary of the National ASEAN 2020 Committee, said at a press briefing on Monday.

He said leaders of member countries would discuss four main issues: building the ASEAN community and maintaining intra-bloc cooperation momentum, expanding and deepening relations between ASEAN and partners and promoting the grouping’s centrality to raise its international profile, ensuring Covid-19 prevention and control, and discussing regional and international issues of shared concern.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will chair the summit.

Party chief and president, Nguyen Phu Trong, is expected to attend the opening ceremony and deliver a speech.

Besides the 10 member states, the event will also be attended by Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Nations and the U.S.

Following the summit will be the East Asia Summit, the 12th Mekong-Japan Summit and the 2nd Mekong-South Korea Summit, all chaired by Phuc.

Dung said as the final summit to be hosted by Vietnam in its capacity as ASEAN chair for 2020, it offers an opportunity for the grouping to review intra-bloc cooperation during the year and cooperation with partners, and chart priorities for the future.

Participating leaders will approve, record and publish more than 80 documents.

"This is the only occasion during the year for ASEAN leaders to sit down with leaders of most of the bloc’s important partners," Dung said.

He said the summit would take place amid a new wave of infections that continues to seriously impact people’s lives in and the economies and societies of member nations, and have complex implications for the global and regional strategic environments and traditional and non-traditional security issues.

ASEAN quickly realized that no country could deal with Covid-19's severe impacts on its own and Vietnam had clearly stated the need for member states to closely connect and coordinate their response, he said.

A man wears a protective mask as he drives past a banner promoting prevention against Covid-19 in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 31, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Kham.

A man wears a protective mask as he drives past a banner promoting prevention against Covid-19 in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 31, 2020. Photo by Reuters/Kham.

ASEAN and Japan will announce plans to establish an ASEAN center for emergency medical situations and emerging epidemics.

The bloc will also announce the establishment of an ASEAN medical material reserve to respond to medical emergencies, while members are planning to establish safe travel corridors next year.

By November 9 the number of Covid-19 cases in the 10 ASEAN nations had crossed one million, with Indonesia and the Philippines taking the lead with more than 440,500 and 398,400.

As for deaths due to the disease, there have been over 24,100, Indonesia topping with almost 14,700.

Asked about relations between the ASEAN and the U.S. in the context that the latter is about to have a new president and administration, Dung said they are more than 40 years old and have a "very solid foundation."

ASEAN always wants the U.S. to play an important role in the region, contributing constructively and responsibly to common issues, shaping a rules-based regional order and maintaining peace, stability and development in the region, he said.

Whichever president is in power in that country would continue to nurture the U.S.-ASEAN Strategic Partnership, he said.

In June Vietnam organized the previous ASEAN Summit also online.

For this week’s summit it had wanted to invite the leaders of all the member countries to Hanoi, but after consultations with them it was decided the event would be online.

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