Cuba, Colombia, South Africa become ASEAN partners

By Minh Nga   November 10, 2020 | 08:11 am PT
Cuba, Colombia, South Africa become ASEAN partners
Representatives of ASEAN member states and Cuba, Colombia and South Africa at the signing ceremony for the three nations to join the ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Photo by Vietnam government's portal
ASEAN Foreign Ministers witnessed a signing ceremony Tuesday for Cuba, Colombia and South Africa joining the bloc’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).

With the three new members, the treaty forged by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to establish a code of conduct to govern inter-state relations in Southeast Asia has a total of 43 signatories.

Speaking at the signing ceremony held online in Hanoi, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh welcomed the three nations, saying their inclusion signaled a strong commitment to the goals and principles of the treaty as well as the desire to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN countries.

The TAC contains principles on promoting and sustaining regional peace and stability that was originally signed by the founding members of ASEAN in 1976. It was subsequently opened to all countries that have expressed their intent to enhance their relations with ASEAN. The treaty’s provisions focus on the peaceful settlement of disputes and cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

The signing ceremony took place alongside the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) to prepare for the 37th ASEAN Summit hosted online by Vietnam on November 12-15.

Chairing the AMM, Deputy PM and Minister Minh said ASEAN was going through a tough time and needs to show solidarity, now more than ever.

"ASEAN needs to demonstrate solidarity and cohesion in order to fulfill the ASEAN 2020 initiatives, turn the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 into reality, and effectively respond to emerging challenges, especially the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

Other ASEAN Foreign Ministers also said 2020 was challenging, difficult and uncertain year with Covid-19 becoming a deadly pandemic, competition increasing among strategic powers, and traditional and non-traditional security issues coming to the fore.

Yet, despite many difficulties, ASEAN has achieved success in community building and affirming its central role in the regional structure, they added.

The ministers expressed high appreciation of Vietnam’s efforts and initiatives as ASEAN’s Chair for 2020.

They agreed that to ensure post-pandemic recovery, the continuity of the supply chain had to be ensured, trade between countries restored, new-generation free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pursued, and the development gap in ASEAN narrowed by advancing cooperation between sub-regions.

They devoted a lot of time discussing regional and international matters, including the South China Sea, called East Sea in Vietnam, deploring unilateral actions, continuous militarization and groundless sovereignty claims. Such activities threaten peace and stability in the East Sea in particular and the region in general, they said.

The member states reiterated ASEAN’s stance and principles on peace and stability in the sea, and emphasized the role of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS) in resolving issues.

The foreign ministers called for the full and serious implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and looked forward to the building of an effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in line with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.

The 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings will feature 20 activities at the highest level, including the ASEAN+1 meetings with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, the U.S., the U.N. and Australia; the 15th East Asia Summit (EAS); and the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summit.

At these events, leaders will focus on strengthening the ASEAN community, maintaining the momentum of intra-bloc cooperation, expanding and deepening relations between ASEAN and partners, promoting the grouping’s centrality, raising its international position, ensuring Covid-19 prevention and control, and discussing regional and international issues of mutual concern.

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