US praises ASEAN's pandemic fight

By Minh Nga   July 18, 2020 | 11:36 pm PT
US praises ASEAN's pandemic fight
A medical worker is disinfected after taking samples for Covid-19 tests from residents at a village in Hanoi, April 9, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
The U.S. appreciated the lessons and experiences on controlling Covid-19 from ASEAN countries, calling for coordination in dealing with further developments of the pandemic.

The message was passed in online talks held this week with U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, who is Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Vietnam’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ha Kim Ngoc, said that as the current ASEAN chair, Vietnam has cooperated with other bloc members to maintain all activities during the pandemic, and hopes it will be contained soon so that the nation can welcome ASEAN leaders and partners, including President Donald Trump, to Hanoi for the East Asia Summit slated to take place this November.

Castro expressed appreciation over the pandemic fight in ASEAN, especially Vietnam which has reported no deaths so far, as well as ASEAN-U.S. cooperation in dealing with the pandemic.

He said the priority now is to promote coordination in dealing with the complicated developments of Covid-19.

Ngoc said Vietnam highly values the recent statements by foreign affairs officials of the U.S. House and the Senate, which "clarify the U.S.’s position on the South China Sea and makes it clear that China’s territorial claims are illegal."

The South China Sea is known in Vietnam as the East Sea.

On July 13, U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Representatives Eliot Engel and Michael McCaul, chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that "China has failed to abide by the Permanent Court of Arbitration's legally binding ruling from 2016, or provide any credible legal justification for its claims."

"Instead, it has resorted to coercion of its neighbors, an aggressive campaign of reclamation and militarization of features, and continued activities in the exclusive economic zones of other countries. This has only accelerated over the last several months as the world focused on Covid-19.

"The United States is committed to upholding international law; to flying, sailing, and operating where international law allows; and to supporting our regional partners and regional institutions who seek peaceful diplomatic resolution of disputes in the South China Sea," they said.

Their joint statement was released the same day after the U.S. Department of State released a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on maritime claims in the South China Sea, which said: "Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them."

Congressman Castro affirmed bipartisan consensus in the U.S. on an approach that upholds international law, peacefully resolves disputes in the South China Sea, underscoring the legal value of the Arbitral Tribunal's decision on the South China Sea dispute between the Philippines and China.

China has taken a series of provocative, illegal actions in the East Sea since the start of the year, including several that impinge on Vietnamese sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes, even as other countries in the region and the world were focused on battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

It formed the so-called ‘Xisha’ and ‘Nansha’ districts in Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands, sank Vietnamese fishing vessels off the Paracels, unilaterally issued a fishing ban and sent a ship to harass a Malaysian oil and gas exploration vessel.

It also announced a vegetable farming project on Woody (Phu Lam) Island in the Paracels to strengthen its illegal sovereignty claims, and sent two diplomatic notes to the U.N. to make the infamous Four Sha claim, which covers an even broader swath of territory than the notorious, illegal nine-dash line.

Vietnam has repeatedly protested and condemned China’s provocative, illegal actions and urged it to desist.

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

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