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ASEAN-China cooperation: commitments to handling urgent issues

The freshly-concluded sixth Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting offered a chance for countries to affirm their commitments to cooperation in addressing urgent issues in the region, thus ensuring sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, a Vietnamese official has said.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung, head of Vietnam’s ASEAN SOM, made the statement during an interview given to reporters following the meeting and the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Minister’s Meeting, held virtually in China’s Chongqing city. The Vietnamese delegation to the events was led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son.

The ministers reviewed and proposed orientations to promote the strategic partnership and comprehensive cooperation between ASEAN and China, and the MLC mechanism in the time ahead, significantly contributing to peace, security, stability and prospereous development in the region, Dung said.

At the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the countries stressed the strategic importance of the ASEAN-China relationship to the region, as well as its contributions to development in each country.
They consented to give high priority to collaboration in COVID-19 combat and recovery.
China pledged to further help ASEAN countries improve their medical capacity in response to the pandemic, and in vaccine research, development, production and distribution, while stepping up vaccine supplies to the nations.

The ministers compared notes on regional issues, especially those regarding the East Sea and Myanmar, and affirmed that maintaining an environment of peace, security and stability in the region, including the East Sea, is the shared concern and interest of ASEAN and China.

They welcomed the organisation of the 19th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) ahead of the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

They also committed to further implementing the DOC fully and effectively and resuming negotiations for an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in line with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS).

The MLC-6 Meeting set out four priorities for the coming time, including cooperation on water resources and the environment to address major regional issues such as the Mekong River ecological environment, floods and droughts, and climate change, enhancement of collaboration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine production and technology transfer, and coordination in building the Mekong - Lancang Economic Development Belt and connecting it with existing economic corridors in the region.

Regarding the contributions of the Vietnamese delegation to the meetings, Deputy FM Dung said in his address at the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son affirmed that Vietnam will actively work with ASEAN countries and China to strengthen political dialogue, improve mutual understanding, trust and respect, and promote comprehensive cooperation, making the bilateral relationship a model of stable and sustainable partnership between neighbouring countries.

Son also called for strengthening efforts to respond to COVID-19 and promote recovery, making effective use of ASEAN – China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, expanding regional connectivity via connecting the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), promoting sub-regional cooperation, and stepping up sustainable development cooperation in line with the theme of ASEAN-China cooperation this year.
Apart from appreciating China's valuable support for Vietnam in COVID-19 response, the Vietnamese FM emphasised the importance of efforts by ASEAN and China to maintain an environment of peace, security, stability and rule of law in the region.

He affirmed that Vietnam will continue to work with ASEAN countries and China to fully and effectively implement the DOC and build an effective and efficient COC in accordance with international law and the UNCLOS 1982.

At the MLC-6 Meeting, FM Son proposed sharing experience in fighting the pandemic and transferring technology on vaccine production in a practical and effective way; facilitating the cross-border circulation of goods to support economic recovery during and after the pandemic; and stepping up cooperation in the sustainable management and use of water resources of the Mekong River.

During his attendance at the meetings, Minister Bui Thanh Son held talks with Chinese State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, and had bilateral meetings with Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn to discuss bilateral relations and issues of shared concern./.