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Summits enable ASEAN leaders to affirm determination to build community

Head of the Foreign Ministry’s ASEAN Department Vu Ho has said the Special ASEAN Summit and Special ASEAN+3 Summit on COVID-19 Response, to be held online for the first time on April 14, will enable ASEAN leaders to affirm their determination to build a cohesive and responsive community.

Talking with the press about difficulties in organising the event and preparations for its agenda, Ho said it is the first time in the 50-year history of the region a special summit will be held online with the participation of leaders of 13 countries, international organisations and the World Health Organisation.

According to him, the first difficulty is how to arrange suitable time for leaders to join the event and make speeches over 4-5 different time zones. The second is ASEAN process and procedures that must both ensure the image of regional solidarity and consensus and the positive outcomes of the event.

Asked about the significance of the summits, Ho said participants will discuss policy coordination, approaches and solutions to deal with the pandemic's impact on regional political and socio-economic aspects, towards a region of safety, peace and stability.

Since the outset of COVID-19, ASEAN has made positive moves, including launching the ASEAN Community Council (ACC) mechanism led by foreign ministers. With Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh as its Chairman, the ACC has taken concerted measures in the fields of health care, military medicine, economy and trade with an aim to effectively containing the spread of the pandemic.

In order to achieve sustainable development in the future, Ho suggested preventing COVID-19 from hurting international cooperation, dialogues and cooperation.

In face of challenges arising from the pandemic, he said it is time for Vietnam to play its active role and uphold the sense of responsibility for the community in its capacity as the ASEAN Chair in line with the theme “Cohesive and Responsive” initiated by the country.

Since the COVID-19 broke out earlier this year, Vietnam has actively shared information and experience via medical channels.

On February 14, in Vietnam’s capacity as the ASEAN Chair 2020, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued the ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on the bloc’s response to the outbreak of the epidemic. With the directions of Vietnam, ASEAN issued declarations on COVID-19 prevention and control during online meetings of ASEAN Health Ministers, ASEAN+3 Health Ministers, and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Retreat.

Apart from internal discussions in the past month, ASEAN also held online talks with the European Union and China, and will do the same with US in the future to discuss anti-COVID-19 measures.

Regarding economic recovery, Ho said member states are working closely together to maintain economic connectivity and offer aid packages. He expressed his hope that they will resume talks on political, security, economic and socio-cultural issues so as to restore international relations when the pandemic ends.

Ho also said that following the summits, ASEAN and ASEAN+3 declarations on COVID-19 response will be issued with a range of measures.

According to him, leaders will pledge to continue building an open and rules-based trade system, ensuring that supply chains will not be disrupted. They also plan to set up strategic medical reserves to respond to contingencies, which is also a long-term solution to counter epidemics in the region.

Cooperation remains a mainstream among regional countries, he said, adding that nations should have a common, suitable and balanced approach to development. To such end, policy coordination is of significance to meet public demand and maintain the development of economies./