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Vietnam helping to strengthen ASEAN unanimity in COVID-19 fight: Official

Vietnam has been effectively performing its role as ASEAN Chair in terms of enhancing the bloc’s unanimity and cooperating with other members in the COVID-19 response, according to the Secretary General of the ASEAN-Korea Centre Lee Hyuk.

In a recent interview with the Vietnam News Agency, Lee, who is also a former Ambassador of the Republic of Korea (RoK) to Vietnam, said that since the beginning of this year Vietnam has been exerting every effort to promote a cohesive and responsive ASEAN.

Since the coronavirus first broke out, he went on, the country emphasised the importance of solidarity in the bloc to concurrently overcome the health crisis and recover the economy, noting that last month Vietnam chaired the 36th ASEAN Summit, during which regional leaders affirmed their resolve, political will, and solidarity to weather any and all difficulties.

ASEAN has a great deal of experience in cooperating to overcome crises, he explained. For example, when the 1997 financial crisis struck the region, ASEAN and the three northeast Asian countries - the RoK, Japan, and China - created the ASEAN Plus Three mechanism.

Lee expressed his belief that under Vietnam’s guidance, the bloc will once again emerge victorious from the difficulties of today. The country has the necessary conditions to guide such efforts and minimise the spread of COVID-19, recover economies, and enhance the region’s competitiveness in the post-pandemic period.

He added that its efforts to promote multilateralism in the region via ASEAN-created platforms will greatly help to bolster mutual trust and regional cooperation.

In discussing RoK-Vietnam relations, the Secretary General said Vietnam is the most important ASEAN partner for his home country and bilateral ties have been developing strongly in all regards for many years.

Two-way trade reached 70 billion USD last year - nearly 40 percent of the RoK’s total trade with all of ASEAN. Its investment in Vietnam stands at 4.5 billion USD, putting it among the largest of foreign investors.

Growth in economic links has led to stronger people-to-people exchanges, he said, noting that about 4 million RoK people visited Vietnam in 2019 and that there are over 180,000 Koreans living in Vietnam at present, with a similar number of Vietnamese living in the RoK.