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Vietnam leads ASEAN to deal with regional challenges: Deputy FM

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and General Secretary of the National ASEAN 2020 Committee Nguyen Quoc Dung has emphasized Vietnam’s leading role in the fight against the COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, and its efforts to enhance the bloc’s proactiveness in addressing regional challenges.

Talking to the press on June 23, Dung said as ASEAN 2020 Chair, Vietnam has timely adjusted the focus of cooperation within the group to match the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Right from the beginning of February, before the World Health Organization declared the global COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam had worked with other ASEAN countries to issue an ASEAN Chair Statement on response to the COVID-19 epidemic, which was approved by ASEAN leaders on February 14.

ASEAN formed a coordination mechanism for preventing the disease, and assigned Foreign Ministers of the member countries to implement.

A deputy ministerial-level working group on responding to emergency medical situations was established, Dung said, adding that specific measures proposed by the group were approved by ASEAN leaders on April 14, which created unity among the bloc to effectively cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

The Deputy FM also underscored the significance of ASEAN’s cohesion and proactive adaptation to addressing challenges in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the factor behind ASEAN cohesion in the fight against the pandemic is the need for cooperation, especially in protecting citizens, sharing disease prevention experience and supporting each other in medical supplies and equipment.

Regarding the proactive adaptation of the bloc, Dung pointed to an example that even when no end to the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, ASEAN leaders have assigned ministers and senior officials to build plans to recover socio-economic development in each country and minimize negative impacts of the pandemic.

The diplomat noted that in the first half of Vietnam’s chairmanship of ASEAN, most efforts were focused on COVID-19 response, therefore much remains to be done regarding initiatives set forth at the beginning of the year. He said in the second half of 2020, ASEAN will have a double task of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and restoring socio-economic activities while implementing tasks on building the ASEAN Community and promoting collaboration with partner countries.

In such context, Deputy Minister Dung said the 36th ASEAN Summit, slated for June 26 in the form of video conference, will concentrate on the most important task of countering COVID-19 and restoring activities in all fields, along with implementing Vietnam’s initiatives. He listed several works such as completing the mid-term review, building plans toward a post-2025 ASEAN Vision, and carrying out communication campaigns to enhance ASEAN image.

Dung added that Vietnam has proposed the hanging of ASEAN flags in public places, using the ASEAN anthem and setting up ASEAN lanes at airports. ASEAN member countries are making adjustments to their regulations in order to implement this proposal./.