Participants at the meeting (Source: VNA)

Vientiane (VNA) – Senior officials from ASEAN member nations and the group’s partners, including the US, Russia, Japan, China, and the European Union met at the ASEAN Regional Forum Senior Officials' Meeting (ARF SOM) Luang Prabang, Laos on May 8.

Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung led the Vietnamese delegation to the meeting, which focused on assessing cooperation activities within the forum in 2015-2016 in ensuring navigation security, combating terrorism and transnational crime, disaster relief, preventing nuclear weapon proliferation and disarmament.

Participants also approved a list of ARF activities for 2016 – 2017, to be submitted to ARF ministers for approval.

Regarding enhancing links among ARF member nations, they agreed to turn cooperation mechanisms within ARF into preventative diplomacy, while intensifying ways to build confidence, towards ensuring peace and security, preventing conflicts, and peacefully addressing disputes.

Participants stressed the need to improve the efficiency of ARF’s activities and promote connections between ARF and other cooperation mechanisms guided by ASEAN such as the E ast Asia Summit ( EAS), the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus ( ADMM+ ) and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) .

Preparation for the 23rd ARF Foreign Ministers Meeting was also on the agenda, discussing ARF draft statements, including one on enhancing cross-border crime management, suggested by China and Thailand, and a statement on preventing illegal fishing activities, supported by Indonesia, the US, and Timor Leste.

Vietnam submitted a draft statement for the first time, which called for stronger cooperation among law enforcement agencies at sea within ARF. The draft was co-sponsored by the European Union and Australia.

During the event, attendees compared notes on regional and international issues of common concern related to the East Sea, Ukraine, migration and terrorism.

Many countries shared their concern over the recent developments in the East Sea and emphasizing the importance of pres erving peace, stability, security, and navigation and aviation safety, as well as settling disputes in the East Sea in line with international law and the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and strictly obeying the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) as well as accelerating negotiations to soon reach a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung told Vietnam News Agency’s correspondents that Vietnam has emphasised the responsibility and common interests of all countries and the international community in maintaining peace and security in the region. The country also took the occasion to reiterated its stance on the East Sea issue, underlining the need to abide to international law and the 1982 UNCLOS as well as to settle disputes by peaceful methods without using to threatening to use force. Vietnam calls for the effective implementation of the DOC and efforts towards an early formation of the COC.-VNA