ASEAN foreign ministers discuss intra-bloc cooperation issues hinh anh 1Participants at the event (Photo: VNA)

Bangkok (VNA) – The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat 2019 opened in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai on January 18 with a focus on various issues related to intra-bloc cooperation, the process of building the ASEAN Community towards sustainable growth, as well as the current regional and global situation.

Vu Ho, head of the ASEAN Department under Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the ministers pledged to promote the achievements reached in 2018 in ASEAN Community building with the motto of working towards a self-reliant and innovative community.

The ministers discussed traditional and non-traditional challenges facing the region and the world currently, stressing the need to strengthen solidarity and unity in all aspects of the ASEAN Community building process.

They agreed to maintain principles and measures to deal with urgent problems on the foundation of solidarity, unity and regulations of international law, for peace, stability, and security in the region.

Regarding the East Sea issue, ministers underlined their stance that maintaining peace, stability, and freedom of navigation and aviation is the common goal and interest of all parties.

They vowed to uphold international law and rules, especially the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), with respect to the principle of dialogue and not using or threatening to use force and action that could harm trust, especially any militarisation activities in disputed areas which may lead to incidents at sea or threaten the stability and peace in the region.

The ministers agreed to fully implement the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) during the negotiation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) with China, which is expected to be finalised in 2019.

They affirmed that it is a weighty requirement for ASEAN to ensure an environment of peace and stability to facilitate the negotiation process.

Addressing the event, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh supported all priorities for ASEAN in 2019 given by Thailand, the rotating Chair of ASEAN, affirming that Vietnam will do its utmost to contribute to their realisation.

At the conference, ministers also debated the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Strategy, demonstrating the will of member countries to cope with the changing geopolitical situation in the region.

The strategy will not bind the association with any country, but serve as a win-win solution.

Earlier, the ASEAN introduced its own version of the strategy which includes similar principles and contents with those proposed by the US, Japan, India, and Australia. At the same time, it mentions the openness, the engagement of relevant countries, transparency, and a rule-based world order and the central role of ASEAN.

During the event, ministers will decide the final name of the strategy.

Regarding Timor Leste’s interest to join ASEAN, the Thai foreign ministry’s spokesperson Bussadee Santipitaks said that the association will send a delegation to the country to evaluate its readiness for joining the bloc. –VNA