The freshly-concluded ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) Retreat has focused on the association’s priorities for 2014, especially the guarantee of an environment of security, peace, stability and development in the region.

Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh made the statement in an interview granted to the press on the outcomes of the retreat - the first regional meeting of its kind in the year - which wrapped up in Myanmar on January 17.

Themed “Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community”, the two-day event also discussed measures to accelerate the building of the ASEAN Community – a bloc comprising of ASEAN members that will strengthen the connectivity of the region politically, economically and culturally - by 2015 and expand the bloc’s relations with partners, he said.

According to Vinh, the ministers stressed that 2014 and 2015 are very important as they will decide the ultimate success of ASEAN Community building and create momentum for the association’s subsequent development stages.

Together with speeding up the implementation of 80 percent of measures in the Community building roadmap, ASEAN should give priorities and resources to fulfilling the remaining 20 percent. The group also needs to effectively carry out programmes on strengthening linkages and connectivity, and narrowing the development gap, Vinh said.

The ministers also noted that in the context of complex regional developments, ASEAN should enhance solidarity and promote its key role in ensuring an environment of peace, security and stability in the region as well as in the evolving regional cooperation architecture, he said.

They also paid special attention to improvements in climate change and natural disaster adaptation, particularly after the serious consequences of super typhoon Haiyan late last year, he added.

Regarding regional issues, the Deputy FM said that the ministers voiced their concern about the recent complicated developments in the East Sea, reaffirming ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the East Sea and stressing the importance of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region.

The concerned parties should continue to restrain themselves and resolve disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as seriously and fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and accelerate negotiations for the early formation of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea.

About the beyond-2015 ASEAN Community Vision, the ministers said that it must be a strategic vision that helps the ASEAN Community strongly develop in the decades beyond 2015, Vinh said.

They assigned the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group (ACCWG) to soon complete the draft vision to be submitted to ASEAN foreign ministers and later to ASEAN leaders at their Summit in 2015.

Responding to a question on the Vietnamese delegation’s contributions to the meeting, Deputy FM Vinh said that in his speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh focused on analysing key tasks of the group at present and in the near future.

Minh proposed several orientations for 2014 and announced that Vietnam will take over some activities to address shortcomings in the roadmap towards the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015.

The Vietnamese Deputy PM also stressed that the beyond-2015 ASEAN Community Vision needs to promote the results gained in building the community on the three pillars of politics-security, culture-society and economics in order to lift the ASEAN Connectivity into a new height associated with building an East Asian region of peace, stability and development to which ASEAN is central, as well as raise the group’s voice in important regional and global issues.

Regarding the East Sea issue, the Vietnamese delegation head shared the ASEAN’s common viewpoint and underlined the common responsibility of ensuring peace, stability, maritime security and safety and the freedom of navigation in the sea.

Minh also emphasised the need to strictly abide by the 1982 UNCLOS and the DoC, make more efforts to soon reach the CoC and avoid any activity that would complicate the situation of disputes in the East Sea.

At the retreat, the Vietnamese diplomat congratulated Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin on his country’s assumption of the ASEAN chair in 2014 and said that Vietnam will support Myanmar in completing its task.-VNA