Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh led a Vietnamese delegation to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM Retreat), the first regional meeting of its kind hosted by Myanmar, on January 17.

Themed "Moving Forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community”, the event focused on efforts to speed up ASEAN Community building, develop a regional vision beyond 2015, strengthen external relations and talk on issues of global and regional concern.

On the realisation of the ASEAN Community – a bloc comprising of ASEAn members that will strengthen the connectivity of the region - by 2015, ministers shared the view that 2014 is a key year that requires the strongest will to fulfill the remaining tasks in an active and responsible manner.

At the same time, the bloc should work well on key cooperation programmes like the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC), the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) to narrow the development gap, further improve working efficiency and collaborate within ASEAN agencies and organisations. Participants said that this will enhance the bloc’s capacity for dealing with key regional issues and improve the ability of the ASEAN Secretariat.

On the political-security front, ASEAN needs to ensure an environment of peace and security while strengthening trust building, sharing a code of conduct, respecting regulations and agreements, and utilising existing cooperation tools and mechanisms, the talks heard.

On the other hand, it is necessary to strengthen ASEAN’s efforts in coping with non-traditional security challenges like natural disasters, climate change, humanitarian assistance, search-and-rescue and trans-national crime combat.

Foreign ministers decided to ask ASEAN leaders a launch review of the ASEAN Charter and working regulations of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights five years after its operations.

About economic affairs, they consented to acting quickly on the 2013-2015 priority tasks as scheduled, and implementing agreements signed among member countries and those with their partners, including the free trade agreements.

Referring to socio-culture, more attention will be paid to emerging challenges like natural disasters, climate change, environmental pollution, improvement of people’s well-being and social welfares. Simultaneously, images and awareness of the ASEAN Community will be spread further.

Discussing the formulation of the Vision for post-2015 ASEAN Community as guided by ASEAN leaders' statement at the 23 rd ASEAN Summit, participants worked out a concrete plan to put the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group into operation soon.

When it came to regional and global issues, the East Sea issue came high on the agenda. Expressing concern over recent developments in the waters, they reiterated the ASEAN’s Six-Point Principle on the East Sea and the significance to maintain peace, stability, security, freedom for maritime navigation and aviation.

They called on all parties concerned to exercise restraint and settle disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

Ministers also stressed the need to step up negotiations towards the early formulation of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

As for external affairs, they called for deeper and wider external relations, and further bringing into play the ASEAN’s nucleus role. Such must go hand in hand with closer collaboration between the grouping and partners to deal with key regional issues while ensuring that ASEAN plays a central role in an evolving regional structure.

They paid special attention to response to natural disasters, especially following the severe damages caused by Haiyan typhoon. They suggested improving capacity of ASEAN functional bodies like the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management, the Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and so that they can offer faster and more effective support in case that a similar disaster occurs.-VNA