Joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a decision of great historical significance at both national and regional levels, Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh has stated on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of Vietnam’s official membership in the bloc (July 28, 1995-July 28, 2014).

In an interview granted to the press, the diplomat said at the national level, the decision paved the way for Vietnam to become more integrated into the region, allowing the country to join hands in building a regional environment of peace, stability and cooperation.

It also created opportunities and momentum for the country to expand cooperation not only with regional countries but also major partners and other countries in the international community, thus enhancing its status in the global arena, Vinh added.

Meanwhile, adding Vietnam as its seventh member also made it possible for ASEAN to build a more united environment in the region, heading to the establishment of a 10-member community playing the central role in the regional peace, stability and cooperation, he stated.

The deputy FM affirmed that ASEAN membership has created a peaceful and stable cooperative environment that Vietnam needs to conduct reform, overcome war aftermath and push regional and international integration. The country also benefits from regional support and investment, while its image and position have been elevated.

Discussing Vietnam’s contribution to the bloc over the past nearly two decades, Vinh said the country has helped strengthen ASEAN solidarity and contributed to defining orientations for the current and future operation of the bloc, while working closely with other members to promote the grouping’s central role in matters related to regional peace and security, including the East Sea issue.

Since entering the association, Vietnam has held several ASEAN leading positions. Three years after joining the bloc, the country chaired the sixth ASEAN Summit in 1998, and then served as Chair of the association’s Standing Committee in 2000 and 2001, he noted.

Notably, Vietnam successfully performed the role of ASEAN Chair in 2010, with many important decisions of the bloc made during this year, including bringing into play the ASEAN Charter and a roadmap for the building of an ASEAN Community, promoting the grouping’s central role, especially in the maintenance of peace, stability and cooperation in the region, including the East Sea, he said.

Currently, the country is working hard to make further contributions to the building of ASEAN’s post-2015 strategy.

Regarding the challenges facing the region currently, the official said ASEAN is building a Community in an environment of great changes with both traditional and non-traditional challenges as well as difficulties posed by both internal factors and external impacts.

In order for the grouping to rise above the challenges and complete its goals, ASEAN should reinforce its solidarity in order to make stronger voice on regional matters, he said.

At the same time, Vinh also pointed to the necessity to strengthen the association’s internal strength, with a focus on ensuring the progress of the roadmap to build the ASEAN Community.

Furthermore, the association should further promote its central role in all issues related to peace and security in the region, Vinh emphasised.

With a system of forums concerning regional peace and cooperation, ASEAN and its partners should raise their positive and responsible voice in all fields.

Specifically, in terms of the East Sea issue, the association should underline the principle of strict implementation of international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea , while supporting the peaceful settlement of disputes without using or threatening to use force, he said.

Meanwhile, ASEAN should also take the initiative in proposing and building regional codes of conduct so that all countries, not only those in the region but also partner nations joining partnership in Southeast Asia share and abide by these principles, the deputy FM said, adding that if ASEAN can do this, the bloc will overcome arising challenge and enhance the important role that it has played over the past years.-VNA