Maritime cooperation important for COVID-19 response, post-pandemic recovery: Forum hinh anh 1Illustrative image (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - Maritime cooperation is an essential part of the COVID-19 response and post-pandemic recovery, the 8th Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF), held in both the in-person and online formats on December 15, heard.

The forum drew the participation of representatives from ASEAN member states, the bloc’s eight partner countries, foreign embassies in Hanoi, and experts and scholars on maritime issues.

Delegates stressed the importance of the maritime space in security, stability, development, and prosperity in each nation, and the need to intensify maritime cooperation.

Priority should be given to ensuring navigation security, safety, and freedom, preventing incidents, building trust and a favourable environment to resolve disputes, boosting maritime economic development and environmental protection, handling plastic waste, and fighting illegal fishing.

They also highlighted the necessity of promoting links between strategies and initiatives on maritime cooperation and ensuring harmony with the region’s strategies and plans, given that each country builds and implements its own.

The partner countries expressed their support for the targets and orientations contained in the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which defines maritime cooperation and security as a key pillar.

Participants also exchanged views on emerging challenges, including illegal and excessive fishing, maritime environmental pollution and degradation, plastic waste, crime at sea, climate change, and food security.

They emphasised the important role of international law and the Convention on the Law of the Sea, adding that countries, big or small, are all equal and have a responsibility to abide by international law.

Many delegates voiced concern over the complex developments in the East Sea and stressed the importance of dialogue, building trust, and avoiding militarisation or other activities that may worsen the situation.

It is also important to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) fully and effectively and to work towards the early signing of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), they said.

ASEAN and China have affirmed they will resume COC tasks in 2021, after they were suspended due to COVID-19.

As chair of the forum, head of the ASEAN Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vu Ho affirmed that the EAMF has opened up opportunities for ASEAN countries and their partners to discuss issues of mutual concern and shared priority.

EAMF-8 is the last of a series of activities on maritime cooperation to be chaired by Vietnam in 2020. As ASEAN Chair in 2021, Brunei will chair the 11th ASEAN Maritime Forum and 9th EAMF next year./.