Vietnamese Ambassador Ha Kim Ngoc (first, left) and other delegates at the forum (Photo: VNA)

Washington DC (VNA)
– Cooperation between Mekong and the US was the theme of the annual diplomacy forum held by the Meridian International Centre in Washington DC on June 6.

Delegates at the forum included representatives from the US administration, the Congress, international research organisations and US businesses, along with the Ambassadors and Charge d’affaires of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Speakers at the event focused their attention on political, economic and cultural linkages between the US and mainland Southeast Asia.

US officials, including Assistant Secretary of Defence Randall Shriver, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mark Clark, former Ambassador to ASEAN Piper Campbell and former Senator Jim Mark, talked about the orientations of US’s cooperation with Mekong and ASEAN countries in the time ahead, as well as its Open and Free Indo-Pacific Strategy.

The delegates spoke highly of Vietnam’s role in cooperation in Mekong and ASEAN, and expressed their belief that the country will well perform the ASEAN Chair in 2020.

Vietnamese Ambassador Ha Kim Ngoc, US Assistant Secretary of Defence Randall Shriver and former Ambassador to ASEAN Piper Campbell exchanged views on the enhancement of relations between countries along the Mekong River and the US.

Ngoc affirmed the strategic significance of the Mekong region, saying Mekong countries and the US share many benefits brought about by cooperation in the Mekong region.

With a combined population of 240 million and total gross domestic product (GDP) reaching about 800 billion USD, the five countries in the Mekong Sub-region have become important partners in security and development.

Vietnam and other countries in the Mekong Sub-region have great demand for cooperation and development in infrastructure, renewable energy and digital economy, he said.

The diplomat suggested the two sides take a comprehensive and flexible approach to cooperation in order to make full use of their strength and address regional challenges.

Priorities should be given to the effective and sustainable management and use of water resources, renewable and sustainable energy development, infrastructure development and human resources development through training programmes and cultural exchanges in order to enhance connectivity and narrow development gaps, he said.

Ngoc also proposed carrying forward the existing mechanisms like the Lower Mekong Initiative, promoting coordination between partners in and outside the region, and engaging financial institutions and private businesses in cooperation and investment projects in the Mekong region.

As the ASEAN Chair in 2020, Vietnam will work to intensify cooperation in the Mekong region, optimise existing mechanisms between Mekong and partner countries, including the US, and integrate them into the implementation of master plans of the Mekong and ASEAN regions as well as UN Sustainable Development Goals, he said.

On the sidelines of the event, the Vietnamese Embassy displayed Vietnamese handicrafts, and cultural and tourism publications.

Established in 1960, Meridian International Center is a non-profit organisation which partners up with the US State Department and other government agencies in organising activities to promote cooperation between the US and other countries.-VNA