Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has affirmed that a united, strong and closely linked ASEAN is not only in the common interest of the whole bloc but also the strategic goal of all member countries.

This provides a firm foundation for ASEAN to raise its role and voice in the region and around the world, the Vietnamese leader stressed in his speech at the plenary session of the 20 th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh , Cambodia , on April 3.

He noted that Vietnam fully agrees with this year’s theme, “ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny”, as chosen by the host country.

Regarding the building of the ASEAN Community, PM Dung praised the recent reports on the progress of building up the community and implementing the ASEAN Charter, confirming that Vietnam supports the Phnom Penh Agenda and its proposals to speed up the creation of the ASEAN Community.

He urged member countries to work on effective ways of realising the building work and to boost efforts to ensure a united ASEAN and sub-regional cooperation programmes.

All these are aimed at, effectively, turning ASEAN into a common market and a sustainable and developed regional producer and supplier which will make agricultural production cooperation effective and food security essential.

Dung suggested that the countries should also focus on putting into action the comprehensive plan on building the ASEAN Political-Security Community, focusing on 14 priority areas.

They need to continue promoting existing cooperation mechanisms, including the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), the Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+), as well as enhancing non-traditional security issues, he said.

It is necessary for the members to create the best possible conditions for their counterparts to participate in issues relating to peace and security in the region, he added.

In the context of rapid changes in the region, the bloc should incorporate their stances on issues of mutual concerns, which also represent common interests of the region, Dung stressed.

Mentioning the implementation of the ASEAN Connectivity Plan, PM Dung proposed that the member countries should continue making ASEAN connectivity a priority and strengthening ties between ASEAN and its partners.

He said that ASEAN needs to be determined to realise regional-level and national-level commitments to upgrade the region’s infrastructure and encourage closer links between institutions as well as promote more contact between people in the region.

According to Dung, ASEAN needs to facilitate the trading of goods and services and as well as investment programmes, and complete the two most important infrastructure projects as soon as possible. These are the ASEAN road network and the Singapore-Kunming railway.

The region should carry out the connectivity between ASEAN’s ports and speed current research on plans to introduce cross border travel passes and reserve separate entry-exit gates for ASEAN citizens.

ASEAN also needs to set up official consultation mechanisms with its partners to ensure closer connectivity, he added.

The Vietnamese PM went on to state that Vietnam applauds ASEAN’s progress in implementing the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan 2.

However, he noted that Cambodia , Laos , Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) should be more proactive in putting forward practical ideas to narrow the development gap between CLMV and the rest of ASEAN.

Dung also praised Malaysia ’s initiative on the Global Movement of Moderates and suggested that ASEAN discuss ways of joining this initiative at an appropriate time and level.

Looking towards a drug-free ASEAN in 2015, PM Dung suggested that the regions countries put into practice previous agreements, including the plan to combat the production, transportation and use of drugs.

Discussions on ways to speed up regional integration and maintain ASEAN as the driving force of the regions political and trade structure were top of the agenda at the 20 th ASEAN summit.

The ASEAN leaders agreed on the need to continue maintaining solidarity and unity within the group and making the best use of tools and cooperative mechanisms to ensure peace, security and cooperation in the region.

They said the group also needs to further cooperation in dealing with non-traditional security issues as well as newly emerging challenges, like natural disasters, climate change, food security, maritime security and safety, terrorism, and trans-national crimes.

The leaders supported the group’s coordination in stance and more contributions to larger multilateral forums, including ASEM, APEC, G20 and the United Nations.

At the end of the plenary session, they approved the Phnom Penh Declaration on “ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny”, the Phnom Penh agenda on building the ASEAN Community and the Declaration on a Drug-Free ASEAN in 2015.

The Phnom Penh Declaration emphasised that ASEAN continues to highlight common commitments stated in the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and principles widely recognised by international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and will work towards building a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Later the same day, the ASEAN leaders met with representatives of the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), Civil Society of Organisations (CSO) and several young people from across ASEAN.

This year’s theme “One community, one destiny” expresses the bloc’s commitments to continue with the task of creating an all encompassing ASEAN Community. It is expected that the community, which was founded upon the three pillars of security, economics and culture, will be completed by 2015.-VNA