ASEAN Regional Forum Senior Officials Meeting held via video conference
The ASEAN Regional Forum Senior Officials’ Meeting (ARF SOM) was held via video conference on July 21 under the chair of Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung.
The meeting saw the attendance of representatives from 27 ARF member countries and organisations, and the ASEAN Secretariat.
The delegates reviewed the ARF’s activities during 2020-2021 amidst the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and lauded Viet Nam, as ASEAN Chair 2020, for its proposal of urgent measures to maintain dialogues and cooperation within the ARF.
They agreed to flexibly adjust the existing programmes and plans, maintains activities of working groups, and put forth working plans for the time ahead, in order to promote cooperation in prioritised areas like disaster relief and the fights against terrorism, cross-border crime and the proliferation of destruction weapons, among others.
To prepare for the 27th ARF Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the officials completed the draft Hanoi Plan of Action II of the ARF, with orientations and measures to promote dialogues and cooperation in trust building for 2020-2025.
They shared the view on common challenges faced by the region and the world, including the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating tensions and competition between powers, along with non-traditional security issues like terrorism, extreme violence, cyber security, natural disasters and climate change.
Many countries expressed concern over recent complex developments and incidents in the East Sea, such as increasing militarisation, the harassment of normal economic activities of coastal countries, and the violations of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, thus harming regional peace and security.
In this circumstance, they stressed the need to exercise restraint and take no actions that complicate the situation and escalate tensions.
They also called for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (East Sea) (DOC) and soon reach an effective and practical Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (East Sea) (COC) in line with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.
Many nations appreciated ASEAN’s stance and principles on the East Sea issues during the recent 36th ASEAN Summit.
Addressing the meeting, Dung, who is also head of SOM ASEAN Vietnam and SOM ARF Viet Nam, proposed the ARF carry forward its role as a major forum for countries to enhance dialogues, solidarity and cooperation to effectively cope with emerging challenges.
Given the adverse impact of COVID-19, Viet Nam suggested the upcoming ARF 27 issue a statement on collaboration in preventing and combating contagious diseases, he said.
According to the deputy minister, to raise the operational efficiency of the ARF, ASEAN is promptly completing documents to systematise and standardise procedures in the ARF, as initiated by Viet Nam.
Echoing other delegates’ view, Dung said maintaining peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the South China Sea (East Sea) is the common interest and concern of all countries.
He said the 1982 UNCLOS has created a legal framework to adjust all activities at seas and oceans, which all countries have to observe.
Dung used the occasion to call on countries to back ASEAN’s stance, and contribute to peace, stability and security in the South China Sea (East Sea)./.