Vietnam - Asean-China relations and the East Sea (widely known as South China Sea) issue dominated a special meeting between foreign ministers from Asean and China in Kunming, in China’s Yunnan Province, yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh led the Vietnamese delegation to the event, which was co-chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.
Speaking at the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Minh affirmed that Vietnam and Asean attached importance to ties with China, and underscored the importance of the Asean-China strategic partnership for peace, security and prosperity in Asia-Pacific.
He proposed boosting bilateral co-operation to effectively carry out the 2016-20 Action Plan, focusing on priority fields of the economy, trade, investment, climate change, agriculture, and food and water security, particularly in the Greater Mekong sub-region.
He said joint work should be intensified to deal with regional security challenges, even in the East Sea, and thorough preparations should be made to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Asean-China dialogue relations, particularly the commemorative summit slated for September in Laos.
Expressing concern over complicated developments in the East Sea and their obstacles, the Deputy PM called on Asean and China to increase dialogues and co-operation to deal with the issue while complying with commitments through concrete actions and the peaceful settlement of disputes in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He urged parties to refrain from using force or threatening to use force, and also urged efforts to prevent other actions that could further complicate the dispute, particularly via non-militarisation in the East Sea, the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and the early formulation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).
The Vietnamese leader also pushed forward progress in bilateral talks on sea boundary delimitation.
Participants expressed their delight at the outcomes of the implementation of the 2011-2015 Action Plan for the Joint Statement on the Asean-China Strategic Partnership, including upgrades to the Asean-China free trade agreement.
China remains Asean’s biggest trade partner with two-way trade of US$470 billion, which is expected to soar to $1 trillion by 2020.
Ministers sought to further promote co-ordination across the fields of politics-security, economy, socio-culture and development. They committed to effectively materialising the 2016-20 Action Plan and preparing for the Commemorative Summit of Asean-China Relations in Vientiane, Laos, this September, including drafting the Asean-China Joint Statement on enhancing manufacturing capability and increasing collaboration via Asean mechanisms to deal with common challenges.
The Asean foreign ministers shared the view that the maintenance of peace, stability, overflight and navigation security, safety and freedom in the East Sea is a shared responsibility.
They expressed their concerns about recent issues in the East Sea, especially land reclamation, large-scale construction, militarisation on man-made islands and actions affirming sovereignty not grounded in international law.
They asked Asean and China to show political will and greater efforts to ensure peace and security in the East Sea and comply with basic principles of international law.
Measures to build trust and preventive diplomacy need to be adopted, they said. The two sides also hailed the outcomes of the Asean-China senior officials’ 12th meeting on DOC implementation recently held in the Vietnamese northern province of Quang Ninh.
They reaffirmed their commitment to manage disputes and prevent conflicts, as well as to finish drafting the Declaration on the implementation of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea to submit to the Commemorative Summit for approval. They also agreed to launch a hotline for diplomatic officials to deal with contingencies in the East Sea.
Meeting with Chinese counterpart
The day before, Deputy PM Minh met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the meeting.
Both sides said they highly value the co-operation between Asean and China and wanted to boost their ties.
They said the Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting would help enhance their mutual understanding and co-operation, which is an important preparation for the success of the Commemorative Summit later this year.
Deputy PM Minh took note of developments in Vietnam-China ties and proposed that the two sides maintain delegation exchanges and contacts at high levels while pushing forward mutually-beneficial measures and the implementation of agreements reached during their leaders’ visits.
He urged more balanced and sustainable economic and trade ties and stronger cooperation between the two foreign ministries.
Deputy PM Minh requested that China facilitate the import of Vietnamese goods, particularly agro-forestry-fishery products.
He said both sides needed to improve the performance of their working groups on infrastructure and finance-currency, thus accelerating the construction speed of contracted infrastructure projects.
He asked China to implement preferential credit packages for Vietnam.
The Vietnamese Deputy PM and Foreign Minister also expressed Vietnam’s concern over recent complicated developments in the East Sea, and called for compliance of commitments and common perceptions reached by leaders of the two Parties and countries on controlling disputes and refraining from acts that further complicate the situation while pushing for progress in negotiation mechanisms.
p/He noted the need to work with Asean to effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and build a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) to help maintain peace and stability in the East Sea and the region. Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed with his guest on measures to boost Vietnam-China co-operation.
He added that both China and Asean wanted to maintain peace and co-operation, and control disputes in the East Sea.