Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Truong, Former Vietnamese Ambassador to 5 countries, Chairman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSSD) shared with Hanoitimes
about the half-century of ASEAN and the imprint of Vietnam in this process.
What do you think about the achievements after 50 years of formation and development of the ASEAN Community?
Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Truong
50 years ago, the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) was established in Bangkok. Half a century passed, ASEAN made history with outstanding achievements.
By 1999, ASEAN had become a regional organization of 10 members, operating under the common unit, with 625 million people, internal trade amount of more than a trillion dollars, making an important contribution to the construction of pieceful, stable and developed Southeast Asia. ASEAN has made significant contributions to the maintenance of a peaceful and secure environment in East Asia, creating appropriate political and security mechanisms "to play a leading role in regional mechanisms", to all concerned countries, including major countries in Asia-Pacific for peace and security, in a constantly changing Asia-Pacific situation while constructing a regional security and order structure consistent with the new force relationship.
What challenges do you think ASEAN will face in the future?
At present, ASEAN is facing to three major challenges:
Firstly, ASEAN is entering a new era, with the challenges of building a community and internal connection effectively, practically and "implement culture" in order to promote social security and serve interests of member countries. Unfortunately, over the past two decades, ASEAN has not been able to bridge the gap between "developed" and "developing" members.
The second challenge is to maintain true solidarity and unity, independence and sovereignty in relations with major countries, for the sake of national interests as well as the interests of ASEAN community.
Thirdly, Southeast Asia from the twentieth century to present is always the focal point of competition and struggle for influence among major countries - due to its special geographic location.
ASEAN is facing extreme strategic competition among the major countries. They are seeking to exploit, politically polarize the organization and differentiate ASEAN members. Therefore, the members need to be united and play a central role in regional mechanisms as well as keep the region peaceful, stable and developed.
The ASEAN community needs to take advantage of opportunities to overcome the challenge and successfully building a strong and united ASEAN community that is positive in regional and international issues.
The draft for the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (COC) has been approved by ASEAN and China. In your opinion, is this a big step for ASEAN to resolve its disputes?
Addressing the South China Sea issue is important for peace, stability, security, maritime and air safety in the South China Sea, as well as for peace and stability in Southeast Asia. On August 6, Chinese Foreign Ministers and ASEAN Foreign Ministers passed a draft on the Code of Conduct for Parties in the South China Sea (COC). This is a positive step for settling disputes in the South China Sea on the basis of international law. As a result, the parties should initiate negotiations on the validity and legality of the COC.
However, this document is brief with many previous clause and rules existing in ASEAN-China Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002, which has not even been partially implemented. Vietnam has strongly required to maintain the "legally" principle of the COC. During the upcoming COC negotiations, Vietnam will surely continue to make a positive contribution.
After 22 years of joining ASEAN, what do you think about the role and mark of Vietnam?
Vietnam joining ASEAN is an important event for this regional organization. Vietnam is an active and positive member, enabling ASEAN's unity, unification and its role in relations with major countries.
At the same time, this role, as well as the strategic and specific contributions of Vietnam to the organization, has enhanced Vietnam's international standing, serving effectively for Vietnam's development. Vietnam should continue to promote its core, active and positive role as it did in the past while raising awareness about the importance of ASEAN and promoting effective role in ASEAN.