July 24, 2009
The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) plays an important role in the region’s stability and development, said Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem.
The Deputy PM was addressing the 16th forum held in Phuket, Thailand on July 23, the final event within the five-day 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM-42), which comprises FMs from ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 17 partners.
Deputy PM Khiem said the ratification of the ARF Vision Statement, which includes measures to enhance cooperation and promote a more effective security partnership among the ARF participants, would help the ARF to bring into play the successes of the past 15 years and to make more active contributions to the region’s peace and stability.
He stressed that the ARF should continue measures to increase confidence as a foundation to strengthen the mutual trust between participating countries.
He said the ASEAN will help provide impetus to the forum’s development and, together with other participating countries, intensify negotiations and cooperation, thus contributing to peace, stability and development in Southeast Asian and Asia-Pacific regions.
The Vietnamese official also suggested measures to improve the efficiency of cooperation within the ARF. These included the implementation of a number of documents, such as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and solutions to global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, epidemics and terrorism.
At the forum, the ministers reviewed the ARF’s important contributions to the region over the past 15 years in terms of security, especially non-traditional security, and building confidence among regional countries, thus helping to maintain peace, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.The ministers agreed that in the years to come, the ARF needs to continue its operations on the basis of consensus and progress in accordance with all the concerned parties.
The ARF should further step up cooperation in areas of mutual benefit, particularly in response to rising challenges such as epidemics, natural disasters, energy and food security, and transnational terrorism and crime, they said.
The ministers emphasised the need to accelerate effective implementation of documents regarding regional peace and security maintenance, such as the TAC, the SEANWFZ and the DOC.
The ministers also discussed a number of regional and international issues of common concern, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
At the end of the forum, the ministers adopted the ARF Vision Statement as well as specific measures and directions designed to enhance operational efficiency of the ARF in the future.
The forum also agreed that Vietnam will take over the ARF presidency from Thailand as of January 2010. Vietnam briefed the participants about its preparations, including ARF meeting schedules next year.
Also on July 23, Deputy PM and FM Khiem attended the first meeting of foreign ministers from countries in the lower Mekong basin and the US.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of AMM-42 under an initiative by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the consensus of her counterparts from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
The ministers looked into a range of directions to strengthen cooperation in the near future, particularly in environmental problems, climate change, health, education and infrastructure development.
They applauded the initiative to link up the Mekong River Commission and the US ’s Mississippi counterpart to share experiences in adapting to climate change, coping with floods and droughts, hydroelectric power and its impacts, the exploitation of water sources and other related issues.
The ministers agreed to entrust their experts with mapping out specific areas of cooperation, including the venue and schedule for the next meeting in 2010.