The 21st Asean Summit opened in Phnom Penh yesterday under the theme One Community, One Destiny, with meetings during the three-day event expected to tackle such issues as measures to build the Asean Community, regional peace and security, and strengthening co-operation between the bloc's member states.
The event recognised Asean's major achievements over the past 45 years, especially recent efforts in building a common community, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in addressing the opening of the summit.
Hun Sen urged member states to adopt a comprehensive co-operative approach, particularly in regional collaboration, in an attempt to further accelerate the pace of Asean Community-building, strengthen the bloc's external relations and enhance its role and position in the international arena.
"Realising the Asean Community by 2015 should remain our top priority," he stressed. He encouraged Asean states to boost efforts in addressing regional and global challenges like the economic downturn, climate change, natural resource depletion and pandemics.
At the plenary session following the opening ceremony, participants also discussed other priority issues, including enhancing regional connectivity and narrowing the development gap.
The regional leaders also appointed Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Le Luong Minh to the post of Asean Secretary General for 2013-17.
Later in the day, leaders of Asean member states held a closed-door session and signed the Phnom Penh Declaration, approving the Asean Statement on Human Rights.
The Asean Institute of Peace and Reconcilliation is also making its debut at the summit. Initiated by Indonesia and funded by Asean member nations, the institute was established to promote peace, security and reconcilliation in the region.
On this occasion, leaders of Asean countries officially launched the start of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Asean leaders affirmed that they would continue supporting the Myanmar government's efforts on ethnic harmony and support a peaceful and non-nuclear Korean peninsula.
In terms of the Gaza Strip, the Asean countries called upon concerned parties to take actions to bring the violence to an end and seek peace in the Middle East. They also agreed to strengthen exchange and co-ordinate on global issues of mutual concern at international and regional forums.
The Asean leaders re-affirmed the importance of ensuring peace, stability and marine safety in the East Sea and the need to solve disputes in a peaceful manner, respecting international laws, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, implementing DOC and working towards a COC.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in his speech delivered to the plenary session called on Asean member states to make greater efforts to shape a common voice on major issues of regional and international concern.
By doing so, the position, role and say of Asean on the international stage would be heightened, Dung emphasised.
He thanked Asean state leaders for approving Vietnam's nomination of Deputy Foreign Minister, Le Luong Minh, as Asean Secretary General for the 2013-17 period.
Dung said he was confident that the experienced, enthusiastic and dedicated diplomat would continue the accomplishments made by present Asean Secretary General, Surin Pitsuwan, for Asean's effective operation.
He told other leaders that Asean reaped an array of positive outcomes in the course of building its common community. He cited the fulfilment of 72 per cent of targets set for the shaping of an Asean Economic Community, an important pillar that will support the Asean community.
However, there was still a mountain of challenges before the job is done, he said.
According to Dung, Asean needs to remain united and defend its central role when working on the settlement of issues concerning its interests and cooperation focus – an important condition for the successful building of an Asean community by 2015.
The group also needs to press ahead with its Community building roadmap set for the 2009-15 period and ramp up the implementation of free trade agreements with its partners before talks commence on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
One of the group's priorities is to narrow the developmental gap between member countries, stimulate equal and sustainable development and improve the region's competitiveness.
Dung urged the group to cultivate its leading role to enhance dialogues, build trust, share code of conduct standards, and utilise political and security cooperation tools, such as TAC, DOC and Asean's six-point principles on the East Sea.
Dung underlined the creation of a Code of Conduct and further acceleration of co-operation in dealing with non-traditional security issues and emerging challenges such as terrorism, trans-national crime, water resources, security and maritime safety.
To build the Asean Social-cultural Community, priority should be given to promoting equal development, safeguarding social security, protecting the environment, responding to climate change and managing natural and human-made disasters, he said.
He proposed that Asean should boost co-operation in social welfare and services for vulnerable groups in 2013 and work together to organise Asean relief aid exercises – which will be put on the Asean Action Plan on Climate Change Response.
Dung welcomed Asean's adoption of an Asean Statement on Human Rights – the first political document of the group that looks to enhance human rights co-operation in the region. It will adhere to goals and principles outlined in the Asean Charter, and contribute to materialising the people-centred Asean community.
Regarding Asean connectivity, he urged the leaders of Asean member countries to issue specific instructions in the field, given that only 37 per cent of the set targets have been fulfilled.
Dung proposed mobilising every resource in and outside Asean to realise the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity, which was designed to connect not only infrastructure but institutions and people.
In his speech, the PM welcomed and highly valued the organisation of Asean's global dialogue in anticipation of the Summit, saying it is an opportunity for Asean to gain support from international financial institutions to turn regional integration goals into reality. Dung said he would attend the event.
He congratulated Brunei on taking the Chair of Asean in 2013 and pledged to work closely with the country for the success of its chairmanship.
Vietnam and Cambodia would continue working closely in regional and international forums, especially Asean, the Greater Mekong Sub-Region and the UN, Dung and Hun Sen pledged on Saturday in a meeting on the eve of the Asean Summit.
Dung lauded Cambodia's efforts as the host of this year's summit, affirming Vietnam's continued support and close coordination with Cambodia to ensure the success of the event.
The two leaders also discussed preparations for celebrating the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Year and the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and they recommitted to the expanison of the solidarity and tradition of friendship and co-operation between the two countries.
They also addressed the process of border demarcation and border-marker planting in an effort to build a common border of peace, friendship and mutual development. They also pledged to ensure appropriate and sustainable use of Mekong River water resources for the common benefits of all countries in the river basin.
On the sideline of the summit PM Dung met with Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong.
The two leaders discussed measures to strengthen bilateral ties, especially in economics, trade and investment.
They expressed their pleasure at the increasing number of successful Singaporean-invested projects in Vietnam.
The two leaders agreed to work closely to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their bilateral diplomatic ties in 2013.
On this occasion, PM Lee affirmed that he would pay an official visit to Vietnam during which the two sides would sign a declaration on the establishment of their strategic partnership.
On regional and international issues, the two PMs shared the view that peace and stability in the East Sea is significant to the development of the region.
Asean countries should be united and share a common view on the basis of the Asean six-point principles on the East Sea, implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea and build the Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea.
Lee expressed his pleasure that Vietnam had positively participated in the Trans Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations, and affirmed that Singapore would continue to support and work closely with Vietnam during the process.
On the same day, Dung met President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III.
The two leaders agreed the two nations had much in common and shared mutual concerns, which they described as a basis to enhance bilateral relations to a new height.
Dung expressed his thanks to the Philippine government for helping Vietnamese vessels and fishermen in the sea. He also congratulated the government for reaching a preliminary agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and expressed his hope that the country would gain long-term peace and stability.
In terms of issues related to the East Sea, the two leaders affirmed that it was necessary to implement Asean's six-point principles on the East Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea while also soon building the Code of Conduct between Asean countries and China in the East Sea.
They also agreed that Asean should bring into play its central role in the region and said they believed that the success of the summit and relevant conferences would contribute to the building of the Asean community by 2015 as well as international and regional peace, stability and development.
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