For strong and united ASEAN community

The ASEAN Community needs to take advantage of opportunities to overcome challenges to successfully build a community that is strong, unite and has a critical voice in regional and international affairs.

Fifty years ago, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in Bangkok. This took place at the time when the Viet Nam War went into a ferocious period. The five founding members felt unsettled at the confrontation of major countries, wishing to create a political and security bond to cope with uncertainties in the region in the "Post-Viet Nam War Period". As a result, under Cold War conditions, the event did not attract much attention.

Half a century passed, ASEAN made history with the three most prominent achievements, which include:

By 1999, ASEAN had become a regional organization of 10 member countries, operating under a common roof, with 625 million inhabitants, intra-regional trade of more than a trillion dollars, contributing significantly to the construction of Southeast Asia as a region of peace, stability and development.

From a region with many differences, nations in conflict and mutual suspicion, ASEAN today is a partner of regional and international development and integration, under a common banner, on the principles of non-intervention in each other's internal affairs, peaceful resolution of differences and conflicts through formal and informal mechanisms. From a sub-regional co-operative structure, ASEAN has become a full-fledged regional cooperative organisation with unique identity and characteristics, together with the European Union, ASEAN is one of the most sustainable regional organizations in the contemporary world.

ASEAN has made significant contributions to the maintenance of a peaceful and secure environment in East Asia, creating appropriate political and security mechanisms, "playing a leading role in regional mechanisms" for all concerned countries, including major countries in Asia-Pacific, to hold dialogues and cooperate for peace and security. Amid constant changes in Asia-Pacific, ASEAN needs to seek and develop a regional security architecture and order consistent with the new correlation of forces.

At present, ASEAN is facing with three major challenges:

Firstly, ASEAN is entering a new era, with challenges in the development of community and intra-bloc connectivity that are effective, practical, "culturally enforceable", promoting social security, enhancing the interests of the people of the member countries. Unfortunately, over the past two decades, ASEAN has not been able to bridge the gap between "better-off" members and "lesser-developed" ones.

Secondly, ASEAN is facing the challenge to maintain true solidarity and unity, sustain independence and sovereignty in relations with major countries, for the sake of national interests as well as the interests of the ASEAN community, not to sacrifice one's benefit for that of another.

Thirdly, since the beginning of the 20th century, Southeast Asia has always been the focal point of competition and race for influence among large countries � which is both uniqueness and the "destiny" of the region due to its geo-strategic location.

ASEAN is now facing fierce strategic competition among the major involved countries. Large countries are seeking opportunities to exploit, politically polarize and differentiate ASEAN member countries. Therefore, the members need to keep ASEAN united, positive, and active so that it can promote its central role in regional mechanisms and maintain peace, neutrality, stability and development in the region.

The ASEAN Community needs to take advantage of opportunities to overcome challenges to successfully build a Community that is strong, unite and has a critical voice in regional and international affairs.

Above all, it is essential to maintain solidarity and consensus within the bloc, as well as its independence and sovereignty. At the same time, it is required to make members and the whole bloc strong - in terms of capability and organization. ASEAN must be strong enough so as for large countries to respect and have due regard for the organisation, and that allows ASEAN to participate in strategic game between big countries, not merely playing as a weak pawn on the strategic chessboard.

Addressing the East Sea issue is vital for peace, stability, security, and safety of navigation and aviation in the East Sea, as well as for peace and stability in Southeast Asia. On August 6, Foreign Ministers of ASEAN countries and Chinese Foreign Minister adopted a draft framework for the Code of Conduct of the Parties in East Sea. This is a positive step towards peaceful resolution of disputes in the East Sea on the basis of international law. Based on this, parties should initiate negotiations for a substantive and legally binding COC soon.

Viet Nam's accession to ASEAN is an important event for this regional organization.

ASEAN is of strategic importance to Viet Nam. The organisation is one of the significant pillars of Viet Nam's foreign policy. Resonance relationships have created a peaceful and stable international environment, serving the country's security and development over the past decades.

Viet Nam is an active and energetic member, playing a pivotal role in promoting unity, consensus and the central role of ASEAN in relations with major countries. At the same time, the country's role, as well as its strategic and specific contributions to the organization, has enhanced Viet Nam's international status, effectively serving Viet Nam's development, and reinforcing regional peace and stability.

ASEAN members as well as the international community have high expectation for the future development and position of the ASEAN Community in the international arena.

We need both a comprehensive vision and a realistic approach that is consistent with characteristics of this regional organization and the reality of the world situation. It is essential to aim towards developing a Community, but it is also crucial to avoid over-expectation while understanding the objective reality of the ASEAN Community and the complex political and economic situation in the region and in the world in the coming years. It must be noted that ASEAN is an entity of international life. The organization and its members are affected by different forces. The ASEAN Community needs to adjust its goals, measures and steps to adapt with the reality. In the medium term, internal consolidation should be focussed.

Viet Nam should continue to promote its core and active role as in the past. Vietnamese people should continue to enhance awareness about the importance of ASEAN, promote effectively the country's role in ASEAN, for the benefit of the region and of Viet Nam itself.

Source: Online Newspaper of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam