ASEAN sends a message in response to the ‘heat’ of US-China competition

ASEAN sends a message in response to the 'heat' of US-China competition 4

On August 8, foreign ministers of ASEAN countries issued a Joint Statement on the Importance of Maintaining Peace and Stability in Southeast Asia.

Accordingly, the Association reaffirms its commitment to maintaining a peaceful, secure, neutral, and stable Southeast Asia, while consolidating peaceful values on the basis of international law;

`The new statement demonstrates ASEAN’s growing concern about the region becoming the main stage in US-China competition,` said Lucio Blanco Pitlo, an expert at the Asia-Pacific Development Institute.

Lucio said that ASEAN is feeling the pressure from escalating tensions between the `two giants`, the US and China, in the East Sea.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh spoke at the flag-raising ceremony to celebrate the 53rd anniversary of ASEAN’s founding on August 7.

Since June, the US has continuously made moves to stop China in the East Sea, condemning Beijing’s bullying of other countries.

On the ground, the US has repeatedly sent warships and fighter jets to patrol the East Sea.

As for China, it reacted violently to US statements and activities related to the East Sea.

On August 5, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the US of `dividing China and ASEAN, obstructing the negotiation process of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC)`.

Rising tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea are an important aspect of the intense strategic competition between the two powers.

Expert Lucio assessed that ASEAN is also concerned about economic impacts, related to technological competition and disruption of the global supply chain.

`ASEAN wants to maintain its stance, avoid choosing sides, maintain its achievements in community building and efforts to restructure the region’s economy and security,` Lucio said.

Also commenting that ASEAN is feeling the `heat` of US-China strategic competition, Professor Carl Thayer, Australian Defense Force Academy, University of New South Wales, said the state of US-China relations is threatening security.

Thayer said that ASEAN issued the Declaration on August 8 to send a message to both China and the US, affirming the central role of the Association and the mechanisms within ASEAN’s framework as the foundation for cooperation.

`In other words, ASEAN and its members will not join the US anti-China camp, nor will they be in the group that pushes the US out of regional issues,` Thayer said.

The Australian professor noted that in this tense context, as ASEAN Chair 2020, Vietnam has played a leading role to ensure the Association maintains solidarity and cohesion.

Having directly participated in negotiating ASEAN issues for many years, Mr. Pham Quang Vinh, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Vietnam, said that the most important point of the August 8 Declaration is its topicality, emphasizing the role

`The statement does not directly mention the East Sea but refers to international law, doing nothing to complicate the situation and build trust. It is the inheritance of many issues in previous ASEAN statements.`

According to Mr. Vinh, as a rule, ASEAN rarely issues statements on its founding anniversary occasions.

Forecasting the upcoming direction of ASEAN, Professor Thayer said that the Association will increase efforts to persuade the US and China to cooperate within the multilateral framework, which is the principle stated in the last part of the August 8 Declaration.

According to Lucio, ASEAN member countries will likely avoid participating in maritime exercises with the US or China.

Former Deputy Minister Vinh assessed that the August 8 Declaration could open the way for ASEAN to enter a new stage of development, emphasizing peace, stability and the central role of the Association.

`This is a big milestone that Vietnam can consider its leading role in ASEAN,` Mr. Vinh said.


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