The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded its 28th and 29th Summits and related leaders’ meeting in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on September 8, 2016, with pledges to strengthen the regional bloc’s internal cooperation as well as external coordination with partners.
ASEAN’s cooperation with its most active partner China took center stage at a series of meetings. The two sides agreed to add people-to-people exchanges as a new pillar for cooperation, and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
Mapping out Blueprint for Community Building
ASEAN leaders gathered Sept. 6-8 for their 28th and 29th Summits with the theme “Turning Vision into Reality for a Dynamic ASEAN Community.”
Through constructive and cordial discussions, they mapped out the blueprint for the future development of a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible and a truly rules-based, people-oriented and people-centred ASEAN Community.
The future development of the ASEAN Community will focus on the priorities such as implementing the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, narrowing development gap among member states, facilitating trade, developing micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), promoting tourism and connectivity and reinforcing cultural heritage cooperation.
While hailing the positive progress on the implementation of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprints 2025 towards realizing the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, the ASEAN member states emphasized the importance of the full and effective implementation of this forward-looking road-map that will continue to guide them in charting their path over the next decade.
In this regard, they adopted the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan III and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025, an integral part of the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, in a bid to strengthen the determination in advancing ASEAN’s community building process.
They also reaffirmed their shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
While stressing the importance of maintaining ASEAN centrality and unity in evolving regional architecture and in its engagement with external parties, the member states highlighted the need for the bloc to play a central role in developing a rules-based regional architecture.
Implementing DOC on South China Sea
ASEAN and China held the 19th ASEAN-China Summit and commemorated the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue relations in Vientiane on Sept. 7. A series of statements were issued at the summit, with the two sides vowing to further enhance cooperation and maintain regional peace and security.
In their statements, ASEAN and China called for effective implementation of DOC on the South China Sea. The two sides underlined the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in, and overflight above the South China Sea.
“We welcomed the recent adoption of the Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN Member States and China on the Full and Effective Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. We stressed the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety,” read a chairman statement issued by ASEAN and China.
In another statement, the two sides reaffirmed their respect of freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea under principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
ASEAN and China agreed to resolve the territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.
On economic issues, the two sides agreed to further deepen and expand mutually-beneficial economic cooperation, including through the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, to work towards the early and successful conclusion of “a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”
ASEAN and China will continue to strengthen cooperation in the area of connectivity that will bring mutual benefits, including through capacity building and resource mobilization for the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, to explore ways to improve connectivity between both sides by synergizing common priorities identified in the master plan and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and encourage the active involvement of relevant multilateral financial institutions.
The two sides encouraged the active role of research institutions, including think-tanks, and other knowledge partners, among others, in conducting joint research on production capacity cooperation and offer policy recommendations.
In their statements, ASEAN and Chinese leaders welcomed the designation of 2017 as the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation and looked forward to enhancing cooperation and activities with a view to boosting two-way tourist visits and promoting greater people-to-people exchanges.
Addressing the closing ceremony of the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and related meetings, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that his country, as next year’s rotating chair, will highlight ASEAN as a model of regionalism and a global player with the interests of the people of the bloc.
Duterte said the next round of ASEAN summits will be under the theme of “Partnering for Changes, Engaging the World.”