Vietnam out of step with rest of ASEAN
At their meeting in Manila on Sunday, the foreign ministers of China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations spoke highly of the achievements made in China-ASEAN ties over the past 15 years and agreed to push their cooperation to an even higher level. They also expressed satisfaction over the framework for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and agreed to make joint efforts so that their negotiations on a code of behavior in the waters can be started within the year.
As a hard-won result achieved through the joint efforts of the two sides to reach an agreement, the document mirrors the shared commitment to build peace and stability in the waters demonstrated by China and the ASEAN countries recently.
It seems, however, that Vietnam almost put a spanner in the works by attempting to push its own agenda during the meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers.
According to media reports, Hanoi struck a less harmonious note by hypocritically trying to insert tough language criticizing China’s island building in the South China Sea, something Vietnam did first, resulting in a delay to the issuing of their joint statement on Saturday.
But with none of the other ASEAN members being like-minded, Vietnam’s proposed phrases were not included in the communiqué released on Sunday.
As one of the 10 members, Vietnam should well know that it is by emphasizing consensus that ASEAN has become a major force in promoting integration and maintaining peace and stability in the region. Vietnam’s attempt to sow seeds of discord does a disservice to itself, the other members and the region.
Since last year, tensions in the South China Sea have been ratcheted down due to the dedicated efforts of China and ASEAN to resolve their differences through dialogue, and both sides have been seeking to expand and deepen their cooperation.
With the situation in the South China Sea having “stabilized remarkably”, as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted on Sunday, Vietnam should look to the future and focus on the bigger picture.
By readjusting its approach and attitude, and sincerely joining hands with the other ASEAN members to consolidate the positive progress made in ASEAN-China ties over the past year, Vietnam can help raise China-ASEAN relations to a new level.
China and ASEAN celebrate the 15th anniversary of their strategic partnership next year. By strengthening the synergy of their development plans and focusing on the Asian values of reciprocity, solidarity and good neighborliness, they can lead the process of regional integration and fully demonstrate its value.