Viet­nam out of step with rest of ASEAN

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

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.

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