Your Royal Highnesses.
The final decade of The 20th century has witnessed the growth of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) into an organization embracing all ten countries in the region. The shared interest in peace, stability and development of each country and the entire region have bound all Southeast Asian nations together in a greater ASEAN family, transcending their differences in socio-political systems, cultures, customs, religions and economic development levels. Years or division, prejudice, and hostility are now something of the past.
Today, ASEAN is, step by step, asserting its indispensable role in the affairs of Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific and the world at large through an array of treaties, agreements and other actions on the basis of the principles of cooperation and dialogue governing relations among countries in the region and between ASEAN and the rest of the world, thus contributing to the consolidation of a sound and stable environment for development.
The trend or globalization and rationalization are drawing all nations and regions together into a whirlwind that can either overturn the ship of a nation or help it sail through the rough seas. Therefore, how to clearly chart the future course and take appropriate steps suitable to the pal1icular circumstances of each country and the entire region for seizing opportunities, overcoming challenges and attaining an optimal position will be vitally important to each Member Country and ASEAN as a whole in the first decades of the 21st century.
The 34th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and other Conferences this week are important political events for ASEAN in the interest of peace and development. In order to accelerate the implementation of the objectives set forth in the Hanoi Plan of Action and the ASEAN Vision 2020, I believe that it is imperative for us to make new progress in dealing with four urgent and fundamental issues:
Having witnessed the ups and downs in the region in tile later half of the 20lh century and, most recently, the adverse consequences of the 1997 – 1998 financial-currency crisis, we are fully aware of the costs of socio-political and macro-economic instability that each individual country and the whole region have to pay. It suffices to say that socio-political and macro- economic stability is a prerequisite for each country’s sustainable development and enhanced international cooperation.
On the basis of the principles of respect for each other’s independence and national sovereignty, friendship and cooperation, we should proactively settle remaining disputes and differences and prevent heightened tensions in the region, and at the same time help restore and maintain socio-political and macro-economic stability in each country.
Unity in diversity is a valuable lesson for ASEAN. Similar Cultures and shared interests in peace, stability and development represent a cohesion factor binding all ASEAN Member Countries closely together. In addition. while the tradition of flexibility and adaptability inherent in Southeast Asia’s civilization has given birth to the ASEAN Way embodied in such principles as consensus. mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs of one another, we never let down friends in trouble. This is the very source of ASEAN’s resilience which helps us to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Being united but not inward-looking, being open but still maintaining national identities are a characteristic of ASEAN that we need to preserve and maximize in order to enhance our position amidst the trend of globalization and economic integration prevailing in the world.
In the last decades of the 20th century, a number of countries in our region have recorded miraculous achievements, among which some have been able to join the club of industrialized countries (OECD). However, many countries are still either grappling with backwardness or ill the process of carrying out industrialization.
The 1997 -1998 financial and economic crisis has clearly demonstrated to us that the rise and fall of ally country in the region would have an impact on others. Emerging from the crisis, our shared understanding and commitment to strengthening closer ASEAN integration in order to effectively cope with regional and global challenges have become stronger. The Fourth ASEAN Informal Summit in Singapore last November emphasized that ASEAN’s top priority now is to quickly narrow the development gap within ASEAN as well as between ASEAN and other regions. In so doing, in a foreseeable future, we will be able to successfully build a community of Southeast Asian nations living in harmony and developing together in a spirit of cooperation, friendship and neighborliness as envisioned in the Hanoi Plan of Action and the ASEAN Vision 2020.
4. Outward – looking:
ASEAN, as an aggregate market of more than 500 million people and a GDP of US$ 700 billion, represents a considerable force. However, ASEAN cannot continue growing in the absence of linkages and cooperation with other regions, with Dialogue Partners and international organizations both within and outside the United Nations framework, and with economic, financial and scientific-technological centers in the world. Our commitment to international integration is moving along the agreed roadmap, our partnership and cooperation with Northeast Asia, Europe and Latin America as well as with such Dialogue Partners as the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India, the Republic of Korea, Canada, Australia have expanded both in depth and breadth. This is a natural process in line with the trend of global economic integration.
Therefore. a stable, united, integrated and outward-looking ASEAN, as embodied in the theme of this 34th AMM, is the goal that we should try to achieve. The agendas of our meetings and conferences this week, which deal with many practical and specific issues, will focus on this goal. The achievement of this goal is in the right course of actions for today and even tomorrow, constituting a solid foundation and a strong driving force for ASEAN to advance with confidence into the new century.
Since becoming a full member of ASEAN in July 1995, Viet Nam, albeit at a low level of development, has participated actively in all activities of the Association and contributed significantly to the implementation of ASEAN’s specific projects and programmes. Following the 6th ASEAN Summit in HaNoi in December 1998 and upon assuming the role of the ASC Chairman, Viet Nam has done its utmost together with other Member Countries in enhancing the unity, dynamism, and the role of the Association for the common goal of maintaining peace, stability, cooperation and development. The 7th ASEAN Summit in Brunei later this year will review the implementation of the HPA and further identify areas of priority and concrete measures to ensure its successful completion by the year 2004.
Viet Nam has made every effort to contribute to implementing ASEAN’s consistent policy of cooperation in all activities, strengthening its unity and collective strength enhancing its role in addressing critical issues in Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific and the world. Vietnam’s ASEAN policy is all important and integral component of our foreign policy and international cooperation activities along the direction that we have reaffirmed. Viet Nam proactively pursues internationa1 economic integration and is willing to be a friend and a reliable partner of all countries in the international community, striving for peace, national independence and development. In this spirit, I am strongly convinced that Viet Nam together with its ASEAN brothers will be able to steer the ship of ASEAN to the shore of new success in the 21st century.
Finally, I would like to wish the 34th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and other Conferences in Ha Noi this week a great success.