Mr. Chairman,

Your Royal Highness,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are delighted to come to the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur to attend this ASEAN Ministerial Meeting at the time when our Association is celebrating its 30th Anniversary.

First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Government and people of Malaysia for the generous hospitality accorded to our delegation and the excellent arrangements made for our Meeting.

I would also like to congratulate Your Excellency Dato’ Seri Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, for your election as Chairman of the 30th AMM. The wisdom and rich experience that Your Excellency have shown in chairing the ASEAN Standing Committee over the past year have led us to believe that, under your chairmanship, our meeting will be a success.

My congratulation also goes to His Excellency Domingo L. Siazon Jr., Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines for his election as Vice Chairman of the Meeting and it is our conviction that, under His Excellency’s dynamic leadership, ASEAN will make further progress.

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to warmly welcome His Excellency Somsavat Lengsavat, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Laos People’s Democratic Republic and His Excellency Ohn Gyaw, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Union of Myanmar to this Meeting for the first time as full members of ASEAN. It is regrettable that the Kingdom of Cambodia of Cambodia has not yet joined ASEAN. However, we believe that the ASEAN-10 vision will soon be realized. With that conviction in mind, I would like to warmly welcome H.E. Foreign Minister Ung Huot, representative of the Kingdom of Cambodia to our Meeting.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are deeply impressed by the succinct and important speech delivered by The Hon. Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, which gives us great ideas and guidelines for the discussion at this Meeting, and at the same time encourages us in our efforts to build an expanded, united and dynamic ASEAN in a peaceful regional environment.

A year has elapsed from AMM-Jakarta to this AMM-Kuala Lumpur and over this brief span of time, numerous dramatic events have taken place in the region and the rest of the world. Peace is now interlaced with conflicts. Economic development tended to be positive but is now clouded by socio-political difficulties in a number of countries. Cooperation is accompanied by competition and stability runs along with chaos. However, against the background of those contradictory trends, the will of nations for peace, stability and cooperation for development remains the main trend and determines the course of events.

Peace remains the first priority in the agenda of the international community. Interlaced with the concern over bloody and intermittent conflicts in the African continent and the Middle East is the satisfaction over new progress in limiting weapons of mass destruction. Here, I would like to refer to the adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the coming into effect of the Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC) and the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. However, in the time to come nations on our planet still have the great task of moving towards the complete and total abolition of weapons of mass destruction and here the prime responsibility rests with the countries capable of producing them.

The world has also witnessed, over the past year, new developments in the relationship among countries, especially the big ones, taking place in a more stable and balanced way in favour of world peace and stability. In saying so, we by no means imply that it is smooth sailing in everything. Here and there, at one time or another, unexpected events, even some legacy of the Cold War still poison the international atmosphere. Much has been talked about a new structure in international relations after the Cold War, a one-polar world, a multipolar or multi-centre world. Nonetheless, in the present era wherein nations want to be masters of their own destinies, want peace, stability for their development and when interdependence reaches an unprecedented high degree, the relationship structure among nations can only last if it is built on the basis of equal cooperation, mutual respect and causing no harm to the interests of other countries. That is also our policy and desire.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As part of the world, Asia-Pacific in general and Southeast Asia in particular also move along the world main stream and yet have their own characteristics. Though remaining complicated, over the past year Asia-Pacific has seen many positive developments which favour the trend of peace, stability and cooperation among nations.

It is no doubt that there have been developments in line with the trend of dialogue on the Korean Peninsular. I would like to refer to the agreement recently reached on the four-party talks. Proceeding from the desire to see a stable Asia Pacific, Vietnam welcomes the agreement and regards it as a first concrete and important step toward to the establishment of a durable and stable peace in an area sensitive to peace and security in Asia.

The recovery of the People’s Republic of China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong constitutes a historic event, doing away with the last colonial vestige in Asia. Like other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam entertains broad economic relations with Hong Kong and China. Therefore, Vietnam sincerely wishes Hong Kong continue to enjoy stability and prosperity within the formula “one country, two systems”, thus contributing to regional stability and prosperity.

Compared with the first half of 1996, there have been many indications which show that relationship among big powers in the region has moved in a more stable manner. It is our hope that this trend would be consolidated, thereby contributing to maintaining the cooperative atmosphere in Asia-Pacific. With the upgrading of India, China and Russia to its full dialogue partners, ASEAN is now entertaining dialogue partnership with all big powers. This is also an important turning-point in ASEAN external relations and a new element serving for the interest of peace and stability in the region.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Though coming into being just three years ago, the ASEAN Regional Forum has created good momentum and is playing a positive role as the only security forum in this vast region of Asia-Pacific. We are proud that ARF was created at ASEAN initiative and the Association has been recognized by other ARF members as the primary driving force of the Forum. Meanwhile, that also places on us great responsibility of maintaining the existing momentum and enabling the Forum to achieve its objectives of ensuring regional peace, stability and security.

Yet, the regional security picture is not always bright. There remains justified concern about elements detrimental to regional security, including the disputes over territorial waters in both the Far East and the Eastern Sea, which overcast our sky as black clouds. As a littoral country in the Eastern Sea, Vietnam has no greater desire than to enjoy a calm and tranquil sea. Along that line, we are of the view that these disputes can only be solved through negotiations, both bilaterally and among the countries concerned, on the basis of strict respect for international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and ASEAN’s 1992 Manila Declaration on the South China Sea. Pending a fundamental and durable solution, the parties concerned should exercise self-restraint, maintain the status quo, and avoid any incidents that could aggravate the situation and jeopardize the cooperative atmosphere among countries.

As a neighbor of Cambodia, Vietnam follows with profound interest the recent developments in this country. Vietnam regards these as Cambodia’s internal affairs which can be solved only by the Cambodian people. Vietnam’s consistent policy is to strictly respect Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty and not to interfere into its internal affairs. Therefore, we always respect the decisions made by the Cambodian people. At the same time, having friendly relations with Cambodia, Vietnam sincerely wishes the Cambodian people peace and stability for their national reconstruction.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The decision by the 5th ASEAN Summit held in December 1995 that Cambodia, Laos and Myammar would be admitted into the Association is of strategic and long-term importance, opening up a prospect for a united Southeast Asia embracing all 10 countries in the region. ASEAN-10 will definitely stand as an important factor in preserving peace, broadening regional cooperation and enhancing ASEAN’s prestige in the international arena. This AMM is of special significance as it coincides with the 30th anniversary of ASEAN. Having undergone years of trials and hardships, ASEAN has now become a dynamic and prestigious organization in the international arena thanks to its efforts to contribute to peace and cooperation. With the admission of Laos and Myanmar, as it enters its 30th year, ASEAN is now close to the goal of embracing all Southeast Asian countries.

Vietnam sincerely hopes that temporary difficulties will be overcome and the lofty vision of ASEAN-10 will soon be realized.

The Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone is the first treaty of this kind in Asia and also the first ever treaty signed by all 10 Southeast Asian nations. This is an important contribution to peace, stability and security in the region, especially when the Treaty came into effect last March. It is our hope that the nuclear weapon states will soon sign the annexed Protocol to the Treaty, thus making concrete contribution to consolidating peace in Southeast Asia.

Another important landmark is that the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation has now become the common asset of 10 Southeast Asian nations. Vietnam hopes that legal procedures would be completed soon to pave the way for countries outside the region to associate with, so that the basic content of the Treaty would become a kind of “Code of Conduct” not only for ASEAN but also in ASEAN relations with countries outside the region.

At the First ASEAN Informal Summit in November 1996, the ASEAN Heads of State and Government decided to work out ASEAN Vision 2020. This will be a very important document which must concisely and clearly define the strategic objectives for us as well as for future generations.

Economic cooperation is now becoming an area of paramount importance to ASEAN. Yet, with the admission of Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, and Cambodia at a later date, levels of economic development by the member countries are to some extent different. ASEAN cooperation planning should take this into account and should aim at encouraging faster and stronger economic development in the new member countries so as to narrow down this gap. On the other hand, ASEAN should work out appropriate forms of support to facilitate new member countries’ integration into the Association’s programmes of cooperation.

The decision by the 5th ASEAN Summit to elevate functional cooperation to a higher plane is a right and important one with a view to equating the cooperation in this field with that in the political and economic ones, and at the same time contributing to the intensification of people-to-people interaction, helping member countries better tackle with social problems confronting them such as drug abuse, HIV/AIDS as well as environmental issues.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1997 is of special significance to ASEAN as we have just welcomed two new members and we are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN. Vietnam welcomes various commemorative activities at both regional and national levels so as to raise public awareness of ASEAN and of the need to consolidate our cooperation in all fields for the prosperity of each and every member country.

We are now nearing the third millennium. It is a great honor for Vietnam to host the 6th ASEAN Summit to be held in Hanoi next year since this is the last ASEAN Summit before we enter a new century with both new opportunities and challenges. Vietnam wishes to enjoy close cooperation and assistance from other ASEAN member countries in order to ensure a glorious success of the Hanoi Summit, thus marking a new milestone in the evolution of ASEAN.

Thank you.