Mr. Chairman,
Your Royal Highness,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, may I express our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of the Philippines for the generous hospitality accorded to our delegation and the excellent arrangements made for our Meeting.

I would like to join our ASEAN colleagues in expressing our thanks to H.E. President Joseph Ejercito Estrada for his important opening speech which gives guidance for our discussion at this Meeting and encourages us in our relentless endeavour for unity and cooperation to overcome difficulties and strive for an ASEAN of peace, sustainable development, thus contributing to peace and development in Asia – Pacific and the rest of the world.

I wish to congratulate H.E. Domingo L. Siazon Jr., Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, for being elected as Chairman of the 31st AMM and express my conviction that under your clear- sighted steermanship, our meeting will be a success.

My congratulations also go to H.E. S. Jayakumar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore for his election as Vice Chairman of the Meeting and it is my belief that, under your dynamic chairmanship, ASEAN will record new successes in the year to come.

Mr. Chairman,
Dear Colleagues,

The 31st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting this year takes place under special circumstances. Not so long ago, ASEAN was considered a regional grouping of countries which possesses great potentials and has the most dynamic growth rates in the world. Yet, today, as a result of the difficulties caused by the financial and monetary crisis, doubts have been raised about the Southeast Asian development model.

Our region is indeed facing great challenges not seen in the last decades. However, in a long-term perspective, there are no grounds, for such a gloomy outlook. It is an undeniable fact that over the past 30 years, thanks to our people’s industrious labour, we have created healthy and strong fundamentals which include, among others, the restructuring towards industrialization, the development of the infrastructure, the unceasing improvement of people”s education and livelihood …. These achievements were recorded on the basis of existing potentials such as a vast market, rich natural resources, important geopolitical and geo-economic position. Those potentials will certainly increase in the coming years.

These factors form solid basis for us to overcome temporary difficulties, maintain the momentum of sustained growth if we are to bring into full play national and regional resilience, to fully exploit the existing potentials and build upon the achievements recorded while drawing up experience from the current crisis.

Moreover, in its 30 years of existence and development, ASEAN has established a cooperation framework, including AFTA. Even this year, under the difficult circumstances, we still have achieved several important agreements, such as the establishment of AIA, the facilitation of goods in transit, the improvement of multimodal transport, mutual recognition of standards and conformance, the second package of commitments to implement the Framework Agreement on Services…. Especially in view of the new challenges caused by the financial-monetary crisis, measures aim at strengthening cooperation in financial and monetary areas, forecasting and overcoming the crisis have become more urgent than ever before. In this connection, we support the establishment of a regional surveillance mechanism, the reform of the financial system, the monitoring of capital flows…

Cooperation constitutes a factor of paramount importance to ensure ASEAN’s unceasing development in the last 31 years. Closer cooperation will help us overcome the current crisis, continue to advance on the path towards prosperity.

Emphasizing the need for cooperation in the Association is, by no means, isolationism. On the contrary, our Association has always advocated opening doors and, on that basis, has built up an effective relationship with 11 dialogue partners. In the present context, under the impact of increased globalization and interdependence between nations, the ongoing crisis does not only confine itself to the region but also creates spillover effects to other regions. The situation calls for greater cooperation from the international community, especially ASEAN’s dialogue partners to help countries in our region overcome difficulties through financial support, official development assistance, increased investment, improved market access, and human resource development. We believe that the present difficulties, serious as they are, cannot set back the agreed programmes and projects for the sustainable, long- term development in the region, including the ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Cooperation (AMBDC).

In Vietnam, we have a saying that “as fire tests gold, hardship tests strength”; in the context of the present challenges, strengthening ASEAN’s time-tested unity and cooperation has become ever more essential. ASEAN’s unity has been built upon the basic principles enshrined in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), namely, the mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identify of all nations; the rights of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion and coercion; non-interference into the internal affairs of one another; settlement of differences and disputes by peaceful means; renunciation of threats or use of force; effective cooperation among themselves and decision by consensus. These basic principles have helped ASEAN alive and thriving. They have also contributed to enhancing relationship with outside partners, especially dialogue partners. They will continue to strengthen ASEAN’s unity and enhance its stature in the international arena.

In any case, peace and stability remain an indispensable condition for development. In order to achieve economic recovery, securing socio-political stability in each country and in the whole region is of special importance. We noted with satisfaction that the prevailing trend in Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific is that of peace, stability and cooperation for development, although there remain elements that may lead to instability. ASEAN has made essential contributions to this positive environment through its initiatives, which are gaining wide acceptance and making increased effects, such as the TAC, SEANWFZ, the ARF, and the Manila Declaration on the South China Sea…

As a littoral country bordering on the South China Sea, Vietnam has no more ardent desire than to see to it that peace and stability are maintained, and conflicts are settled soon through peaceful negotiation, in conformity with international laws, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea. Pending a fundamental and durable solution to the disputes, the parties concerned should exercise self-restraint, refrain from complicating the situation, implement confidence-building measures, thus contributing to consolidating regional peace and security.

As a close neighbour of Cambodia, we have followed with keen interest the developments there and sincerely hope that the elections will be successful and Cambodia would enjoy peace and stability to develop itself and would soon be admitted to the great ASEAN family.

Another serious problem we are facing today is the illicit drug abuse and trafficking which threatens our prosperity, undermines the health and morality of the young generation. For this reason, the signing of the Declaration of a Drug-Free ASEAN is very timely and of topical importance.

As an integral part of the region, Vietnam cannot avoid the negative effects of the ongoing financial-monetary crisis. However, thanks to the efforts of our people of all walks of life and the appropriate policies and timely measures of the Government, in the first 6 months of 1998, our GDP growth rate reached 6.64%, industrial value 12.6%, export 10.6% and inflation was a little above 6%. These indicators, though lower than those of the past years, are significant, given the roaming financial-monetary turmoil.

In face of new challenges, we are determined to bring into full play our inner strength and fully exploit the existing potentials, while expanding our external relations of effective cooperation, of which the multi-faceted cooperation with other ASEAN countries are give first priority.

We are fully convinced that with our own efforts and determination, and the support and cooperation of the international community and ASEAN, Vietnam will continue to maintain the encouraging momentum of development, contributing to the cause of peace and development in the region and the rest of the world.

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having been admitted to ASEAN for only three years, Vietnam has the honour of hosting the 6th ASEAN Summit to be held in Hanoi next December. This Meeting is of great significance as it is the last Summit before ASEAN enters the 21st century. It is also our hope that this Summit would translate the ideal of an ASEAN-10 into reality with the admission of Cambodia as a member.

With the theme “Unity, Cooperation to Overcome Difficulties, and Strive for an ASEAN of Peace, Stable and Sustainable Development and Equality”, the Hanoi Summit will constitute a milestone in ASEAN’s development.

The “ASEAN Vision 2020″ adopted by the Informal Summit last December has set forth directions for our Association’s long- term development. Though ASEAN is confronted with temporary difficulties, the implementation of the “Vision” through concrete plans of action holds special significance for the future development of ASEAN. The Plan of Action to be adopted by the Hanoi Summit will reflect our determination and endeavours to advance towards wel-defined targets and directions. We hope that at the Summit, a number of agreements will also be signed, paving the way for further expansion of our scope of cooperation to better prepare ourselves for the next millennium.

From this solemn forum,, on behalf of the Government and people of Vietnam, we pledge to do our best to ensure the success of the 6th ASEAN Summit. We sincerely hope to receive active support from and close cooperation with all ASEAN countries and the Secretariat in performing this lofty task.

Thank you for your attention.