With a population of approximately 100 million, ranking third in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has strong potential for socio-economic development, investment attraction, tourism cooperation and trade exchanges, Kao said in an interview granted to the Vietnamese media ahead of the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Indonesia.
ASEAN leaders gather in Indonesia from May 9-11 to examine efforts to facilitate the building of the ASEAN Community and regional integration, as well as to look at Indonesia’s priorities in its role as the ASEAN Chair 2023. They will meet the High-Level Task Force on ASEAN Community Post-2025 Vision (HLTF-ACV) and provide guidance to develop a strategic vision to 2045.
High on the agenda of the summit themed “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth.” will be issues related to economy, digital economic development, climate change response, as well as regional and international issues of common concern. In addition, the leaders will also discuss ways to promote the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), focusing on maritime cooperation, connectivity, sustainable development goals, economy and other areas of cooperation.
Apart from discussing its internal affairs, Kao affirmed that ASEAN remains an important player in the region and the world at large. Some of its partners want to upgrade their relations and engage in ASEAN-led mechanisms, he said.
Amid current economic uncertainties and global risks, he said it is important for ASEAN to continue working together to ensure it remains attractive to foreign investors and dialogue partners. In addition, the bloc needs to ensure peace, stability and security in the region to retain and attract visitors from outside to its member countries.
Notably, Timor-Leste will attend the Indonesia summit for the first time as an observer. According to the ASEAN Secretary-General, Timor Leste has been participating in not only ASEAN’s internal meetings, but also ASEAN meetings with its dialogue partners. He affirmed ASEAN supports Dili to build capacity to be well prepared for a full member of ASEAN in the near future.
Regarding the formulation of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Vietnam, Kao said the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in February 2023 agreed to promote the early completion of COC negotiations between ASEAN and China. For its part, he said Indonesia, as the ASEAN Chair in 2023, wishes to accelerate the negotiation process after 21 years of implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), considering this one of the five priorities this year.
He described the negotiation process as very important because an effective and substantive document will meet the interests and needs of the different countries and of the signatories to the COC.
It’s important that this document will help address outstanding issues in the region, and at the same time contribute to maintaining peace, stability, cooperation, security and safety in the region, in the interest of all parties concerned, said the ASEAN General-Secretary.