23 May 2024

ASEAN foreign ministers have reached an agreement with the US over the joint vision statement, which contains 27 paragraphs containing 2,695 words, covering the whole gamut of their relations in the coming years, according to the draft seen by Thai PBS World. Both ASEAN and the US leaders have to give the green light when they meet late Friday afternoon.

ASEAN leaders met informally on Wednesday, ahead of their leaders’ meeting with US President Joe Biden, to consider the draft joint vision statement. There were three sensitive issues,which both sides have been negotiating for some time, namely the situation in Myanmar, the South China Sea and the situation in Ukraine. Earlier, senior officials from both sides agreed on most of the bilateral issue, including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, economics and connectivity, promoting maritime cooperation, enhancing people to people connectivity, supporting sub-regional development and leveraging technologies and promoting innovation, addressing climate change and preserving peace and building trust.

With regard to Ukraine, both ASEAN and the US reaffirm their commitment to respect for sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity. “We reiterate our call for compliance with the UN Charter and international law. We underline the importance of ending hostilities and creating an enabling environment for a peaceful resolution. We support the efforts of the UN Secretary General in the search for a peaceful solution.”

The joint statement also incorporated ASEAN input regarding humanitarian efforts. “We also call for the facilitation of rapid, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance for those in need in Ukraine, and for the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and persons in vulnerable situations.

Biden welcomes Southeast Asian leaders with energy, maritime pledges

As far as Myanmar’s crisis is concerned, the joint vision statement reaffirms the ASEAN-US joint call for the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and for the release of all political detainees, including foreigners. “We will redouble our collective efforts towards a peaceful solution in Myanmar that also reflects a continued commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, as outline in the ASEAN Charter.”

Both ASEAN and the US also welcome close coordination between the ASEAN special envoy and the special envoy of the UN Secretary General.

The South China Sea dispute has been put under promotion of maritime cooperation. The wording have mainly been taken from various previous ASEAN declarations on the South China Sea. There are new areas of cooperation, proposed by the US, to improve maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, maritime security and to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing through sharing of information, best practices and expertise, as well as technical assistance,which will complement the existing mechanism.

During the Thai chair of ASEAN in 2019, the country’s efforts to curb IUU fishing were praised and have been adopted as best practices by other ASEAN members facingsimilar challenges.