Three new nations now part of Asean family

(NST) – Cuba, Colombia and South Africa have become Asean partners after signing the bloc’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).

The treaty, which establishes a code of conduct to govern inter-state relations in Southeast Asia, now has a total of 43 signatories.

Speaking at the signing ceremony held online in Hanoi on Tuesday, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh welcomed the three nations, saying their inclusion signaled a strong commitment to the goals and principles of the treaty as well as the desire to strengthen cooperation with Asean countries.

The TAC promotes and sustains regional peace and stability that was originally signed by the founding members of Asean in 1976.

It was later opened to all countries that intents to enhance their relations with Asean.

TAC focuses on the peaceful settlement of disputes and cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

According to a Vn Express news report, the signing ceremony took place alongside the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) to prepare for the 37th Asean Summit hosted online by Vietnam on November 12-15.

Chairing the AMM, Minh said Asean was going through a tough time and needed to show solidarity, now more than ever.

“Asean needs to demonstrate solidarity and cohesion in order to fulfill the Asean 2020 initiatives, turn the Asean Community Vision 2025 into reality, and effectively respond to emerging challenges, especially the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Other Asean Foreign Ministers also said 2020 was challenging, difficult and an uncertain year with Covid-19 becoming a deadly pandemic, competition increasing among strategic powers, and traditional and non-traditional security issues coming to the fore.

They agreed that to ensure post-pandemic recovery, the continuity of the supply chain had to be ensured, trade between countries restored, new-generation free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pursued, and the development gap in Asean narrowed by advancing cooperation between sub-regions.

The ministers also discussed regional and international matters, including the South China Sea, deploring unilateral actions, continuous militarisation and groundless sovereignty claims as it threatens peace and stability.

They also emphasized the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS) in resolving issues.

The Asean Summit and related meetings will feature 20 activities at the highest level, including the ASEAN+1 meetings with China, Japan, South Korea, India, the United States, the UN and Australia; the 15th East Asia Summit (EAS); and the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summit.