VN's place in world order
22:54 | 25/09/2014
VGP - Deputy PM, FM Pham Binh Minh delivered his remarks on Viet Nam's place in the world order at the Asia Society in New York on September 24.

Madame Josette Sheeran,

Mr. Tom Nagorski,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It’s an honor for me to address the Asia Society. Nearly sixty years ago, this institution was established with such a great vision. Today, this institution is playing a prominent role not only in educating the world about Asia, but also supporting the comprehensive development in this continent and beyond.

I thank Madame Chair for your kind introduction. I am asked to share the view on Viet Nam’s place in the world order. I will try my best to do this.

2. First, let me share with you how do we look at Asia.

The 21st century has been widely predicted to be “The Asian Century”. Some people doubts this forecast, given the recent ups and downs in the region such as the adverse impacts of the global economic and financial crisis, the return of power politics, and the emergence of traditional and non-traditional challenges. Despite all this, I am still cautiously optimistic about the future of the Asia - Pacific.

The gravity of the world economy is moving to the Asia - Pacific. The world’s three largest economies, namely the US, China and Japan, and ten of the G-20 economies are in the Asia – Pacific. To make the picture more vivid, many other emerging economies such as the Philippines, Viet Nam, with a rapidly expanding middle class, are also some force to be reckoned with. Despite the recent slowdown in economic growth, the Asia – Pacific retains its position as the most economically dynamic region in the world and engine of the on-going global economic recovery.

Asia - Pacific has turned itself into a region of dynamic development and an engine for regional and global economic growth and is the region that has taken a leading role in achieving the United Nations millenniums development goals.

No other region is witnessing such a robust expansion of regional economic integration than the Asia – Pacific. We are seeing stronger trade, closer investment linkages, and greater regional and sub-regional connectivity. In just one year’s time, the ASEAN Community will be established in 2015, with a population of 600 million and a combined GDP exceeding 2.2 trillion USD. Many next-generation free trade agreements are coming into being within the next 2 or 3 years, notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between ASEAN and the 6 major regional partners (RCEP), the China-Korea-Japan FTA, etc.…

However, the Asia - Pacific is also facing unprecedented challenges that can unravel the economic success that has been taken for granted so far. A remarkable power shift among major players since the global financial and economic crisis means that strategic competition between major powers in the Asia - Pacific is on the rise.

If history is any guide, we know that any shift in the balance of power often lead to some sort of chaos, even conflicts. The Asia - Pacific is not immune to this historical trend. Strategic distrust among major powers is rising. The security dilemma has been worsened by unchecked unilateralism, military modernisation, arms build-up, and by territorial and maritime disputes.

While the Korean Peninsula remains unstable, new flashpoints are emerging, most disturbingly the territorial disputes in the East Sea (or the South China Sea) and the Senkaku/Diaoyu in the East China Sea.

Never before have we seen a greater risk for miscalculations and incidents that might escalate into military conflicts as in the past few months.

In addition to the above said threats, non-traditional security challenges such as climate change, sea rise, calamities, food, energy, and water security, cyber crime etc. are also endangering peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia - Pacific. Just take an example, the Mekong water security issue can threaten the livelihood of 60 million people in the downstream if it is not properly managed.

2. So how should we envisage Asia – Pacific for the future?

A balanced view, taking into account all the opportunities and challenges in Asia – Pacific, suggests that the region could still be a region of peace, dynamic development where international rule of law and regional code of conducts and behavior are respected, with all countries, big and small, sharing greater responsibility.

Peace, stability and development will still be the dominant trends and the choice of all countries in the region.

My conviction is based on the following observations:

(i) A region of peace and economic dynamism is the common interests of the regional countries and the rest of the world. If Asia-Pacific is unstable and stopped growing, other regions will face even more difficulties.

Existing and unsolved problems in the Asia-Pacific will erupt while new problems will emerge. No one will benefit from this scenario.

(ii) A peaceful and stable region based on the rules of law is in the interests of the majority of countries in the region; and

(iii) An open, inclusive regional architecture, which give equal access and opportunities to all, is also the common interests of all.

3. How could we ensure that desired future for the Asia-Pacific?

- First, all countries with a stake in such a future of the Asia-Pacific need to strengthen their political will and determination to work together to ensure those goals. While the world is temporarily distracted by hotspots and crisis, stakeholders of the Asia-Pacific, including the United States, should maintain their full commitment and responsibility to the future of the Asia-Pacific.        

- Second, major powers should bear greater responsibility to ensure peace and stability in the Asia – Pacific. Especially, major powers should build stable and cooperative relationships between and among them. The cooperation and competition among the major powers always have huge impacts on the smaller countries and the region. The smaller countries do not want to be affected by big power politics, neither do they want to be forced to take side.

- Third, efforts at building a truly regional security architecture should be continued. Such architecture would not only help regulate relations among big powers, but also ensure that smaller countries can actively contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.

4. What Viet Nam can do to contribute to the peaceful and stable development of the region?

First, we have to succeed in our economic reform and development.

Second, we have to stick to our foreign policy of diversification and multilateralization of external relations, peace, independence and self-determination.

Third, we have to serve as a proactive regional actor. Viet Nam will be more responsible to ASEAN and the region, promoting ASEAN’s mode of cooperation and its centrality in building the ASEAN Community, which will become a reality in Southeast Asia by 2015. Viet Nam will also join other ASEAN members to make sure ASEAN will be at the center of the Asia-Pacific security architecture and Asia Pacific community. ASEAN will work to ensure ASEAN’s vision of an open, inclusive and transparent regional architecture where regional code of conducts, international rules and norms, most importantly the United Nations charter will continue to prevail.

Fourth, we have to be a good global citizen, making greater contributions to resolving regional and global challenges. Viet Nam will also strive to become fully integrated to and a proactive and responsible citizen of the global community. Viet Nam’s official participation in UN peacekeeping operations is one of such latest effort. Viet Nam will seeks to resolve the disputes in the South China Sea by available peaceful means, based on the rule of international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS, DOC and COC. Pending a long-term solution, we will work with China, via ASEAN, to better manage the dispute and prevent incidents from occurring and recurring, though the negotiation of a legally binding Code of Conduct. We will work with other countries that have legitimate interests in the region, to better safeguard maritime security, such as safety and freedom of navigation. If all stakeholders have the political will, respect international law, and exercise self-restraint, the South China Sea disputes could be managed.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that it is in the best of interests of all nations in the Asia-Pacific to preserve an ASEAN-led regional order based on the rules of law, where all rules are built through transparent and inclusive processes. This will allow all countries, big and small, developed and less developed, to have equal opportunities to voice their views and to protect their interests. The roles of multilateral mechanisms, especially the ASEAN’s driven processes, therefore, should be promoted as the proper venues to create, strengthen, clarify, enforce the rules and norms, and monitor the implementation of those rules and norms. Viet Nam will proactively and responsibly work towards building such order in the Asia-Pacific.

Thank you for your attention.

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