ASEAN Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn

In an interview granted to Vietnam News Agency (VNA)’s correspondents in Jakarta ahead of the 42nd ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Secretary-General said that he has learnt about Vietnam’s fast transformation and outstanding development achievements in recent years.

With about 100 million people, ranking third among ASEAN member countries in population scale, Vietnam has strong economic potential with high investment attraction and fast social development, he said, adding that the “S”-shape country is one of the ASEAN members that draw great attention in investment, tourism and trade.

“I think Vietnam has been playing a very important role, I mean, a major contributor to ASEAN,” he stated.

Regarding major issues to be discussed at the 42nd ASEAN Summit, which will take place from May 9-11 in Indonesia with the participation of 11 countries, Kao Kim Hourn said that the event will focus on intra-bloc issues, including the ASEAN Community building, regional integration and priorities of the ASEAN Chair in 2023. ASEAN leaders will meet the High-Level Task Force on ASEAN Community Post-2025 Vision (HLTF-ACV) and give their ideas on the building of a strategic vision towards 2045.

Along with the agenda on economy, digital economy, climate change response and regional and international issues of shared concern, participants will discuss the promotion of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) in four major aspects of maritime cooperation, connectivity, sustainable development goals, economy and other fields. 

Regarding the ASEAN 2023 theme “ASEAN matters: Epicentrum of Growth," Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn stressed that ASEAN remains an important player in the region and globally. That's why the association continues to attract a lot of interest from external partners, some of which want to upgrade their partnership with the ASEAN and join ASEAN leaded mechanisms, he said.

ASEAN leaders at the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and Related Summits

He held that amid the global economic uncertainties, it is important for ASEAN to continue to work together to ensure that the association remains attractive to investors from outside the region and dialogue partners. At the same time, it is necessary for the grouping to make sure that the region remain peaceful, stable and secure to draw investors and tourists, he added.

The ASEAN leader said that Timor Leste, which is on the process to become the 11th member of the ASEAN, will also attend the summit. He affirmed that the ASEAN will assist Timor Leste in terms of capacity building so that the country can be well prepared to take advantage of becoming a full member of ASEAN, in the very near future.

Mentioning the building of an effective Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn reiterated that during a retreat in early February, ASEAN Foreign Ministers agreed to speed up negotiations for the deal. For Indonesia, as the ASEAN Chair in 2023, hopes to expedite the negotiations of the COC, building on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) in the past 21 years.

He went on to say that to ensure an effective COC, it is necessary to rely on the member states that will be negotiating directly between ASEAN and China.

“Certainly, of course, what constitutes effective would be something that COC would be meaningful, substantial, that would be able to agree upon by the party states that participate in the negotiations of the COC. And that's why the negotiation process is very important. Not only just the outcome, but also the negotiation process, where to focus on the process right now, to make sure that the interests and the needs of the different countries, the different parties states to the COC will have to be sorted out,” stated the ASEAN Secretary-General.

Source: VNA