ASEAN, US agree on joint vision statement

US President Joe Biden (left) and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) arrive for a group photo on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on 12 May 2022. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

ASEAN foreign ministers reached an agreement with the United States on the joint vision statement, which contains 27 paragraphs containing 2,695 words, covering the full range of their relations in the coming years, according to the project seen by Thai PBS World. The leaders of ASEAN and the United States must give the green light when they meet on Friday late afternoon.

ASEAN leaders met informally on Wednesday, ahead of their leaders’ meeting with US President Joe Biden, to discuss the draft joint vision statement. There were three sensitive issues, which the two 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 bilateral issues, including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, economy and connectivity, promoting maritime cooperation, improving of interpersonal connectivity, support for sub-regional development and the exploitation of technologies and the promotion of innovation, the fight against climate change and the preservation of peace and the establishment of confidence.

With regard to Ukraine, ASEAN and the United States reaffirm their commitment to respect for sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity. “We reiterate our call for respect for the Charter of the United Nations and international law. We stress the importance of ending hostilities and creating an environment conducive to a peaceful settlement. We support the efforts of the UN Secretary General in the search for a peaceful solution.

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

Biden welcomes Southeast Asian leaders with energy and maritime promises

With respect to the crisis in Myanmar, the Joint Vision Statement reaffirms the joint ASEAN-US call for an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and the release of all political detainees, including strangers. “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 enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.

ASEAN and the United States also welcome close coordination between the ASEAN Special Envoy and the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy.

The South China Sea dispute has been placed under the promotion of maritime cooperation. The language was mostly taken from various previous ASEAN statements on the South China Sea. There are new areas of cooperation, proposed by the United States, to improve maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, maritime security, and to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing through the sharing of information, best practices and expertise, as well as assistance, which will complement the existing system.

During Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2019, the country’s efforts to combat IUU fishing were praised and adopted as best practices by other ASEAN members facing similar challenges.