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[ASEAN-Korea summit] [Herald Interview] ‘Hanoi to focus on unifying ASEAN in 2020’: Vietnamese PM

Less than a month before Hanoi assumes chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said forming a unified stance for the regional bloc on global issues is at the top of its agenda.

Seeking to bring together ASEAN countries, Vietnam has set forth “Cohesive and Responsive” as the theme of its ASEAN chairmanship, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

“ASEAN will unite under this theme and actively contribute to global peace and sustainability in the region and worldwide. To proactively respond to challenges from outside the region as well as global issues, our focus will be on unifying ASEAN’s stance,” Prime Minister Phuc said in a written interview with The Korea Herald.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (Embassy of Vietnam in South Korea)
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (Embassy of Vietnam in South Korea)

He added connecting the regional bloc and capitalizing on economic opportunities of the “fourth industrial revolution” are among the top issues to be dealt with in 2020.

Vietnam received chairmanship of ASEAN from Thailand earlier this month and looks set to host some 300 meetings in the country next year.

“Vietnam will also vitalize people-to-people and cultural exchanges among ASEAN member countries. We will also elevate the partnership between ASEAN and South Korea,” he said.

Touching on the denuclearization of North Korea, Phuc said it has been the consistent position of ASEAN and Vietnam to support the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

ASEAN and Vietnam also aim for sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula by maintaining the momentum of dialogue and faithfully executing agreements.

ASEAN and South Korea have been cooperating on geopolitical issues, security, the economy and people-to-people exchanges, among other areas.

The two parties established diplomatic relations in 1989 and went on to form a strategic partnership in 2010.

“I am glad about the achievements of ASEAN and South Korea. Mutual understanding has helped form a joint stance to solve a slew of problems,” Phuc said.

He said economic exchanges between the two sides have been “impressive,” but there is room for improvement.

The total trade volume of ASEAN and South Korea soared to $160 billion last year from $10.3 billion in 1990.

“ASEAN and Korea are tasked with further expanding trade to match both parties’ potentials,” he said.

“After President Moon Jae-in declared the New Southern Policy centered on people, prosperity and peace, ASEAN has received notable backing from South Korea. I hope outstanding achievements made on ASEAN-Korea strategic partnership will strengthen cooperation for ASEAN’s 2025 vision.”

In terms of relations between Vietnam and South Korea, Phuc highlighted joint efforts on the economic front as the “essential backbone” of bilateral ties.

“Since President Moon’s visit to Vietnam, both sides have agreed to pursue sustainable and balanced trade, and to accomplish total bilateral trade of $100 billion dollars until 2020,” Phuc said. Moon visited Vietnam in March last year.

Vietnam is a vital manufacturing base for South Korean companies and is Korea’s fourth-largest trading partner.

Seoul stands as Hanoi’s No.1 foreign direct investor, second-largest official development assistance contributor and the third-most important partner for trade and tourism.

“I believe this (the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit) is a good opportunity for the two heads of state to discuss the future of bilateral ties ahead of the return visit of Vietnam’s leader (to Korea).”

South Korea and Vietnam forged diplomatic relations in 1992, though the two have had engagements dating back to the 1950s. They formed a strategic partnership in 2009. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (