Vietnam's imprint in ASEAN: Dedicated 'brick by brick' to build a common roof, growing stronger over the years (Part I)

Vietnam has been participating in ASEAN for nearly three decades. It can be seen that this is the process of striving together for a peaceful, tolerant and prosperous Southeast Asia in the large world. ASEAN's growth is closely linked to Vietnam, and Vietnam's development has the image of ASEAN.
Lễ Thượng cờ ASEAN 2023 tại trụ sở Bộ Ngoại giao.
The ASEAN Flag-raising ceremony 2023 at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Photo: NH)

Sharing the same goal, shouldering the same difficulties

On July 28, 1995, Vietnam became the seventh member of ASEAN, marking the country's first step in the journey of regional and world integration. Compared to 56 years of formation and development of ASEAN, 28 years of Vietnam's participation is not a long time, but is associated with meaningful developments of the Association as well as the country. It is a cohesive and mutual process.

Joining ASEAN brings Vietnam many benefits, both tangible and intangible, providing practical support for all three goals of ensuring security, promoting development and enhancing the country's position. As for Vietnam, as an “organic part” of ASEAN, Vietnam is always a responsible member and contributes wholeheartedly to common success. A Vietnam with today's fortune, potential and position has even more conditions and a solid basis to contribute to ASEAN more proactively, positively, responsibly and effectively.

Vietnam's accession to ASEAN is extremely important not only for Vietnam, but also for the entire Southeast Asia region, starting the process of completing the idea of an organization that includes all ten countries. members, striving to build a region of peace, stability and development, from which to serve as a basis for further development steps of the Association in the future, which is to build a Community and bring benefits for nearly 700 million people in the region.

Vietnam joined ASEAN, ASEAN-10 was formed, and the landscape of Southeast Asia changed fundamentally. From a region of poverty, division, and many conflicts, it has become a region of peace, stability, and development with ASEAN at the center, serving as a bridge for solidarity and harmony among member countries and with partners. In fact, if development and prosperity are common goals, then ASEAN principles and consensus are the glue that builds Southeast Asia's solidarity, friendship, understanding and mutual trust.

Vietnam's participation in ASEAN, motivating ten regional countries to stand side by side in a regional organization, demonstrates the common will and aspirations of member countries for a self-reliant and cooperative region. That is what makes ASEAN's nature as a collection of forces of small and medium-sized countries in Southeast Asia, to maintain regional peace and security, and elevate ASEAN's position in relations with external partners.

Ngày 5/9, Thủ tướng Chính phủ Phạm Minh Chính dẫn đầu đoàn đại biểu Việt Nam dự phiên toàn thể Hội nghị cấp cao ASEAN-43 tại Trung tâm Hội nghị Jakarta. (Ảnh: Anh Sơn)
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh attends the Plenary Session of the 43rd ASEAN Summit held at the Jakarta Convention Center, Jakarta, Indonesia, September 5, 2023. (Photo: Anh Son)

A journey of close connection, bearing Vietnamese identity

Nearly three decades of participating in ASEAN have marked Vietnam's maturation process on the "playing field" of integration in particular and foreign affairs in general. Also in those nearly three decades, from a country that started late, gradually learning and getting used to it, Vietnam has strived to become a core member, making important contributions and leaving a mark in the process of ASEAN connection and cooperation. Those contributions have affirmed the image of a proactive, reputable and responsible member.

In 1998, three years after officially joining, Vietnam assumed membership obligations for the first time, successfully organized the sixth ASEAN Summit (1998), presided over the adoption of the Hanoi Action (HPA) and implemented the ASEAN Vision 2020, as well as proposed measures to respond to problems arising after the regional financial crisis, leaving Vietnam's first good mark in ASEAN.

For the next three years, according to the rotation mechanism, Vietnam continues to assume the role of Chairman of the 34th ASEAN Standing Committee (2000 - 2001), successfully chaired a series of ASEAN and inter-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Conferences with partners in Hanoi (July 2001), proposed and passed the Hanoi Declaration on narrowing the development gap for deeper integration of ASEAN, concretized the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) to promote equitable and sustainable development in the Association. These two important events have affirmed Vietnam's determination, capacity, seriousness and sense of responsibility towards ASEAN in particular and the Southeast Asia region in general.

On that development momentum, Vietnam is gradually becoming more confident and proactive, and Vietnam's role is gradually being clearly demonstrated through positive contributions in building major orientations to bring ASEAN to a new stage. Vietnam’s participating in contributing, even leading in the drafting of documents, such as the Bali II Declaration of Harmony (2003), Vientiane Action Program (2004), ASEAN Charter (2007), Roadmap for Building Building the ASEAN Community for the period 2009 - 2015, the ASEAN Connectivity Initiative Work Plan... helped ASEAN move to a new stage of development, deep connection, and comprehensive integration.

Accompanying the developments of ASEAN, Vietnam's leaders clearly determined that Vietnam participates in ASEAN in the spirit of "proactive, positive and responsible". In 2009, the Government's Action Program on participating in ASEAN cooperation until 2015 was approved, creating an important policy framework for Vietnam's participation in the ASEAN Community in the new period.

Another highlight marking Vietnam's steady growth in ASEAN is the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2010. With the theme "Towards the ASEAN Community: From Vision to Action", Vietnam has oriented ASEAN to focus on promoting action, emphasizing the "implementation" element to realize the vision of the ASEAN Community, along with the adoption of the Master Plan on ASEAN connectivity. In addition, Vietnam proactively promotes bringing ASEAN's organizational apparatus into operation and perfecting the legal framework according to the provisions of the Charter.

In 2020, Vietnam once again succeeded brilliantly in leading ASEAN through a challenging period. The theme "Cohesion and proactive adaptation" was fully implemented, the region gradually overcame the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN solidarity was maintained, and ASEAN unity was strengthened. The momentum of regional cooperation and connectivity was maintained, the central role and international position of ASEAN was emphasized.

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