Vietnam PM chairs ASEAN summit, warning of economic calamity and strategic problems between big states
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met online on Friday met for a summit, as the current chair, Vietnam, warned that the virus pandemic had swept away years of economic gains. Hanoi also wants to use the summit to inject momentum into talks on a sprawling China-backed trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The summit will also be dominated by anxiety over Beijing’s moves in the South China Sea, AFP reported. Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, without directly mentioning China, admitted that “strategic problems between big countries had become clear and had deepened.”
“While the world is trying its best to fight the pandemic, there were irresponsible acts, violating international laws, that affected the security and stability of some regions including ours,” he said. In April, Vietnam accused Beijing of sinking a trawler.
Beijing claims about 90 percent of the disputed waterway as its sovereign territory, but Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines have competing claims. China has repeatedly said that its island-building program will benefit passing merchant ships and fish trawlers from across Southeast Asia.