Vietnam has greatly contributed to the successes of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since it joined the 10-nation group two decades ago, said Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

In a recent article, the official reviewed the nearly half decade of development of ASEAN following the issuance of the Bangkok Declaration in 1967, which promoted cooperation and created a firm foundation for a peaceful and prosperous regional community.

He also highlighted the signing of the historic Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community by ASEAN leaders at a summit in Malaysia on November 22.

The formation of the ASEAN Community, slated for December 31, 2015, is a milestone that demonstrates ceaseless efforts from all member countries while steering them toward a more united community, he said.

According to the Deputy PM and FM, engagement in the bloc has enabled Vietnam to break barriers and take steps toward regional and international integration.

ASEAN membership has helped Vietnam promote its friendship and peaceful cooperation with neighbouring countries in various areas such as politics, diplomacy, security, economy, culture and social affairs, thus affording the nation new opportunities and prospects, he noted.

Deputy PM and FM Minh added that Vietnam has enjoyed a higher position and a more significant voice in both regional and international arenas since it became a member of the group.

The past two decades witnessed Vietnam’s integration. It went from being a newcomer to a constructive, responsible member, he said, stressing that its participation has served as a basis for the country’s overhauls of its foreign policy.

Vietnam has accompanied ASEAN’s major progress, the official noted, citing the country’s hosting of the sixth ASEAN Summit in 1998 - only three years after Vietnam joined the group.

At that time, ASEAN was grappling with consequences caused by the 1997-1998 regional financial crisis which, he said, sparked doubts about the group’s existence and efficiency.

With great efforts from member countries, especially the host Vietnam, the summit approved the Hanoi Declaration and the Hanoi Plan of Action, which consolidated their resolve to cooperate and continue.

Also at the summit, Vietnam accelerated Cambodia’s admission to ASEAN as the 10th member, which actualised the dream of uniting the 10 Southeast Asian nations under the same roof and laid the first brick for the construction of the ASEAN Community.

The event sent out a message of vitality and solidarity throughout ASEAN, guiding the group into the 21 st century.

In 2000 and 2001, in its capacity as the ASEAN Chair, Vietnam pushed to narrow the development gap, Deputy PM and FM Minh said.

The official described narrowing the development gap as a crucial step that would support the member countries’ full and effective integration, while bringing prosperity to the entire region.

According to him, Vietnam has participated in intra-bloc cooperation in all areas, ranging from politics, national defence and security to economy, culture, health care, education and environment.

The country’s role has been reflected through its active contributions to the building of ASEAN’s major documents such as the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II (Bali Concord II) in 2003, the Vientiane Action Programme in 2004, the ASEAN Charter in 2007 and the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community from 2009 to 2015.

Notably, Vietnam successfully assumed the role of ASEAN Chair in 2010, during which the group operated more smoothly and accelerated the building of the ASEAN Community in a feasible, pragmatic fashion.

The record 10 high-level meetings between ASEAN and its partners held in Hanoi helped expand the bloc’s foreign relations, he said. The meetings charted major orientations for cooperation and development in the region, including the decision to invite Russia and the US to take part in the East Asia Summit.

With such landmarks, 2010 has been seen as important transitional year for the group on its way to unite the region.

From then on, Vietnam has worked toward the birth of the ASEAN Community.

Vietnam is among the countries that fully carry out their obligations and commitments in the roadmap for an ASEAN Community, and contribute to the building and implementation of the group’s strategic documents and decisions in the new period. These include the Declaration on ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations in 2011, the 2011 Declaration of the East Asia Summit on the Principles for Mutually Beneficial Relations, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and the latest ASEAN Vision 2025.

The ASEAN Community is expected to drive the group into a new development period in a more dynamic, pragmatic manner. Vietnam will do its utmost to create a united, strong ASEAN, the Deputy PM and FM pledged.

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