The 17th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)

Ha Noi, 23 July 2010

The 17th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the last Ministerial Meeting within the framework of the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and Related Meetings took place today in Ha Noi, on 23 July, under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, H.E Dr. Pham Gia Khiem. The Meeting, comprising of a Retreat session and a Plenary session, was attended by Foreign Ministers and Representatives of Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegations of 27 ARF participants. Earlier, the ASEAN Regional Forum Defence Officials’ Dialogue (DOD) was held on 22 July in Ha Noi.

As usual practice of the Forum, the Ministers exchanged views on international and regional issues of common interest, reviewed the process of cooperation in the past year and mapped out future direction of the Forum for the years to come.

The Ministers emphasized that peace, stability and cooperation for development remain the shared goal and aspiration of countries in the region. They reiterated commitment to work closely toward that end. They welcomed the positive developments in ASEAN’s Community building and regional integration, especially the important decisions made at the last 16th ASEAN Summit. The ARF Participants reiterated their support for ASEAN to continue playing an important role in promoting cooperation and dialogue for confidence building in the region; stressing the importance of bringing into full play ASEAN’s established mechanisms and instruments for peace and regional stability, namely the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Sharing views on the shaping of the regional architecture, the ARF Participants expressed their support for ASEAN’s centrality; welcomed ASEAN’s efforts in encouraging and promoting deeper engagement of Dialogue Partners with the regional cooperation process, including the participation of Russia and the US in the EAS with appropriate times and arrangements. The Ministers hailed the convening of the first ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Plus with Eight Dialogue Partners in 2010 which underscored the importance of the envisaged ADMM Plus complementing the work of the ARF.

On regional situation, the Ministers expressed deep concern over the sinking of the Republic of Korea’s naval ship, the Cheonan, on 26 March 2010; extended condolences to the Government of the Republic of Korea for the loss of lives in the incident; called on all concerned parties to exercise self-restraint and resolve all disputes by peaceful means. They also encouraged the parties to return to the Six-party talks with a view to achieving the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula for its lasting peace and stability.

The Ministers were briefed by Myanmar on recent political developments in the country, including the progress made in the implementation of the Roadmap for Democracy, especially preparations for the general upcoming election. The Ministers reiterated the importance of holding the general election in a free, fair, and inclusive manner which would lay the foundation for the long term stability and development of Myanmar. The Participants reaffirmed their commitment to remain constructively engaged with Myanmar. The Ministers also extended their support to Myanmar to work with ASEAN and the United Nations in the process of national reconciliation as well as the economic and social development of Myanmar.

The Ministers stressed the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea; reaffirmed their support for the effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), towards the eventual conclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in the future. They called on strengthening dialogue, promoting confidence building among concerned parties, as well as resolving disputes by peaceful means in conformity with the spirit of the DOC and recognised principles of international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

On future direction of the ARF process, the Ministers reaffirmed that ARF remains the key forum to discuss political and security issues in the region with ASEAN as the driving force, while continuing to be one of the pivotal elements in an evolving regional architecture. The Ministers emphasized the need for ARF to maintain its relevance and become more action-oriented in addressing multi-dimensional challenges, especially the non-traditional security threats that have the direct impact on peace and security in the region such as climate change, disaster, maritime security etc.

In particular, the ARF Participants agreed and adopted the Ha Noi Plan of Action to Implement the ARF Vision Statement, which, among others, contains policy guidance for the ARF to develop and implement concrete and practical actions toward the year 2020.

The Ministers adopted also the List of 17 activities for the next inter-sessional year 2010-2011. All ARF Participants agreed on the need to further promoting cooperation towards preventive diplomacy alongside the conduct of confidence building measures; better improving modalities and strengthening effective ARF’s activities; increasing coordination in sharing information and enhancing policy transparency, cooperating in dealing with non-traditional security challenges; intensifying linkages between Track I and Track II as well as encouraging deeper participation of senior defence officials in this Forum. Accordingly, the Ministers agreed to:

- Adopt the ARF Annual Security Outlook Standardised Format (ASO); task senior officials to draft and finalise the ARF Work Plans on Preventive Diplomacy; Work Plan on Disaster Relief; Work Plan on Counter Terrorism-Transnational Crime and Work Plan on Maritime Security; task senior officials and the ASEAN Secretariat to work on possible ways to strengthen the ARF Unit as part of the ASEAN Secretariat.

On the conclusion 17th ASEAN Regional Forum, the Chair of the Meeting issued a Chairman’s Statement and outcomes of the Forum.
On the same day, ASEAN Foreign Ministers and their counterparts witnessed the Signing Ceremony of the Instrument of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) by Canada and Turkey; and signed with the TAC High Contracting Parties the Third Protocol amending TAC to allow for the accession of EU to the Treaty.

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