The Jakarta Post
Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang is currently visiting Indonesia at the invitation of his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to strengthen bilateral relations and deepen cooperation in key sectors. This is his first state visit to Indonesia. President Sang gave a written interview to The Jakarta Post's Veeramalla Anjaiah prior to his visit. The following is an excerpt of that interview.
Question: Ten years ago, both Vietnam and Indonesia agreed to forge a Comprehensive Partnership and now that partnership has transformed into a 'Strategic Partnership'. How would you describe the rapidly growing strategic ties between Vietnam and Indonesia and their direction over the next five years?
Answer: Vietnam and Indonesia enjoy a time-honored traditional friendship, which has been continuously nurtured by generations of the leaders and peoples of our two countries. Based on that good foundation, in June 2003, the two sides signed the 'Joint Statement on the Framework of Friendly and Comprehensive Cooperation Entering into the 21st Century'.
The signing of this joint statement turned a new page for a stronger and more comprehensive relationship between the two countries. Vietnam and Indonesia have frequently exchanged visits and contacts between senior officials from the two sides. Many bilateral cooperation mechanisms have been established and continue to operate effectively.
In the future, our two countries should further deepen our bilateral ties. First and foremost, we should actively coordinate with each other to develop a new action plan to intensify political cooperation, promote sustainable development in economic and trade relations to soon exceed the bilateral trade target of US$5 billion before 2015 and strive for $10 billion before 2018.
It is expected that during this visit, President Yudhoyono and I will announce the official upgrade of bilateral relations to a strategic partnership. I firmly believe that this visit of mine to Indonesia will contribute to a further tightening of the comprehensive cooperation between our two countries, which is in the interests of our two peoples and of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
In less than three years' time, populations within Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries will be formed into a community. As two key regional players, what should Vietnam and Indonesia be doing to build a stronger and united ASEAN?
We all know that at the recent 21st ASEAN Summit, ASEAN leaders agreed to choose Dec. 31, 2015, as the official launch of the ASEAN Economic Community [AEC]. In 2013, under the theme 'Our people, our future together', ASEAN is prioritizing efforts to create strong shifts in the establishment of the ASEAN community to ensure the steady progress as stated in the road map, and to achieve the set targets by 2015.
Vietnam values highly the role of Indonesia, a key ASEAN member with many initiatives of strategic significance. While serving as ASEAN chair in 2011, Indonesia actively promoted its leading role in setting a direction for ASEAN to enhance the coordination of its position and actions on global issues, consolidate intraregional unity, resolve differences among members and so on.
In the future, the two countries should work closely together to promote the foci and priorities agreed upon by ASEAN.
Given the challenges to regional security, Vietnam and Indonesia have also confirmed our resolve to promote consensus within ASEAN in upholding principles of respect for international law, self-restraint, the non-use of force and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
A united voice will give ASEAN strength in negotiating with its partners, thus contributing to cementing ASEAN's central role in regional security. Currently, Indonesia is actively upholding its role as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) chair for 2013. Vietnam appreciates and supports the APEC 2013 priorities and other initiatives put forward by Indonesia, particularly on regional economic connectivity, regional integration and education.
During my visit to Indonesia this time, our two sides will once again affirm our determination to strengthen cooperation, together with other ASEAN members, to exert greater effort into overcoming differences and diversity in order to build a strong and united community with a common voice and an increasingly high-profile role and position in the region.
How do you see the role of Indonesia on the issue of the South China Sea?
Being a country with sovereignty claims in the region, Vietnam wishes to settle the East Sea [Vietnam calls the South China Sea the East Sea] issues through peaceful means, negotiation and dialogue based on international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS and DOC [ASEAN's Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea].
With that in mind, we appreciate Indonesia's role and responsibility in actively supporting peace, maritime security and safety in the East Sea, the full observance of the DOC and the move toward a CoC [Code of Conduct]. At the same time, Indonesia always plays an important role in maintaining regional dialogues; promoting ASEAN's unity and contributing to the safeguarding of peace and stability in the East Sea. This was clearly demonstrated throughout 2011, when Indonesia served as ASEAN chair. Specifically, Indonesia played a crucial role in promoting ASEAN consensus in the drafting of the statement on the six-point principles on the South China Sea in July 2012.
The East Sea is the shared concern of many countries, as it is closely related to peace and security in the entire region. Therefore, it is a must for ASEAN to have a role and voice in these issues. To that end, ASEAN should promote consensus based on the principles stated in the DOC, the statement on its six-point principles and the high-level declaration between ASEAN and China on the 10th anniversary of the DOC to aim toward the early completion of a Code of Conduct.
Vietnam expects that Indonesia will continue to make full use of its active role to contribute to peace, stability and development in the East Sea. We will work closely with Indonesia in all bilateral and multilateral forums for the common interests of both ASEAN and the whole region.