Vietnam has made a proposal as this year's ASEAN chair for the regional bloc to hold a physical summit later this month despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior official from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry has said.
Should the face-to-face meeting be realized for the 36th ASEAN Summit – instead of a virtual one – it is expected to be held on June 27 and 28 in Da Nang, a coastal city in the southeastern part of Vietnam, said the Foreign Ministry’s director general for ASEAN cooperation, Jose Tavares.
Scheduled for the two-day summit are the ASEAN Summit Plenary Session, the ASEAN Leaders’ Retreat, the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with Representatives of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council and the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface Session on Women’s Empowerment.
On the ministerial level, the agenda includes sessions for the ASEAN Coordinating Council, ASEAN Political-Security Community Council, ASEAN Economic Community Council and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council.
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Compared to other ASEAN countries, Vietnam has a relatively low COVID-19 infection rate, with 328 confirmed cases and zero deaths.
“The discussion on how to execute the summit is still ongoing, whether to be held [virtually] through video conference or face-to-face. There are mixed views about it, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jose said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.
“The decision would come in a couple of days.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has slightly interfered with diplomatic affairs and forays, causing major bilateral or multilateral agendas to be postponed or changed in terms of how they are usually presented.
Within ASEAN, for instance, officials of Southeast Asian countries had been actively engaging in dozens of meetings through video conferences, Jose said.
“Some agendas that are related to capacity building or training, for instance, were canceled. However, many agendas that are related to negotiation are still ongoing,” he added.
When asked about the possibility of Vietnam extending its chairmanship due to the pandemic, Jose said that ASEAN member states had neither discussed the matter nor had there been a proposal from Hanoi regarding the extension of the country's chairmanship until next year.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said that Indonesia was one of the countries that always pushed for ASEAN and other multilateral organizations to keep the diplomatic affairs in check despite the travel limitations caused by the pandemic, and one way was to encourage the scheduling of virtual meetings and negotiations.
“We [diplomats] are adjusting to the new normal [in diplomatic affairs] in addressing various issues,” Faizasyah said.