Credit Photo: Chairman of the government office Mai Tien Dung attends the Special ASEAN summit on COVID-19 in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 14, 2020.Credit: AP Photo/Hau Dinh
By David Hutt
There are rumors that Vietnam wants an extra year as chair, to make up for the COVID-19 disruption. Would the rest of ASEAN agree to that?
“After the outbreak of the coronavirus in China in January, rumors began to surface in diplomatic circles that Vietnam was sounding out other ASEAN members with a proposal to extend its term as ASEAN Chair for another year,” analyst Carl Thayer told me. “the coronavirus prevented ASEAN heads of government from meeting face-to-face and deprived Vietnam of the opportunity to determine if there was consensus on its suggestion to extend its term as ASEAN Chair.”
- For Vietnam, the coronavirus pandemic has scuppered its hopes of achieving real change in the ASEAN bloc this year
- Before Southeast Asian leaders took part in the virtual Special ASEAN Summit on Coronavirus Disease on April 14, a rumor was circulating that Vietnam, which holds the rotating ASEAN chair this year, was angling to extend its chairmanship for yet another year, several sources tell me.
- As ASEAN chair, Vietnam could have spent this year working with other regional states to agree to a policy that is in their own interests – many analysts suspect that without a forceful country like Vietnam in charge of ASEAN’s side of negotiations, Beijing could convince the bloc to accept a code of conduct that is entirely favorable to China’s interests.
- Aside from the sense of unfairness if Brunei and other states have to delay their chairmanship for a year, if Beijing senses that another year as ASEAN chair will allow Hanoi to instigate policies that are harmful to China’s relations in Southeast Asia, or help Hanoi to fashion more regional unity against China’s aggressive tactics in the South China Sea, Beijing could pressure its allies in ASEAN to scupper Vietnam’s chances of an extended term.
Source: The Diplomat