Security Top Agenda As 27th ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Ends


By Ron Chen, Correspondent ASEAN Region

ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang, Kyung-wha attended the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in a virtual format on September 12, the last day of ASEAN-related meetings, wherein security issues,  including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea issue, health security, and cybersecurity took centrestage.

The Meeting was attended by 27 countries, including the Republic of Korea, ten ASEAN countries, the United States of America, the People’s Republic of China, and Japan.  Minister Kang, noting the importance of collaboration among countries in the region to effectively respond to the new global health security threat of COVID-19, took note of the ARF’s role as a forum for discussions on regional security issues and stressed the need to strengthen regional cooperation and global solidarity. 

Minister Kang and ministers from other participating countries agreed on the need to increase multilateral health cooperation for tackling and recovering from COVID-19, and noted the importance of sharing information and exemplary cases as well as the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

In addition, the participating countries assessed that the ARF is a useful mechanism for having discussions on COVID-19, a new challenge and security issue, and adopted the “ARF Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Prevent and Respond to Infectious Disease Outbreaks” today.

Regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Minister Kang explained the recent progress of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, and emphasized that the ROK government would remain steadfast in advancing the peace process in close coordination with the US and consultations with the international community to achieve complete denuclearization and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula through the historic agreements agreed by the leaders of the ROK, the DPRK, and the US.

Minister Kang stressed that although it would be difficult to dissolve the deep distrust for decades on the Korean Peninsula in a short period of time, the Korean Peninsula issue should be resolved only through sustained dialogue and cooperation, and reaffirmed that the ROK would move forward towards the shared goals as declared in the summits among the leaders of the ROK, the DPRK, and the US. She also called for the ARF to send a clear and unified message for a peaceful resolution of the issue through an early resumption of dialogue.

In particular, Minister Kang emphasized that cooperation between the two Koreas, the parties directly concerned in the Korean Peninsula issue, would continue to serve as a cornerstone of peace on the Korean Peninsula, and explained the ROK government’s efforts to advance inter-Korean relations, including the project proposals for inter-Korean cooperation in the fields of epidemic prevention and control, healthcare and medical services, forestry, and agricultural technology in the new security situation after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ministers from the participating countries shared the view that peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula are closely interconnected with regional peace and prosperity, and mentioned the need for an early resumption of dialogue and for the full implementation of the agreements made by the leaders of the ROK, the DPRK, and the US as well as UN Security Council resolutions in order to achieve denuclearization and the establishment of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

On the South China Sea issue, Minister Kang expressed the ROK’s consistent position of supporting the freedom of navigation and overflight, and emphasized the importance of adhering to the commitment to demilitarization. She went on to say that maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea is crucial when COVID-19 demands our full attention.

On the issue of Rakhine in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Minister Kang hoped for a creation of an environment where refugees residing in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh can return home safely, voluntarily, and in dignity. She also said that the ROK is planning to provide US$5.5 million in humanitarian assistance this year to refugees experiencing difficulties due to the recent spread of COVID-19.

Minister Kang stressed the need to remain vigilant on non-traditional security issues, including the spread of terrorism and cybersecurity, even amid the COVID-19 situation. In particular, as ICT and cybersecurity have become more important with the increase of online activities due to the spread of COVID-19, Minister Kang expressed the ROK’s will to serve as a co-chair of the ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on ICTs Security 2021 in order to contribute to strengthening the ICT and cybersecurity cooperation at the ARF.

Meanwhile, Minister Kang, stressing the ROK’s commitment to contribute to peacekeeping operations aimed at establishing peace and security in the region, asked the ARF member countries to participate in and support the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial Conference to be held in Seoul in April next year.

Today, the participating countries adopted the “Hanoi Plan of Action II” which sets out the way forward for the ARF for the next five years, and hoped that cooperation through the ARF, including confidence building and preventive diplomacy activities, would play a central role in promoting regional peace and prosperity.

The ARF Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is seen to have served as an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the ARF’s role in responding to traditional and non-traditional security threats amid growing uncertainty and regional instability due to COVID-19, and to muster the international community’s will to reinforce global security cooperation.

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