03/04/2021, 14.21
VIETNAM-THAILAND
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Growing cooperation between Hanoi and Bangkok on South China Sea

by Ngoc Lan

Faced with the Chinese naval exercises that will continue throughout the month of March, the foreign ministries of Vietnam and Thailand are seeking compliance with UN conventions on maritime law. And they hope that ASEAN will be strengthened, while commercial relations between the two countries advance.

Hanoi (Asianews) - Vietnam and Thailand are geopolitically very close countries: they established bilateral relations in 1976 and are both members of ASEAN.

Over 100,000 citizens of Vienamite origin live in Thailand and represent a bridge for friendship and economic development in both countries.

In this context, this week the two governments have also reiterated their cooperation on the issue of defending sovereignty on the East Sea (the name by which Vietnam refers to the South China Sea), threatened by Chinese expansionism.

While Vietnam and neighbouring countries have to deal with a second wave of the pandemic, China has started its own military exercises in the South China Sea since March 1 that will last throughout the month.

The manoeuvres touch a stretch of sea extending up to 5 km west of the Leizhou peninsula, in the province of Guangdong, in which the Chinese government has ordered all foreign ships not to enter until March 31. The Chinese television channel CCTV specified that the operations are taking place in the Huang-hai (Yellow Sea), in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea.

In an online meeting on February 24, the foreign ministers of Vietnam and Thailand discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and the regional and international situation, taking stock of the situation in the Eastern Sea.

Reiterating the role of ASEAN in the region, the two countries stressed the importance of respecting maritime laws and conventions, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Many experts believe that the situation of the Eastern Sea and of the entire region has become complicated and unpredictable: competition between the great powers for influence in the Pacific and Southeast Asia is growing.

Faced with this, the demand for cooperation is also increasing. As many as 13 Vietnamese and Thai provinces and cities have twined: in particular, Hồ Chí Minh City and Bangkok have entered into cooperation agreements in the field of trade, culture and education.

In 2019 Thailand was one of the 10 largest investors in Vietnam, with a total of 12.3 billion dollars in investments, while the turnover between the two countries reached 17.5 billion dollars.

In 2020 - as reported by the Consul General of Thailand in Ho Chi Minh City - the pandemic complicated these relations, but the two countries continued to demonstrate their friendship, supporting each other for example in the procurement of masks and other protective clothing for Covid-19.

In the bilateral summit with Thailand, Vietnam’s vice-minister of foreign affairs expressed the need for ASEAN to strengthen the mechanisms of solidarity, affirming its central role in the region.

The hypothesis - supported by the two countries - of a real Asean Community also goes in this direction with the ratification and concrete launch of a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (Rcep).

Finally, Vietnam and Thailand announced that in 2021 they will celebrate the 45th anniversary of bilateral relations by signing a cooperation agreement between the two foreign ministries for the period 2021-2025. The goal is to soon bring the turnover of trade to 20 billion dollars a year.

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