Mr. Le Luong Minh, former Vietnam Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, assumed the post of ASEAN Secretary-General this week. He is the first Vietnamese Secretary-General, and will hold the post for a five-year term, until December 2017. Speaking at the office-taking ceremony in Jakarta, he said the maritime dispute in the South China Sea remains a priority, but the most important item on his agenda is establishing the ASEAN Community by 2015.
Report: First Vietnamese secretary-general assumes ASEAN’s top post [Jakarta Post, 9 Jan 2013]
Mr. Minh takes over from outgoing ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan. He served as Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from December 2008 until taking the ASEAN post. He was also previously Vietnam's ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Minh appointment was formally endorsed by ASEAN leaders at the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in November last year.
International media reports have focused on the fact Vietnam is one of the countries involved in disputes with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, speculating on Mr. Minh's influence in taking office.
Mr. Minh has said "ASEAN should speed up efforts toward an early start of negotiations with China with a view to achieving an early conclusion of a code of conduct on the South China Sea", but stressed his focus as Secretary-General would be on establishing the ASEAN Community by 2015, including the ASEAN Economic Community which seeks to create a single market in the region.
Mr. Minh's appointment as the first Vietnamese Secretary-General is historically significant - Vietnam is one of the newer members of the grouping. Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia joined ASEAN in the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War.