The United States said it would provide at least $153 million to Mekong countries for collaborative projects in the region, the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported on Friday, citing U.S. State Department officials.
The pledges, made at the first Mekong-U.S. Partnership ministerial meeting, will be for enhancing water resource data-sharing, disaster management projects and cross-border crime prevention projects, VNA said.
Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries also met at a virtual summit hosted by Vietnam.
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership, a U.S.-led, multilateral forum that focuses exclusively on the lower Mekong region, “can contribute to the sustainable development of the Mekong sub-region and help Mekong countries narrow the development gap, seize new opportunities and overcome challenges,” Vietnam’s foreign minister Pham Binh Minh said at the meeting.
The 4,350 km (2,700-mile) waterway, known as the Lancang in its upper reaches, flows from China’s Tibetan Plateau along the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, through Cambodia and finally Vietnam, where it forms the delta known in Vietnam as the 'Cuu Long' (Nine Dragons).
For cooperation orientations in the upcoming time, the ministers held that amid challenges and opportunities the Mekong Sub-region is facing, the Mekong-U.S. partnership should focus on the target of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region and supporting the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
Regarding the principles of cooperation, the ministers affirmed that the Mekong-U.S. partnership needs to heighten the principles of ASEAN as the center.
Such principles include openness, equality, consensus, mutual benefit, transparency, respect for the nations’ sovereignty, non-interference, and respect for international law as well as regulations and laws of the member countries.
The meeting also agreed to increase support and coordination with ASEAN and existing Mekong cooperation frameworks.
The ministers emphasized the importance of sub-regional development to the ASEAN Community building process and welcomed the efforts to enhance cohesion between sub-regional cooperation and ASEAN.
In the fields of cooperation, the ministers agreed that the Mekong-U.S. partnership will focus on four major spheres: economic connectivity; sustainable management of water sources, natural resources and environmental protection; non-traditional security; and human resources development.