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China, Thailand to accelerate joint railway project

China and Thailand agreed to speed up cooperation on a joint railway project, in an effort to ensure an early start within the year.

The railway project is a “priority and highlight” of China-Thailand cooperation. China hopes the two countries can ensure an early start for the project, said Premier Li Keqiang during a meeting with visiting Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Beijing on Oct 9.

During Premier Li’s Thai visit last December, he signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to jointly develop a medium-speed railway connecting northeast Thailand’s Nong Khai province, the capital of Bangkok and eastern Rayong province. The railway will also be a section of the planned railway running through southern China, Laos and Thailand.

“The railway will promote the two countries’ economic development and facilitate trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between China, Thailand and the Indochina Peninsula,” Premier Li noted.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in his talks with Pramudwinai that construction will be a breakthrough for the trans-Asian railway network brewed for years. The railway will be conducive to Thailand’s long-term development and help it make full use of its location as a regional interconnection hub.

According to Wang, the two sides have agreed to advance the railway project, striving for an early start within the year.

Pramudwinai said Thailand attaches high importance to rail cooperation with China and was ready to make joint efforts to promote an early start of the construction.

He also voiced support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative and agreed to promote bilateral cooperation within the framework in the spirit of open and transparent.

According to Wang, the two countries also agreed to start a Lantsang-Mekong cooperation mechanism aimed to help countries along the river realize common development through complementary cooperation.

Pramudwinai said Thailand was willing to strengthen cooperation on water resources, drought control and disaster relief under the framework of the Lantsang-Mekong cooperation mechanism.

They also discussed relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Premier Li spoke highly of the “fruitful efforts” made by Thailand as country coordinator for China-ASEAN dialogue relations in the past three years. He said China was ready to make concerted efforts with all sides to continue to push forward relations with the ASEAN, and maintain the region’s peace, stability and prosperity.

Pramudwinai is on an official visit to China from Oct 8 to 10 at the invitation of Wang. This is his first China visit since taking office in August.