Premier Li Keqiang (5th L) attends the 19th summit between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, in Vientiane, Laos, Sept 7, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]
VIENTIANE — China has vowed to form a closer community of shared future with Southeast Asian nations while commemorating the 25th anniversary of their dialogue relationship.
“If we say the past 25 years were a period of growth for the China-ASEAN relations, the upcoming 25 years will be a period of maturity, facing new opportunities as well as new challenges,” Premier Li Keqiang told the 19th summit between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.
China, which established a dialogue relationship with ASEAN in 1991, was the first to ink the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the first to become ASEAN’s strategic partner.
In addition, China was the first country to voice support for the protocol of the treaty of Southeast Asia nuclear weapon free zone, while being the first to start free trade area negotiations with ASEAN.
“All these showcase China’s steady resolution to develop relations with ASEAN” and “the two sides’ strong will of cooperation and their vision to lead regional cooperation,” Premier Li said.
Premier Li lauded the development of the China-ASEAN relations in the past 25 years.
Mutual respect for each other’s development path, consideration of each other’s major concern, joint efforts to cope with difficulties and challenges, reciprocal trade relationship, principle of inclusiveness and disputes settlement through dialogue and consultation are experience and treasury the two sides have gained and should continue to cherish and carry forward, the Premier suggested.
The Premier put forward a five-point proposals to further enhance China-ASEAN relations:
First, to better coordinate development strategies between the two sides, deepen cooperation in all areas within the 2+7 Cooperation Framework and in accordance with the third action plan for their strategic partnership, Premier Li said.
Second, to establish a new platform for political and security cooperation.
China is willing to discuss to sign a treaty of good-neighborly friendship and cooperation as early as possible, so as to provide legal protection for a long-term friendship, Premier Li said, adding that China supports ASEAN’s efforts to establish a nuclear weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia.
The two sides should also have regular unofficial meetings between defense ministers to promote defense cooperation and promote a more substantial progress in the ministerial dialogue mechanism on law enforcement and security, he said.
Third, to further enhance and facilitate free trade and investment, jointly promote the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and interconnectivity, and deepen industrial cooperation.
Fourth, to make cultural and people-to-people exchanges a third pillar for China-ASEAN cooperation, further enhance cooperation in this regard with education and tourism as two priority areas, said Premier Li.
China hopes the total number of exchange students could reach 300,000 in 2025 through a student exchange plan, he added.
Fifth, to jointly enhance regional cooperation, Premier Li said, noting that the special fund for Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, which involves China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, has been launched to support cooperation projects among sub-regional countries.
The Premier also said that China stands ready to work with ASEAN to promote the comprehensive and in-depth development of their bilateral relations, and to make greater contribution to the lasting peace and common prosperity of the region and the world.
Calling China the most important cooperative partner, ASEAN leaders expressed gratitude for the positive role China has played in building ASEAN community and managing international affairs.
They voiced support for China’s proposals in Belt and Road Initiative construction, production capacity cooperation and interconnection.
The leaders also hoped to speed up the implementation of an upgraded China-ASEAN free trade agreement and the negotiation process of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
After the meeting, the two sides issued four documents, including a joint statement of the meeting, a joint statement on production capacity cooperation, a joint statement on the application of the code for unplanned encounters at sea in the South China Sea, as well as a guideline on senior diplomat hot line to cope with maritime emergencies.
In the joint statement of the meeting, the two sides reaffirm their mutual respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international law and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and their commitment to promoting regional peace and stability.
China reaffirms continued support for ASEAN’s integration process and ASEAN centrality, while ASEAN reaffirms that China’s development is an important opportunity for the region, and supports China’s pursuit of peaceful development. ASEAN countries also reaffirm adherence to the one-China policy.
The two sides agree to continue to promote cooperation in areas including defense and security, connectivity, environmental protection, sustainable development, management of land and water resources, and bio-diversity conservation, while addressing trans-boundary challenges.
In the joint statement on production capacity cooperation, the two sides emphasize cooperation in highly-complementary sectors based on their respective priorities, comparative advantages, and levels of development, and recognize the importance of capacity building, taking into account the different needs of ASEAN members on production capacity practices.
The two sides will support the cooperation by facilitating exchange of information on relevant policies so as to create a favorable business and investment environment for production capacity cooperation.
The guideline on senior diplomat hot line to cope with maritime emergencies stipulates the purpose, application scope and procedure of the hotline platform.
It will provide an instant and effective communication channel for direct discussion and coordination among senior diplomats from related countries.
SOUTH CHINA SEA ISSUE
Both China and ASEAN reaffirmed a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and agreed to work substantively toward the early adoption of a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea based on consensus.
The two sides reaffirmed their respect of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea under principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
According to the joint statement on the application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea issued after the meeting, the two sides recognized that Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and China are members of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) and have adopted the CUES.
The CUES, as a coordinated means of communication to maximize safety at sea, offers a means by which navies may develop mutually rewarding international cooperation and transparency, according to the document.
The leaders agreed to use the safety and communication procedures for the safety of all their naval ships and naval aircraft, as set out in the CUES.
China is willing to work with the ASEAN countries in dispelling interference, and properly handling the South China Sea issue according to the DOC and dual-track approach, Premier Li said.
History and the facts have repeatedly showed that the South China Sea can only be peaceful and stable so long as the regional countries themselves get hold of the key to fixing the problems, he added.
For their part, the ASEAN leaders expressed appreciation for China’s efforts in promoting the COC talks. They also insist on solving the differences over the South China Sea through dialogues so as not to allow these spats to overshadow the relations between the two sides.