Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Vientiane, the Lao capital, on Sept 6 for a series of leader’s meetings on East Asia cooperation and an official visit to Laos.
Cooperation was the theme of Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to Laos, according to Xinhua News Agency.
From Sept 6 to 9, he attended a series of meetings on East Asia cooperation — including the 19th China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders’ meeting, a summit marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relations between China and ASEAN, the 19th ASEAN-China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (10+3) leaders’ meeting, and the 11th East Asia Summit — and paid an official visit to China’s southern neighbor.
Some Western media, such as the UK’s Financial Times, said the trip was a “victory for China” that the argument over the South China Sea issue has not escalated to a fight, Xinhua reported.
Prior to the trip, one or two countries declared that the South China Sea issue should be discussed at the leaders’ meetings.
China made preparations for potential arguments. During the meetings, Premier Li reasoned that China is willing to work with Southeast Asian countries to deal with disputes and maintain regional peace and stability.
In particular, during the “10+1” leaders’ meeting held on Sept 7, China and ASEAN passed two documents on the South China Sea issue and agreed to facilitate negotiations on the “Code of Conduct on the South China Sea (COC)”.
Premier Li attends the 19th China-ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, capital of Laos, on Sept 7.
At the 11th East Asia Summit held on Sept 8, many leaders of ASEAN countries made positive remarks on the issue. Even Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, did not mention the disputed issue.
Apart from multilateral meetings, Premier Li met separately with some leaders of stakeholder countries.
On his arrival in Vientiane, capital of Laos, on Sept 6, Premier Li met with Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong.
Premier Li meets Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Vientiane, capital of Laos, on Sept 6, 2016.
“It is necessary for both countries to make contact before the leaders’ meetings, as Singapore is the coordinator of the China-ASEAN relationship and an important partner of China in Southeast Asia,” said Xinhua.
The next two days saw a busy schedule for Premier Li, which included bilateral meetings with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
On Sept 8 alone, the Premier attended the East Asia summit, met with foreign leaders and began the official visit to Laos.
A sandwich and a cup of coffee was the simple lunch of the Premier and other ministers.
One sandwich and a cup of coffee — this is the simple lunch Premier Li has during the East Asia Summit on Sept 8.
Cooperation the key
With little distraction from the South China Sea issue, China and Southeast Asian countries had fruitful discussions about cooperation.
Marking the 25th anniversary of dialogue relations between China and ASEAN, leaders of both sides not only cut a cake, but also passed four constructive agreement documents.
In addition to the South China Sea issue, the documents vow to boost bilateral cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, politics, regional security, trade and investment, infrastructure, education, tourism and environmental protection.
China and Laos signed over 20 cooperative agreements covering industries including manufacturing, trade, investment, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, transportation, information technology, education, culture, sports and tourism.
The two countries agreed to start construction on the China-Laos Railway in 2016, which stretches 418 km from Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, to Laos’ capital Vientiane. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held last year, China Daily reported.
Premier Li meets with Thongloun Sisoulith, the prime minister of Laos, on Sept 8.
Some overseas media commented that China has “scored a diplomatic victory” in the meetings. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Southeast Asian nations have largely moved on from the initial tensions surrounding the Hague tribunal’s ruling and now shifted their focus on ensuring regional stability”.