China, ASEAN possess great potential in bilateral, regional cooperation

China sees great potential in future cooperation with ASEAN countries and ASEAN as a whole in areas such as trade, investment and regional stability, Foreign Minister of China Yang Jiechi said on Monday.

Yang, who concluded his official visit to Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia on Monday, told Xinhua in an interview that Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of relations with Southeast Asian countries.

“Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia are all friendly neighbors of China and members of ASEAN, ASEAN 10+3, East Asia Summit and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC),” he said.

“The purpose of my visit is to strengthen strategic communication, broaden pragmatic cooperation and boost bilateral ties with the three countries, as well as further develop relations between China and ASEAN, when the global and regional situations are experiencing profound and complicated changes.”

In Indonesia, Yang held talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss deepening the all-round strategic cooperation between the two countries and co-chaired with his Indonesia counterpart Marty Natalegawa the second meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation.

In Brunei, Yang met Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lim Jock Seng on further development of bilateral ties.

He then met Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and held bilateral talk with the Foreign Minister Anifah Aman in Sabah state of East Malaysia, when both sides agreed to boost bilateral ties and regional cooperation.

“During my visit, I felt the strong willingness of the three governments to boost cooperation with China,” Yang said. “I am confident there are much we can do in mutual beneficial cooperation.”

The bilateral trade volume between China and Malaysia is likely to reach 100 billion U.S. dollars this year, while China has become Indonesia’s second largest export market as well as a major trading partner of Brunei, he said.

On the relations with ASEAN as a whole, Yang said significant improvements have been achieved by the cooperation between China and ASEAN since the two sides forged dialogue partnership more than two decades ago.

In addition to better political relations and closer economic ties, China and ASEAN have set up the largest free trade zone among developing countries, boosted cultural exchange and together coped with two financial crises, a series of natural disasters and cross-border epidemics.

“Leaders of Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia have paid tribute to China-ASEAN relations in maintaining regional stability and facilitating growth during my visit,” Yang said.

China would continue its support to ASEAN integration on the basis of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit, as well as a major role played by ASEAN in East Asian cooperation. “China is willing to join hand with ASEAN countries for the greater development of China-ASEAN relations,” Yang said.

Concluding his visit, Yang said countries in the region had shown strong need and desire to strengthen the regional cooperation.

The active cooperation in the Asia-pacific had helped to keep the vitality of development in the region, but many challenges remained, especially with the increasing downturn pressure on global economy, Yang said.

“Facing the tough situation, Asia-pacific countries should continue the spirit of unity, mutual assistance and win-win cooperation, deepen pragmatic cooperation, keep the growth trend while maintain peace and stability,” he stressed.

Yang told Xinhua that he had discussed issues related to the South China Sea with leaders and ministers during his trip to the three countries.

Both China and the three countries have agreed that all parties concerned should fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and work towards the eventual adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in accordance with the principles and spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and on the basis of consensus, he said.

“China’s sovereignty over Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters are based on solid and abundant historical and legal basis. ”

“Meanwhile, for the sake of regional peace, stability and development, China has been committing to solving the territorial disputes over some islands and overlapping territorial claims over waters with countries involved through direct negotiations,” he added.

Yang stressed that China’s successful experience in solving territorial disputes with other countries had proved that bilateral negotiation would be an effective way.

Solving disputes by sovereign states with which directly involved via negotiation is an important principle and spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea which is a consensus of all signatories, and hence should be followed, he said.

“Our opposition of the internalization and regionalization of the issues of South China Sea is to defend the consensus and the effectiveness of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, as well as maintain the peace and stability in the region,” Yang said.

Yang told Xinhua that China had made significant contribution in pushing forward the pragmatic cooperation under the mechanism of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“We hope ASEAN countries would join hand with China in fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, build mutual trust, boost cooperation and keep the peace and stability in the region.”

Xinhua