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China-ASEAN Relations Advanced
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Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday applauded the achievements of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which have entered a more comprehensive and mature new stage in their relationship.

His remarks came on the eve of Premier Zhu Rongji's departure today for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he will attend the sixth leaders' summit between China and ASEAN.

Wang, who is part of Zhu's entourage, said: "ASEAN occupies a unique and important position in China's foreign policy, one which is closely tied to the nation's expressed diplomatic stance."

Wang said China hopes for a peaceful international environment to pursue its economic development and regional stability is particularly vital to that end.

China has committed itself to enhancing cooperation with developing countries. ASEAN comprises of 10 developing nations, all of which are neighbors of China, said Wang. China has always supported multi-polarization of the world's nations, which does not mean the 19th-century monopoly of international affairs by big powers, but general participation of all nations, especially the developing ones, in the international arena.

"ASEAN is an important rising force on the global stage," he added.

The vice-minister said China-ASEAN relations have witnessed overall development in the last decade with the collaboration of both sides.

China and ASEAN agreed to establish good-neighborly relations, at the forefront of which are mutual trust and cooperation, since President Jiang Zemin attended the first China-ASEAN leaders' summit in Kuala Lumpur in 1997.

"That has determined the orientation of the China-ASEAN relationship in the new century," Wang said, adding that China had signed declarations of cooperation with every member of the 10-nation ASEAN group and drawn the blueprint for bilateral cooperation.

"ASEAN has reduced its apprehensions and enhanced its trust of China in this process," Wang said.

At the end of last year, when Premier Zhu attended the fifth leaders' summit in Brunei, China and ASEAN agreed to establish a free-trade area within a decade. "That's another milestone in the advancement of the China-ASEAN relationship and one which shows the economic interdependence between them," Wang said.

The vice-minister revealed that the two sides are expected to sign a framework agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation during the sixth summit, scheduled for Monday, thereby officially initiating the process for the establishment of a China-ASEAN free-trade area.

He said China will release its country report on its participation in the development of the Mekong River Basin when Zhu attends the first Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Economic Cooperation Summit, which involves China, Myanmar, Laos, Viet Nam, Thailand and Cambodia. The GMS Summit is to be held this Sunday immediately ahead of the China-ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh.

Wang said China's participation in the GMS development covers both the upper and the lower reaches of the Mekong River and is a concrete effort to support the ASEAN integration process.

"We think that such development will benefit the whole sub-region and should proceed in a step-by-step manner," he added.

China has invested US$5 million in improving the waterways of the upper reaches of the Mekong River. In addition China will provide US$30 million for the building of one-third of the Laos section of the Kunming-Bangkok highway. It also remains supportive of the construction of the Pan-Asia railway (Kunming-Singapore railway).

Wang said China's participation in the Mekong River development works in concert with the country's "go-west" strategy, as some of its western provinces border this sub-region. "It will be a win-win situation," he said.

The vice-foreign minister said China also hopes to explore and expand fresh channels of cooperation with ASEAN and gradually open up dialogue and cooperation in non-traditional security areas, including counter-terrorism.

"Non-traditional security issues, including terrorism, drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal immigration, piracy and AIDS are pressing problems that many countries are facing today," Wang continued.

He said China attaches great importance to non-traditional security issues and is ready to co-operate with other countries in this field.

China will propose the convening of a ministerial meeting on cross-border crime between ASEAN, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

China also expects to issue an anti-terror declaration with ASEAN to launch their cooperation in the non-traditional field of security.

"China-ASEAN cooperation in the non-traditional security fields will serve as a helpful trial and practice of China's new security concept, featuring comprehensive, common and co-operative security," he concluded.

(China Daily November 1, 2002)

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