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China to appoint first ASEAN ambassador
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China said on Thursday it plans to appoint its first ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to further strengthen bilateral strategic ties.

"This is a symbol of the in-depth development of China-ASEAN ties, which also shows that the China-ASEAN strategic partnership is moving forward," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a press conference.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi announced Wednesday at the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting in Singapore that China has decided to send an ambassador to ASEAN.

Liu said the appointment will further strengthen strategic ties between China, a comprehensive ASEAN dialogue partner since 1996, and the 10-member regional body.

"China is satisfied with the bilateral ties with ASEAN, and has great expectations," Liu said.

China and ASEAN agreed on Wednesday in Singapore to intensify their cooperation in order to meet serious challenges posed by rising oil and food prices, the slowdown of the world economy, the depreciation of the U.S. dollar, rising trade protectionism and natural disasters.

Chinese Foreign Minister also said China will work closely with ASEAN to speed up the establishment of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Its dialogue partners include the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, India, Japan, Canada and the Republic of Korea.

The United States was the first ASEAN dialogue partner to appoint an ambassador to ASEAN in April. Australia and New Zealand also announced on Thursday the appointment of their first ambassadors to the ASEAN.

China has appointed several special-mission ambassadors in recent years, such as EU ambassador, special ambassadors on African affairs and Korean Peninsular affairs and others.

"These are new reforms of China's diplomatic practice," Liu said, adding it indicates China would have in-depth communication and exchange of views with those regions and countries so as to safeguard regional stability and promote common prosperity.

(Xinhua News Agency July 25, 2008)

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