China Is Now the ‘Most Important’ Dialogue Partner of ASEAN

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Aug. 6 (EIRNS)—That is the statement of Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, who made this declaration at the conclusion of the ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers conference on July 31, reported Kyodo News on Aug. 5. Locsin further said that ASEAN’s relation with China “should be the most dynamic and substantive we have in the region.”

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprises the nations of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Speaking to the conference, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi asserted, “China-ASEAN relations have now become a banner of regional cooperation in East Asia,” and their “exchanges have become a role model for inter-civilizational exchanges and cooperation in the world. China has maintained its position as ASEAN’s largest trading partner for ten years in a row.” Two-way trade in 2018 reaching $580 billion, greatly enhanced by the Belt and Road Initiative. The foreign ministers also took up matters of e-commerce, scientific and technological innovation, 5G network, and smart cities.

CCTV reported Aug. 4, that creating a South China Sea security agreement was a major concern, especially after remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding China in his meetings with ASEAN foreign ministers earlier in the week. While maintaining peace in the South China Sea is an ongoing process, “China and ASEAN countries have made crucial progress in talks on a widely-anticipated Code of Conduct (COC)” which will set “regional rules and safeguard peace and prosperity in the South China Sea,” said Wang. He told CCTV that China and the ASEAN countries finished the first reading of the Single Draft Negotiating Text of the COC ahead of schedule.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan told Xinhua on July 29, “Outsiders should not continue to stir up troubles in the South China Sea under the pretext of freedom of navigation,” and continued, with regard to U.S. naval exercises “Any interference from the third party or outsiders not only affects joint efforts made by China and ASEAN countries, but also sparks confrontations in the South China Sea.”

In their joint communiqué, ASEAN foreign ministers welcomed the efforts and progress made by the bloc members and China in negotiations on the COC in the South China Sea. Xinhua reported that thanks to these efforts, some 100,000 ships have been able to pass through the South China Sea every year, without being in any way interrupted or impeded.

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