Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ASEAN - China, ASEAN celebrate friendship ahead of SCS ruling

Hand-in-hand: ASEAN secretary-general Le Luong Minh (seventh right) poses with ambassadors during the celebration of 25th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue relations at Raffles Hotel, Jakarta on Monday.(JP/Donny Fernando)

ASEAN is anticipating an arbitrary ruling at an international tribunal in The Hague pertaining to overlapping claims between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS), and the results might reshape the political relationship between the region and the East Asian giant.

But the ruling — expected to be announced on Tuesday — has not stopped the strategic partners from celebrating the silver anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue, with representatives of the world’s second-largest economy and the regional organization harboring hopes that their relationship will be steadier and stronger in the future.

Member country representatives and Chinese diplomats gathered in Jakarta on Monday in a commemoration event for the dialogue’s anniversary, during which a Chinese representative assured that his country would work closely with ASEAN in settling issues in the waters, in which four ASEAN member states are claimants.

ASEAN secretary-general Le Luong Minh said the 25th commemoration of the dialogue was a good opportunity for the two sides to review past achievements and chart out the future direction of the partnership.

“As we are celebrating a quarter century of ASEAN-China dialogue, ASEAN is committed to working closely with China to bring the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership to new heights in the interest of regional and international peace, stability and prosperity,” he said in his remarks.

Effective implementation of the ASEAN-China free trade area has boosted two-way trade by nearly 50 percent, and the two entities are on track to book a trade value of US$ 1 trillion by 2020, he pointed put. There are also other success stories, including in enhancing people-to-people contact to build trust and promote understanding through cultural and educational exchanges.

Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN Xu Bu also emphasized strong cooperation in the partnership

“Thanks to the concerted efforts from both sides, the partnership with China has become the most vigorous and dynamic one among relations of ASEAN with its dialogue partners,” he said.

China has been ASEAN’s biggest trading partner for seven consecutive years, while ASEAN has been China’s third-biggest trading partner for five consecutive years. Investment flow from China has sharply inflated over the period of the dialogue, from initially $500 million in 1991 to over $150 billion last year.

For some ASEAN member states, China dominates at least half of investment in the countries.

In his remarks, Xu also addressed increasing threats of security, including terrorism, and called on the partnership to work together in addressing them.

“Some forces still cling to the Cold War mentality and behave to undermine regional peace, stability and development. Against this backdrop, it is more than necessary and important that China and ASEAN countries further enhance unity and cooperation,” he said

Xu called for the partnership to further nurture mutual political and security trust and enhance strategic communication.

“As for the sensitive issues such as the South China Sea, China will keep on working with ASEAN countries toward a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and actively promote the consultation on the Code of Conduct [...] so as to appropriately manage differences, promote practical cooperation and jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and our region at large.”

He called for the partnership to synergize development strategies, to further develop subregional cooperation, as well as to tap into potential in other fields.

Anggi M. Lubis

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