Yearender: ASEAN rotating chairmanship helps Laos make further efforts to ensure normal, healthy ASEAN-China relation

By Xinhua

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VIENTIANE, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) — Laos has made great efforts in fulfilling its rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits and related meetings in 2016 and has contributed to ensuring the normal and healthy development of ASEAN-China relations.

“It is important for Laos as the country holds the ASEAN rotating chairmanship in 2016,” Soukthavy Keola, a senior Lao diplomat and former counselor at the Lao embassy in China, told Xinhua in a recent interview in the Lao capital of Vientiane.

During three days from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8, as many as 12 summits have been held in Vientiane, including two summits among ASEAN leaders namely the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits.

On the sidelines of these summits, the ASEAN Leaders also met with representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), representatives of ASEAN Youth, and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council.

Nine summits have been organized with ASEAN’s dialogue partners under the ASEAN Plus One (ASEAN-China), ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN-China, Japan, the Republic of Korea) and East Asia Summit (EAS) cooperation frameworks. In addition, the Mekong-Japan Summit was also held under the sub-regional cooperation framework.

Besides these summits, a number of bilateral meetings have also been held. With external partners, the ASEAN leaders have held summits with dialogue partners, namely China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, the United States, Australia and the United Nations.

“This year, the world has witnessed profound changes in numerous issues. For Laos, the country has also faced huge challenges in the international arena. However, the country has played a positive role in its ASEAN chairmanship,” Soukthavy said.

“In promoting mutual understanding between China and ASEAN, as the rotating chairman of the association, Laos brought its diplomatic wisdom to stop the negative intervention of outsiders and contradictions within ASEAN,” said the senior diplomat.

In the past year, China and ASEAN have engineered major achievements in bilateral cooperation. According to Soukthavy, China and ASEAN have been organizing more than 10 meetings at ministerial level, and more than 20 talks at deputy ministerial level annually.

Meanwhile, ASEAN’s cooperation with its most active partner China took center stage at a series of meetings in Vientiane during the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and related summits in September.

On Sept. 7, heads of states and governments of the member states of the association and China gathered at the 19th ASEAN-China Summit to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue.

At the meeting, relevant sides recognized that ASEAN-China ties are among the most substantial and dynamic, bringing mutual benefits, and contributing to regional peace, stability and prosperity.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during the ceremony that relations between China and ASEAN have made great strides and effectively promoted regional peace, stability and prosperity.

The past 25 years have seen growing mutual trust and pragmatic achievements made between China and ASEAN, Li said, adding that China has always regarded ASEAN as an important force in safeguarding regional peace and stability and in promoting regional integration and world multi-polarization.

ASEAN leaders also praised the amazing achievements the two sides have made in the past 25 years and expressed confidence in their ongoing relations which will certainly head into a bright future. They said the development of relations with China would benefit ASEAN nations and are conducive to building an ASEAN community.

ASEAN is ready to cement the relations and tap into new potential in promoting mutual political trust, deepening economic and trade cooperation, and expanding people-to-people and cultural exchanges with China. They looked forward to lifting China-ASEAN relations to a new level to promote regional peace and development.

At the commemorative summit, ASEAN and Chinese leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enhance economic cooperation aimed at achieving the two-way trade target of one trillion U.S. dollars in 2020.

The leaders adopted four important documents, namely the Joint Statement of the 19th ASEAN-China Summit to Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, Joint Statement between ASEAN and China on Production Capacity Cooperation, Joint Statement on the Observance of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the South China Sea, Guidelines for Hotline Communications Among Seniors Officials of the Ministries of the Foreign Affairs of ASEAN Member States and China in Response to Maritime Emergencies in the Implementation of the Declaration on the Code of Parties in the South China Sea.

These documents will serve as fundamental basis for ASEAN-China cooperation in the future.

In the joint statement of the 19th ASEAN-China Summit to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue, ASEAN members’ heads of states and governments reaffirmed the importance of China’s support for ASEAN integration as well as ASEAN’s efforts in realizing ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, including through narrowing the development gap and enhancing ASEAN Connectivity, as well as maintaining ASEAN Centrality in the evolving regional architecture.

ASEAN and China will continue to strengthen cooperation in the area of connectivity that will bring mutual benefits, including through capacity building and resource mobilization for the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and continue to explore ways to improve connectivity between both sides by synergizing common priorities identified in the master plan and the Chinese-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and encourage the active involvement of relevant multilateral financial institutions.

China and the 10 member states of ASEAN vowed to manage their differences properly so as to commit themselves to national and regional development. With the consensuses and new strategies adopted by the two sides, the further development of ASEAN-China relations will continue to benefit their peoples and contribute to their prosperity as well as peace and stability in the region.

In their statements, ASEAN and Chinese leaders welcomed the designation of 2017 as the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation and looked forward to enhancing cooperation and activities with a view to boosting two-way tourist visits and promoting greater people-to-people exchanges.

As China and ASEAN commemorate the 25th anniversary of their dialogue relationship this year, they are also mulling over new approaches on further developing their ties. With the consolidation of unity and concerted efforts made from both sides, the development of China-ASEAN relations will have new impetus and reach a new high in the future.

“The fact that participants reaching consensus on various issues during the summits reflected the high responsibility and competence of Laos. At the ASEAN-China Summit, the statement by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the successful organization of the commemoration of 25th anniversary of China-ASEAN cooperation reflected the contribution of Laos,” Sykhoun Bounvilay, General Secretary of Laos-China Friendship Association, told Xinhua.

“I hope that China and ASEAN will strengthen their relations in various fields, so as to expand the target and direction of bilateral cooperation for stable and sustainable China-ASEAN ties,” Sykhoun said.

He added that the two sides should set up new mechanisms in trade cooperation, facilitate the improvement of efficiency level in China-ASEAN cooperation, strengthen cooperation in education, tourism and people-to-people exchanges, build new blueprints for inter-connectivity and new regional cooperation environment, as well as develop the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism to become a norm of cooperation.

Meanwhile, for Soukthavy, “further development” is also his hope for China-ASEAN cooperation.

“Peoples of Laos and other Southeast Asian countries need economic development and good relations with each other. Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative and put forward the idea of building a community of common destiny with Southeast Asian nations. The strategic position of Laos determines that the country will benefit from the friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN,” said Soukthavy.

“I hope that the China-Laos railway will proceed smoothly, and that friendship and development will be the trend of cooperation among countries,” he told Xinhua.

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