Premier as­sures ASEAN, world lead­ers of safe nav­i­ga­tion

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YUE in Manila zhangyue@chi­

Premier Li Ke­qiang said on Tues­day that China will firmly safe­guard free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight in the South China Sea.

He said China, as the largest coun­try in the South China Sea and a ma­jor user of its sea lanes, wants peace and sta­bil­ity for the re­gion more than any other coun­try.

Li made the re­marks at the 12th East Asia Sum­mit in Manila on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Lead­ers of the 10 As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions coun­tries as well as those from the Repub­lic of Korea, Rus­sia, Ja­pan, In­dia, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and the United States at­tended the meet­ing, chaired by Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte. The meet­ing was part of the ASEAN sum­mit held in Manila.

Since 2005, the an­nual meet­ing of lead­ers of 18 coun­tries, in­clud­ing 10 ASEAN mem­ber states and eight di­a­logue part­ners, serves as a fo­rum for di­a­logue on broad strate­gic is­sues of rel­e­vance to East Asia as well as other re­gional and global is­sues, fo­cus­ing on ar­eas such as international ter­ror­ism, en­ergy, in­fec­tious dis­eases, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and poverty re­duc­tion.

The sit­u­a­tion in the South China Sea has been cool­ing down, Li said.

Not­ing that China and ASEAN an­nounced plans to be­gin the next step of con­sul­ta­tion on the text of a code of con­duct in the South China Sea on Mon­day, Li said this shows a will­ing­ness from both China and ASEAN coun­tries to prop­erly han­dle dif­fer­ences through con­sul­ta­tion and main­tain peace and sta­bil­ity for the South China Sea.

He said the re­gional coun­tries have the con­fi­dence, wis­dom and abil­ity to prop­erly han­dle the South China Sea is­sue and turn the area into a sea of sta­bil­ity, friend­ship and co­op­er­a­tion.

The premier pointed out that over the past 12 years, the sum­mit has be­come an im­por­tant plat­form for main­tain­ing re­gional sta­bil­ity and di­a­logue on key is­sues, par­tic­u­larly at present when the global econ­omy is still in a slug­gish re­cov­ery and trade pro­tec­tion­ism is on the rise.

He said the East Asia Sum­mit should re­main a strate­gic fo­rum guided by national lead­ers and ad­here to the prin­ci­ple of be­ing driven by both eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and po­lit­i­cal se­cu­rity.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Li called for ef­forts to build a re­gional eco­nomic com­mu­nity and pro­mote col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive and Master Plan on ASEAN Con­nec­tiv­ity 2025, as well as to work to­ward an early im­ple­men­ta­tion of the up­grade to the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.

He also pro­posed co­op­er­a­tion to pro­mote re­gional sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, so­cial de­vel­op­ment and the fight against non­tra­di­tional se­cu­rity threats and called on re­gional coun­tries to fur­ther re­search im­prov­ing the Asi­aPa­cific se­cu­rity frame­work.

The meet­ing con­cluded with an an­nounce­ment of sev­eral packs of co­op­er­a­tion doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing dec­la­ra­tions of co­op­er­a­tion on poverty al­le­vi­a­tion, pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ism and curb­ing money laun­der­ing and ter­ror­ism fi­nanc­ing.

Guo Yan­jun, deputy di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Asian Stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said the premier’s re­it­er­a­tion of China’s stance on the South China Sea is­sue sends a sig­nal that China has the com­pe­tence and wis­dom to prop­erly han­dle the is­sue.

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