BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang starts an official visit to Brunei on Wednesday, opening up yet another opportunity for the two countries to further advance their relations.
During his stay, Li will hold talks with Bruneian Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. The two sides are expected to sign a series of cooperation agreements, which will further materialize their newly upgraded strategic cooperative relationship.
In a sign of the broader significance of the bilateral interaction, Li will also attend a string of regional summits here to reaffirm Beijing's commitment to and table concrete proposals on promoting cooperation with Southeast Asia and in the wider East Asia.
Li's visit comes on top of two decades of steady development of China-Brunei relations. Since establishing diplomatic ties in 1991, the two countries have witnessed rapid expansion of bilateral interaction, with two-way trade increasing about 80-fold in two decades to 1.6 billion U.S. dollars last year.
Initiating a recent growth spurt of the relationship, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Hassanal announced in April in Beijing a historic move to lift bilateral ties to a strategic cooperative relationship. The sultan was the first foreign head of state Xi had hosted since assuming presidency in March.
The China-Brunei relationship, Xi said back then, features mutual respect and equality and serves as a paragon of harmonious coexistence and win-win cooperation between big and small nations in the region. He urged the two sides to give full play to their respective advantages and further deepen bilateral cooperation.
Brunei values very much the longstanding cooperation enjoyed by the two countries as "partners and close regional neighbors," and looks forward to further strengthening the friendship between the two peoples for mutual progress and prosperity, Hassanal said in a message to Xi at the advent of the 64th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1.
While in Beijing, Hassanal also met with Li, and the two agreed to seize the opportunity of the upgrading to further boost bilateral practical cooperation. Li proposed that the two sides tap deeper into their cooperation potential so as to bring more benefits to their people.
In his message to Li on the occasion of China's National Day, the sultan said he looks forward to Li's visit and regards it as an important opportunity to strengthen the valuable and time-honored ties between the two countries.
During Li's forthcoming visit, China and Brunei will seek to expand cooperation in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, fishery and energy, Chinese Ambassador Zheng Xianglin told local media recently, adding that more Chinese companies are coming to Brunei for investment opportunities.
Looking at the regional picture, the two countries, with Brunei chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, have also pledged concerted efforts to promote the overall relations between China and the 10-member bloc.
Beijing, Xi said in his April meeting with Hassanal, is willing to work with the Bruneian side to champion peace and cooperation in the region and steer the development of the overall China-ASEAN ties forward in the right direction.
When Li meets with ASEAN leaders here, the Chinese premier is expected to expound more on his vision, articulated early September at the 10th China-ASEAN Expo, of ushering China-ASEAN cooperation from the past "golden decade" to a "diamond decade."
Priorities include upgrading the China-ASEAN free trade area, improving regional interconnectivity, and expanding maritime cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, said Zheng, the ambassador.
As for the South China Sea disputes, in which Bandar Seri Begawan is a claimant, China and Brunei have both reaffirmed their commitment to seeking peaceful settlements via dialogue and consultation and preventing the issue from undermining the China-ASEAN friendship and cooperation.
Li's trip, which will also take him to Thailand and Vietnam, comes a day after Xi returned home from a tour in the same region, in which the Chinese president visited Indonesia and Malaysia and attended the latest Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
The intensive diplomacy in Southeast Asia, commented Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, once again demonstrates that Beijing is a trustworthy partner of ASEAN committed to win-win cooperation and common development in the region.