By Zhang Jianhua, Nguyen Thi Thuy Anh
HANOI, Sept. 22 (Xinhua)-- The strengthening of cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) is the key not only to the further expansion of trade ties between China and the regional grouping but also to resolve differences among the countries in the region, according to Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam Kong Xuanyou.
In a recent interview with Xinhua on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN strategic partnership, Kong said that the relations between China and ASEAN have gone through an extraordinary path during the past 10 years with bilateral trade turnover increased fivefold and mutual investment threefold, creating a golden decade. "We should maintain the development momentum and further expand cooperation from high-ranking leaders to the peoples, bringing political will into practice,"Kong said.
He proposed five development aspects to further strengthen ties between China and the ASEAN.
According to him, the two sides should promote strategic communications, respect each other's major concerns and further enhance high-level exchanges and communications among all sectors.
In his view, it is necessary to create an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and to align it with the establishment of a region-wide free trade zone.
The two sides should push forward the establishment of onshore and offshore transportation and build a new regional investment and financial platform. Moreover, both countries should make good use of the China-ASEAN maritime cooperation fund and continue consolidating and reinforcing the foundation of enduring friendship between the two peoples.
According to Kong, the global focus is shifting to Asia and the development of China-ASEAN relations is undergoing increasingly complicated and profound changes.
The future of the China-ASEAN relations depends on the ability of the two sides to ensure cooperation based on non-interference in each other's internal affairs, to properly deal with internal challenges among the countries and to effectively respond to external influences, he added. "We may encounter some sensitive and difficult issues, however, the more difficulties we face, the more interdependence, close cooperation and expansion of common interests we need to ensure a sustained, healthy and stable development of China-ASEAN cooperation,"Kong said.
The Chinese ambassador said that China and ASEAN enjoy geographical proximity, cultural affinity, a historical bond and closely merged interests. "China is the first outside big country to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. It is also the first country to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN and to launch and complete the building of a Free Trade Area (FTA) with ASEAN. Over the past 10 years since the establishment of the strategic partnership, China and ASEAN have constantly enhanced mutual political trust, deepened the integration of interests and intensified friendly exchanges,"Kong said.
On the South China Sea disputes, the Chinese ambassador said that China has always maintained that consultations should be held by the parties directly concerned without outside interference on the basis of respect for historical facts and international law. "China adheres to the peaceful settlement of disputes in South China Sea, and will insist on the principle of shelving differences and seeking joint development,"he said.
China and ASEAN are taking constructive actions to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea DOC) and to discuss Code of Conduct in South China Sea (COC) in a bid to reach consensus on marine environmental protection, science and technology, navigation safety and rescue and maritime communications. "We have always believed that the South China Sea dispute is not an issue between China and ASEAN. It should not and cannot affect the China-ASEAN overall cooperation. Further strengthening maritime cooperation will help enhance mutual understanding and trust and create a good atmosphere to settle disputes,"Kong emphasized. "We hope that relevant parties will bear in mind that peace, stability and development in the region require more positive and constructive actions,"he said.
Within the China-ASEAN cooperation framework, the ambassador said that China-Vietnam mutual political trust has been continuously strengthened, economic and trade cooperation enhanced, cultural exchanges put into practice and practical cooperation achieved fruitful results.
He expressed the belief that China-Vietnam comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership will continue be reinforced in the years ahead.