Closer China-Asean ties
By Alex How in Nanning

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam lauded the impressive record of China-Asean partnership and pledged full support for the proposed establishment of Asean-China centre.

His Majesty in a titah during the closed-door session of the Commemorative Summit marking the 15th Anniversary of Asean-China Dialogue Relations said, he was pleased with the overall progress of Asean-China relations and acknowledged that the history Asean and China shared over the last 15 years had been meaningful.

His Majesty said Asean and China had achieved a great deal over the years, and highlighted that despite difficult times such as the financial crisis in 1997, fears of major health problems and threats of terrorism, Asean and China have continued working positively and emerged with their partnership greatly strengthened.

His Majesty acknowledged that this was a most impressive record and gave Asean great hope and confidence for the future. His Majesty in this respect welcomed the proposed establishment of an Asean-China centre and offered his full support. His Majesty regarded this as a symbol of what Asean and China are trying to achieve, not only in trade and investment but also cultural affairs and in simple day-to-day human contact that provide reassurances to the people of Asean and China.

His Majesty also expressed his appreciation for China's support to Asean and welcomed various Chinese proposals raised during the summit. His Majesty said Brunei would do everything it can as coordinator of the Asean-China dialogue over the next three years and looked forward to the future, building on the excellent relations over the years.

Later His Majesty signed a joint statement with other Asean leaders, entitled 'Towards An Enhanced China-Asean Strategic Partnership', with China at the conclusion of the inaugural Commemorative Summit marking the 15th Anniversary of Asean-China Dialogue Relations at the International Conference Centre, Liyuan Resort, Nanning, China.

His Majesty together with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and leaders from other nine Asean countries attended the Summit in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which outlined the future relationship between China and Asean.

China and Asean have pledged to advance their strategic partnership, which would be a catalyst for dialogue relations between Asean and its dialogue partners, that was announced during the joint statement ceremony after the meeting.

The other Asean leaders who attended the summit were Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Myanmar Prime Minister General Soe Win, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (who co-chaired the summit), Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.

Also attending the summit was His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Pehin Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister II of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was also present.

His Majesty and the other leaders reviewed the achievements and cooperation of Asean-China dialogue relations and discussed ways to further strengthen and deepen the strategic partnership.

China and Asean believe that the achievements made in the past 15 years in their dialogue relations have been the result of adherence to the principles enshrined in important international treaties.

This includes the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, the Ten Principles of the Bandung Asian-African Conference, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

While agreeing to further enhance mutual trust and understanding, China and Asean will continue to be 'fully guided by these principles' and match the depth and breadth of cooperation with the objective of the strategic partnership.

The two sides have further reaffirmed their commitment to effectively implement relevant documents, and pledge to deepen collaboration in 10 priority areas.

China supported and welcomed the efforts of Asean to establish a Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone.

"Asean appreciates China's intention to accede to the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone and will continue to consult China on this matter," the statement said.

China and Asean are committed to maintain high-level visits, strengthen cooperation and information sharing in non-traditional security issues, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, Asean welcomed China's contribution of US$1 million to the Asean Development Fund and China's funding assistance of $1 million for projects of the Initiative for Asean Integration. Asean leaders highly appreciated China's continued commitment to support Asean's community building efforts.

Earlier, Chinese Premier Wen proposed to consolidate and enhance friendship and cooperation among the two sides in his welcoming address before the closed door summit.

The Chinese premier called for strategic coordination and urged for closer cooperation on major regional and international issues.

"We should maintain regular high-level exchange of visits and expand links between governments, parliaments and political parties to increase mutual trust," he said, urging the two sides to seize the opportunity to strengthen and enrich cooperation and explore new ways to usher their bilateral relations to a new stage.

The premier said Asean should remain at the core of East Asia cooperation and that 10+3 (ten Asean nations plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) serve as the main vehicle in East Asia cooperation.

"The two sides should enrich bilateral cooperation", said the premier urging the two sides to consider signing a follow-up agreement on expanding economic and trade ties as well as the relevant institutional arrangement, on the basis of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between China and Asean.

At the same time, he said, the Agreement on Trade in Goods should be fully implemented and negotiation on trade in service and investment should be accelerated to speed up the process of establishing the China-Asean Free Trade Area.

"We should press ahead with the construction of the Kunming-Singapore Railway and the Asia highway network, launch energy cooperation and advance result-oriented cooperation in the 10 priority areas," he said.

Wen further added that the two sides should ensure common security by expanding the military dialogue and exchanges, conduct and institutionalise defence cooperation, continue to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and promote joint development of the South China Sea.

"China supports the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia and is ready to sign the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone at an early date," said Wen.

"We should also step up cooperation on cross-border issues concerning counter-terrorism, transnational crimes, maritime security, rescue operation and disaster relief," he said.

The premier concluded by saying the two sides should foster closer people-to-people exchanges.

A tree planting ceremony was held after the signing ceremony at the Lakeside Court of Liyuan Hotel. His Majesty planted a pine tree to commemorate the summit.

In the evening, His Majesty joined other Asean leaders in attending a Welcome Banquet at the Grand Hall of the People's Congress of Nanning, hosted by Premier Wen. Later the leaders were entertained to an art performance.

Accompanying His Majesty at these events was HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. HRH Princess Hjh Masna also attended the Welcome Banquet and arts performance.

His Majesty and other leaders will attend the opening ceremony of the 3rd China-Asean EXPO, which will begin today at the Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Centre. - Borneo Bulletin (31st October 2006)