PM urges unity at ASEAN-China meet

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen attends the ASEAN-China Special Summit to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations on Monday. FOREIGN MINISTRY

Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated his call for ASEAN and China to uphold the principles of multilateralism in their relations in order to promote cooperation in all sectors and solve common regional and global challenges peacefully while relying on mutual trust in order to maintain peace, stability and harmony across the region.

Hun Sen renewed the call at the ASEAN-China special summit commemorating the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue and relations on November 22.

The summit was held via video conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping hosting and serving as co-chair along with Bruneian Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

“In this spirit, Cambodia supports the 2022 initiative celebrating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Cambodia also expresses its appreciation for the tremendous progress made in negotiating an efficient completion of a comprehensive Code of Conduct for the South China Sea,” he said.

He said that over the past three decades, ASEAN and China have established close ties and fruitful relations that further united them by providing mutual benefits and contributing significantly to bringing about peace, stability, security, prosperity and sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development for both sides.

Hun Sen announced Cambodian support for the elevation of ASEAN-China relations to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the adoption of the joint statement on the ASEAN-China Summit to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-China relations.

“Cambodia also welcomes President Xi Jinping’s global development initiative which will become a major supporter of developing countries for revitalising their post-Covid-19 socio-economic growth while also promoting human rights through sustainable development and poverty reduction,” Hun Sen said.

He said that since China has become a superpower with important roles both regionally and globally while ASEAN’s significance is also expanding, the importance and necessity of a strong ASEAN-China relationship has increased as well, especially to promote the post-pandemic socio-economic recovery.

Hun Sen also congratulated the Chinese people and government on achieving their national development goals and on the recent 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

During the meeting, Xi proposed that ASEAN and China deepen their relations in order to build a “prosperous home” together.

He said China is ready to provide $1.5 billion in development investment funds over the next three years and is ready to work with ASEAN to fully tap into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the upgraded ASEAN-China free trade agreement with increased support for human resource development.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement on the outcome of the meeting, Xi also proposed that the ASEAN-China relations feature greater cooperation on green development and the blue economy.

“[Xi] proposed we build an amicable home together through the promotion of tourism and people-to-people exchanges, especially among our youth and young leaders.

On political-security, ASEAN and China’s leaders reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism and maintaining an open and inclusive regional cooperation framework,” it said.

According to the statement, ASEAN expressed its appreciation for China’s support for ASEAN centrality and the bloc taking a leading role in evolving regional mechanisms to respond to regional and global challenges.

The two sides concurred on the need to advance cooperation in the relevant areas identified in the “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific”, which will enhance strategic trust and provide opportunities for win-win cooperation among the countries of the region.

Lim Meng Hour, deputy director of the Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies at the Asian Vision Institute, told The Post on November 22 that Hun Sen’s remarks reflected a spirit of unity between China and ASEAN member states which was greatly bolstered by China’s provision of aid and vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This not only contributed to the countries of ASEAN by preventing the spread of the coronavirus, it also helped reduce the economic impacts of the pandemic and helped prepare the region for future pandemics,” he said.