China Expands Strategic/Economic Partnership with Southeast Asia Nations

This weekend’s meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, which was also attended by representatives of China, India, Russia, the U.S., the EU, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, resulted in two significant advances for China’s global role. The meeting was hosted by Myanmar.

First, as reported in a wire in the Daily Times of Pakistan, China and ASEAN (Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Myanmar) reached an agreement to deepen their strategic partnership. Mentioned as part of the agreement was joint work on China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and cooperation on projects around the Mekong River development area. China also welcomed all 10 ASEAN nations to join in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as founding members.

Thailand has already accepted that invitation.

Second, the ASEAN nations, who have been a prime target of the Anglo-American attempts to turn the region against China, refused to even consider Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposed language calling for a freeze on “provocative acts” in their communique—a transparent reference to China. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi underlined China’s willingness to resolve disputes through negotiations with the countries involved, along the lines of the Declaration of Conduct already established in the region.

Wang Yi also held bilateral talks with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on the sides of the Foreign Mnister meeting. “China and India, the two biggest developing countries who are neighbors, if we join hands in cooperation, will make the world more balanced, secure and stable,” Wang told Swaraj. He specifically mentioned the perspective for cooperation on railways, industrial parks, trade, and other key areas. Swaraj also extended an invitation for Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit India.

The regional meeting also provided a setting for the first high-level meeting between the Chinese and Japanese Foreign Ministers since the accession of Shinzo Abe as Japanese Prime Minister.

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