Y. B. Datuk Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia,
The year 1997 is special for both ASEAN and China: ASEAN has taken a decisive step towards fulfilling the long-cherished aspiration of its founders to establish a 10-nation alliance in Southeast Asia by formally admitting Myanmar and Laos into the Organization; and China has, in accordance with the strategic concept of “one country, two systems”, smoothly resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. An expanded ASEAN will be more closely connected with China while a returned Hong Kong will serve as a unique bridge for deepening friendship and cooperation between China and ASEAN. Against this backdrop of major historic significance, it is doubtlessly of great importance for us to hold dialogues once again and exchange views on how to further consolidate and develop Sino-ASEAN ties.
We have noted with pleasure that ASEAN, which has traversed a long journey of 30 years, has become an organization with unique influence in the region and a major force for peace and development in the world. In recent years, it has been very active in regional affairs: The ARF that was launched by ASEAN has provided, for the first time, a good forum for regional security dialogues and cooperation among Asia-Pacific countries. ASEM that was initiated by ASEAN has provided a new framework for multilateral cooperation on an equal footing between developing countries in Asia and developed countries in Western Europe. ASEAN has also proposed a summit meeting with China, Japan and ROK, a new channel for building up confidence and enhancing cooperation among East Asian nations. We highly appreciate the unremitting efforts and achievements made by ASEAN, and support a greater role by an expanded ASEAN in regional and international affairs.
Much to our satisfaction, new progress has been made in the friendly relations between China and ASEAN over the past year. Leaders of the two sides have exchanged visits and maintained contacts, thus increasing mutual understanding and confidence. ASEAN-China Joint Cooperation Committee, which was established in Beijing last February, decided, at its first session, upon an all-round framework for dialogues and cooperation between the two sides, provided for the setting up of the ASEAN-China Joint Cooperation Fund and agreed upon three cooperation projects in principle, among which, the “personnel exchange” project will soon go into operation. At the China-ASEAN SOM in April, the two sides, looking afar from a higher ground and demonstrating the political will to handle their relationship from a strategic perspective and to safeguard regional peace, exchanged views sincerely and candidly. Furthermore, the two sides have closely cooperated with and supported each other in the ARF, APEC, ASEM and UN, and have together safeguarded the rights and interests of developing countries.
The turn of the century provides China and ASEAN with a historical opportunity for a lasting peace and development. As developing countries, China and ASEAN members share broad common interests and consensus:
– We all attach importance to regional and global peace and are committed to national stability and economic growth;
– We all observe the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs;
– We all stand for increasing dialogues and confidence and peaceful settlement of disputes between countries;
– We are all committed to safeguarding the rights and interests of developing countries and to promoting mutually beneficial regional and global cooperation on an equal footing.
As we share consensus in these aspects, we are looking forward to working with ASEAN for the establishment of a good neighborly partnership of mutual trust oriented towards the 21 st century.
It is the basic idea of the Chinese side that the two sides should, proceeding from the strategic perspective, our common ground and interests, strive for an all-round -and in-depth development of their ties; push forward their cooperation in various fields on the basis of equality and mutual benefit; properly handle the issues existing between them through friendly consultations and coordinate with and support each other to safeguard the rights and interests of developing countries.
As to the areas and objectives of our cooperation, we would like to propose that the two sides should :
– maintain and increase exchange of high-level visits, ministerial dialogues, senior officials’ political consultations and other dialogue mechanisms for increased mutual confidence and cooperation;
– bring into full play the opportunities created by ASEAN’s enlargement and Hong Kong’s return to China and the role of ASEAN-China Joint Committees on trade and economic cooperation and science and technology cooperation and the ASEAN-China Joint Cooperation Committee so as to broaden and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides in specific fields such as economy and trade, science and technology, banking, business and industries;
– intensify personnel exchanges to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and ASEAN peoples;
– enhance coordination and cooperation in sub-regional projects such as the development of Mekong River Basin and the Trans-Asia Railway Network;
– promote coordination and mutual support between the two sides in the ARF, APEC, ASEM and UN.
We are delighted that President Jiang Zemin will meet with ASEAN leaders for the first time at the end of this year, an event that is of far-reaching significance in the story of China-ASEAN relations. I believe that the meeting will afford leaders of the two sides a good opportuniity to exchange views on the long-term development of their ties and that the good-neighborly relations between the two sides will develop further.