China said on Wednesday that the development of relationship between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should be conducive to regional stability and development.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks when asked to comment on a gathering between U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of Southeast Asian countries on Monday and Tuesday.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two sides shared a commitment to “maintain peace, security and stability in the region, ensuring maritime security and safety, including the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight.”
“We have taken note of the attempt by some country to use the summit to stir up the South China Sea issue, but most of ASEAN members did not agree, because such a move will not only damage trust among countries in the region, but will interfere with their efforts in safeguarding the peace and stability in the South China Sea,” said Hong at a routine press briefing.
Obama told a news conference that the two sides “discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas.”
When asked to comment on Obama’s remarks, Hong said the United States is not a party concerned with the South China Sea issue and should be cautious with its words and actions.
He said the United States should help create a sound atmosphere for talks and the pursue of a peaceful solution to disputes, rather than playing up tensions and sowing discord in the region.
“China and the United States should take a new path that not only benefits their people but also benefits the entire world,” said Hong when responding to an article in The Huffington Post.
The article, “The United States Should Peacefully Let China Rise,” said the U.S.-ASEAN summit shows that Obama regards that region as the hinge of what has turned out to be a sluggish “pivot to Asia” in American strategy.
It said this forward-based containment strategy, reminiscent of the Cold War, is out of date and unsustainable.
Hong said China and the United States should build a new type of major-country relationship, and their interactions in the Asia-Pacific should benefit their own people and the entire world.
Hong reaffirmed China’s commitment to its relationship with ASEAN.
“China and ASEAN will hold a summit in September to commemorate our 25th anniversary of dialogue,” Hong said.
China will also support the ASEAN community and bolster regional development through the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) framework,involving China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
The LMC leaders will have their first meeting in March in Sanya, Hainan Province to outline future cooperation, with a senior officials’ meeting scheduled for next Wednesday.
China and ASEAN established dialogue relations in 1991 and forged a strategic partnership in 2003. China and ASEAN are working to upgrade their free trade agreements (FTA) launched in 2010.
China is ASEAN’s largest trade partner and ASEAN is China’s third largest partner. In 2015, bilateral trade stood at $472.2 billion and accumulated non-financial direct investment flow exceeded $150 billion.