China on Monday said it is ready to work with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) towards a nuclear weapon-free region besides ensuring stability in the disputed South China Sea.
“China supports ASEAN’s efforts to build a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and is prepared to sign the Protocol to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone as early as possible,” President Xi Jinping told the China-Asia summit marking 30 years of the relations between two sides.
Beijing’s demand for a nuclear-free Southeast Asia comes as the US and UK empower their ally Australia with nuclear-armed submarines under a deal called AUKUS signed in September.
Xi also announced the establishment of the China-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during his speech for “a new milestone” in the history of their relations.
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“Maintaining peace is our greatest common interest and the most cherished aspiration of people of all countries,” he said, urging taking a course of “dialogue instead of confrontation.”
Reiterating Beijing’s long-held focus on “practicing true multilateralism,” Xi said: “China firmly opposes hegemonic and power politics. China pursues long-term, friendly coexistence with neighboring countries, and is part of the common efforts for durable peace in the region. China will never seek hegemony, still less bully smaller countries.”
#Australia's introduction of nuclear submarines will undercut the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and #ASEAN countries' efforts to build a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in Southeast Asia,…
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) September 27, 2021
While Xi announced to jointly work with the ASEAN to build a “health shield” for the region, he urged the 10-member grouping to “pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security.” The president also called for deepening cooperation in various areas such as defense, counter-terrorism, joint maritime search, countering transnational crime, rescue and exercise, and disaster management.
“Joint efforts are needed to safeguard stability in the South China Sea and make it a sea of peace, friendship, and cooperation,” he said.
China will donate an additional 150 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to ASEAN countries, Xi said, while Beijing will contribute an additional $5 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, step up vaccine joint production and technology transfer, and collaborate on research and development of essential medicines.
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The bilateral trade between China and ASEAN has skyrocketed by 85 times to $684.6 billion in 2020 from less than $8 billion in 1991, making the two sides each other’s largest trading partners.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk