An Interview with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the ASEAN-Plus Foreign Ministers' Meetings
On 23 July 2011, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi gave an interview to a group of Chinese journalists after attending the ASEAN-plus foreign ministers' meetings. The transcript of the interview is as follows:
Q: What is your take on the just concluded ASEAN-plus foreign ministers' meetings?
A: At the invitation of Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, I attended the ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting, ASEAN-Plus-Three (China, Japan and the ROK), or "APT" Foreign Ministers' Meeting, East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Consultation and the 18th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Foreign Ministers' Meeting. I had in-depth exchange of views with other participating foreign ministers on China-ASEAN relations, East Asian cooperation and international and regional issues of shared interest.
On ASEAN-China cooperation, my ASEAN colleagues and I spoke highly of the achievements of China-ASEAN relations over the past two decades and expressed our commitment to advancing practical cooperation and enhancing political trust between the two sides. To meet this goal, China has announced a series of new initiatives, and they were welcomed by ASEAN countries. The China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting also adopted the Guidelines for the Implementation of the DOC, thus paving the way for implementing the DOC and furthering practical cooperation in the South China Sea.
On APT cooperation, China stressed the need to give full play to APT's role as the main vehicle of East Asian cooperation. The parties agreed to step up financial and monetary cooperation and cooperation on emergency rice reserve and think-tanks. We also agreed to take next year's 15th anniversary as an opportunity to deepen APT cooperation.
At the EAS Foreign Ministers' Consultation, the parties discussed the future direction of the EAS. China emphasized that the EAS should continue to be a leaders-led strategic forum. The participants discussed ways to deepen cooperation in the five priority areas of the EAS and reached positive consensus.
Generally speaking, the series of foreign ministers meetings have produced positive outcomes in advancing East Asian practical cooperation, enhancing mutual trust, maintaining stability and promoting development in the region and set the stage for the East Asian leaders' meetings later this year.
Q: How do you see the current China-ASEAN relations? Please brief us on China-ASEAN cooperation and its future direction.
A: Since its establishment 20 years ago, China-ASEAN dialogue relations have made remarkable progress from the initiation of dialogue to good-neighbourly mutual trust to strategic partnership. With the launch of the FTA, China has become ASEAN's biggest trading partner. The two sides have expanded and deepened their practical cooperation in various fields and achieved fruitful results. The two sides have helped each other sincerely and worked together to address challenges such as the Asian and global financial crises, the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Wenchuan earthquake. The all-dimensional, wide-ranging and multi-tiered cooperation between China and ASEAN has laid a solid foundation for the win-win cooperation and common development of all countries.
It is the common task of all Asian countries to push forward regional economic integration and sustain the momentum and dynamism of economic growth in Asia. As strategic partners, China and ASEAN should stay committed to the primary goals of upholding regional peace and stability and promoting common prosperity. We should support and closely coordinate with each other to implement the second Plan of Action, ensure the success of China-ASEAN FTA, improve connectivity and strengthen cooperation in agriculture, environmental protection, disaster reduction and health, and increase people-to-people and cultural exchanges.
This November, China and ASEAN will hold a summit commemorating the 20th anniversary of our dialogue relations. The two sides should work together to make the summit a success and raise our relations to a higher level.
Q: The participation of Russia and the United States in the EAS will bring about new developments in East Asian cooperation. How does China see the future of East Asian cooperation?
A: Over the years, East Asian countries have made progress in practical cooperation in the economic, trade, financial, social, cultural, energy and environmental fields through 10+1, APT, China-Japan-ROK, the EAS and other mechanisms. Such cooperation has contributed to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship in the region and the promotion of regional stability and development. These achievements should be applauded.
On the future development of East Asian cooperation, China's position is as follows:
First, the multiple regional cooperation mechanisms in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific have developed side by side and they each have their own strength. They all play a positive role in promoting peace, stability and prosperity of the region. These mechanisms should continue to complement and reinforce each other.
Second, development remains the most important task for East Asian countries. We should strive for progress toward the goal of common development and continue to make vigorous efforts to advance practical cooperation in various fields.
Third, East Asian cooperation should remain open and inclusive. China welcomes the participation of Russia and the United States in the EAS and hopes that the enlarged EAS will play a more effective role as a strategic forum and contribute more to peace, stability and prosperity in East Asia.
Fourth, ASEAN centrality should be upheld in East Asian cooperation. We are confident that ASEAN will steer regional cooperation in the right direction, safeguard the common interests of East Asian countries and maintain the sound momentum of cooperation that East Asian countries have achieved through many years of hard efforts.
Q: What role do you see for the ARF in safeguarding regional security?
A: The ARF is the longest standing and most widely participated official platform for security dialogue and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. It has played an important role in enhancing mutual trust among its members, strengthening security dialogue and cooperation and upholding regional peace and stability. Under the current circumstances, while sticking to the principles that have proved effective, namely respecting sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, consensus and accommodation of the comfort level of all sides, the ARF should deepen and consolidate confidence-building measures and carry out cooperation in non-traditional security fields, such as fighting terrorism, combating transnational crime, disaster relief, non-proliferation and maritime security. China attaches importance to ARF's role and stands ready to work with other members to improve its institutions, raise its efficiency and enlarge its influence so as to make positive contribution to building a peaceful, stable, prosperous and harmonious regional security environment.
Q: Some countries raised the South China Sea issue at the ARF Foreign Ministers' Meeting. What is your view on this?
A: The ARF Foreign Ministers' Meeting is an important platform for countries to enhance mutual trust and strengthen cooperation. It is not an appropriate forum for discussing the South China Sea issue. Since the issue was raised at the meeting, I reiterated the consistent position of the Chinese government and pointed out that navigation in the South China Sea is free and the shipping lanes there are safe. The disputes concerning the sovereignty over some islands and reefs and jurisdiction over some waters of the South China Sea should be peacefully resolved through friendly consultation and negotiation between the parties to the disputes. This is in line with the spirit of the DOC. Freedom of navigation and disputes concerning the South China Sea are completely different issues.
China and ASEAN countries have reached agreement on the Guidelines for the Implementation of the DOC. It is universally recognized that as we go forward, the parties concerned should focus on practical cooperation and further enhance mutual trust. The parties all saw the adoption of the Guidelines as important for upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea.