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Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui Attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) Senior Officials' Meeting (APT SOM)

2020/07/21

On July 20, 2020, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) Senior Officials' Meeting (APT SOM) was held via video link. Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui attended the meeting.

Luo Zhaohui said, there are two major features of the situation in East Asia in the first half of the year. One is that APT countries have scored achievements in fighting the COVID-19 and recovering economy. The other is that the United States (US) continues to adjust its foreign policies, breach its international commitments and obligations and withdraw from organizations and treaties, in an attempt to comprehensively curb China's development.

Against the backdrop of regular epidemic prevention and control, APT countries have come together in solidarity and successfully held the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19. Besides, the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), a special Video Conference on COVID-19 among Foreign Ministers of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea and a special health ministers' virtual meeting on coronavirus among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea have been convened. Leaders, ministers and medical experts have had exchanges on a regular basis, actively shared their experience in fighting the disease and strengthened medical cooperation. Going forward, the Chinese side will continuously maintain close communication with all parties, especially deepen cooperation in vaccine development.

Amid our ongoing efforts of epidemic prevention and control, APT countries have stricken a balance between epidemic prevention and control and recovery of economy. While successfully containing the spread of the disease, APT countries have made active efforts to stabilize macro economy, enabling regional economy to remain robust. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that East Asia may be the only region able to maintain positive growth for this year. The IMF projected a growth of 1.3 percent for this year' GDP and expected the growth to rebound to 6.6 percent in 2021. Statistics show that China's first quarter GDP contracted by 6.8 percent in 2020 from a year ago, and grew by 3.2 per cent in the second quarter. East Asia is expected to continue to lead the world to recover economy.

As epidemic prevention and control becomes a new normal, regional cooperation in East Asia has been reinforced. The Chinese side keeps pushing the construction of a network of "fast lane", while Singapore keeps pushing interconnectivity among different industrial chains. The region sees continuous increase in personnel exchanges and commercial flights. In the first half of the year, the value of China's imports and exports to ASEAN increased by 5.6 percent. All parties are looking forward to signing the agreement of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) within the year. East Asia economic integration has bright prospects.

Luo Zhaohui said, by contrast, the US seeks unilateralism, habitually breaches its international commitments and obligations and withdraws from organizations and treaties, and even declared withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) not long ago. The US policies aim to curb the development of China on all fronts, and the US almost opposes China in all aspects. In terms of tracing the origin of the COVID-19, the US attempts to politicize the tracing of origin of the virus, spread rumors and shift the blame onto others. However, these moves fail to cover up the incompetence of the US side to fight the virus, and only reveal how hypocritical and ignorant it is. The Chinese side believes that virus tracing is a scientific issue that should be studied by scientists and medical experts. At present, WHO experts are cooperating with their Chinese counterparts on tracing the origin of the COVID-19 virus in China. It is also the view of WHO that it is an ongoing process probably concerning many countries and localities, and WHO will conduct similar trips to other countries and regions in light of the actual need. All countries should stay united, face the common enemy, and create a bright future.

Luo Zhaohui said, we are firmly opposed to the South China Sea statement issued by the US last week. First, against the backdrop of the US comprehensive containment of China and its "Indo-Pacific Strategy", the US has, on the one hand, issued a statement in an attempt to deny China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. On the other hand, the US has sent a number of aircraft carriers and warships to conduct military exercises in the South China Sea. These moves can only further complicate China-US relations and exacerbate tensions in the South China Sea. The US side should bear the full responsibility.

Guided by the principle of "America First", the US pursues double standards and cites international law when it sees fit and discards international law when it sees otherwise. The US refuses to accede to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and is unwilling to assume relevant obligations, yet the US attacks China on every possible occasion under the guise of upholding the UNCLOS. We will not yield to external pressure. At the same time, China's door to dialogue remains open. Not long ago, State Councilor Wang Yi proposed China and the US draw up lists on cooperation, dialogues and issues that need proper management. Now the ball is in the US court.

Second, in disregard of the overall stability in the South China Sea, the US incited ASEAN countries, especially relevant claimant states, to confront China, in an attempt to build an anti-China alliance and force ASEAN countries to take sides. The US plot will further complicate the South China Sea issue. The US is targeting China today and it may be targeting ASEAN next day. The US always pays lip service to the so-called freedom of navigation. In fact, what the US really cares about is conducting military exercises in the South China Sea and expanding the freedom of its military presence.

As neighbors that will always live with each other, China and ASEAN countries shoulder common responsibilities. It is believed that ASEAN countries can see through the US plot to play the "South China Sea card", continue to pursue an independent foreign policy, and work with the Chinese side to push for the early conclusion of the consultations on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Third, China's policy on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear-cut. As a responsible country, China firmly opposes any attempt to internationalize and judicialize the South China Sea issue. The Chinese side has never accepted and will never accept arbitration. We abide by the UNCLOS, adhere to addressing the South China Sea issue with a dual-track approach, engage in dialogue with parties concerned on an equal footing, manage differences and disputes, and work with ASEAN countries to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the COC consultations, so as to earnestly safeguard regional peace and stability. The Chinese side always advocates pursuing joint development while shelving disputes and stands ready to continue to enhance mutual trust and carry out practical cooperation with relevant ASEAN countries.

Luo Zhaohui said, the Chinese side attaches great importance to the 10+3 cooperation and is prepared to work with all countries to implement the outcomes of leaders' meetings in a solid manner and further maintain the momentum of APT cooperation. First, we need to consolidate the achievements in the fight against COVID-19. Second, we need to help regional economic recovery. Third, we need to promote sustainable development. Fourth, we need to strengthen financial cooperation. The Chinese side will enhance the in-depth integration between the Belt and Road Initiative with regional connectivity initiatives such as the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, and continue to advance major projects under the Belt and Road Initiative such as the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, the China-Laos Railway, and the China-Thailand railway to boost regional connectivity and development.

All sides spoke positively of APT cooperation mechanism's effective response to the epidemic and called on all countries to continue to strengthen cooperation, bring the epidemic under control as soon as possible and promote economic recovery and development. All parties appreciated the efforts made by China and ASEAN countries to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and exchanged views on the priorities of APT future cooperation as well as international and regional topics of common interest.

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