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SOVEREIGNTY: If outsiders get involved, the region could become an international wrestling ground, China's ambassador to Asean Tong Xiaoling tells Santha Oorjitham in an email interview
Question: What is China's position on Myanmar as it opens up and attempts to rejoin the international community?
Answer: As a friendly and close neighbour with more than 2,000km of common border, China wishes to see stability and development continue in Myanmar more than any other country. It has been China's consistent position to call for respect for the development path chosen by the Myanmar people and early and comprehensive lifting of sanctions against the country.
China is willing to work with the rest of the international community to play a constructive role in helping Myanmar achieve stability and development.
Question: How would you describe relations between China and the United States in Asia-Pacific?
Answer: China welcomes the US to play a constructive role in the region, and the US has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to stronger cooperation with China in the region.
The two sides launched the consultation mechanism on Asia-Pacific affairs in May last year. Both sides reached much common ground on issues, including China-US relations in Asia-Pacific, their respective Asia-Pacific policies, regional hot spots and multilateral mechanisms.
Naturally, China and the US do not agree with each other on all issues. China believes that the majority of the Asia-Pacific countries are now most concerned about maintaining economic prosperity, strengthening regional cooperation and achieving common development.
There are security challenges to the region. But Asia-Pacific enjoys stability on the whole, which renders it inappropriate to highlight military and security agenda, enhance military presence and reinforce security alliances.
China is open to regional cooperation mechanisms and rules, which should be decided jointly by all the countries in this region. China looks forward to exploring a proactive model of interaction that promotes mutually beneficial cooperation and properly handles differences with the US.
Question: How do you see the relations between China and Asean in the present climate of economic uncertainty?
Answer: East Asia today has maintained fairly fast economic growth and social stability. It is one of the most dynamic regions with the biggest potentials. Free trade agreement development, sustainable development, connectivity, maritime cooperation, social and people-to-people exchanges will be the priorities for China-Asean cooperation. China will, as always, support Asean community building and Asean's leading role in East Asia cooperation.
Global challenges such as food, energy and environmental issues are posing increasing threats to sustainability of humanity. Against this backdrop, no single region or nation could remain unaffected in a globalised world. China and Asean will seize the opportunity, enhance cooperation against the challenges as masters of our own destinies, and advance the strategic partnership between us.
Question: What feedback has China received on Asean leaders' discussion on the South China Sea issue at the recent Phnom Penh summit?
Answer: The South China Sea issue involves disputes between China and some other countries of the South China Sea over territorial sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction. It's not a dispute between China and Asean. Direct negotiations between countries to the dispute is the best way to settle it. This is also confirmed in the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) signed by China and Asean member states.
If countries or international organisations that are not parties to disputes in the South China Sea were to get involved in settling the disputes or even become referees, it would only turn this region into an international political wrestling ground, create more complexity and affect peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Question: Asean leaders have agreed to work on common elements of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, aimed at creating a rules-based framework, and that there should not be any interference from outside parties. What is China's stand on this?
Answer: China is ready to work with Asean on discussions about the COC, and has exchanged views on questions concerned. In order to enhance communication and build consensus, China has proposed the creation of a group of eminent persons or experts on COC discussion.
Disputes over the South China Sea should be settled peacefully through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly involved. This is a major consensus reached by China and Asean countries in the DOC. The DOC and COC are not dispute-settlement mechanisms. Rather, they are confidence-building measures intended for greater cooperation and mutual trust as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea. Any discussion on the COC formulation has to involve China from the very beginning. China cannot accept any draft of the COC that is imposed upon her.
Question: Is the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) a duplication of the Asean Regional Forum and why (or why not?)
Answer: ARF is a platform for political and security dialogue and cooperation with the largest membership in Asia-Pacific. We hope that the ARF could further increase political and security mutual trust among parties concerned through dialogue on security issues of shared interest, greater participation of defence officials, and confidence-building measures projects in disaster relief, maritime safety and other pragmatic cooperation on this platform.
The ADMM+, on the other hand, is an important platform for pragmatic cooperation in security and defence between Asean and its full dialogue partners. China hopes that all parties could make full use of this platform to conduct in-depth security dialogue and practical cooperation to enhance capabilities to tackle security threats and promote stability and prosperity in the region.
Ambassador Tong Xiaoling will be a speaker at the 26th Asia-Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur