Locsin, 3 other Asean foreign affairs chiefs to visit China
MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and three of his counterparts in Southeast Asia will embark on a three-day visit this week to China, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
During her regular press conference Tuesday, Hua said Locsin, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi will be visiting China from Mar. 31 to April 2 on the invitation of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“China attaches high importance to relations with Southeast Asian nations and makes them a priority in neighborhood diplomacy,” Hua said.
“Since COVID-19 broke out last year, China and Southeast Asian countries have maintained close high-level communication in a flexible way, witnessing positive progress in anti-epidemic and development cooperation,” she added
The spokesperson said that 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of dialogue relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
According to Hua, the visit of the foreign ministers seeks to “step up communication” with Southeast Asian countries “on regional and international situations, implement important consensus of the leadership [and] strengthen strategic mutual trust.
She said China also hopes to “deepen anti-epidemic and development cooperation, boost quality BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) cooperation, scale new heights in bilateral relations and China-Asean relationship, and better safeguard regional peace, stability and development” through the visit.
“The visit of the four foreign ministers this time again demonstrates the profound friendship and growing affinity through closer interactions between China and its neighbors in Southeast Asia,” Hua added.
Locsin’s visit to China comes amid tensions arising from the presence of Chinese vessels, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, which Manila had protested.
A day after the protest was lodged, the Chinese Embassy in Manila denied the presence of Beijing’s maritime militia at the said reef, which it claims is part of Nansha Qundao, one of two political districts in the South China Sea established by the Chinese government in 2020.
It said the ships were fishing vessels seeking shelter in the area.
Still, the Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, demanded that China immediately withdraw its vessels and maritime assets from the area.
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