Li sees opportunities despite dispute

Updated: 2013-09-03 02:03

By Ding Qingfen in Nanning and Zhang Yunbi in Beijing (China Daily)

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China and Vietnam should properly handle sea disputes and convert challenges into cooperation opportunities, Premier Li Keqiang told his Vietnamese counterpart on Monday.

Li made the remarks in Nanning, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Monday, a day before the opening of the 10th ASEAN-China Expo.

Li sees opportunities despite dispute

Workers add the final touches for the 10th China-ASEAN Expo on Monday, a day before the opening of the annual event, in Nanning, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Huo Yan / China Daily]

China is willing to work with ASEAN to build an "upgraded version" of the China-ASEAN free trade area, he said.

Leaders attending the expo will include Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Laos' Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Myanmar President Thein Sein, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

China and ASEAN should "maintain the right direction of East Asia cooperation" against the backdrop of a slow recovery of the world economy and of new challenges facing emerging market countries, Li said when meeting his counterparts on Monday.

In recent years, the Philippines and Vietnam have tried to put the South China Sea issue onto the agenda of a series of ASEAN meetings to attract global attention on their claims over some islets.

China and Vietnam are both developing economies and "their common interests far outnumber the divergence between them", Li told Nguyen Tan Dung.

"The two sides should boost dialogue and communication, properly manage and control disputes, seek to convert challenges on maritime issues into opportunities for cooperation, and create favorable circumstances for bilateral cooperation on major projects," Li said.

Diplomatic communications have been maintained between China and Vietnam over the South China Sea issue, and the Chinese premier is sending a signal that the maritime issues "are not expected to ruin the big picture of regional cooperation", said Yang Baoyun, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at Peking University.

"It is a wiser choice for Vietnam to expand cooperation with China rather than making trouble at a time when its domestic economy is also facing challenges," Yang said.

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