Friendly talks key to resolving issues, Xi says

Updated: 2013-04-06 00:40

By Qin Jize and Pu ZhenDong (China Daily)

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China-ASEAN relations stand above disputes, leaders agree

President Xi Jinping reiterated on Friday China's commitment to a negotiated settlement of disputes related to the South China Sea, saying the country will not allow any factors to disturb the China-ASEAN cooperation.

Xi said China always undertakes to resolve disputes through friendly consultation and negotiation.

Friendly talks key to resolving issues, Xi says

President Xi Jinping accompanies Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei during a welcoming ceremony in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

"Prior to the resolution, China is willing to enhance the dialogues and communication with ASEAN member countries to jointly maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea," said Xi while meeting with Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in Beijing.

Xi said China is ready to work with Brunei, which holds ASEAN's rotating presidency in 2013, to adhere to the theme of peace and cooperation to promote China-ASEAN relations.

"There should be no factor to disturb the China-ASEAN friendly cooperation process," Xi said.

He said China has always been devoted to friendship and good neighborliness. "That is our sincere wish as well as what we do," Xi said.

Hassanal is the first foreign leader Xi has received since being elected president, a fact that Xi said underscores the great importance China has attached to its relations with Brunei as well as ASEAN countries.

Hassanal said Brunei insists that all the parties should adhere to the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and seek a peaceful resolution to disputes.

The South China Sea issue should not affect ASEAN and China's friendly, cooperative ties, he said.

Premier Li Keqiang also met with the Brunei guest late on Friday.

Li recalled the achievements of China and ASEAN countries over the past 10 years, saying the future and fates of both sides have never so closely interacted.

He echoed Xi's remarks, hoping that China, Brunei and other ASEAN nations work together to properly deal with the South China Sea issue.

Hong Nong, a researcher at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said it is important that Brunei, the host state of this year's ASEAN summits and the East Asia Summit, declares its stance on the disputes related to South China Sea.

By reiterating Brunei's position on peaceful resolution, Bolkiah has conveyed to Beijing a clear and pragmatic signal from inside ASEAN, a positive move that a rotating chair state is supposed to play, said Hong.

He said dispute is only a small aspect set against the thriving Sino-ASEAN relations. Both sides have to keep a cool head and not let this issue dominate or hijack other agendas.

Luo Yongkun, a researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said Sino-ASEAN cooperation has been multifaceted and its prospects are unlikely to be undermined by disputes.

Talking about China-Brunei ties, Xi and Hassanal agreed that huge potential for cooperation remains to be tapped in areas of energy, agriculture and infrastructure construction.

"Brunei fosters a very favorable investment environment," said Liu Xinsheng, 75, the first residential Chinese ambassador to Brunei. "Its domestic stability, preferential tax policies and proximity to the markets of most ASEAN states, are among its main attractions to Chinese investors."

He said business cooperation between the two countries started relatively late and the Brunei market is limited. But bilateral trade between China and Brunei has seen vigorous growth since the establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade zone in 2010.

"Energy development is still a pillar industry in Brunei, but their infrastructure remains insufficient, which offers vast opportunities to Chinese investors, especially to private enterprises," Liu said.

China recently approved a multibillion-dollar petrochemical project in Brunei from a private company, Hengyi Group Co Ltd in Zhejiang province. It is the biggest investment by Chinese enterprises in Brunei.

Contact the writers at qinjize@chinadaily.com.cn and puzhendong@chinadaily.com.cn