Asean, China Foreign Ministers to Discuss Virus, Regional Issues

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Foreign ministers from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will meet next week and discuss issues including cooperation to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting on June 7 will be in Chongqing in southwest China as part of the 30th anniversary of Asean-China Dialogue Relations, Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday. Besides an exchange of views and finding collaborative ways to deal with Covid-19, ministers will also discuss “regional and international matters of common concern,” it said.

Relations between China and some Southeast Asian countries have been testy on certain matters.

Tensions in the disputed waters of the South China Sea have escalated in recent weeks, with the Philippines repeatedly protesting and demanding that Chinese vessels leave areas it said are within its jurisdiction. China has deployed more ships, despite Manila’s repeated calls.

Malaysia said this week that it will summon China’s ambassador to protest flights by 16 air force planes over the South China Sea that Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says were a “breach of Malaysian airspace and sovereignty.” The “suspicious” Chinese aircraft were spotted near the east Malaysian state of Sarawak, the country’s air force said.

Ministers from China and Malaysia are expected to explore new initiatives for a better partnership between two nations, according to Saturday’s statement. Focus areas include Covid-19 vaccine cooperation, infrastructure development, high-tech agriculture, as well as “addressing the situation in South China Sea.”

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