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Address by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting

Manila, the Philippines

31 July 2007

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation and provides a good opportunity for us to review past progress and discuss ways to boost future East Asia cooperation.

Ten years ago, following the trend of economic globalization and regional integration and facing the severe impact of the Asian financial crisis, the East Asian countries seized opportunities and rose up to the challenge by launching the ASEAN Plus Three process initiated by the ASEAN. This has opened a new way for countries in our region to enhance unity and mutually-beneficial cooperation and provided good experience for promoting regional cooperation in Asia.

The ASEAN Plus Three has maintained sound momentum of growth in the past decade. Multi-level dialogue and cooperation mechanisms have been established and improved, 26 short-term and mid-to-long-term areas of cooperation have been identified and the ultimate goal of building an East Asia Community has been set. The following principles guiding cooperation have been adopted: the ASEAN be in the driver's seat, building consensus, making gradual progress, taking into account the comfort level of all parties, equality, mutual benefit, mutual respect and seeking common understanding and putting aside differences. The ASEAN Plus Three cooperation has made significant progress. The East Asian countries maintain frequent political exchanges and enjoy enhanced traditional friendship and mutual trust. Negotiations are underway to conclude bilateral and multilateral FTAs, and there is increasing intra-regional economic and trade dependence. East Asia has been the world's fastest growing region for several years running. Substantive steps have been taken in East Asian financial cooperation, evidenced by large increase of bilateral currency swap. Breakthrough in the multilateralization process under the "Chiang Mai Initiative" has upgraded the financial cooperation in the region. The process of developing an Asian bond market is being accelerated. Cooperation has expanded to cover rural development, poverty reduction, disaster management, information and telecommunications technologies, infrastructure and other fields. There are active cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The East Asia identity is gaining recognition, and its rich culture shows growing appeal. All this shows that the ASEAN Plus Three has made great contribution to peace, stability, economic development, social progress and common prosperity of the region and has become the main vehicle of East Asia cooperation. We take great pride in this regional cooperation mechanism.

Today ten years later, the ASEAN Plus Three faces both development opportunities and many challenges. Political mutual trust among countries in the region remains to be strengthened. Peace and stability in the region still face threats and challenges. Economic development in our region is unbalanced, and some countries still lag behind in economic and social development. The overall competitiveness of East Asia needs to be enhanced, the non-traditional security issues need to be addressed, and the strength of the region as shown in its diversity should be translated into progress in harmonious co-existence and common development.

The ASEAN Plus Three is a dynamic process. We should make more efforts in the following four areas to ensure its vigor and its due role as the main vehicle in building the East Asia Community.

First, respect each other and seek common ground while shelving differences. East Asia is rich in diversity. There are differences in levels of development, social systems, values, cultures and religions among countries in the region. We have overcome differences, shown appreciation and respect for each other's national conditions and choices, expanded common interests and pursued common development, and that is why so much has been achieved in the ASEAN Plus Three process. These important principles which are affirmed in the political documents on East Asia cooperation and ensure that East Asia cooperation proceeds in keeping with the global trend should be valued and upheld as we promote East Asia cooperation. By following the spirit of the "East Asia cooperation" of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation and respecting cultural diversity and seeking common development, we are sure to make progress in the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation. This is a principle which needs to be emphasized in the second Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation and observed in the future.

Second, work in unity and cooperation. The ASEAN Plus Three cooperation aims to build a harmonious East Asia which enjoys political harmony, mutually-beneficial economic cooperation, mutual trust and cooperation in security and which is culturally enriching. This represents the fundamental and long-term interests of people in East Asia. We should build consensus, develop a common vision and act in unison to achieve this goal. We are confident that the ASEAN Plus Three countries will, on the basis of the second Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation to be adopted, strengthen unity and work in close cooperation to make new and greater progress in East Asia cooperation.

Third, conduct practical cooperation for common development. The building of East Asia Community rests on East Asia cooperation in the form of programs in various sectors. To spread peace and prosperity in East Asia, we must strengthen practical cooperation in all areas, vigorously support ASEAN integration, with focus on strengthening cooperation in the building of FTA, financial cooperation, infrastructure, information, transportation, human resources and Mekong River development. We also support ASEAN's proposal on providing necessary financial support to cooperation projects to ensure that the initiatives for the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation are fully implemented.

Fourth, be open, inclusive and draw on each other's strengths. The ASEAN Plus Three cooperation, the ASEAN Plus One (China, Japan and ROK) cooperation, ARF and EAS are all regional forums and cooperation mechanisms aimed at ensuring peace, stability, development and prosperity in East Asia. Each of them has its own special features and they are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. We must remain committed to the principle of being open and inclusive, respect different cooperation mechanisms and their development dynamics and encourage the sharing of best practices between the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation and other cooperation mechanisms in the region to expand and upgrade East Asia cooperation.

I wish to emphasize that as a member of the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation, China is committed to building good-neighborly relations and partnerships with its neighbors and strengthening cooperation in the region. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of East Asia cooperation, together with the ASEAN, Japan and ROK, we are ready to comprehensively review the achievements and experience of the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation, look to the future and draw up a plan of cooperation for the next 10 years to maintain peace and stability, promote prosperity and development in the region and write a new chapter in the annals of East Asia cooperation.

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