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Thai leader highlights Beijing's constructive influence on economy
Thailand is keen to play a coordinating role between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said.
Calling China "a responsible and constructive partner of ASEAN", Yingluck said Bangkok is "committed to continuing the good progress and momentum achieved between ASEAN and China so far".
The prime minister made the remarks in a written interview with China Daily ahead of her April 17 to 19 visit to China.
Yingluck's comments were viewed positively by analysts amid rising tension over territorial disputes on the South China Sea.
Chinese patrol ships last week blocked a Philippine attempt to arrest Chinese fishermen near Huangyan Island. The Philippines claims sovereignty over the island which is Chinese territory.
"Thailand has no maritime disputes with China and is expected to adopt a neutral stance on this issue," said Zhang Xuegang, an expert on Southeast Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
"As a coordinator, it may help solve disputes between China and some ASEAN countries."
Yingluck praised China's role in promoting the regional economy.
China "has enabled the region to focus on economic and social development", despite the ongoing global financial crisis.
"Indeed, China is an engine of growth that can help spur the development of the entire region. This was most clearly seen in China's vital role in helping Asia recover from the global financial crisis in 2009," Yingluck said.
This will be Yingluck's first state visit to China since she took office last year.
She will meet Premier Wen Jiabao and sign agreements covering agriculture and economic cooperation. They will include a memorandum of understanding on economic cooperation over a five-year period and China's purchase of Thai agricultural products, said Guan Mu, China's ambassador to Thailand.
Thailand's purchase of Chinese computer technology and Sino-Thai cooperation on high-speed rail are topics that Yingluck will discuss with Chinese officials, the ambassador said.
Thailand will enhance cooperation with China "to generate greater benefits for our two countries as well as peace, stability and socioeconomic prosperity in the region and beyond", Yingluck said.
She said Sino-Thai relations are close and cordial.
China is Thailand's second-largest trading partner. Trade has increased from $24 million in 1975 to $64.74 billion in 2011.
The tourist industry in both countries has benefited hugely from the close ties. In 2011, Chinese tourists to Thailand reached 1.76 million, a 60 percent increase year-on-year.
Thailand was the first ASEAN country to establish a strategic cooperative partnership and to hold joint military exercises with China.
Both countries have held three such exercises and have focused on fighting terrorism.
"Sino-Thai cooperation is expected to serve as an example for China's ties with other ASEAN nations," said Su Hao, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at China Foreign Affairs University.
The Nation contributed to this story.