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The series of important meetings the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is holding in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh over the next few days present a good opportunity for the regional bloc to deepen understanding and forge cooperation with its partners from inside and outside the region, China included.
With the world economic recovery dragging its feet and facing greater uncertainties, ASEAN-led initiatives could play a vital role in coordinating regional efforts to drive economic development and maintain peace and stability in the region.
The 10-member grouping has vowed to realize an ASEAN economic community in 2015, and it is mulling over a new economic partnership with six of its dialogue partners that would establish the world's largest economic bloc.
There is every reason for the countries concerned to focus their attention on these agendas, and ASEAN's partners from inside and outside the region should also make due contributions in this regard, as they too have a stake in the development of South East Asia.
China will again demonstrate its commitment to the regional bloc's prosperity with concrete actions, and it is looking forward to enhancing its cooperation with ASEAN countries in areas such as finance, energy, education, public health, disaster control and connectivity during this week's meetings.
Premier Wen Jiabao is scheduled to join his ASEAN counterparts, along with US President Barack Obama, for the two-day East Asia Summit starting on Monday. China will also participate in the 10+1 (ASEAN plus China) and 10+3 (ASEAN plus China, Japan and Republic of Korea) meetings.
Prior to the meetings in Phnom Penh, Beijing again made it clear that it takes an open attitude to the formulation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea. But for a complicated issue like the South China Sea, it is common sense that consensus should be reached before claimant parties sit down at the negotiating table to draw up the code of conduct, and that requires time and patience.
And as the disputes are only between a few ASEAN members and China, China is fully justified in insisting on the issue being solved within the China-ASEAN framework.
Those gathering in Phnom Penh should show wisdom and not let the issue cloud their discussions. Otherwise, it will be all too easy to damage the positive momentum of regional development and cooperation, which is the real goal of these meetings.
(China Daily 11/19/2012 page8)