SE Asia, neighbors urged to boost humanitarian aid, disaster relief

Updated: 2011-11-04 08:07

By Cui Haipei (China Daily)

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SE Asia, neighbors urged to boost humanitarian aid, disaster relief

BEIJING - China on Thursday called for more practical cooperation among Southeast Asian countries and their neighbors in the fields of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

A senior Chinese military officer said Southeast Asian countries and their neighbors should enhance cooperation in disaster relief efforts and improve efficiency, adding that these efforts shall not interfere in other countries' internal affairs.

General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, made the remarks at the first expert working group meeting under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus, which was inaugurated last year as a platform for regional security dialogue and consultation.

"Participating countries should make full use of efficient militaries on relief works in dealing with earthquake, flooding and nuclear radiation, strengthen experience sharing on personnel training, material assistance and information exchange, and improve their professional competence to cope with natural disasters," he said.

Co-chaired by China and Vietnam, the meeting drew more than 50 delegates from 10 ASEAN member countries and eight dialogue partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, the Republic of Korea and the United States), as well as officials from the ASEAN Secretariat.

China now has eight national professional relief forces with 50,000 troops. Since 2002, it has sent international emergency humanitarian assistance to 26 countries and provided material aid worth more than 1.2 billion yuan ($189 million).

"In this new platform, we would like to share our experiences and learn from other states, and hope to strengthen practical cooperation with them to jointly promote the cause of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief progress," Ma said.

The general also stressed that the countries should adhere to the principle of respecting other countries' sovereignty and territorial integrity, and cooperation among relevant countries should not be imposed with any additional political conditions, nor harm the security interests of concerned countries.

Luo Yongkun, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said regional security cooperation at a high-level is superior to economic cooperation, and the current floods in Thailand require the countries to make great efforts to promote this process.

"The meeting is a sign that the countries have taken another step on the path toward regional integration," he said.

However, Luo warned that challenges remain in implementing security cooperation.

"It is easier to start the non-traditional security cooperation due to the relatively small differences between the countries, but when it comes to regional integration, the discussion on future traditional security is inevitable and it is the most difficult part," he added.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/04/2011 page11)