China hosts Asean foreign ministers, promises continued Covid-19 vaccine support
China has pledged to provide Covid-19 vaccines and cooperate in vaccine research with Southeast Asian countries as it aims to boost influence in the region to counter the US amid recent military incidents involving the Philippines and Malaysia in the South China Sea.
In an in-person meeting held in Chongqing on Monday, state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi told counterparts from the Asean member nations that China has delivered 100 million anti-Covid shots to the countries along with other pandemic-fighting medical material.
“China will continue to provide more vaccines as needed and carry out vaccine-related cooperation in terms of research and production, procurement, supervision and inoculation,” Wang was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying on the sidelines of the meeting.
Wang said China would “urgently implement” the China-Asean “Public Health Cooperation Initiative”, continue to support the Asean “Emergency Medical Materials Reserve”, and strengthen regional public health capacity-building.
“China will work with Asean to overcome the outbreak as soon as possible,” Wang was quoted as saying.
The 10 Asean members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Wang also pushed for the early implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which was signed by China, Asean countries, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in November last year.
Wang expressed hope that Asean countries would speed up the approval process for the RCEP and push for it to take effect and be implemented soon.
He called for considering the lifting of China-Asean ties to comprehensive strategic partnership and strive for an early agreement on a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea and is locked in conflict over the ownership of islands with Asean members like the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Recently, China was involved in a war of words with both the Philippines and Malaysia over the presence of Chinese naval militia in the South China Sea region and the intrusion of Chinese fighter aircraft into Malaysia’s airspace.
China has dismissed both the allegations, with state media describing them as minor incidents.
China’s economic and diplomatic clout in the region – China-Asean trade stands at $684 billion – and help from allies such as Cambodia have also helped override concerns.
As per Chinese state media, the Chinese minister made no direct reference to Myanmar, an Asean nation, where the military seized power February 1 and has been accused of widespread rights violation in the ensuing crackdown on protests.
On Monday, Wang had said China supported Asean’s non-interventionist approach to the situation in Myanmar.