JAKARTA, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Secretary-General of the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) Le Luong Minh has stressed China and ASEAN should further strengthen dialogue and cooperation and bring the bilateral relationship to a higher level.
Le Luong Minh, who officially assumed his position as ASEAN secretary-general on Jan. 9 this year, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview here Thursday that China-ASEAN relations have undergone remarkable progress since the two parties established the full dialogue partnership in 1996.
"China-ASEAN relations have developed into one of ASEAN's most comprehensive, dynamic and fast-growing partnerships," Minh said.
ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations commenced when Qian Qichen, the then Chinese state councilor and foreign minister, attended the opening session of the 24th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) where he expressed China's keen interest to cooperate with ASEAN for mutual benefit in 1991 in Kuala Lumpur. Five years later, China was accorded full Dialogue Partner status at the 29th AMM in Jakarta.
The secretary-general said in the past years ASEAN and China have been actively engaging each other through various mechanisms of regional cooperation such as ASEAN plus One, ASEAN plus Three, the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asian Summit to pursue concerted efforts in addressing issues of common concern and interest.
Minh appreciated China's support to ASEAN's integration and community building endeavor, saying a strong, stable, united and peaceful ASEAN is very much in the interest of the region and neighboring countries including China.
"For the community building, we have a lot of work to be done from now to 2015. We have seen many potentials for furthering cooperation between China and ASEAN," said Minh, adding that China can participate in the projects of ASEAN's community building process.
The ten ASEAN countries -- Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam adopted in 2008 a charter aiming to form by 2015 a "community" based on three main pillars, namely ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
The ASEAN chief said China and ASEAN need to continue engagement and deepen existing cooperation while exploring new areas of collaboration. Both sides should work closely on, among others, implementing ASEAN Connectivity activities and addressing the challenges.
In this regard, he saw potentials in the areas of disaster management, disease prevention and control, cultural exchange and tourism.
Talking about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership ( RCEP) negotiation launched at the 19th ASEAN Summit last November, Minh said the free trade pact is expected to further promote intra- regional trade and investment and economic cooperation within East Asia.
Sixteen countries including China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, Australia and ASEAN members are aiming to establish a regional trade and economic alliance to promote greater flow of goods and services, which has around 3.5 billion people and accounts for one third of the world's current annual GDP.
Minh said the RCEP will be the biggest single market in the world, even bigger than the traditional markets of the United States and the European Union.
He admitted challenges are there for the RCEP talks, saying, " The participates in the negotiating countries are very different in the level of economic development, we have the most advanced countries like Japan, South Korea, and China, and also we have countries with the low level of economic development."
"Given the resolve and the commitment of all the parties concerned, I am convinced that the RECP target will be achieved," Minh said.