ASEAN+3 leaders' meeting on COVID-19 shows joint resolve against pandemic, experts say

2020-04-15 05:32:34 GMT2020-04-15 13:32:34(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

PHNOM PENH, April 15 (Xinhua) -- The just-concluded special meeting of leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ASEAN Plus Three or APT) on COVID-19 has demonstrated their joint commitment to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Cambodian experts said Tuesday.

Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the virtual meeting showcased the unity and cooperation among the East Asian countries in the face of the pandemic.

It is "high time" that all countries, big and small, joined one another to defeat this pandemic, he told Xinhua.

"As the ASEAN Plus Three countries are also partners in many economic, social and cultural development projects in the region, their cooperative spirit and traditional mutual trust can bring the new dynamic in the efforts to defeat this virus much earlier than Europe and America," he added.

Matthews said China has been successful in containing the virus compared with Europe and the United States, so the ASEAN countries can immensely benefit from China's experience in dealing with this plague.

"China can share its experience, technology, knowledge and resources with ASEAN to fight against this epidemic, and thus defeat the virus and restore the social and economic normality in this region," he said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who attended the video meeting on Tuesday afternoon from Beijing, highlighted the significance of joint efforts for an early victory against the virus in East Asia and announced that China will provide another 100 million face masks, 10 million protective suits and other urgently-needed medical supplies to ASEAN nations.

He proposed opening a "fast-track lane" for essential personnel on urgent visits in the fields of commerce, logistics, production and technological services among APT countries.

The premier also welcomed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)'s proposal of a COVID-19 Recovery Facility with an initial capitalization of 5 billion U.S. dollars.

"Premier Li's remarks show China's strong commitment and determination to help ASEAN and other countries to contain the COVID-19 and to rebuild their economies after the epidemic," Matthews said.

"In my view, we have to take Premier Li's view in Asian and global perspective because there is no country in the world that has not been affected by COVID-19 plague," he added.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute, said China has proactively assisted other countries in the collective fight against the pandemic.

"ASEAN member countries are appreciative of China's assistance," he told Xinhua. "Enhanced regional coordination and integrated action plans can help the regional countries to effectively deal with the pandemic outbreak as well as to mitigate the social and economic risks and impacts stemming from the pandemic."

He said there is a great possibility of restoring the regional economy if all the APT countries are committed to further deepening regional integration and facilitating regional production network.

"Digital transformations and integration need to be further promoted," he said. "The ASEAN Plus Three countries should consider creating a master plan on digital connectivity and inclusive digital economy," Vannarith said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, who attended the virtual meeting from his office in Phnom Penh, said the summit demonstrated the leaders' joint commitment to contain the spread of the virus.

He expressed his profound gratitude to China for its assistance to Cambodia for the fight against the pandemic.

"The Government of the People's Republic of China has dispatched to Cambodia a team of doctors specialising in fighting against COVID-19, both civilians and military, along with necessary medical equipment and masks," Hun Sen said in a speech broadcast live on his official Facebook page.

COVID-19 is a common challenge to all APT countries, even though each of them may be facing the spread of the virus at different stages.

"ASEAN must learn from the successes and best practices of the Plus Three countries, especially the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea, in effectively containing and preventing the spread of the disease," Hun Sen said.

ASEAN, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has so far 20,734 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 866 deaths, according to statistics site Worldometers.

Cambodia has recorded a total of 122 confirmed cases to date, with 91 recoveries, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

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