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China rolls out assistance blueprint for ASEAN

CHINESE Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi today unveiled a multi-billion-dollar package of aid and credit to enhance China-ASEAN cooperation.

Yang met with envoys of the 10 ASEAN countries in Beijing today, fresh from his return from Thailand late yesterday where scheduled Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings were postponed due to domestic unrest.

"As always, China firmly backs ASEAN integration and community building, and firmly supports ASEAN playing a leading role in regional cooperation," said Yang, adding China's policy toward cooperation with the ASEAN was unchanged despite the postponement of the meetings.

Yang said China called for joint efforts to reach an investment agreement, which was scheduled to be signed on the sidelines of the postponed meetings.

The agreement would be conducive to the establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade zone.

China planned to establish a China-ASEAN investment cooperation fund totaling US$10 billion, designed for cooperation on infrastructure construction, energy and resources, information and communications, Yang said.

Over the next three to five years, China planned to offer credit of US$15 billion to ASEAN countries, including loans with preferential terms of US$1.7 billion in aid for cooperation projects.

China also planned to offer 270 million yuan (US$39.7 million) in special aid to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to meet urgent needs, inject US$5 million into the China-ASEAN Cooperation Fund, and donate US$900,000 to the cooperation fund of ASEAN plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

China would provide 300,000 tons of rice for the emergency East Asia rice reserve to strengthen food security in the region.

China would offer an extra 2,000 government scholarships and 200 master's scholarships for public administration students from the developing member countries over the next five years.

"The overall thought for China-ASEAN cooperation is that the two sides should rise to difficulties in face of the grim global financial crisis, and make efforts to convert unprecedented challenge into opportunity for closer pragmatic cooperation and common development," said Yang.

All the envoys said the proposals would exert profound and active influence on China-ASEAN cooperation, and would enormously support ASEAN countries during the global financial crisis.

Thailand was deeply appreciative of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's attendance at the postponed meetings, Thai Ambassador to China Rathakit Manathat said.

He also expressed gratitude for China's understanding of Thailand's decision of postponement.

ASEAN member countries are Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia.


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