Xi: China upgrading ties with ASEAN

Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced an upgrade in Beijing's relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

Xi made a speech by video link on Monday to leaders of ASEAN member countries. The virtual summit commemorated 30 years of China-ASEAN dialogue.

China's Foreign Ministry quoted Xi as saying that Beijing and bloc members have established a "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership" and that China will unswervingly make ASEAN a high priority in its regional diplomacy.

The enhanced ties with ASEAN are signaled by the addition of the word "Comprehensive" to the expression "Strategic Partnership" that was formerly in use.

In his speech, Xi disclosed that China plans to buy up to 150 billion dollars' worth of agricultural produce from ASEAN in the next five years.

He also said China is ready to provide ASEAN with another 1.5 billion dollars of development assistance over the next three years to boost the bloc's ability to combat coronavirus and recover economically, as well as an additional 150 million vaccine doses.

As for other issues facing the region, Xi called on ASEAN leaders to make a concerted effort to address various factors that might threaten or undermine peace.

Observers say the remark is aimed at countering the United States, Britain and other countries that have enhanced their engagement on the issue of the South China Sea and promoted relations with ASEAN.