China promises more COVID-19 vaccines to ASEAN nations as ‘responsible partner’

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June 8 (UPI) — China pledged to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines to Southeast Asia during a meeting in the southwestern city of Chongqing, Beijing’s foreign ministry said.

Chinese diplomatic spokesman Zhao Lijian said Tuesday at a regular press briefing that China will “continue to play its role as a responsible major country to do its best to provide vaccines to ASEAN countries.”

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During the meeting, ASEAN’s top diplomats reportedly “expressed readiness to deepen cooperation with China in combating COVID-19,” according to Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted his ASEAN counterparts in Chongqing Monday. The Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held to mark the 30th anniversary of “dialogue relations.”

A handful of countries in the region have approved China-made vaccines, including the Philippines and Vietnam. Indonesia and China have agreed to joint COVID-19 vaccine production.

China’s foreign ministry said in a separate statement Tuesday Wang agreed to send 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China to ASEAN.

Wang also proposed a higher-level strategic partnership.

“Let’s develop China-ASEAN relations into a comprehensive strategic partnership, show the will and resolve to cooperate, and set a new standard,” Wang said Monday, according to the foreign ministry.

China and some members of ASEAN, including the Philippines, have been locked in disputes over China’s claims to the South China Sea.

Wang called for the establishment of “rules of conduct” in the South China Sea, and claimed peace and stability are in the “fundamental interests of China and ASEAN countries,” the ministry said.

“We should show the world the confidence and wisdom that we will jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region by preparing practical and effective rules of conduct in line with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as soon as possible,” Wang told ASEAN ministers.

In May Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin issued an expletive-ridden tweet in response to Chinese presence in disputed waters. Hundreds of boats were stationed in the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.