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ASEAN relations focused on cooperation

By Pu Zhendong | China daily | Updated: 2013-09-18 13:17

China should ratchet up cooperation with Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries to expand Beijing's regional influence while countering Washington's Asia-Pacific pivot strategy, analysts said on Tuesday ahead of a US-Philippine military exercise in the South China Sea.

The essence of China-ASEAN relations is cooperation rather than island disputes, said Zhang Mingliang, a researcher of Southeast Asian studies at Jinan University in Guangdong province.

"China should increase investment, both in quantity and quality, among the ASEAN economies, because the region closely relies on China's economic vitality," Zhang said.

ASEAN relations focused on cooperation

The Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises are scheduled to start on Wednesday at a naval base in Zambales on the western coast of Luzon island facing the South China Sea.

The location is about 220 km from China's Huangyan Island, a group of rocky outcrops whose sovereignty has been illegally claimed by Manila.

"The Chinese will view these military exercises as yet another example of the Philippines stirring up tensions in the South China Sea and of the US taking advantage of the situation to increase its military presence," Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, was quoted by AFP as saying.

"For the Philippines, the dispute will continue to be 'the central driver' of efforts to intensify its alliance with the US," Storey added.

The annual exercises, involving 2,300 marines from both sides and showcasing fast-growing military ties, also come three weeks before US President Barack Obama's slated visit to Manila.

Obama will embark on his weeklong trip to four Southeast Asian countries - Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines - on Oct 6. It will be his first trip to Manila since taking office in 2009.

Manila said the two sides will discuss ways to further strengthen the enduring Philippines-US alliance, including the expansion of security, economic and people-to-people ties, according to Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

"As traditional allies, Washington and Manila have kept close political and military contacts for years," Zhang said.

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