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ASEAN- U.S. committed to growing ties

PHNOM PENH, July 11 (Xinhua) — The ASEAN and the United States on Wednesday pledged to forge close ties in economy, politics, education, science and technology, according to a joint statement.

Held at Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace, the ASEAN-U.S. foreign ministers’ conference was co-chaired by Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. Del Rosario and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The U.S. announced the Asia Pacific Strategic Engagement Initiative designed to increase U.S. assistance to the region, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to advance its partnership with ASEAN.

The Ministers noted with satisfaction the enhancing and expanding of the ASEAN-U.S. cooperation, which has contributed to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

ASEAN welcomed the U.S. proposal for the “Commitment to Connectivity: ASEAN-U.S. Business Forum” to be held on July 13 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, saying that the forum will bring together ASEAN and U.S. senior officials and business leaders to discuss how best to align public and private efforts to support ASEAN integration and connectivity.

ASEAN welcomed the U.S. support to the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, which constitutes an important component for bridging the development gap within ASEAN.

ASEAN welcomed efforts by the U.S. to increase its investment in the Lower Mekong Region through the Lower Mekong Initiative to advance ASEAN integration and connectivity.

ASEAN welcomed the U.S. announcement to launch an ASEAN Fullbright pilot program and commended efforts to invigorate science and technology cooperation, particularly in the area of health service.

The meeting recognized the growing significance of maritime cooperation in the region and underscored the importance to regional peace and stability of ensuring maritime safety, freedom of navigation, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea.

“The meeting expressed support for the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), as well as the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” the statement said.

However, the Chinese side stressed that the DOC was jointly signed by China and ASEAN countries in 2002, and should be complied by all members concerned. Otherwise, it will undermine mutual trust.

Some ASEAN countries proposed to start discussion on a code of conduct in the South China Sea. The Chinese side expressed willingness to consider the proposal seriously and hopes to be able to start discussion on COC when conditions are ripe.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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