Li Keqiang stresses cooperation against COVID-19 in East Asia
Updated 16:30, 15-Apr-2020

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday emphasized strengthening the awareness of a community with a shared future for humanity to clinch an early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia. 

Li made the remarks in Beijing while attending a special summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan and South Korea (ASEAN Plus Three or APT) on COVID-19 via video link.

As COVID-19 is spreading globally, the APT countries are also affected, Li said, noting that the virus is gravely threatening the health, safety and lives of people around the world.

The global economy has come under severe strain, with simultaneous contraction of supply and demand, massive volatility in the financial markets, and plummeting trade and investment, he said. 

Li pointed out that as close neighbors, the APT countries have developed a full-fledged industrial chain and a mutually complementary specialization structure. 

On emergency response, the APT countries have gained valuable experience of jointly tackling crises and put in place mechanisms for enhancing emergency preparedness, he said. 

"The battle against COVID-19 has made us more aware that we are in a community with a shared future," Li said. "We must act with greater synergy and common purpose, and articulate our determination to work together in closer coordination and cooperation and make a collective response to the epidemic."

He called on APT countries to demonstrate their positive and special role in fighting the epidemic and revitalizing the economy, and to send a message of partnership, solidarity and mutual assistance among East Asian countries to boost confidence in the region and beyond. 

"Together, we will work for an early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia," said Li. 

He also proposed opening a "fast-track lane" for essential personnel on urgent visits in the fields of commerce, logistics, production and technological services among the ASEAN countries, China, Japan and South Korea. 

The fast-track lane should be opened with all the necessary control measures in place, said Li, noting that this will be conducive to maintaining the necessary flow of people and goods and stabilizing the industrial and supply chains. 

Li then suggested making full use of mechanisms such as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization to enhance crisis preparedness. 

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc chairs the summit of the ASEAN Plus Three countries on COVID-19, April 14, 2020. /CCTV

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc chairs the summit of the ASEAN Plus Three countries on COVID-19, April 14, 2020. /CCTV

In opening remarks via video conference, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc hailed the work of ASEAN in fighting the virus so far. But he warned the virus "has badly impacted people's lives, their socio-economic situation, challenging stability and social security."

ASEAN members have a tradition of close cooperation with China, Japan and South Korea, he said, stressing that the countries have maintained sound cooperation in effectively responding to economic development challenges, natural disasters and epidemic prevention and control.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged every possible support for the ASEAN members and other countries in connection with the handling of the coronavirus crisis.

"Korea will secure additional funding for humanitarian assistance and respond to the fullest extent possible to any calls for help from other countries, including ASEAN," Moon said during the session.

At the summit, the heads of state or government of the 10 ASEAN members, China, Japan and South Korea, the ASEAN secretary-general and the World Health Organization director-general elaborated actions and initiatives to bolster cooperation on winning the war against COVID-19, and ensure the region's dynamic and sustainable development in the long run.

They also issued a joint statement on COVID-19 response after sharing relevant practical experiences and discussing potential cooperation among ASEAN countries, as well as between the block and its three dialogue partners, especially cooperation on containing the global pandemic.

COVID-19 in East Asia

The COVID-19 has so far infected 19,235 people and killed 797 across ASEAN, according to statistics site Worldometers.

The APT issued a joint statement on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, which said the 13 Asian countries agreed to pool more efforts to guarantee the health and safety of people and keep markets open and free in the region.

They committed to enhancing national and regional capacities to prepare for and respond to pandemics, including the protection of healthcare workers and other frontline personnel, and the provision of adequate medicines and medical supplies, the statement said.

It added that the countries will strengthen scientific cooperation in epidemiological research, as well as actively share and leverage digital technologies and innovation to promote a science-based response to combat COVID-19.

Still, they will intensify efforts to keep markets open for trade and investment, and enhance cooperation among ASEAN Plus Three countries with a view to ensuring food security, and strengthening the resiliency and sustainability of regional supply chains. 

ASEAN Plus Three, set up in response to the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, which stood strong against the SARS epidemic, Indian Ocean tsunami and the financial crisis in 2008, has played a larger role in providing a coordinated regional response to the global crisis of COVID-19 pandemic. 

Read more:

10+3 mechanism main channel for East Asia cooperation, says China

When the virus outbreak was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, ASEAN member states, Japan and ROK were among the earliest to extend a helping hand to China; when the situation in China stabilized, China did not hesitate to offer assistance back by donating medical supplies, sending expert teams to hard-hit areas and sharing its experience tackling the disease. 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attends a special summit of ASEAN Plus Three countries or 10+3 on COVID-19 via video link in Beijing, capital of China, April 14, 2020. /Xinhua

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attends a special summit of ASEAN Plus Three countries or 10+3 on COVID-19 via video link in Beijing, capital of China, April 14, 2020. /Xinhua

Great success 

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry briefed media on the outcome of the meeting which introduced China's experiences on virus prevention and control, as well as economic and social development. 

The summit was a great success, said spokesperson Zhao Lijian at the daily briefing, adding that it announced joint statement with important consensus reached on strengthening medical cooperation and establishing special cooperation fund to make responses faster and emergency supplies more readily available. 

Meanwhile, the meeting carried forward the tradition of cooperation, demonstrating solidarity in tackling COVID-19 among countries in the region, Zhao added. 

It is important to enhance experience and information sharing, conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines, and build up regional mechanisms for epidemic control, the spokesman said. 

"China stands ready to stay in close cooperation with all parties to act on the consensus reached by the leaders, take effective measures and work together to overcome the pandemic and restore economic vitality in the region at an early date."

(With input from Xinhua)

(Cover: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at ASEAN's special summit attended by China, Japan and South Korea on COVID-19 via video link, April 14, 2020. /Xinhua)