Thailand will host the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Retreat in October 2012 prior to the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in November. The South China Sea issue is expected to be a topic of discussion at the retreat. As the country coordinator of ASEAN-China relations, from July 2012 to July 2015, Thailand thanked China for understanding ASEAN’s perspective on the issue.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Assistant Foreign Minister of China, Mr. Le Yu Cheng, met and discussed topics with Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul during his visit to Thailand on 18-21 September 2012.
Foreign Minister Surapong said that ASEAN stands ready to listen to and cooperate with China. Both sides would work to abide by the commitments as stated in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. They would also have a dialogue to achieve the Code of Conduct to ensure the issue would be solved in a sustainable manner.
He stated that there are plenty of issues that need cooperation in ASEAN-China relations, and that both sides should not allow the South China Sea issue to affect the overall relations.
Regarding the tension between China and Japan on the sovereignty over the island in the East China Sea, Thailand considers both China and Japan as its close friends. It wishes to see the conflict solved through diplomatic means and believes that dialogue between China and Japan would lead to a peaceful solution of this matter.
During the discussion, the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister informed the Thai side of China’s expertise and experience in high-speed train and water management. China hopes that the Thai government would provide an opportunity for the Chinese private sector to be involved in Thailand’s infrastructural development in the future.
It also thanked Thailand for the progress made in the investigation relating to the death of 13 Chinese sailors in the Mekong River in October 2011. The Royal Thai Police had already submitted the case to the Office of the Attorney General to take legal action.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Thailand is scheduled to host an international conference on water management in January 2013 in Chiang Rai province in the North. Five Foreign Ministers from Mekong countries, namely China, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam would be invited to attend the conference. In response to China’s recommendations, Thailand agreed to add issues relating to cooperation in economic affairs, trade, investment, food security, and safety passage in the Mekong River to the main topic of water management.