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June 27, 2008

China to follow US’s lead, appoint envoy to Asean
China will soon appoint an ambassador to the Asean Secretariat, a senior Chinese foreign ministry official was quoted by a Thai newspaper as telling reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.

"We are thinking seriously of appointing an ambassador to Asean. America beat us to this," said He Yafei, an assistant foreign minister during a meeting with Asean journalists.

The appointment of an Asean ambassador would be in line with the bloc's development under the framework of the Asean Charter, the minister said. Next January, each Asean member will appoint its permanent representatives stationed in Jakarta to attend meetings at the Asean Secretariat.

Last year, more than 700 Asean meetings were convened. Quite often, these meetings were not attended by all Asean members due to limited perฌsonnel and financial resources. With a fixed venue at the secretariat and representative system, it would increase attendance and save time and money.

Asean-China relations were excellent and both sides were working towards a free-trade agreement, which is expected to be completed in 2010, said The minister, who oversees Asian and disarmament affairs. In 2000, China initiated the pact and negotiations began.

The minister also revealed that China was contemplating the establishment of a development fund for Asean members to build and improve infrastructure that would promote links with Southeast Asia by rail, road, sea and air. The model for the fund is still under study.

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