Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and the foreign ministers of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia will visit China from March 31 to April 2, 2021, multiple news agencies reported on Tuesday.
Both the Chinese news agency Xinhua and The Star of Malaysia have confirmed that Locsin, along with Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will be in China on the invitation of Chinese State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Quoting a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Hua Chunying, the report said the visit is set to promote China-ASEAN ties and “further elevate the bilateral relations between China and relevant countries, so as to better safeguard regional peace, stability and development.”
Hua was also reported as saying that since China attaches great importance to developing relations with Southeast Asian countries, it always regards the member-states as “priority” in its diplomacy with neighboring countries.
Also expected to be discussed during the visit of the four ASEAN senior ministers are the cooperation between China and the regional bloc on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.
The Chinese foreign ministry noted that the visit coincides with this year’s 30th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue between China and the ASEAN.
Locsin’s forthcoming visit to China comes more than a week after the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing for the intrusion of more than 200 Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef, an area within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
On Tuesday, Locsin suggested that the Chinese vessels “should be going back to home ports” as a ‘new’ satellite image purportedly taken on March 28 showed that only a handful of the vessels were left in Julian Felipe Reef.