Urumqi (China Daily/ANN) - China appreciates Cambodia's role in keeping Beijing's ties with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) this year and seeks to push for solidarity and cooperation among East Asian countries despite regional challenges, Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday.
Wen made the remarks when meeting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on the sidelines of the second China-Eurasia Expo.
"Wen said the overall situation in East Asia is good, yet faced with some challenges. Maintaining unity, promoting development and cooperation are the most important tasks for the region," said a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry.
Cambodia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Asean in 2012, has played an important role in China-Asean relations, Wen said.
The remarks came amid Beijing's increased tensions this year with Hanoi and Manila in the South China Sea.
At the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in July, foreign ministers of the 10-member group failed to issue a joint communique as they could not agree on a paragraph about territorial disputes.
Cambodia has supported China's attitude toward a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
Beijing has said it is willing to negotiate with Asean on a COC given ripe conditions.
China will closely work with Cambodia and support the country to make the upcoming series of meetings for East Asian leaders a success, Wen said.
China and Cambodia established a comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation in 2010. Since then, bilateral trade has grown rapidly, rising from US$1.4 billion in 2010 to $2.5 billion in 2011, with both sides pledging to double the trade volume by 2017.
Hun Sen said Cambodia-China relations boast solid historical foundations. Cambodia is ready to make closer high-level exchanges with China and strengthen their consultation on bilateral and regional affairs.
Luo Yongkun, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Cambodia's important role in China's geopolitics is not limited inside Asean.
"It is not only about its coordination within the Asean group. Cambodia also contributes to promoting cooperation among neighbouring big powers," he said. "During its presidency, there have been no intensive regional conflicts."
As the chair country of Asean this year, Cambodia deserves the status of "a crucial role" in promoting regional safety and stability, as well as cooperation between Asean and East Asia, Luo said.
Dong Fangyu in Beijing contributed to this story.