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Coronavirus: China calls for solidarity in meeting with Asean

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VIENTIANE: China called for solidarity yesterday in a special meeting to discuss the coronavirus outbreak with South-east Asian nations as it faces criticism for its handling of the epidemic.

The hastily called summit in Laos signalled China is seeking support from smaller neighbours into which it has poured billions of dollars in infrastructure and investment in recent years.

China's foreign minister discussed travel and trade restrictions at the meeting with the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) yesterday.


At the meeting, Asean foreign ministers joined hands with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and shouted "Stay strong, Wuhan!" Stay strong, China! Stay strong, Asean!" Officials at the meeting yesterday did not wear masks.

"Fear is more threatening than the virus and confidence is more precious than gold," Mr Wang told a news conference.

"China is promoting a message of friendships in Asean to counter the attack from the West that it has been handling the outbreak poorly," said Associate Professor Alfred Wu at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease have kept much of the world's second-largest economy idle and choked key elements of President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road Initiative of railways, ports and highways.

According to a draft joint statement seen by Reuters, Asean and China emphasised the "growing urgency and need for cooperation" in combating the virus outbreak and agreed to strengthen "risk communication". - REUTERS