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China president makes historic speech in Indonesia

October 3, 2013

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping made history in Indonesia on Thursday by becoming the first foreign leader to address the democratic country’s Parliament, using the platform to call for greater cooperation with Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and the region as a whole.

China “is ready to work together with Indonesia and other ASEAN countries to make the two sides share the same prosperity (and) stick together through thick and thin so that we can become good friends and good neighbors,” Xi said referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Xi’s speech came a day after he met with his Indonesian counterpart President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the two agreed to work together to improve a number of areas including trade, investment and infrastructure.

A currency swap was also signed worth $16 billion for three years that could be utilized to support Indonesia’s sliding rupiah in a crisis.

During his first trip to Southeast Asia since taking office in March, Xi also proposed creating an infrastructure investment bank that would help fund development projects in the region.

China has been trying to build deeper ties with ASEAN, but tempers have flared during territorial spats over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the entire sea on historical grounds, but Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan all strongly disagree. A number of maritime incidents between China and its neighbors has increased tensions in recent years, raising concerns about potential violence.

“We should abandon a Cold War mentality and advocate common security and collaborative security,” Xi said.

“For the territorial and maritime disputes between China and ASEAN, the two sides should adhere to the principle of peaceful consultation and frank dialogue and resolve these disputes in a peaceful manner so as to safeguard regional stability and peace,” he added.

Xi also met with business leaders during his two-day visit. He is expected to visit Malaysia and attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week in Bali.

China is Indonesia’s second-largest trading partner. Two-way trade reached $66 billion last year, while Chinese direct investment rose to $2 billion.

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