China, Southeast Asia leaders gather for Mekong meeting

China, Southeast Asia leaders gather for Mekong meeting

China and Cambodia have signed almost 20 deals on the sidelines of the Lancang-Mekong Summit.

With the theme of "Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development", the meeting attracted the participation of leaders from all six members: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. They also called for greater cooperation in managing and utilizing water resources.

The MLCG summits are held every two years (the foreign ministers meet every year).

When asked if the two schemes overlap or compete politically and economically, Sok Siphana, advisor to the Cambodian government who is in charge of both schemes, said they instead complement each other. While other countries have imposed political conditions in return for aid, China has made no such demands. "They are really committed and deliver what they have said or promised".

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The member countries are expected to approve the Phnom Penh Declaration and the five-year Action Plan for Mekong-Lancang cooperation in 2018-2022.

Mekong-Lancang collaboration focuses on management of hydric resources, connectivity, increased productivity, cross-border economic cooperation, agriculture, and poverty reduction.

China's foreign exchange reserves also continued to rise a year ago, the premier said.

The first summit was convened on March 23, 2016, mapping out orientations for the cooperation mechanism, which is promoting comprehensive connection to build a responsible community and common benefit in the Mekong sub-region.

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In return, Cambodia supports China in global forums, including Beijing's ongoing dispute with Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.

China is the driving force behind numerous projects, having already built eight dams on the river since the 1990s and is now building or planning more than a dozen more.

China is also seeking to have parts or the river dredged or rapids cleared so that large cargo ships can navigate.

Environmental groups warn the blockages pose a grave threat to fish habitats by disrupting migrations and the flow of key nutrients and sediment - not to mention displacing tens of thousands of people with flooding. He said the project is set to start this year and will take at least 44 months to complete.

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The forum is seen as a rival to the Mekong River Commission, which has been around for more than 60 years but excludes China and Myanmar.

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