Beijing: China proposes to build a Maritime Silk Road with Southeast Asia countries where it is locked in a vexed dispute over the South China Sea to boost its foreign trade, state media here reported on Sunday.

The Maritime Silk Road (MSR) formed the basis of the plans to enhance trade between China and Asean countries during the current visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Indonesia and Malaysia where he stated the MSR would help turn the “golden decade" between China and the region into “diamond decade". Such a project would be built upon solid political basis and economic foundations, and is in line with the common aspirations of the peoples of China and the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, a commentary by the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Currently, China is the 10-member Asean group’s largest trading partner, with the two-way trade exceeding $400 billion last year, a six-fold increase since a decade ago. While their mutual investment topped $100 billion last year, a quadruple of the number 10 years ago.

Moreover, the new Maritime Silk Road is the shared aspirations of both peoples and is originated from their common memories, it said. While trade was booming politically the China-Asean ties were stuck with the growing discard over the South China Sea disputes between China and four of the Asean countries, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

China claims sovereignty over most of all South China Sea. It goes with the historical trend that China proposed building China-Asean community and developing the new MSR, the report said.

The MSR idea followed last month’s efforts by China to revive the ancient silk road, the trade route that existed 2000 years ago connecting China Xi’an city, Gansu Province and Xinjiang with Central and Western Asia and Mediterranean. The silk road is not only a trade route, but also a route of culture and peace. PTI

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