China 'serious' about rail link with Asean

THAILAND - The new Chinese ambassador to Thailand insisted yesterday that rail-link cooperation with the mainland would be advantageous for Thailand and the region.

In his first press conference since taking the post in Bangkok last month, Ambassador Ning Fukui said: "This is one of the four major projects China will be pushing in the future". Other bilateral cooperation would include education, new energy and water management, he said. The ambassador said China's prosperity would also be linked to the development of its neighbours.

Trade between China and the ASEAN was worth US$400 billion (S$501 billion) in 2012, and the aim is to boost the value of trade to $1 trillion by 2020.

Beijing has been pushing for an ambitious Trans-Asian Railway link with Southeast Asia, which it says will offer great economic advantages to the ASEAN bloc.

"We have had close cooperation between the Chinese and Thai sides, but it's still in the stage of consultation," the ambassador said.

He added that cooperating over the high-speed rail link with China would be positive in many ways, given Beijing's ability to build bullet trains, that are already popular in China, as well as low construction costs. Thailand also stood to gain due to its location.

Ambassador Ning also spoke of Beijing's determination to push for stronger ties with the Kingdom, adding that large Chinese firms were planing to boost investment in Thailand in the near future. The envoy said Chinese PM Li Keqiang would visit ASEAN next month.