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China and ASEAN foreign ministers to hold coronavirus emergency meeting in Laos

China and ASEAN foreign ministers to hold coronavirus emergency meeting in Laos

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are planning to hold an emergency conference, which would take place as early as February 20 in Laos, to discuss the new coronavirus epidemic.

According to a diplomatic source, an emergency meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers is intended to share information and improve coordination between China and the 10-nation bloc to combat the virus.

The new coronavirus was first detected in China, where the death toll has surpassed 1,000, and has spread to nearly every Southeast Asian country. Cases are rising in the region, which depends heavily on trade and tourism flows with China. Nations have taken measures such as restricting travel, even as they brace for the economic impact of the outbreak.

Though ASEAN and Beijing have differing views on several issues, such as territorial claims over the South China Sea, they have a common interest in urging a global response to the disease and in making efforts to reduce public concern.

ASEAN foreign ministers held their annual retreat just last month in Vietnam, the country serving as chair of the association this year.