"We both agreed to steer the development of bilateral ties into the right direction," Li told a joint press conference after talks with his Mongolian counterpart Jargaltulga Erdenebat.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) holds talks with Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, July 14, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]
Li, in a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, reiterated China's stance on the South China Sea issue, saying that any dispute should be solved through bilateral negotiations by parties directly concerned.
Li arrived in Ulan Bator on Wednesday afteroon to pay an official visit. It was his first trip to Mongolia since he took office in 2013.
Sharing a 4,710-km-long borderline, China and Mongolia have witnessed warmer relations in recent years thanks to closer economic links and political trust.
During his talks with Erdenebat, Li said that China and Mongolia are neighbors, friends and partners, and the two countries have maintained a good momentum in building a comprehensive strategic partnership reached by both sides in August 2014.
Li said that the two countries respected each other's core interests and major concerns. China respected Mongolia's state sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as the development path chosen by the Mongolian people.
"China looks forward to working with Mongolia's new government in continued efforts to consolidate political mutual trust and maintain exchanges between high-level officials, so as to deepen cooperation in all respects," Li said.
Li said the two neighbors are economically complementary and new opportunities in deepening cooperation have become available. China stands ready to dovetail its Belt and Road Initiative with Mongolia's Steppe Road program. China is also willing to start a feasibility study on a free trade pact with Mongolia.
Besides, China stands ready to make new progress with Mongolia in such fields as the processing of farm and pasture products, housing and infrastructure, said Li, who also suggested the two sides strengthen financial cooperation and expand currency-swap scale, and enhance people-to-people exchanges.
Erdenebat, for his part, said that economic cooperation and trade are major pillars in bilateral ties and the Mongolian side is willing to advance cooperation with China in such fields as agriculture, livestock farming, energy, minerals and infrastructure, he said.
Erdenebat welcomed more investment from Chinese firms, adding that Mongolia is positive with starting the feasibility study of a free trade pact.
China has for years been Mongolia's largest trading partner and largest source of foreign investment. According to official statistics, two-way trade has expanded 50 times over the past two decades.
Following the talks, Erdenebat and Li witnessed the signing of 15 cooperation agreements ranging from trade, technology and infrastructure to radio and TV broadcasting.
Li also met with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Chairman of the State Great Hural Miyegombo Enkhbold in the day to discuss ways to improve bilateral ties.
TWO-WAY NEGOTIATION ON SEA DISPUTES
On Thursday, Li also met with leaders of Vietnam, Latvia and Laos, all of whom will attend the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit to be held in Ulan Bator from July 15 to 16.
Li told his Vietnamese counterpart that the South China Sea issue should be solved through bilateral negotiations by relevant parties on the basis of historical facts and in accordance with international law and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
The DOC, signed in 2002 by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, including the Philippines, stipulates that the parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.
On the award issued Tuesday by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Li said China has been very clear on its stance of not recognizing or accepting the award. The DOC has helped maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea over the past years, he said.
The Chinese premier called on Vietnam to value the hard-won momentum in the development of bilateral relations and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea with China.
Nguyen Xuan Phuc, for his part, said Vietnam respects China's stance on the arbitration, which was unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, and Vietnam maintains that the disputes should be solved peacefully through negotiations.
On bilateral ties, Li said China-Vietnam relations have shown a positive momentum since last year, with early results yielding in maritime, land and financial cooperation.
Phuc said Vietnam and China enjoy a "comradely and brotherly" relationship with common interests significantly overriding differences.
Vietnam stands ready to push forward the mechanism of bilateral maritime negotiations and properly manage differences with China, so as to contribute to regional peace and stability, Phuc said.
In a meeting with Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, Li said China is ready to join hands with Latvia to synergize their development strategies, promote cooperation in such areas as transportation, infrastructure construction and trade, achieve dynamic equilibrium of bilateral trade, and boost people-to-people exchanges in youth, media, tourism and other areas at different levels.
China supports Latvia in hosting the fifth leaders' meeting between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. China is willing to work with Latvia to promote cooperation within the China-CEE framework -- known as 16+1 -- so as to benefit both sides, Li added.