Nov 8, 2012

China - China calls for Asia-Europe deeper cooperation on disasters

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday called on Asian and European countries to deepen cooperation on emergency rescue services in major natural disasters.

He made his plea as the United States scrambles to deal with the aftermath of devastating Hurricane Sandy.

Wen also proposed closer energy cooperation when addressing the ninth Asia-Europe Meeting summit in Vientiane, the Laotian capital, while Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suggested establishing a regional framework for strategic energy cooperation.

Hurricane Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, and caused widespread power failures, with one expert saying it has sent a reminder to world leaders of possible imminent large-scale natural disasters brought by climate change.

In his speech, Wen said Asian countries had accumulated adequate experience in disaster prevention, while European nations had manufactured high-tech products in dealing with natural disasters.

To deepen cooperation in this regard, he proposed the two sides build a mechanism to cover emergency rescue in major disasters, and to provide humanitarian assistance to each other.

Wen also suggested establishing an efficient information exchange channel to improve the ability of disaster monitoring and early-warning, and strengthening cooperation on the application of space technology in disaster prevention and mitigation.

Luo Yongkun, a researcher on Southeast Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said: "Nowadays, humankind is experiencing more and more natural disasters, and some are on a scale that we have never seen.

"Hurricane Sandy has once again reminded us of that, and the trend is more likely to continue in the future."

Wen on Tuesday also highlighted the importance of energy security, urging energy producers and consumers in Asia and Europe to work together to formulate a new concept featuring mutually beneficial cooperation, diversified forms of development and common energy security.

He said they need to develop clean and renewable energy, improve energy structure, stabilize prices, safeguard market order and improve efficiency to help build an energy-saving mode of production and consumption.

Medvedev also talked about energy security, proposing a framework on strategic energy cooperation and completing the legal basis for such cooperation.

Liu Qiang, a scholar on energy studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in an interview with China Petroleum Daily that energy security and disaster protection are further intertwined now as Hurricane Sandy has exposed the vulnerability of the modern energy system.

"Many people cannot imagine that the US electricity network, especially that in residential areas, is much like that in China in the 1970s and 1980s. Many electricity poles stand beside untrimmed trees. Once the hurricane comes, the trees fall and break the wires, cutting electricity and even causing fires," Liu said.

He also warned of secondary disasters resulting in the collapse of energy systems that have become increasingly larger and built with increasingly advanced technology, citing the nuclear leak in Japan after that country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011.

Li Xiaokun and Zhou Wa

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