Beijing: Amidst its deepening row with ASEAN countries over the South China Sea, China has firmed up its ties with Thailand, a key member of the East Asian bloc, offering it a host of deals involving billions of dollars of Chinese investment in sectors like trade and railway.

The two sides signed a series of agreements, including on agriculture and transport sectors, after talks between visiting Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, elevating bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, state-run news daily reported on Wednesday.

Calling Thailand "a trusted friend and partner", Wen said the decision to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership carried great significance for peaceful development of the two countries and East Asia.

The three-day trip of the Thai Premier was initially planned for November last year but was postponed because of severe flooding in Thailand.

Wen said China will continue to help the post-disaster reconstruction in the country. He also pushed Thailand to promote trade and investment co-operation, in local currencies and set the bilateral trade target of USD 100 billion to be achieved by 2015.

Rail links to boost the transport network between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), telecom, science and culture should also see enhanced cooperation, Wen said.

The signed agreements covered economic, trade, agriculture, flood control and drought relief and rail construction, the newspaper report said.
Guan Mu, China's Ambassador to Thailand, said earlier that Bangkok plans to buy 800,000 computer tablets from China. Guan said both countries are discussing investments in several high-speed rail lines in Thailand, which also included 640 km rail link between Bangkok to Lao.

"In the next 10 to 15 years, Thailand will have road and rail connectivity with neighbouring countries. It will totally change the country and greatly benefit Thailand," he said.

Thanking China, Yingluck said Thailand is ready to play an active role in promoting ASEAN-China cooperation and safeguarding peace and stability on the South China Sea.

China is currently having serious problems with a number of ASEAN countries over the South China Sea. ASEAN member states like Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam counter China's claim that entire South China Sea belonged to it.

China has also objected to Vietnam seeking help of US, India and Russia for its plans to explore oil in the islands on which both sides stake their claim.
As the ASEAN countries hardened their stand on the South China Sea issue, China is stepping its ties Thailand and Cambodia with heavy investments.