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  1. As a close and intimate neighbor linked by land and sea, China and ASEAN launched the dialogue process in 1991 and forged a strategic partnership in 2003.
  2. As a close and intimate neighbor linked by the land and sea, China and ASEAN launched the dialogue process in 1991 and forged/entered into/formed a strategic partnership in 2003.

Do we need the definite artice herein?

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    I think neighbors would be better there than a neighbor. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 28 at 15:47
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You do not need an article there.

When the noun refers in context to a mode (to how something is done or to how it is accomplished or effected or to how it exists) the article is not needed.

They arrived by train.

They are linked by land and (by) sea.

Fishing in these waters is governed by treaty.

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