Southeast Asian leaders: the region is not a proxy for any power
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — “a power of attorney to all powers.
Joko Widodo said the 10-nation bloc with a combined population of some 700 million “must be a dignified region” and “uphold the values of humanity and democracy” – principles that have been questioned by last year’s military takeover of Myanmar and human rights concerns in Cambodia.
“ASEAN should become a peaceful region and an anchor for global stability, consistently uphold international law and not be a proxy for any power,” he said. “ASEAN must not allow the current geopolitical dynamics to turn into a new cold war in our region.”
As China has grown more assertive in the Asia-Pacific region and asserted its claim for Taiwan’s self-governing democracy, the United States has backed off, leading to rising tensions.
Even as ASEAN leaders met this weekend in Phnom Penh, US naval exercises with its partners in the so-called “Quad” group of nations – Australia, India and Japan – were underway in the Philippine Sea, east of Taiwan.
And on Saturday, the Chinese military flew 36 fighter jets and bombers near Taiwan, ten of which flew over the center line of the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from the mainland, Taiwan officials said.
The flights are part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s increased efforts to intimidate Taiwan by regularly flying fighter jets and bombers near the island and launching missiles into the sea around it.
At Sunday’s East Asia Summit, which ran concurrently with the ASEAN meeting and included both the United States and China, US President Joe Biden stressed that freedom of navigation and overflight must be respected in the East and South China Seas and that all disputes must be resolved. peacefully and in accordance with international law, according to the White House.
Biden said the United States would compete vigorously with China while keeping lines of communication open and ensuring that competition does not escalate into conflict, while reaffirming the importance of peace and stability through the Taiwan Strait, the White House said.
The comments came just a day before a much-anticipated meeting between Biden and Xi at the Group of 20 summit in Bali.
At the opening of the East Asia Summit, Cambodian leader Hun Sen called for unity, telling the rally attended by Biden, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the current global tensions have taken their toll on everyone.
Without referring to any nation by name, Hun Sen said he hoped the leaders would embrace a “spirit of unity in upholding open and inclusive multilateralism, pragmatism and mutual respect to address existential and strategic challenges. that we all face”.
“Many current challenges and tensions have hampered our past hard-won efforts to promote sustainable development and caused greater hardship in people’s lives,” he said.
The meetings also included the leaders of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and others.
Biden also raised human rights concerns in Cambodia. In a statement after the meeting with Hun Sen, the White House said Biden had urged the prime minister – an authoritarian leader in a nominally democratic nation – to “reopen civic and political space” ahead of his 2023 election.
Biden, according to the White House, also pushed Hun Sen to release activists including Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer who was convicted of treason. Biden also raised concerns about the activities of the Ream naval base, whose expansion Cambodian officials have described as a collaborative effort between it and China.
Another topic Biden has focused on is Myanmar, where the military junta overthrew the civilian government in February 2021 and arrested its democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. During his meeting with Hun Sen, Biden stressed that the United States was committed to the return of democracy to Myanmar, which had gradually moved towards a form of democratic governance before the coup.
Li Keqiang, meanwhile, told a meeting of ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea that amid a “turbulent” global security situation, “unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise, economic and financial risks are on the rise, and global development is facing unprecedented challenges.” ”
As major East Asian economies, Li said the group should “remain committed to promoting peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and beyond, and improving the well- to be of the population”.
Rising reported from Bangkok.