US to keep lines of communication with China open, Biden says as Asean leaders call for unity

The United States would keep lines of communication with China open to ensure the two countries do not descend into conflict, President Joe Biden said at the East Asia summit in Cambodia. .

Mr Biden is in Cambodia alongside other world leaders at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, where the country’s prime minister called for a peaceful resolution of differences.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose country holds the rotating ASEAN presidency, told the rally, including Russia, China and the United States, that the current global tensions were having adverse effects on everyone.

The comments come as regional tension remains high between the United States and China over Taiwan and the Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupts global supply chains, driving up energy prices and food in the world.

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 challenges. and strategies 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 as he opened the meeting, which is taking place alongside the summit. leader of the Asean group.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, maintained the offensive, accusing the West of “militarising” Southeast Asia in an effort to contain Russian and Chinese interests.

Setting the stage for a confrontation between Russia and Western leaders at the G20 summit where the war in Ukraine is expected to dominate the agenda, Lavrov accused the United States of “trying to master” the space of Southeast Asia.

He said Mr Biden’s Indo-Pacific strategy was an attempt to circumvent “inclusive structures” of regional cooperation and would involve “the militarization of this region with a clear focus on controlling China and controlling Russian interests. in Asia-Pacific”.

The US president told Southeast Asian leaders that Washington is committed to building a “free and open, stable and prosperous, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific” as he outlined a comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and region.

Neither the United States nor Russia are members of ASEAN, a group of 10 Southeast Asian nations, but several world leaders attended the talks ahead of next week’s G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. .

Russia has sought to foster much closer economic, political and security ties with Asia since the West hit Moscow with unprecedented sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his conversation with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the summit was “constructive” and “positive”.

“I think it’s a good thing that happened. I’ve said many times about the relationship with China that we should cooperate where we can,” he added. “And that dialogue is always a good thing.”

Ties between the two countries have soured in recent years, with China sanctioning some of Australia’s imports and reacting angrily to Canberra’s call for an international inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The short chat came amid speculation that Mr Albanese might meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a G20 summit meeting on Monday.

On Wednesday, the Australian leader said a meeting with President Xi would be a positive development after years of strained relations.

The last summit meeting in 2019 saw Mr Albanese’s predecessor, Scott Morrison, meet Mr Xi at a G20 meeting, the Australian Foreign Office said.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told ASEAN leaders that China is continuously and increasingly taking actions that undermine Japan’s sovereignty and escalate tensions in the region.

Kishida also said it was important for regional security to ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and expressed his “serious concern” about the human rights situation in Uyghur, according to a statement issued by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“There have been continuous and increasing actions by China in the East China Sea that violate Japan’s sovereignty. China also continues to take measures that escalate regional tensions in the South China Sea,” he said at the meeting, according to the statement.

Additional Wire Reports

Leave a Comment