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Monday, March 20, 2023

China, US, Russia Join Asia Summit Amid Regional Tensions

President Joe Biden and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will participate in a video conference with 18 Asia-Pacific nations on Wednesday, in a region where world powers have sparred over trade, Taiwan, democracy, human rights, and Beijing’s more aggressive activities in disputed areas.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will also appear at the East Asia Summit, a 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations gathering on political, security, and economic problems.

The World Health Organization is due to inform world leaders on the epidemic, which has slowed the economies of 18 nations that account for more than half of the world’s population and more than 60% of global GDP.

Biden will reiterate US support for the ASEAN-led regional architecture and explain his vision for working with friends and partners to solve concerns confronting the Indo-Pacific region, according to a White House statement released Wednesday. It was the first time a US president attended the summit since 2017, which was part of a three-day high-level gathering hosted by Brunei, ASEAN’s chair this year.

Biden launched a $100 million plan to boost up US involvement with the region in the face of China’s rise as a national security and economic opponent at a separate meeting with ASEAN leaders on Tuesday. The United States’ relationship with the bloc, according to Biden, is “vital.” The money will go toward health care, a new climate effort, education, and economic rehabilitation projects.

“I want you to hear directly from me how important our partnership with ASEAN is to the United States,” Biden stated. “You can count on me to appear and reach out to you.”

Since nosediving during former President Donald Trump’s administration, which chose a hostile strategy on trade, visas, diplomatic representation, and educational exchanges, relations between Washington and Beijing have reached new lows.

A long-simmering issue over Taiwan erupted recently when Biden stated that the US is committed to assisting the self-ruled island, which China claims as part of its sovereignty, in defending itself if attacked.

The United States’ nuclear submarine arrangement with Australia and the United Kingdom has enraged China, which claims the majority of the disputed South China Sea and has warned that the agreement could jeopardize regional stability.

The matter might come up during a separate meeting between Australia’s leader and ASEAN leaders on Wednesday. Some ASEAN countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, are concerned that the agreement could exacerbate tensions in hot places like the South China Sea and lead to an arms race.

The three-day ASEAN summit has been overshadowed by a diplomatic impasse after Myanmar’s military rulers boycotted it in protest of ASEAN’s decision to prevent Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whose forces took control in February, from attending.

The bloc’s ambassador was blocked from visiting deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees as part of a suggested conversation to end the crisis, which has resulted in the deaths of over 1,100 largely anti-military demonstrators.

Myanmar has declined to send a junior delegate to the summit, accusing ASEAN of violating the bloc’s values of non-interference in one another’s affairs and consensual decision-making.

On Tuesday, Biden condemned Myanmar’s military for using “horrific brutality” on protestors and reaffirmed US support for the country’s return to democracy.

The bloc’s leaders asked Myanmar to allow its envoy, Brunei Second Foreign Minister Eryan Yusof, full access to all parties and release political detainees in a statement published following the conference Tuesday.

While adhering to ASEAN’s policy of non-interference, the group stated that given Myanmar’s position, it must find a balance in terms of rule of law, good governance, democracy, and constitutional government.

“We reaffirmed Myanmar’s membership in the ASEAN family and acknowledged that Myanmar need both time and political space to address its numerous and complex challenges,” the group stated.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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