PHNOM PENH, KOMPAS.com - Foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) wrapped up their annual meetings in Phnom Penh last week with a plea for peace in the South China Sea, warnings for the junta in Myanmar, and plans to bolster Covid-19-crushed economies.
Foreign ministers and delegates from about 40 countries gathered in Phnom Penh for their annual talks with nine of 10 foreign ministers from ASEAN.
Among them were US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China — but the visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi overshadowed the meetings.
Myanmar was absent. The country was banned from ASEAN meetings following the military takeover there last year, and the execution of four democracy activists in July had a further chilling effect.
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Prak Sakhonn, the Cambodian foreign minister and host of this year’s meetings, indicated a significant shift in attitudes toward Myanmar, saying the military regime had failed to build any trust within ASEAN.
“And without this trust, the fighting will continue and the political process will never start because no one will come if they fear for their life so building trust is the most important,” said Sakhonn.
China responded to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit by declaring a live-fire zone on Taiwan’s east flank and firing rockets. In Phnom Penh, Yi abandoned talks with Japan and walked out of a gala dinner.
An ASEAN communiqué stressed the need to recognize the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China has refused to recognize since losing a court battle with the Philippines in 2016.
Blinken told reporters the Chinese response was excessive and that US aircraft carriers will remain on standby.
Also read: ASEAN Warns Myanmar Against More Executions
“In short, the role of the US continues to support the status quo in Taiwan Strait and advance our shared goals throughout the Indo-Pacific. That is what the region expects of us — to be steady and responsible,” he said.
The communiqué underlined a need to strengthen health care and promote growth in economies that have been crushed by Covid-19. That includes bolstering supply chains, jobs for women, and promoting carbon neutrality to counter climate change.
All eyes are now on the ASEAN summit here in November when leaders are expected to announce what action will be taken against Myanmar and endorse recommendations made by the foreign ministers in the 29-page communiqué.
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