By David Brunnstrom PHNOM PENH (Reuters) -Southeast Asia’s ASEAN regional bloc warned on Thursday of a risk that volatility caused by tensions in the Taiwan Strait could lead to “miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers”. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is hosting a meeting in Cambodia involving foreign ministers […]
ASEAN warns on risk of Taiwan ‘miscalculation’, ready to help dialogue
By David Brunnstrom
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) -Southeast Asia’s ASEAN regional bloc warned on Thursday of a risk that volatility caused by tensions in the Taiwan Strait could lead to “miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers”.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is hosting a meeting in Cambodia involving foreign ministers of 27 countries, a gathering so far overshadowed by developments around Taiwan following U.S. house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit this week.
“ASEAN stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue between all parties,” the bloc said in a statement, urging maximum restraint and for all sides to refrain from provocation.
The Pelosi trip, the highest-level U.S. visit to self-ruled Taiwan in 25 years, has sparked outrage in China, which has responded with a burst of military exercises and other activity in the area.
Southeast Asian countries tend to tread a careful line to balance relations with China and the United States, wary of angering either of the major powers.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is also in Cambodia, called Pelosi’s visit “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational”, China’s CCTV reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in opening remarks to a meeting with ASEAN counterparts, said he recognised the Taiwan issue was on everyone’s minds and stressed Washington’s position had not changed.
“The United States continues to have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
“We oppose any unilateral efforts to change the status quo, especially by force… And I want to emphasise nothing has changed about our position.”
The United States and other countries believed escalation serves no one, Blinken said, “and could have unintended consequences that serve no one’s interests, including ASEAN members, and including China.”
NO PLANS FOR U.S.-CHINA MEETING
The United States and Chinese state media have said there was no plan for Wang and Blinken to meet in Cambodia. Blinken earlier on Thursday met with counterparts from India, Qatar and host Cambodia.
China’s foreign ministry said a meeting between Wang and his Japanese counterpart in Cambodia had been cancelled, citing displeasure over a G7 statement urging China to resolve tension over Taiwan peacefully.
The ASEAN talks had been expected to focus on the bloc’s foundering diplomatic push to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, which has been in turmoil since the military seized power in a coup last year.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said ASEAN would be forced to reconsider a peace plan agreed with Myanmar if its military rulers executed more prisoners.
ASEAN has grown frustrated with the junta’s lack of progress, with ministers accusing it of making a mockery of ASEAN’s efforts. The bloc condemned Myanmar’s recent execution of four activists linked to a movement opposed to military rule, its first executions in decades.
The junta last week defended the executions as “justice for the people”, brushing off a barrage of international condemnation.
Britain’s minister for Asia, Amanda Milling, on Thursday “strongly condemned the recent appalling and barbaric executions” and said there was an urgent need for a peaceful solution to the Myanmar crisis, according to a statement.
Myanmar is an ASEAN member but its generals are barred from attending its meetings until progress in the ASEAN peace plan is demonstrated.
ASEAN and the United States both said they were working towards elevating their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Blinken said Washington wanted to work closer with ASEAN on an Indo-Pacific economic framework and increase its involvement in the Quad security dialogue.
“We’re eager for your ideas to advance that cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
(Reporting by Narin Sun and David Brunnstrom in Phnom Penh, Martin Pollard in Beijing; Writing by Ed Davies and Martin Petty; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Robert Birsel and Bernadette Baum)