China should consider the West’s strong response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in its own calculations on Taiwan, a former Singaporean diplomat told CNBC on Friday.
“I hope so, the great powers of our region, China in particular, have noted the very united and strong western reaction and [China] will include it in its calculations for Taiwan, the South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands, “Bilahari Kausikan, a former permanent secretary of Singapore’s State Department, told CNBC. Street signs Asia.
China claims autonomous Taiwan as part of its territory, although the island has been governed independently of China since 1949.
Beijing also has a number of territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea, including with Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China also claims the Senkaku Islands – known on the mainland as the Diaoyu Islands – which are under Japanese control.
The former diplomat spoke in connection with President Joe Biden’s Meeting with Southeast Asia Leaders which ends on Friday.
Southeast Asian nations are not the tools of the West, and relations with the United States act as a counterpoint to relations with China, says a Singaporean top diplomat, as ASEAN leaders, who are seen being welcomed here in the White House by US President Joe Biden, hold a special US Summit (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Speaking about the two-day special ASEAN summit in Washington DC, Kausikan said the meeting was proof of a “return to normal” for US diplomacy after the “irregular” Trump years.
“Trump was a bit of an aberration because the United States has been pretty consistent in engaging in Southeast Asia for many decades,” said Kausikan, who now chairs the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.
He also rejected proposals that ASEAN is a “tool of the West” in its rivalry with China.
“We are not anyone’s tools.” he said, referring to the Southeast Asian bloc consisting of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We see China as a means of governing relations with the United States and Europe; and we see Europe and the United States as a means of governing our relations with China,” he said, noting that Southeast Asia had been a arena of great power. competition for centuries.
He said the timing of the ASEAN summit – where a US trade framework is among the topics expected to be discussed – also proves that the US is not distracted from its focus on the Indo-Pacific.
“Trade is a very sensitive issue in US domestic policy, and ASEAN leaders understand that,” he said. “In our part of the world, trade is strategy.”
Regarding rivalry between the United States and China, Kausikan said it is unrealistic to expect Western “decoupling” from China, a term that refers to a gradual disruption of economic and trade relations between China and the West.
The United States and Europe are currently trying to redirect supply chains to reduce their dependence on Chinese manufacturing.
“I think it’s a fantasy. No one can disconnect from China, not even the United States,” he said, adding that a “partial decoupling” in areas with national security implications could be possible.
The chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arsjad Rasjid, told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia that Indonesia and other ASEAN countries do not want to have to take sides.
“We want to be friends with the United States, we want to be friends with China,” Rasjid said.
He also acknowledged that “the United States has been missing in action,” saying the summit marked a new beginning.
Speaking about the Southeast Asian nations to choose sides, Kausikan said: “I do not think any of the ASEAN countries see the election as a simplified, binary choice between the United States and China. There is no reason why we should not have good political relations, not just economic relations. “
Kausikan said there is a growing recognition that close ties with China will “compromise autonomy” unless accompanied by close ties with the United States.