The United States, China and Japan discussed maritime security at a regional summit on Wednesday, with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attending the online meeting for the first time since taking office.
The virtual meeting of the East Asian Summit took place as tensions between the United States and China have recently increased over several issues in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the South and East China seas and the Taiwan Strait.
Biden’s participation in the meeting underlined that the United States is eager to regain influence in the region, while China has sought to strengthen relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor, was absent from the regional summit all four years he was president, and has been criticized for his alleged lack of interest in Southeast Asia.
Biden noted the US’ “enduring” commitment to the Indo-Pacific, expressed concern about “threats” to the international rules-based order and vowed to stand alongside allies and partners in support of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of the seas, the White House said.
The United States, together with partners, will explore “the development of an Indo-Pacific economic framework”, incorporating their “common objectives” around trade facilitation, digital economy and technology standards, supply chain resilience, clean energy, infrastructure and other areas, would be defined. Biden was quoted as saying.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has built a number of artificial islands with military infrastructure there. The United States has responded by sending warships into the waters to assert its right to freedom of navigation.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang at the summit expressed his dismay at the US’s actions at sea, saying that thanks to the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, “the situation in the South China Sea has maintained overall stability and that there has never been a problem with freedom of navigation and overflight,” the official Xinhua News Agency said.
While he said that maintaining peace, stability and freedom of navigation and overflight at sea serves the common interests of all parties, Li expressed the hope that all parties will support regional countries to turn the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, the news agency said.
After the summit, Kishida, who became prime minister in early October, told reporters that he has conveyed Japan’s “determined stance” on maritime security in the South and East China seas to leaders of other countries.
Kishida added that he also addressed the issue of China’s alleged human rights violations against the Muslim Uyghur minority in western Xinjiang, the crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong and the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. when he attended a meeting. series of ASEAN-related summits on the same day.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a virtual ASEAN-plus-three summit on October 27, 2021. (Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office) (Kyodo)
China has conflicting territorial claims with four ASEAN members – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – and with Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than a third of world trade flows.
Beijing also claims the Senkakus, a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea administered by Japan. China has regularly sent its coastguard ships near the chain of islets it calls Diaoyu.
The Japanese government said that during the meeting, some countries expressed concern about the situation in the South China Sea and about human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
The crisis in Myanmar, in which political confusion has continued since the military overthrew the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in the February coup, was also apparently a key agenda item at the East Asia Summit.
The East Asia Summit consists of ASEAN — which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia , South Korea and the United States.
However, Myanmar’s military leader was barred from the meeting after the junta refused to allow an ASEAN special envoy to meet Suu Kyi and other opposition figures.
Kishida expressed his eagerness to work to address the situation in Myanmar, including through the provision of humanitarian aid.
As for Taiwan, Biden said late last week that the United States is determined to defend the self-ruled democratic island if China attacks it, apparently contradicting Washington’s long-standing policy of keeping its stance on the issue ambiguous.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was quick to respond to Biden’s comments, saying: “No one should express the strong determination, determination and ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” underestimate.”
China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 as a result of a civil war.
Relations have deteriorated since independence-seeking Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s president in 2016. The mainland regards the island as a renegade province.
US regulator revokes authorization of US unit of China Telecom
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida pledges to strengthen Japan-ASEAN ties amid China’s assertiveness
ASEAN holds summit without Myanmar, examines balanced approach