ASEAN warns of the dangers of Taiwan’s “miscalculation”, ready to help with dialogue

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Southeast Asia’s ASEAN bloc warned on Thursday that the volatility caused by tensions in the Taiwan Strait could lead to “miscalculation, dangerous confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences between major powers”.

The comments by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in a statement of their foreign ministers came after Cambodia’s president urged all parties to de-escalate tensions over Taiwan.

Developments in Taiwan overshadowed the meeting in Phnom Penh of the 10-member bloc, which was joined by a number of senior officials from other countries including China and the United States, after the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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“ASEAN stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue among all parties,” ASEAN said, calling for maximum restraint and refraining from provocations.

Pelosi’s trip, the highest US visit to self-ruled Taiwan in 25 years, sparked outrage in China, which responded with a series of military exercises and other activities in the region. Read more

Southeast Asian countries tend to take a cautious approach in trying to balance their relations with China and the United States, lest they irritate any of the major powers.

Speaking in Phnom Penh, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described Pelosi’s visit as “crazy, irresponsible and highly irrational,” China’s CCTV reported. Read more

Pelosi has dismissed Chinese criticism of her visit and a senior US official said on Wednesday that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken raised the possibility of a visit with Wang last month. Read more

Chinese state media said there was no plan to hold Wang and Blinken’s meeting in Cambodia.

China’s Foreign Ministry said a meeting between Wang and his Japanese counterpart on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting was canceled due to dissatisfaction with the G7 statement, which urged China to resolve the tension over Taiwan peacefully. Read more

Blinken did not raise Pelosi’s visit on Thursday, telling reporters in Cambodia.

After meeting his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanam Jaishankar, Blinken praised “the shared vision… for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Blinken, who is among 27 foreign ministers due to join a security meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum on Friday, said his talks with Jaishankar covered “the situation in Sri Lanka, Burma and a number of other hot spots”.

Myanmar pay

The ASEAN talks were expected to focus on the bloc’s faltering diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, also known as Burma, which has been in turmoil since the military seized power in a coup last year.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that ASEAN will have to reconsider an agreed peace plan with Myanmar if its military rulers execute more prisoners.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations pushed Myanmar’s military junta to follow a peace “consensus” agreed last year and condemned its recent execution of four activists linked to a movement opposed to military rule, its first executions in decades.

Myanmar’s military junta last week defended the executions as “justice for the people”, ignoring a barrage of international condemnation. Read more

Myanmar is a member of ASEAN but is not represented at this week’s meetings after its military rejected a proposal to send a representative from outside the junta. ASEAN banned the generals until progress on the peace plan was demonstrated.

Some ASEAN members have been more vocal in their criticism of Myanmar.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Myanmar had “disrespected” peace efforts.

“Without any progress on this front, further engagement with Myanmar’s military authorities will be of limited value,” the Singapore ministry said.

However, some analysts and diplomats are questioning what other measures ASEAN, which has a tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, would be willing to take against Myanmar.

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(Reporting by Naren Sun and David Bronstrom in Phnom Penh and Martin Pollard in Beijing; Writing by Ed Davies. Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Robert Persell

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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