Taiwan Tension Trailer at ASEAN Meet

Tensions were apparent at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh as the Chinese government’s top diplomat Wang Yi walked away before the start of a gala dinner. This came amid tense relations between China and Taiwan following the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei. Yi was seen leaving in a vehicle from the location where Secretary of State S Jaishankar was meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Wang Yi waved at the media as he entered a waiting room for dinner and then walked out of the room for no reason, according to Reuters journalists. Two witnesses working at the site told the news agency that Wang Yi was seen leaving in a vehicle. The dinner was attended by more than a dozen foreign ministers, Blinken, Japan’s Yoshimasa Hayashi and senior diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Before the gala dinner, Jaishankar had said India and the 10-nation group ASEAN have “strong convergence” on the Indo-Pacific, countering the threat of terrorism and developments in Ukraine and Myanmar. He went on to say that India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also have similar views on connectivity projects, coping with the Covid-19 pandemic and cybersecurity issues.

The foreign minister made the remarks after attending a ministerial meeting between India and ASEAN.

In another tweet, Jaishankar said the digital domain, health, agriculture, education and green growth are the areas driving the partnership between the two sides. “Digital, health, agricultural education and green growth will drive our partnership. Act East is steadily unfolding,” he said.

Blinken said the US and India are strong supporters of ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific, according to the US State Department. “We are both strong supporters of ASEAN centrality. Together we have a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific that we are working towards every day in so many different ways,” said Blinken.

“And of course we have some immediate challenges that we are both concerned about, including the situation in Sri Lanka, Burma and a number of other hot spots,” he said. “So I’m really looking forward to going through some of these issues with my boyfriend again, and then we’ll both go to our meetings.”

Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is the country coordinator for India in ASEAN. It is well known that the dialogue between Indian foreign ministers and ASEAN focused on general developments in the Indo-Pacific region and ways to further expand ties against the background of geopolitical developments, including the crisis in Ukraine.

Foreign ministers also discussed the situation in the South China Sea, a resource-rich region that has witnessed increasing Chinese muscle spasms. It is known that the meeting also underlined the need to follow the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the South China Sea area.

ASEAN is considered one of the most influential groups in the region. India and several other countries including the US, China, Japan and Australia are the dialogue partners. Dialogue relations between ASEAN and India started with the establishment of a sectoral partnership in 1992. This culminated in a full dialogue partnership in December 1995 and a top-level partnership in 2002.

The ties were elevated to a strategic partnership in 2012. ASEAN is central to India’s East Policy Act and its vision of the wider Indo-Pacific. ASEAN includes Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Myanmar. In June, India hosted the special meeting of ASEAN-Indian foreign ministers in New Delhi to mark the 30th anniversary of its relations with the group.

At the meeting in Phnom Penh, developments in Sri Lanka and Myanmar were prominently discussed. Last month, Sri Lanka witnessed massive political unrest following mass protests that forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country. Veteran leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new president in hopes of recovery from economic problems.

Western powers were vexed over the execution of four pro-democracy activists by Myanmar’s military government last month.

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