During the talks in Jakarta, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated his commitment to Southeast Asian countries in their stance against “coercion”, pointing specifically to China.
During his meeting with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta on Friday, he stressed the importance of an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, prosperous, secure, connected and resilient.
Blinken stressed the need to resolve issues through open dialogue rather than coercion, giving countries the freedom to choose their own paths and partners.
They also stressed the need to maintain freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas as well as peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea have led to rising tensions between China and Southeast Asian countries, especially Vietnam and the Philippines.
Maritime incidents have escalated, and tensions have risen over Taiwan, which Beijing claims control of and has not ruled out using force to control.
However, Indonesia, as host, cautioned against ASEAN becoming a battleground for global powers, stressing the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region.
During the talks, efforts were made to prevent the escalation of differences between the major powers. Blinken held a meeting with Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, where they discussed various issues including cyber security and the need to improve bilateral ties.
In contrast, Blinken chose not to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after the US accused Russia of a lack of genuine interest in diplomatic solutions to the conflict in Ukraine.
The discussion also touched upon the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, with Blinken urging the military junta to step up pressure to stop violence and implement ASEAN’s five-point consensus for the restoration of democratic rule.
Myanmar’s military regime was not invited to the talks, and ASEAN is calling for a peaceful resolution of the situation in the country.
Overall, the talks aim to strengthen cooperation among ASEAN countries, address regional challenges, and navigate the complex dynamics between major global powers in the Indo-Pacific region.
The focus was on promoting a rules-based international order, respecting sovereignty and ensuring peace, prosperity and freedom from coercion in the region.