Asean takes center stage: Indonesia urges bloc to avoid proxy role in global rivalry

Jakarta, July 14 (EFE).- Indonesian President Joko Widodo Friday emphasized that Asean should not be used as a proxy by any nation as Jakarta hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from Southeast Asian bloc member states and high-ranking diplomats from the rivals United States, China, and Russia.

In a powerful speech, Widodo highlighted the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a dialogue forum and called on the other countries to work to avoid “zero-sum” policies and uphold respect for international laws.

“Asean must not become an arena for competition and become a proxy for any country, always consistently respect international law,” the Indonesian president said.

Widodo recognized the immense growth potential within the Southeast Asian bloc, stating that the Southeast Asian bloc remained “committed to continuing to strengthen unity and solidarity and strengthening Asean’s centrality in maintaining peace and stability in the region.”

During the inauguration of the East Asia Ministerial Meeting, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi warned about the risks of a “Cold War” in the Indo-Pacific.

She warned that the region should not be transformed into another battleground and emphasized the need for stability.

“Some say that the Indo-Pacific is experiencing symptoms of a Cold War in hotspots. The Indo-Pacific should not be another battleground,” she said. “There is no time, I repeat, there is no time for vague actions.”

Marsudi stressed that the region “must remain stable,” urging the leaders to make the Indo-Pacific “not only a net contributor to growth but also a contributor to peace.”

The meetings in Jakarta brought together influential global leaders such as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the European Union’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell.

The foreign ministers from these countries and others, such as Japan, South Korea, India, and Australia, held bilateral meetings on Thursday.

Among the highlights of these meetings was a rendezvous between Blinken and Wang to reduce tensions between the US and China.

Borrell is also scheduled to meet with Wang, whose country has strongly criticized the NATO summit held this week in the capital of Lithuania.

The ongoing war in Ukraine due to the Russian invasion, the crisis in Myanmar, the nuclear threat from North Korea, and territorial disputes between Beijing and other countries in the South China Sea are among the issues being discussed at the Asean meeting in Jakarta.

Representatives of the Myanmar military junta are barred from major Asean meetings due to their unwillingness to engage in dialogue to resolve the conflict triggered by the military coup in February 2021.

Asean, founded in 1967, is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. It has set a roadmap for the inclusion of East Timor this year.

The Asean Security Forum, which addresses political and security issues, includes, in addition to the bloc’s members, Australia, Canada, China, the EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the United States.

Other members include Bangladesh, North Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor.

The East Asia Summit, focused on political, economic, and environmental issues, comprises 18 nations, including ASEAN members, major Asia-Pacific countries, and the US.

The foreign ministerial meeting in Jakarta is a prelude to the leaders’ summit that Asean and its partner countries will hold in September. EFE


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