Southeast Asia Summit starts marked by tensions between China, US

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- The virtual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) began Thursday in Hanoi marked by tensions between China and the United States, the signing of a large trade agreement and economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the opening ceremony, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that 75 years after World War II, peace and security “this year are under greater threat” due to the behavior of the US, the rivalry between the great powers and the questioning of multilateral systems.

The US, which is also participating in this summit, has in recent months condemned Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea, where fishing boats from Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia have denounced the harassment of Chinese vessels.

However, at this ASEAN summit, which ends Sunday, they will not have to sit nearby, as the meetings will be held by videoconference due to the pandemic.

Washington is perceived as a counterweight to Beijing’s actions, especially after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent trip to Indonesia, when he stressed that “law-abiding nations reject the illegal claims of the Chinese Communist Party in the South China Sea.”

China claims 80 percent of the sea for itself, including the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, in dispute with Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as special economic zones claimed by these countries in Indonesia.

Phuc said “peace and security are essential for economic recovery,” another of the axes of this summit, which will close Sunday with the creation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Association (RCEP), a trade treaty that would create the world’s largest economic alliance.

China is the main promoter of the RCEP, a powerful treaty that would unite a third of the world economy and that includes Australia, South Korea, Japan, India, New Zealand and the 10 members of ASEAN, comprising Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Phuc said a comprehensive economic recovery plan will be adopted at this summit to alleviate the effects of the pandemic, with the emphasis on stabilizing supply chains, the recovery of trade and the possible launching of an air corridor between the ASEAN countries. EFE-EPA


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