Ukraine war, North Korean missile launch eclipse APEC summit

By Lobsang DS Subirana

Bangkok, Nov 18 (EFE).- Members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum issued a joint statement Friday condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine, in a summit also overshadowed by North Korea’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch near Japanese territorial waters.

The statement from the 21 participating nations echoed the one published following the G20 meeting earlier this week in Bali, Indonesia, and demanded that Moscow cease its occupation of the neighboring state.

“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks,” the statement read.

It said some parties had “other views and assessments” of the conflict and sanctions, adding that though the forum is an economic platform, discussions on the war came with the acknowledgment that security issues affect the world economy.

United States State Secretary Anthony Blinken said Thursday at the summit that Russian President Vladimir Putin refused for his country to retreat, adding that he was instead worsening the situation with his attacks.

“… Putin continues to ignore global calls for de-escalation, choosing instead to escalate, raining down scores of missiles on infrastructure across Ukraine that provides heat, water and light to millions of civilians,” Blinken said.

The Russian president, who did not attend the summit, sent his First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov instead, as did American President Joe Biden, represented by Vice President Kamala Harris.

French President Emmanuel Macron, at the event as a guest, said Moscow’s campaign was an aggression against international rules,” and called on countries to focus on peace and stability.

He added that Asian economies shouldn’t be torn between siding with China or the US, adding that there should instead be a “unique world order.”

Blinken on Thursday said he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to healthy competition.

“We’ll continue to compete vigorously with (China),” Blinken said. He said the US would however not allow that to devolve into conflict.

The forum’s start was eclipsed by North Korea’s missile launch Friday afternoon, an hour prior to its inauguration, leading representatives to urgently meet on the summit sidelines at Harris’ request.

Harris, along with the leaders of New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, Australia and Japan said they condemned the move, with the American vice president calling it “a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the frequency of North Korea’s launches – the latest of which landed near his country’s territorial waters – were unprecedented, adding that the acts were a provocation.

The launch is one of the more than 30 missiles Pyongyang has deployed this month, a response to joint maneuvers conducted by Seoul and Washington.

While the event in Thailand was a much awaited diplomatic encounter by many following the Covid-19 pandemic, others were dissatisfied with the country’s leadership and those participating in the forum.

Protests erupted at Democracy Monument 10 kilometers away from the Queen Sirikit Convention Center where the event was being held, with pro-democracy demonstrators demanding a flurry of political reforms including the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping were also targeted by protesters who displayed “wanted, dead or alive” posters with the pair’s and Prayut’s faces.

Organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said at least 25 people had been arrested following violent clashes with police, who they said used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds; and barricaded streets near the summit venue days in advance in anticipation of protests.

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