Amid heightened competition between Beijing and Washington for influence in the region, China is hosting foreign ministers from ten ASEAN nations this week.
The meeting takes place Tuesday in the Chongqing megacity and will cover issues on restoring tourism and other economic exchanges heavily affected by the pandemic, coordinated strategies in fighting the pandemic, and the feasibility of creating a vaccine passport to allow more free traveling within the region.
BEIJING — Despite frictions with some of them over rival territorial claims in South China Sea, Beijing has been building influence with the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to meet separately with each of his counterparts on the sidelines of the conference.
The Philippines has repeatedly complained over the presence of Chinese boats moored at a reef that it claims and Malaysia last week protested over an intrusion by 16 Chinese military aircraft into its airspace, calling the incident a “serious threat to national sovereignty and flight safety”.
Somehow Chinese economic and diplomatic consignments have helped override such concerns. The bloc meanwhile, has been unable to form a unified stand regarding Cambodia.
”Over the past three decades, China-ASEAN cooperation has grown in leaps and bounds, becoming the most successful and dynamic example of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, announcing the meeting.
“The fact that the two sides agreed to hold a face-to-face special foreign ministers’ meeting despite the ongoing grim COVID-19 situation reflects how countries attach great importance to and hold high expectations of China-ASEAN relations under the new circumstances,” Wang says.
The US expressed concerns over China’s growing presence, particularly its impact on security and Beijing’s political influence over fragile democracies. It maintains strong relations with the region and an active naval presence in the South China Sea, which China calls the biggest threat to security in the region. Beijing calls out the US’s freedom of navigation operations as it insistently sails close to Chinese-held features.
Meanwhile, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday and focused on China’s construction of new facilities at Ream Naval Base. It urged Cambodia’s leadership to maintain an independent and balanced foreign policy, “in the best interest of the Cambodian people”.
Also, Beijing strongly protests strengthened relations between the US and Taiwan, the self-governing island China claims is part of its territory, threatening to use military force to bring it under its control.
Washington sent a strong message of support on Sunday when three senators flew to Taipei on an Air Force transport plane to announce the US will give Taiwan 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine after the island complained that China is hindering its efforts to secure vaccines as it battles an outbreak.
Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois made a three-hour stop in Taiwan with fellow Democrat Christopher Coons of Delaware and Republican Dan Sullivan of Alaska. Senator Duckworth said their visit underscores bipartisan US backing for the democratic island. (RA/Headline PH)