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ASEAN Foreign Ministers Debate Regional Security and Development, Amidst External Threats

July 13, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—Jakarta, Indonesia is the site over July 11-14 of a series of meetings among foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the China-ASEAN-10+1 and the Russia-ASEAN foreign ministers meeting on the fifth anniversary of the signing of their strategic partnership. There was a good deal of diplomatic activity on the sidelines of these events as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, China’s top foreign policy diplomat Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, and India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, among others, were also in attendance. The ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting today was chaired by Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

The emphasis during the meeting was on the need to strengthen regional security and cooperation among ASEAN member nations, given NATO’s expansion into Asia and an increasingly difficult global geopolitical and financial situation. Food and energy security are also top items on the agenda. In its editorial today, China’s semi-official Global Times warned that U.S. policy is to provoke confrontation in the South China Sea and that Secretary of State Blinken would try to persuade ASEAN nations that they must counter China’s actions there, as well as to condemn Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi was expected to propose something similar regarding China.

For this reason, Global Times warned, it is important for ASEAN “to strengthen its vigilance against external forces instigating trouble, as this has become the most serious external threat that could undermine the cooperation environment and development momentum between ASEAN and regional countries.” External forces will intensify their involvement in East Asian affairs in the future, it added, with methods that “will be more covert and deceptive,” including promoting decoupling, provoking friction and fostering confrontation “in order to entice regional countries into joining the camp that seeks to contain and restrain China.”

In her opening remarks July 11 to the foreign ministers’ plenary, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi warned that “we need to send a clear message that ASEAN will never be a proxy in great powers’ rivalry,” and vowed that “as a friend of both Russia and Ukraine,” Indonesia will work tirelessly to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.

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