ASEAN, G20 summits: As US, China meet, rest of world is pressed to pick a side

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World leaders gather in Phnom Penh this weekend for the first of an international summit in Southeast Asia next week, as divisions and clashes between major powers threaten to scuttle talks.

The first stop is the Cambodian capital, where Indo-Pacific leaders will meet on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, followed by the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali next week. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Bangkok.

The overlapping diplomatic composition will test the international will to coordinate on climate change, global inflation, rising food prices due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. – In 2020, three events are being held in person for the first time since the outbreak began.

The war in Ukraine has dramatically changed Russia’s relationship with the West, the US and China, two of the world’s top economies, are intensifying competition, and the rest of the world is experiencing a sharp geopolitical divide that has not been seen in decades. is pressed to select a side.

It remains unclear whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin will make any appearance at the diplomatic meeting. US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to attend the two summits in Southeast Asia, which have been a hotbed of influence between Beijing and Washington.

Xi Jinping has re-emerged on the world stage after a years absence during the pandemic to win a third term in power, while Biden is heading east after his party’s better-than-expected performance in the US midterm elections. Both hope to position their country as a stronger partner and a more responsible global actor than the other.

The White House said Thursday that they will meet face-to-face on Monday at the G20 meeting, the first in-person meeting since Biden’s election. Beijing on Friday confirmed Xi’s plans to attend the G20 and APEC summits, where he will hold bilateral meetings with Biden and several other leaders.

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Talks between the two could prevent tensions between the powers. But for leaders meeting at a summit in the coming days, striking strong deals on global issues will be a difficult negotiation at the best of times.

Phnom Penh police officers block traffic around the venue for the November 10 ASEAN summit.

Analysts say that even the most regional meeting of Southeast Asian leaders, which begins Friday in Phnom Penh, will reflect the divisive nature of global politics.

But unlike other major meetings where the fallout from the Ukraine war could be more closely discussed, ASEAN leaders are attending this weekend’s summit and related meetings under pressure to resolve conflicts within their bloc. Myanmar remains in turmoil and military rule nearly two years after a brutal coup toppled a democratically elected government.

Disagreements among Southeast Asian nations over how to manage the conflict, along with the confrontation with the superpowers and the alliance’s perceived positioning between the United States and China, will affect how much the group can negotiate. What can it do within the context of the summit, say experts.

“In general, this season will be very exciting,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. You will have three major world summits in Southeast Asia: Phnom Penh, Bali, and Bangkok.

“But (ASEAN) is very divided over Russian aggression, the Myanmar coup crisis and China’s hostility in the South China Sea, which means ASEAN is in bad shape,” he said.

Thailand, Laos and Vietnam abstained from last month’s UN vote, which condemned Russia’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine, including seven of 10 ASEAN countries, including the unbacked proxy of Myanmar’s ruling military.

But ASEAN, as a bloc, also took steps to strengthen ties with Kiev at an event this week. signed a friendship and cooperation agreement Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba at a ceremony in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

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The alliance aims to use the consensus of its countries as its strength in bringing major global players to the table, such as the East Asia Summit, which brings together 18 Indo-Pacific countries including Russia, China and the United States. see you this weekend.

“If ASEAN cannot put its house in order, if ASEAN cannot rein in a rogue member like Myanmar’s military regime, ASEAN will become irrelevant,” Pongsudirak said. “On the other hand, if ASEAN is united, if it can consolidate and resolve its commitments … it will have a lot of pulling power.”

Almost two years after a military coup crushed Myanmar’s fledgling democracy, the country’s freedoms and liberties have deteriorated dramatically, human rights groups and observers say. state executions returned, and the ruling military junta increased the number of violent attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools.

Numerous armed rebel groups have emerged against the ruling military junta, while millions of people are protesting his rule in the form of civil disobedience.

Summits in Phnom Penh over the weekend will thrust the conflict back into the international spotlight as Southeast Asian leaders try to find a way forward after Myanmar’s ruling junta failed to implement a peace plan negotiated in April last year. Although the country remains part of ASEAN, it has been barred from sending political-level delegations to major events, despite rights groups calling for it to leave.

Protesters build and secure temporary barricades to block roads during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, in March 2021.

Asean foreign ministers made a last-ditch effort to come up with a strategy late last month, which Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, who chaired the meeting, said in a statement afterward that it “stems from decades of Myanmar’s complications and complications.” The long-standing conflict has been exacerbated by the current political crisis.”

But observers have little expectation of a tougher stance, at least as long as Cambodia holds the union’s presidency, with Indonesia expected to take over next year in 2023.

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Addressing the “ongoing crisis” will be the focus of Biden’s talks with Southeast Asian leaders at the ASEAN summit this weekend, the White House said on Tuesday. Since the coup, the Biden administration has imposed sanctions against the military regime and held meetings with the opposition Government of National Unity.

China, on the other hand, is unlikely to support tougher measures because of its support for the ruling military junta, observers say. A months-long investigation into the situation in Myanmar released last month by a team of international lawmakers accused Russia and China of “providing both arms and legitimacy to another isolated regime.”

Chong Jah Ian, associate professor and political scientist at the National University of Singapore, said that could also affect the results this weekend.

“Because Russia and (the Chinese) support the junta, any resolution effort by ASEAN will require some form of engagement with them, whether it’s buy-in or simply not opposing it,” Chong said.

The Myanmar crisis is not the only area where the US and China could be divided at the ASEAN summit, including China’s aggression in the South China Sea, a territory Beijing claims in dispute with several Southeast Asian countries. less important this year.

Asean will hold its regular summit with the US, China and other countries, and China’s second-in-command, economy-focused Premier Li Keqiang, arrived earlier this week as Xi Jinping’s representative.

As Southeast Asian leaders seek to strengthen their economic stability, they may be concerned about the impact of the US-China rivalry on the region and its trade and supply chains, including after the US ban on semiconductor exports. According to Chong, to China.

“Asean countries will find a way to manage all of this and find out what opportunities are available to both Beijing and Washington,” he said.


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