TOKYO (YOMIURI SHIMBUN / Asia News Network) – regrets that a meeting aimed at stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region has become an arena of competition for hegemony between the United States and China.
A situation in which participating countries are divided into two camps, on the side of the United States or China, should be avoided.
The foreign ministers of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus those of Japan, the United States, China and other nations, met online.
The meeting was the first opportunity for the United States and China to have a direct dialogue after the United States completely rejected China’s claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea. But the meeting ended in an exchange of criticism.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China’s “aggressive actions” in the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, noting that the United States has sent warships and military aircraft, including an aircraft carrier, claimed that the United States is “the most dangerous factor undermining peace in the South China Sea.”
The United States and China held separate meetings with the Azan member countries and fought to win them over to their side.
The United States said it would fully support the recovery of the regional economy, which has been hit by the coronavirus disaster, while China promised to provide vaccines to Asian countries on a priority basis.
The United States and China need to consider the fact that Asian member states are caught in a dilemma between the major powers and feel deepening anxiety.
While the Philippines and Vietnam, among others, are competing with China for sovereignty in the South China Sea, their economies depend on China.
Indonesia’s foreign minister said the US-China conflict was not beneficial to any country and called for a peaceful solution.
Largely, the escalation of tensions in the South China Sea stems from China ignoring the rule of law and accelerating its efforts to build artificial islands in the South China Sea to make them military bases.
China launched ballistic missiles in August and in September it resumed its military exercises there. China must stop its unilateral actions to change the status quo.
Also, the United States should facilitate communications with China and make efforts to ease tensions.
If the United States escalates its military countermeasures in the South China Sea, Asian members would be cautious, thus giving China room to take advantage of the situation.
The fear is also that US President Donald Trump will use his hardline policy towards China to strengthen his support ahead of the November presidential election.
It is important for the United States to engage in regional peace and prosperity, rather than using its relationship with Asean as a means of keeping China under control.
At the last online meeting, with China’s actions in mind, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi expressed a sense of urgency over the current situation in the East China Sea and South China Sea, calling for “constructive action to improve the situation.” .
The South China Sea is an important sea lane and ensuring freedom of navigation is in Japan’s national interest.
Japan needs to strengthen its ties with the United States and Asia and contribute to maintaining stability in the South China Sea through international cooperation.
Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of media partner The Straits Times, the Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organizations.
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