World

US-China rivalry set to steal summit limelight

Smaller countries will say their usual lines and then take cover as Washington and Beijing fight

HANOI • The US-China rivalry is set to dominate discussions as the foreign ministers of 10 South-East Asian countries begin an online summit yesterday, with Washington’s top diplomat ready to take aim at Beijing’s “bullying” in the South China Sea.

The summit comes just days after China launched ballistic missiles in the flashpoint waters as part of live-fire exercises and as Washington and Beijing clash over a range of issues from trade to the coronavirus.

Ministers will be joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for their first summit since the US announced sanctions on Chinese companies over Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters.

The resource-rich South China Sea is claimed in its entirety by Beijing but is also contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

A fresh spat between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal — one of the region’s richest fishing grounds — also hangs over the talks. “The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbours,” Pompeo said ahead of the summit.

Tensions over the Korean Peninsula will also be high on the agenda. Talks between Pyongyang and Washington on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal have been stalled since the collapse of a Hanoi summit between leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump last year.

The coronavirus pandemic is set to feature heavily in discussions, after Vietnam, the current chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, warned at a meeting in June that the fallout from the virus had swept away years of economic gains in the region.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in the opening remarks that “people and enterprises are suffering from huge losses” and “the geopolitical environment, regional economy, including that of the East Sea (South China Sea), are experiencing several upheavals, influencing peace and stability”.

The “power rivalry” between the US and China will likely steal the limelight, a senior South-East Asian diplomat told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The US and China will likely use the meetings as a platform to throw everything at each other,” he said. Smaller countries will “say their usual lines” and then take cover as Washington and Beijing fight, he added.

Friction between the two powers is already high over trade, blame for the coronavirus pandemic and China’s policies in Hong Kong, where Beijing has imposed a draconian national security law.

There is also angst that the virus may have provided cover for China to make new plays in the South China Sea.

Zachary Abuza, an expert on South-East Asian politics at the National War College in Washington, said there is unlikely to be much progress in talks over the disputed waters.

“China has effectively used Covid-19 assistance and promises of vaccines — and trials in the Philippines and Indonesia — to really try to quash any diplomatic momentum towards a discussion of the South China Sea,” he told AFP.—AFP

Dzul

Recent Posts

CelcomDigi, TIME dotCom to offer affordable internet access

CelcomDigi supports the government’s aspirations to reduce the cost of living, primarily for Internet services…

1 min ago

Starting school at 8am not MOE’s priority for now, says Fadhlina

The issue of starting school sessions in the Peninsula at 8 am is not the…

21 mins ago

Samsung launches Galaxy S23 Ultra with most advanced 200MP camera

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra equipped with 200 megapixels (MP) main camera offers the most advanced…

41 mins ago

For Mankind’s sake, remember that anniversary

The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to remember things but technology advancement…

1 hour ago

Total says Adani exposure is just 2.4% of capital employed

France’s TotalEnergies SE said its exposure to Adani Group companies was $3.1 billion of capital…

2 hours ago

Free shuttle bus services from KL Sentral to the Parliament for MPs, staff – Anthony Loke

Free shuttle bus services from KL Sentral to the Parliament building will be provided for…

2 hours ago