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China warns ASEAN members not to be used as 'chess pieces'

July 11, 2022

China's foreign minister urged Southeast Asian countries to "insulate the region from geopolitical calculations." Meanwhile, the US urged ASEAN nations to put more pressure on Myanmar to return to democracy.

Philippinen Villamor Airbase in Pasay | Wang Yi, Außenminister China
Image: Jam Sta Rosa/AP Photo/picture alliance

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi on Monday warned Southeast Asian countries against being used as "chess pieces" by major powers as he spoke at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Southeast Asia has long seen geopolitical friction because of its strategic importance to major powers. Most recently, some countries have been wary of choosing sides in the US-China rivalry.

What did the Chinese foreign minister say?

"We should insulate this region from geopolitical calculations… from being used as chess pieces from major power rivalry and from coercion," Wang said, adding that many countries in the region were facing pressure to take sides in a region at risk of being "reshaped by political factors."

"The future of our region should be in our own hands."

Wang's speech at the ASEAN Secretariat follows a G20 foreign ministers' meeting on the resort island of Bali. Wang met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for talks on the sidelines of the summit.

US laments lack of action on Myanmar

A day earlier, Blinken urged China and ASEAN members to put pressure on Myanmar and facilitate its return to democracy, in line with a peace deal agreed with the group.

"It is incumbent on China and in China's interest to see Burma move back to the path it was on," Blinken said, using Myanmar's former name. He was speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand during a tour of Asia.

"The ASEAN countries need to hold the regime accountable for that ... continue to demand the cessation of violence and release of prisoners," he added.

Desperate Myanmar people flee to escape civil war

Last year, ASEAN's nine members and Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing signed an agreement that included immediate cessation of violence and dialogue among all parties.

"I think it's unfortunately safe to say that we've seen no positive movement," Blinken said. "On the contrary, we continue to see the repression of the Burmese people who continue to see violence perpetrated by the regime."

Myanmar's military junta has increased pressure against ethnic minorities since a democratically-elected government was overthrown in a coup last year. Last week, a Myanmar jet breached Thailand’s airspace, prompting the country to scramble F-16 fighters.

see/rc (Reuters, AP)