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Southeast Asian leaders call for unity amid global tensions

Countries view US-China ties with major international summits in the Asia-Pacific region as strained.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for unity, respect and multilateralism at a summit that included China, Russia and the United States, saying current global tensions have created difficulties for all.

Hun Sen was speaking at the opening of the East Asia Summit (EAS), attended by 18 countries, in Phnom Penh, as Cambodia holds the rotating presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

He said he hoped the leaders would adopt a “spirit of togetherness to uphold open and inclusive multilateralism, pragmatism and mutual respect in addressing the existential and strategic challenges we all face.”

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While he did not select a country by name, there have been long-simmering tensions between the United States and China, with the latter working to expand its influence in the Asia-Pacific region and Washington firmly backing self-ruled Taiwan, which says Beijing.

“Many current challenges and tensions have been hampering our past hard-earned efforts to promote sustainable development and causing greater difficulties in people’s lives,” he said while opening the meeting, which is being held on the sidelines of the ASEAN main summit.

The 10-member ASEAN bloc includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The EAS brings together the ASEAN countries, as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

Tensions remain high between the US and China over Taiwan, while the Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted global supply chains, creating food shortages and energy crises around the world.

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US President Joe Biden and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended the event, a day before the long-awaited meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Group summit in Bali, Indonesia.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in attendance, as were the leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has vowed not to let Southeast Asia become the frontline of a new cold war as ties between the United States and China become strained. His country will assume the ASEAN presidency in 2023 and said the bloc would not become “a representative of any power.”

Biden promised Saturday at an annual meeting between the US and ASEAN that Washington would work with the Asian bloc, saying, “We are going to build a better future that we all want to see” and pledging to work together to build a region that is “free and open, stable and prosperous, resilient and secure”.

Li told a meeting of ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea that amid a “turbulent” global security situation, “unilateralism and protectionism are increasing, economic and financial risks are rising, and global development is faces unprecedented challenges.

He also said that, as major economies in East Asia, the group needed to “remain committed to promoting peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and beyond, and to improving the well-being of people.” ”.

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Biden met separately with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday to coordinate his response to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as to seek information. on managing China’s assertive posture in the Pacific region.

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North Korea has fired dozens of missiles in recent weeks, including an intercontinental ballistic missile 10 days ago that triggered evacuation alerts in northern Japan. Allies have warned of the imminent risk of the isolated country carrying out its seventh nuclear test in the coming weeks.

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