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East Asian countries should prevent region becoming Washington's playground: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-08-03 19:24

Since the ASEAN plus three meetings began in December 1997 with the convening of an informal summit among the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the 10+3 framework has become a vital expedient of East Asian cooperation, with a series of meetings held annually.

This year is no exception, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is attending several virtual meetings with the foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN members, Japan and the ROK from Tuesday to Friday.

In a parallel series of meetings, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is holding discussions with ASEAN foreign ministers via video link from Monday to Friday. The schedule was apparently drawn up by Washington in a hurry and then imposed on the Southeast Asian countries.

In other words, in a bid to ruin the 10+3 meetings on East Asian cooperation, the US has gone so far as to rush through a parallel series of meetings in a bid to pressure the ASEAN countries to toe the line on its strategy to contain China. Its condescending, if not bullying, manner in dealing with Southeast Asian countries is indicative of how it perceives them.

Instead of showing the US' long commitment to the region, as a briefing on his meetings claimed, Washington is attempting to tighten the screws on the ASEAN members.

That explains why the US cannot make real friends in the region. In contrast, China's friendship with these countries is based on profound historical and cultural connections.

No wonder none of the visits Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin paid to Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines over the past two months have made Washington rest assured that the ASEAN countries are committed to its anti-China crusade.

Unlike Washington, Beijing has never tried to force the Southeast Asian countries to choose one side or the other, and it has always treated them as good neighbors and equal partners.

Unlike the limited pandemic assistance the US has provided the region, which comes with political strings attached, China has unconditionally done its best to meet regional countries' demand for vaccines, and is supporting joint efforts to build a regional vaccine manufacturing and distribution center to promote vaccine accessibility and affordability in the region.

There are many right ways for the US to promote the region's development. But none of them involves trying to form exclusive cliques or the playing of zero-sum games, which is what the US has chosen to do.

Cooperation for common development and to jointly address challenges has always been the hallmark of the 10+3 meetings, and despite being held by video links, this year's meetings should continue to seek ways to promote common development and prosperity in the region. The participants should give the discord-sowing endeavors of the US a cold shoulder so as to safeguard the region's long-term peace and stability.

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