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ASEAN countries uphold amity and cooperation in the face of coercive pressuring by Washington

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-07-16 19:10


Speaking at a meeting with his Southeast Asian counterparts in Indonesia on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations "share a vision of a free, open, prosperous, secure, connected and resilient 'Indo-Pacific'," in which all countries in the region are "free to choose their own paths and partners", and that issues can be resolved openly rather than through coercion.

He was clearly attempting to rally ASEAN members to the US banner. But his entreaty has not been answered, as the ASEAN countries are holding him to his word and choosing their own path, which is not to choose sides between the US and China.

This was made clear by Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who told reporters ahead of the ASEAN Regional Forum on Friday that the ASEAN countries do not want to be divided or vassal states, "or worse, an arena for proxy wars".

Everybody knows that the US has the habit of using others as proxies, and they only have to look at Ukraine to see for themselves the consequences of accepting that role. For the US, the meeting in Jakarta was just another opportunity to try and drive wedges between China and ASEAN countries.

But while there are disputes on some maritime issues between some of the ASEAN members and China, Blinken's words show that the strategists in Washington underestimate the strength of the cooperative relations that have been forged between the two sides over a long period of time. That ASEAN is now China's largest trade partner is testimony to the two sides' shared will to not let their differences and disputes disrupt regional development. The trade volume between ASEAN and China was 3.08 trillion yuan ($431.3 billion) for the first half of this year, according to latest official data, an increase of 5.4 percent compared with the same period last year.

Blinken's remarks show that contrary to China's vision of the region as a community with a shared future, in the eyes of the US, Southeast Asia should be part of a "free and open Indo-Pacific" in which the US alone can get to call the shots. The region bears too many scars from history for ASEAN countries to accede to the US' dissembled colonialism.

The Joe Biden administration should give up its insistence that it can turn Southeast Asian nations against China. The meetings in Jakarta indicated that the ASEAN countries do not want the US to make the region another arena for its destructive power games. The ASEAN countries want peace, stability and development, not division, conflict or chaos.

This was evidenced by the completion of the second reading of the text for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, and the adoption of a guideline document for its early conclusion, which sent a clear signal that the region will not allow any seeds of discord to take root.

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