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World leaders Converge in Phnom Penh This weekend marks the first of a series of international summits to be held in Southeast Asia next week, where divisions between the great powers and conflicts threaten to overshadow the talks.
The first stop is the Cambodian capital, where leaders from across the Indo-Pacific will meet with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit, Bali and next week’s Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Bangkok.
A stacked diplomatic row will test the international appetite for coordination on such issues Climate change, Global Inflation and rising food prices Russia’s invasion of Ukraineand economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic — and it’s the first time all three events have been held in person since the outbreak began in 2020.
Sharp geopolitical divisions of a kind not seen in decades have appeared on the political calendar, with the war in Ukraine radically altering Russia’s relationship with the West, the world’s top two economies, the US and China, locked in intense competition and the rest of the world pressured to take sides.
Will Russian President Vladimir Putin Create any look The extension of diplomatic dates remains uncertain. Both US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to attend two summits in Southeast Asia – long ground zero for influence-jockeying between Beijing and Washington.
Xi is re-emerging on the world stage after years without traveling during the pandemic A third term that violates the protocol In power, Biden is heading east from his party’s better-than-expected performance in the US midterm elections. Both are expected to position their country as a stronger partner and a more responsible global actor than the other.
Both will eat Meet face to face Aside from the G20 on Monday, the White House said on Thursday that it would be their first in-person meeting since Biden’s election. Beijing on Friday confirmed Xi’s travel plans for the G20 and APEC summits, and said he will hold bilateral meetings with Biden and other leaders.
Bilateral talks can help avoid escalation between powers. But for leaders meeting during summits in the coming days, forging strong agreements on tackling global issues — already a tough bargain at the best of times — will be a challenge.
Even the most regional of gatherings, the ASEAN Summit of Southeast Asian Leaders – which opens Friday in Phnom Penh and is scheduled to strengthen regional stability and global challenges – will reflect fractured world politics, experts say.
But unlike other major gatherings that may focus more on the fallout from the war in Ukraine, ASEAN leaders enter this weekend’s summit and related meetings under pressure to confront a spiraling conflict within their own camp: Almost two years later Myanmar remains in turmoil and under military rule A brutal plot Removed the democratically elected government.
Differences among Southeast Asian nations over how to deal with that conflict, their strained allegiances to superpowers — and the backlash of a group that appears to be taking sides between the U.S. and China — will all affect how much the group can agree. And what experts say it can achieve is a range of summits.
“In general this season is very exciting – in Southeast Asia you have three major world summits – Phnom Penh, Bali and Bangkok,” said Thitinan Pongsuthirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science in Bangkok.
“But (ASEAN) is very divided over Russian aggression, the Myanmar coup crisis, China’s bellicosity in the South China Sea and so on, which means ASEAN is in a bad position,” he said.
At the United Nations Vote last monthSeven of the 10 ASEAN countries voted to condemn Russia’s annexation of four parts of Ukraine, including a representative from Myanmar, which is not backed by the ruling military, while Thailand, Laos and Vietnam abstained.
But ASEAN as a whole has taken a step to tighten ties with Kyiv in events this week. Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation On Thursday in Phnom Penh with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a ceremony with Ukraine.
The alliance aims to use inter-state consensus as its strength while bringing big world players to the table, for example at the East Asia Summit, which brings together 18 Indo-Pacific nations, including Russia, China and the US. See you this weekend.
“If ASEAN cannot put its house in order, if ASEAN cannot control a rogue member like the Myanmar military regime, ASEAN loses its relevance,” Pongsuthirak said. “On the other hand, if ASEAN is united, if it can muster the commitment and resolve… it will have a lot of pulling power.”
Nearly two years after a military coup crushed Myanmar’s fledgling democracy, rights groups and observers say freedom and rights remain in the country. severely deteriorated; State execution The number of documented violent attacks by the ruling military junta on civilian infrastructure, including schools, has increased.
Several armed rebel groups have risen up against the ruling junta, while millions of people have resisted its rule through forms of civil disobedience.
Summits in Phnom Penh at the weekend will thrust the conflict back into the international spotlight as Southeast Asian leaders try to find a way forward after Myanmar’s ruling junta failed to implement a peace plan negotiated in April last year. The country remains part of ASEAN and is barred from sending political-level delegations to major events, despite calls from rights groups to leave.
Asean foreign ministers made a last-ditch effort to articulate a strategy late last month, with Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon, who chaired the meeting, later stressing in a statement that the challenges stemmed from “Myanmar’s decades of complexity and difficulty.” Long protracted conflicts, which have been exacerbated by the current political crisis.
But, at least with Cambodia at the helm of the group, observers have less to expect when Indonesia takes the helm in 2023.
The White House said Tuesday that the “ongoing crisis” will be a focus for Biden in talks with Southeast Asian leaders when he attends ASEAN summits over the weekend. Since the coup, the Biden administration has launched targeted economic sanctions against the military regime and held meetings with the opposition Government of National Unity.
China, on the other hand, has shown support for the ruling junta and is unlikely to support tougher action, observers say. A Months of investigation In a report released last month by an international group of lawmakers on the situation in Myanmar, Russia and China accused Russia and China of “providing both arms and legitimacy to the isolated regime.”
That, too, could have an impact on the outcome this weekend, says political scientist Chong Jae Ian, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore.
“Because Junta has Russian and (Chinese) support, any attempt at an ASEAN solution will require some form of engagement with them, even without buy-in or opposition,” Chong said.
The crisis in Myanmar is not the only area where the US and China could be divided at the ASEAN summit, with issues such as China’s aggression in the South China Sea – which Beijing asserts territorial claims that conflict with many Southeast Asian countries – less important this year.
ASEAN will hold its regular side summits with the US and China, respectively, and other countries, and China’s second-ranking leader, economy-focused Premier Li Keqiang, arrived as Xi’s representative earlier this week.
As Southeast Asian leaders seek to shore up their economic stability, they may raise concerns about the impact of US-China rivalry on the region, its trade and supply chains. US export embargo In semiconductors for China, according to Chong.
“Asean countries are going to try to find some way to navigate all this and see what kind of way they can provide both Beijing and Washington,” he said.
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