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Top diplomats from US, China expected at ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh

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Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi (L) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. SUPPLIED

Top diplomats from US, China expected at ASEAN meeting in Phnom Penh

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi are both planning to attend the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings from July 29 to August 5 in Phnom Penh.

“China’s foreign minister and the US secretary of state will attend the upcoming meetings to be hosted by Cambodia,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Chum Sounry confirmed to The Post on July 28.

Stephanie Arzate, spokesperson the US embassy in Phnom Penh, told The Post on July 28 that the State Department will officially announce which official will represent the US at the meetings closer to their scheduled date.

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People's Centre for Development and Peace, opined that the US does not want to see China become involved in the Ukraine crisis by providing military assistance to Russia such as weapons or other economic aid that would lessen the impact of sanctions, while China does not want to see the US interfere further in their dispute with Taiwan.

“The US and China could both try to influence ASEAN to gain its support for their foreign policies, especially concerning the war in Ukraine, the South China Sea dispute and other controversial issues,” he said. “Of course, this competition for influence in the ASEAN region is one that will probably be ongoing for a long time to come, but it could become a problem for ASEAN if the bloc doesn't stand together and becomes divided in loyalty between the two superpowers."

Kim Eng continued that Blinken will also want to discuss human rights issues and democracy in ASEAN and he will especially focus on the Myanmar crisis, which is already tarnishing the reputation of ASEAN on the international stage.

“This Burma problem with the military regime killing its political opponents will be focused on by the US, and the US secretary of state will likely urge ASEAN to redouble its efforts to resolve the Myanmar crisis and apply more pressure on the [ruling State Administration Council] to force it to return to democracy,” he said.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on July 28 that the presence of both of the top diplomats from the world's two superpowers is of vital importance because it is necessary to the success of Cambodia as chair of ASEAN and as the host of the meeting, having invited all of the meetings' prospective participants to the Kingdom to attend this summit.

“I think that if these two superpowers can find enough goodwill between them to work together to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict, that might simultaneously contribute to solving the food and energy crises and possibly even the Myanmar crisis,” he said.

Phea continued that the upcoming meeting may not be significantly productive because it could spark a fierce debate concerning the Russia-Ukraine crisis, because Russia's military offensive in Ukraine and NATO's involvement in arming Ukraine are hot-button issues that either of the superpowers might raise independently even though the ASEAN chair has not officially included them on the summit's agenda.

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