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ASEAN ministers warn of tensions in Taiwan that could spark ‘open conflict’

#ASEAN #ministers #warn #tensions #Taiwan #spark #open #conflict

Southeast Asian foreign ministers on Thursday called for restraint as China launched massive military exercises off Taiwan, warning the situation risked turning into “open conflict.”

In response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island this week, an enraged Beijing launched its biggest exercises yet in Taiwan.

Ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh warned against “provocative actions”.

The situation “could lead to miscalculations, serious confrontations, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences between the major powers,” the ministers said in a joint statement released on Thursday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is attending the talks along with his US counterpart Antony Blinken, but they are not expected to hold a one-on-one meeting.

In a meeting with ASEAN ministers, Blinken said the United States had been contacting China “at all levels of government” in recent days to call for calm and stability.

“I really hope that Beijing does not create a crisis or seek an excuse to step up its aggressive military activities,” Blinken said.

“We and countries around the world believe that escalation serves no one and could have unintended consequences that serve no one, including ASEAN members and including China.”

Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of its territory to be one day retaken, if necessary by force, was furious at the trip of Pelosi – the highest-profile US elected official to visit the island in 25 years.

It promised “punishment” and state television said it had started military drills, including live fire drills, at 0400 GMT in several areas around Taiwan.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, also in Phnom Penh, condemned the Chinese reaction.

“There is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait. It is normal and routine for lawmakers from our countries to travel internationally,” he tweeted.

Kung Phoak, Cambodia’s Deputy Foreign Minister and ASEAN spokesman, urged both sides to stabilize the situation.

“We hope that there will be a de-escalation… and normality will return to the Taiwan Strait,” he told reporters.

– Fear of miscalculations –

ASEAN is divided between countries with close ties to China, such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, and others more suspicious of Beijing and its growing international clout.

But no ASEAN country officially recognizes Taiwan, and none have shown an appetite to support Taipei against the communist giant.

The ministers’ statement – which avoided naming Taiwan – said ASEAN “stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue,” though it’s not clear whether either side is interested in mediating outside is interested.

While no bilateral meetings are scheduled for Wang and Blinken, they will both attend a meeting on Friday at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a 27-member body set up to discuss security issues that also includes Russia and the EU .

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who will also attend the ARF assembly, said the fragile status quo in the Taiwan Strait must be maintained.

“All parties should consider how they can contribute to de-escalating the current tensions,” Wong told AFP.

“One of the risks that the region is concerned about is the risk of misjudgment.”

Pelosi’s visit and the flare-up over Taiwan have overshadowed the ASEAN meeting, which was supposed to focus on the bloody crisis in Myanmar.

ASEAN has led unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to ease the turmoil created by last year’s military coup.

Several members are becoming increasingly angry at the junta’s lockdown tactics.

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#ASEAN #ministers #warn #tensions #Taiwan #spark #open #conflict

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