ASEAN warns of Taiwan’s risk of ‘miscalculation’, ready to help dialogue

A woman walks past ASEAN summit flags at the Suntec Convention Center in Singapore, November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

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PHNOM PENH, Aug 4 (Reuters) – Southeast Asia’s regional bloc, ASEAN, warned on Thursday that volatility caused by tensions in the Taiwan Strait could lead to “mistakes of calculation, serious confrontations, open conflicts and unforeseeable consequences between the great powers”.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations made the remarks in a foreign ministers’ statement after its chairman, Cambodia, urged all parties to defuse tensions over Taiwan.

The meeting in Phnom Penh of the 10-nation bloc, which is attended by a range of other countries including China and the United States, was overshadowed by developments in Taiwan following the visit of US President Nancy Pelosi.

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“ASEAN stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue between all parties,” ASEAN said, calling for maximum restraint and for the parties to refrain from any provocative actions. Pelosi’s trip, the highest-level US visit to self-governing Taiwan in 25 years, sparked outrage in China, which responded with a flurry of military exercises and other activities in the region. Read more

Southeast Asian countries tend to tread a cautious line in trying to balance their relations with China and the United States, fearing to come between the superpowers.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in comments after talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said he had been able to compare notes with a close partner “as we head into these very important meetings of the ASEAN”.

“We have a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Blinken, who is not expected to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Cambodia.

Blinken, who is among 27 foreign ministers who will take part in an ASEAN Regional Forum security meeting on Friday, said his meeting with Jaishankar covered “the situation in Sri Lanka, Burma and a number of number of other hot spots”.

PUSH MYANMAR

The ASEAN talks were expected to focus on the bloc’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, also known as Burma, which has been in turmoil since the military seized power in a coup State last year.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday that ASEAN would be forced to reconsider a peace plan agreed with Myanmar if its military rulers executed more prisoners.

ASEAN urged Burma’s junta to follow a peace “consensus” reached last year and condemned its recent execution of four activists linked to a movement opposing military rule, its first executions in decades.

Myanmar’s junta last week defended the executions as “justice for the people”, sweeping away a barrage of international condemnation. Read more

Myanmar is not represented at ASEAN meetings this week after its military refused an offer to send a non-junta representative. ASEAN has banned the generals until progress in the peace plan is demonstrated.

Some ASEAN members have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of Myanmar.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Myanmar had “disrespected” the peace effort, adding that “without any progress on this front, further dialogue with the Myanmar military authorities would only have limited value”.

Still, some analysts and diplomats wonder what other steps ASEAN, which has a tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, will be prepared to take against fellow member Myanmar.

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Reporting by Narin Sun and David Brunnstrom in Phnom Penh; Writing by Ed Davies Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Robert Birsel

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