Beijing warns of Southeast Asia nations becoming ‘chess pieces’

Countries in the region must not be used in “major power rivalry,” Chinese foreign minister says

Southeast Asian countries should not become the pawns of “major powers” and should not antagonize each other, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said.

“We should insulate this region from geopolitical calculations… from being used as chess pieces, from major power rivalry and from coercion,” Wang said in Jakarta, Indonesia on Monday, as quoted by Reuters.

Wang made his comments while attending a meeting of the ASEAN, a regional 10-member economic and political bloc of Southeast Asian nations. “The future of our region should be in our own hands,” he said.

The minister said countries should “respect each other’s legitimate rights and interests in the Asia-Pacific instead of aiming to antagonize or contain the other side.” 

In March, Wang accused the US of seeking to set up “a version of NATO” in the Indo-Pacific in order to stoke tensions in the region. “The Asia-Pacific is a promising land for cooperation and development, not a chessboard for geopolitical contest,” he said.

The White House later denied that it wanted to establish “an Asian version of NATO.”

Monday’s statement from the top Chinese diplomat came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged ASEAN to pressure Myanmar, one of the bloc’s members, where the military seized power in a coup last year.

“I think all the ASEAN countries need to hold the regime accountable… to continue to demand an immediate cessation of violence, the release of political prisoners, and a restoration of Burma’s democratic path,” Blinken told reporters on Sunday, referring to Myanmar by its older name.

Wang met with Blinken in Indonesia on Saturday. The Chinese diplomat urged Washington to drop “the Cold War mentality” and “stop smearing and attacking China’s political system and domestic and foreign policies,” according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

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