BEIJING – The Myanmar crisis was high on the agenda of a meeting between ASEAN and Chinese foreign ministers in Chongqing, southwest China on Monday, June 7, with at least three ministers expressing concern at the lack of progress in the peace process.
At the group’s first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic, the foreign ministers of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, via a proxy, expressed disappointment that Myanmar did not live up to the “consensus in five points “agreed by the leaders of ASEAN at a special summit. in April with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing. Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin attended Monday’s meeting.
Other issues discussed at the meeting, which was part of the 30th anniversary of ASIAN-China dialogue relations, included reopening the borders, even as several countries in Southeast Asia face an increase in infections with Covid-19 and tensions in the South China Sea.
Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said ministers highlighted the “very effective” cooperation between ASEAN and China in the fight against Covid-19, highlighting China’s provision of essential medical supplies and its support for vaccination in the region.
“The fact that we were able to help each other when we needed it boosted confidence and bodes well for the future,” he told Singaporean media after the meeting. âObviously, for the next few months of Covid-19, we are looking (to) carefully, deliberately, to reopen safely, assuming the situation remains under control. “
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi called for more vaccine cooperation with China, especially now that the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines have been added to the World Organization’s emergency use list. health.
âBeyond the issue of vaccines, the Asean-China partnership for strengthening health resilience at the regional level is also important,â she said.
In a lengthy statement released around midnight, China’s Foreign Ministry said the dialogue platform shows that although neighbors can sometimes have friction, they can “turn their contradictions into cooperation” for peace and stability. regional.
“We must jointly maintain stability in the South China Sea and avoid unilateral actions that could intensify conflicts,” the statement said, calling for the early completion of a code of conduct in the waterway.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Dr Balakrishnan said trade and sustainable development were also discussed.
The meeting comes as Beijing has sought to step up engagement from Southeast Asia, in part in response to the hardening of the United States’ stance against it.
But that commitment is tempered by its actions in the South China Sea, such as when Chinese military planes entered the airspace of Malaysia’s sea zone on May 31, prompting Kuala Lumpur to jam its jets.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Saturday he would raise the issue with China at the meeting, but he was unable to attend the event after having to be placed in quarantine.
Although the foreign delegations did not have to self-quarantine, they were forced to arrive a day early for nucleic acid testing and kept in a designated bubble in Chongqing.
Foreign media were not allowed to attend the meeting in the southwestern city to avoid potential exposure.
Dr Balakrishnan also met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the meeting, where China noted Singapore’s role in deepening Beijing’s relations with the Southeast Asian grouping, according to a ministry statement. Chinese Foreign Affairs.