Asean Latest: Russia War Divisions Set Stage for Fractious G-20

As the leaders summits in Indonesia ended on Thursday, the war in Ukraine became the focus of the closing statements — one that condemned it and another that didn’t mention it at all.

(Bloomberg) — As the leaders summits in Indonesia ended on Thursday, the war in Ukraine became the focus of the closing statements — one that condemned it and another that didn’t mention it at all.

The leaders of the 18-nation East Asia Summit that includes the US, China and Russia issued a statement that omitted any mention of the war in Ukraine, although the chair’s statement noted “with deep concern” the adverse impact of the war that most members strongly condemn.

The three-day summits in Jakarta were dominated by the US and China’s growing rivalry and rising geopolitical tensions. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, chair of this year’s Southeast Asia summits, urged leaders to strengthen cooperation and not to create “new wars.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris, meanwhile, sought to demonstrate America’s enduring commitment to the region after the 10-nation bloc expressed disappointment over the absence of President Joe Biden who’s going to attend the Group of 20 gathering in India.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang urged Asean to oppose moves that could lead to a “new Cold War,” foreshadowing Jokowi’s remarks against stoking divisions.

While the region practices a collective non-alignment in the broader geopolitical competition between the US and China, Asean leaders remain anxious about the prospect of a regional conflict over Taiwan or in the South China Sea, while also being under pressure to address the rising violence in Myanmar. 

All times local

East Asia Summit Leaders’ Statement Contrasts With Chair’s Note (6:20 p.m.)

While the East Asia Summit’s leaders’ statement doesn’t mention the war in Ukraine, Indonesia’s chairman’s statement is very different. The latter noted with “deep concern” the negative effects of the war and said most members of the summit “strongly condemn the aggression against Ukraine and underscore the need to reach a just, and lasting peace.” It also said threatening the use of nuclear weapons was “inadmissible.”

The difference between the two declarations is that the chairman’s note doesn’t need unanimous agreement — no need for Russia to approve it.

Jokowi Says Asean-UN Effectiveness Constrained by Geopolitics (3:38 p.m.)

Jokowi, as the Indonesian leader is known, said that “the effectiveness of Asean and UN work is often constrained by geopolitical dynamics.” At the Asean-UN Summit, the chair of the bloc said that the “spirit of cooperation” and multilateralism are fading as a result.

East Asia Leaders Agree to Issue Statement (2:09 p.m.)

The leaders of the 18-nation East Asia bloc that includes the US, China and Russia have agreed on a statement after a summit in Jakarta on Thursday. A statement “on Maintaining and Promoting the Region as an Epicentrum of Growth” will be issued, according to a version seen by Bloomberg News.

China Ready to Work With Australia to Resume Exchanges: Xinhua (1:55 p.m.)

China is ready to work with Australia to restart and resume bilateral exchanges, Xinhua reports, citing Li commenting on his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Albanese, for his part, said in a briefing in Jakarta on Thursday that he discussed the Chinese economy with Li who was “positive” about it. Li spoke about the rise of the middle class in China, who Beijing is hoping to double from 400 million to 800 million by 2035, according to Albanese.

Jokowi Urges Leaders Not to Create ‘New Wars’ (10:50 a.m.)

Jokowi made a strong pitch for dialogue instead of rivalry at the East Asia Summit attended by Harris and Li. 

“All of us sitting in this room have an equal responsibility to create peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. We have the same responsibility not to create new conflicts, not to create new tensions, new wars,” he said.

During the Summit, Harris was seen chatting warmly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Malaysia’s leader Anwar Ibrahim. She sat two seats away from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was seen smiling at Modi from across the room.

Australian PM Confirms Visit to China This Year (9:56 a.m.)

The Australian leader confirmed he will visit China this year after a meeting with Li on the sidelines of Asean. Albanese said his trip would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first visit by an Australian prime minister in November 1973, hinting at a similar date for this year’s trip.

Albanese said he raised issues of importance to Australia, including remaining trade impediments, consular cases and human rights. “We discussed and shared perspectives on regional and international security issues,” he added.

Prabowo Says Indonesia Doesn’t Want to Be Part of Any Conflict (9:50 am)

Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who’s a likely contender at next year’s presidential election, said the country doesn’t want to be involved in any conflict including between US and China. 

“Our stance, our position has always been free and active, non-aligned. We don’t want to be involved in anything. We are friends of all those countries,” he said. Indonesia also has a good relations with Russia and wants to maintain those ties.

Jokowi Tells Modi Indian Ocean Shouldn’t Be a Sea of Confrontation (9:18 a.m.)

Indonesia’s Jokowi sought to “optimize” collaboration during the Asean-India Summit, urging India’s Modi to support a vision for a blue economy. 

“We must be able to make the ocean a sea of cooperation, not a sea of confrontation that must continue to maintain stability,” the leader known as Jokowi said, underscoring the potential of the Indian Ocean that connects 33 countries, 2.9 billion people, and come 2025, one-fifth of the world’s GDP.

In turn, Modi said India fully supports Asean’s centrality as the region plays an important role in global development. “Progress in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific and amplifying the voice of the global south is in our common interest,” Modi said, noting the importance of a rules based post-Covid world order.

Harris Meets Marcos, Touts ‘Ironclad’ Ties (6:20 p.m.)

Harris highlighted America’s “ironclad” alliance with the Philippines during a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the margins of the summit. The two leaders discussed maritime security in the South China Sea, and opportunities to enhance bilateral maritime cooperation, “including alongside like-minded partners,” according to a White House statement.

The Philippines has not only grown close with the US under Marcos’s leadership, but has also been seen firming up relationships with Washington’s other allies, namely Japan and Australia, in a bid to strengthen its defense posture in the region.

–With assistance from Isabel Reynolds, Chandra Asmara, Faris Mokhtar, Norman Harsono and Felix Tam.

(Updates with East Asia Summit leaders’ and chair statements.)

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