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US, China, Russia Join Asia Summit     10/27 06:12

   

   KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- President Joe Biden and China's Premier Li 
Keqiang joined an annual summit of 18 Asia-Pacific nations by video Wednesday, 
as some regional leaders voiced concern about the sharpening of competition 
between major powers over trade, Taiwan, democracy and Beijing's increasingly 
assertive actions in disputed territories.

   Russian President Vladimir Putin will also speak at the East Asia Summit, a 
wide-ranging forum on political, security and economic issues organized by the 
10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

   The World Health Organization is expected to brief the leaders on the 
pandemic, which has set back the economies of the 18 countries representing 
more than half of the world's population and accounting for over 60% of global 
GDP.

   A White House statement Wednesday said Biden will reaffirm U.S. support for 
the ASEAN-led regional architecture and discuss his vision for working together 
with allies and partners to address issues facing the Indo-Pacific region. It 
was the first time since 2017 that a U.S. president is attending the summit, 
part of three-day high-level meetings hosted by Brunei, ASEAN's chair this year

   During a separate meeting with ASEAN leaders Tuesday, Biden announced a $100 
million initiative to beef up U.S. engagement with the region in the face of 
China's growth as a national security and economic adversary. Biden called the 
U.S. relationship with the bloc "essential." The funding will cover health 
spending, a new climate initiative, education and programs to bolster economic 
recovery.

   "I want you all to hear directly from me the importance the United States 
places on its relationship with ASEAN," Biden said. "You can expect to see me 
showing up and reaching out to you."

   Relations between Washington and Beijing have plunged to new lows since 
nosediving under former President Donald Trump's administration, which adopted 
a confrontational approach on trade, visas, diplomatic representation and 
educational exchanges.

   A long-simmering dispute over Taiwan flared up recently after Biden said the 
U.S. has a firm commitment to help the self-ruled island, which China claims as 
part of its territory, in the event of an attack.

   The U.S. nuclear submarine deal with Australia and the U.K. has also angered 
China, which claims most of the disputed South China Sea and warned the pact 
would threaten regional stability.

   Some ASEAN nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia also fear the pact could 
escalate tensions in hot spots such as the South China Sea and spark an arms 
race.

   "Indonesia does not want this region to become an arms race and a power 
projection that can threaten stability," Indonesian President Joko Widodo told 
his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, according to Indonesia's foreign 
minister.

   Australia announced a $93 million package to support security, climate and 
health efforts in Southeast Asia, while Morrison defended the new pact with the 
U.S. and UK., saying it does not change Australia's commitment to ASEAN or the 
ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific -- "indeed it reinforces it."

   He said Australia had no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons and remained 
deeply committed to nuclear non-proliferation.

   Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country shared serious 
concern with ASEAN about challenges to the free and open maritime order in the 
East and South China seas, according to Japan's Foreign ministry.

   He did not mention China by name, but Tokyo has more become vocal in 
defending the freedom of navigation and resolution of disputes based on 
international law, at a time China expands its military power beyond its 
shores, rattling neighbors with the construction of man-made islands and 
sending ships near their coasts.

   The three-day ASEAN meetings have been clouded by a diplomatic standoff 
after military-ruled Myanmar skipped the summit in protest of ASEAN's move to 
bar Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, whose forces seized power in February, from 
attending.

   ASEAN's censure of Myanmar was its boldest after the bloc's envoy was 
prevented from meeting ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political 
detainees as part of a proposed dialogue to ease the crisis that has left more 
than 1,100 mostly anti-military protesters killed.

   During the ASEAN leaders' talks with Australia Wednesday, Singapore Prime 
Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed concern over the detention in Myanmar of 
Australian academician Sean Turnell, who served as an economic adviser to Suu 
Kyi's government. Morrison thanked Lee for the concern, a Southeast Asian 
diplomat, who took part in the meeting, told The Associated Press on condition 
of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the discussions publicly.

   Myanmar has refused to send a junior representative to the summit, and 
slammed ASEAN's move as going against the bloc's principles of non-interference 
in each other's affairs and decision-making by consensus. Cambodian Prime 
Minister Hun Sen said Myanmar's decision to snub the summit was "regrettable" 
and hinted he may also consider not inviting the military-led nation's top 
general to a video summit of more than 50 Asian and European countries Cambodia 
will host next month, the diplomat said.

   There have been concerns that European leaders may skip the summit and just 
send lower-ranking representatives if the Myanmar general will be allowed to 
join, according to the diplomat.

   Biden on Tuesday denounced the military in Myanmar for its use of "horrific 
violence" against protesters and pledged U.S. support for the nation's return 
to democracy.

   In a chairman's statement released after the summit Tuesday, the bloc's 
leaders urged Myanmar to give its envoy, Brunei Second Foreign Minister Eryan 
Yusof, full access to all parties and release political detainees.

   While respecting ASEAN's principle of non-interference, the bloc said it 
must also strike a balance in terms of rule of law, good governance, democracy 
and constitutional government in Myanmar's situation.

   "We reiterated that Myanmar remains a member of the ASEAN family and 
recognized that Myanmar needs both time and political space to deal with its 
many and complex challenges," the group said.

 
 
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