ASEAN Members Should Guard against NATO Expansion to Asia

While the attention of the world media during the second week of July was focused on the war preparations of the NATO Summit in Vilnius, halfway around the world, meetings in Jakarta (Indonesia) involving ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and its Asian neighbors were about to focus on peace-making.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has been “iced out” from any meetings with his Western counterparts, was something of a guest of honor in the Indonesian capital. He participated in a trilateral meeting with China and Indonesia, and held a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts, including with Wang Yi, the director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the CPC Central Committee.

The top Russian diplomat warned his ASEAN friends about the danger of the West creating a NATO-like alliance in the Asia-Pacific. While this had been denied by NATO, the fact that they invited to Vilnius the leaders of Japan and South Korea, two of Washington’s closest military allies in Asia, indicated that they were moving in that direction. Lavrov pointed out that this would pose a danger to the ASEAN spirit, which calls for unity and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

China’s top foreign policy chief, Wang Yi, was particularly active during his visit to Jakarta, participating in four multilateral events, including the ASEAN + 3 meeting (ten members states plus China, Japan, and South Korea) and the East Asia Summit, and holding 13 bilateral talks. He also urged vigilance in upholding peace and harmony in the Asia Pacific region and preventing a new Cold War division in the area. In meetings with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, he underlined the importance of their relationship economically. He also noted that China-Japan relations were now at a critical stage, given Prime Minister Kishida’s tilt toward a closer military alliance with the US, and that the choices Japan made going forward would be decisive in determining the future of the relationship.

With Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar, Wang Yi reportedly he urged closer cooperation and equal treatment for Chinese companies operating in India. Finally, we note that in his bilateral meetings with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the tone was apparently more cordial than the sharp rhetoric generally heard in Washington and Brussels, as well as other Western capitals. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the environment was not particularly favorable to the “rules-based order”, or perhaps it was part of the ongoing attempt to lure Beijing away from Moscow. However, just one day later, it was announced that Russia would participate next month in military exercises with China in the Sea of Japan…

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