PHNOM PENH – Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus Japan, China and South Korea opened their meeting Thursday in Phnom Penh, with talks likely to focus on Russia's invasion of Ukraine among other international and regional issues.
The first in-person Asean-plus-three meeting since 2019 is also likely to address North Korea's missile and nuclear threat as well as the situation in junta-controlled Myanmar since the February 2021 coup, Japanese government officials said.
The gathering came as tensions surrounding Taiwan intensified after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen Wednesday in the capital of the self-ruled island, despite China's warnings against it. Beijing regards the island as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The 10 Asean member nations maintain a range of stances over the war in Ukraine that began in late February, with Singapore the only nation to join the US-led economic sanctions on Russia while most others refrained from condemning Moscow by name.
The Group of Seven countries including Japan, along with like-minded nations such as South Korea, continue to impose sanctions including freezing the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and its central bank, and excluding some major Russian lenders from the key SWIFT international payments network.
Meanwhile, China has not joined the punitive steps to isolate Russia. Instead, Beijing has apparently been increasing joint military activities with Moscow, especially in and above waters around Japan.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have also grown as Pyongyang has repeatedly conducted ballistic missile tests this year, while speculation is also mounting that the nation may soon carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test and the first since 2017.
Efforts to ensure food security and the ongoing fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as well as strengthening the regional financial cooperation, are also likely to be addressed during the gathering, according to the officials.
Concerns about food security are growing as some countries, especially some in Africa and the Middle East that are heavily dependent on Ukrainian grain, have been suffering from food shortages following the Russian invasion.
In 2020 and 2021, Asean, grouping Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, held its foreign ministerial meetings virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo)