The heads of states of Southeast Asian nations held talks on Friday with global leaders as they gathered for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh.
The talks were dominated by the unrest in Myanmar and other tensions in the region, including North Korea’s missile tests and Chinese aggression in Taiwan Strait.
The grouping will review Myanmar’s representation at all levels of meetings, despite not including an earlier suggestion in a draft to hold talks with those deemed by the Myanmar military junta as “terrorists", like the National Unity Government of Myanmar.
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos’ press secretary confirmed to news agency Reuters that talks covered cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan.
The ASEAN heads of state held a closed-door summit and soon after their meeting they were joined by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and then by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol with whom they held separate meetings.
Premier Li Keqiang arrived a day before US President Joe Biden and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected to attend a few meetings with the ASEAN heads.
During his meeting with the leaders, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said ties between China and ASEAN nations have gone from strength to strength. He pointed out that two-way trade reached nearly $800 billion in the first ten months, according to a report by Bloomberg. He said there was a 13.8% increase in trade despite the obstacles presented by Covid-19 pandemic.
Keqiang in a bid to address the tensions in the South China Sea said that Beijing supports efforts to address matters properly. He said ASEAN and China have advanced security cooperation.
As ASEAN has barred Myanmar from proceedings following the junta takeover, the leaders of Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam were present.
ASEAN consists of 10 member states and now with the addition of Timor-Leste it has 11 members. The tiny country of less than two million people has been seeking ASEAN membership since its inception.
Timor-Leste will be allowed to participate in all ASEAN meetings including summit plenaries since it has been granted observer status after leaders agreed in principle to include the country in ASEAN.
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