China warns of a Cold War in Southeast Asia

China Cold War

Jakarta. Chinese Premier Li Qiang said yesterday, September 6, that the great powers must “avoid a Cold War” during a summit of Southeast Asian countries with the participation of US Vice President Kamala Harris in Indonesia.

China has expressed concern about the formation of geopolitical blocs in the region, where the United States has formed the Aukus defense association with Australia and the United Kingdom and the Quad alliance with Australia, India and Japan.

But at the same time, Beijing faces criticism at this summit over issues such as its claim to sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea.

“Disagreements and disputes between countries may arise due to misunderstanding, divergent interests or outside interference,” Li said during a meeting with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“To keep these disputes under control, what is essential now is not to take sides, to oppose the confusion between blocs and to avoid a new Cold War,” he said.

In June, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu already warned against establishing NATO-like alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, calling for “inclusive cooperation” instead of “small cliques.”

The leaders of the 10 ASEAN countries (Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) hold meetings with China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Canada, which will allow these powers put pressure on the block.

Yesterday’s meetings precede today’s 18-member East Asia Summit, which will feature Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and will address broader geopolitical issues.

US Vice President Harris thanked ASEAN leaders for their “shared commitment to international rules and norms (…) and regional issues.”

In a sign of the growing interest of the North American power in this region, Harris announced the creation of the first US-ASEAN center in Washington.

Against North Korea

For his part, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol warned ASEAN leaders against collaborating with North Korea, which the United States says is in talks to sell arms to Russia.

Host country Indonesia told ASEAN leaders on Tuesday that the bloc cannot be the scene of great-power disputes amid US-China tensions over Taiwan, the China Sea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The roundtable with Lavrov and Harris will be the first high-level meeting of the two countries since a July meeting of foreign ministers in Jakarta, where US and European officials rebuked the Russian minister over the invasion of Ukraine.