US-China tensions set to dominate Asean summit
HANOI: US-China rivalry is set to dominate discussions as the foreign ministers of 10 South-east Asian countries began an online summit yesterday, with Washington's top diplomat ready to take aim at Beijing's "bullying" in the South China Sea.
The summit comes just days after China launched ballistic missiles in the flashpoint waters as part of live-fire exercises and as Washington and Beijing clash over a range of issues from trade to the coronavirus.
Ministers will be joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for their first summit since the US announced sanctions on Chinese companies over Beijing's construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters.
The resource-rich South China Sea is claimed in its entirety by Beijing but is also contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
"The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbours," Mr Pompeo said ahead of the summit.
The pandemic is set to feature heavily in discussions, after Vietnam, the current chair of the Association of South-east Asian Nations, warned at a meeting in June that the fallout from the virus had swept away years of economic gains in the region.
The "power rivalry" between the US and China will likely steal the limelight, a senior South-east Asian diplomat said.
"The United States and China will likely use the meetings as a platform to throw everything at each other," he said.
Smaller countries will "say their usual lines" and then take cover as Washington and Beijing fight, he added. - AFP