UN chief warns of 'great fracture' at ASEAN summit

Analysts say that while the Southeast Asia summit offers space for world leaders and rivals to meet, the interactions do not lead to much resolution

Indian Prime Minister and G20 host Narendra Modi addressed the leaders on Thursday (Photo: DW)
Indian Prime Minister and G20 host Narendra Modi addressed the leaders on Thursday (Photo: DW)


World leaders on Thursday entered into their final day at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) hosted in Indonesia against a backdrop of simmering conflicts.

An undercurrent of tension has accompanied the talks on issues ranging from trade and technology, to China's increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea, the Myanmar junta's refusal to cooperate with ASEAN for a peace plan and suspicion over North Korea's plans to supply weapons to Russiafor Moscow's ongoing war in Ukraine.

In his opening statement, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the summit should be seen as "a forum for us to strengthen cooperation and not sharpen rivalries."

UN chief pushes for inclusivity and peace

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world risks a "great fracture" of its economic and financial systems.

He called on leaders at the summit to find peaceful and inclusive solutions to the challenges faced by the world.

He suggested the re-channeling of an additional $100 billion (€932 million) of International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights through multilateral development banks to support the needs of developing economies.

Guterres also said he was "deeply concerned" over the "worsening political, humanitarian and human rights" situation in Myanmar, a nation besieged by war since a 2021 military coup.

On Wednesday, ASEAN host Indonesia also expressed "grave concern" over a lack of substantial progress on their five-point peace plan for Myanmar.

US reiterates 'enduring commitment' to Southeast Asia

The summit offered US Vice President Kamala Harris and Chinese Premier Li Qiang to meet a day after Li warned that major powers must manage their differences to avoid a "new Cold War."

The interactions between the two top economies will be closely watched as they seek to control tensions over issues like Taiwan, ties with Moscow and competition for influence in the Pacific.

Harris, who attended the meeting instead of President Joe Biden, emphasized her country's "enduring commitment to Southeast Asia."

Meanwhile, US and Russian leaders found themselves at the same table after almost two months. In July, US and European officials had condemned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a meeting over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The interaction comes just as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced $ 1 billion in assistance to Ukraine during a surprise visit on Wednesday.

Leaders meet China's Li

Indian Prime Minister and G20 host Narendra Modi addressed the leaders on Thursday and said it was essential to "build a post-COVID rules-based world order" and make collective efforts to ensure a "free and open Indo-Pacific," region.

The Chinese premier and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also met along the sidelines of the summit on Wednesday to discuss Japan's release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

China had banned all aquatic imports from Japan in response.

Meanwhile, Anthony Albanese interacted with China's Li and confirmed his visit to Beijing "later this year."

Experts cast doubt of summit's ability to resolve tensions

Experts believe that while the summit brings together major world players, its ability to actually resolve issues is limited.

"It's a sign of the ASEAN convening power, but lately we can say that the East Asia summit is broken. It has been turned into a forum for talking points," said Aaron Connelly, senior fellow at Singapore-based think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The group will issue a negotiated joint statement after the summit.

Indonesia, the chair of the 10-member ASEAN, will symbolically hand over the chair to Laos on Thursday.

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Published: 07 Sep 2023, 4:03 PM