ASEAN ministers urge restraint after Pelosi Taiwan visit

By AFP   August 3, 2022 | 06:14 pm PT
ASEAN ministers urge restraint after Pelosi Taiwan visit
A worker adjusts an ASEAN flag at a meeting hall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 28, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Lim Huey Teng
Southeast Asian nations on Wednesday (Aug 3) urged restraint over Taiwan after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island prompted an enraged China to vow "punishment."

Pelosi's dramatic trip to Taipei, defying stark threats by China, overshadowed a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, which had been expected to focus on the bloody crisis engulfing Myanmar.

ASEAN spokesman Kung Phoak, Cambodia's deputy foreign minister, said ministers at the closed-door talks - meeting face to face for the first time since the pandemic - had expressed concern over "growing tension in the Taiwan Strait."

"We hope that all sides will try their best to deescalate the tension there, avoid actions that may contribute to the escalation of tension and engage in dialogue," Kung Phoak told reporters.

Malaysia and Thailand echoed the calls for calm, with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah urging all sides to tread "very carefully."

Thai foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the kingdom called for "utmost restraint" and warned against "any actions that would aggravate tensions."

Attention will now turn to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his American counterpart Antony Blinken who will join ASEAN and other ministers for regional security talks on Thursday and Friday.

On Wednesday, Wang slammed the trip by Pelosi - the highest-profile elected U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years - as a violation of Chinese sovereignty.

"Those who play with fire will not come to a good end, and those who offend China will be punished," he warned in an interview in Phnom Penh with Chinese state media.

China considers self-governing Taiwan a part of its territory to one day be reclaimed, by force if necessary.

No ASEAN country formally recognizes Taiwan and none have shown an appetite for backing Taipei against China.

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