Asean foreign ministers wary of ‘miscalculation, open conflict’ in Taiwan Strait; PHL urges diplomacy

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are wary that the tension in the Taiwan Strait following the controversial visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan would lead to “miscalculation” and “open conflict.” The ministers are meeting in Phnom Penh at the time when tension in the Taiwan Strait was at its highest level in 20 years, with the visit US congressional delegation led by Pelosi to the self-ruled island. Pelosi is the most senior American lawmaker to visit the island in 25 years.

In a joint statement entitled “Asean Foreign Ministers’ Statement on the Cross Strait Development,” Asean foreign ministers are “concerned with the international and regional volatility, especially in the recent development in the area adjacent with the Asean region.”
They said the Taiwan Strait standoff “could destabilize the region and eventually lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.”

The day after Pelosi arrived in Taipei, China conducted live-fire exercises in the sea and airspace around Taiwan. 

The defense department of Taiwan said China has encroached on its territory, as close as 12 nautical miles from the island. 

The statement made no specific mention of Pelosi, China or the United States but was obviously referring to the two superpowers when it called for “maximum restraint, refrain from provocative action and to upholding the principles enshrined in United Nations Charter and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).”

The Philippines, which is the closest Asean country to the Taiwan Strait, has also issued a short statement that neither condemned Pelosi for the visit nor Beijing for holding military exercises that observers say is almost akin to a naval and air blockade of the island. 

“The Philippine is concerned with the rising tensions in Taiwan Strait, just north of the Philippines,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.”The Philippines urges retraint by all parties concerned. Diplomacy and dialogue must prevail,” it added.

The Philippines reiterated its support to the One-China Policy — which China has been espousing in the international community, to ward off attempts by its “renegade province” Taiwan’s independence bid. The other Asean foreign ministers likewise issued a reiteration of the One-China Policy.

It reiterated Asean countries support the One-China Policy — which China has been espousing in the international community, to ward off attempts by its “renegade province” Taiwan’s independence bid.

“The world is in dire need of wisdom and responsibility of all leaders to uphold multilateralism and partnership, cooperation, peaceful-coexistence and healthy competition for our shared goals of peace, stability, security, and inclusive and sustainable development,” reads the draft statement entitled 

“We should ACT TOGETHER (caps lock provided) and ASEAN stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue between all parties including through utilizing Asean-led mechanisms to deescalate tension, to safeguard peace, security, and development in our region,” it added.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US State Secretary Antony Blinken are also in Phnom Penh to attend the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and other related meetings Thursday. On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said there is “no need for Wang to meet with Blinken (in Phnom Penh) anymore. We’ve said what we need to say, did what we should do.”

At the sidelines of the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting on Wednesday, Wang said Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was a “complete farce” and warned that “those who play with fire will perish by it and those who offend China will be punished.”

China state-owned broadcaster, China Global Television Network, quoted Wang as accusing the US of violating China’s sovereignty using the “guise of democracy.”

“Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and others ride the coattails of the United States and act against the noble cause of the Chinese nation,” he said. 

“These perverse actions will not alter the international consensus on the one-China principle, nor the historical trend that Taiwan will return to the motherland,” he added. 
Earlier, Blinken was quoted in Washington DC as saying that “if China creates tension” as a result of Pelosi’s visit, “the responsibility will be entirely on Beijing.”