JAKARTA – During a policy speech in the Indonesian capital on Monday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that countries should avoid being exploited as “chess pieces” by major powers in a region that is being changed by geopolitical events.
Wang, speaking through a translator at the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, said several countries in the area were under pressure to take sides.
“We should isolate this region from geopolitical calculations… from being used as chess pieces in big power rivalry and coercion,” he stated, adding, “Our region’s future should be in our own hands.”
Southeast Asia has traditionally been a source of geopolitical conflict between major powers, with some countries in the region apprehensive of taking sides in the current US-China rivalry.
Wang’s speech comes just days after he visited a G20 conference of foreign ministers in Bali, and it comes amid aggressive Chinese diplomacy that has seen him make a succession of stops across the region in recent weeks.
Wang met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for five hours on the margins of the G20, and both described their first in-person conversations since October as “candid.”
Wang stated on Monday that he advised Blinken that both parties should consider the formation of guidelines for beneficial relations and jointly promote Asia-Pacific regionalism.
“The essential elements are to promote ASEAN centrality, uphold the existing regional corporation framework, and respect each other’s legitimate rights and interests in the Asia-Pacific,” Wang added.
In response to a question about Taiwan after his address, Wang stated that Washington is “trying to use the Taiwan card to disrupt and contain China’s development by misrepresenting and hollowing out the One China policy.”
Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have risen in recent months, as China’s military has launched many air missions over the Taiwan Strait, the strait that separates the island from China.
China regards Taiwan as “sacred” land and has never refrained from using force to achieve eventual unification.
Washington maintains its One China policy and does not support Taiwanese independence, but the US Taiwan Relations Act requires the US to equip Taiwan with the tools to defend itself.
“The two sides across the (Taiwan) Strait will develop peacefully.” “However, if the one-China principle is arbitrarily challenged or even sabotaged, there will be gloomy clouds, if not severe storms, over the strait,” Wang warned.