PHNOM PENH – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian and Chinese foreign ministers, as well as top Southeast Asian diplomats, on Friday, at a time when global powers are riven by tensions.
The three men were slated to attend the East Asia Summit of the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Cambodia’s capital for the first time.
In response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s travel to Taiwan, a self-governing island Beijing claims as its own, China has conducted show-of-force military drills.
As he entered the room, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi patted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the shoulder and gave the already-seated Lavrov a short wave before taking his own seat. In response, Lavrov waved back.
Blinken, the last person to enter the room, didn’t even look at Lavrov as he took his seat about a half-dozen chairs away, or at Wang, who was sat farther down the same table as Lavrov.
The US State Department stated ahead of the Phnom Penh talks that Blinken had no intentions to meet one-on-one with either guy during the meetings.
China postponed a meeting of foreign ministers with Japan on Thursday to protest a statement from the Group of Seven nations that claimed there was no justification for Beijing’s military exercises, which virtually encircle Taiwan.
“Japan, together with other G-7 and EU members, made a reckless statement criticizing China and conflating right and wrong,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in Beijing.
According to a diplomat in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the secret discussion, as Japan’s Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa began to speak Friday at the East Asia Summit, both Lavrov and Wang stepped out of the room.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn launched the two-and-a-half-hour meeting by stating he hoped all attendees would utilize the forum as a “means of interaction and communication” with one another.
“Every year brings its own set of issues,” he added before escorting the journalists out to begin the closed-door meetings.