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US stands with Asean claimants in S. China Sea issue, urges bloc to act on Myanmar: Blinken

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US stands with Asean claimants in S. China Sea issue, urges bloc to act on Myanmar: Blinken

WASHINGTON – The United States stands with South-east Asian claimants and rejects China‘s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, the State Department said on Tuesday (July 13) following Secretary of State Antony Blinken‘s first meeting with Asean foreign ministers.

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The statement underscored the Joe Biden administration’s stance on the South China Sea issue for the second time in as many days, following a statement on Sunday by Mr Blinken calling on Beijing to stop its «provocative behaviour» in the contested waters

WASHINGTON – The United States stands with South-east Asian claimants and rejects China‘s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, the State Department said on Tuesday (July 13) following Secretary of State Antony Blinken‘s first meeting with Asean foreign ministers.

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The statement underscored the Joe Biden administration’s stance on the South China Sea issue for the second time in as many days, following a statement on Sunday by Mr Blinken calling on Beijing to stop its «provocative behaviour» in the contested waters.

On Tuesday, Mr Blinken also expressed deep concerns about the military coup in Myanmar and called on Asean to urge the end of violence and restore the country’s democratic transition, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

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Mr Blinken said that Asean‘s five-point consensus on Myanmar, which was drafted in April after a special meeting, was «an important step forward».

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The consensus calls for an immediate end to the violence in Myanmar, a dialogue among all parties to seek a peaceful solution, a special envoy to mediate the dialogue, humanitarian aid through an Asean organisation, and a visit to Myanmar by the Asean special envoy to meet all parties.

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Asean has been criticised for not doing enough to address Myanmar‘s political crisis  since the military seized power from the civilian government in a coup in February

At Tuesday‘s meeting, Mr Blinken «urged Asean to take immediate action to hold the Burmese regime accountable to the consensus and to appoint a special envoy», using the old term that refers to Myanmar

He also called for the release of all those who were «unjustly detained»

The meeting comes amid concerns that the US under President Joe Biden is ceding economic and geopolitical influence to China by not sufficiently engaging with the region

Mr Blinken stressed the central role of Asean in the Indo-Pacific’s regional architecture, and reaffirmed America’s commitment to the centrality of Asean, said Mr Price

He added that the ministers also pledged to continue building the Asean-US strategic partnership «based on human rights and fundamental freedoms, economic prosperity, and strong people-to-people ties»

Mr Blinken also underscored America’s commitment to working with Asean and international partners to combat the coronavirus pandemic

America has sent millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses to the region in recent days, including a million doses to Malaysia and three million to Indonesia, as it strives to catch up with China‘s vaccine diplomacy in the region

More on this topic   Related Story US Secretary of State Blinken calls on South-east Asian nations to take action on Myanmar   Related Story Asean needs to stay neutral and united amid US-China tensions: Tommy Koh Mr Blinken also emphasised the necessity of taking bold action to address the climate crisis, a priority of the Biden administration

He also said the US would continue to support a free and open Mekong region under the Mekong-US Partnership

Washington has criticised Beijing for not being transparent with data from the hydroelectric dams it operates upstream of several Asean states. It blames the dams for some ecological damage in the region, and has expressed concerns over China‘s growing influence there

Separately, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday that the State Department‘s second-highest official Wendy Sherman will visit China next week and meet her counterpart, Chinese Foreign Vice-Minister Xie Feng, in Tianjin

More on this topic   Related Story US repeats warning to China against attack on Philippine forces in South China Sea   Related Story Asean, Australia and the great Sino-US challenge Join ST’s Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you

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