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Asia Minute: China's foreign minister continues extended diplomatic trip through Southeast Asia

Indonesia US China wang yi antony blinken
Stefani Reynolds/AP
Pool AFP
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from right, and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, attend a meeting in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Saturday, July 9, 2022. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP)

It’s been a busy week for diplomacy in Southeast Asia. Indonesia hosted a weekend meeting of the Group of 20 foreign ministers — and China’s foreign minister is still on the road.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi started his Southeast Asian travels more than a week ago — with his first trip to Myanmar since the military overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Su Kyi in early 2021.

Then it was on to Bangkok — getting a promise from the Thai government to complete the next stage of a multi-billion-dollar rail project that will eventually connect to China through Laos — part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” of regional infrastructure.

Wang Yi, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division
In this handout photo provided by the Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., right, talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a courtesy call at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. (Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP)

In Manila, Wang told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the relationship between China and the Philippines has “turned a new page.”

At the G-20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali, Wang met with his Russian counterpart — as well as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

He also told Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong the Canberra government should act like a partner, not a rival — part of his four points of advice for Australia.

That drew a reaction Monday from Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who said his country “doesn’t respond to demands.”

In Jakarta on Monday, China’s foreign minister had another suggestion: that southeast Asian nations avoid being used as “chess pieces” by major powers, adding that “the future of our region should be in our own hands.”

He heads back to Beijing on Thursday.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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