China Warns Southeast Asian Countries: External Forces Are Trying to Sow Discord in the Region.

China Warns Xi

China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, issued a stern warning on Saturday, emphasizing the need to prevent a repetition of the tragic war in Ukraine within the Asian region.

He urged countries to avoid being manipulated as pawns in a great power competition. Wang also accused “certain external forces” of deliberately sowing discord among the member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), hindering a consensus on the South China Sea issue. Beijing’s extensive claims in the region have heightened tensions with neighboring nations.

China Calls for Geopolitical Vigilance in Asia Following Ukraine Crisis Warning

In a video address to a conference organized by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia, a think tank based in Jakarta, Wang stated, “[We] should expose the behind-the-scenes manipulators who have, for many years, attempted to disrupt the peace in the South China Sea issue to serve their own geopolitical interests.” He called for abandoning Cold War mentalities and opposition to zero-sum games, advocating for the region to remain free from geopolitical calculations and not become entangled in great power rivalries.

Wang emphasized, “The crisis in Ukraine serves as a wake-up call for humanity, and such a tragedy must not recur in Asia.”

While Wang did not specify the “external forces” he accused of manipulating ASEAN, Chinese analysts speculate that his remarks were directed at the United States or its allies. Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank researcher, suggested, “Wang’s comments reflect Beijing’s concerns regarding potential US strategic plans to instigate crises similar to the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Asian region.”

China Warns
A Philippine supply boat, center, tries to maneuver past Chinese coast guard ships during a decent stand-off in the disputed South China Sea. Photo: AP

Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor, warned that Taiwan represented the most precarious potential flashpoint, but crises could also be triggered by North Korea and China’s territorial disputes with neighboring countries. He further suggested that Wang’s message was a caution to ASEAN to remain vigilant against US attempts to orchestrate a “proxy war” in the region.

In his speech, Wang appealed to shared “Asian values” and invoked the spirit of the 1955 conference in Bandung, Indonesia, where newly independent nations agreed to promote economic and cultural cooperation while rejecting colonialism. Wang stressed the importance of promoting regional security through dialogue and collaboration, addressing risks and differences collectively to safeguard the hard-earned peace in the region.

Wang, currently China’s foreign policy chief, returned to his previous role as foreign minister following the unexplained removal of his successor, Qin Gang, in July. He urged ASEAN member states to work towards concluding negotiations on a legally binding code of conduct for the South China Sea, a process that has faced prolonged delays and missed a deadline for agreement last year. China asserts most of the resource-rich waters, a claim contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.

“It’s also unlikely that the COC will be completed by the end of this year, as there are too many intractable disagreements between China and other claimants,” said Zhang Mingliang, a Jinan University professor who specializes in South China Sea studies.

“One of the key obstacles is China insists negotiations should exclude ‘external forces’ like the US, but its Asian counterparts do not agree. The other one is how to set up penalties for a legally binding code of conduct.”

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