Countries should not be forced to take sides in the growing rivalry between China and the United States, the Chinese foreign minister has told his Indonesian counterpart.
Wang Yi accused the US of being “the biggest damaging factor in international relations”, and told Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi that the two countries should work together to recover after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Their video meeting, held on Thursday, came amid rising tensions over the South China Sea and followed Washington’s declaration that Beijing’s claims over the strategically important waters are “unlawful”.
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Wang accused the US of stirring up ideological opposition and forcing countries to take sides, which he said was “not a normal phenomenon in international relations nor the way it should be in interactions between countries”.
“As the only superpower of the world, the US has … not just abandoned the international responsibilities and obligations it should take but also imposed unilateral sanctions against other countries without any basis in international law,” Wang told Marsudi, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
“It has become the biggest damaging factor in the current international relationship.”
Beijing has been seeking to shore up its relations with its Southeast Asian neighbours as part of efforts to prevent a hostile coalition forming on its doorstep.
Beijing claims most parts of the South China Sea under its controversial “nine-dash line”, and four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei – have overlapping claims with China.
Although Indonesia is not a claimant in the South China Sea disputes, Jakarta has often clashed with Beijing over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands, detaining Chinese fishermen.
On Wednesday Malaysia told Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, that it rejected “China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’.”
On Thursday, Wang told Marsudi that China and Asean should continue to push for a quick conclusion to discussions over a code of conduct for the South China Sea while “keeping close communication and managing disputes properly … to jointly safeguard the long-term peace and stability in the region”.
He also called for closer economic cooperation and said work on a high-speed rail link between Jakarta and Bandung, suspended since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, should resume.
Marsudi later tweeted that she had “an open discussion” with Wang over Covid-19 cooperation, travel arrangements, regional issues and the treatment of Indonesian fishing crews. A number of Indonesian sailors have died on Chinese ships this year, including a 20-year-old whose body was found on a boat that was seized by the Indonesian authorities earlier this month.
The two countries are also working together to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The Indonesian government has previously announced that its state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma has been collaborating with Chinese company Sinovac.
According to local media, as many as 1,620 volunteers in Indonesia have come forward to participate in a stage three vaccine trial that will be conducted by Bio Farma and the University of Padjadjaran in West Java.
If the trial is successful, production will begin in the first quarter of next year.
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More from South China Morning Post:
- China’s foreign minister calls on other nations to resist taking sides with US and to prevent a new cold war
- China woos Asean neighbours in bid to avoid US-led coalition on its doorstep
- US has ‘stirred up trouble’ around the world, China’s foreign minister says
This article China says countries should not have to pick sides in rivalry with US first appeared on South China Morning Post