6:35pm 08/09/2023
Jokowi calls on big powers not to ‘sharpen rivalries’ at Asean summit
By:The Straits Times / ANN

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday pleaded with the world’s big powers to “strengthen cooperation, not sharpen rivalries.”

“I don’t know how many words of peace and stability we utter at every meeting… peace and stability are key to achieving prosperity,” he said at the opening of the East Asia Summit (EAS), which is part of the 43rd Asean Summit that started on Tuesday and ended on Thursday.

The annual EAS brings together leaders from Asean, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

But US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend; the two superpowers were instead represented by Vice-President Kamala Harris and Premier Li Qiang.

Mr. Widodo said countries have equal responsibility not to create “new conflicts, new tensions, new wars.”

“We also have a responsibility to reduce heated tensions, to melt the frozen atmosphere, to create space for dialogue, to bridge existing differences,” he added.

He urged leaders at the EAS to “make this forum a place to strengthen collaboration, a place to strengthen cooperation, not to sharpen rivalries.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that peace and stability are key to achieving prosperity. REUTERS/THE STRAITS TIMES

The Indo-Pacific region has become an arena where the US and China are vying for power and influence.

Moreover, China’s claim over Taiwan and overlapping claims in the South China Sea by Beijing and several countries – including some Asean members – are potential flashpoints.

Asean leaders at the summit have been reiterating messages of peace, stability and neutrality amid concerns over the growing rivalry between China and the US.

On Tuesday, Mr. Widodo warned that Asean will not become “a proxy for any power,” and will cooperate with anyone for peace and prosperity.

The Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) was one of the main discussion points at the Asean Summit.

Mr. Widodo had previously said that Indonesia, as Asean rotating chair, would strengthen the bloc’s role in the region.

The AOIP, an initiative by Indonesia signed by Asean leaders at the 34th Asean Summit in 2019, lays out the bloc’s common position on regional cooperation, security and prosperity, as well as its stance on not taking sides with any major powers competing for influence in the region.

In a chair statement on Tuesday, Asean leaders expressed their concern over the intensifying geopolitical tensions in the region, and highlighted the relevance of the AOIP to maintain Asean’s peace, security, stability and prosperity.

The statement said, “We are determined to further promote the AOIP in our interactions with partners, and to mainstream and promote the implementation of the AOIP through concrete projects and activities in order to promote mutual trust, respect and benefit through Asean-led mechanisms.”


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