The Sunday editions of all national dailies reported on an online ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting held on Friday. Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that the United States and China clashed over China’s human rights violations and activities in the South China Sea, and Nikkei wrote that China’s desire to reduce U.S. influence in Southeast Asia was made clear at the meeting.
The dailies wrote that according to the State Department, Secretary of State Blinken expressed serious concern over China’s human rights violations in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and called on Beijing to abide by international law and cease its provocative behavior. The Secretary also reportedly expressed concern over China’s rapid development of nuclear weapons, saying that this highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.
However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang rebutted Secretary Blinken’s remarks by saying nations should not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries on the pretext of advocating democracy and human rights, the papers wrote. Wang reportedly added that interference by countries outside the region constitutes the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea. Nikkei wrote that Wang’s warning came as the Biden administration tries to rally European allies to join a coalition to isolate China, pointing out that ahead of the ARF meeting, Britain sent an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea and Germany announced that one of its frigates is on its way to the region.
The participants in the ARF meeting also discussed North Korea. According to Asahi, Wang insisted that easing the economic sanctions on Pyongyang would be an effective way to achieve a breakthrough in the stalemate on the Korean Peninsula.
Saturday’s Sankei wrote from Washington that the Biden administration has stepped up its involvement in Southeast Asia by having Secretary of State Blinken participate in ASEAN-related online meetings and sending Secretary of Defense Austin to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines in late July. The paper also noted that Vice President Harris is scheduled to visit Vietnam and Singapore on Aug. 20-26, speculating that these visits are intended to counter China’s diplomatic offensive in the region.