The United States, China and Japan squared off over maritime security at a regional summit on Wednesday, with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida taking part in the online meeting for the first time since they took office.
The virtual gathering of the East Asia Summit took place as tensions between the United States and China have been intensifying recently over several issues in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the South and East China seas and the Taiwan Strait.
Biden’s participation in the meeting underscored that the United States has been keen to regain its influence in the region, while China has been trying to bolster relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor who was absent from the regional summit for the fourth straight year during his tenure, drew criticism for his perceived lack of interest in Southeast Asia.
Noting the “enduring” U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific, Biden expressed concern over “threats” to the international rules-based order and vowed to stand with allies and partners in support of democracy, human rights, rule of law and freedom of the seas, the White House said.
The United States will explore with partners “the development of an Indo-Pacific economic framework” which would define their “shared objectives” around trade facilitation, standards for the digital economy and technology, supply chain resiliency, clean energy, infrastructure and other areas, Biden was quoted as saying.
Following the summit, Kishida, who became prime minister in early October, told reporters that he conveyed Japan’s “firm stance” on maritime security in the South and East China seas to leaders of other countries.
Kishida added that he also touched on the issues of China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the far-western Xinjiang region, the crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong and the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as he attended a series of ASEAN-related summits the same day.
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