U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Bangkok, where Myanmar is expected to feature prominently in meetings Sunday with Thailand’s leaders.
After initial talks with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai the two signed a communique on the countries’ strategic alliance and partnership, and then a memorandum of understanding on promoting supply chain resilience between Thailand and the United States.
Speaking to reporters afterward Blinken said: “Thanks to Thailand’s leadership we’ve seen APEC nations worked together this year to promote economic policies that are aligned with tackling the existential challenge of our time, and that’s climate change. Our countries share the same goal of a free open, interconnected prosperous, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific. In recent years, we work together even more closely toward that vision. Our economic ties are incredibly strong and even now emerging from COVID. They will grow stronger.”
The main topic of their discussions will likely be the crisis in Myanmar, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink, adding the U.S. would continue to “condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the Burmese military regime’s brutal actions since the coup d’état, the killing of nearly 2,000 people and displacing more than 700,000 others.” Myanmar is also known as Burma.
Blinken is also to meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha. Expanding health and climate cooperation are also on the agenda, as is next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation annual meeting, which the U.S. will host, according to the State Department.
The State Department announced Sunday that Blinken will travel to Tokyo on Monday to offer condolences to the Japanese people on the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and to meet with senior Japanese officials.
Blinken arrived in Thailand a few days after his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was on his own tour of Southeast Asia. Over the weekend, Wang visited Myanmar, his first visit to the country since the military seized power last year.
Blinken and Wang met Saturday at the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, and spoke for several hours.
The top U.S. diplomat told his Chinese counterpart during those meetings that China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine is complicating U.S.-Chinese relations at a time when they are already beset by rifts and enmity over numerous other issues.
Wang blamed the U.S. for the downturn in relations and said American policy has been derailed by what he called a misperception of China as a threat.
“Many people believe that the United States is suffering from a China-phobia,” the Chinese foreign minister said, according to a Chinese statement. “If such threat-expansion is allowed to grow, U.S. policy toward China will be a dead end with no way out.”
Blinken said he conveyed “the deep concerns of the United States regarding Beijing’s increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity toward Taiwan.”
Blinken also noted he addressed U.S. concerns over Beijing’s use of the strategic South China Sea, the repression of freedom in Hong Kong, forced labor, the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Tibet, and the genocide in Xinjiang.
Additionally, the U.S. secretary of state said that he and Wang discussed ways in which there could be more cooperation between the two countries in areas such as climate crisis, food security, global health and counternarcotics.
For his part, Wang said China and the United States need to work together to ensure that their relationship will continue to move forward along the right track.
Blinken’s meeting with the Chinese foreign minister was their first in-person since the chief U.S. diplomat unveiled the Biden administration’s strategy to outcompete the rival superpower. In his remarks at the time, Blinken said the U.S. was not seeking to decouple from China and the relationship between the world’s two largest economies was not a zero-sum game.
On Friday, the G-20 talks were dominated by discussion of the war in Ukraine and its impact on energy and food supplies.
Indonesia, as the meeting’s host country, called on ministers to “find a way forward” in discussing the war and its impact on rising food and energy prices.
“It is our responsibility to end the war sooner rather than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not at the battlefield,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said at the opening of the meeting, invoking the U.N. Charter to urge multilateralism and trust.
Foreign ministers shared concerns about getting grain shipments out of Ukraine and avoiding devastating food shortages in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. But talks were marked by sharp tension: Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sat at the same table but did not speak directly.