THE US State Department announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Bali, Indonesia, and Bangkok, Thailand, during July 6-11, 2022, Matichon newspaper said today (July 6).
Blinken will first travel to Bali to attend the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting, where he will reinforce US commitment to working with international partners to confront global challenges, including food and energy insecurity and the threat Russia’s continued war against Ukraine presents to the international order.
In addition to attending G20-related engagements, Blinken will hold a bilateral meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Among other bilateral engagements, Blinken will also meet with the People’s Republic of China State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20.
On July 10 Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. He will be discussing a range of issues, including building on the successes of Thailand’s APEC 2022 agenda in 2023 when the US is the APEC host, expanding health and climate cooperation, and addressing the crisis in Myanmar.
He will also meet with alumni of US exchange programmes, tour the Thai Department of Disease Control’s Emergency Operations Centre, and visit a shelter and welfare centre for victims of human trafficking.
The US-Thai alliance is essential for advancing US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific strategy for a free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient region.
“The subject of Burma will feature prominently” both in meetings and on the margins of the G20 and in Bangkok, US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink was quoted as saying by VOA News.
He added that the US 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.”
Over the weekend, Wang visited Myanmar, his first visit to the country since the military seized power last year.
While Ukraine is not a G20 member, its foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, was invited to this week’s ministerial after Ukraine became a European Union candidate. Kuleba said he had coordinated his country’s positions with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell ahead of time.
“We both agree on the need for the seventh EU sanctions package on Russia and we are working on it,” Kuleba said in a tweet.
According to US officials, Russia’s war on Ukraine has caused global economic instability, and Washington will not ease pressure on the Kremlin until Russia ends its military offensive.
No formal meeting has been scheduled between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Bali. The US is not ruling out the possibility of a walkout to protest Lavrov’s presence at the G20.
“(I am) not going to speak at this stage to choreography, but we expect the secretary can be a full and active participant while also staying true to another overriding objective, and that is the fact that it cannot be business as usual with the Russian Federation,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday.
US and China
Blinken’s meeting with the Chinese foreign minister would be their first in person since the chief US diplomat unveiled the Biden administration’s strategy to outcompete the rival superpower.
In his remarks at the time, Blinken said that the US was not seeking to decouple from China and that the relationship between the world’s two largest economies was not a zero-sum game.
For months, senior State Department officials have said they have not seen China providing material support to Russia for its war against Ukraine, and they have warned of “consequences” if the Beijing government does.
Last week, the US Department of Commerce added five companies in China to a trade blacklist for allegedly supporting Russia’s military and defence industrial base.
In the US, some Republican lawmakers said the Biden administration’s actions were not enough.
“The (Biden) administration’s feeble concept of ‘consequences’ will do little to deter the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party’s) ongoing support for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war crimes,” said Representative Michael McCaul, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on June 29. There should be “significant sanctions on those offending companies,” he added.
G20 division over Russian war
Russia’s participation in G20 events has created tension within the group, which comprises the Group of Seven leading industrialised economies, or G-7, and other large developing economies.
Many members, especially those in the G-7, have condemned Russia’s invasion and supported serious economic sanctions. Members China and India, however, have abstained on various United Nations resolutions and refrained from publicly condemning Russia.
US President Joe Biden has said that Russia should not remain a member of the G20, but China, Brazil and South Africa objected to removing Russia from the grouping. Those countries are also members of five large emerging economies known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and see themselves as an alternative to the US-led world order.
Some G20 members say divisions widened by Russia’s war in Ukraine should not overshadow this year’s theme of economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.
Indonesia, which holds the rotating presidency of the G20, says it maintains an independent foreign policy and does not side with world powers. Indonesia’s reluctance to exclude Putin from the G20 summit reflects its wish not to be seen as choosing a side and to stay focused on the Covid-19 theme.
“As the world is recovering from the damaging effects of the pandemic, we must collaborate and do our part to contribute towards economic recovery,” Rosan Perkasa Roeslani, Indonesia’s Ambassador to the US, told VOA on Tuesday. “A war in Europe is certainly detrimental to that goal. The G20 is the forum to talk about major economic issues and contribute meaningfully in addressing them.”
Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first Asian leader to visit Ukraine and Russia, after which he said Putin had agreed to “provide (a) security guarantee for food and fertiliser supplies from both Russia and Ukraine” amid increasing concerns over a global food crisis.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster ZDF recently that Putin’s possible presence at the G20 summit in November should not be a reason for Western leaders to boycott the meeting or “paralyse the entire G20.”
“In my opinion, G20 is too important, also for the developing countries, the emerging countries, that we should let this body be broken by Putin.”
This week’s ministerial will not produce an official document or communique, according to G20 co-sherpa Dian Triansyah Djani.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Top photo: The Hill, Front Page photo: CNN