May 17, 2022: -On Friday, China should consider the West’s strong response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in its calculations on Taiwan, a former Singaporean diplomat told CNBC.
“I hope the major powers in our region, China, have taken note of the very unified and strong Western response and will take that into its calculations Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the Senkaku Islands,” Bilahari Kausikan, an ex permanent secretary at the Singapore foreign ministry told CNBC.
China is claiming self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, even after China has governed the island since 1949.
Beijing has a few territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea, like Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. China also claims the Senkaku islands, known on the mainland as Diaoyu islands, are under Japanese control.
The former diplomat spoke in the context of President Joe Biden’s meeting with Southeast Asia’s leaders concluding on Friday.
Regarding the two-day ASEAN special summit in Washington DC, Kausikan says that the meeting was evidence of a “return to normal” for U.S. diplomacy after the Trump years.
“Trump was a bit of an aberration due to the U.S. having been pretty consistent engages Southeast Asia for many decades,” Kausikan said, aiming at the chairman of the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.
He discounts the suggestions that ASEAN is a “tool of the West” in its rivalry with China.
“We are not anybody’s tools,” he said, which refers to the Southeast Asian bloc of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“We look at China as managing relations with the U.S. and Europe. We look at Europe and the U.S. to manage our relationship with China,” he said, which notes that Southeast Asia had been an arena of huge power competition for centuries.
He said that the timing of the ASEAN summit, where a U.S. trade framework is the topic of discussion, proving that the U.S. is not distracted from its focus on the Indo-Pacific.