Southeast Asian leaders call for unity amid global tensions

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Countries eye strained ties between the US and China with major international summits in the Asia-Pacific region.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for unity, respect and multilateralism at a summit that included China, Russia and the United States, saying current global tensions have created hardships for everyone.

Hun Sen was speaking at the opening of the East Asia Summit (EAS), attended by 18 countries, in Phnom Penh as Cambodia holds the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

He said he hoped leaders would embrace a “spirit of togetherness in upholding open and inclusive multilateralism, pragmatism, and mutual respect in addressing the existential and strategic challenges we all face”.

While he didn’t single out a country by name, there have been long-simmering tensions between the United States and China, with the latter working to expand its influence in the Asia-Pacific region and Washington strongly backing self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims.

“Many current challenges and tensions have been hindering our past hard-earned efforts to promote sustainable development and causing greater hardship to people’s lives,” he said as he opened the meeting, which is running in parallel to ASEAN’s main summit.

The 10-member ASEAN bloc includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The EAS groups the ASEAN countries, as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

Tensions remain high between the US and China over Taiwan, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted global supply chains, creating food shortages and energy crises around the world.

US President Joe Biden and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang were at the event, a day before the highly anticipated meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

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