Thailand, Russia pledge to expand cooperation

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a full honors welcoming ceremony for him at the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a full honors welcoming ceremony for him at the Pentagon

Countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam contest the territorial claims.

Tensions flared anew after Chinese naval boats rammed Philippine fishing boats and Vietnam accused China of violating its sovereignty by interfering with offshore oil and gas activities in disputed waters.

"We also think that the meetings will serve as a crucial opportunity to secure the understanding and support from the worldwide community regarding (Seoul's) policy for the denuclearization and a lasting peace on the peninsula and affirm the will of the various countries for the free trade order", he added.

The US also regularly sails and flies military assets close to the disputed areas in what it calls freedom of navigation operations.

Beijing also is disinclined to flout legal norms that might restrain its actions, say critics, citing as an example the Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling on the South China Sea case brought by the Philippines.

Mr Wang said Beijing and ASEAN nations can settle the disputes without any interference.

The two minister also exchanged their views on regional and global issues of mutual interest such as the ASEAN-Russia cooperation, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, and the Thai-Russian cooperation within the United Nations framework.

"It is a hard balancing act, but overcoming fear and distrust among ourselves, and between us and other powers, will make ASEAN an integral part of sustainable global peace and prosperity that could lift all boats", Don said.

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At the ASEAN talks, Kang is expected to highlight the retaliatory nature of Japan's July 4 export control measure against South Korea by noting that the move runs counter to principles of free trade, a key driver of shared prosperity in East Asia.

"This region is already worth 36 billion pounds ($43.80 billion) per year in trade with the United Kingdom - and there are opportunities for us to boost that trade to benefit United Kingdom businesses and consumers".

Pressing regional concerns, including the Korean peninsula and China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, on the agenda.

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Opening the Bangkok summit, Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai urged an end to growing protectionist trend. "Amid a great turmoil, we must be more outward and forward looking than ever before".

ASEAN leaders at their summit meeting in June adopted a five-page "ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific" statement that sought to find a middle ground.

Beijing attempts to project its influence globally through its "Belt and Road" initiative, an ambitious development program of major infrastructure projects, while Washington is promoting its own vision strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, which Beijing regards as directed against it.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho canceled his plan to participate in the ASEAN meetings, frustrating hopes that the regional forum would set the stage for talks between Pompeo and Ri to reactivate their countries' nuclear talks.

ASEAN, which is seeking to boost its own voice as a global player, is also playing host to a series of foreign ministers from key strategic and dialogue partners, including U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

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