Blink to Asia, Africa as Russia, China, Tensions Rising – Times of India


WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed for Asia and Africa, the State Department said Friday, as the US and rivals China and Russia intensify their struggle for global influence amid growing divisions over Taiwan and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Blinken will embark on a five-country tour of the two continents next week, starting in Cambodia, where he will attend a regional security forum in Southeast Asia, where both Chinese and Russian foreign ministers are expected to attend.
Blinken will then visit the Philippines, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
There was no immediate indication that Blinken would meet separately in Phnom Penh with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov or Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. However, Blinken said on Wednesday that he had requested a phone call with Lavrov to discuss the release of US prisoners in Russia and Ukraine-related issues.
Such a conversation would end months of diplomatic estrangement between the men who last spoke in February before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lavrov said on Friday that he was open to a meeting with Blinken, but that it had not yet been arranged.
Blinken last met Wang earlier this month at a meeting of foreign ministers from the G-20 group of rich and large developing countries in Bali, Indonesia.
But their joint presence at the Regional Forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia will be their first opportunity to see each other since President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping had a more than two-hour phone call on Thursday.
The regional forum will be the last major gathering of international foreign ministers before a slew of leaders’ meetings scheduled for this fall, starting with the annual UN General Assembly in late September and then three summits in Asia in early November: the G – 20 in Indonesia, the East Asian Summit in Cambodia and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Thailand.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, along with rising Western tensions with China, particularly between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, are expected to dominate all of these gatherings. China is outraged by a possible visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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