US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed condolences during a visit to Tokyo on Monday following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I shared with our Japanese colleagues the sense of loss, the sense of shock that we all feel, the American people feel, at this horrible tragedy and murder,” Blinken told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “It’s also a huge loss because during his time in office, Prime Minister Abe really took the relationship between our countries to new heights.”
Abe was assassinated on Friday in the city of Nara while making a campaign speech.
Blinken said he went to Japan at the direction of US President Joe Biden, “because more than allies, we are friends.”
“And when a friend is suffering, other friends show up. We try to help lighten the load, share the sense of loss, lend a shoulder, and that’s what we’re trying to do today,” Blinken said.
Crackdown in Burma
On Sunday, Blinken condemned Myanmar’s junta crackdown and urged China and a bloc of Southeast Asian nations to pressure Myanmar’s military rulers to restore democracy and adhere to a peace deal it agreed to last year.
“I think it is up to China and China’s interests to get Burma back to the path it was on before the coup interrupted it so violently,” Blinken said, using Myanmar’s former name.
He told a news conference in Bangkok that despite last year’s “five-point consensus” peace deal developed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, which includes Myanmar, “there has been no movement positive about it.”
In April last year, the other nine ASEAN countries and Myanmar’s junta chief Min Aung Hlaing signed an agreement that included an immediate cessation of violence and the continuation of talks between all parties.
“ASEAN countries must hold the regime accountable for that … continue to demand the cessation of violence and the release of prisoners,” Blinken said.
But instead, the top US diplomat said: “I think unfortunately it’s safe to say that we haven’t seen any positive movement, and on the contrary, we continue to see the repression of the Burmese people, we continue to see the violence perpetrated against them by the regime, we continue to see practically all the opposition in jail or in exile.”
“And we continue to see a dire humanitarian situation exacerbated by the fact that the regime is not delivering what is needed by the people,” Blinken added.
He said: “All countries must continue to speak out clearly about what the regime is doing and its ongoing repression and brutality. We have an obligation to the people of Burma to hold the regime accountable.”
Blinken, on a tour of Asian countries, met with Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. They signed a communique on the countries’ strategic alliance and partnership, and then a memorandum of understanding on promoting supply chain resilience between Thailand and the United States.
Bonds ‘will grow stronger’
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Blinken said: “Our countries share the same goal of a free, open, interconnected, prosperous, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific. In recent years, we have worked together even more closely toward that vision. Our economic ties are incredibly strong and are even now emerging from COVID. They will get stronger.”
Blinken arrived in Thailand a few days after his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was on his own tour of Southeast Asia. Over the weekend, Wang visited Myanmar, his first visit to the country since the military seized power last year.
Blinken and Wang met Saturday at the summit of the Group of 20 largest economies, or G-20, in Bali, Indonesia, and spoke for several hours.
The top US diplomat told his Chinese counterpart during those meetings that China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine is complicating US-China relations at a time when they are already plagued by division and enmity over many other issues. .
Wang blamed the United States for the downturn in relations, saying US policy has been derailed by what he called a misperception of China as a threat.
“Many people believe that the United States suffers from China phobia,” the Chinese foreign minister said, according to a Chinese statement. “If that expansion of threats is allowed to grow, US policy toward China will be a dead end.”
Blinken said it conveyed “the deep concerns of the United States regarding Beijing’s increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity toward Taiwan.” Blinken said he also addressed US concerns about Beijing’s attempt to control the strategic South China Sea, its crackdown on the freedom of Hong Kong residents, and its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, including Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Talk about more cooperation
In addition, the US secretary of state said that he and Wang discussed ways in which there could be more cooperation between the two countries in areas such as the climate crisis, food security, global health and the fight against drug trafficking. .
For his part, Wang said China and the United States should work together to ensure that their relationship continues to move on the right track.