The President of the United States, Joe Biden, has warned that the war in ukraine threatens the “rules-based international order,” including in the Asia-Pacific region, where Washington is locked in a growing competence with Beijing.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday alongside Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Biden said “all nations” have a right to territorial integrity and sovereignty, regardless of size or population.
“It is clear that Putin’s war is unacceptable to nations in all regions of the world, not just in Europe but in all regions of the world,” Biden told reporters. “It is an attack on fundamental international principles that underpin peace, security and prosperity everywhere.”
That was echoed by Lee, who spoke out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying “the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all countries, large and small, must be respected.”
The meeting came as the United States continues threaten china with “consequences” if it comes to Russia’s help in Ukraine and, separately, rejects Beijing’s growing influence in Asia-Pacific.
While the conflict in Ukraine has dominated global attention, Biden said his administration “strongly supports moving quickly to implement the Indo-Pacific strategy.”
The Biden administration announced that strategy in February, pledging to commit more diplomatic and security resources to the region to counter what it sees as China’s attempt to create a regional sphere of influence.
Biden also said Tuesday that he wanted to ensure the region remained “free and open,” a reference to what the White House sees as China’s attempts to dominate international trade routes.
For his part, Lee urged closer ties between the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), saying “it helps the US to be present in Asia-Pacific and deepen its relations with many friends.” and strengthen their strategic interests. in the region”.
“The war in Ukraine has a negative impact on the Indo-Pacific region, which is already facing many complex challenges. Taken together, the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century call for deeper cooperation between us,” Biden and Lee also said in a joint statement.
Biden was due to host the leaders of the 10-nation group of ASEAN, of which Singapore is a member, this week, but the summit was postponed because not all leaders were able to attend on the March 28-29 dates announced by the White House. .
Before the Biden-Lee meeting, a senior US administration official told reporters that the White House is working to reschedule the event. “We think the clock is ticking and we want to try to do this,” the official said.
Lee’s trip comes after Vice President Kamala Harris, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo visited Singapore last year. Biden last spoke with Lee at the G20 summit in Rome.
Singapore is a key financial and trade hub and has been eager to hear details of US plans for an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).
Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has tested the US-China relationshipwith Washington pressuring Beijing, which has taken a neutral stance on the conflict and urged de-escalation, to do more to rein in Russia.
Bilateral ties between the US and China were already strained amid a variety of issues, including Taiwan, the South China Sea and Beijing’s human rights record.
In the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by surrounding Southeast Asian nations, Beijing has built artificial islands and turned rocky outcrops into military bases, deploying its Coast Guard and maritime militia to back its claim to almost the entire sea. sea.
In their statement Tuesday, Biden and Lee reiterated their support for “ASEAN-led efforts to develop an effective and substantive Code of Conduct for the South China Sea that upholds the legitimate rights and interests of all parties.”
They also called on North Korea, which last week tried a powerful new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, to stop such launches and return to negotiations on its weapons program. “We both urge North Korea to refrain from further provocations and return to the negotiating table for serious and sustained diplomacy,” Biden said.
North Korea has so far rejected US calls for direct talks about its nuclear and missile programs.
Meanwhile, Biden said it remains to be seen whether Russia follows through with any action to scale back its military operations in Ukraine, saying Washington and its allies will continue heavy sanctions and aid for Ukraine.
“We will see if they go ahead with what they are suggesting,” he told reporters. “We’re going to continue to keep a close eye on what’s going on.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met to face to face talks in Istanbul, Turkey, after several rounds of previous negotiations to end the conflict failed.
Moscow said it was ready to “fundamentally cut” military activity near the Ukrainian capital of kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, in what Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said was an effort “to increase confidence” in the conversations.
On the Ukrainian side, negotiators said they were willing to accept a neutral status, one of Russia’s key demands, if an international agreement was reached under which other countries would serve as guarantors of Ukraine’s security.