In retaliation to the United States, China’s Foreign Minister pays a visit to Singapore.
During a Southeast Asian tour regarded as a rebuke to Washington’s efforts to restore its influence in the area, China’s foreign minister met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday.
Both US Vice President Kamala Harris and Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin have visited the city-state in recent weeks and harshly criticized Beijing’s increasing aggression in Asia.
The excursions were part of the new US administration’s efforts to rebuild a bulwark against China’s emerging power in the region following the chaotic Donald Trump era.
In addition to Singapore, Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Vietnam and Cambodia, both of which had recently hosted senior US officials.
He met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee on Tuesday, and the two had a “constructive and open discussion on international and regional trends,” according to Lee.
A day earlier, he met with the city-foreign state’s minister and deputy prime minister.
At a time when Beijing is challenging Washington’s political clout and naval superiority in the area, Southeast Asia is becoming an increasingly significant battleground for influence for the world’s two largest economies.
According to Mustafa Izzuddin, an international affairs expert with consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore, Wang’s travel was a “strategic decision” by Beijing to respond to comments made by US authorities.
“The Chinese leadership wants to stay on the radar of Southeast Asian nations that are engaging in very pragmatic hedging between the US and China,” Izzuddin told AFP.
Singapore, which has strong security connections with the US and strong economic ties with Beijing, has stated that countries should not be forced to pick between the two.
China’s claims to nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in annual shipping traffic flow, have inflamed tensions with rival claimants in Asia for decades.
Beijing’s assertions have been routinely condemned by US officials as illegitimate.
The US-China relationship has deteriorated on a number of fronts, including cybersecurity and technological superiority, as well as human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.