Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu told his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that it would be good to “meet face to face” again after more than a year of diplomacy-via-Zoom.
Instead, ASEAN has granted this privilege to China, twice: first in Fujian province and again in Chongqing, just weeks apart. It is no surprise that Southeast Asian countries would wish to speak with China. Despite the pandemic, ASEAN’s volume of trade with China increased to an all-time high of $731.9 billion (excluding services), and China will likely play a central role in the region’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
China’s decision to host the foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN member states in Chongqing was also important in that it was attended by Wunna Maung Lwin, the foreign minister of the military junta led by Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing that came to power in a coup in February.