China stresses ties with Southeast Asia in Cambodia meeting

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi smiles before the start of ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi smiles before the start of ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is stressing his country’s efforts to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries at a meeting with their foreign ministers, which comes as Beijing seeks to expand its influence in the region

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed his country's efforts to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries at a meeting Thursday with their foreign ministers, which came as Beijing seeks to expand its influence in the region.

Wang's talks with top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were held amid high tensions in the region, following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which has infuriated Beijing.

The group issued a strong statement earlier in the day, urging both the U.S. and China to show “maximum restraint” in the wake of the visit and “refrain from provocative action.”

China claims the self-governing island of Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments.

In his opening remarks, Wang did not mention the situation but instead stressed how China and ASEAN countries have strengthened cooperation in recent years.

“We have safeguarded the oasis of peace in the face of the turbulence in the international security situation,” he said.

ASEAN is made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

China has become one of the biggest lenders to developing countries through its Belt and Road Initiative to expand trade by building ports, railways and other infrastructure across Asia, Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

This has prompted accusations that Beijing is using debt to gain political leverage, but Chinese officials deny that.

In the Phnom Penh meetings, Wang pledged that China will continue to "strive to promote high-quality development, build a new development pattern, provide greater momentum for regional and world economic recovery and development, and provide more development opportunities for ASEAN countries.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, one of the group’s most pro-China countries and this year's host of the ASEAN meetings, met individually with Wang on Wednesday.

During the meeting with Hun Sen, Wang reiterated that “China is willing to work with Cambodia to safeguard their respective sovereignty, security and development interests,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The report did not provide more detail, but China and Cambodia in June broke ground on a naval port expansion project which has raised concerns from the U.S. and others that it could give Beijing a strategically important military outpost on the Gulf of Thailand.

Hun Sen in 2019 reportedly granted China the right to set up a military base at the Ream Naval Base, but has long denied that, saying Cambodia’s Constitution prohibits foreign military facilities.

The U.S. in November sanctioned two senior Cambodian defense officials over allegations of graft connected to construction financing at the Ream base, and China has accused Washington of conducting a smear campaign.

In his meeting with Wang, Hun Sen said an “iron-clad” friendship had developed which was “enjoying fruitful results from joint construction of the Belt and Road, which have brought huge benefits to their peoples,” Xinhua reported.

The U.S. has also been pushing strongly to increase its presence and involvement in the Asia-Pacific, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said ahead of his meetings with the ASEAN ministers that Washington hoped to increase cooperation with the group across the region.

“We strongly support the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific and we wholeheartedly endorse the values upon which the outlook is based," Blinken said. "Openness, exclusivity, a commitment to the rule of law, good governance.”

In a separate meeting with the ASEAN ministers that brought together Wang with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, Yoshimasa emphasized that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had far-reaching effects beyond Europe, which he said has made it even more difficult for economies to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Russia's aggression against Ukraine has given rise to many challenges, including soaring prices of energy, food and other commodities, as well as supply chain disruptions," he said. “I think now is the time to address these challenges in a coordinated manner, and it is even more important to maintain and strengthen the free and open international order based on the rule of law.”

Addressing the ASEAN ministers ahead of a different meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made no specific mention of the Ukraine invasion or the resulting economic issues, saying only that there were currently “challenges related to some of our colleagues imposing bloc approaches in the spirit of the Cold War.”

In a one-on-one meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, however, Cambodia's Hun Sen said he had urged that sanctions against Russia be reconsidered because they were having serious economic effects on other nations around the world.

He added in a post on his Facebook page that he had met with Lavrov and that they talked about the war in Ukraine, but did not provide further details.

In a later post, he said he had also urged Blinken to reconsider the Russia sanctions.

___ Associated Press writer Sopheng Cheang contributed to this story.

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In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pose for a photo prior to their talks on the sideline of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (55th AMM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Both U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were to hold separate meetings later in the day with the ASEAN group. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pose for a photo prior to their talks on the sideline of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (55th AMM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Both U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were to hold separate meetings later in the day with the ASEAN group. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Combined ShapeCaption
In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pose for a photo prior to their talks on the sideline of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (55th AMM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Both U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were to hold separate meetings later in the day with the ASEAN group. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

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From left, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

From left, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

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From left, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Credit: Andrew Harnik

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, and others do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, and others do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, and others do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Credit: Andrew Harnik

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, center, and Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attend the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, center, and Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attend the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, center, and Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attend the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Credit: Heng Sinith

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, center, and Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attend the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, center, and Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attend the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, center, and Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi attend the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Credit: Heng Sinith

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From left to right, Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a group photo during the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. ( AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

From left to right, Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a group photo during the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. ( AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

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From left to right, Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a group photo during the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. ( AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Credit: Heng Sinith

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From left to right, Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stand for group photo during the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. ( AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

From left to right, Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stand for group photo during the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. ( AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Combined ShapeCaption
From left to right, Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stand for group photo during the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. ( AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Credit: Heng Sinith

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In this photo released by the Agence Kampuchea Press (AKP), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, fifth from left, poses for a group photo with ASEAN Foreign Ministers during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AKP via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

In this photo released by the Agence Kampuchea Press (AKP), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, fifth from left, poses for a group photo with ASEAN Foreign Ministers during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AKP via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

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In this photo released by the Agence Kampuchea Press (AKP), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, fifth from left, poses for a group photo with ASEAN Foreign Ministers during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AKP via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, chats with Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, center, and Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as they arrives at ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting at a hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, chats with Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, center, and Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as they arrives at ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting at a hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, chats with Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, center, and Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as they arrives at ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting at a hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Credit: Heng Sinith

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Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong, left, talks with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during ASEAN - Australia Foreign minister Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong, left, talks with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during ASEAN - Australia Foreign minister Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

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Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong, left, talks with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during ASEAN - Australia Foreign minister Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Credit: Heng Sinith

Credit: Heng Sinith

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken, fifth left, and others do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, fifth left, and others do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Combined ShapeCaption
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, fifth left, and others do the "ASEAN-way handshake" for a group photo during the U.S. ministerial meeting at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Blinken is on a ten-day trip to Cambodia, Philippians, South Africa, Congo, and Rwanda. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Credit: Andrew Harnik

Credit: Andrew Harnik