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UPDATE 3-Biden vows to stand with SE Asia in defending freedom of seas, democracy

October 27, 2021By Reuters

Recasts with Biden

By Ain Bandial and Tom Allard

President Joe Biden said the United States would stand with Southeast Asian allies in defending freedom of the seas, democracy and human rights and said he backed efforts to hold the Myanmar junta accountable to its commitments to peace.

Southeast Asia has become a strategic battleground between the United States and China, which controls most of the South China Sea and has turned up military and political pressure of fiercely democratic Taiwan, a self-ruled island it considers its own.

Biden joined Southeast Asian leaders in rebuking Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday, as a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) opened without a representative from the country following its top general’s exclusion for ignoring peace proposals.

“In Myanmar, we must address the tragedy caused by the military coup which is increasingly undermining regional stability,” Biden said at a virtual East Asian summit.

“The United States stands for the people of Myanmar and calls for military regime to end the violence, release all political prisoners and return to the path of democracy.”

He also said the United States was deeply concerned by “China’s coercive and proactive actions across the Taiwan Strait”, a waterway linking Taiwan and the mainland.

Tensions between Taiwan and China, which claims the island as sovereign territory, have escalated in recent weeks as Beijing raises military and political pressure.

That has included repeated missions by Chinese warplanes in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, which covers a broader area than Taiwan’s territorial air space which Taiwan monitors and patrols to give it more time to respond to any threats.

China has never renounced the use of force to ensure eventual unification with Taiwan.

Biden also said he would speak out for “human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet (and) the rights of the people of Hong Kong”.

China denies human rights abuses in farwestern Xinjiang and the Himalayan region of Tibet. It also denies meddling with freedoms in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

(Reporting by Ain Bandial in Bandar Seri Begawan and Tom Allard in Sydney; Additional reporting by Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo, Colin Packham in Canberra and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Writing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Jon Boyle)

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