French President Emmanuel Macron (C) is greeted by Thai officials after landing in Bangkok Wednesday night for the APEC summit – Copyright POOL/AFP Ludovic MARIN
Pacific rim leaders fly into Bangkok on Thursday for a summit on pandemic recovery and the global economic turmoil unleashed by the war in Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will join rulers from the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum for the high-level talks.
The gathering follows a meeting of the G20 in Indonesia that was upended by fears that a deadly missile strike on Poland signalled a dangerous escalation of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Western leaders have moved to dial down the alarm, saying the blast was probably an accident, with both Poland and NATO saying the explosion was most likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile launched to intercept a Russian barrage.
US President Joe Biden held emergency talks with G7 and NATO allies on the sidelines of the G20 on Wednesday before saying it appeared unlikely that the missile was fired from Russia.
China’s President Xi Jinping will arrive in Bangkok later Thursday, days after a landmark summit with Biden in Bali.
The superpower pair tried to take the heat out of their rivalry, which has intensified sharply in recent years as Beijing has become more powerful and more assertive about replacing the US-led order that has prevailed since World War II.
They emerged from three hours of talks on Monday declaring there need not be a new Cold War, speaking of their desire to prevent tensions from spilling into conflict.
The easing of tensions will be welcome news for APEC members who have grown increasingly alarmed at the prospect of having to take sides between the world’s two biggest economies.
While the pair still clashed on the question of self-governing Taiwan’s future — a major regional flashpoint — they found common ground on Ukraine.
They underlined that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was unacceptable — a clear rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats over his failing war in Ukraine.
The APEC summit caps an intense fortnight of diplomacy in Asia, following the G20 and a gathering of Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders in Phnom Penh last week.
Alongside the main summit, Xi is expected to hold bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — the Chinese leader’s first in-person talks with a Japanese leader since 2019.
Macron landed in Bangkok late Wednesday aiming to relaunch France’s strategic ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region after the humiliating blow of Australia cancelling a major submarine contract in 2021.
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