A statement by East Asia leaders “on Maintaining and Promoting the Region as an Epicentrum of Growth” was issued soon after the summit concluded on Thursday in Indonesia, this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The leaders of the 18-nation bloc agreed to “promote peace, stability, maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight, other internationally lawful uses of the seas and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce”.
An accompanying chairman’s statement released by Asean on Thursday evening took a harder line, strongly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and warning against the use of nuclear weapons. It said many participating nations opposed the war.
“Most members strongly condemn the aggression against Ukraine and underscore the need to reach a just, and lasting peace,” the statement said.
The US and Russia failed to agree on a joint statement at the East Asia Summit last year in Cambodia, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blaming Washington and its allies for insisting on language with regard to Ukraine that he said was unacceptable.
Russia continues to refuse describing its invasion of Ukraine as a war, instead calling it a “special military operation”.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, this year’s rotating chair of Asean, meanwhile urged the leaders to strengthen cooperation and dialogue, and not to stoke divisions.
“All of us sitting in this room have an equal responsibility to create peace, stability, and prosperity in the region,” he said earlier on Thursday. “We have the same responsibility not to create new conflicts, not to create new tensions, new wars.”