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APEC Latest: Kamala Harris Condemns North Korea Missile Launch

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 11/18/2022 Ben Westcott, Jenny Leonard and Patpicha Tanakasempipat

(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Kamala Harris met with allies on North Korea and reaffirmed the US’s commitment to Asia, as American and Chinese officials pitched their competing visions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok. 

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Harris, who was representing US President Joe Biden in the last of three back-to-back summits in Southeast Asia, pledged to uphold international economic rules and norms in a speech to business executives Friday. The remarks came a day after Chinese leader Xi Jinping told the same gathering that the region was “no one’s backyard.”

Leaders Arrive At the APEC Summit in Bangkok © Bloomberg Leaders Arrive At the APEC Summit in Bangkok

The host, Thailand, is using the meetings to push for a shift toward green industries and help rebuild the regional economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Still, the Thai Foreign Ministry acknowledged that the annual leaders’ gathering might not produce a joint statement before it ends Saturday. 

Key Developments:

Kamala Harris Seeks to Coax Asia Toward US as China Gains (1)Macron Warns Australia’s Nuclear Subs Deal ‘Will Not Deliver’Asia-Pacific Shouldn’t Be Arena for ‘Big Power Contest,’ Xi SaysChina, Japan Leaders Open Door to Mending Ties in First MeetingBusinesses Urge APEC Summit to Tackle Inflation, Energy Crisis

(All times local)

Protesters Clash With Police (6:02 p.m.)

Thai police fired rubber bullets at protesters and arrested 25 people on charges including vandalism and arson after they tried to breach police barricades to march toward the venue of the APEC Leaders Summit on Friday. Some protesters, journalists and at least five officers were injured in the clashes, local media reported.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who is chairing the APEC gathering, was the target of the demonstration, with protesters saying he was not fit to be a leader to represent Thailand at the summit. Prayuth, a former general, first took office after a coup in 2014 and retained power after a national election.

Ministers Urge Bolstering Supply Chains (5:38 p.m.) 

APEC ministers called for efforts to deliver a “free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, inclusive and predictable trade and investment environment”  and keep supply chains secure and resilient, in a joint statement released Friday. The pointed to continued divisions over the war in Ukraine, echoing a Group of 20 communique saying that “most members strongly condemned the war.” 

Xi Seeks Greater Communications With Ardern (5:34 p.m.)

China and New Zealand, as comprehensive strategic partners, should enhance communications, build mutual trust, and take care of each other’s core interests and major concerns to ensure bilateral relations are sustainable, state broadcaster reported citing Xi’s meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Bangkok.

The two nations should deepen cooperation in trade, tech and culture, and jointly deal with global challenges such as climate changes, according to Xi.

Consensus ‘Very Difficult’: Thai Official (2:55 p.m.) 

The APEC summit might not produce a joint statement, Thai Foreign Ministry official Cherdchai Chaivaivid told a news briefing, adding that a “set of very good outcome documents” on green economic goals were more likely. The documents may also outline the bloc’s priorities on key economic and trade issues, said Cherdchai, director-general of the ministry’s International Economic Affairs Department. 

“As far as the host economy is concerned, we know that since the trade ministers meeting back in May we have not succeeded in getting consensus around one single draft joint statement,” Cherdchai said. “I’m not going so far to say we’ll get a consensual leaders declaration at this point, because we haven’t completed negotiations yet,” he said, adding it has been “very difficult for us in 2022” to get consensus.

Harris Reassures on US Commitment (2:13 p.m.)

US Vice President Kamala Harris tried to persuade Asian nations that the US is their most valuable economic partner in a speech in Bangkok on Friday, with the Biden administration wary of China’s inroads in the region.

“As a strong partner to the economies and companies of the Indo-Pacific, America’s approach to these relationships is based on collaboration, sustainability, transparency and fairness,” Harris said. “Through all of our efforts, we will continue to uphold and to strengthen international economic rules and norms that protect a free market and create predictability and stability.”

Marcos Urges China to Buy More Durian (1:42 p.m.)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agreed to deepen agriculture and infrastructure ties during their first in-person meeting in Bangkok, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department said.

China is open to increasing imports of farm goods like durians from the Philippines, the agency said in a statement Friday, a day after the leaders’ talks at the sidelines of the APEC meetings. Xi and Marcos also agreed to consider more infrastructure projects.

The leaders also agreed that the South China Sea issue isn’t the totality of their nations’ ties, while supporting a code of conduct in the disputed waters. “Our foreign policy refuses to fall into the trap of a Cold War mindset,” Marcos said.

Harris Meets With Allies on North Korea (1:18 p.m.)

US Vice President Kamala Harris condemned North Korea’s test of a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile during an impromptu meeting with the leaders of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. 

“We strongly condemn these actions, and we again call for North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts,” she said at the start of the meeting. “I reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances. Together, the countries represented here will continue to urge North Korea to commit to serious and sustained diplomacy.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the missile likely landed in waters within the country’s exclusive economic zone, which would be the first time in about eight months. Japan’s Coast Guard had projected a landing of about 210 kms west of the main northern island of Hokkaido. 

“The provocations are continuing at an unprecedented pace,” Kishida told reporters. “I repeat that we absolutely cannot condone this,” he said. 

Macron Warns Australia’s Nuclear Sub Deal Won’t ‘Deliver’ (12:37 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron said Australia’s Aukus security agreement with the US and UK to deliver nuclear-powered submarines “will not deliver.” 

Speaking with Bloomberg on the sidelines of APEC summit in Bangkok, Macron said the previous deal with France to build conventional submarines would’ve provided “for Australian people, in Australia, for Australian industry, to build Australian sovereignty.” The Aukus agreement, he said, could undermine Canberra’s military supply chains.

The French president also said Australia needed to “define its Indo-Pacific strategy.” The relationship between Australia and France was badly damaged in late 2021 when the former government walked away from a $58 billion contract to build a submarine fleet.

Kamala Harris Convenes Meeting on North Korea (12:29 p.m.)

US Vice President Kamala Harris will convene a meeting to consult on North Korea’s test on Friday of an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to a White House official. 

Participants will include leaders from Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

Thai Police Used Rubber Bullets, Arrested 10 Protesters (12:02 pm)

Thai police fired rubber bullets at more than 350 protesters in self-defense as global leaders met in Bangkok, according to police spokesman Archayon Kraithong.

APEC Leaders Meeting Takes Place In Bangkok © Photographer: Louise Delmotte/Getty Images AsiaPac APEC Leaders Meeting Takes Place In Bangkok

Police arrested 10 demonstrators, he said, adding that five officers were injured in the scuffle.

‘Huge Mistake’ to Split World Into US-China Blocs: Macron (11:52 a.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron told the APEC CEO summit on Friday that there should be a “single global order,” encouraging world leaders to avoid splitting the globe between the US and China.

Macron said an increasing number of countries were being put in a position where they had to choose between an allegiance to Beijing or Washington. “This is a huge mistake,” he said, adding that countries should compete but also respect sovereignty. 

The French leader, who attended the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, also said he would seek a global consensus to ask Russia to stop its war in Ukraine.

Thai PM Urges Focus on Sustainable Growth (11:12 a.m.)

Opening the APEC leaders summit, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha urged APEC leaders to look beyond post-pandemic recovery efforts and focus on building a sustainable and inclusive world.

“APEC must look beyond recovery from the pandemic and toward rejuvenating and revitalizing the environment to boost resilience and ensure a more inclusive and sustainable growth,” Prayuth told the two-day summit that’s focused on issues ranging from high inflation, food and energy prices, growing inequality and challenges of climate change.

Protesters Demonstrate Against Xi, Prayuth (10:53 a.m.)

Protesters carrying flags and “Wanted” posters of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha scuffled with police near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, which is some distance from the summit venue. Officers with shields pushed back protesters who tried to overturn a police car, TV footage shows.

Thailand Pushes for Asia-Wide Trade Deal (8:00 a.m.)

As host of the APEC leader’s meeting, Thailand will push for progress of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement Friday. 

A meeting of the APEC ministers has already endorsed a proposal to move forward with the regional trade pact, known as FTAAP, which was first proposed in 2006 to liberalize tariffs and other barriers to trade among member economies.

Thailand sees the trade pact as key to dismantling unnecessary trade and investment barriers, increasing the competitiveness of APEC economies and reducing the economic development and trade gap, Anucha said.

Harris to Defend US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (7:00 a.m.)

Vice President Kamala Harris in a speech to business executives will defend the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy against skeptics who question the US commitment to the region and economic staying power, according to a White House official.

Harris will directly address those critics in remarks she is set to deliver Friday afternoon in Bangkok to an audience of several hundred business executives from the Indo-Pacific region and US.

--With assistance from Rebecca Choong Wilkins, Janine Phakdeetham, Suttinee Yuvejwattana, Isabel Reynolds, Kristine Servando and Samy Adghirni.

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