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ASEAN warns of 'miscalculation' risk over Taiwan, urges all parties to avoid provocation

A woman passes ASEAN Summit flags at the Suntec Convention Center in Singapore, on November 11, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has voiced concern about the situation in Chinese Taipei, warning of the risk of a "miscalculation" amid soaring tensions between Washington and Beijing over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island.

In a statement on Thursday, ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, said the current situation could "destabilize the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers."

They further called for "maximum restraint" in Taiwan Strait and for all sides to "refrain from provocative action" in the wake of Pelosi's highly-controversial visit.

"The world is in dire need of wisdom and responsibility of all leaders to uphold multilateralism and partnership, cooperation, peaceful-coexistence and healthy competition for our shared goals of peace, stability, security and inclusive and sustainable development," the statement said.

"We should act together and ASEAN stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue between all parties including through utilizing ASEAN-led mechanisms to deescalate tension, to safeguard peace, security and development in our region," it added.

The meeting in Phnom Penh of the 10-nation bloc, which is being attended by both US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, has been overshadowed by developments in Taiwan following Pelosi's visit.

Southeast Asian countries tend to tread a careful line in trying to balance their relations with China and the United States, wary of getting in between the superpowers.

Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, despite repeated warnings by Beijing over the past month against such a provocative trip. She addressed the island's parliament on Wednesday before participating in public and private meetings with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.

China demonstrated its fierce anger at the highest-level US visit to Taiwan in 25 years with a burst of military activity in the island's surrounding waters, announcing plans for live-fire military drills. The unprecedented military exercises kicked off on Thursday, a day after Pelosi left Taipei, featuring J-20 stealth fighter jets and the test firing of conventional missiles, according to the Global Times.

China also summoned the US ambassador in Beijing over Pelosi's visit, notifying the envoy about the country's strong protest. It also expanded its trade suspensions on Chinese Taipei to include additional agriculture products, following a ban earlier in the week on imports from more than 100 Taiwanese food companies. China is Taipei's largest trading partner.

China has sovereignty over Taiwan under the "One China" policy. Almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The United States, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to unnerve Beijing.

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