JAKARTA, Indonesia – Southeast Asian nations should avoid becoming “chess pieces”, China’s foreign minister said Monday, as he revealed proposing a set of “rules” to promote positive interactions between Beijing and Washington at a recent meeting.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China website / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Wang Yi held five hours of talks on Saturday with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken — their first since October — on the Indonesian island of Bali, after the pair attended a Group of 20 gathering the day before.

Both sides later portrayed the talks as an attempt to improve ties prevent bilateral tensions from spiralling out of control.

Years of rising tensions between the two has alarmed regional neighbours, something Wang recognised in speech at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, which represents 10 Southeast Asian nations.

“At the moment many countries in the region, including in the ASEAN region are under pressure to take sides,” Wang said. 

“We should insulate this region from geopolitical calculations and the trap of the law of the jungle, from being used as chess pieces in major power rivalries,” he added.

Wang also gave further details of his talks with Blinken, including measures to tame tensions.

“I told the US side very solemnly, that our two sides should consider discuss the establishment of rules for positive interactions in the Asia Pacific and to uphold jointly open regionalism,” Wang said, without elaborating on what these rules would be.

He also called on ASEAN countries to oppose “fake regional cooperation that keeps certain countries out” — a reference to US-led security and trade blocks that China is not a part of. 

The Chinese and US top diplomats are expected to prepare for virtual talks in the coming weeks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden as both countries stepped up engagement and moderate their rhetoric.  

After a long chill during the pandemic between the two countries, the two countries’ defence, finance, and national security chiefs have all spoken since last month.