UPDATED: China’s Xi says Asia should not become arena for ‘big power contest’

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  • China’s Xi to meet Japan leader on sidelines
  • Unilateralism, protectionism must be rejected – Xi
  • Thai foreign minister warns against ‘cancel mentality’
  • Leaders of Russia, United States not joining APEC
  • Myanmar junta frees prisoners as APEC starts

BANGKOK, Nov 17 (Reuters) – The Asia-Pacific is no one’s backyard and should not become an arena for a big power contest, China’s President Xi Jinping said in written remarks on Thursday, calling on the world to reject any cold war mentality.

“No attempt to wage a new cold war will ever be allowed by the people or by our times,” Xi said in remarks prepared for a business event on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok, which he had to withdraw from due to his meetings schedule.

“We should follow a path of openness and inclusiveness,” he said in the speech, which was provided by organisers, adding the region should not turn into “an arena for big power contest.”

“Unilateralism and protectionism should be rejected by all; any attempt to politicise and weaponise economic and trade relations should also be rejected by all.”

The APEC meeting follows a series of regional summits so far dominated by geopolitical tension over the war in Ukraine.

At the Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Bali, countries unanimously adopted a declaration saying most members condemned the Ukraine war, but that also acknowledged some countries saw the conflict differently. Host Indonesia said the war was the most contentious issue.

Russia is a member of both G20 and APEC but President Vladimir Putin has stayed away from the summits. First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov will represent him at APEC.

‘PIVOTAL JUNCTURE’

Host Thailand on Thursday said leaders gathering for the APEC forum should “rise above differences”.

Its Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said the meeting of the 21-member bloc, which starts on Friday, “takes place at a pivotal juncture” with the world facing multiple risks.

“Cancel mentality… permeates every conversation and action, (and) makes any compromise appear impossible,” he said in a statement after a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers ahead of the main summit.

“That’s why APEC this year must rise above these challenges and deliver hope to the world at large.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are among those also attending the main meeting, while French President Emmanuel Macron is a special guest.

Xi was due to have talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday evening.

His meeting comes a day after tensions simmered in Bali, where Xi criticised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in person over alleged leaks of their closed-door meeting, a rare public display of annoyance by the Chinese leader. Trudeau is also in Bangkok.

The Ukraine war also figured prominently at the East Asia Summit and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summits in Cambodia at the weekend, as did the crisis in Myanmar, whose ruling generals were barred from attending due to failure to follow a peace process.

On Thursday, as leaders prepared for the APEC meeting, the junta in neighbouring Myanmar announced an amnesty for 5,774 political prisoners, among them a Japanese filmmaker, a former British ambassador and an Australian economist and former adviser to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Activists and the military’s opponents welcomed the amnesty, but warned the world not to be tricked by the junta, which they said was using people as bargaining chips.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Juarawee Kittisilpa, Chayut Setboonsarng, Panu Wongcha-um and Simon Lewis; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Martin Petty; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, William Maclean)

A woman holding an anti-government sign gestures at a riot police officer during a protest against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, at the Asoke intersection, near the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, the venue of the APEC Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, 17 November 2022. Protesters held a rally against APEC as well as against Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Thailand is host to the summit for economic cooperation, comprising 21 leading member economies to promote free trade in the Asia-Pacific region, from 18 to 19 November 2022. EPA-EFE/DIEGO AZUBEL

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