Singapore and Indonesia on Thursday condemned the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Russia invaded the former Soviet republic, but much of the rest of Southeast Asia was silent in its response to development.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine early Thursday in what European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Twitter called “among Europe’s darkest hours since World War II”.
Missiles rained down on Ukrainian targets as columns of troops crossed the country’s borders on three sides, Reuters reported. At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers were killed on Thursday, according to AP.
Singapore said the city-state was “seriously concerned” by Russia’s announcement of what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
“Singapore strongly condemns any unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country under any pretext. We reaffirm that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected,” the ministry said in a statement. .
“We hope that the military actions will cease immediately; and urge a peaceful settlement of the dispute, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law.
Indonesia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Jakarta was concerned about the “escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine” as it endangers the people and peace in the Asian region.
“Affirming that international law and the Charter of the United Nations concerning the territorial integrity of a country must be respected and condemning any action which clearly constitutes a violation of the territory and sovereignty of a country”, read the door- ministry spokesperson, Teuku Faizasyah. .
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo posted on Twitter – without referring to Russia or Ukraine: “Stop the war. War brings misery to humanity and endangers the whole world.
Ukraine’s envoy to Indonesia urged Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest country and the world’s third-largest democracy, to speak up and act louder.
“[W]We also expect Indonesia, like other countries in the world, to impose sanctions, issue deep criticism and condemn Russia’s aggression,” envoy Vasyl Hamianin told Thursday. Jakarta.
“I think if Indonesia speaks up, no one, no country, no region, no leader in the world would dare to ignore it.”
Indonesia currently holds the presidency of the G-20 – which includes the world’s 19 largest economies and the EU – and this creates a dilemma when it comes to responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, said said an analyst at BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA. .
Indonesia “will refrain from commenting because we want the G-20 to work well,” Teuku Rezasyah, a professor of international politics at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, told BenarNews.
“The G-20 meeting in Bali will bring together the leaders of the United States, Russia and the European Union. Thus, Indonesia must make a statement which will not be interpreted as a position. … As As Chairman of the G-20, Indonesia is in a strategic position, but this also poses a dilemma.
“We don’t get involved”
Meanwhile, other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have drawn more subdued reactions, perhaps because the regional bloc’s credo is non-interference in affairs. interiors of other nations.
Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told a press conference on Thursday that he regretted “the latest developments in Ukraine”.
“ASEAN, as an organization of free countries, agrees that we don’t meddle in the problems of foreign countries,” he told a news conference in Cambodia, which he was visiting.
“[Cambodian] Prime Minister Hun San also agrees that we will not make any statement unless ASEAN countries discuss the issue and reach consensus.
The Philippines said its main concern was the safety of Filipinos in Ukraine, while Thailand said it was following developments in Ukraine “with deep concern”.
Vietnam, a member of ASEAN, Moscow’s closest partner in Southeast Asia, remained passive, making no substantive comment beyond a formal plea for restraint, Radio Free Asia reported ( RFA), a sister entity of BenarNews.
However, unlike before, Vietnamese media are covering the situation in Ukraine without their usual pro-Russian bias, RFA said. Russia is Vietnam’s most important defense partner and the main supplier of arms and equipment to the Vietnamese armed forces.
ASEAN has yet to issue a statement on Ukraine, although Reuters news agency has seen what it described as the regional bloc’s draft statement. He said the situation must see a “peaceful resolution in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations”.
Past and future implications
While striking, the lack of a strong response from Southeast Asia is nothing new, analyst Zachary Abuza wrote in a commentary for BenarNews on Tuesday. He cited Moscow’s 2014 invasion of Crimea as an example.
“The only reason Southeast Asia was dragged into the situation was the July 17, 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile that killed all 298 passengers and crew members,” Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington, noted in the column.
Even then, “few people in Southeast Asia showed any willingness to confront Russia over MH-17,” he said.
The reason for the lackluster response is that Russia is far from Southeast Asia and has few economic or political ties to the region, the columnist wrote.
But Southeast Asian countries should take a tougher stance, he argued.
“[T]This is something that sets a very dangerous legal precedent, especially for an authoritarian country like China that has repeatedly pushed for its own interpretations of international law, most clearly in the South China Sea.
Six Asian governments have territorial claims or maritime borders in the South China Sea that overlap with China’s broad claims. While Indonesia does not consider itself a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea that overlap with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
China has never accepted the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which said Beijing’s vast “historic claims” in the South China Sea had no legal basis.
And stability in Southeast Asia has recently been threatened by alleged incursions by Chinese ships into the exclusive economic zones of Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia in the South China Sea.
BenarNews reporters Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharasakwet in Bangkok, Suganya Lingan and Muzliza Mustafa in Kuala Lumpur, and Jeoffrey Maitem and Basilio Sepe in Manila contributed to this report. BenarNews is an online news service affiliated with RFA.