WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken will confront a number of daunting global challenges as he embarks this week on an around-the-world diplomatic tour that will test the Biden administration’s resolve on various fronts .
From Russia and Ukraine to China and Myanmar, Blinken will have a full agenda as he travels first to Britain and then on to Southeast Asia for what will be his longest overseas trip yet as America’s top diplomat.
The State Department announced Wednesday that Blinken will attend a meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers in England this weekend before flying on to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
At each stop, Blinken will be seeking support for U.S. efforts to tamp down tensions between Russia and Ukraine, push back on China's increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and secure backing for pressure on Myanmar’s military rulers.
The trip follows President Joe Biden's warnings to Russia's Vladimir Putin on Tuesday about any military moves against Ukraine, the announcement a day earlier that the U.S. would not send any official representatives to the upcoming Winter Olympics in China to protest human rights abuses in China's western Xinjiang region, and a stern U.S. condemnation of the conviction of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Blinken leaves late Thursday for Liverpool, where the British government is hosting a Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting that is focused on global issues such as climate change and the coronavirus pandemic as well as regional issues like Russia and Ukraine and China's rise, particularly in Asia. His counterparts from some non-G-7 nations, such as Australia, India, South Korea and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, will also participate.
Blinken “will discuss a range of issues, including geopolitical and security matters, the buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border, development infrastructure through the Build Back Better World initiative, COVID-19 vaccines and global health security, and growth in the Indo-Pacific region,” the State Department said.
From Liverpool, Blinken will travel to the capitals of ASEAN's three largest nations, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, before returning to Washington by way of Hawaii late next week.
In Jakarta, which hosts ASEAN's headquarters, the State Department said Blinken plans to deliver a major speech on the significance of the Indo-Pacific to U.S. foreign policy and highlight the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, on which many of China's neighbors have accused Beijing of encroaching.
In Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, Blinken plans to deliver similar messages along with expressing deep U.S. concerns about developments in Myanmar, where a military junta took power shortly after the Biden administration took office.
On Monday, a court in Myanmar convicted Suu Kyi, who was ousted in a de facto coup in February, on two charges in proceedings widely criticized as a further effort by the country’s military rulers to roll back the democratic gains of recent years.
Matthew Lee, The Associated Press