PHNOM PENH, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The United States should not use its special summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to create a rift and instability in the region, Cambodian scholars said here on Tuesday.
U.S. President Joe Biden is due to meet with ASEAN leaders, including Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, who is the ASEAN chair for 2022, in Washington D.C. later this month.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Biden should use the meeting to express support for ASEAN's post-COVID-19 socioeconomic recovery, rather than to press the bloc to follow its scenarios or agendas against other countries.
"What the U.S. should do is encouraging ASEAN to adhere to its principle of centrality, solidarity and unity," he told Xinhua.
Phea said the U.S. should respect ASEAN's rights in making decisions and should not use economic, political or security pressure to bargain with ASEAN or to force ASEAN to make decisions in its favor.
"The U.S. must respect the common interests of the ASEAN, the region and the world, and should not put forward any scenarios or agendas that lead to ASEAN's rift and instability in the region," he said.
It is essential for the bloc to stay united against the U.S. interference for the sake of regional peace, stability, development and prosperity, Phea said.
Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said Biden should use the platform to focus on digital technology, global energy crisis, climate change, economic sustainability, strategy and cooperation in the post-pandemic era, further investment opportunities, and human resources development in the region.
"These are the main issues and hot topics, and all member states are looking forward to working closely with the U.S. to overcome these shortcomings in the region," he told Xinhua.
"Bringing up controversial issues, forcing and coercing ASEAN member states to support its approach and agenda in the region, and trying to divide ASEAN on any issues will undermine the credibility and authenticity of the whole summit, so the U.S. should be mindful of it," he said.
Matthews also urged ASEAN leaders to be vigilant over the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the U.S., Japan, Australia and India, and the Australia-U.K.-U.S. pact, saying both military-cum-security alliances are posing a major security threat to ASEAN and the whole Asia region.
"These alliances will trigger a conventional and nuclear arms race in the region, and thus destabilize peace and security, undermine economic development and destroy the ASEAN's centrality," he said.
"It is the Cold War mentality that is still in action, so ASEAN (members) and other Asian countries should jointly guard against this Cold War mentality in order to protect peace, stability and development in the region," Matthews added.
Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, said the U.S. should continue its cooperation with ASEAN through providing financial and technical assistance, medical equipment and vaccines to fight COVID-19.
"The U.S. should not impose sanctions on other countries with the aim of weakening their economies and inciting insurrection because these acts could cause social instability and lead to civil war in those targeted countries, and innocent people would suffer most," he told Xinhua.
"Using sanctions and strategic deterrence against other countries is not a smart option," Mengdavid said. ■