World leaders have arrived in Thailand for their third back-to-back summit this week amid geopolitical tensions over the war in Ukraine.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which kicks off on Friday, is officially tasked with promoting regional economic integration but is expected to be dominated by the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are among the leaders attending the gathering.
A bilateral meeting between Xi and Kishida, whose relations have been strained by historical and security issues, is among a number of high-profile talks happening on the sidelines of the forum.
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have also confirmed they will hold face-face meetings with Xi.
US President Joe Biden, who is attending his granddaughter’s wedding, is not attending and will be represented by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who skipped this week’s G20 meeting in Bali, is also not participating and will be represented by First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov.
The two-day forum comes a day after the G20 countries unanimously adopted a statement saying most members condemned the war in Ukraine, while acknowledging some countries viewed the conflict differently.
Further divisions were apparent at the Bali summit when Xi was captured on video confronting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over alleged leaks of their private conversations.
Thailand, like G20 host Indonesia, has sought to play down divisions between APEC’s 21 members and emphasise the potential for cooperation on common concerns.
In a pre-summit event, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is hosting the APEC forum, said the gathering would focus on “new trade and investment narratives” and “the need to reconnect supply chains and travel, and the global sustainability agenda”.
Thai foreign minister Don Pramudwinai on Thursday also expressed concern about a growing “cancel mentality that permeates every conversation and action” and makes “any compromise appear impossible”.
“That’s why APEC this year must rise above these challenges and deliver hope to the world at large that, collaboratively, there is room that we can prevail and prosper,” Don told a meeting of foreign and commerce ministers.