Fresh concerns over North Korea’s missile threat and the war in Ukraine have overshadowed the Asia-Pacific (APEC) summit in Bangkok. A few hours before the start of the two-day meeting of heads of state and government in Thailand’s capital, North Korea fired another nuclear-capable missile that could theoretically reach US territory. The representatives from the USA, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand then immediately met for an emergency meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community Summit.

South Korea and the United States responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s test of an ICBM with a joint air strike exercise. “This latest behavior by North Korea is a flagrant violation of several UN security resolutions,” said US Vice President Kamala Harris in Bangkok. The country is unnecessarily increasing tensions in the region. “We strongly condemn these actions and have again called on North Korea to stop further unlawful destabilization.” Harris is representing US President Joe Biden at the meeting.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida commented on the missile test as “absolutely unacceptable”. He called on the international community to act together to completely denuclearize North Korea. South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck Soo said such “illegal activities” by the neighboring country would “never be tolerated”. The international community must unite and react decisively.

Injured and arrested during protests

While the politicians fought for world peace in the strictly sealed off Queen Sirikit Convention Center, numerous protesters on the streets of the metropolis of millions fought violent clashes with the police. There were also injuries and arrests, as photos and videos on social networks showed.

There were also posters with slogans against the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Among other things, the democracy movement is demanding new elections, a constitutional amendment and a reform of the monarchy. General Prayut Chan-o-cha has been in power since a military coup in 2014. But there was also railing against the Chinese head of state and party leader Xi Jinping and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tens of thousands of police officers and soldiers secured the APEC conference site.

Xi, meanwhile, tried to woo member states. “The Asia-Pacific region is both our home and the powerhouse of global economic growth,” he said. “Facing the new circumstances, we must join hands, build an Asia-Pacific community with a common future, and take cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region to a new level.”

Harris advertises for “best economic partner” USA

But Xi was not alone in his wooing: US Vice President Kamala Harris also ensnared the countries in the region. She also took a clear position against China. There is “no better economic partner” for the Indo-Pacific than Washington, she said.

Distinguishing itself from Beijing’s controversial trade practices, she said the US would continue to respect and strengthen international economic rules to “protect nations from economic coercion.” China has been criticized in many countries for using debt as a means of pressure to force borrowing nations to make concessions. “The United States is here to stay,” said the US leader.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine also overshadowed the summit. Moscow continued rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities on Thursday. French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Bangkok, called on the APEC countries to join the “growing consensus” against Russian aggression. “This war is your problem too,” said Macron, who is attending the meeting as a guest of honor. France is not a member of APEC. Asian countries like China, India, Vietnam and Cambodia are not supporting the sanctions against Russia.

Other topics of discussion should be the rising energy and food prices as well as climate change and the economic recovery after the corona pandemic. In addition, according to reports, the members want to set comprehensive goals for environmental and climate issues for the first time. However, the decisions of the organization are not binding.

The Apec Summit, which ends on Saturday, is the latest of three back-to-back top-level international meetings in Southeast Asia, following Asean in Cambodia and G20 in Bali. Founded in 1989, APEC is made up of 21 countries on both sides of the Pacific. Well over a third of the world’s population lives in them. Together, the nations generate around 60 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).