US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei looks set to dominate the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Phnom Penh, as the bloc also looks to tackle the Myanmar crisis.
Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting for talks in Phnom Penh to discuss the growing crisis in Myanmar and diplomatic storm over Taiwan.
Current ASEAN chair Cambodia on Wednesday warned Myanmar not to execute any more prisoners, after the hanging of four people — two of them prominent pro-democracy figures — caused international outrage.
"If more prisoners are to be executed, we will be forced to rethink our role vis a vis ASEAN's five-point consensus," Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said as he opened the foreign ministers' gathering.
Hun Sen said the bloc was "disappointed and disturbed by the execution of these opposition activists despite the appeals from me and others for the death sentences to be reconsidered for the sake of political dialogue, peace and reconciliation".
But with no Myanmar representatives present for the summit — highlighted by the country's prominently placed empty chair — Cambodia's ASEAN spokesperson admitted on Tuesday that progress over the conflict might be tricky.
Lack of progress in Myanmar
The 10-nation regional bloc has spearheaded so far fruitless efforts to restore peace to the country after a military coup last year, and anger is growing at the junta's stonewalling tactics.
Myanmar executed four prisoners last month in a move roundly condemned by ASEAN members, who are voicing increased frustration at the lack of progress on the regional bloc's "five-point consensus" plan on Myanmar's conflict.
Agreed in April last year, the plan calls for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the army and coup opponents.
The February coup has left Myanmar in disarray, with the death toll from a brutal military crackdown on dissent passing 2,100, according to a local monitoring group.
Taiwan diplomatic storm
The Southeast Asian foreign ministers will also seek ways to help quell the diplomatic storm over Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived on the island, enraging Beijing.
Attention will focus on Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his American counterpart Antony Blinken — both flying into the Cambodian capital for regional security talks with ASEAN on Thursday and Friday.
ASEAN spokesperson Kung Phoak, Cambodia's deputy foreign minister, said the meeting would seek to calm the waters.
He told reporters that ministers would try to find ways the bloc could help "so that the situation in Taiwan will be stable, that won't lead to a conflict and won't escalate the political heat between all concerned parties."
Late on Tuesday, China vowed there would be "targeted military actions" in response to Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island Beijing claims as part of its territory.
The bloc is split between countries with close ties to China, such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, and others that are warier of Beijing and its growing international assertiveness.
But no ASEAN country formally recognises Taiwan and it is not clear what the bloc might do to ease the crisis between the two superpowers.