EU forum puts crucial Indo-Pacific region squarely on radar

PARIS (AP) — Foreign ministers from Indo-Pacific countries attended a conference in Paris on Tuesday aimed at putting the region, an important trade and export partner, at the center of Europe’s attention in the a rapidly changing world with growing security challenges.

New Zealand, India, South Korea, Japan and a handful of other Asian countries were represented at the forum. China was not invited.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stressed that China was not looked down upon, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell noted the longstanding “dedicated dialogue” between the EU and China.

“The Indo-Pacific strategy (…) is not an anti-China strategy. This strategy is not against anyone,” Le Drian said at a closing press conference. development of partnership between the Indo-Pacific and the European Union.

Le Drian listed “concrete projects” he said were planned or underway, from tackling climate change to health, but also security issues.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called the region the “aorta” for Europe, with 40% of EU trade passing through the region’s waters.

“That’s why we need freedom of navigation…a security architecture that we need to build together,” Borrell said.

He announced a coordinated maritime presence that has just been launched with navies in the region.

It is “not a military alliance, nor against anyone. It is a way of strengthening our presence and coordinating our means between the Member States in order to be more capable of acting,” he said, without further details.

Le Drian acknowledged his concern over a budding alliance between Russia and China “that clearly challenges the multilateral order”.

“And that was another reason for us to engage more in the Indo-Pacific,” the French minister said.