Indonesia president warns over super-power tensions in U.N. address

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo used his first address to the United Nations General Assembly to warn on Wednesday that global stability and peace could be “destroyed” if growing geo-political rivalries persist.

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo attends an ASEAN leaders summit with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

“War will benefit no one. There is no point of celebrating victory among ruins. There is no point of becoming the largest economic power in the midst of a sinking world,” said the president, widely known as Jokowi.

His comments came as tensions between the United States and China escalate, including in the South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, a position rejected by Washington and some Southeast Asian states, including Indonesia, citing provisions in the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Earlier this month, Indonesia’s government protested when a Chinese coast guard vessel entered the portion of the South China Sea it claims. It was the latest of several Chinese incursions in the past year.

“The principles of the U.N. Charter and international law are often neglected, including the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Jokowi told the U.N.

The dangers of U.S.-China tensions was picked up by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippines has competing claims with China in the South China Sea.

“Given the size and military might of the contenders, we can only imagine and be aghast at the terrible toll on human life and property that shall be inflicted if the ‘word war’ deteriorates into a real war of nuclear weapons and missiles,” he told the U.N. general assembly.

Jokowi said the coronavirus pandemic was a time for global unity.

“What we see, instead, is one of deep division and growing rivalries,” he said. “If division and rivalries continue to persist, then I am concerned that the pillars of stability and sustainable peace will crumble or even (be) destroyed.”

He said that Indonesia would be a “bridge builder” and advocate for global equality.

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