Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Kiratikorn Naksompop Blauw from Thai PBS

Mrs BLAUW: Since we only have seven minutes, I’ll go straight to it.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Absolutely.

Mrs BLAUW: The rules-based international order is the term we’ve heard you talk about a lot in the past—a year, at least. Why suddenly this term becomes something avant-garde?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, let’s remember what it is. After two world wars, countries came together around the United Nations to try to ensure that the world never went to war again. And from there came a commitment to have basic understandings, basic principles, basic rules of how countries would relate to each other: respect for sovereignty, independence, Territorial Integrity, Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, together with the United Nations Charter, are the foundations of this rules-based order. And then, over the years, international law developed from there.

These are the basic principles that seem important to us, because they allowed us, with many imperfections, to ensure that there was not another world conflict, that countries help preserve peace, stability . And that created an environment in which countries could develop, economies could grow, many people could be lifted out of poverty into the middle class.

So one of the reasons we’re raising it now is because we see it being challenged. He is challenged by Russia in its aggression against Ukraine. Because it’s not just about the terrible disruption and death in Ukraine, it’s also about the fact that if Russia is allowed to do what it’s doing, that means we’re going back to a world in which might does good, in which big nations can bully small nations. It is the opposite of the rules-based order.

And in another way, we see China challenging the order in the way it acts with increasing aggression in the region and with increasing repression at home in China.

Mrs BLAUW: About a year ago, I think, you gave an interview and said that China is the only country in the world that has the economic, military and leverage to challenge this order. Is this still the case ?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s true.

Mrs BLAUW: And why do you think they have to do this?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, that – I guess you should ask them. But yes, it still is.

And I think China actually wants an international order, but with a difference. While the order we have tried to uphold and maintain is fundamentally liberal in its values, China may seek a more illiberal order that perhaps reflects a different set of values. And the question is, what kind of world do people want to live in?

Now, at the same time, for us, for many countries around the world, the relationship with China is one of the most important relationships, one of the most complex relationships. And where we disagree, as we do, we will make it very clear, we will stand up for our principles, what we believe in, our interests. At the same time, I think there are many potential areas of cooperation with China, because as two leading countries in the world, we have the responsibility, where we can, where our interests overlap , where they coincide, to find ways to cooperate on things like climate change, global health, counter-narcotics, dealing with the food crisis facing the world.

So our hope would be that even though we compete with China, and even though we have deep differences, we can also find ways to cooperate.

Mrs BLAUW: So you said a lot. I mean, the United States often says that Thailand is a very good friend, a close friend, an important ally in the region. Where do you see Thailand and ASEAN in this rules-based order?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we have a long-standing partnership with Thailand. In fact, it goes back 190 years to the establishment of diplomatic relations. But more recently, we have had a very strong alliance that has been reaffirmed, and the work that we are doing together to try to preserve security and stability in the region.

But today, we signed together a document that sets out our vision of the relationship, not just the alliance, but in all its breadth and depth: the economic dimension, the interpersonal dimension, the value dimension. And for us, Thailand is an essential partner.

We see this in different practical ways. For example, Thailand is a founding member with us of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which I believe will help meet some of the most critical needs of the people of our two countries in the 21st century economy.

Similarly, Thailand has played an important role in COVID-19 and is participating with us in something we call the Global Plan of Action, to ensure that the shots continue to come into the guns, so that we can finally put an end to COVID-19 to go beyond the pandemic.

We work very closely within ASEAN, we work together within APEC, where Thailand is leading this year. We will take over next year.

Mrs BLAUW: Just a few weeks ago Secretary Austin was here, and now you are here. It looks like the United States is trying to be friendlier, or forge a closer relationship, or – I mean, a friend, asking a friend to pick a side, maybe.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: No, we are – well, two things. First, the fact that I’m here, the fact that Secretary Austin is here is just an affirmation, a reaffirmation of the importance we place on partnership and the many things that we do together.

Second, we are not asking anyone to choose. We just want to make sure that we provide a choice, that they have a choice. And we have a very affirmative and positive view of what the future can be.

We want to make sure that as we move forward, we are all in a race up, not a race down. We want to make sure that as we move forward, workers’ rights are protected, the environment is protected, people’s rights to express themselves are protected, that we reflect on what we can do together, because not one of the challenges that we face – all of our countries, whether it’s Thailand, whether it’s the United States – the very big challenges, like climate change, like global health, like the impact that all these new technologies have on our lives, not only one country can deal with them effectively.

The United States believes that we must act in partnership, and Thailand is a very close partner.

Mrs BLAUW: Going back to the rules-based international order that you say China and Russia are challenging, do you see anything more that Thailand and ASEAN can do?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think countries that believe in the value of order and support it can defend it and, if necessary, defend it. We see it, again, with Russian aggression against Ukraine. Thailand spoke out forcefully. He voted at the United Nations, along with many other countries, 141 countries that condemned Russian aggression and stood with Ukraine.

It is very important that Thailand’s voice continues to be heard. Other countries are looking to Thailand. The example he sets has real weight.

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