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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has “deep concern” over China’s growing nuclear arsenal in comments to a meeting with Asian counterparts on Friday.

Speaking virtually at the ASEAN Regional Forum foreign ministers’ meeting, Blinken told the closed-door gathering that China’s expanding nuclear capabilities highlight how “Beijing has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence,” according to a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Blinken also called on China to “abide by its obligations under the international law of the sea and cease its provocative behavior in the South China Sea,” and raised “serious concerns about ongoing human rights abuses in Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang,” according to the statement.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China believes in upholding “true multilateralism” and “maintaining regional peace and stability” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and “the resurgence of geopolitics,” according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry.

Without referring to the U.S. directly, Wang said countries should avoid interfering in each other’s internal affairs, adding that Asian nations had been bullied by others in the past and didn’t require “teachers” or “saviors.”

The U.S. has sought to rally nations across Asia and beyond to push back against China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy. During a visit to India in late July, Blinken warned against “rising global threats to democracy” and sought to strengthen the Quad grouping of nations made up of the U.S., India, Japan and Australia. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia, including stops in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Blinken also repeated U.S. calls for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and urged the government of Myanmar to end violence and return to democratic governance, according to the statement by his spokesman.

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©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com.  Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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