BANGKOK – Representatives of the United States and several other countries walked out of a meeting of Asia-Pacific trade ministers in Bangkok on Saturday in protest of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, officials said.
The walkout was “an expression of disapproval of Russia’s illegal aggression in Ukraine and its economic impact on the APEC region,” said one diplomat.
Representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia joined the Americans, led by Trade Representative Katherine Tai, to walk out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, two Thai officials and two international diplomats told Reuters.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, saying it intended to disarm and “exclude” its neighbor. Ukraine and the West say President Vladimir Putin has launched an unpleasant war of aggression, which has claimed thousands of civilian lives, displaced millions of Ukrainians and caused economic collapse around the world.
Another diplomat said the five countries who protested wanted “strong language about the war in Russia” in the group’s final statement issued on Sunday.
“If (a joint statement) cannot be issued, the meeting will not fail,” Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit told reporters, adding that the meeting was “going well” despite the walkout.
The walkout came as Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov was delivering the opening remarks of a two-day meeting of 21 economic groups.
A Thai official said representatives of the five countries that had protested after Reshetnikov’s remarks had returned to the meeting.
(Reporting by Panu Oncha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by William Mallard)