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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at a global conference in New Delhi, India, on Jan. 15, 2020.

Manish Swarup/The Canadian Press

Russia on Wednesday criticized the United States for introducing a new Indo-Pacific concept it said was aimed at containing China.

Addressing a global conference in the Indian capital to discuss the most challenging issues facing the world community, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Asia-Pacific co-operation until now was centred on Southeast Asia.

The Indo-Pacific concept being pushed by the United States, Japan and others was to reconfigure the existing structure, he said.

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“Why do you need to call Asia-Pacific as Indo-Pacific? The answer is evident – to exclude China. Terminology should be unifying, not divisive,” Lavrov said.

The United States says the Indo-Pacific engagement framework supports sovereignty, transparency, good governance and a rules-based order among other things. By using Indo-Pacific, the U.S. also wants to propagate the idea that it’s a region that stretches far beyond China’s backyard and the tiger economies of East Asia, and includes the Indian Ocean.

In 2018, the U.S. Pacific Command became the Indo-Pacific Command.

China’s assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea, through which a third of global shipping passes, have drawn rebuke from the United States and become a flashpoint for a region in which Southeast Asian nations Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have rival claims.

On Wednesday, Lavrov also accused Western countries of not strictly following the United Nations charter for discussions based on sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal matters, territorial integrity and peaceful resolution of disputes.

“Western friends are using international law less and less. Instead, they have coined a new concept which they call as a rules-based world order,” he said.

He said that Russia was very much concerned with the situation in the Persian Gulf region and suggested that Gulf countries start thinking about a collective security mechanism as a confidence-building measure.

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Lavrov said Iran had proposed a non-aggression pact to other Gulf states. Russia recently held military exercises with China and Iran in the region to see how to ensure safe shipping, he said.

Russia hopes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus the European Union and Organization of Islamic Cooperation would participate in the collective security mechanism.

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