Biden will host ASEAN summit at the White House

Southeast Asian leaders this week will travel to Washington DC for a summit with US President Joe Biden, who participated virtually at the previous ASEAN Summit from the White House in Washington DC in October. 2021.

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In the middle of the Ukraine war is Washington’s top foreign policy priority, President Joe Biden is hosting Southeast Asian leaders in Washington – signaling the United States’ commitment to the region where it is engaged in a struggle for dominance with China.

Some important issues – like the post-Covid economy renaissance, climate change and the coup in Myanmar – will be up for discussion during the two-day meeting starting on Thursday. Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-nation bloc that together make up the world’s seventh-largest economy, will be there.

Ong Keng Yong, former secretary general of ASEAN, told CNBC that security issues are likely to be discussed at the summit.

“It is inevitable that geopolitical and international security issues will be raised and discussed, but in this respect I do not expect any strong moves,” Mr. Ong said. and added: “The US needs to be more present in Southeast Asian countries. . “

The White House said the summit would “demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to ASEAN, … and celebrate the 45th anniversary of the United States-ASEAN relationship.”

The US often emphasizes the “central role of ASEAN” in the Indian Ocean strategy to contain China. This emphasis gives the region – whose populations are reluctant to openly choose between the US and China – some bargaining power.

ASEAN would like to see an economic framework with some concessions and a clearer strategy for regional security, especially regarding the South China Sea.

Joshua Kurlantzick

Council on Foreign Relations

Ong, who is also Singapore’s ambassador, said Asia has provided enough capacity to keep the US engaged despite its pre-war occupation in Ukraine. “Since the end of World War II, it’s been clear that Europe precedes America before any other region of the world,” he said.

“However, the people of ASEAN believe that the resilience and vitality of Americans will give Asia in the Pacific something worth participating and ensure America’s future prosperity.”

“ASEAN would like to see an economic framework with some concessions and a clearer strategy for regional security, especially regarding the South China Sea,” said Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia. at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNBC.

Biden’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, released in February, announced that Washington would explore opportunities for the Quartet to work with Southeast Asian nations. But ASEAN would like to see more US support for bloc-led initiatives.

Quad, officially known as the Quadrangular Security Dialogue, including the US, Australia, Japan and India in a strategic partnership aimed at countering China’s looming military presence in the Indo-Pacific.

Separately, Aukus includes Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, an Indo-Pacific security alliance established last September.

“ASEAN may want to see more US support for ASEAN-led mechanisms, as opposed to other ASEAN-led mechanisms,” said Joanne Lin, research lead at the Center for ASEAN Studies at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak. US-led subgroups such as the Quad and Aukus. Institute in Singapore.

“U.S. support for ASEAN Outlook in the Indo-Pacific Lin added, referring to the document adopted in 2019, in which ASEAN outlined its geostrategic concept of the Indo-Pacific region after former President Donald Trump laid out his vision for the Indo-Pacific region. a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

Ong, former secretary-general of ASEAN, said that people in many parts of Southeast Asia see US interests primarily as the rivalry between American liberal democracy and Asian conservatism. .

“Certainly, we have different forms of autocratic governance in different parts of ASEAN,” Ong said.

Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

It is possible that the United States could discuss Indo-Pacific Economic Framework announced by Biden at the East Asia Summit last year. This could include new approaches to trade, supply chain assurance and clean energy.

“While the US is still adding to the content of the framework, it is unlikely to impress ASEAN,” said Lin from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. “The lack of market access and high labor and environmental standards may not be good for some ASEAN countries.”

CFR’s Kurlantzick said “there could be some progress in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework but it is unlikely to see binding US commitments,” said CFR’s Kurlantzick, adding that expectations from the summit will be “quite low” – given so much else going on in the world. .

Two ASEAN nations will not be represented at the meeting with Biden: outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Myanmar military leader Min Aung Hlaing, who took power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government during the coup. February 2021 itself.

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