US to host ASEAN leaders in mid-May

By AFP   April 16, 2022 | 09:06 pm PT
US to host ASEAN leaders in mid-May
United States President Joe Biden delivers remarks alongside Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Mar 29, 2022. Photo by AFP/Anna Moneymaker
U.S. President Joe Biden will meet in mid-May with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders, with a likely focus on the rising power of China, the host country announced on Saturday.

The summit, originally scheduled for March, "will demonstrate the United States' enduring commitment to ASEAN", White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"It is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration to serve as a strong, reliable partner in Southeast Asia", the statement said.

The summit, originally set for Mar 28 and Mar 29 before being delayed without a new date, will now take place on May 12 and May 13.

The meeting was postponed amid reports that the leaders of some ASEAN members had scheduling conflicts, and as the Ukraine crisis continued to deepen.

The United States has long said that strengthening its ties to Asia was a foreign policy priority.

On Mar 29, Biden met at the White House with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and said he wanted to ensure that the region remains "free and open" - a reference to what the US sees as attempts by rising power China to dominate international trade routes.

Biden had participated in a virtual summit with ASEAN leaders last October.

During that summit, Psaki noted in her statement, Biden announced initiatives to expand US engagement with ASEAN on COVID-19, climate change, economic growth and more.

A tense competition with China has become one of the greatest foreign policy challenges for the United States, though other issues - the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine- have demanded more urgent attention.

ASEAN members include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Several of them have experienced growing friction with Beijing.

The US statement on Saturday did not make clear whether the leaders of Myanmar would in fact attend.

ASEAN has sought - in vain so far - to find a diplomatic solution since the military took power there in a 2021 coup.

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