Biden hails “new era” in US relations with ASEAN bloc

Washington, May 13 (EFE).- President Joe Biden proclaimed on Friday a “new era” in relations between the United States and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the conclusion of a two-day “special summit” here.

The first gathering of ASEAN leaders in Washington coincided with the 45th anniversary of the establishment of formal ties between the US and the bloc.

Fortifying US ties with ASEAN is “at the very heart” of his foreign policy, Biden told his counterparts. “An Indo-Pacific that is free and open, stable and prosperous, and resilient and secure is what we’re all seeking.”

Present for the meeting at the State Department were the heads of government of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Philippines was represented by its foreign minister, while the 10th member-state, Myanmar, has been effectively suspended since the February 2021 coup that toppled the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Biden and senior members of his administration stressed throughout the summit that the US will not abandon its long-term competition with China despite the current preoccupation with the war in Ukraine.

“A great deal of history of our world in the next 50 years is going to be written in the ASEAN countries, and our relationship with you is the future, in the coming years and decades,” Biden told the group.

The conference began Thursday night with a White House dinner where the president announced an additional $150 million in US assistance for ASEAN countries, including $60 million for maritime security and $15 million for Covid-19 and pandemic preparedness.

China, however, pledged $1.5 billion in aid for ASEAN last November.

As a token of Washington’s renewed interest, Biden said he was nominating the chief of staff to the White House National Security Council, Yohannes Abraham, as representative to ASEAN with the rank of ambassador.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

Under predecessor Donald Trump, the US envoy to ASEAN had the rank of charge d’affaires. EFE bpm/dr

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