US-Asean summit kicks off with gala dinner at White House

Washington, May 12 (EFE).- A summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) began in Washington with a gala dinner at the White House hosted by President Joe Biden for the leaders of the region where the United States is in a turf war with a more dominant China.

A White House statement said the US-Asean special summit, held for the first time in Washington in 45 years of the bloc, was to “re-affirm the United States’ enduring commitment to Southeast Asia.

The summit underscored the importance of US-ASEAN “cooperation in ensuring security, prosperity, and respect for human rights,” said the statement.

Before dinner, Biden took a traditional group photo with Asean members on the South Concourse of the White House.

They included Asean Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Prime ministers Hun Sen from Cambodia, Lee Hsien Loong from Singapore, Prayut Chan-ocha from Thailand, Phankham Viphavanh from Laos, Pham Minh Chinh from Vietnam, Ismail Sabri Yaakob from Malaysia and Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin.

No representative from military-ruled Myanmar is participating in the meeting. The country was the focus of its summit held virtually last year in October after the military staged a coup and toppled a democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The two-day Washington summit includes numerous collaboration agreements not just limited to commercial exchanges.

The agreements extend to many other areas like maritime security, transport, education, and the fight against climate change.

For example, the United States has said it would invest $40 million in clean energy to promote the mobilization of up to $2 billion in the infrastructure of this type in Southeast Asia.

“The United States is committed to supporting implementation of the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’s Maritime Pillar. Today, we are announcing $60 million in new regional maritime initiatives, most of which will be led by the US Coast Guard (USCG),” the White House statement said.

The statement said the USCG would deploy assets and assign additional personnel to the Indo-Pacific to help meet partners’ requests for maritime training and capacity-building.

It includes a USCG attaché at the US Mission to Asean. EFE


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