Biden will host the ASEAN Summit at the White House

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

Nicholas Cam | AFP | Getty Images

Which is in the middle of the Ukraine war Washington’s top foreign policy priority, President Joe Biden is inviting Southeast Asian leaders to Washington – signaling a U.S. commitment to a region where it is in conflict with China for dominance.

Some complex problems – such as the Covid post-economic Revitalization, climate change and the coup in Myanmar will be on the table for a two-day meeting starting on Thursday. Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be in a bloc of 10 countries that together form the world’s seventh largest economy.

Former ASEAN Secretary-General Wong Keng-yong told CNBC that security issues were likely to be on the table at the summit.

“It is inevitable that geopolitics and international security issues will be raised and discussed, but in this regard, I do not expect any dramatic steps,” Wong said, adding: “The United States needs a greater presence in Southeast Asian countries.”

The White House said the summit would “demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to ASEAN, and commemorate 45 years of US-ASEAN relations.”

The United States has often insisted on “ASEAN centralism” in its Indo-Pacific strategy to control China. The region, with some bargaining power, is populated by countries that are reluctant to choose between the United States and China.

ASEAN wants to see an economic structure with some concessions and a clear strategy towards regional security, especially in the South China Sea.

Joshua Kurlantzic

Council on Foreign Relations

Wong, who is Singapore’s ambassador-at-large, said Asia had offered enough to keep the United States engaged, despite its pre-occupation status with the war in Ukraine. “Since the end of World War II, it is clear that Europe has come to America more than any other region of the world,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the people of ASEAN believe that American resilience and vitality will find something on the Asian side of the Pacific Ocean that will be conducive to future US prosperity and security.”

“ASEAN wants to see an economic structure with some concessions and a clear strategy towards regional security, especially involving the South China Sea,” Joshua Kurlantzik, a senior Southeast Asia fellow at the Foreign Relations Council, told CNBC.

Biden’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, published in February, says Washington will explore opportunities for the quad to work with Southeast Asian countries. But the ASEAN bloc wants to see more US support for the initiative.

The Quad, formally known as the Four-Party Security Dialogue, consists of the United States, Australia, Japan and India in a strategic partnership aimed at countering China’s military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Separately, AQUS consists of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, an Indo-Pacific security alliance that was launched last September.

“ASEAN will likely want to see more US support for its ASEAN-led mechanisms, as opposed to US-led minority groups such as Quad and Aquas,” said Joan Lin, chief researcher at the ASEAS-Yusuf Ishaq Center for ASEAN Studies. Institute in Singapore.

“US support for the ASEAN outlook in the Indo-Pacific region will be important,” Lin added, referring to documents adopted in 2019 where former President Donald Trump expressed his views after ASEAN unveiled its Indo-Pacific geo-strategic concept. A free and included Indo-Pacific.

Many in the Southeast Asian region see U.S. interests as a rivalry between U.S. liberal democracy and Asian conservatism, Ong said, adding that the former secretary general of ASEAN.

“Of course, we have different forms of authoritarian rule in different parts of ASEAN. Nevertheless, there are many areas where mutually rewarding joint efforts can be made to deepen relations on a larger canvas,” Wong said.

Indo-Pacific economic structure

It is possible that the US could discuss the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework that Biden announced at last year’s East Asia Summit. These may include new approaches to trade, securing supply chains, and clean energy.

According to Lin of the ISEAS-Yusuf Ishaq Institute, “although the United States is still developing the content of the framework, it is unlikely to affect ASEAN.” “Lack of market access and high labor and environmental standards may not go well with several ASEAN countries.”

“There may be some progress on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework but it is unlikely to be committed to the United States,” said Kurlantzik of CFR, adding that expectations from the summit would be “fairly low” – due to the fact that much more is happening around the world. .

The two ASEAN countries will not be represented at the meeting with Biden: outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021.

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