US President Joe Biden greets Southeast Asian leaders with clean energy, maritime promises
Top leaders from eight of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members flew to Washington for the two-day summit
File image of US President Joe Biden. PA
Washington, United States: On May 12, President Joe Biden greeted Southeast Asian leaders in Washington with pledges to support clean energy and maritime security, hoping to show US commitment as China makes strides. large breakthroughs.
Top leaders from eight of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) flew to Washington for the two-day summit, which opened with a closed-door dinner at the Maison Blanche composed of poached chicken with thyme and vanilla ice cream.
The Biden administration, which took office portraying China as the main international challenger, is eager to prove it is still prioritizing Asia despite months of intense efforts to repel Russia’s invasion of China. ‘Ukraine.
The White House announced some $150 million in new initiatives – a modest sum compared to a $40 billion package for Ukraine and the billions pumped into the region by China, which has also flexed its muscles in the sea of conflict-ridden southern China.
But the United States has said it is working with its private sector and plans to unveil a broader package, the Indo-Pacific economic framework, when Biden visits Tokyo and Seoul next week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, hosting ASEAN leaders for lunch earlier in the day, made a connection by encouraging Southeast Asia to stand firm against Russia’s invasion.
“If nothing is done, we leave the door open for further aggression, including maritime issues and other issues in the South China Sea,” she said.
“Candor” on rights
Pelosi called the summit “a further demonstration of America’s commitment to being a strong and reliable partner in Southeast Asia.”
Contrary to China’s hands-off approach, Pelosi said she believes in “candor” and urged Southeast Asian leaders to respect human rights, expressing particular concern for LGBTQ people.
“Let’s be clear: When we hear about the torture of LGBTQ people, it’s unacceptable to the American people — and continues to stand in the way of full respect in our relationship,” she said.
Pelosi did not single out countries, but Brunei and Indonesia’s Aceh province have both sparked outcry with laws allowing corporal punishment for consensual same-sex sex.
In the bulk of the new funding, the White House said it is committing $60 million to new maritime initiatives that will include deploying a coast guard and personnel to fight crime, including fishing. illegal.
The White House said it is also committing $40 million to invest in clean energy in the region vulnerable to climate change and working with the private sector to raise up to $2 billion.
Another initiative — launched as Biden separately held a virtual summit on COVID-19 — includes a project to test emerging respiratory diseases through a new Hanoi office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“I hope this meeting can create momentum for the return of the American presence in the region,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said at a parallel US-ASEAN Business Council forum.
Meet the Burmese opposition
Southeast Asia has often been seen as a victim of its own success, with the United States focusing elsewhere for lack of pressing problems in the region.
But in Myanmar, once hailed as a democratic success story, the United States has stepped up pressure since the junta last February toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The United States symbolically represented Myanmar with an empty chair at the top.
The exiled Democratic leaders were invited to Washington and met with Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, but did not represent Myanmar at the talks.
The Philippines also failed to send its leader and was represented by its foreign minister after elections were held on Monday.
Among the leaders taking part are veteran Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who is the current ASEAN chairman, and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the former army chief who led a coup in 2014.
Human Rights Watch said the United States needed to strengthen democracy in more countries than Myanmar.
“If the United States does not publicly raise its human rights concerns at meetings, the message will be that human rights abuses are now tolerated in the name of forming alliances to counter the China,” said John Sifton, the group’s Asia advocacy director.