Sevinç İrem BALCI
President Joe Biden of the United States stated on Friday that the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had entered a “new era” in their relationship. Following a two-day discussion, the two sides issued a joint 28-point “vision statement” vowing to upgrade their relationship from a strategic partnership to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” in November.
The United States wants to “promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that is more connected, wealthy, safe, and resilient,” according to the White House’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which was announced in February. Along with updated alliances like the Quad (i.e., the United States, Australia, India, and Japan), increased US commitment and resources, and other measures, the plan calls for a “empowered ASEAN.” While the US’ regional policy revolves around rivalry with China, support for a strong and united ASEAN is one of the most important ways to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The summit’s goal was to develop ways to collaborate on today’s most serious global issues. The disruption of global markets and supply chains caused by the Ukraine war, combating climate change, recovering from the coronavirus epidemic, and restoring a mutual trade agenda were all on the agenda.
“A great deal of history of our globe in the next 50 years will be written in the ASEAN countries,” Biden said the ASEAN leaders, “and our connection with you is the future, in the coming years and decades.”
Vice President Kamala Harris offered ASEAN members maritime security support to confront “threats to international laws and norms,” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken had meetings with regional heavyweight Indonesia and burgeoning ally Vietnam, according to Biden’s speech to the ASEAN.
Among the other outcomes, Biden also announced that his administration would provide $150 million to ASEAN to address issues related to infrastructure, security, pandemic preparedness, and clean energy. Other U.S. commitments included the future deployment of a Coast Guard vessel to the region to help bolster the region’s maritime security. Biden also announced the nomination of Yohannes Abraham, the chief of staff of his National Security Council, to be ambassador to ASEAN, a post that has been vacant since the beginning of the Trump administration.
A Coast Guard vessel will be deployed to the region as part of new US pledges to combat what the US and neighboring countries have described as China’s illicit fishing.
Nonetheless, US expenditure pales in contrast to China’s, which offered $1.5 billion in development aid for ASEAN over three years in November alone to combat COVID and spur economic recovery.
In the meeting, A National Security Council spokeswoman confirmed to Voice of America that the Biden administration and ASEAN leaders have agreed to lay out an empty chair to symbolize Myanmar’s deposed civilian government for the two-day US-ASEAN Special Summit that President Joe Biden is convening in Washington.
The empty chair represents “dissatisfaction with what’s happened and our hope for a better route forward,” according to another senior administration source. Myanmar will be “a subject of significant conversation” during the sessions.
The summit closed with a “shared vision statement” promising to enhance and improve the 45-year-old US-ASEAN alliance, as well as calling for peace in Ukraine and Myanmar, but without criticizing Russia or Myanmar’s military administration.
“At the 10th ASEAN-US Summit in November 2022, we vow to develop a meaningful, comprehensive, and mutually beneficial ASEAN-US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” the closing statement stated.