President Joe Biden joined Southeast Asian leaders for a virtual summit on Tuesday, the first time in four years that a sitting President has engaged at the top level with a bloc seen as key to countering an increasingly assertive China.
The United States had not met with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the presidential level since Donald Trump last attended an ASEAN-U.S. meeting in Manila in 2017. During that time, U.S. relations with China deteriorated to their worst level in decades.
In his opening remarks, President Biden said the United States was “committed” to the central role of the 10-nation ASEAN in the region and ASEAN nations can expect him to personally show up in the region in the future. But he avoided making any statements regarding China or its leader Xi Jinping as his staff continues to work towards a virtual summit later this year.
Today, I participated in the annual U.S.-ASEAN Summit, where I discussed our commitment to strengthening our partnership with ASEAN. We will continue to work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic, address the climate crisis, promote economic growth, and more. pic.twitter.com/VywnjFZQ1d
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 26, 2021
“The relationship between the United States and ASEAN is vital, vital for the future of all one billion of our people,” President Biden said. “Our partnership is essential to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, which has been the foundation of our shared security and prosperity for many decades.”
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— ASEAN (@ASEAN) October 26, 2021
The President will participate in the broader East Asia Summit on Wednesday, which brings together ASEAN and other nations in the Indo-Pacific region. Analysts say President Biden’s meeting with the 10-nation bloc reflects his administration’s efforts to engage allies and partners in a collective effort to push back against China.