Photo: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters
The leaders of ASEAN and the United States have come together for a summit, marking a period in which warmer ties will be established among the nations. President Joe Biden announced that “a new era” had begun after the summit kicked off last Thursday, May 12, in Washington.
The US-ASEAN Summit commenced amidst increasing tensions in the Asia Pacific. Biden said that “a great deal of history will be written about our world over these next 50 years” and called for closer ties with ASEAN countries as well as improved cooperation among all parties involved to combat rising challenges from within each region’s borders.
The US is hopeful that the newly established ties with ASEAN could help them focus on issues challenging countries in their interest of protecting resources within the Indo-Pacific region.
US Vice President Kamala Harris told ASEAN leaders that the U.S plans to establish an extended presence in this region with help from her country’s military might; she claims it will be used for freedom of navigation and chasing away any foreign interference attempts aimed at disrupting peace within international waters — especially those coming out from China which has been increasingly assertive lately in securing dominion over the South China Sea.
The United States says it will stand with its allies in the region and continue its COVID response. They have already delivered over 115 million vaccines to the area.
Biden’s administration offered $150 million in aid for ASEAN nations during his speech. This will be used for security, infrastructure, and COVID response.
However, this is nowhere near what China gave its neighbors. Recently, China gave $1 billion to help other countries in the Asian region revitalize economies and stop COVID-19.
The Summit was attended by the majority of the leaders, including Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia the exception of Myanmar due to a coup last year. The Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, did not attend due to the national polls.
President Biden said that the US would deploy Coast Guard vessels to counter China’s illegal fishing. It was among other agendas including infrastructure projects initially named “Build Back Better World,” the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), and a call for pushing back against Moscow
ASEAN leaders were hopeful of the plans but had reservations; there are possible ramifications should America exert its influence over these disputes.
Malaysia has come out to support more active trade and investment programs with ASEAN. Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that many leaders have reservations about economic propositions as China holds strong economic ties with many Asian nations. However, Yacob believes that with more robust and more active programs, the US will be able to compete with China.
Opinions expressed by US Insider contributors are their own.