Biden’s efforts in ASEAN are intended to prepare for his anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This will be the first face-to-face meeting with a leader whose country the US considers the most powerful economic and military rival.
Phnom Penh – President Joe Biden officially kicks off his participation in a conference of Southeast Asian countries on Saturday. This is to highlight the United States’ commitment to the region, where a growing China is also trying to expand its influence.
Biden’s efforts at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit were meant to prepare for his highly anticipated meeting in China with President Xi Jinping, the first face-to-face encounter of his presidency with a leader whose country the US considers the most powerful economic and military competitor.
They will meet Monday at the Group of 20 summit, which brings together leaders of the world’s most powerful economies. It is being held in Indonesia in Bali.
Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to the United States, stated that Biden would raise issues like freedom of navigation and illegal and unregulated fishing by China with ASEAN leaders. This was in an effort to show US assertiveness towards Beijing.
The South China Sea dispute refers to the freedom of navigation. While the United States claims it can sail and fly anywhere international law permits, China considers such missions destabilizing. Sullivan stated that the US plays a crucial role in stabilizing the region and in preventing any nation from engaging in “sustained coercion and intimidation that would be fundamentally detrimental to the countries of ASEAN and others.”
Sullivan said to reporters on Saturday aboard Air Force One that there was a demand for it. Sullivan said, referring to the People’s Republic of China: “I think that the PRC may not love that fact, however, they certainly acknowledge and understand it.”
Biden will discuss a new initiative that relates to these efforts later Saturday. It focuses on maritime awareness, specifically the use of radio frequencies from commercial satellites for better tracking dark shipping and illegal fisherman.
Biden’s second visit to Cambodia by a US President is a continuation of his administration’s efforts to show its investment in the south Pacific. This was also highlighted when the White House hosted the ASEAN summit in Washington earlier this year, the first of its type. Yohannes Abraham was also named as his official envoy to ASEAN’s 10-country bloc. This is another way that the White House has demonstrated its commitment.
ASEAN is elevating the US this year to “comprehensive Strategic Partnership” status. This is a symbolic enhancement of their relationship, but it places Washington on the same level as China, which was awarded the distinction last year.
Biden will start his day in Phnom Penh with a meeting with Hun Sen the Cambodian prime minister, who is also the host of the regional summit. Biden will then address the annual US-ASEAN summit and take part in the traditional family photograph with leaders from Southeast Asia. He will also attend a gala dinner hosted in Cambodia by a parallel summit that focuses on east Asia.
Biden will also discuss Myanmar, where the military coup overthrew the government and detained its democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. The president will be in Phnom Penh to discuss how other leaders can work together to “coordinate better” to continue to impose costs and increase pressure on the military.
Sullivan stated that the government continues to repress the people in Myanmar, which has been steadily moving toward democracy since the coup.
Biden will attend the East Asia summit meetings, which include a gathering with leaders from South Korea and Japan on Sunday before departing for Bali’s G-20 summit.