Biden to host ASEAN leaders for Washington summit in March


WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will host leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for a special summit in Washington next month, the White House announced Monday.

The 10-member ASEAN meeting will be held March 28-29 and is being touted by the White House as an opportunity to demonstrate US commitment to the bloc and a chance to mark 45 years of US-ASEAN relations.

“It is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration to serve as a strong and reliable partner and to strengthen a self-reliant and unified ASEAN to meet the challenges of our time,” said White House Press Secretary Jen PSAKI, in a statement.

ASEAN countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

ASEAN has banned leaders of Myanmar’s military-installed government from attending the latest annual summit in October, instead limiting the nation’s participation to non-political representatives. That policy is expected to remain in place for the March summit, according to a Biden administration official who was not authorized to comment publicly.

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The summit comes as Biden has sought to make Pacific relations a top foreign policy priority amid growing concerns about China as a military and economic adversary. Biden has slammed Beijing for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China, the crackdown on democracy protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against the self-governing island of Taiwan and more.

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Biden took part in the October summit, where he announced more than $100 million in new US spending in ASEAN countries for health programs, a new climate initiative, economic recovery assistance packages after the coronavirus pandemic and education programs.

It was the first time since 2017, when President Donald Trump attended the summit, that a US president attended a meeting of the bloc.

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