Biden in Cambodia as world leaders join Southeast Asia summit

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PHNOM PENH — Southeast Asian heads of government were due to hold talks with a number of visiting world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, on Saturday as the region tries to navigate the growing rivalry between China and Western powers.

Cambodia hosts the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and a parallel East Asian summit, with the regional bloc engaging with a host of leaders.

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Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are among the leaders expected to hold separate talks with the bloc on Saturday. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol met with ASEAN leaders on Friday.

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The US president will focus on the Indo-Pacific region and discuss US commitment to a rules-based international order in the South China Sea during his talks, senior administration officials said. early this week.

Some analysts played down expectations of any dramatic development from Biden’s attendance at ASEAN meetings, but noted it provided more evidence of how the United States was returning to « normal diplomacy. » « President Trump has not attended a single East Asia summit in his four years in office, » said Greg Poling, Southeast Asia program manager at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. .

One of the results of this trip would be the elevation of the US-ASEAN partnership into a comprehensive strategic partnership, he noted.

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« It doesn’t mean anything concrete, but symbolically it puts the United States on the same level as China, » Poling said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will also attend some meetings, while Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is also in Cambodia after signing a treaty of friendship and cooperation with ASEAN, as Kyiv seeks to strengthen the links with the block.

Officials expect a number of summits in the region over the next seven days to be challenging, with discussions also expected to include the war in Ukraine, the climate and regional tensions over the South China Sea. G20 leaders are meeting in Bali next week and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum will be held in Bangkok afterwards.

ASEAN leaders on Friday issued a ‘warning’ to Myanmar to make measurable progress on a peace plan or risk being kicked out of bloc meetings as social and political chaos escalates in the country. (Reporting from the Cambodia office, Nandita Bose and David Brunnstrom Writing by Ed Davies Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


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