Joe Biden promises US will work with Southeast Asian countries – National

President Joe Biden promised on Saturday that the United States would work with a strategically vital coalition of Southeast Asian countries, telling leaders that “we will build the better future that we all want to see” in the region where it is located. also finds the American rival, China. working to expand its influence.

Citing the three Association of Southeast Asian Nations summits he attended as president, Biden said the 10-nation bloc is “at the heart of my administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.” and promised to work together to build a region “free and open, stable and prosperous, resilient and secure.

“I look forward to continuing our work with ASEAN and with all of you to deepen peace and prosperity across the region to solve the challenges of the South China Sea in Myanmar and find innovative solutions to the common challenges,” Biden said, citing climate. and health security among areas of collaboration.

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Biden’s efforts at this year’s ASEAN summit are aimed at laying the groundwork for his much-anticipated meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping _ the first face-to-face meeting of Biden’s presidency with a leader including the United States now consider the nation’s most powerful economic and military rival.

Biden and Xi will meet on Monday at the G20 summit that brings together leaders of the world’s largest economies, being held this year in Indonesia on the island of Bali.

Traveling to Phnom Penh earlier on Saturday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden would raise issues such as freedom of navigation and China’s illegal and unregulated fishing with ASEAN leaders. — in an effort to demonstrate US assertiveness against Beijing.

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Freedom of Navigation refers to a dispute involving the South China Sea, where the United States says it can sail and fly anywhere international law permits and China believes such missions are destabilizing. Sullivan said the United States has a key role to play as a stabilizing force in the region and to prevent any nation from engaging in “sustained intimidation and coercion that would be fundamentally unfavorable to ASEAN nations and other countries”.

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“There’s a real demand signal for that,” Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday. Referring to the People’s Republic of China, Sullivan continued, “I think the PRC may not like that fact, but they certainly recognize it and understand it.”

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A new initiative related to those efforts that Biden will discuss on Saturday focuses on maritime outreach, specifically using radio frequencies from commercial satellites to better track black shipping and illegal fishing, Sullivan said.

Biden’s visit to Cambodia – the second ever by a US president – continues his administration’s efforts to demonstrate its investments in the South Pacific, which was underscored earlier this year when the White House hosted a government summit. ‘ASEAN in Washington, the first of its kind. He also called on one of his top aides, Yohannes Abraham, as an official envoy to ASEAN, another way for the White House to underline this commitment.

This year, ASEAN is elevating the United States to “comprehensive strategic partnership” status – a largely symbolic upgrade to their relationship, but one that puts Washington on par with China, which earned the accolade last year.

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Biden opened on Saturday in Phnom Penh by meeting Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, host of the regional summit. He also took part in the traditional family photo with Southeast Asian leaders – a photo that needed an overhaul because the gregarious Biden was too busy shaking hands with other heads of state – and later , he will attend a gala dinner organized by a parallel summit in Cambodia. focusing on East Asia.

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Another topic Biden has focused on is Myanmar, where the military junta overthrew the ruling government in February 2021 and arrested its democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. During his meeting with Hun Sen, Biden stressed that the United States was committed to the return of democracy to Myanmar, which had gradually moved towards a form of democratic governance before the coup.

Biden also raised human rights concerns in Cambodia. In a statement after the meeting with Hun Sen, the White House said Biden had urged the prime minister – an authoritarian leader in a nominally democratic nation – to “reopen civic and political space” ahead of his 2023 election.

Biden, according to the White House, also pushed Hun Sen to release activists, including Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer who was convicted of treason as the prime minister’s longtime regime sought to suppress his opposition. The White House said Biden also raised concerns about the activities of the Ream naval base, the expansion of which Cambodian officials have described as a collaborative effort between it and China.

At the US-ASEAN summit, there was an empty chair where a Myanmar representative would have sat if its leaders had not been barred from participating in official ASEAN meetings.

In his brief remarks on Saturday, Biden mistakenly identified the host country Cambodia as “Colombia,” a mistake he also made on Thursday evening as he left the United States.

Biden will take part in East Asia summit sessions on Sunday, including a three-way meeting with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, before departing for the G-20 summit in Bali.

&copy 2022 The Associated Press


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