The summit – which marked the first time ASEAN leaders met as a group in Washington – was designed to affirm the administration’s commitment to the region despite the continued focus on the Ukraine.
Among the invited members were the leaders of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Myanmar was banned from attending due to the junta’s bloody coup in 2021, while the Philippines’ incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte sent his foreign secretary to represent his government.
The joint statement says members remain “deeply concerned about the crisis in Myanmar” as they pledged to “redouble our collective efforts towards a peaceful solution” there.
Nearly $150 million ($218 million) in new initiatives for the region have been announced, ranging from clean energy infrastructure and educational partnerships to conservation programs and global health.
About $60 million of that will be committed to bolstering the US maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s rise, with the United States sending its National Coast Guards across the ocean to combat illegal fishing, conduct training missions and participate in joint maritime security operations.
China has a large Pacific fishing fleet that is known to violate exclusive economic zones and cause environmental damage and loss to some countries.
“We are not only celebrating 45 years of partnership and friendship between ASEAN and the United States. We are launching a new era – a new era – of relations with Southeast Asia,” Biden said while addressing the meeting on Friday.
“Much of our world’s history over the next 50 years is going to be written in ASEAN countries, and our relationship with you is the future, in the years and decades to come.”
Earlier, Vice President Kamala Harris told ASEAN leaders that the United States would stay in the region for generations “and together we will guard against threats to international rules and norms.”
The comments came after China’s recent strategic pact with the Solomon Islands, which some fear Beijing is entrenching militarily in the Pacific nation less than 2,000 kilometers off Australia’s east coast.
Biden also announced on Friday that he would appoint one of his top national security aides, Yohannes Abraham, as ambassador to ASEAN.
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