A New Era – Manila Standard

US President Joe Biden says a first summit in Washington with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) marks the launch of a “new era” in relations between states States and the 10-nation bloc.

“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,” said Biden to ASEAN leaders the second. day of a two-day meeting.

The summit marked the first meeting of ASEAN leaders as a group in Washington and their first meeting hosted by a US president since 2016.

“We are ushering in a new era — a new era — in US-ASEAN relations,” Biden said, calling the US-ASEAN partnership “critical.”

Earlier, US Vice President Kamala Harris said the US will stay in Southeast Asia for generations and stressed the need to maintain the freedom of the seas, which the US says is being challenged by China.

“The United States and ASEAN have shared a vision for this region, and together we will guard against threats to international rules and norms,” ​​Harris said.

Neither she nor Biden mentioned China by name, but their message was clear.

Ahead of the summit, Washington pledged $150 million for areas including infrastructure, security, pandemic preparedness and clean energy.

The new US commitments will include deploying a US Coast Guard vessel to the region to help counter what the US and regional countries have described as China’s illegal fishing.

These moves are welcome, especially given China’s aggressive behavior in the Western Philippine Sea. But Washington will have to do much, much more to counter Chinese initiatives in the region. In November, Beijing pledged $1.5 billion in development assistance to ASEAN over three years to fight COVID-19 and fuel economic recovery.

ASEAN countries share many U.S. concerns over China’s excessive claim of sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, where Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia have rival claims. But they also remain cautious about siding more firmly with the United States, given its predominant economic ties with China and limited US economic incentives.

The incoming administration in Manila clearly has to walk a tightrope between the two superpowers, but with a further push from Washington, we hope to see a change from the current aches and excuses that have passed for Philippine diplomacy with Beijing.

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