US tells Asean leaders summit marks ‘new era’ for ties

 US tells Asean leaders summit marks ‘new era’ for ties

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US President Joe Biden said on Friday (May 13) a first summit in Washington with leaders from Asean marked the launch of a “new era” in the relationship between the United States and the 10-nation bloc.

Addressing the second day of a two-day meeting, Biden said “a great deal of history of our world in the next 50 years is going to be written in the Asean countries, and our relationship with you is the future, in the coming years and decades.”

The summit marks the first time that Asean leaders gathered as a group in Washington and their first meeting hosted by a US president since 2016.

The Biden administration hopes the effort will show that Washington remains focused on the Indo-Pacific and the long-term challenge of China, which it views as its main competitor, despite the crisis in Ukraine.

“We’re launching a new era – a new era – in US-Asean relations,” Biden said.

Earlier, US Vice-President Kamala Harris told Asean leaders the US would remain in the region for generations and stressed the need to maintain freedom of the seas, which Washington says is 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,” she said.

Neither she nor Biden mentioned China, which Washington accuses of using coercion against its neighbours, by name.

“We stand with our allies and partners in defending the maritime rules-based order, which includes freedom of navigation and international law,” Harris said.

Harris said the United States would continue to respond with Asean to the threat of Covid-19, having already donated more than 115 million vaccines to the region.

“As long as Covid is present in any one country, it affects us all,” she said.

She also said the US and Asean needed to show collective ambition on the climate issue, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and meet infrastructure needs in a sustainable matter.

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