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What to expect at the ASEAN summit

ASEAN’s Place in the US Administration’s Approach to the Indo-Pacific

The White House’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, released in February 2022, states that the United States seeks to “promote a freer and more open, connected Indo-Pacific.” , more prosperous, secure and flexible”.

The strategy calls “empowered ASEAN” a key ingredient for success alongside modernizing alliances like the Quad (consisting of the US, Australia, India and Japan), with commitment and resources. new United States, and other vehicles.

What to expect at the ASEAN-US summit?  - Photo 1.

US President Joe Biden attends the US – ASEAN Summit in 2021 in an online form. Photo: New York Times.

While competition with China is central to U.S. strategy in the region, advocating for a cohesive and resilient ASEAN is one of the key means of advancing an Indo-Pacific. free and open.

However, an empowered ASEAN will not be easy to achieve. ASEAN is an incredibly diverse group of 10 countries that operate by consensus, which means decision-making isn’t always quick. With member Myanmar in crisis, an empowered ASEAN seems more unlikely than ever.

However, despite their differences, including concerning Myanmar, members have always agreed that only ASEAN can be the central building block for Indo-Pacific regionalism. The United States and its allies – and China to some extent – have embraced this vision and recognize that it is unacceptable for the major powers to lead the regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Okay. The United States is therefore keen to invest in its relationship with ASEAN and do what it can to support ASEAN centrality in regional affairs.

However, the United States has also made it clear that bilateral cooperation – and also trilateral cooperation – with key allies and partners is fundamental to US engagement and power in the region. . The Biden administration’s emphasis on the Quad, in particular, has raised questions about whether ASEAN will continue to be at the forefront of regionalism, and what it really means when the US says that they support what ASEAN centrality is. The Indo-Pacific Strategy acknowledges this sensitivity, noting that the US “will seek opportunities for the Quad to work with ASEAN”.

During the first year of the Biden administration, engagement with Southeast Asian countries and ASEAN at large was unusually difficult due to Covid-19-related travel restrictions and Myanmar. This special summit is intended to help make up for lost time and clearly demonstrate the United States’ interest and commitment to deepening its relationship with ASEAN and its constituent members.

What are ASEAN countries looking for from Washington?

ASEAN countries are extremely wary of the fact that the relationship between the United States and China is important to themselves. Despite their diversity, the ASEAN countries all want a US presence and engagement in Southeast Asia.

They also seek to involve Japan, India, Australia and other external powers as much as possible to create a balance of power in the region, or as former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has called a More positively, it’s a dynamic equilibrium. What they don’t want is to be forced to choose between the United States and China.

Southeast Asian countries also seek Washington’s support for ASEAN-based multilateral institutions, such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, which the bloc seeks to become the hub of. structure of the Indo-Pacific region.

Beyond the present, ASEAN wants the United States to be a stronger economic partner, and many members are eagerly anticipating the details of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework proposed by the Biden administration.

ASEAN is also looking to cooperate on transnational challenges, from climate change and pandemic preparedness to transnational crime.

U.S. support for ASEAN-based multilateralism has empowered the bloc and strengthened its resilience.

In addition, hot international issues such as the Russia-Ukraine war or the Myanmar issue were also mentioned at the conference.

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