The ASEAN chief is heading to the White House for the main summit political news

The U.S. is trying to bring its “permanent commitment” to the region as leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House summit on Thursday.

This is the first time in 45 years that an ASEAN leader has been invited to the White House. The last time a national leader visited the United States was when he met then President Barack Obama in 2016 at the Sunnylands Ranch in California.

This time only eight of the group’s 10 leaders are expected to be in Washington, DC.

The Philippines is in the midst of a change of leadership after the election to elect a new president this week and has been banned from the Top General Min Aung Hling event that ousted Myanmar’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2021 uprising. Given.

A senior U.S. official said the discussion was about “whether there will be empty chairs to show our dissatisfaction with what happened and our hope to move forward.”

The ASEAN leader last visited the United States in 2016, when he was invited by President Barack Obama to the Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California. [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

What happened in these two days?

Biden is laying the red carpet for Southeast Asian leaders, with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ignoring any domestic opposition to his rule and being the current ASEAN president, the first person to lead Myanmar since the February 2021 uprising. Travel.

The first official engagement will be the Capitol visit on May 12, where ASEAN leaders will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and dine with Democratic and Republican members.

Later, he will discuss in-depth financial cooperation with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, US Trade Representative Catherine Day and senior business leaders.

In the evening, the leaders will have a “spiritual dinner” with President Joe Biden at the White House.

The senior official said the program was an opportunity to “hear the aspirations of leaders about where they want to take ASEAN and how the US can help.” He said every leader would also have “quick personal time” with Biden.

On May 13, Vice President Kamala Harris and Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken will host a luncheon focusing on maritime cooperation, pandemic recovery and health security. Climate is also on the agenda.

“Part of the goal of this summit is not only to expand and deepen the level of engagement with the US government, but to extend it to all branches of our government,” the spokesman said.

The next day the leader meets Biden a second time.

“The meeting is a message,” former Singapore diplomat Bilhari Kausikan was quoted as saying by Reuters at the Stimon Center think tank on Monday.

What about Myanmar?

Myanmar has been a member of ASEAN since 1997, joining the organization under the previous military regime.

The group operates on the principles of consensus and non-intervention, and after a decade of political reform, the recent uprising has taken a somewhat tougher stance against the General.

Min Aung Huling attended the group’s summit in April 2021, which ended with a “five-point consensus” on the way out of the crisis caused by the military’s seizure of power.

The Generals, however, made no effort to fulfill their commitment to ending the unrest and engaging in “constructive dialogue” with “all sides” to end the violence “immediately”.

Nearly 1,833 people were killed and more than 13,500 arrested after the uprising, according to the Political Prisoners Assistance Association, which oversees the situation.

If anything, violence has escalated since the treaty was signed, more attacks on civilians, entire villages have been destroyed and clashes with ethnic armed groups have intensified. Some UN experts say the country is now in a civil war.

“I think some of those steps have stalled and we are looking for signs that ASEAN, and possibly other countries that support ASEAN, are following the appropriate next steps for the agency in terms of compliance, primarily compliance. Its needs and expectations at home play a key role,” the senior U.S. official said.

Partitioning in ASEAN

The Burmese general’s failure to respond to the group’s diplomatic initiative led to a split in ASEAN.

Some member states, such as Malaysia, have backed an informal engagement with the National Unity Government (NUG), which was forcibly formed by members of the government and other pro-democracy forces.

Others, including Hun Sen from Cambodia, appear to be content to limit their relationship with the General. She was the first foreign leader to tour Myanmar after the uprising and was given a red carpet treatment. Critics say the visit gave the administration unnecessary legitimacy.

On Thursday morning, the ASEAN foreign ministers met for informal talks ahead of the main summit.

The Malaysian Foreign Minister said in a statement that he had reiterated that those invited to the conference should not be allowed to “direct” the military, but should engage with ASEAN NUG. He lamented that the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Nolen Heiser, had not been allowed into the country.

Protesters in national uniforms raise three fingers during demonstrations against the military coup in areas controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU).
Violence intensifies in Myanmar, ASEAN makes little progress on diplomacy, civilian-organized militia fighting alongside ethnic militias [File: KNU Dooplaya District via AFP]

During talks in Phnom Penh last week, the group agreed to allow the military to control aid distribution in Myanmar, condemning the move in an open letter signed by 765 civil society organizations outside Myanmar, the region and the south.

The letter said, “We are concerned that ASEAN NUG and other interested parties were involved during Cambodia’s presidency, but directly violated the five-point consensus for coalition talks, and for the junta to open its doors.” ,

“For the decision [to channel humanitarian aid through the military] It only brings shock and danger, aids ASEAN and fuels military atrocities on Earth. ,

Indo-Pacific strategy

In addition to the crisis in Myanmar, Biden called for a summit at a time of intense competition in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s influence extends from the Pacific to the South China Sea, where it controls almost the entire region. Sovereignty is within its jurisdiction. Called the nine dash line.

Southeast Asian nations, some of which have maritime sovereignty, have traditionally used the United States as a shield against China, participating in “superpower” politics or choosing between them.

“US support for ASEAN – based multilateralism strengthens and strengthens the European Union, especially China’s attempts to divide it, which has repeatedly weakened ASEAN’s ability to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.”

At the same time, the United States is keen to assure that ASEAN engagement will continue despite developments elsewhere in the world. It released its Indo-Pacific strategy in February, calling for “strengthening ASEAN” beyond existing and new regional alliances such as the Quad.

The senior administration official said, “It is deeply recognized that the Indo-Pacific region faces fundamental long-term challenges. The United States is committed and committed to ensuring that our engagement in this area is broad, comprehensive and consistent. “

What if Russia invades Ukraine?

The United States has called for “comprehensive talks” between Ukraine and Russia during the summit.

With the exception of Singapore, no Southeast Asian country has joined Western-led sanctions on Moscow, and many have joined the UN General Assembly to condemn Russia’s actions in the country, with Vietnam and Laos voting against it.

Southeast Asian countries will play an important role in future diplomacy, with Indonesia presiding over the G20 this year, which will host the annual Leaders’ Summit in Bali later this year, while Cambodia will host the East Asia Summit. And Thailand will be Asian. . -Pacific Leaders Host Country Economic Cooperation Forum.

Indonesia has said it will not reject an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but will extend an invitation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky in what appears to be an agreement.

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