Biden Welcomes Southeast Asian Leaders With Energy, Maritime Pledges
Umer Jamshaid Published May 13, 2022 | 08:10 AM
Washington, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 13th May, 2022 ) :President Joe Biden on Thursday welcomed Southeast Asian leaders to Washington with promises to support clean energy and maritime security, hoping to showcase a US commitment as China makes wide inroads.
Top leaders from eight of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) flew to Washington for the two-day summit, which opened with a closed-door White House dinner of thyme poached chicken and vanilla ice cream.
The Biden administration, which took office describing China as the top international challenger, is eager to prove it is still prioritizing Asia despite months of intense focus on repelling Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The White House announced some $150 million in new initiatives -- a modest sum compared with a $40 billion package for Ukraine and with the billions pumped into the region by China, which has also flexed its muscle in the dispute-rife South China Sea.
"If left unchecked, we leave the door open to additional aggression, including maritime issues and other issues in the South China Sea," she said.
Pelosi called the summit "another manifestation of America's commitment to be a strong, reliable partner in Southeast Asia." In a contrast to China's hands-off approach, Pelosi said she believed in "candor" and urged the Southeast Asian leaders to respect human rights, voicing particular concern about LGBTQ people.
"Let me be clear: when we hear about torture of LGBTQ people, that is unacceptable to the American people -- and continues to be an obstacle to the full respect in our relationship," she said.
In the biggest chunk of the new funding, the White House said it was committing $60 million to new maritime initiatives that will include the deployment of a Coast Guard cutter and personnel to fight crime including illegal fishing.
Another initiative -- launched as Biden separately held a virtual summit on Covid -- includes a project to test for emerging respiratory diseases through a new office in Hanoi of the US Centers for Disease Control.
The Philippines also did not send its leader and was represented by its foreign minister after holding elections on Monday.
"If the US doesn't publicly raise human rights concerns during meetings, the message will be that human rights abuses are now tolerated in the name of forging alliances to counter China," said John Sifton, the group's Asia advocacy director.