U.S. President Joe Biden has said the first summit in Washington with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) marked the launch of a “new era” in the relationship between the United States and the 10-nation bloc.
In a joint 28-point “vision statement” following a two-day meeting, the two sides took what analysts called a symbolic step of committing to raise their relationship from a strategic partnership to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” in November.
The summit marked the first time that ASEAN leaders gathered as a group in Washington and their first meeting hosted by a U.S. president since 2016.
Raising the relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership matched similar moves by ASEAN with Australia and China last year.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States would remain in Southeast Asia for “generations,” while stressing the need to maintain freedom of the seas.
Harris also said Washington would continue to respond with ASEAN to the threat of the pandemic, having already donated more than 115 million vaccine doses to the region. She said both sides needed to show collective ambition on climate change, accelerate the transition to clean energy and meet infrastructure needs sustainably.
Myanmar’s leader was excluded from the summit over a coup last year. U.S. treaty ally the Philippines, which is still in transition after an election, was represented at the meeting by its foreign minister.