U.S President Joe Biden is hosting leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as his administration makes an extended effort to demonstrate that the United States has not lost focus on the Pacific even while dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden will begin his talks over dinner Thursday evening with leaders from the eight ASEAN nations attending the two-day summit. It will be the group’s first meeting at the White House. Leaders will take part in more formal talks at the State Department on Friday.
The ASEAN nations include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Leaders from the other two ASEAN members, Myanmar and the Philippines, are not expected to attend the summit.
The special summit in Washington comes before Biden’s trip next week to South Korea and Japan — his first visit to Asia as president — for talks with those two countries’ leaders. He also will meet during that trip with leaders from the Indo-Pacific strategic alliance with the U.S. known as the Quad: Australia, India and Japan.
Biden has tried to put greater focus on that alliance and improving relations with Pacific nations in the early going of his presidency as he sees a rising China as the most threatening economic and national security adversary to the United States.
Biden, who pledged to make the Pacific a greater focal point of U.S. policy, has seen his attempt at an “Asia pivot” complicated by the most serious fighting in Europe since World War II.
A White House Asia policy adviser said the administration remains committed to stepping up relations with Southeast Asian nations to address climate, economic and education initiatives.