The United States has announced new plans to expand maritime cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as ASEAN leaders gather in Washington for a special summit seen as a show of solidarity with regard to China. There are.
ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim parts of the South China Sea – a waterway claimed almost entirely by Beijing, which has had landfills and militarized islets over the past decade.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is launching $60 million in new regional maritime initiatives that include shipping ships to Southeast Asian countries to enforce maritime law and enhance the ability of coastal countries to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. countries to relocate.
“We need to step up our game in Southeast Asia,” a senior administration official told reporters. We need to work together with ASEAN.
In a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Friday, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said the US was working with the Southeast Asian bloc to “advance the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Marsudi said his country stood by the principle of “respecting territorial sovereignty” and hoped that the strategic partnership between Indonesia and the US can “contribute to peace, stability and prosperity” in the region.
A senior State Department official told VOA that the South China Sea is at the top of the agenda during the US-ASEAN special summit.
“The South China Sea is a matter of great concern,” Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister Jang Pak said in an interview this week. “We have seen increasingly aggressive and coercive action by the PRC against claimant countries. And, you know, we are working with all our allies and partners in the region and beyond to ensure that the South China Sea is free and open. continue to work together.”
PRC stands for People’s Republic of China.
Later on Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to host a working lunch with leaders of ASEAN countries to discuss maritime security and other areas. Harris denounced China’s “illegal claims” on the South China Sea during a speech in Singapore last August. She said China’s action “undermines the rules-based order and threatens the sovereignty of nations.”
The Biden administration is preparing to create a comprehensive Indo-Pacific economic framework, which will be its first major trade and economic initiative in the region since the Trump administration withdrew from talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The White House on Thursday announced new initiatives worth more than $150 million that include investments in infrastructure, health security and education in ASEAN.