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U.S. pledges $150M to ASEAN countries to kick off summit

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U.S. pledges $150M to ASEAN countries to kick off summit
The United States pledged $150 million in new investments as President Joe Biden hosted leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for a summit on Thursday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

May 12 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden hosted leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Thursday, pledging $150 million in new investments in the region.

Biden announced the investments in maritime security and clean energy infrastructure as well as funding for a facility to prevent future pandemics as he welcomed leaders from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam for the first day of the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington, D.C.

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The promised U.S. funding includes $60 million in new regional maritime initiatives that will see the U.S. Coast Guard deploy a cutter as well as other assets and personnel to the region to "promote a free and open Pacific" by training and assisting countries to improve law enforcement and combat illegal fishing operations.

When asked about how ASEAN nations that are concerned about being caught between the United States and China publicly to agree to increased security cooperation, a senior administration official said the United States is "not asking countries to make a choice between the United States and China."

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"We want to make clear, though, that the United States seeks stronger relationships, that we want to expand the areas of cooperation, and that we recognize that in order to do that, we need to be responsive to desires of countries in the region to work in areas that are important to them," the official said.

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Another $40 million will be invested in clean energy infrastructure in Southeast Asia that will "decarbonize and strengthen the region's power system, increase regional energy trade and accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies," the official said.

The United States also committed $15 million to expand access to genomic testing equipment and technology as well as programs to advance early detection and community response for COVID-19, tuberculosis and other airborne diseases in the region.

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