President Joe Biden (C) stands with Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (L) of Brunei and President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (R) and other leaders of the US-ASEAN Special Summit at the White House on Thursday. The meeting concludes on Friday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
May 13 (UPI) -- Leaders of Southeast Asian countries will wrap up a two-day meeting with U.S. officials Friday in an effort to maintain focus on an aggressive China while the White House has been concentrating on Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, started their special summit Thursday in Washington, D.C., marking their first in-person meeting since 2017. President Joe Biden announced investments in maritime security and clean energy infrastructure as well as funding for a facility to prevent future pandemics.
Leaders from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam joined Biden and other U.S. officials for the two days of talks.
The delegation was expected to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Vice President Harris on Friday before a joint meeting at the White House with Biden in the afternoon.
"President Biden announced unprecedented investment of up to $102 million in U.S.-ASEAN relations," a senior administration official said Thursday. "It significantly expanded our cooperation on health, climate, science and innovation, trade facilitation, education, and more.
"We are building on these efforts across the U.S. government at this summit and are very pleased that we've been able to work successfully with the different parts of our government as well as with our ASEAN partners."
The White House said ASEAN countries represent the world's fourth largest market and the United States is ASEAN's largest source of foreign direct investment, while our two-way trade amounted to more than $360 billion in 2020.
Some attendees felt snubbed that all the countries did not get bilateral meetings with Biden.
"All the leaders are here in Washington," Kao Kim Hourn, a close adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, told the Washington Post. "Why not have extra meetings given the state of global politics and economics?"