President Joe Biden will host the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for a special summit in Washington next month, the White House announced Monday.
The meeting of the 10-member ASEAN will be held March 28-29 and is being billed by the White House as an opportunity to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the bloc and a chance to mark 45 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations.
“It is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration to serve as a strong, reliable partner and to strengthen an empowered and unified ASEAN to address the challenges of our time,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The ASEAN nations are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
ASEAN barred Myanmar’s military-installed government leadership from the last annual summit in October, instead restricting the nation's participation to non-political representatives. That policy is expected to remain in place for the March summit, according to a Biden administration official who was not authorized to comment publicly.
The summit comes as Biden has sought to make relations in the Pacific a top foreign policy priority amid growing concerns about China as a military and economic adversary. Biden has criticized Beijing for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China, suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more.
Biden participated in the October summit, where he announced more than $100 million in new U.S. spending in ASEAN countries on health programs, a new climate initiative, programs to assist with the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and education programs.
It marked the first time since 2017, when President Donald Trump participated in the summit, that a U.S. president took part in a meeting of the bloc.