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White House ASEAN Summit Reeks of Anti-China and Indo-Pacific Security Agenda

May 12, 2022 (EIRNS)—Ahead of President Biden’s upcoming May 24 trip to South Korea and Japan, the May 12-13 Special ASEAN Leaders Summit began today in Washington, with the White House hosting eight of ASEAN’s ten member nations. (The Philippines couldn’t attend, due to its just-concluded presidential elections; Myanmar, formerly Burma, was not invited.) According to the May 11 background briefing given by a senior administration official, the schedule is jam-packed, with meetings at the Congress today with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders, with business leaders and CEOs to discuss strengthening economic cooperation, including meetings with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai; and culminating with an “intimate” dinner with President Joe Biden tomorrow night. On May 13 there will be another group meeting with Biden, but the President will have no bilateral meetings at all with the guests. His meeting will take place after a working luncheon for the ASEAN leaders with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

Amidst all the hoopla, there is a lurking suspicion that the ulterior motive here is to rope at least some of the ASEAN nations into the U.S. part of a Global NATO deployment into the Indo-Pacific aimed at China—telling them they should “choose sides.” As the senior administration official put it, hosting the ASEAN summit is intended to show that “our engagement in the region is broad-based and sustained,” because “there is a deep recognition that fundamental long-term challenges are playing out in the Indo-Pacific.” The secretive, soon-to-be-published Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is expected to lay out the framework for a geopolitical security alliance disguised as expanded U.S. economic engagement.

Chinese media—Global Times and China Daily—have warned of such developments this week, and on May 8, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a video meeting with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, since Cambodia currently holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, in which he warned that Asian nations should be vigilant against any attempts to impose a Cold War mentality into Asia or promote geopolitical confrontation between camps, as it would undermine peaceful development for years. The world should listen to “Asian voices,” Wang said, and respect their wisdom. China welcomes countries from outside the region to play a positive role in regional development, he said, but will reject any action that undermines regional peace and stability.

Just how much the U.S. wants to sincerely engage the region was indicated in a May 12 report from South China Morning Post, noting that Cambodian Minister Kao Kim Hourn, who is a close advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, had asked Biden to give more one-on-one time to the visiting delegation, if he is serious about elevating U.S. ties in the region. Cambodia, the minister said, works with both China and the U.S. based on the principle of “inclusiveness,” but ASEAN leaders should be treated with “respect and equality” and should be allowed to spend some “useful time” with Biden. It’s a normal practice, he said, for the ASEAN chair to meet with the leader of the host country “whether formally or informally to have some sort of dialogue.” However, the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy told him that no bilateral meeting was planned, because the two-day summit is very “long” and because Biden was “busy.”

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