Vice President Kamala Harris opens a meeting on climate with ministers and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as part of the US-ASEAN Commemorative Summit at the US State Department’s Roy Henderson International Conference Room. do. Announced by the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., Friday, May 13, 2022.
Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Vice President Kamala Harris will deepen her outreach to Southeast Asia this week at an international summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, to seek to dispel doubts about US involvement in the region raised by President Joe Biden’s absence. is.
It will be Harris’ third visit to Southeast Asia, and his fourth in Asia overall, and he has landed in more countries than any other continent. In addition to the meetings he hosts in Washington, Harris’ repeated visits have positioned him as a key interlocutor for Democratic administrations seeking to strengthen their network of balancing partnerships. Chinese influence.
The trip is another opportunity for Harris to hone his foreign policy credentials in preparation for a painful campaign year. He has already come under fire from Republican presidential candidates, who say he is not ready to step up if Biden, the oldest U.S. president in history, does not finish a second term.
White House National Security Press Secretary John Kirby said Harris “has made alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific a key agenda item as vice president,” adding that Harris’ travel itinerary “is a It fits perfectly with the problem we have.” I was concentrating. “
But Biden’s decision to skip Association of Southeast Asian NationsThe country, known as ASEAN, has caused some frustration, especially since it already plans to go to India and Vietnam around the same time. Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the president’s absence “will be more obvious than otherwise” because he is nearby.
But Natalegawa admitted that he is having trouble convincing world leaders that ASEAN deserves to play a central role in the region. This alliance represents her more than 650 million people in her 10 countries, the fifth largest economy in the world.
organization has not resolved civil war in myanmar, two years ago there was a military coup, and he was no longer invited from the conference. A peace plan agreed with the country’s top generals yielded no progress.
end of negotiations Claims in the South China Sea ASEAN continues to be bogged down as well, facing domestic disagreements over global competition between the United States and China. While some member states, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, are seeking closer ties with the U.S. government, Cambodia remains firmly in Beijing’s orbit.
“We can complain all the time that other countries don’t respect us or come to the summit,” Natalegawa said. “But at the end of the day, it’s really a point of reflection.”
Unless ASEAN becomes more effective, Natalegawa said, “we may end up with fewer and fewer leaders participating.”
Kirby, the national security spokesperson, dismissed the notion that Biden disrespects organizations and communities.
Kirby said Biden had already hosted his first Washington summit with ASEAN leaders last year, saying: “Looking at the record presented by the current administration, it’s hard to say that we’re going to walk away. It’s totally impossible,” he said.
Harris’ national security adviser, Phil Gordon, said “every country wants the US president to be present” when the event is held, but there is “a lot of enthusiasm” for the vice president’s stay in Jakarta. Ta.
He also said that the summit is a valuable opportunity to interact with countries in the region.
“There are differences between them, but they also have a lot in common,” Gordon said. “And we have something in common.”
Ja Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, said Harris’ presence would help cover US grounds at events that may not prove productive on key issues. .
“If you want to show that you are paying attention, I will send the vice president,” he said.
Harris will leave Monday morning and spend two days caught up in meetings in Jakarta. Her office has not yet released details of her schedule, but she plans to attend the summit and meet individually with some foreign leaders.
Biden is heading to India to attend the annual G20 summit soon after Harris returns from Indonesia. The summit brings together many of the world’s wealthiest nations and is a fixture on the president’s calendar.then he will drop by Vietnamwhere he focuses on strengthening ties with the country, which is an emerging economic powerhouse.
Gregory B. Pauling, who directs the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “I don’t blame the government for the choice it made. It’s just a shame they had to make that choice.” It is,” he said.
Leaders are gathering in Jakarta amid heightened tensions over the South China Sea after Beijing released a new official map highlighting its territorial claims in the sea.
The map has angered other countries who consider the area part of their territory or an international detour. The South China Sea is an important crossroads for global trade.
U.S. officials and analysts believe Beijing’s aggressive approach to the region has created opportunities for Washington to forge stronger partnerships.
Using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China, David Stilwell said, “In many ways, China does the work for us.” Stilwell served as assistant secretary of state for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau under President Donald Trump.
While much of Biden’s recent focus has been on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is no doubt that he sees China as the United States’ biggest foreign policy challenge. Mr. Biden has described many of the domestic and international challenges as an effort to deter. Beijing will replace Washington as the world’s most powerful power.
Sometimes his warning takes a darker turn. At a recent reelection fundraiser in Park City, Utah, Mr. Biden described China as a “time bomb,” citing its economic and demographic challenges.
“It’s not good because bad people do bad things when they have problems,” he said.
Harris has previously visited Singapore and Vietnam, Japan and South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.
Much of her travels focused on the global conflict with China.
Speaking last year from the deck of a U.S. Navy destroyer anchored near Tokyo, Mr. Harris said China had “challenged maritime freedoms” and “used military and economic power to coerce and intimidate its neighbors.” said.
Harris also became a senior U.S. official to visit Palawan, a Philippine island bordering the South China Sea that has been at the forefront of territorial disputes. He said the United States would support the Philippines “even in the face of intimidation and coercion.”