At last November’s Cambodia-hosted Asean Summit, United States President Joe Biden expressed his nation’s deep commitment to Asean centrality and declared the grouping “the heart of the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy”.
What then is one to make of his decision to skip this year’s Asean-led East Asia Summit (EAS) in Jakarta, held on the sidelines of the group’s annual meeting of leaders – even as he spends three days in India and two in Vietnam? What was the point of the US comprehensive strategic partnership with Asean that was announced in Phnom Penh in 2022 in Mr Biden’s presence? If Asean was the “heart”, has it stopped beating for Washington?
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