U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday a first summit in Washington with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) marked the launch of a "new era" in the relationship between the United States and the 10-nation bloc, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Addressing ASEAN leaders on the second day of a two-day meeting, Biden said "a great deal of history of our world in the next 50 years is going to be written in the ASEAN countries, and our relationship with you is the future, in the coming years and decades."
The summit marked the first time ASEAN leaders gathered as a group in Washington and their first meeting hosted by a U.S. president since 2016.
Biden's administration hopes the effort will show that the United States remains focused on the Indo-Pacific and the long-term challenge of China, which it views as its main competitor.
"We're launching a new era - a new era - in U.S.-ASEAN relations," Biden said, calling the U.S.-ASEAN partnership "critical."
Earlier, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States would remain in Southeast Asia for generations and stressed the need to maintain freedom of the seas, which the United States says is challenged by China.
"The United States and ASEAN have shared a vision for this region, and together we will guard against threats to international rules and norms," Harris said.
Neither she nor Biden mentioned China by name.
Harris said the United States would continue to respond with ASEAN to the threat of COVID-19, having already donated more than 115 million vaccine doses to the region. Harris also said the United States and ASEAN need to show collective ambition on the climate issue, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and meet infrastructure needs sustainably.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, though Myanmar's leader was excluded from the summit over a coup last year and U.S. treaty ally the Philippines is in transition after an election and is represented by its foreign minister.
Biden hosted a dinner for the leaders at the White House on Thursday, and his administration promised $150 million for areas including infrastructure, security, pandemic preparedness and clean energy.
New U.S. commitments will include deployment of a U.S. Coast Guard vessel to the region to help counter what the United States and regional countries have described as China's illegal fishing.
U.S. spending pales in comparison to that of China, which in November alone pledged $1.5 billion in development assistance for ASEAN over three years to fight COVID-19 and fuel economic recovery.