Relations between the United States and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) are "critical," said U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington D.C. on Friday.
"A great deal of the history of our world in the next 50 years is going to be written, and the ASEAN countries and our relationship with you is the future in the coming years and decades," he remarked.
The summit marks the first time in 45 years that ASEAN leaders have gathered in Washington. Former President Barack Obama was the first U.S. leader to host the summit in California back in 2016.
"The ASEAN centrality is the very heart of my administration's strategy in pursuing the future we all want to see," Biden said as he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to maintaining the stability of the Indo-Pacific.
"As we look around the world—all the challenges we’re facing—the ASEAN-U.S. partnership is critical, I think, to meeting the moment we find ourselves in history right now," he added.
Biden also announced $150 million for initiatives aimed at strengthening U.S.-ASEAN relations, on top of the $100 million that he announced in October last year.
They called for a "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula and an immediate cessation of the conflict in Ukraine, without mentioning Russia by name. The leaders also expressed concern for the situation in Burma, also known as Myanmar, following the military coup last year.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Burmese military junta was excluded from the summit, while the Philippines was represented by its foreign minister.
“What most countries in Southeast Asia want is a diversified engagement,” Campbell said on Wednesday. “Steady, stable relations with their big neighbor to the north [China], but also practical, important, enduring ties with the United States.”
The foremost challenge to cementing the ties between the United States and ASEAN, Campbell said, was the perception abroad that Washington’s engagement and priorities would be short-lived due to the fluctuating nature of American politics and, with it, American policy.
“We have to send a signal that the United States will be a steady partner, and that our strategic interests push us and point us into playing a larger role over time," he said.