Blinken in Indonesia as US seeks to solidify relations with Southeast Asia
This content was published on December 13, 2021 – 07:50
By Humeyra Pamuk
JAKARTA (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Indonesia on Monday, kicking off a visit to Southeast Asia aimed at strengthening ties in a region that has become a strategic battleground between Washington and Beijing.
On his first trip to Southeast Asia since US President Joe Biden took office in January, Blinken will be in Malaysia and Thailand this week after visiting the Indonesian capital Jakarta, where he will meet with President Joko Widodo and will deliver a speech on U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy on Tuesday.
Southeast Asia is a key stage in a rivalry between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, with a heated battle for influence as the Biden administration seeks to reconnect with a region in which the commitment of the United States was called into question under President Donald Trump.
Blinken to pursue Biden’s goal of intensifying engagement with the 10-member bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and discuss the president’s vision for an Indo-Pacific economic framework a senior US diplomat for Asia said ahead of the trip.
The United States and its Western allies push back Beijing’s assertion in the South China Sea, vector of a third of world trade, and accuse its vast coastguard fleet of intimidating countries like Vietnam, the Philippines , Malaysia and Indonesia by disrupting energy and fishing. Activities.
China claims almost the entire sea as its own and has dismissed US actions as interference from an outside power.
The Biden administration considers closer engagement in Southeast Asia essential to its efforts to push back China’s growing power, but Trump’s withdrawal from a regional trade deal in 2017 limited his ability to exercise economic influence, while Beijing has sought to strengthen its trade ties.
The administration has not yet clarified what exactly the economic framework envisioned by Biden will consist of.
(Written by Humeyra Pamuk and Martin Petty; edited by Stephen Coates)