By Invitation

The return of good old-fashioned diplomacy

A rash of high-profile summits places Asean at the heart of global diplomacy this year

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This week's special summit for Asean leaders in Washington proved to be a traditional affair. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and seven of his Asean counterparts enjoyed a busy two-day programme, from meetings on Capitol Hill and sit-downs with chief executives to a lavish dinner with President Joe Biden.

At one level the summit showcased ongoing efforts by the United States to match China's courtship of Asean, as both nations continue their battle for global influence and power. But it signals a more welcome development too: the rapid return of in-person diplomacy as the long Covid-19 pandemic finally draws to an end.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2022, with the headline The return of good old-fashioned diplomacy. Subscribe