US-Asean summit is a good start but more needed for a 'new era'

The United States hit all the right notes when it hosted Asean leaders in Washington last week. But the fact remains that the US has an uphill climb if it wants to catch up with China’s economic momentum in South-east Asia.

A China Coast Guard ship shadowing a Philippine Coast Guard vessel in the South China Sea on March 2, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
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Hell hath no fury like an Asean neglected. For years, the grouping has accused Washington of strategic neglect, but the postponed US-Asean summit initially scheduled for March eventually took place last week with eight Asean leaders meeting President Joseph Biden in Washington, DC, in only the second of such special summits. The first took place in Sunnylands, California, in 2016, during then President Barack Obama's second term.

To Washington's credit, the meeting last week hit all the right notes, underscoring the United States' commitment to the region at a time of geopolitical flux and competition from China.

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