President Joe Biden on Friday promised a long-term commitment to South-East Asia in the face of China's growing influence as he met regional leaders for a first summit in Washington.
Mr Biden laid out $150 million in new initiatives and announced plans for the first full US ambassador to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) in more than five years.
Mr Biden took office saying that his top foreign policy priority would be global competition with China, which has surpassed the US as South-East Asia's top trading partner and has been increasingly assertive on territorial disputes in the region.
Richard Fontaine, chief executive of the Centre for a New American Security, said Mr Biden's summit pledges were bound to bring “uncomfortable comparisons”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, at his own virtual summit with Asean last year, announced $1.5 billion in Covid aid over three years, while the US is preparing a $40bn package for embattled Ukraine.
“To complicate matters further, the United States lacks a trade policy in Asia, the region where it matters most,” Mr Fontaine said.
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