March 27, 2019

Two Ways for the United States to Deepen Diplomatic Engagement with ASEAN

By Chris Estep

The time has come to demonstrate again that the United States seeks to engage partners in Southeast Asia at the highest levels of government. As the region’s economic and security landscape continues to evolve, and as Chinese interests in the region grow, the United States government must increase its engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through two avenues: first, by confirming an ambassador to ASEAN, and second, by sending President Trump as the head of the U.S. delegation to the 2019 East Asia Summit (EAS). These two actions would send a powerful message about American interest in promoting economic partnership, balancing against Chinese influence, and promoting a rules-based order in Southeast Asia.

The East Asia Summit represents one of the most important diplomatic events in the region. Featuring heads of state and government from ASEAN members and invited guests, the EAS provides a forum for high-level engagement in a key strategic part of the world for American security and trade interests. In recognition of this reality, President Obama attended the event on five separate occasions after the United States first received an invitation to the summit in 2011. In the past two years, however, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence have attended the summit instead of the president. Leading the American delegation to this year’s EAS would allow President Trump to show partners in ASEAN that America remains committed to dialogue and collaboration in the region, even as China increasingly asserts its own interests there.

Read the full article in Global Security Review.

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