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May 14, 2022 / 11:10

Biden nominates ambassador to ASEAN

With the nomination, Biden seeks to send the message to the region in which he stressed the importance of the relationship with the 10-member bloc, calling it “critical.”

US President Joe Biden on May 13 nominated Yohannes Abraham, chief of staff to the White House National Security Council, as ambassador to ASEAN.

 US President Joe Biden at the US-ASEAN Special Summit held in Washington, D.C. on May 13. Photos: VGP

Biden announced the decision at the US-ASEAN Special Summit held in Washington, D.C., participated by leaders of the 10-member bloc leaders and the ASEAN’s Secretary General.

Abraham’s nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, aims to deepen the US-ASEAN partnership that the president called “critical” and underscores the Biden administration’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region. Abraham is a top national security staffer, serving since the first day of Biden’s administration. 

By appointing an ambassador to ASEAN, the US is currently represented by a chargé d’affaires, the president expects to show that his administration is serious about recalibrating American foreign policy to have a greater focus on Asia and to strengthen the US role. 

Biden described Abraham as one of his closest advisers. “I think you’re going to find him completely knowledgeable, and he speaks for me and for my administration.”

The nomination came after Biden said the US-ASEAN relationship enters a new era when he hosted the assembled leaders.

“We’re not only celebrating 45 years of partnership and friendship between ASEAN and the United States, but we’re also launching a new era—a new era in US-ASEAN relations,” Biden said in the in-person meeting which is the second of its kind since 2016 in Sunnylands, California.

At the US-ASEAN Summit held in Washington, D.C., Biden said “The ASEAN centrality is the very heart of my administration’s strategy in pursuing the future we all want to see.”

Saying that the free and open Indo-Pacific is stable, prosperous, resilient, and secure is what they’re all seeking, Biden said that’s why he asked Vice President Kamala Harris to travel to the region last August, and at the US-ASEAN virtual summit last October he announced US$102 million dollars to support for programs to strengthen US-ASEAN cooperation.

At the meeting, Biden announced another $150 million dollars of initiatives to deepen the US-ASEAN relations. He noted that they would be better in shared objectives from the coast guard to climate change and modern infrastructure, and “a whole range of things to work on.”

“Discussions have covered a broad range of critical issues, including working together to keep the fight against Covid under control and to take climate action, pursuit clean energy future, build a sustainable high standard infrastructure, expand excess to education, enhance maritime cooperation,” Biden said.

Biden mentioned rules and norms, saying they are crucial for growth, prosperity, and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris said in the meeting earlier with ASEAN leaders on May 15 that “The United States and ASEAN have shared a vision for this region, and together we will guard against threats to international rules and norms.”

The discussions chaired by Harris focused on the climate crisis and she called for joint efforts to address the issues as she argued that “Our world is more interconnected and interdependent.”

Wendy Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State, tweeted that the success of the US-ASEAN strategic partnership is rooted in high-level engagement as well as close economic, cultural, and educational ties.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was established in 1967, includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

 Overview of the summit that was attended by leaders of ASEAN member states.