Senior US diplomat visiting Southeast Asia to ‘reaffirm’ relations

Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

The top U.S. diplomat for Asia will meet with senior government officials in Southeast Asia next week to “reaffirm” America’s commitment to allies in the region. 

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will travel to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand from Saturday to Dec. 4, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of State. 

While there, Kritenbrink will meet with top officials “to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to work together with our allies and partners to tackle the most serious global and regional challenges of the 21st century.”

The statement added that Kritenbrink would reiterate “support for a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific,” a nod to China’s aggressive behavior in the region, Reuters reported. 

His meeting will also address “regional democracy and human rights challenges” as well as climate change and stopping violence by the Burmese military, among other issues.

He will also discuss how the U.S. and its allies can improve its economic relations to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last month, President Biden met virtually with the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) member states’ leaders and the ASEAN secretary general.

He announced that the U.S. would provide $102 million for the bloc’s COVID-19 recovery as well as to address climate change, foster economic growth and develop human capital.

“I want you all to hear directly from me the importance the United States places on its relationship with ASEAN,” Biden said at the meeting. “You can expect to see me showing up and reaching out to you.”

While the announcement of Kritenbrink’s trip said that “ASEAN centrality” would be emphasized, the diplomat will not visit Cambodia, the bloc’s new chair, which continues to shift closer to China, Reuters noted. 

Tags ASEAN Daniel Kritenbrink Indo-Pacific Joe Biden Southeast Asia u.s. department of state

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