On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden took part in a virtual summit with the leaders of ASEAN, for the first time in four years that Washington has engaged at the top level with the regional bloc.
This comes as President Biden is seeking to intensify U.S. presence in the Pacific as China continues to emerge as a national security and economic adversary.
Biden said his administration plans to provide up to 102 million U.S. dollars to the bloc for regional development, stressing that Washington's relationship with ASEAN is a linchpin for maintaining resilience, prosperity, and the security of the region.
"In fact, we intend to launch a new program and initiatives to enhance our cooperation across the range of issues totaling more than $100 million dollars. Our bottom line is that ASEAN is essential, I want to say that again, is essential to the regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific."
The fund will include spending for health and welfare, a new climate initiative as well as other programs to help ASEAN countries recover from the pandemic.
Myanmar was not allowed to attend, as the group banned its military junta leader for ignoring the bloc's roadmap for peace that was agreed upon six months ago.
However, the other leaders shared their concerns over Myanmar's worsening crisis.
President Biden denounced the military coup for its use of (quote) "horrific violence" against protesters.
He added the U.S. will focus on sending support for the people of Myanmar, for its democratic path, as well as for the protection of safety, security and human rights.
On Wednesday, President Biden will join the broader East Asia Summit, which brings together ASEAN and other nations in the Indo-Pacific region.
Kim Hyo-sun, Arirang News.