The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is holding separate summits with China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and the US, allowing big power rivalries and regional issues from North Korean missiles to the South China Sea to grab considerable attention.
US Vice President Kamala Harris is attending the event in place of President Joe Biden, who will soon depart for New Delhi, India, for the G20 Summit from September 9 – 10. President Xi Jinping is also skipping the ASEAN Summit, sending Chinese Premier Li Qiang in his place.
First High-Level US-Russia Encounter Since July
The string of meetings on Wednesday will be more regional in scope. But on Thursday, an 18-member East Asia Summit is expected to have broader geopolitical issues at the fore as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to attend the meeting.
“At both summits, the vice president [Kamala Harris] will underscore the United States’ enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific generally and to ASEAN centrality specifically,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be attending, too. The leaders will meet Li at an ASEAN Plus Three Summit where simmering tensions between Beijing and Tokyo over the Fukushima water release could gain attention.
The roundtable involving Harris and Lavrov would be the first high-level US-Russia encounter since a July foreign ministers’ meeting in Jakarta. Meanwhile, host Indonesia told an ASEAN leaders’ summit on Tuesday the bloc would not become a proxy for big power competition.
Indian PM Jetting Off To Jakarta For The Big Event
For the next few days, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a packed schedule as he is jetting off to Jakarta for the Southeast Asian summits. He will then depart for New Delhi for the G20 Summit and a bilateral with Joe Biden on the sidelines of the event.
While India isn’t an ASEAN member, it has comprehensive ties with the bloc, including a Free Trade Agreement signed in 2010. The ASEAN-India Summit will be the first summit since the two sides elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership last year.