Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken will attend the annual meeting of, among others, the ASEAN foreign ministers, the US official said.

The United States’ top diplomat will meet virtually next week with Southeast Asian officials, a senior State Department official said Saturday as President Joe Biden’s administration seeks to show that the region is a priority. while also addressing the crisis in Myanmar.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will attend virtual meetings for five consecutive days, including annual meetings of the 10 Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other nations and separate meetings of the lower Mekong subregion. countries Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

“I think this is clear evidence of our commitment to the region,” said the Foreign Ministry official, who informed the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

Over the past few years, top US officials have not always attended ASEAN meetings and sometimes sent more junior officials to the regional summit.

The virtual meetings come after the Biden administration in its early days paid little attention to the environment of more than 600 million people, often overshadowed by China, which according to the US as its major challenge for foreign policy.

But top U.S. officials have made a series of visits to the region in recent months.

Deputy Foreign Minister Wendy Sherman will visit Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand in May and June, Defense Minister Lloyd Austin was in Vietnam and the Philippines this week, and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Singapore and Vietnam.

On Sunday, the US sent 3 million doses of the Modern COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam, and it also sent doses to other countries in Southeast Asia.

However, an agreement he reached in March with Japan, Australia and India to supply a billion doses to the region came to an end due to an Indian export ban.

By mid-next week, the US will have donated 23 million doses to countries in the region, experiencing an increase in the coronavirus associated with the highly contagious Delta variant.

Representatives of Myanmar’s military government will also attend the meetings next week.

The country’s military rulers are subject to a series of US sanctions as the army carried out a coup on February 1 and arrested elected leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, causing widespread protests.

In a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers earlier this month, Blinken stated called on the countries to take action to end violence and restore democracy in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom warned this week, half of Myanmar’s population of 54 million could become infected with COVID-19 within the next two weeks.

“The virus is spreading very rapidly through the population,” British UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward told an informal Security Council meeting on Myanmar. “According to some estimates, half of Myanmar’s population could be infected with COVID in the next two weeks,” she said.

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