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InvestmentsTop U.S. diplomat for Asia to visit four southeast Asian countries By...

Top U.S. diplomat for Asia to visit four southeast Asian countries By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink attend a gathering with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 26, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool

By David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The high U.S. diplomat for East Asia will visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand from the weekend after President Joe Biden pledged stepped up engagement with Southeast Asia, a key battleground in his contest for affect with China.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, will probably be within the area from Saturday till Dec. 4, a State Department assertion mentioned.

Kritenbrink would “reaffirm the U.S. commitment to work together … to tackle the most serious global and regional challenges” and stress U.S. assist for “a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific,” it mentioned, a reference to China’s more and more assertive habits within the area, which Washington has repeatedly denounced as “coercive.”

Kritenbrink will focus on human rights “challenges,” search to bolster cooperation on local weather change and focus on methods to stress Myanmar’s navy authorities to stop violence and permit unhindered humanitarian entry, the assertion mentioned.

He may even focus on how to strengthen financial relationships and “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic, it mentioned.

Biden joined leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in a digital summit final month, the primary time in four years Washington had engaged on the high degree with the bloc.

He pledged to stand with ASEAN in defending freedom of the seas and democracy, and mentioned Washington would begin talks on growing a regional financial framework, one thing critics say his Asia technique has lacked since his predecessor Donald Trump give up a regional commerce pact.

An Asian diplomat mentioned regional countries have been nonetheless awaiting particulars of this plan, recognizing Biden’s give attention to rebuilding home financial energy was a limiting issue.

Daniel Russel, a predecessor of Kritenbrink within the Obama administration, mentioned a key query for ASEAN was “whether the United States truly has a viable¬†economic strategy” for the area.

“The pledge to discuss ways to strengthen U.S. economic engagement with ASEAN countries is music to their ears, even if they may be underwhelmed by the ‘economic framework’ so far,” he mentioned.

Kritenbrink’s journey announcement burdened the “centrality” of the 10-member ASEAN to regional affairs, however he is not going to visit the bloc’s new chair, Cambodia, which has shifted ever nearer to China.

The Asian diplomat and Russel mentioned Kritenbrink was seemingly to visit different ASEAN countries earlier than lengthy and Russel famous Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is house to the bloc’s everlasting headquarters.

“While it is important to discuss the ASEAN agenda with the 2022 chair, visiting ASEAN headquarters in Jakarta will afford him the opportunity to begin that conversation,” Russel mentioned.

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