Biden lands in Cambodia to meet Asian allies ahead of Xi meeting


Phnom Penh, Cambodia
CNN

President Joe Biden arrives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Saturday morning local time A series of summits and conferences Between the President of the United States and the leaders of Southeast Asian countries.

Ahead of the weekend meeting in Cambodia, next week will be the highly anticipated Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, where Biden will meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping in person for the first time since taking office. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting and the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh on Sunday will be an opportunity for the president to speak with U.S. allies before sitting down with Xi.

Biden, who will hold a bilateral meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, hopes to build on Biden’s summit with ASEAN leaders in Washington earlier this year.

From the beginning of his presidency, Biden “intended to elevate our engagement in the Indo-Pacific,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One, and his attendance at the ASEAN and East Asia summits this weekend will Highlighting his work to date, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and Security Partnership efforts announced earlier this year.

“He comes into this series of summits with his accomplishments and goals, and he hopes to use the next 36 hours to build on that and to build on that and provide a set of concrete, actionable initiatives,” Sullivan said. .

Among these practical initiatives, Sullivan noted, are new initiatives on maritime cooperation, digital connectivity and economic investment. Biden will launch a new maritime domain effort “focused on using the radio frequencies of commercial satellites to track dark ships, illegal and unregulated fishing, and improve the response of countries in the region to disasters and humanitarian crises,” Sullivan said. .

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Sullivan added that Biden would also emphasize a “forward deployment stance” on regional defenses to demonstrate the U.S. leadership in security cooperation.

It will also focus on Myanmar and discuss coordinating “continued cost and pressure” on the military junta, which seized power from the country’s democratically elected government in a coup in February 2021.

Biden’s trip is facing four major global threats: Russia’s war in Ukraine, escalating tensions with China, the survival of climate change and the possibility of a global recession in the coming months. Other flashpoints, such as North Korea’s rapidly accelerating provocations and uncertainty over Iran’s nuclear program, will also factor.

Sullivan said Biden would meet with Japanese and South Korean leaders in Phnom Penh on Sunday after North Korea conducted multiple weapons tests. The meeting is noteworthy given the historic tensions between Japan and South Korea, two staunch U.S. allies that Biden has been trying to bridge.

Both Japan and South Korea have found themselves apprehensive about Kim Jong-un’s missile test and the prospect of a seventh nuclear weapons test. North Korea has ramped up testing this year, with a 32-day missile test in 2022, according to CNN. That compares with eight in 2021 and four in 2020, with the latest release on Wednesday.

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Sullivan said the tripartite meeting would not yield concrete results, but rather enhanced security cooperation across a range of threats.

Sullivan told reporters that the three world leaders would “be able to discuss broader security issues in the Indo-Pacific, particularly the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.”

Sullivan said on Thursday the administration was concerned about North Korea’s seventh nuclear test, but could not say whether it would take place during the weekend’s meeting.

“Our concerns are still real. Whether it’s going to happen next week, I can’t say,” Sullivan said earlier this week. “In addition to the possibility of a nuclear test, we are also concerned about further potential long-range missile tests. So we will be keeping a close eye on both.”

But Monday’s meeting with Xi in Bali, Indonesia, will undoubtedly hang over the summit in Cambodia and will be part of these trilateral talks.

“One of the things President Biden definitely wants to do with our closest allies is preview what he’s going to do and ask the leaders of (South Korea) and Japan, ‘What questions do you want me to ask? What do you want me to do? ‘” Sullivan said, adding that “it will be a talking point, but it won’t be a major event on the three sides.”

Biden and Xi have spoken on the phone five times since the president took office. Together, they traveled extensively in China and the United States when they both served as vice presidents of their respective countries.

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Both attended Monday’s meeting against the backdrop of major political events. Biden performed better than expected in the U.S. midterm elections and Xi Jinping was promoted to an unprecedented third term by the Chinese Communist Party.

U.S. officials declined to speculate on how the political situation between the two leaders might affect the dynamics of their meeting.

Sullivan told reporters that the high-stakes bilateral meeting between Biden and Xi would focus on “strengthening” each leader’s understanding of other priorities.

This includes the Taiwan issue as claimed by Beijing. Biden has vowed in the past to use U.S. troops to defend the island from invasion. The issue is one of the most contentious between Biden and Xi.

Sullivan suggested the meeting would focus on a better understanding of positions on a range of key issues, but was unlikely to lead to any major breakthrough or dramatic shift in the relationship.

Instead, when Biden traveled to Cambodia, Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One that “it’s about leaders getting a better understanding and then tasking their teams” to keep working on those issues.

Sullivan said the meeting, scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, was the result of “weeks of intensive” discussions between the two sides, which Biden saw as the beginning of a series of contacts between the two countries. leaders and their teams.

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