11 July 2024

US State Secretary Antony Blinken has expressed regrets for causing the cancellation of a scheduled virtual conference with ASEAN foreign ministers late last month, a highly informed diplomatic source told Thai PBS World.

The source said Blinken has written to all the ASEAN foreign ministers to offer “sincere regrets” for technical glitches that prevented him from connecting on-line with them for the meeting scheduled on May 25.  Blinken reportedly kept the ASEAN foreign ministers waiting for about  45 minutes.

On that day Blinken was on a mission to the Middle East and planned to have a virtual meeting with his ASEAN counterparts while he was on his way there as instructed by President Joe Biden.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the coordinating country of ASEAN-US relations, is now working on a new schedule for the ministerial talks.

The aborted special meeting was requested by Blinken in January after he was confirmed by the US Congress as the new secretary of state. It would be an introductory session for him to discuss the US-ASEAN relations. It reportedly took more than two months to fix the date for the conference.

This was not the first time that senior American officials failed to take part in ASEAN-related meetings. Former US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice did not attend a number of ASEAN meetings due to the Middle East peace process and other technical reasons.

Former President Barack Obama cancelled his trip to Brunei Darussalam in 2013 at the last minute while then President Donald Trump missed all ASEAN-related meetings during his tenure, except in his first year in office when he attended only the first day of the two-day summit in the Philippines.