11 July 2024

The second special ASEAN-US summit has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts among ASEAN participants, according to an informed source.

The source said that the proposed dates of March 28th and 29th, announced by the White House on March 1st, were considered “inconvenient” due to the tight schedules of various ASEAN leaders.

After President Joe Biden proposed last October that a special summit be held in Washington DC in the first quarter of this year, during the ASEAN-related summits, both sides tried unsuccessfully to agree on common dates.

Throughout the past three months, Indonesia, the coordinating country for ASEAN-US relations, has been trying very hard to work out the timetable, but has repeatedly failed. The source said that whenever ASEAN agreed on the dates, the US side would not be able to accept them. “The National Security Council, the State Department and the White House have to agree on their dates among themselves first,” the source added.

The proposed dates of March 28th and 29th were announced unilaterally by the White House and some of the ASEAN members were not in agreement. Islamic countries will begin the holy month of Ramadan on April 1st. Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has to attend the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectorial Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in Colombo, Sri Lanka on March 31st. Thailand will serve as the next chair of BIMSTEC.

The first special ASEAN-US summit took place in February 2016, in Sunnylands, California, under the Obama administration. During the Trump administration, the scheduled second summit, in mid-March 2020 in Las Vegas, was also postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past five years, the US has failed to name a new ambassador to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. In 2010, the US was the first dialogue partner to set up a diplomatic mission for ASEAN, with an ambassador in residence. Other dialogue partners of ASEAN followed suit.

With the current situation in Ukraine, the Biden administration is trying to hold a special summit with ASEAN leaders as soon as possible, to rally support among allies and friends over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.