U.S. officials have indicated there will be renewed interest in the region, given Mr. Biden’s emphasis on Asia as the backbone of his foreign policy agenda. Analysts say there could be a wave of diplomatic efforts in the coming months. Mr. Austin is also expected to visit the Philippines and Vietnam on his trip.
In recent months, several Southeast Asian officials have been troubled by the lack of face-to-face engagement from their US counterparts, especially in light of China’s intensifying diplomatic efforts in the pandemic. (Mr Austin was due to appear in Singapore at a regional defense meeting in June, but organizers had to cancel at the last minute due to an increase in Covid-19 cases in the city-state.)
Several Southeast Asian analysts viewed Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s decision to visit Japan, India and South Korea, but not Southeast Asia, as a snub.
“This seemed to reinforce the perception that Southeast Asia has always been paid lip service: that it is an important region for the Indo-Pacific, but that it is, in the practice, always treated as an afterthought, ”said Collin Koh, a researcher. researcher at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.
Mr Blinken attempted to hold a video conference with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in May. But ministers were left with a blank screen for 45 minutes due to a technical glitch. The meeting had to be postponed and rescheduled earlier this month.