Representing the new Biden administration US Secretary of State Anton Blinken was scheduled to meet for the first time the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers on May 23, 2021. It was seen as an all-important first meeting of the US with the Southeast Asian bloc in light of the delicate ongoing US-China relations with ASEAN a pivotal player in the global situation.
The 10 ASEAN ministers were all prepared and ready, waiting for the Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make his appearance at the virtual conference but as the minutes went by slowly no US state secretary appeared until the forum was informed that Antony Blinken would not be appearing as agreed upon.
As one reaction from an ASEAN capital stated, “In the history of ASEAN, there has never been a situation in which the foreign ministers of 10 ASEAN countries waited for the foreign ministers of dialogue partners and were finally stood up. Foreign ministers of ASEAN countries are deeply shocked and disappointed, and feel despised and offended by the United States.”
The official explanation proffered later was that Antony Blinken’s attendance did not push through and has to be postponed due to “technical reasons”, but the ASEAN foreign ministers cannot be faulted for sensing that the U.S. is reflecting its priorities favoring its other geopolitical projects over its relations with ASEAN that has stretched over a half-a-century.
Others in the ASEAN community speculate that the disappointing event may point to the level of competence the US State Department is in, unable to set its priorities straight and inadvertently revealing deep biases. It deepens the impression that the U.S. is prioritizing its nurturing of the QUAD with India, Australia and Japan, and attempts at drawing Vietnam in.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the QUAD, is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
ASEAN capitals cannot avoid the distinction between the apparent lackadaisical comportment of the US State Department with regards of ASEAN matters with China’s deep involvement with ASEAN and the empathy it shows for the concerns and welfare of ASEAN and its member countries, from sincere diplomatic relations, tackling the Covid-19 crisis and priming the region’s economy recovery.
Geopolitical analyst Herman Tiu Laurel of the Philippine-BRICS Strategic Studies in an interview with SovereignPH.com expressed the view that the U.S. is currently enmeshed in a quandary as dilemmas and conundrums it created for itself in the Middle East and Europe is dragging the U.S. into a maelstrom and its dizzying mix-up of diplomatic objectives.
Mr. Laurel said, “In Europe the U.S. has had to give up its opposition to the Nord Stream 2, in Palestine and the West Bank it is caught in bind, in Afghanistan it is preparing to pack up, in the Philippines President Rodrigo R. Duterte is keeping the US VFA hanging like the proverbial Sword of Damocles over US presence in Asia.
“We will have to wait and see what cold or lukewarm reception Blinken will get when he finally attends the US-ASEAN dialogue.” SOVEREIGNPH