The Multilateralist

Summit on the side

It has been reported in a few outlets—and over at the Cable—that a summit between the United States and the ASEAN nations will take place September 24 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings. Assuming all the pieces fall into place, this will be the second U.S.-ASEAN summit. Some within and outside the ...

It has been reported in a few outlets—and over at the Cable—that a summit between the United States and the ASEAN nations will take place September 24 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings. Assuming all the pieces fall into place, this will be the second U.S.-ASEAN summit. Some within and outside the administration had pushed for a higher-profile meeting in Washington, but it appears that scheduling constraints precluded that. 

Ernie Bower at the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that ASEAN states will be pressing two issues in particular with the United States: trade and the South China Sea. The ASEAN members, he says, will want signs of a more active American trade policy and a firm commitment from the president to remain engaged on South China Sea issues. Bowers describes recent conversations with ASEAN diplomats who were heartened by Hillary Clinton’s recent challenge to Chinese claims in the region but who fear that they could be exposed to China’s displeasure if the United States loses focus or energy.  

The meeting may also be a chance to coordinate positions on Myanmar’s elections, which are scheduled for November. ASEAN — which includes Myanmar — has welcomed the upcoming vote and has even mooted the idea of sending observers, although it now appears that they won’t be welcomed by the junta. For their part, human rights groups have warned that the whole exercise may be a fraud. In July, Amnesty International reported that "the Myanmar government has not taken any steps to improve its poor human rights record as the polls approach."

The summit will be a brief star turn for ASEAN’s secretary-general, Surin Pitsuwan, a former Thai foreign minister (and a Muslim) who was a serious contender for the UN’s top job during the last election. As Ban Ki-moon’s leadership has come under fire, there have even been rumblings in Asia that the ASEAN chief might yet get another shot at it.

 Twitter: @multilateralist

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola