President Biden welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for a two-day summit yesterday, May 12, establishing a bulwark against Chinese dominance in the area.

The summit, which ends on Friday, will address various issues, including trade, human rights, and climate change. But it’s Biden’s team effort to highlight top priorities: putting up a united front against China as it progressively asserts its economic and military power worldwide.

The United States frequently highlights the centrality of ASEAN in the Indian Ocean strategy to constrain China. This focus provides bargaining strength to the area, including nations that are hesitant to pick between the U.S. and China openly.

Vice President Kamala Harris used the event to show her commitment to the area. Last summer, she led an American team to Asia, using a speech in Singapore to protest China’s “unlawful claims” to the South China Sea, which she said, “undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.”

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