US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will host the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian nations at a meeting in Washington next month, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy said on Thursday.
He said the May 4 meeting would present an important opportunity to discuss challenges, opportunities and means of cooperation in the region ahead of the Asean leaders’ summit scheduled to take place in the Philippines in August.
Murphy suggested that topics could include the proliferation to terrorism and disputes with China over territory in the South China Sea.
He said the Washington meeting would underline that the new US administration under President Donald Trump does not intend to “abandon” its allies in Southeast Asia.
“I think that, on the part of the Asean countries, it was a very genuine, heartfelt request to engage with the United States,” Murphy said. “We hear consistently from them that they value US engagement and presence in the region. And they wanted to make it clear early on that, as a strategic partner of the United States, they wanted to continue with the new administration this partnership, this relationship, and to ensure sustained US engagement in the region.”