Austin welcomes veterans as he talks on the National Mall
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin thanked veterans for making Americans “safer and stronger” in a speech under a rainy sky at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall on Friday. “By giving so much, you reminded us that this democracy is worth protecting,” Austin said. (November 11)
PHNOM PENH – Four meals, three time zones and two nights on a plane.
It’s a terrible schedule for any US president every time they travel to Asia. President Joe Biden, who turns 80 this month, arrived in Cambodia on Saturday after spending nearly twenty-four hours traveling from Washington to Egypt and Phnom Penh.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden called Oregon Governor-elect Tina Kotek on the first of two long-haul flights that took him to Asia.
He also spent time checking in with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“He’s meeting with his staff talking about the next few days,” she told reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One.
- Biden’s (very long) day: The president left Washington, DC late Thursday afternoon and gave remarks on Friday touting US investments in clean energy at the COP27 conference in Sharm el-Sheikh before landing in Phnom Penh.
- First order of business: He sat down with the country’s strongman President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The leaders discussed human rights and pushed for Biden to release political prisoners, the White House said.
- What’s on the agenda: A bilateral meeting with the Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, a photo with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a grand dinner.
- Where is Biden now: Some downtime was caused by two almost back-to-back flights of nine to 10 hours each and a busy night of events.
- Gourmet experience: Air Force One passengers were served “honey chicken biscuits,” a “spinach & artichoke egg soufflé” brunch and a “harvest chicken salad” with apples, pecans, cranberries and crumbled goat cheese for dinner. For breakfast, the menu was “blueberry maple chia parfait” and “bacon, egg and cheese”.
- Country mistakes: In remarks at the ASEAN opening session, Biden mistakenly referred to Colombia rather than Cambodia. And it was not the first time. He called his host nation Colombia as he left the White House on Thursday evening.
What is about to happen
Biden is keeping America’s friends close and his rivals closer during his trip to Asia.
The president will meet the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Sunday in Cambodia and plans to hold bilateral meetings later in the week with the new prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Italy.
But first, he met with el-Sisi in Egypt, and the next day in Cambodia, Biden met with Hun Sen. The United States has targeted people close to the Cambodian president with sanctions.
Sullivan said Biden is meeting with the host of each summit he attends and indicated that when Biden travels to Bali for the G-20 on his third and final stop, he will meet with the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo, who is democratically elected.
“So he’s going to have plenty of opportunities to engage deeply with core Democratic allies,” said Biden’s national security adviser.
“But he is going to participate across the board in service of American interests and to advance America’s strategic position and our values. And that guides his decision on every leader he chooses to engage with.”
- “I think that’s just the reality of being President of the United States – that you have to work with governments like China and Egypt on issues like climate change, but also push those countries to be more holiday,” said Freedom House President, Michael. Abramowitz. “I think President Biden needs to do both.”
- Biden greeted Hun Sen of Cambodia with a cheer: “Prime minister!”
- He indicated that they would discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine and the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, where pro-democracy activists are being executed by the army.
- The Myanmar junta leader was not invited to participate in the meeting. A single chair remained open at the leaders’ summit. There was a placard with the name of the country on it.
- “The President will use this opportunity to discuss how we can coordinate more closely to continue to cut costs and increase pressure on the junta in Naypyidaw as they continue to take steps to prevent and that affects their citizenship,” said Sullivan.
- Sullivan told reporters that Biden plans to talk to Japan and South Korea about North Korea’s ballistic missile program when he meets the nations on Sunday.
Why is it important
Biden is trying to win over countries in Southeast Asia that felt neglected by his predecessors and may be inclined to remain neutral or side with China if a regional conflict breaks out.
“The countries of the region certainly do not want a conflict or confrontation between the great powers,” Sullivan told reporters on the flight to Cambodia. “But they also really want a US presence – a pre-deployment presence in the region.”
Sullivan said the US is an “important anchor of peace and stability” in the region and works to ensure that “no country can engage in the kind of ongoing intimidation and coercion that would be fundamentally harmful to ASEAN nations and other countries.”
Would you like to know more? This is what you missed
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