President Joe Biden has announced a $100 million initiative meant to beef up the U.S. relationship with the organization of Southeast Asian nations.
Biden made the new spending announcement at a virtual summit with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It marked the first time since 2017, when President Donald Trump participated in the summit, that a U.S. president took part in a meeting of the bloc.
The engagement comes as Biden is looking to strengthen the U.S. presence in the Pacific in the face of China’s growth as a national security and economic adversary.
Biden called the U.S. relationship with the bloc “essential.”
“I want you all to hear directly from me the importance the United States places on its relationship with ASEAN,” Biden said. “You can expect to see me showing up and reaching out to you.”
The new funding will include money for health spending, a new climate initiative, programs to assist with the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and education programs.