Southeast Asian leaders will this week head to Washington DC for a summit with US President Joe Biden, here seen participating virtually in the previous ASEAN Summit from the White House in Washington DC in October 2021. Nicholas Kamm | Afp | Getty Images In the midst of the Ukraine war which is Washington's top foreign policy priority, President Joe Biden is hosting Southeast Asian leaders in Washington — signaling U.S. commitment to the region where it is engaged in a tussle for dominance with China. Some critical issues — like the post-Covid economic revival, climate change and the Myanmar coup — will be on the table at the two-day meeting starting Thursday. Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a bloc of 10 countries that together make up the world's seventh-largest economy, will be there. Security issues will likely be on the table at the summit, Ong Keng Yong, former secretary-general of ASEAN, told CNBC. "It is unavoidable that geopolitics and international security matters will be raised and discussed, but in this respect, I do not expect any dramatic moves," said Ong, adding: "There's a need for the U.S. to be more present in Southeast Asian countries." The White House has said the summit would "demonstrate the United States' enduring commitment to ASEAN, ... and commemorate 45 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations." The U.S. has often stressed the "centrality of ASEAN" to its Indo Pacific strategy to contain China. This emphasis provides the region — populated by nations unwilling to openly choose between the U.S. and China — with some bargaining power. ASEAN would like to see an economic framework with some concessions and a clearer strategy toward regional security, especially involving the South China Sea. Joshua Kurlantzick Council on Foreign Relations Ong, who is also Singapore's ambassador-at-large, said Asia offered enough to keep the U.S. engaged despite its pre-occupation with the war in Ukraine. "Since the end of the Second World War, it is obvious that Europe comes first to the U.S. before any other region of the world," . . . read the full article here.