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US, ASEAN Postpone March Summit Amid Coronavirus Outbreak


FILE - Representatives attend the 26th ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 2, 2019.

The United States said Friday that Washington was postponing a special summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as countries around the globe continued to fight the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the United States, in consultation with ASEAN partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the ASEAN leaders meeting previously scheduled for mid-March,” a senior administration official said.

The U.S. and 10 nations from the Southeast Asian bloc have been eyeing a special summit to boost ties at a time when analysts say China continues to expand its influence in Southeast Asia while driving a wedge between Washington and some of its traditional allies in the region.

“The United States values our relationships with the nations of this critical region and looks forward to future meetings,” the official said.

The summit was scheduled for March 14 in Las Vegas. Bilateral meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and ASEAN leaders were also being planned.

The U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC) had been arranging a major technology summit to be held on the sidelines of the planned March special summit.

“The American business community recognizes the importance of this summit for the leaders of ASEAN and for the U.S. government as it pertains to the Indo-Pacific strategy,” US-ABC Vice President Elizabeth Dugan said after the postponement, adding that the organization looked “forward to working closely with U.S. and ASEAN leadership to ensure the success of this important engagement at a later date.”

VOA's Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report from the White House.