FILE PHOTO: Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn talks during his news conference after the Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Feb 17, 2022. (Reuters)
PHNOM PENH: A summit between United States President Joe Biden and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) due to be held later this month has been postponed and organisers will seek a new date, Cambodia's foreign minister told Reuters.
"It has been postponed to a later date because some Asean leaders cannot attend the meeting on the proposed dates," Minister Prak Sokhonn said in a text message. Cambodia is the current chair of Asean.
The United States had announced the summit would be held on March 28 and 29.
But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested this week that the meeting should be delayed after some Asean countries had asked for it to be held two days earlier.
Indonesia, which is the coordinator of the summit, did not immediately confirm the postponement after an official earlier said options for the schedule were still being discussed.
The summit is seen as part of US efforts to step up engagement with a region Washington sees as critical to its efforts to push back against China's growing power. It had been expected earlier in the year, but was delayed by Covid-19 concerns. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month the summit in Washington was "a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration" and that it would also commemorate 45 years of US-Asean relations.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in December the summit was expected to discuss the crisis caused by last year's military coup in Myanmar and issues such as pandemic recovery, climate change, investment and infrastructure.
The United States said last week it intended to follow Asean's lead by inviting a non-political representative from military-ruled Myanmar to the summit.
The bloc has since last year barred the junta from key meetings over its failure to honour an agreement to end hostilities in Myanmar that have killed hundreds of civilians and displaced more than 300,000.
The southern Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen has ended mandatory Covid testing to enter public venues, joining a growing list of local authorities easing the strict social curbs imposed across the country since the pandemic broke out three years ago.