The second US-ASEAN summit will be held on September 24 in New York. The two sides will discuss various issues, including US-ASEAN bilateral relations, regional cooperation and the South China Sea dispute.
The annual US-ASEAN summit signifies the U.S. is paying more attention to ASEAN after ignoring it for many years after the Cold War. The first US-ASEAN summit was held in Singapore last November, though it lasted only about 90 minutes. The summit represented a change of U.S. policy toward Southeast Asia and reinforced Secretary of State Clinton's statement at the 17th ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2009 that "the US is back." Furthering its emphasis, President Obama referred to himself as "President of Asia-Pacific" amidst the 17th APEC summit last year.
The reality is the U.S. and ASEAN have been much more integrated and interdependent in recent years. Although the U.S. seemed to pay less attention to Southeast Asia after the Cold War, it has never left the region. Southeast Asia is generally peaceful and stable. Thailand and the Philippines are traditional U.S. allies, and most other ASEAN members, such as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei keep close relations with the U.S. New members are also improving bilateral relations.
ASEAN is an organization with many developing countries that the U.S. can dominate and reap benefits. I believe the Asia financial crisis in 1998 was initiated by the U.S. financial titan George Soros, which led to significant losses by ASEAN countries while the U.S. benefited.
To a certain degree, ASEAN countries have contributed a lot to the U.S. in various fields and aspects. The U.S. has been the biggest investor in ASEAN, almost three times larger than China, and ASEAN's development has been closely aligned with U.S. economic stability and prosperity.
This second US-ASEAN summit embodies much more significance because it is in the U.S. Usually, meetings between ASEAN and its partners are in an ASEAN country, where ASEAN can dominate the agenda. For example, the topics of free trade and community building are often discussed at ASEAN Plus Three summits, in which ASEAN decides when and how to promote East Asia integration. But ASEAN cannot lead the summit in the U.S. because the behemoth host overshadows ASEAN countries as a whole.