U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit held in D.C.
- U.S. President Joe Biden is hosting the first special summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in Washington D.C. According to the U.S., the meeting aims to “demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to ASEAN, recognize its central role in delivering sustainable solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges, and commemorate 45 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations.”
- The U.S. appears eager to woo Southeast Asian countries into its camp to confront China. The White House pledged $150 million in investments to the region to “mobilize billions more in private financing” in areas including clean energy, digital development, maritime cooperation, and health security.
- “Authoritarian” states such as Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore were invited. Myanmar, whose junta leader was excluded from the bloc’s summits since the 2021 coup, got an empty chair. The U.S. has criticized the country heavily for its human rights status.
- On the other hand, Indonesians were discontent with the U.S. sending no official to greet President Joko Widodo upon arrival. The country recently defied the U.S. request to ban Russia from the G20 summit in Bali.
Shanghai targets zero-COVID by mid-May
- Shanghai is aiming to bring the COVID infection to zero in the community (社会面清零) and reopen the city from lockdown by the middle of May. Meanwhile, Beijing denied the lockdown rumors as the capital started a three-day mass testing campaign in 12 districts. By Thursday, the COVID has caused 5,205 deaths in China since the outbreak.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday said its European Region, which includes a few Central Asian countries, has passed a “grim milestone” as the coronavirus death toll exceeded 2 million out of its 900 million population. The organization lamented that while the number of infections was declining, they “remain far too high.”
North Korea reports first COVID case
- China pledged to help North Korea fight against the pandemic after the latter announced the first COVID case on Thursday. North Korea has been hit by an “explosive” outbreak of fever since the end of April, causing six dead, and one of them tested positive for Omicron.
Sri Lanka swears in new PM after Rajapaksa resigned
- Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new Prime Minister days after the President’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa vacated the position amid violent protests against high-flying inflation. Wickremesinghe, a 73-year-old who has been sworn in as Prime Minister six times, is a scion of a family that has played a significant role in the country’s independence.