On the last day of the summit of the Southeast Asian association of states, Asean, concerns about repeated missile launches and possible nuclear weapons tests by North Korea are an important topic. US President Joe Biden plans to meet first with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and then with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on Sunday afternoon (local time). All three top politicians will then have joint consultations. The focus is on North Korea’s threats under ruler Kim Jong Un.

However, Biden also wants to discuss his eagerly awaited meeting with China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping with Tokyo and Seoul. Biden will meet Xi in person for the first time since taking office almost two years ago on Monday ahead of the Group of Great Economic Powers (G20) summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

According to the US President, he expects a frank exchange with Xi. “We just have to figure out where the red lines are — and what are the most important things for each of us over the next two years,” Biden told journalists on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit on Sunday.

Much need for discussion between Biden and Xi

“I know him well. He knows me. I’ve spent more time with him than any other leader in the world,” Biden said, referring to his previous meetings with Xi Jinping when they were both vice presidents. There have always been open discussions and never misunderstandings, which is crucial for the relationship between the two countries. However, these are currently at a low point.

Points of contention are China’s backing for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine war, the ongoing trade war and sanctions against Chinese high-tech companies, China’s threats to democratic Taiwan and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China accuses the US of wanting to hinder its rise in the world. The US, in turn, increasingly sees China as an economic rival and threat. However, the tug-of-war over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is also to be discussed at this meeting.

At the ASEAN summit, the USA already made it clear that they want to counteract China’s growing influence in Asia and expand cooperation with the emerging countries of Southeast Asia. “Asean is at the heart of my administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy,” Biden said in a speech on Saturday. The United States and the Confederation elevated their relationship – as previously agreed – to the level of a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. But China is also courting the bloc and had launched a similar “partnership” with Asean a year ago.

No Russian-Ukrainian meeting

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is also a central topic in Phnom Penh. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged continued support for Ukraine at a meeting with his Ukrainian colleague Dmytro Kuleba – “for as long as necessary”. Ukraine has been invited to an ASEAN summit for the first time.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also attended, but there were no bilateral meetings with Kuleba. “There is not a single indication that Russia is seriously striving for negotiations,” emphasized Kuleba and called on the ASEAN countries to press Russia to continue the grain agreement. The agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain was concluded in July through the mediation of the UN and Turkey and expires in a week.

The ASEAN meeting is the first of three summits in Southeast Asia within a week: the two-day G20 summit, in which Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is also taking part, begins on Tuesday in Nusa Dua, Bali. Scholz first wanted to visit Vietnam on Sunday and Singapore on Monday. The Asia-Pacific Summit (APEC) in Bangkok, Thailand, will conclude the series of summits on Friday and Saturday. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not traveling to any of the three summits.