Election 2020 Politics

Biden to nominate top national security staffer as ASEAN ambassador

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President Biden expects to announce Friday that he is nominating one of his top national security staffers to serve as ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, generally called ASEAN, according to a person familiar with the forthcoming announcement.

Biden will nominate Yohannes Abraham, who serves as chief of staff and executive secretary at the National Security Council, for the Indonesia-based post, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

Biden will make the announcement Friday afternoon in a closed-door session during the second day of a two-day summit with ASEAN leaders in Washington.

Biden hosts Southeast Asian leaders at White House

The association, which was created in 1967 and is headquartered in Jakarta, includes 10 countries in Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Myanmar, Brunei and Laos. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country.

Abraham, who worked as a top aide during the Barack Obama administration, served as the executive director of Biden’s transition before joining the White House.

Abraham received praise from Democrats for his leadership of the transition in the face of harsh attacks from allies of outgoing President Donald Trump, who insisted falsely that Trump was the election’s real winner.

Biden’s victory was not officially declared until three weeks after Election Day, delaying and complicating the Biden team’s efforts to gain access to government documents and officials and prepare for the new administration.

During Obama’s presidency, Abraham worked as a senior adviser on the National Economic Council; chief of staff in the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; and as a top aide to Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama. After Obama’s second term ended, he joined the Obama Foundation as a senior adviser.

If confirmed by the Senate, Abraham will head to Indonesia at a time when engagement with Asia, particularly countering China, remains a top priority for Biden. Much of Biden’s presidency has been consumed by other foreign policy crises, particularly Russia’s ongoing invasion in Ukraine.

Biden warns China not to help Russia in Ukraine

But Biden has framed much of his presidency around the idea that the United States is engaged in a “battle between democracy and autocracy,” and he has vowed to rebuild alliances around the world to bolster democracies and a rules-based order. Given China’s growing military and economic power, Biden has put a particular focus on diplomacy in Asia.

Next week, Biden will make his first trip to Asia as president, visiting Japan and South Korea. During the trip, the president is expected to attend the second summit of the Quad, an alliance made up of Australia, Japan, India and the United States.


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