United States President Joe Biden greeted Southeast Asian leaders at the White House on Thursday, promising $150 million in infrastructural development and security assistance as part of a package to counter China's expanding influence.

At the opening of a two-day meeting, the heads of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations stood for a group photo on the White House's South Lawn.

Authorities said they hope the meeting will persuade the countries that, despite the diversion of the Ukraine conflict, Washington is still engaged in the Indo-Pacific area and China's ascent.

China committed $1.5 billion in socioeconomic aid to ASEAN countries at the end of last year to deal with the outbreak.

Before the conference, a senior U.S. administration official said, "We need to pick up our system in Southeast Asia."

'We are not requesting that countries choose between the U.S. and China. However, we want to be clear that the U.S. wants to build greater connections," the official said.

The new contribution includes $60 million for maritime safety and $40 million for infrastructures to help reduce carbon emissions in the region's electricity supply.

The conference began with a delicate diplomatic call between Biden and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the son of the Philippines' former leader.

Biden congratulated Marcos Jr., also known as Bongbong, on his seemingly stunning victory. Human rights organizations are frightened by his apparent success.

Philippine Diplomat Jose Manuel Romualdez said that President Biden expressed Washington's eagerness to collaborate with him, citing the long-standing treaty friends' common history.

In what is expected to be one of the largest votes for a Philippine president in decades, Marcos Jr. received more than 31 million votes in the preliminary tally from Monday's elections.

Biden is receiving leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as part of a larger attempt by his administration to show that the U.S. is still focused on the Pacific, despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The group has barred Myanmar's military junta from attending its meetings, except to send nongovernmental representatives, until the development of a five-point consensus program is made.

According to a source who briefed the media, there were discussions within the group about having an empty chair at the meeting to emphasize the country's unavailability.

Since the army deposed Aung San Suu Kyi's elected administration in February 2021, the country has been in turmoil.

Biden started his talks with presidents from the eight ASEAN nations participating in the two-day summit over dinner on Thursday evening.