Melissa A. Brown
What are the focus of the ASEAN-United States, EAS Foreign Ministers' Meetings, and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)? In your opinion, what are the most important outcomes of this meeting and forum?
ASEAN is at the center of the United States’ vision for the Indo-Pacific region. At the ASEAN-US Ministerial, Secretary Pompeo reiterated US support for the
ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and declared yet again that the United States is an enduring, strategic partner to ASEAN. At the meeting, Secretary Pompeo, along with the ASEAN foreign ministers, highlighted the breadth and depth of US engagement and commitment to ASEAN on regional political, security, economic, and cultural issues. The Secretary announced new initiatives to develop human capital and health through the US-ASEAN Health Futures initiative, including a new program to support an ASEAN Public Health Emergency Coordination System and the launching of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam.
At the EAS Ministerial Meeting, Secretary Pompeo highlighted US support for principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, and respect for international law, which are shared with ASEAN’s Outlook on the Indo Pacific. In the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum Ministerial Meeting, Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun reiterated the importance of ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and highlighted US efforts and investments to advance the Women, Peace, and Security agenda in the Indo-Pacific region.
In addition to these meetings, Deputy Secretary Biegun—on behalf of Secretary Pompeo—also co-chaired the inaugural Mekong-US Partnership Meeting and launched the Mekong-US Partnership with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, in the presence of the ASEAN Secretary-General. The Partnership will expand on cooperation begun in 2009 under the Lower Mekong Initiative by strengthening the autonomy, economic independence, and sustainable development of the Mekong partner countries.
What are the engagements, initiatives, messages conveyed by the US at these events, especially regarding issues of marine security, global supply chains, and economic recovery after COVID-19 pandemic?
Secretary Pompeo conveyed a clear message on marine security: the need for China to halt its aggressive and destabilizing policies, including in the South China Sea and the Mekong region. The United States and the ASEAN member states share the common position that all disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully and in line with international law, namely the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented global challenge and at the ASEAN-related Ministerial Meetings, Secretary Pompeo outlined US efforts to leverage all available resources to develop safe, effective, affordable, and widely available vaccines and therapeutics to fight against the virus. The US government has allocated $20.5 billion for the development of vaccines and therapeutics, preparedness efforts, and other foreign assistance. We have also provided over $87 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance for ASEAN countries. The Secretary praised ASEAN unity and transparency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in his discussions.
Secretary Pompeo underscored the United States’ commitment to using all the tools at our disposal, including the support of the American private sector, to partner with the region in economic recovery efforts. We are focused on the prosperity of the region, as we have been for decades. In 2019, trade in goods and services between the United States and ASEAN was over $354 billion and ASEAN is the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner. Programs like the ASEAN Single Window, US-ASEAN Internship Program, and the US-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership are facilitating greater trade, creating new opportunities, and improving the lives of people across the region.
What’s your assessment of Vietnam's role as the Chair of ASEAN 2020 through its performances achieved from the beginning of the year?
The United States commends Vietnam for its efforts as ASEAN Chair during this challenging time. Secretary Pompeo praised Vietnam for its work convening ASEAN Foreign Ministers and dialogue partners during these unprecedented times.
Vietnam’s 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship is an opportunity to strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration. ASEAN demonstrates its effectiveness when the member states are unified and speak with one voice on regional security and economic challenges.
We hope that under Vietnam’s Chairmanship, ASEAN will stand together to address pressing regional challenges, such as maritime security, transnational crime, terrorism, humanitarian crises, and the protection of human rights of the region’s most vulnerable populations. VNS