2012 U.S. Engagement in the ASEAN Regional Forum
On July 12, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led the United States’ delegation to the 19th Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The ARF is the region’s broadest and oldest security dialogue forum. ARF holds on average twenty five events annually across several key areas: disaster relief, maritime security, nonproliferation and disarmament, counter-terrorism and transnational crime, and preventive diplomacy. The United States is actively engaged in all of these events, and we are committed to working through the ARF process to enhance peace, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Disaster Relief: Major natural disasters strike in the Asia-Pacific region on a regular basis. Through continued, dedicated efforts, ARF participants have made considerable progress in the area of disaster relief. In the past several years, ARF has conducted two major multinational exercises focusing on civilian-led, military-supported disaster relief efforts.
· The United States has participated in two ARF Disaster Relief Exercises. The next exercise will be conducted by the Republic of Korea and Thailand. We promote these exercises as a regular component of the ARF agenda to strengthen regional cooperation and improve disaster response.
- The United States proposed the Rapid Disaster Response Agreement (RDR) concept, a legal framework that allows for more rapid deployment of foreign assistance assets following a major disaster. The RDR was developed from an ARF initiative and a number of countries have endorsed the RDR as a solution to overcoming delays in disaster response. We encourage all ARF participants to endorse the RDR concept.
- The United States supports an advisor in the ARF Unit who is focused on developing disaster relief capacity within the organization.
- Maritime Security: Over forty percent of the world’s seaborne trade flows through Asia, and Asia hosts thirteen of the world’s largest ports as well as three of the largest shipbuilding nations. Maintaining open sea lines of communication and ensuring freedom of navigation are critical tasks for the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. The United States continues to place a priority on maritime security engagement within the ARF framework.
- The United States co-chaired the Inter-Sessional Meeting on Maritime Security with South Korea and Indonesia on May 14-15, 2012, in San Francisco. For the first time, regional civil maritime agencies, such as coast guards and marine police, participated in the meeting. The agenda focused on building cooperation among these agencies. We will continue to encourage deepening relationships and increased information-sharing among these agencies to build confidence while promoting stability and interoperability.
- The United States continues to work within ARF to reinforce maritime laws and norms. ARF addresses this issue through annual meetings on maritime security and legal seminars on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- Nonproliferation: The ARF is the premier regional venue for multilateral cooperation on nonproliferation issues in East Asia through tangible capacity building programs and open discussions in ARF meetings to coordinate efforts and build common understanding.
- The United States has partnered with China and others to institutionalize discussion on nonproliferation and disarmament issues in ARF and to develop a work plan to promote technical cooperation on specific areas, including implementation of UNSCR 1540.
- Last year, the United States, Thailand, and the European Union initiated a technical workshop on nuclear forensics.
- The United States has partnered with the Philippines and Australia to hold yearly ARF workshops raising awareness of biosecurity issues and sharing practical experiences.
- Stability on the Korean peninsula is an ongoing concern. The United States together with a number of ARF participants continue to share concerns in the forum regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities.
- Transnational Crime: Transnational crimes such as illicit drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, sea piracy, money laundering and cyber crime continue to threaten peace and stability in the region. Porous borders and linkages among organized transnational groups add to the complexities in countering terrorist activity in the region. Emerging issues like cyber security have added to the difficulty of any one government to address these problems adequately. ARF is making efforts to improve collaboration among regional governments to address these issues.
- In March 2012, the United States partnered with Vietnam in conducting the first ARF seminar on countering the threat of proxy actors in cyber space. ARF is increasing its focus on cyber issues and will issue a ministerial statement on cooperation in cyber security. Under direction from the ministers, ARF will conduct more confidence building measures and develop a work plan on cyber security issues.
- The United States continues to work with ARF participants towards the establishment of an ARF Transnational Threat Information Sharing Center (ATTIC). The center will focus on countering drug-related transnational crime to fully support our shared goal of achieving a drug-free ASEAN.
- Preventative Diplomacy: ASEAN established ARF as part of an effort to maintain peace and stability in the region and to promote regional development and prosperity. The ARF is expanding it solutions-oriented programming to include robust confidence building measures and preventative diplomacy activites, like election monitoring.
- The ARF facilitated an election observation mission to the Timor-Leste parliamentary elections in July – the first such mission involving the ARF.
- The United States continues to provide an annual submission to the ARF Security Outlook, fully outlining U.S. military assets, policies, and priorities, to encourage full transparency in military resources and strategy among ARF members.
In February, the United States and Thailand co-chaired the ARF Experts and Eminent Persons Group (EEP). The EEP are a non-governmental group that provides recommendations on topics such as preventive diplomacy, regional architecture, and the future direction of the ARF. This year’s meeting provided twelve specific recommendations on topics ranging from interaction among regional organizations to the development of regional risk reduction centers.