Background Briefing: Readout of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
MODERATOR: All right, everybody. Back by popular demand to talk to you about the ministerial meeting the Secretary just had with the ASEAN foreign ministers is [Senior State Department Official], hereafter Senior State Department Official. He will also give you a preview of the trilateral meeting tomorrow between the Secretary and the foreign ministers of Japan and Korea.
Take it away, please, [Senior State Department Official].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. Thank you very much, [Moderator], and it’s good to see all of you here in New York. In the midst of so many other critical challenges that the Secretary is focusing on here this week in New York, she’s had very substantial meetings, as [Moderator] has briefed you on, on various Asian issues – good meetings today with the Chinese Foreign Minister, other interactions. And she just concluded a substantial multilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of ASEAN and the United States.
This was an opportunity to review the progress on a number of initiatives that we have been working on, but also to prepare the way for the President’s visit to Cambodia for the East Asia Summit --
QUESTION: In November?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- in November, yes.
The Secretary had a chance to, first of all, underscore the very strong commitment of our government to continue our engagement in Asia, the centerpiece of which is a strong focus on ASEAN. Each of the ASEAN foreign ministers actually personally thanked her for her engagement on these matters. She is the first foreign secretary of the United States – Secretary of State to visit every ASEAN member, and has been actively and deeply engaged in developing a broad, multifaceted agenda that covers people-to-people exchanges, assistance, health, diplomacy, and increased military ties.
During the session, we talked specifically about a number of our educational initiatives and how to follow up from the major business summit that took place in Cambodia after the ASEAN Regional Forum. And there was, I thought, a very positive discussion about next steps as they relate to the dialogue between ASEAN and China on the South China Sea. There have been informal interactions between ASEAN and China. The ASEANs termed these as productive, and they are encouraged by the dialogue that is taking place in the United States, supports that process.
We also had a chance to review developments in other parts of Asia. ASEAN ministers join with the United States in urging calm and careful diplomacy with respect to the tensions that we have seen flaring in other parts of the region. And there was a strong commitment on the part of all to ensure that lines of communication on every aspect of diplomacy remain open.
I think I’ll just conclude with a few moments about the trilateral meeting tomorrow. Secretary Clinton asked for a trilateral meeting between the United States, Japan, and South Korea tomorrow. This is a regular set of interactions over the course of the last few years. We have worked very actively in diplomacy, in the military sphere, and elsewhere to strengthen our trilateral interaction. We want to send a very clear message that this trilateral venue is important, and that the ability for our three countries to work together productively is a key feature of diplomacy in the 21st century. And we want that relationship to remain vital, robust, and positive.
I think I’ll stop here. In addition, the Secretary tomorrow will have a chance to sit down with Foreign Minister Gemba and talk about recent developments not only in Japan, but also in the region as a whole.
Thank you, and I’ll be happy to take any questions or however you proceed.
QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official], just if you could go to the --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure.
QUESTION: -- dialogue or informal dialogue between China and ASEAN. I was wondering how Foreign Minister Yang – I mean, she talked about it with him as well --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: How did he describe it? Do you think that the Chinese and the ASEAN are really getting to be on the same page here? And what do you foresee as the next steps either prior to or subsequent to the East Asia Summit?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you. What I think is noteworthy is I think the ASEANs and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang described it in similar terms – important, informal interactions; positive, still early phases, but I think initially encouraging, and I think our (inaudible) is we want that process to continue.
I think we’re going to have to wait and see over the course of the next several weeks, but we have obviously encouraged the process to grow and deepen between ASEAN and China.
MODERATOR: Please. Can you tell us who you are?
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m (inaudible) from Nikkei America.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Hi, (inaudible).
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much for being here. In regards to the bilateral U.S.-China meeting earlier today, I wanted to ask about the Chinese reaction to the dispute over the Senkaku Islands.
MODERATOR: I spoke to that earlier today. You’ll see some points on background that we offered earlier.
QUESTION: Can I ask about South China Sea? There’s a speculation that Indonesians may be having a new proposal regarding the next steps towards (inaudible) on that. Could you talk about that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think, as you know, in the aftermath of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia and the inability of the ASEAN to issue a collective statement, Indonesia basically stepping into the fray, they proceeded around ASEAN and had substantial discussions with China and issued a six-part effort designed to both increase dialogue and to advance progress on issues related to the code of conduct.
I think it’s been the basis for continuing discussions between ASEAN and China. We’ve encouraged the process. And I think, again, as I said, it’s still early days, but the ASEANs are, I think, encouraged by this beginning set of interactions with China, and we want it to take shape and go forward.
MODERATOR: Anybody else? All right. Easy crowd tonight. Thank you very much, [Senior State Department Official].
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: All right. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Appreciate it. Oh, sorry. One more. Yeah.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, Janine Harper, Fuji-TV.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Hi, Janine.
QUESTION: Can you just talk about how the land disputes are affecting discussions that you’re having?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Look, I think it’d be fair to say that all Asian leaders and interlocutors understand that this is the cockpit of the global economy, that with the United States still recovering, with Europe in a profound slowdown, that it is essential that we maintain peace and stability in Asia. The foundation for those relationships and that prosperity is the strong historical ties that have been built up for decades between Japan and China, between Japan and South Korea, and indeed between China and ASEAN.
And so I think we want cooler heads to prevail, we want a process of diplomacy to take shape and to flourish, and we want these matters, at best, managed effectively if they cannot be resolved.
MODERATOR: All right. Thanks very much.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you.