Remarks at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Putra World Trade Center
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
August 5, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, my co-chair and friend. I appreciate enormously the opportunity to be here with you. It’s a privilege to sit around the table with so many friends from ASEAN, and I particularly want to thank Foreign Minister Anifah Aman for his chairmanship of ASEAN itself this year. And I thank my co-chair and friend, the foreign minister of Myanmar, Wunna Mwang Lwin, for co-chairing and serving as the U.S. country coordinator so ably in this.

Let me also take this moment to express the condolences of the United States for the extraordinary losses of people in the floods that have taken place in Myanmar. I know you have about 100,000 people now who are affected by this. Our embassy in Yangon is coordinating very closely with the emergency operations center that we helped to put together. And we will soon announce a flood relief aid package as soon as we have worked out with your officials precisely where that ought to be directed. But we express our hopes that the impacts of this can obviously be dealt with with minimal further loss of life and disruption.

Let me say to all of our friends assembled around the table that ASEAN is really at the very center at the Asia Pacific’s multilateral architecture. And that is where the United States of America wants it to remain. ASEAN is essential to upholding the rules-based system in Asia and to ensuring that all countries, big and small, have a say in how we address shared challenges, including economic development, climate change, human trafficking, and marine conservation.

The United States remains deeply committed to ASEAN and to our shared vision of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous region that respects the rule of law and safeguards universal human rights. Yesterday in Singapore I was privileged to speak at the Singapore Management University and had an opportunity to lay out the principles of economic development, of innovation and entrepreneurship and transparency, accountability, working together, that could make a difference to all of our citizens in every single one of the countries sitting around this table and more. And that is why we are supporting the ASEAN Economic Community, which will help to sustain prosperity in this dynamic region and to generate well-paying jobs for people in all of our countries.

We’re also strengthening our people-to-people efforts, particularly through President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative – YSEALI, as we call it. And I will be meeting with many of those young leaders later today. But in country after country, it’s young people with their innovation and their engagement who are making a difference in defining the future. And they will build an ASEAN identity while also providing skills to a new generation of people who will create the jobs and fill the jobs of the future.

We’re also working very closely with you to protect the regional and global environment. We recognize the tremendous economic dynamism of this part of the world, but we also know that to be sustainable, growth has to be inclusive and respectful in its approach. A number of us here in this – at this table now have just come from a meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative, during which we discussed the whole issue of the sustainability of a massive and vital river that is essential for human life in this region. These are the reasons that we want to encourage long-term development that is accompanied by clean energy, which produces clean air and clean water, and the wise stewardship of our resources.

And finally, the United States shares the frequently expressed desire of ASEAN members to preserve the peace and stability of the South China Sea. We want to ensure the security of critical sea lanes and fishing grounds, and we want to see that disputes in the area are managed peacefully and on the basis of international law.

We just had a good meeting, I might say, with the foreign minister of China. And I hope very much that at this meeting over the course of today and tomorrow we will find a way to move forward effectively together, all of us.

So I thank you all. The future of the United States and the future of ASEAN are absolutely interconnected. Strengthening our decades-long partnership is a critical part of President Obama’s rebalance initiative, and that partnership reflects our many shared interests, and America’s conviction – believe me, we are absolutely convinced of this – that much of the history of the 21st century is going to be written right here in this region.

So I’m delighted to be with you, and I very much look forward to a productive session here today. Thank you.