AAP staff report
New York, NY (September 24, 2010) – President Barack Obama last week held high level talks with Asian leaders as member nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations gathered for the Second U.S.- ASEAN Leaders Meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. According to the White House Office of the Press Secretary, President Obama took his role as ASEAN Chair seriously and was pleased with hosting the first U.S.-ASEAN leaders meeting to take place in the United States.
“This reflects ASEAN’s growing importance and the unprecedented cooperation between ASEAN and the United States,” said Obama.
“As a Pacific nation, the United States has an enormous stake in the people and the future of Asia,” he added. “The region is home to some of our largest trading partners and buys many of our exports, supporting millions of American jobs. We need partnerships with Asian nations to meet the challenges of growing our economy, preventing proliferation and addressing climate change.”
Last year Obama was the first American President to meet with all 10 ASEAN leaders together in Singapore in November 2009. He said this second meeting was designed to deepen relationships and elevate partnerships to better address the shared challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Priorities of the meeting focused on creating sustainable economic growth, trade and exports, transportation, human rights, political and security cooperation with emphasis on becoming a positive force in global affairs. According to Obama, U.S. exports to ASEAN countries are growing twice as fast as other regions, and plays a major role in the goal to double overall American exports.
The United States will also take part in the ASEAN East Asia summit next year.
After postponements earlier this year, Obama announced plans for November trips to Indonesia, Korea and Japan, to continue work at the Asian Pacific Economic Council summit on strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth.
“Through APEC and initiatives like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we’re pursuing trade relationships that benefit all our countries,” he said. “And we will continue to support ASEAN’s goal of creating a more effective and integrated community by 2015, which would advance regional peace and stability.”
Member nations present for the ASEAN meeting included Brunei; Cambodia; Indonesia; Laos; Malaysia; Myanmar; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand, Vietnam and the United States.
In a joint statement ASEAN members expressed appreciation for the role of the United States in improving the sustained engagement at the highest levels among ASEAN member states. The U.S. participation in several regional meetings on defense, trade, investment and development, and treaty arrangements was approved.
The President renewed his call on Myanmar to embark on a process of national reconciliation by releasing all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi and by holding free and fair elections in November.
He thanked Singapore and Malaysia for supporting national reconstruction in Afghanistan through the deployment of contingents that provide medical, engineering, and other support.
The leaders discussed the development of social, cultural and educational ties between ASEAN and the United States. Already, 44,000 university students from ASEAN countries study in the United States, and are the fourth largest source of university students. Nearly 3,400 American university students are studying in ASEAN countries.
ASEAN members worked on the adoption of a new five-year Plan of Action for 2011-2015. The work updates goals in addressing issues related to human rights, trade and investment, energy efficiency, agriculture, educational, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, interfaith dialogue, science and technology, disaster risk management and emergency response, health and pandemic diseases, environment, biodiversity conservation, climate change, food security, combating illicit trafficking in persons, arms and drugs and other forms of transnational crimes.
The leaders agreed to meet again in 2011 at the time of the 6th East Asia Summit to take place in Jakarta, Indonesia. President Obama said he would attend the summit meeting.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is also scheduled to chair the Fifth East Asia Summit meetings on October 30, 2010 in Hanoi. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will also attend the first ASEAN-hosted meeting of Asia Pacific region Defense Ministers in Hanoi in October 2010.
The ASEAN Meeting was co-chaired by Nguyen Minh Triet, President of Vietnam, in his capacity as Chairman, and President Barack Obama. In a pre-meeting conference, Triet commented that ASEAN and U.S. relations are growing very well since the important outcomes of the Singapore meeting.
“Vietnam and ASEAN always support the deepening of the relations between ASEAN and the U.S., bilaterally and multilaterally,” said Triet. “And we want to take our relations to the next level to greater comprehensiveness and more sustenance for the peace, stability and development of our region.”
President Obama met with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan to discuss the range of economic, security, the environment and the serious maritime issues that exist between Japan and China over respective territorial claims of both nations towards the Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea. The two reaffirmed a commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance, a role they said is key to promoting stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
The leaders, who started talks at the G8 Conference in Toronto earlier this year, continued an exchange of views on recent developments and trends in Northeast Asia. Obama raised the pressing challenge of promoting economic growth, adding that successive APEC meetings in Yokohama this year and in Honolulu in 2011 would help progress the spectrum of economic issues affecting the region.
Obama called the U.S. – Japan relationship “one of the cornerstones of peace and security throughout the world.”
“So we look forward to discussing further how we can strengthen this alliance in the 21st century, how our economic relationship can continue to improve for the prosperity of both our peoples, how we can address regional hotspots and tensions that may arise, but also how we can work as leaders together in dealing with international problems like climate change and nuclear nonproliferation,” Obama added.
While in New York for the ASEAN Meeting, President Barack Obama met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at United Nations Headquarters. Obama called Premier Wen an outstanding partner he could count on ever since taking office 21 months ago.
This is the third time that the President has met with Premier Wen. They first met in November of 2009 on the President’s trip to Beijing, then at the Copenhagen climate change conference.
“Along with President Hu (Jintao), Premier Wen I think has exhibited extraordinary openness and cooperation with us as we try to strengthen the relationship between our two countries, a relationship that is based on cooperation, on mutual interest, on mutual respect,” said Obama.
The two continued work on “critical” matters related with the financial crisis and recession that began in their meetings at the G20 conference. The stabilized world economy and growing again are good signs, but added more needs to be done to achieve balanced and sustained economic growth in the context of the G20 framework.
The two also addressed issues of common interest including climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, and a few political security issues including Iran, Sudan, and South China Sea island territorial rights and freedom of navigation.
“And we also I think have to work cooperatively together in order to achieve regional peace and stability, because the world looks to the relationship between China and the United States as a critical ingredient on a whole range of security issues around the world,” said Obama. “Fortunately, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that we’ve set up provides an excellent forum for us to work through a range of bilateral as well as multilateral issues.”
Obama said he is hopeful that President will make an official state visit to Washington sometime in the near future.
Premier Wen (as translated) said the China-U.S. relationship has an important international influence and so the common interests must outweigh their differences. Such disagreements can be resolved through dialogue and cooperation, he added, that that the China-U.S. relationship will always forge ahead.”
“I have come to this meeting with President Obama with a candid and constructive attitude,” said Wen.