Clinton: “Renewed American leadership in Asia”

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by Aaron Siirila
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's policy speech on "America's Engagement in the Asia-Pacific" Image: East-West Center Flickr Hivemind

US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton called ASEAN a “fulcrum for the region’s emerging regional architecture” and declared US intentions to “sustain and strengthen America’s leadership in the Asia-Pacific region” in a speech co-hosted by the East-West Center on October 28 in Hawaii. Full video of the speech is available.

One main theme of the speech was a defense of America’s record and continuing commitment to US allies, partners and regional institutions in Asia. It was in the context of the third category – regional institutions – that Clinton singled out ASEAN as a leader:

And let me simply state the principle that will guide America’s role in Asian institutions. If consequential security, political, and economic issues are being discussed, and if they involve [US] interests, then we will seek a seat at the table. That’s why we view ASEAN as a fulcrum for the region’s emerging regional architecture. And we see it as indispensable on a host of political, economic, and strategic matters.

The speech comes as Clinton departs for a seven-country tour of Asia and just two weeks before President Barack Obama visits Asia for the longest international trip of his presidency. ASEAN features heavily in both itineraries; between them, Clinton and Obama will visit four of the ten ASEAN countries.

Clinton went on to describe the many ways the US has engaged with ASEAN over the past two years, including: accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, opening a US mission to ASEAN, engaging in the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting, two US-ASEAN summits attended by President Obama, and a “leading role” in the ASEAN regional forum. Other regional institutions of importance to the United States included APEC and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Clinton also detailed the many strides in bilateral relations between the US and countries in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, she held out the Creative Partnership Agreement, which brings Thais and Americans together to develop sectors of the Thai economy. In the Philippines, the upcoming 2+2 Strategic Dialogue meeting will bring together US and Filipino defense and foreign secretaries. The US has engaged with both countries to increase their skills in counterterrorism and response to humanitarian disaster.

Clinton praised Indonesia for “playing a leading role in the region and especially in regional institutions.” The US is looking forward to launching the new Comprehensive Partnership Agreement this month, during Obama’s visit, and is also placing high hopes on Indonesia’s hosting of the East Asia Summit in 2011.

In Vietnam, the US is “cultivating a level of cooperation that would have been unimaginable just 10 years ago.” US-Vietnamese ties are moving forward diplomatically, economically, and in defense-related issues.

And the US is working with Singapore to promote economic growth and integration through ASEAN and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The US has also increased its naval presence in Singapore.