SINGAPORE, Aug 3 ― Asean looks forward to working closely with the United States (US) to bring the partnership to a higher trajectory, says Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
Malaysia is the country coordinator for the Asean-US Dialogue Relations for the term 2015-2018.
“The US is an important and strategic partner for Asean with solid relations encompassing wide areas of cooperation. We would like to see these relations further enhanced for our common benefit,” said Saifuddin in his opening remarks at the Asean-US Ministerial meeting today.
Saifuddin co-chaired the meeting with Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State.
He is leading the Malaysian delegation to the 51st Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting/Post Ministerial Conferences and Related Meetings in Singapore.
It is Saifudddin's first participation at an Asean meeting since becoming foreign minister on July 2.
Singapore holds the Asean chairmanship for 2018.
Saifuddin said Asean-US cooperation in regional and international issues, and on traditional and non-traditional challenges, have continued to deepen to cover a myriad of issues including terrorism, cyber security, climate change, irregular migrants and maritime matters.
Last year, Asean and the US marked the 40th anniversary of their relations.
“Malaysia, like all Asean member states, appreciates the US role in maintaining peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region.
“We also appreciate the US constructive role in helping us evolve a rules-based regional architecture through various Asean-led mechanisms with a greater sense of Asean centrality and unity,” said Saifuddin.
Meanwhile, Pompeo said the US looks forward to broaden and deepen srategic partnership with Asean.
“The United States is a Pacific nation, and we remain committed to Asean centrality under our Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said.
Pompeo had early this week announced new US commitments to the region that included a US$113 million (RM460 million) down payment on a new era in US economic commitment to peace and prosperity in the region.
Over the first year and a half of US administration, President Donald Trump attended his first US-Asean Summit and the East Asia Summit in Manila; Vice President Pence visited the Asean Secretariat; and numerous cabinet secretaries travelled to the region, including Pompeo's recent visit to Vietnam.
“I am eager for this frequent engagement to continue,” he said.
Pompeo said the engagement has created hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the Pacific.
“Asean is the number one destination for US investment in Asia and Asean member states have increased their investment into the US by over 1,300 per cent between 2004 and 2016.
“Our cooperation policy on issues like ICT, energy, transportation, and agriculture is also developing rapidly,” he said.
On security, Pompeo said US appreciates Asean’s ongoing efforts to promote peace and stability in the region, support the rule of law in the South China Sea, and to strictly enforce sanctions on North Korea.
“We are also working with Asean member states to counter the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the region,” he said. ― Bernama