Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi Before The ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting

(Photo: State Dept.)

RemarksAntony J. Blinken, Secretary of StateSokha HotelPhnom Penh, CambodiaAugust 4, 2022

FOREIGN MINISTER MARSUDI:  Secretary Blinken, Tony, it is a pleasure to welcome you back in the region.  And I appreciate very much your presence in this meeting.  It shows the U.S. commitment to further strengthen relations with ASEAN.  And thank you also for hosting the ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Washington, D.C., on the 12th and 13th of May this year.

Colleagues, we all know that we are living in a very challenging time.  While COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, WHO has declared monkeypox as another public health emergency of international concern.  In the meantime, the war in Ukraine continues.  This situation creates significant impacts to the world, in particular the developing countries.  Food and energy insecurity became more (inaudible) than before.  The financial space is tightening.  The question is:  How can ASEAN-U.S. partnership help to ease these situations?

Colleagues, the Indo-Pacific is the future of our region.  Our future will depend on how we manage the Indo-Pacific.  The Indo-Pacific region should not be approached with an either/or mindset, but rather with the mindset of Indo-Pacific cooperation, strategic trust, and, last but not least, always upholding the international laws.  We have no other option but to vigorously reinforce this view.  For Indonesia and ASEAN, it is very important to have concrete cooperation with partners, including with the U.S. – a win-win cooperation that can contribute to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

Secretary Blinken, colleagues, in this challenging time, what the world needs is the wisdoms and responsibility of all leaders, all of us, to ensure peace and stability.

My last point – and this is very important – we are very glad that work is underway to elevate the ASEAN-U.S. relation into a comprehensive and strategic partnership, and I am sure that this new level of partnership will be a good avenue for us to further strengthen our relation.  And I look forward to facilitating a fruitful discussion today with you, Tony.  Thank you very much.

Now I would like to invite my co-chair to deliver his opening remarks.  Secretary Blinken, the floor is yours.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Foreign Minister, Retno, thank you so much.  Thank you for your good and kind words.  Thank you especially for Indonesia’s support as the country coordinator for the United States at this meeting and throughout these past months.  It’s greatly appreciated.  And let me also thank very much our hosts for (inaudible) – for today, tomorrow – Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, for hosting us in Phnom Penh and for Cambodia’s leadership as chair of ASEAN this year.

Before I go further, I want to speak to the recent activity concerning Taiwan, because I know it’s on people’s minds.  The United States continues to have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.  We oppose any unilateral efforts to change the status quo, especially by force.  We remain committed to our “one China” policy, guided by our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Communiqués, and the Six Assurances.

And I want to emphasize nothing has changed about our position, and I hope very much that Beijing will not manufacture a crisis or seek a pretext to increase its aggressive military activity.  We, and countries around the world, believe that escalation serves no one and could have unintended consequences that serve no one’s interests, including ASEAN members and including China.  We’ve reached out to engage our PRC counterparts in recent days at every level of government to convey this message.  Maintaining cross-strait stability is in the interests of all countries in the region, including all of our colleagues within ASEAN.

This year, we proudly mark 45 years of ASEAN-U.S. relations.  Even as we mark those 45 years, we’re looking to the future.  And as we look to the future, the United States is determined to deepen and strengthen our partnership with ASEAN to meet the challenges of this moment, challenges that are affecting citizens in all of our countries.  We are committed to ASEAN centrality.  We strongly support the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, and we wholeheartedly endorse the values upon which the outlook is based: openness, inclusivity, commitment to the rule of law, good governance, and – Retno, as you said – respect for international law.  These values are also at the heart of our own Indo-Pacific strategy.  Our strategy and the ASEAN Outlook are very coincident in their approach.

As President Biden said at the ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit in May, we’re launching a new era in ASEAN-U.S. relations.  And to name just a few examples of our cooperation, last September U.S. Secretary of Energy Granholm participated in the ASEAN-U.S. Energy Ministerial to deepen cooperation on shared goals, like promoting renewables and emerging energy technologies.

Just this past May, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Becerra joined the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial on Health.  We’re expanding cooperation on global health, health care delivery, including improved disease surveillance, stronger health workforces, increased access to primary care.  This will help lift up all of our populations, not only in dealing with things like pandemics that we’ve been grappling with for the last couple of years, but as a general matter in strengthening our health care systems to the benefit of all of our citizens.

At the special summit between the United States and ASEAN in May, our Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry led the discussion on working together to achieve global and regional decarbonization goals.  We very much hope to continue this conversation at a U.S.‑ASEAN Climate Ministerial very soon.  And we’ve done a dialogue on transportation, as well as the first-ever ministerial on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In short, we’re working together across an incredibly wide range of issues that are central to the prosperity and security of our combined one billion people.

As we look ahead to the November ASEAN-U.S. summit, we’re laying the foundations for a comprehensive strategic partnership so that we can expand our cooperation into even more areas, including maritime security, public health, cybersecurity.  We also hope to increase cooperation with ASEAN throughout the broader region.  For example, with the Quad and within the Indo‑Pacific Economic Framework (inaudible) for your ideas to advance that kind of cooperation and collaboration.

To guide all these efforts, President Biden selected his great longtime advisor Yohannes Abraham, an exceptional public servant, as our next ambassador to the U.S. Mission at ASEAN.  If confirmed, I can tell you from personal experience he will be an excellent partner for ASEAN.

Earlier today, I had a chance to meet with a group of young people from all across the region who are participating in the U.S. program called YSEALI, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.  To date, more than 5,000 young people are alumni of YSEALI exchanges.  More than 150,000 belong to the YSEALI network.  They represent the extraordinary talent and dedication of young people across Southeast Asia, who are eager to contribute to their countries progress and help shape a shared future.

So it was very inspiring to sit with them and hear from them, and now it’s inspiring for me to be able to sit with each of you.  And so I look forward – Retno, colleagues – to speaking with each of you over the next two days about how we can ensure that this partnership, which really will shape the future for generations to come, can continue and even more effectively deliver for our people.

So with that, Foreign Minister, back to you.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MARSUDI:  Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken.  Thank you.  And I now kindly request the media to leave the room, as we will start the closed session.