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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs   18 February  2016  

Obama seeks closer cooperation with ASEAN

Rancho Mirage, California – The two-day special US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit opened in southern California with a call from US President Barack Obama for closer cooperation in promoting trade, counterterrorism, and peaceful resolution of disputes.

Moving to solidify US influence in the region, Obama asked regional allies to boost economic and security cooperation in a bid to promote peaceful, progressive and stable region during the first day of the summit.

“The economic growth that is inclusive, creating opportunities for all, mutual security and the peaceful resolution of disputes, human dignity including respect for human rights and development that is sustainable — that is our vision and that’s what brings us here together today,” Obama said in his remarks.

“Given the extraordinary progress that we have achieved together in these past seven years, I am confident that we can continue our momentum at this summit,” added Obama.

The summit, hosted by Obama at the sprawling Sunnylands estate in California, aims to strengthen the newly elevated strategic partnership between the US and the 10-member ASEAN.  Obama and the Southeast Asian leaders including President Aquino skipped wearing ties for the informal and relaxed summit that centered on security, trade and environmental issues.


In his speech, Obama proposed an increase in the “trade and economic partnerships” between the US and the ASEAN in order to create jobs and opportunities for their peoples.

With the improvement of trade between the US and ASEAN by 55 percent, Obama said the regional bloc is currently the fourth largest trading partner of the United States. More than 500,000 American jobs are supported by trade with ASEAN. US companies have been the largest source of foreign investment in ASEAN.


On keeping peace and stability in the region, Obama said the US and ASEAN could increase “security cooperation to meet shared challenges.” He said in recent years, the United States has raised maritime assistance to allies and partners in the region “improving our mutual capabilities to protect lawful commerce, to respond to humanitarian crisis.”

Although he did not identify China in his speech, the US President emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation and rule of law in the wake of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.


“Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms including freedom of navigation are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful legal means,” he said.

China has been widely criticized for its aggressive land reclamation activities and militarization in the South China Sea that threatens peace and stability in the region.  ASEAN members, namely the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam, have overlapping claims of South China Sea, with China claiming almost the whole of disputed waters.


In fighting terrorism, Obama said US and ASEAN could “do more” to meet transnational challenges that no one nation can meet alone.

In the wake of the deadly attacks in Jakarta last month, Obama said the scourge of terrorism demands the international community to “stay vigilant.”

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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