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Marciel reiterates continued US commitment

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Marciel reiterates continued US commitment

Southeast Asian region is of crucial importance to the United States both in the areas of economics and security, said US envoy to Asean during his recent talks in Washington.

“The US has long been committed to Asia, and to Southeast Asia. The form of our engagement sometimes changes as new issues arise, but the strength of it does not. We are very committed to region – and we see great opportunities. We plan to be a good partner for the countries of Southeast Asia for a long time to come,” said Scot A Marciel, US Ambassador for Asean Affairs and Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Marciel was speaking at the Center for Strategic International Studies Meeting on "US and Southeast Asia: Toward a Strategy for Enhanced Engagement".

He noted that the US private sector has already invested $100 billion in the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which plans to be a single market of 550 million people by 2015.

Asean, collectively, is the US’ fifth largest export market with rapidly growing economies.

Regarding Asean interest in a continued US commitment to the region, Marciel said the US and Asean can cooperate on energy security, food security, the environment, and of course economic development, noting that some in the region are occasionally ‘critical of our policies and approaches’, however.

He also cited cooperation in the area of security: resumption of military to military ties with Indonesia, developing similar ties with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, with ship visits, and beginning some training.

The United States is engaged in multilateral security initiatives in the region. The Asean Regional Forum (ARF) is reaching a turning point in its fifteen-year existence.

The US, said Marciel, has been working with Asean and others to reinforce the ARF as a more credible and action-oriented security institution.

A disaster relief exercise is scheduled for May 2009, to be participated by ARF countries, and hosted by the Philippines with the United States, which is a showcase for ARF’s developing relevance to regional security.

He said he expected a bold and clear vision statement renewing the mandate for ARF would be issued in Bangkok next year under the continued leadership of Asean.

Talking about Burma, Marcial calls it a huge challenge for US foreign policy, for Asean, and for the wider region. A government that has suppressed democracy, driven down its economy, education system, health care system, and become a pariah, refuses even to engage reasonably with Asean.

He said the US will continue to work with countries in the region, including Asean, China, and others, and through the UN, to encourage the regime to reach out to its own people.

The full text of Scot Marciel speech is available at: East Asia and the Pacific: U.S. Engagement in Southeast Asia

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