It is an honor to represent the United States for the first time in the East Asia Summit.
I want to thank the leaders of the EAS for inviting the United States to participate in this forum. The conversations that take place here are of great consequence for every country in the Asia Pacific region, and the United States looks forward to being a part of them.
I bring greetings from President Obama. He shares my commitment to seeing the United States formally join the EAS and becoming your partners in a constructive and sustained effort to strengthen stability and prosperity throughout the region.
Today I would like to outline five key principles that will guide the United States’ engagement with the EAS. They all stem from one overarching goal: to help strengthen and build this organization as a key forum for political and strategic issues in the Asia-Pacific.
First, we are making an enduring commitment to this institution. We offer sustained and consistent presidential engagement—starting next year, when President Obama attends the 2011 Summit in Jakarta. We hope to work closely with the members of the EAS on its agenda and its initiatives, as well as on identifying more potential areas for cooperation. It is in that spirit that I’ve come to Hanoi today—to listen, to consult, and to collaborate.
Second, as the EAS evolves, we believe that ASEAN should continue to play a central role. Its leadership is essential to greater cooperation across the region, and its members can help this institution translate dialogue into results that benefit all our peoples. We share ASEAN’s vision of EAS as a forum where leaders can have intimate and informal discussions on important political and strategic issues. As I said earlier this week, we view ASEAN as a fulcrum for the region’s emerging regional architecture.
Third, given its membership and its growing stature, we believe that the EAS should pursue an active agenda that involves the most consequential issues of our time—including nuclear proliferation, the increase in conventional arms, maritime security, climate change, and the promotion of shared values and civil society.
Fourth, we believe that the discussions in this forum should complement and reinforce the work being done in other forums. There are many regional institutions in the Asia-Pacific, including the EAS, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting. Each of them plays an important role in the region’s peace and prosperity. It is important for these organizations to remain flexible, because as they evolve over time, it may be appropriate to refine their respective missions so that they can make the most of their strengths.
Finally, as we engage with the EAS and other institutions, we will continue to leverage the strength of our bilateral relationships, starting with our alliances. We will consult closely with our treaty allies—Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines—as the foundation of our engagement in the Asia-Pacific, and we will continue expanding our emerging partnerships with a wide range of countries, from New Zealand to India, China to Indonesia, both in the EAS context and beyond.
These are the principles that will guide the United States’ engagement with the East Asia Summit.
With these principles in mind, we look forward to joining discussions that you have had over the past few years on key strategic and political issues. I would like to use this opportunity to suggest specific areas where it would be especially helpful to coordinate our efforts.
One is nuclear nonproliferation. President Obama has set forth a vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and the United States is committed to taking practical steps to achieve this vision over time. We have signed a historic arms treaty with Russia, and we are working with the international community—including many around this table—to hold North Korea and Iran accountable to their international obligations. We have expressed our strong support to the ASEAN Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, and we look forward to working with the EAS to support and strengthen the global nonproliferation rules of the road.
Maritime security is another area in which we can all benefit from close cooperation. The United States has a national interest in the freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce. And when disputes arise over maritime territory, we are committed to resolving them peacefully based on customary international law.
With regard to the South China Sea, we are encouraged by China’s recent steps to enter discussions with ASEAN about a more formal binding code of conduct.
Climate change will affect every country in the world. But the people of this region could experience the worst effects, in the form of rising waters, extreme weather, droughts and famine, and mass migration. We look forward to working with the EAS to build on the Copenhagen Accord as we seek lasting solutions to this challenge.
Finally, I believe we can work together to advance human rights. While the United States agrees that no country can impose its values on others, we do believe that certain values are universal—and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. Human rights are in everyone’s interest. The United States has worked with the ASEAN Secretariat and individual ASEAN members to promote these values throughout the region, including in countries where very real challenges remain. We look forward to working with the EAS on an affirmative agenda for strengthening democratic institutions and advancing human rights.
Let me conclude by once again thanking the leaders of the EAS for inviting the United States to participate in this important forum. We are committed to working with you at the highest levels, because together we have an opportunity to make real progress toward a world where all our people are free, prosperous, and safe. Thank you.