At the East Asia Summit (EAS) held on November 19 in Bali, Indonesia, President Obama and other Asia-Pacific leaders discussed the importance of cooperation on the region’s most pressing political and security challenges, including maritime security, non-proliferation, and disaster response.
President Obama’s participation in the EAS was the first by a U.S. president and underscored the Administration’s commitment to deepening engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and playing a leadership role in its emerging institutions. The President has made clear that full and active U.S. engagement in the region’s multilateral architecture helps to reinforce the system of rules, responsibilities, and norms that underlies regional peace, stability, and prosperity.
The EAS was launched in 2005 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bringing together leaders of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and six other Asian countries. With the participation of the United States and Russia for the first time in 2011, the EAS now includes all the major powers of the Asia-Pacific region, including U.S. treaty allies Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as emerging regional powers India and China.
The Summit’s traditional agenda has covered a wide range of regional concerns, including education, energy and the environment, finance, avian influenza, and disaster response. While offering support for the existing EAS agenda – especially disaster response – President Obama called for a broadening of the leaders’ discussions to address strategic and security challenges. The President underscored the shared interest of EAS member states in reaffirming international rules and norms in these areas; enhancing partner capacity to address existing and emerging challenges; and promoting regional cooperation. Specifically:
1. Maritime Security
The Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the world’s busiest ports and most critical lines of commerce and communication. Recent decades of broad regional economic success have been underpinned by a shared commitment to freedom of navigation and international law. At the same time, the region faces a host of maritime challenges, including territorial and maritime disputes, ongoing naval military modernization, trafficking of illicit materials, piracy, and natural disasters.
During the EAS leaders discussions, President Obama enunciated the principles-based U.S. approach to maritime security, including freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the seas, as well as use of collaborative diplomatic processes to address disputes. The President expressed strong opposition to the threat or use of force by any party to advance its territorial or maritime claims or interfere in legitimate economic activity. Reiterating his support for the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as a responsible approach to disputed areas, he encouraged all parties to accelerate efforts to reach a full Code of Conduct.
The President also welcomed engagement by all EAS members in regional institutions devoted to maritime cooperation, including the ASEAN Maritime Forum, which provides a platform to advance common understanding of international laws, including UNCLOS, as well as cooperative efforts on maritime issues. He called on the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, and other groupings of EAS members to support maritime capacity-building measures, particularly in the search-and-rescue and disaster-response areas.
The United States is working with its partners in the Asia-Pacific region to build capacity and promote cooperation on maritime security issues, including by:
The spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, material, their means of delivery, and expertise poses a grave risk to the international community. The Asia-Pacific region faces acute proliferation challenges requiring concerted international effort. The EAS is an important venue to advance President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons, as outlined in his April 2009 Prague speech, and to promote regional cooperation and capacity building to counter proliferation threats.
In support of these objectives, President Obama and other EAS leaders welcomed the successful conclusion of a 40-year long negotiation between ASEAN and the Nuclear Weapons States to enable the latter’s accession to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) protocol. All sides have agreed to take the necessary steps to enable the signing of the protocol and its entry into force at the earliest opportunity.
President Obama also called on EAS leaders to:
3. Disaster Response and Humanitarian Assistance
The Asia-Pacific region is prone to large natural disasters that have an impact beyond any single country’s ability to respond effectively. EAS member countries experienced eight of the world’s 10 deadliest disasters in 2009 and five of 10 in 2010. The United States has a strong record of working with EAS member countries in disaster preparedness and institutional strengthening, and of bringing a unique set of capabilities, skills, and expertise in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
In order to enhance the region’s disaster response capabilities and cooperation, President Obama: