Kuala Lumpur, 13 May 2016 – The commitment to strengthen the ASEAN-US strategic partnership was reaffirmed by Senior Officials from both sides who met at the 29th ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday. This Senior Officials Dialogue was significant as it was the first to be convened following the declaration of ASEAN and US as “Strategic Partners” by the Leaders when they met at the 3rd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Kuala Lumpur in November 2015. This Partnership was further strengthened when the Leaders met for the Special ASEAN-US Summit hosted by President Barrack Obama in Sunnylands, California in February this year.

The 29th ASEAN-US Dialogue allowed the Senior Officials to take stock of the state of ASEAN-US relations and explore new areas of cooperation to further strengthen the close ties. The US reaffirmed its commitment to maintain close strategic ties with ASEAN and the region in line with the US “rebalance to Asia” policy, and assured that US commitment to the region would remain regardless of the outcome of the US Presidential election in November this year.

The US reiterated its strong support for ASEAN Centrality in the broad regional architecture and the various regional mechanisms that remain important for maintaining regional peace and stability including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus).

The Officials reviewed the progress of implementation of the new ASEAN-US Plan of Action (POA) 2016-2020 adopted in September last year. As it was only four months into this Plan, both sides agreed that projects and activities proposed should be diligently and effectively implemented to derive the benefits and strategic goals envisaged in the POA.

Both sides noted that the Partnership should be more than regular political dialogues and meetings. In this regard, they noted and welcomed the many on-going practical activities, projects, capacity-building opportunities and exchange programmes which brought tangible benefits to the people from both sides.

The ASEAN and US Senior Officials Meeting had a frank exchange of views on regional and international issues including recent developments in the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula. They reaffirmed the importance of a rules-based regional and international order committed to the principles of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Both sides also reiterated the need to ensure maritime security and safety in the region, including the rights of freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce.

ASEAN and the US also reaffirmed their commitment and determination to jointly address transnational crimes such as trafficking in persons, combating terrorism and violent extremism, illicit drugs, timber and wildlife trafficking, cyber-security and the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing among others. In this regard, ASEAN appreciated US’ strong support, engagement and collaboration with the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and the Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) among others.

On the economic front, ASEAN appreciated US’ contributions and support for the ASEAN Economic Community. The Meeting further welcomed the U.S.-ASEAN Connect initiative which was announced by President Obama at the Sunnyland’s Summit as a new strategy to assist ASEAN in four areas, namely business, energy, innovation, and policy. The implementation of this initiative would include the establishment of ASEAN Connect Centers in Jakarta, Singapore, and Bangkok.

In further strengthening the ASEAN – U.S. Strategic Partnership, both sides underscored the importance of engaging emerging leaders and women’s empowerment. The Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) was highlighted as instrumental to strengthen leadership development across ASEAN and to improve people-to-people ties between both sides.  The Meeting also noted the importance of empowering and providing opportunities for women in ASEAN. In this regard ASEAN welcomed new initiatives by the US to benefit women namely the establishment of an ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women and a US – ASEAN Women Leadership Academy to equip women with leadership skills.

The Dialogue was co-chaired by H.E. Datuk Othman Hashim, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SOM Leader of Malaysia and H.E. Daniel Russel, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and attended by SOM Leaders and representatives from ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat.