By Danny Lee
Director, Community Affairs Development

Even before the United States Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton sets foot in the region, media reports have speculated over the meaning and significance of her whirlwind tour of Asia.

Stability or Further Tension? That’s one of the key questions that have been debated in the media.

“The United States is an old friend of ASEAN, and Washington has enjoyed a history of good and deep relations with many of our Member States. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement, and read too many messages into a visit. For sure, we are delighted to host Mrs. Clinton, and she is a friend of many ASEAN leaders,” said Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN.

“Hillary Clinton is a consummate politician and an accomplished diplomat. This is her second visit to the ASEAN Secretariat. The first time, soon after taking office as U.S. Secretary of State, she came to introduce herself and promised to re-engage the U.S. with our region. She delivered on her words. She has never missed our major gatherings, and she has added more colors and luster to our region’s diplomacy. Good diplomats work with their ‘counterparts.’ Hillary has done better than many. She has turned her counterparts into ‘friends.’ And friendship is something that we in ASEAN value very highly.”

In her meeting with Dr Surin,his four Deputy Secretaries-General and ASEAN’s Committee of Permanent Representatives, the Secretary of State emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to see ASEAN continuing its growth as a vibrant, open region that is committed to regional and global peace and prosperity.

“I believe the ASEAN-United States relationship is stronger and more effective. That is all to the good because United States view ASEAN as central to regional stability and economic progress in Asia Pacific,” remarked Mrs. Hilary Clinton. “The United States believes in ASEAN centrality which is essential to ASEAN Unity. I look forward to the exchange today, the dialogue among us and on behalf of the United States and ASEAN.”

“ASEAN is making its presence felt, and this is reflected in the importance which many of our Dialogue and Non-Dialogue Partners are emphasizing in their relations with us,” Dr Surin stated.

Mrs Clinton said further, “We are making a sustained all-out effort to build an enduring, multi-faceted relationship between ASEAN and the United States. We want to do all we can to advance ASEAN’s goal of integration, because we have an interest in strengthening ASEAN’s ability to address regional challenges in an effective, comprehensive way. We really invite and need ASEAN to crafting regional responses to challenges like climate change and transnational crime, which requires collective efforts.”

The U.S. leader clearly exhibited her star power. Weeks before her arrival, many had asked about the possibility of autographs and photographs. Upon her arrival, surely enough, the ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) staff filled the mezzanine to greet and warmly welcome her. While her incredibly tight schedule had limited her time at the Secretariat, like all stars, she left some of that glitters at ASEC.

To see the pictures from the US Secretary visit to ASEC, please click here.