Press Releases: Remarks With Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman at the U.S.-ASEAN Meeting

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody, and my apologies for being a little bit late. As everybody knows, there is a lot going on and I’m sorry to just have been held up for a few minutes.

I very much appreciate our gathering again here with all of our ASEAN friends, and I think in the last couple of days in a number of the meetings that I’ve been having, people have been talking about ASEAN and the strong stands that ASEAN took at our last meeting, the important positions that everybody agreed on with respect to important regional and also global issues. So I want to thank everybody for that. I want to particularly thank Foreign Minister Anifah Aman for his chairmanship of ASEAN this year.

And as I understand, as I emphasized when we were in Kuala Lumpur last month, ASEAN is in a good place. ASEAN is where it ought to be right now: at the very center of Asia Pacific’s multilateral architecture. And it is critical to upholding the rules-based system in the Asia Pacific and also ensuring that every country, big or small, has a say in addressing matters of shared concern. That’s a fundamental principle of ASEAN and it’s a very important one. And because of the unity, I think that principle has even greater impact.

The United States, as we have said many times and we’ll never stop saying, is an Asia Pacific nation. For the full history of our country, we have always been engaged and I think we are, as you understand, more firmly committed to the ASEAN partnership than ever.

As I described in Singapore last month, besides the security issues, we’re also partners in prosperity. Our economic relationship ranges from even stronger trade and investment ties to clean energy and development, cooperation, and greater regional connectivity, which is important to every country around this table. And we are supporting the ASEAN community, including the ASEAN economic community, in order to sustain prosperity and provide greater growth and more jobs for all of our citizens.

We’re also strengthening our people-to-people ties through President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, and that builds the ASEAN identity while also providing younger citizens with critical leadership skills.

And finally, we are supporting ASEAN members as they work hard to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea. Let me be clear: The United States will not accept restrictions on freedom of navigation and overflight or on other lawful uses of the sea. And it doesn’t matter whether a vessel is a large warship or a tiny, little fishing boat. The principle is very clear: The rights of all nations must be respected.

So we face no shortages of challenges, obviously, but there is a lot that we can accomplish by working together, and over the time that I’ve been privileged to be Secretary of State I’ve seen that in each of our meetings.

The future of the United States and the future of ASEAN are closely intertwined. Southeast Asia is blessed with a young and vibrant population and with very high expectations for the future. The best way that we can meet those expectations is through leadership that combines our strengths and reinforces rule of law, which is what shared progress really depends on.

So with that, thank you very much. And I turn now to our chair and Foreign Minister Anifah will deliver his opening comments.

FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Thank you. The honorable John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America, co-chair and host for today’s informal ASEAN-U.S. ministerial meeting, excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, as a country coordinator for the ASEAN-U.S. dialogue relations for the period 2015-2018, it is indeed a great honor and a pleasure for me to co-chair this ASEAN-U.S. ministerial meeting with Secretary John Kerry.

I also wish to convey my sincere appreciation to you and your team for the warm welcome and kind hospitality that has been accorded to me and my delegations. And I’m glad to note that ASEAN-U.S. relations are progressing well with strong commitment from both sides covering wide areas of cooperations, such as political security, economic, and social, culture areas.

As a country coordinator, Malaysia will continue to keep the momentum of our dialogue relations high at all time, and our meeting today presents us with an excellent opportunity to look into the future directions of ASEAN-U.S. dialogue relations in the view to further strengthen these relations.

And during this meeting, I also look forward to exchange views of regional and international issues of common interest and concern, and my ASEAN colleagues and I will be very happy to hear from you, Senator John Kerry – Secretary Kerry, especially your thoughts on how we can further enhance our partnership as well as your perspective on the current regional and international issues. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. Now we would ask our friends from the media if they would exit and we can begin our substantive discussion. Thank you very much for being here with us today. We appreciate it.