Sultan meets Obama, Kerry
Hakim Hayat

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday met with US President Barack Obama for talks at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC.

Obama pledged to bring up maritime disputes boiling between China and its neighbours at the US-Asean and East Asia summits in Brunei in October, AFP reported.

Brunei has already said that it will pursue a binding code of conduct among competing claimants in the South China Sea during its Asean chairmanship this year. China insists disputes are a bilateral matter between individual nations.

“We will be discussing maritime issues,” Obama said after meeting His Majesty, referring to the two summits, which he is expected to attend.

“Obviously there have been a lot of tensions in the region around maritime issues and His Majesty has shown great leadership in order to bring the countries together to make sure that everybody’s abiding by basic precepts of rule of law and international standards.”

Obama said the summits would also be a good venue to discuss commerce, economic and other diplomatic issues impacting a region to which he has “pivoted” US diplomatic and military resources.

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, and non-member Taiwan have claims to parts of the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes which is believed to be rich in fossil fuels.

Simmering tensions over the issue have risen in the past two years, with the Philippines and Vietnam accusing China of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims.

The anger boiled over during Cambodia’s 2012 Asean chairmanship which was marked by sharp regional discord over the affair.

Efforts to secure a legally binding code of conduct involving Asean and China have floundered for years amid Beijing’s insistence on handling disputes bilaterally with individual countries, while Asean wants to speak as a group.

Earlier, His Majesty consented to attend a meeting with John Kerry, the Secretary of State, United States of America, on Monday. The meeting was held at the US State Department, Washington DC.

At the meeting, His Majesty and Kerry exchanged views on ways to further develop existing bilateral cooperation between both countries which include areas of education and energy. His Majesty and the US Secretary of State also discussed on current developments in international and regional affairs.

The US State Department stated that Secretary of State Kerry was delighted to welcome His Majesty.

“His Majesty is taking on the important job of being the president of the Asean meeting this year. And we’re very, very much looking forward to working with you on issues with the South China Sea, and issues of energy and climate change, and we’re very, very happy to have His Majesty here,” he said.

Accompanying His Majesty to the meeting were YB Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II; YB Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office; and Dato Paduka Haji Yussof bin Haji Abdul Hamid, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Brunei Darussalam to the United States of America.

Also attending the meeting were Daniel Shields, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Brunei Darussalam and Joseph Yun, Acting Assistant Secretary of State. - Borneo Bulletin (13 March 2013)