Their Majesties conclude visit to US
Azrol Ami

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha left Washington DC on Tuesday afternoon after His Majesty concluded a fruitful three-day visit after holding wide ranging talks with US President Barack Obama.

His Majesty said the US visit gave him a good opportunity to renew the longstanding and warm friendship between Brunei Darussalam and the US, which dates back to 1850 with the signing of the “Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation” soon after the USS Constitution called on the port in Brunei Darussalam.

His Majesty acknowledged the excellent meeting with the US President, and expressed his happiness over the progress of the bilateral cooperation between both countries especially in the areas of energy, education, defence and trade.

His Majesty said that both leaders are pleased with the joint five-year English Language Programme that started last year; a project aimed at the people in Asean that will strengthen their English Language skills in the Asean region.

On the field of energy cooperation, His Majesty noted that there are already a number of American companies involved in Brunei’s oil and gas sector, in both upstream and downstream industries.

“I also had the pleasure to share with President Obama some of our plans as Asean Chair this year,” His Majesty said, adding that an invitation had been extended to President Obama to the East Asia Summit and the first Asean-US Leaders’ Summit in October this year.

“The US has been a good friend to Asean and is actively involved in many of our projects, such as the Comprehensive Energy Partnership and the Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) Initiative,” His Majesty added, noting that such initiatives would strengthen the economic linkages between Asean and US.

His Majesty said he looked forward to welcoming the US President to Brunei Darussalam later this year and working together to strengthen the important relationship between Asean and the US.

The US President, meanwhile, noted that for the first time, there would be joint Asean-US-Chinese exercises around disaster and humanitarian relief, and that the bilateral military relationship between the US and Brunei has the capacity to help people in times of need and to try to help avoid conflict rather than start conflict.

Speaking to reporters at the Oval Office, President Obama said that it was a great pleasure to welcome His Majesty to the US.

“His Majesty and I had the opportunity to get to know each other from a series of multilateral meetings, particularly the Asean East Asia Summit meeting,” said the US President, adding that His Majesty is a key leader in the Southeast Asian region and widely respected around the world. “And part of the reason that we thought now was a good time for a meeting here in the Oval Office is because His Majesty will be hosting the next Asean East Asia Summit meeting in Brunei this October.”

According to the US President, there are a range of issues that both leaders have worked on together.

The friendship between the United States and Brunei actually dates back 160 years, said the US President.

“His Majesty himself has led his country for 40 years now and he’s gone through nine US Presidents,” said Obama, before he jokingly quipped, “I won’t ask him which one was his favourite”.

At the Asean East Asia Summit, the US President said that both leaders would be discussing a wide range of issues – everything from how to deal with issues of energy and climate change to how to expand commerce, potentially through the Trans-Pacific Partnership that has the opportunity of creating jobs and prosperity in US and throughout the region.

The US President highlighted that maritime issues would also be discussed.

“Obviously there have been a lot of tension in the region around maritime issues and His Majesty has shown great leadership in trying to bring the countries together to make sure that everybody is abiding by the basic precepts of rule of law and international standards so that conflicts can be resolved peacefully and effectively, and that everybody is brought into that kind of structure,” said the US President.

Meanwhile, the US President pointed out that His Majesty piloted his own 747 to get to the US.

“I think he’s probably the only head of state in the world who flies a 747 himself. And so in case Air Force One pilots have problems, we know who to consult,” quipped the US President.

During the visit to US, Their Majesties were accompanied by HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik, HRH Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel and HRH Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah.

Before departing Washington DC on Tuesday, a Doa Selamat was read by Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti.

Present at the Andrews Air Force Base, Washington DC, to bid farewell to Their Majesties were Capricia Marshall, Chief Protocol of the US State Department, Daniel Shields, US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, as well as senior officials from the US State Department and Andrews Air Force Base.

Also present at the airbase were Dato Paduka Haji Yussof bin Haji Abdul Hamid, the Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to US and spouse, as well as officers from the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Washington DC.

His Majesty also consented to attend a luncheon hosted by the US President.

During the luncheon, His Majesty reiterated that the visit brought about the opportunity to renew long-standing and warm ties between the two countries. His Majesty also looked forward towards the strengthening of the Asean-US dialogue relations.

Accompanying His Majesty during 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, the Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to US. Also attending the meeting were Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America, Charles Timothy “Chuck” Hagel, the US Secretary of Defense, and Thomas Donilon, US National Security Advisor. - Borneo Bulletin (14 March 2013)