Progress sought in solving sea row
Danial Norjidi and Izah Azahari

THE United States Secretary of State John Kerry urged for progress on the issue of the South China Sea, reaffirmed the importance of US-Asean ties and highlighted a number of the cooperative areas between the two at the Asean-US Ministerial Meeting yesterday.

On Asean’s part, the meeting, held at the International Convention Centre, Berakas was attended by His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, along with counterparts from the association’s other member states.

“As a Pacific nation, and the resident power, the United States has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” said Kerry in his opening remarks at the meeting.

He highlighted that, as the US has said many times before, while they do not take a position on a competing territorial claims over land features, they have a strong interest in the manner in which the disputes of the South China Sea are addressed in the conduct of the parties.

“We very much hope to see progress soon on a substantive code of conduct in order to help ensure stability in this vital region,” he added.

Asean-US relations were first established in 1977, and the US acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) with the association on July 22, 2009.

At yesterday’s meeting, maritime security was put forward as one of the two issues of concern that the US is focused on in Southeast Asia, as the region is home to the world’s busiest ports and most critical sea lanes.

“What happens here matters to the United States, but it also matters to everybody else,” he said. “It matters to the global community.”

The second issue of concern he mentioned was that of cyber security, on which he said, “The United States is also working and looks forward to working further with Asean to improve cyber security and to combat cyber-crime.”

“We’re very eager to help Asean member states build capacity here in order to make sure that all of us are protected against cyber threats and in order to reduce the risks that these cyber threats carry,” he added.

Kerry also went on to express the United States’ support of Asean’s economic integration goals, and strongly encouraged the pursuit of them.

“We recognise the tremendous economic dynamism of your region and of your people, and as is true everywhere, we are only going to be able to capture the energy of Southeast Asia in its massive and growing and overwhelmingly young population if we answer their aspirations.

“We have to speak to the young people by providing opportunities for them,” he added. - Borneo Bulletin (2 July 2013)