Assistant Secretary David R. Stilwell of the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs co-chaired the 33rd U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue on August 4th, Washington, D.C. time (August 5th, Vientiane time) together with Deputy Foreign Minister Thongphane Savanphet of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The dialogue highlighted the broad range of U.S.-ASEAN cooperation across political-security, economic, and socio-cultural pillars, while underscoring the importance of the U.S.-ASEAN Strategic Partnership in securing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
The United States reaffirmed its commitment to work with ASEAN in securing a region based on clear and transparent rules, and to strengthen the ASEAN-centered regional architecture. Participants reaffirmed the need for peaceful dispute resolution in the South China Sea in accordance with international law as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling. The United States reaffirmed its intent to expand its partnerships in the Mekong to promote sovereignty, economic independence, and a transparent, rules-based approach to solving trans-boundary challenges.
The United States also stressed that the DPRK must halt provocations, abide by its obligations under the UNSCRs, and engage in sustained negotiations with the United States to achieve complete denuclearization, and urged ASEAN countries to continue implementing and enforcing UN sanctions. Expressing concern over the continued violence in Rakhine state, the United States called for a cessation of fighting, a negotiated solution, and deepened efforts to address root causes of violence to facilitate the dignified, safe, voluntary, and sustainable return of IDPs and refugees. The United States reiterated that Beijing’s imposition of draconian national security legislation dramatically undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Participants welcomed the continued growth of economic ties between the United States and ASEAN. They agreed on the importance of sustainable, transparent growth that promotes ASEAN resilience against unsustainable debt, especially during the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. The United States also highlighted its “All of America” approach and the role the private sector, academia, and civil society play in economic development.
The United States highlighted the growing U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures initiative, including over $87 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to combat COVID-19 in ASEAN. The U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures Alumni Network, a group of 2,400 alumni of U.S. exchange program alumni, is building relationships between U.S. and ASEAN public health practitioners for a safer and healthier future for our combined one billion population. The United States further highlighted the U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities partnership and its programs in water, transportation, cybersecurity, and health that will improve the lives of the people of ASEAN. Participants also discussed expanding quality educational and training opportunities, empowering women and girls, and preparing our communities for the economy of tomorrow to develop human capital and ensure a brighter future on both sides of the Pacific.
Participants looked forward to further strengthening the U.S.-ASEAN relationship at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in November.