Cablegate: 2008 Arf Senior Officials Meeting: Making Steps Toward Reform
DE RUEHC #9706 1580503
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 032251Z JUN 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
INFO RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC 0629-0631
UNCLAS STATE 059706
C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDED CAPTION)
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KNNP PTER MARR EAID SG BM ARF
SUBJECT: 2008 ARF Senior Officials Meeting: Making Steps Toward Reform
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The ASEAN Regional Forum Senior Officials Meeting
(ARF SOM) was held May 9 in Singapore. EAP Deputy Assistant Secretary
and Ambassador for ASEAN affairs Scot Marciel led the U.S. delegation
to exchange views on key regional issues and further efforts to
strengthen ARF (May 10 ASEAN-US Dialogue reported STATE 59358).
Following a focused discussion of the affects of Cyclone Nargis in
Burma, the Singapore Chair issued an ARF statement noting the
substantial assistance offered by ARF countries, stressing the
importance of speeding up supplies and relief personnel to the
stricken areas, and calling on Burmese authorities to coordinate
access for international humanitarian relief efforts. Delegations
also participated in focused discussions on Northeast Asian security
developments, regional architecture, and non-traditional security
issues. ARF senior officials endorsed further reform efforts,
including support for an ARF Vision Statement issued by Foreign
Ministers and improvements in ARF's institutional processes.
Proposals to heighten and coordinate ARF's counterterrorism,
transnational crime, nonproliferation, and maritime security work
also gained endorsement by Senior Officials. Efforts to improve
ARF's institutional foundation, focus its agenda, and create concrete
modes of cooperation have brought reform to the forefront of ARF's
agenda as it seeks to become more relevant to regional security
efforts. END SUMMARY.
Discussions on Key Regional Issues
Specific notes on the remarks of delegations can be found by either
contacting the para 13 POC or visiting the para 13 Intranet website.
2. (SBU) CYCLONE NARGIS: Senior Officials discussed the situation in
Burma following Cyclone Nargis and urged an ARF statement on the
subject. Ambassador Marciel emphasized that the U.S. focus is on
saving lives and contributing to international relief efforts. He
urged the Burmese authorities to cooperate with ARF governments and
international relief organizations to get desperately need assistance
to the stricken areas. Other delegations sympathized with the
Burmese people, gave ARF nations' support to aid efforts, and many
pressed for urgent access by aid workers to affected areas. The
Singapore Chair issued a statement on behalf of ARF Senior Officials
reflecting most of these sentiments: http://app.mfa.gov.sg/2006/
lowRes/press/view_press.asp?post_id=3974 on Singapore's MFA website.
Burma's representative engaged very little in the session. He
delivered previously released information about the disaster,
criticized "biased media reporting," and spoke nothing about the aid
3. (SBU) NORTHEAST ASIA, SIX-PARTY TALKS: During the session on
Northeast Asian security developments, delegations focused on major
power relations and Korean Peninsula developments. As a lead
discussant on the issue, the U.S. spoke to the positive gains from
continued major power cooperation and gave ARF an update on
developments in the Six-Party Talks. Other countries (DPRK, Japan,
China, Canada, EU, Indonesia, Mongolia, and New Zealand) gave their
own views on the status of the Six-Party Talks and the
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Noteworthy interventions
--DPRK: Offered a nuanced intervention on U.S. and DPRK actions under
the current set of Six-Party agreements. Also delivered some views
on ARF becoming more geared to non-traditional security issues.
--Japan: Made a request for the DPRK to take "specific action" on the
abduction issue. Gave an optimistic readout of Chinese President
Hu's visit to Japan.
--New Zealand: Mentioned a bilateral scholarship exchange program
just set up with the DPRK.
4. (SBU) REGIONAL ARCHITECTURE: Senior Officials discussed the
relevance and role of existing organizations, especially ARF. Some
spoke to the need for complementarity among regional institutions.
However, others felt Asia's crowded institutional architecture was a
natural development given Asia's different approaches to political,
economic, and social issues. Most, including some of the
traditionally hesitant ARF members, called for ARF to be further
strengthened and become more action-oriented. Notable interventions
--Thailand: Gave a call for ARF to respond effectively to regional
challenges and to develop a stronger institutional character.
--Vietnam, China, and Cambodia: Somewhat surprisingly called for a
more "action-oriented" ARF, but Vietnam held some reservations about
the financial and time constraints of specific ARF mechanisms.
--India: Noted that ASEAN should remain ARF's driving force and the
ASEAN Way of consensus and gradualism should guide the development of
--New Zealand: Delivered a pointed remark on ASEAN's "special
responsibility" to ensure the relevance of the organizations that
ASEAN leads. Also questioned which institutions would survive Asia's
evolving regional architecture.
--U.S.: Stated that the greatest beneficiary of ARF's development
into a stronger, more effective grouping would in fact be ASEAN, as
the undisputed leader of ARF.
5. (SBU) NON-TRADITIONAL SECURITY ISSUES: Non-traditional and
transnational security issues are becoming ARF's central, practical
contribution to regional security efforts. Many senior officials
pointed to ARF's broad, diverse membership and the comfortability of
these issues within ARF as rationales for a focus on non-traditional
security. Issues broached by delegations include trafficking in
persons, small arms and light weapons, money laundering,
cybersecurity, avian influenza, humanitarian assistance, energy
security, narcotics, climate change, nonproliferation, maritime
security, and counter terrorism. Notable interventions included:
--Pakistan: Noted the "enormous sacrifices" Pakistani security forces
have given in counterterrorism efforts.
--Laos: Requested assistance from ARF nations with trafficking in
--China: Reiterated its view that non-traditional security should be
ARF's priority and praised ARF for obtaining "a level of maturity not
--Philippines: Spoke to tensions in the South China Sea and the need
for a full code of conduct between ASEAN and China.
Proposals Put Forward by the U.S. and Others
6. (SBU) REVIEW OF ARF (SINGAPORE): Singapore gained further support
and endorsement for its attempt to consolidate ARF's reform efforts.
Singapore's discussion paper includes recommendations that will be
followed up by the incoming Thailand Chair and the ASEAN
Secretariat's ARF Unit:
--Develop an ARF Vision Statement
--Improve ARF's institutional procedures
--Maintain ARF's "flexible moratorium" on membership
--Focus ARF's agenda on key areas (counterterrorism, transnational
crime, disaster relief, nonproliferation, maritime security, and
--Strengthen the ARF Unit and ARF Chair
--Standardize the format of ARF's Annual Security Outlook
7. (U) GREATER ARF EFFORTS IN NONPROLIFERATION AND MARITIME SECURITY:
Both the U.S. and Indonesia gained general support for their separate
proposals to establish annual meetings on and heighten ARF's focus
toward nonproliferation and maritime security. The U.S. proposal
(co-sponsored with China and Singapore) would set up UNSCR 1540 as a
framework for the regional implementation of nonproliferation goals
and commitments. The annual Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on
Nonproliferation and Disarmament will serve as a coordinating body
for nonproliferation capacity-building measures. There was widespread
support for the U.S. proposal, especially after the U.S. had
accommodated previously expressed Indonesian concerns about the
handling of nuclear disarmament issues in the ISM. However, Pakistan
blocked consensus by unexpectedly raising additional nuclear
disarmament issues. An obviously frustrated Singapore Chair issued a
sharp request for Pakistani flexibility. USDEL gave Pakistan a
revised concept paper, accommodating some, but not all of its
comments, and none of its proposed disarmament topics. Many
delegations expressed support in principle for Indonesia's proposal
for the establishment of an annual ISM on Maritime Security.
However, they cautioned that many issues remained with the proposal's
terms of reference. Proponents offered to work further on both items
to seek consensus prior to the July Ministerial meeting.
8. (U) COORDINATING ARF'S COUNTERTERRORISM AND TRANSNATIONAL CRIME
EFFORTS: Delegations expressed broad support for the U.S. proposal to
create a comprehensive and coordinated strategy for ARF's disparate
efforts on Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC). ARF
Foreign Ministers are expected to endorse the CTTC Workplan's
modalities in July. Then, ARF members will populate the Workplan
with specific project proposals throughout late 2008 and early 2009.
Once endorsed, the CTTC Workplan will focus ARF's CTTC agenda,
apportion leadership roles for ARF members, and create a variety of
more useful regional projects in key areas bioterrorism, narcotics
trafficking, and cybersecurity. Upon the receipt of further comments
over the next month, EAP will circulate a revised version of the
proposal to ARF members in late June.
9. (U) OTHER PROPOSALS/ISSUES:
--Expanding ARF's Membership: In view of the continuing interest of
Kazakhstan and others in joining ARF, the Singapore Chair inserted
"Future Participation in ARF" into the agenda. Singapore announced
that ASEAN had internally agreed to maintain its "flexible
moratorium." No ARF country spoke up against the moratorium during
the session. Unless a particular ARF country pushes for the
inclusion of another member, it is unlikely that ARF will add another
to its 27-member group this year.
--Northeast Asia Security Cooperation with ARF (ROK): South Korea
received endorsement of its discussion paper, implementing only a few
of the recommendations coming from the February 2007 meeting on
Northeast Asia Security of ARF's Expert and Eminent Persons (EEPs).
The paper puts ARF political support behind potential cooperative
processes in Northeast Asia, but does not create formal linkages
between ARF and a new Northeast Asian arrangement. ASEAN countries
remain nervous about being left behind by the major powers in new
arrangements not centered in Southeast Asia.
--Cybersecurity Virtual Working Group (ROK): South Korea received
endorsement for the establishment of a virtual information-sharing
portal among ARF cybersecurity experts.
10. (U) UPCOMING ARF ACTIVITIES: The following combines major
proposals listed above and others approved by Senior Officials for
implementation in 2008-2009:
--Workshop on Stabilization and Reconstruction, Bangkok
September-October 2008, (U.S., Thailand)
--Seminar on Climate Change and International Security, 2nd half of
--3rd Experts and Eminent Persons Meeting, Beijing, October 2008
--8th ISM on Disaster Relief, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, December 2008
--Workshop on Building Capacities on Laboratory Biosafety and
Biosecurity, Fall 2008 or Spring 2009 (U.S.)
--Seminar to Enhance Measures on Maritime Security, October 2008 (EU)
--Inter-Sessional Support Group on CBMs and PD, one during Fall 2008
(in Singapore) and a second during Spring 2009 (in the ROK)
--7th ISM on Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Vietnam, 1st
half of 2009 (Vietnam, ROK)
--Seminar on Law and Regulations of International Disaster Relief,
Beijing, 1st half of 2009 (China)
--Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security, TBD (Indonesia)
--ISM on Nonproliferation and Disarmament, first half of 2009. (U.S.,
--ARF Disaster Relief Field Exercise, Philippines, April-May 2009
--Follow-up Maritime Security Training Program, Chennai, India, TBD,
--Anti-Money Laundering Workhop, TBD (Malaysia)
--Workshop on Anti-Money Laundering, TBD (Malaysia)
--Seminar on the Law of the Sea Convention, TBD (Philippines)
--ARF Conference on Terrorist Use of the Internet, TBD (Australia,
Defense Meetings: Energy Security, Counterterrorism
11. (SBU) SECURITY POLICY CONFERENCE: James Clad, Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, participated in a
session with ARF defense counterparts to discuss regional security
trends as well as energy security implications for defense forces.
Senior defense officials focused on increased security challenges
from transnational threats and noted the positive role for a more
results-oriented ARF in this regard. Participants pointed to the
growing cost of high energy prices to the operations of armed forces,
greater security of supply routes, and the need for alternative
sources of energy for militaries.
12. (SBU) DEFENSE OFFICIALS DIALOGUE: Joint Staff Col. Robert
Claypool participated in the meeting of ARF defense officials that
focused on the threats posed by counter terrorism and maritime
security. Defense officials pointed to the need for a more
comprehensive approach to countering terrorism that includes winning
hearts and minds, good governance, consequence management, and
strengthening border security. Participants noted the drop in piracy
attacks in the Straits of Malacca and hoped ARF could play an even
more active role in regional maritime security efforts.
13. (U) POC: POC for this action is EAP/RSP Kevin Sheives
(firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-647-1217). Copies of meeting documents,
meeting participants, and more background on U.S. membership in ARF
can be found by visiting the State Dept Intranet at
http://eap.state.gov/EAPOffices/RSP/ARF.cfm or by contacting the POC.
14. (SBU) COMMENT: Recent efforts by the U.S. and some others to
strengthen ARF have changed ARF's dynamic. Modalities for reform and
improvement have become ARF's primary topic of discussion, despite
hesitation from a few ARF members. Efforts to improve ARF's
institutional foundation, focus its agenda, and create concrete modes
of cooperation have contributed to this new dynamic. ARF's efforts
over the next year or two, particularly the crafting of its Vision
Statement, will be critical if ARF is to become more relevant to the
evolving Asian institutional architecture.