U.S. Engagement In the 2013 ASEAN Regional Forum
U.S. Engagement In the 2013 ASEAN Regional Forum
Office of the Spokesperson
July 2, 2013
On July 2, Secretary of State John Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the 20th Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. ARF is the region’s main forum for promoting security. ARF holds on average twenty-five events annually across several key security areas: preventive diplomacy, counter-terrorism and transnational crime, disaster relief, maritime security, and nonproliferation and disarmament. The United States is actively engaged in all of these events and is committed to working through the ARF process to enhance peace, security, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
ASEAN established ARF as part of an effort to maintain peace and stability in the region and to promote regional development and prosperity. ARF is expanding its solutions-oriented programming to include robust confidence building measures and preventative diplomacy activities, such as election monitoring.
Advancing ARF from a forum for confidence building to a body capable of preventive diplomacy is the United States’ highest priority for ARF. For this reason, the United States is collaborating with New Zealand, Brunei, and China to develop training in the region on preventive diplomacy. This effort will help establish a foundation for ARF’s progression toward a conflict resolution capability as envisioned in its founding document.
The United States continues to provide an annual submission to the ARF Security Outlook that provides a comprehensive outline of U.S. regional security policies and capabilities in the region, to encourage full transparency in military resources and strategy among ARF members.
In May, the United States and Malaysia co-chaired the ARF Experts and Eminent Persons Group (EEP) in Honolulu, Hawaii. The EEP are a non-governmental group that provides recommendations on topics such as preventive diplomacy, regional architecture, and the future direction of ARF. This year’s meeting provided twelve specific recommendations on topics ranging from the role of the EEP in ARF to the development of ARF into a preventive diplomacy body.
Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime
ARF addresses four core areas within its work on counterterrorism and transnational crime: illicit drugs; cyber security; counter-radicalization; and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) issues. ARF is making efforts to improve collaboration among regional governments to address these issues:
In March 2012, the United States partnered with Vietnam to conduct the first ARF seminar on countering the threat of proxy actors in cyber space. Last year ARF increased its focus on cyber issues and issued a ministerial statement on cooperation in cyber security. Under direction from the ministers, ARF is developing a work plan on cyber security issues.
The United States is seeking partnership with an ASEAN country to conduct the first in a series of cyber workshops focused on developing confidence building measures for the region. As national security interests are increasingly tied to cyberspace, the development of confidence building measures that facilitate increased transparency, greater cooperation and improved capacity within the region is essential to reducing the risk of future conflict.
Since 2009, the U.S. has partnered with the Philippines and Australia to hold yearly ARF workshops raising awareness of biosecurity threats and other issues and sharing practical experiences. This series of workshops led to the development of a document of best practices for bio-risk management for ministerial approval. The ARF Cross-Sectoral Security Cooperation on Bio-Preparedness and Disaster Response project, also for ministerial approval, is a follow-on series of workshops and activities designed to implement these best practices with the objective of enhancing regional capacity for preparedness and collective response to a biological event.
The U.S. and Thailand continue to work with ARF participants towards the establishment of an ARF Transnational Threat Information Sharing Center (ATTIC). The center will focus on countering drug-related transnational crime to support our shared goal of achieving a drug-free ASEAN.
The ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime recognized the importance of combating wildlife crimes during its March 2013 meeting in Hanoi. The group received a presentation by the United States on wildlife trafficking as a transnational crime.
Major natural disasters strike in the Asia-Pacific region on a regular basis. Through continued, dedicated efforts, ARF participants have made considerable progress in the area of disaster relief. In the past several years, ARF has conducted two major multinational exercises focusing on civilian-led, military-supported disaster relief efforts.
The United States has participated in three ARF Disaster Relief Exercises (DiREx), including the recent exercise co-hosted by Thailand and the Republic of Korea in Petchaburi Province, Thailand in May. We promote these exercises as a regular component of the ARF agenda to strengthen regional cooperation and improve disaster response.
The U.S. supported an advisor in the ARF Unit who focused on developing disaster relief capacity within the organization.
The United States committed to support the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) Coordination Center by providing personnel and training to the center’s personnel.
The United States committed to co-lead with Malaysia the third of three priority areas in the ARF Disaster Relief Work Plan that promotes interoperability and coordination in disaster relief operations.
The United States proposed a Climate Change Adaptation Workshop with the objective of capturing and building on shared experiences, best practices, and lessons learned in preparing for climate change.
With over forty percent of the world’s seaborne trade flowing through Asia and the Pacific, maintaining open sea lines of communication and ensuring freedom of navigation are critical for the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Accordingly, the United States, as a Pacific nation, continues to prioritize maritime security engagement within the ARF framework.
The United States co-chaired the ISM on Maritime Security with the Republic of Korea and Indonesia on April 18-19, 2013 in Seoul. The agenda focused on building confidence amongst nations and sharing best practices for cooperation in civil maritime law enforcement, international port and ship security, and marine environmental protection. The United States will continue to encourage greater multilateral cooperation through increased transparency and confidence building as it continues its co-chairmanship of the Maritime Security ISM through next year.
The United States has proposed a marine environmental protection workshop that will promote positive maritime cooperation in the region, with the objective of developing a framework for multilateral responses to major marine pollution incidents. The United States will work with Japan, China, and an ASEAN country to develop this workshop. The United States is also working with China to co-chair an oil spill workshop focused on the exchange of technologies and techniques for responding to a marine oil spill in the region.
The United States continues to work within ARF to reinforce maritime laws and norms through annual meetings on maritime security and seminars on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Nonproliferation and Disarmament
The ARF is the premier regional venue for multilateral cooperation on nonproliferation and disarmament issues in the region through tangible capacity building programs and open discussions to coordinate efforts and build common understanding.
The United States partnered with China and others to institutionalize the discussion on nonproliferation and disarmament issues in the ARF and to develop a work plan that promotes balance to the three central pillars of the global nonproliferation regime: preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and advancing global disarmament efforts.
This year, the United States, Thailand, and the European Union will host a technical workshop on nuclear forensics.
The United States has committed to co-chair with New Zealand a workshop on Radiological Terrorism to build awareness and promote information sharing among ARF countries in responding to a terrorist incident involving radiological material.
Capitalizing on the first ARF Space Security workshop, the United States and Japan are seeking support for a workshop next year that further explores the benefits of space assets for ASEAN states, addresses issues currently facing the space environment, and assesses approaches to ensure the benefits of space for future generations.