ASEAN-US ties ‘healthy’, but need to be seen in backdrop of US-China relationship: PM Lee

ASEAN-US ties ‘healthy’, but need to be seen in backdrop of US-China relationship: PM Lee

US Vice President Mike Pence says that Washington’s Indo Pacific vision, seen by some as an attempt to contain China, excludes no nation - and he adds that ASEAN is central to the US’s Indo Pacific vision in the region. Jeremy Koh with this report.

SINGAPORE: The relationship between the United States and China has profound implications for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Nov 15).

Speaking at the ASEAN-US Summit in Singapore, Mr Lee said that while Singapore is happy to see that relations between the regional bloc and US are healthy in areas such as defence and cybersecurity, their partnership has to be seen in the background of the US-China relationship.

"The US-China relationship is the most important set of bilateral relations, and has profound implications to ASEAN," said Mr Lee. 

"ASEAN countries want to be able to engage with both US and China, and maximise the scope and advantages of our cooperation. 

"Therefore, we hope that the US-China relations remain stable and hope that all will work out."

READ: Commentary: As summits approach, winds of trade war hit region

Over the past year, China and the US have slapped tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other's goods, jolting global financial markets. 

"OUR VISION" EXCLUDES NO NATION: PENCE

Delivering his opening remarks at the summit, US Vice President Mike Pence said that everyone agrees "empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific”, and that his country has taken decisive action to promote this vision across the region.

“Our vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation," he said. 

"It only requires that every nation treat their neighbours with respect, and respect the sovereignty of our nations and the international rules of order."

Mike Pence at the ASEAN-US Summit in Singapore
US Vice President Mike Pence at the 6th ASEAN-US Summit in Singapore on Thursday Nov 15, 2018. (Photo: Jeremy Long)


Mr Pence also remarked that ASEAN was “central” to US’ vision in the region. 

"In all that we do, the US seeks collaboration, not control," he said. "We are proud to call ASEAN our strategic partner ... We recognise that our interests are intertwined and our visions are truly the same."

Mr Pence, who described ASEAN as an “indispensable and irreplaceable" partner also announced the US-ASEAN Smart Cities partnership at the summit.

“This effort will spur new American investment in the region's digital infrastructure, advancing prosperity and security in Southeast Asia” he said.

Mr Lee, who said that ASEAN and the US should further deepen partnership in digital technology, welcomed the partnership, adding that its focus on infrastructure, energy and info-communication technology aligns well with ASEAN’s priorities.

ASEAN SHARES US’ CONCERNS ON THREATS TO REGION’S PEACE AND STABILITY

On security, Mr Lee said that ASEAN will continue to share US’ concerns on issues threatening regional peace and stability.

Referring to the US-North Korea summit that was held in Singapore, Mr Lee said the meeting in June was an important first step towards lasting peace on a denuclearised Korean Peninsula.

But he added that a long journey awaits. 

“We urge all concerned parties to continue working towards this common goal,” Mr Lee said, adding that this includes the full and expeditious implementation of declarations aimed at denuclearisation.

Source: CNA/ja(rw)

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