At the recent ASEAN Regional Forum in Laos, U.S. Secretary of John Kerry said there more areas for cooperation among ASEAN members.
Secretary Kerry spoke on the urgency of doing more together to fight trafficking of all kinds - trafficking in persons, wildlife and timber. As ASEAN nears the one-year anniversary of signing the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, the United States is increasing its funding to stop human trafficking in Asia with specific support to victim protection services. Secretary Kerry also spoke on how a lesser-known problem like timber trafficking can cause enormous threats to a nation's security through a nexus of corruption and environmental destruction.
At the forum, ASEAN members discussed steps to further integrate their economies, the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the challenge posed by illegal fishing.
Terrorism, climate change and sustainable development were also on the agenda.
With regard to the South China Sea, Secretary Kerry said “The peaceful settlement of these disputes is absolutely critical.” “We encouraged all of the claimants to behave responsibly and to exercise restraint.”
Finally, North Korea remains a serious concern for ASEAN member states. North Korea’s destabilizing actions threaten international peace and security as it continues to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. In March, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2270, which imposed the toughest set of sanctions to date against North Korea. “It is critical for the world and for all countries to fully enforce the sanctions that have been imposed,” said Secretary Kerry, “and we intend to do that.”
ASEAN will continue to play an important role for the countries of Southeast Asia and the United States. As President Barak Obama has said, “ASEAN is central to the region’s peace and prosperity, and to our shared goal of building a regional order where all nations play by the same rules.”