ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit
State Department, Washington D.C.
13 May 2022, 3:00-5:00 pm
President Joseph Biden, Jr.,
Prime Minister Hun Sen,
Your Majesty, Excellencies, good afternoon.
President Biden, your participation gives flesh to the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment of being a strong, reliable and dependably present partner in the region and of America as a force for good and stability in Asia and in the world.
That is why the Philippines fully supports the elevation of ASEAN-U.S. relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: it is the most entitled to that distinction as the only world power that keeps growing its power to stop other powers from abusing theirs. An empire of liberty, the only one in history.
We welcome the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy as it places Southeast Asia at the center of the regional security architecture; and recognizes synergies with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We look forward to the political launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. For that to work, inclusiveness in participation is essential. Anyone feeling left out, will reeact negatively to its exclusion. Anything to do with ASEAN, must have ASEAN participation in the decision-making.
It bears stressing that ASEAN member states should have the prerogative to conserve, sustainably develop and effectively manage the marine resources over which they enjoy sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction under international law. They should have the right to partner in these endeavours with other states and non-state entities, free from bullying. One day it will come to a fight.
On Myanmar, ASEAN needs to partially engage with the de facto government to find a solution to the crisis. But progress in the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus is critical. Or we are just legitimizing a political crime and a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe. We were heartened to hear that that Prime Minister Hun Sen and Special Envoy, H.E. Prak Sokhonn have explained this to Myanmar’s military administration. There must be cessation of violence, delivery of humanitarian assistance without risk to those who need it, and inclusive and meaningful dialogue with all concerned parties, especially Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which Senior General Min Aung Hlaing “pledged to facilitate.”
At yesterday’s bipartisan bicameral working lunch hosted by Speaker Pelosi, I quoted a famous line spoken before the Joint Houses of US Congress. “There are many ways to govern countries but only one way to treat people and that is with decency.” It is the indecency of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the brutality of its methods, the deliberate targeting of the softest targets — children and mothers — that prompted the Philippines to cast in the United Nations the first vote condemning the Russian aggression, then its vote deploring the humanitarian crises created, most probably deliberately; and a third time, its vote to suspend Russian membership in the Human Rights Council.
Subsequent resolutions or initiatives on a wide gamut of issues — be it old age, or disabilities, for instance — to isolate Russia serve only to dilute the 3 major resolutions that already establish the illegality and indecency of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Singling out a state for global isolation has not served the international community. Do we want another North Korea, next door to North Korea but spanning 11 time zones and swimming in oil and floating on gas? It wouldn’t be, as the USSR was once discmissed, Upper Volta with missiles. It would be proud Russia, spanning the Eurasian land mass, bristling like a porcupine with nuclear missiles.
A credible mediator may be needed. I can think of no other than China whose strength and success, even in these worst of times, qualifies it for the respect of the United States and Russia. Russia despises those who did not fight as she did, at such awful cost in blood and treasure to terminate the Nazi menace and the oriental despotism of warring Japan. The USSR, the US and China did.
On the US-China competition, my President told Foreign Minister Wang Yi, “So, China is in a 100-year marathon with the US?” Wang Yi answered that “China is not in a marathon with so advanced a country as America.” Besides he said, “a marathon is first and foremost a competition with oneself, to break through one’s limitations.”
We concur completely with Malaysia on the tragedy of Palestine and the only just resolution is a two-state solution.
The growing security threats in the region continue to challenge ASEAN’s relevance and centrality. ASEAN should continue playing a constructive role. But external partners should refrain from derailing ASEAN-led activities; and not prevent other partner states’ participation. Instead, they should support ASEAN Centrality in ASEAN-led fora, paramount in dialogue relations, in an ASEAN-led regional architecture at the heart of the Indo-Pacific. Thank you.