O’Brien attends ASEAN summit to reaffirm long-term US commitment to free and open Indo-Pacific

U.S. National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien represented President Trump at the 37th ASEAN Summit Series on November 13. He reiterated the U.S.’s long-standing commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region at the video summit.

O’Brien attended the summit, which was originally scheduled to be held in Vietnam but switched to an online platform due to the epidemic, in his capacity as Trump’s special envoy. It is also reported that this is the third year in a row that Trump has not attended this meeting. In his speech, O’Brien said Trump regretted not being able to attend this online summit, but stressed the importance of US ties with the ASEAN region. At the opening ceremony, he said, “In this time of global crisis, the U.S.-ASEAN strategic partnership has become even more important as we work together to fight the coronavirus.”

O’Brien praised ASEAN as the fourth-largest trading partner of the United States, with more than $354 billion in trade between the two sides last year. He said, “We deeply appreciate the efforts of our ASEAN partners to keep critical supply chains open, factories operating and personal protective equipment flowing.” He noted that the U.S. has contributed $87 million to the fight against the new coronavirus in Southeast Asia, including the provision of respirators and personal protective equipment. In his remarks, O’Brien emphasized the tremendous benefits of the U.S.-ASEAN partnership for the prosperity, security and well-being of more than a billion people on both sides. “The United States supports you, and we know you support us,” O’Brien said. In addition, he reaffirmed the United States’ long-standing commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

In addition, Japanese Prime Minister Kan, who also attended the summit, made it clear for the first time on Nov. 14 that he would sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) on Nov. 15. He said, “It will publicize Japan’s position to expand a free and fair economic circle, including India’s future participation.” RCEP, the world’s largest trade agreement, is expected to be signed on November 15 by 15 countries, which include the 10 ASEAN countries as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.