Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Indonesia’s efforts to advance unity among the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and she urged member countries to agree on a comprehensive code of conduct to peacefully address disagreements, including territorial claims in the South China Sea between China and four other ASEAN states.
Speaking with Indonesian Foreign Minister Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa September 3 in Jakarta, Indonesia, Clinton said the United States “does not take a position on competing territorial claim[s] over land features,” but wants to see the countries of the region “work collaboratively together to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and certainly without the use of force.”
Clinton was in Indonesia as part of an 11-day, six-nation trip to the Asia-Pacific region. She is also scheduled to visit China September 4–5; Dili, Timor-Leste, on September 6; Brunei Darussalam, September 6–7; and Vladivostok September 8–9, representing the United States at the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which is being hosted by Russia.
She said the Obama administration is encouraging ASEAN and China to agree upon a comprehensive code of conduct that will “establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements” and can serve as a mechanism to resolve future conflicts.
“Remember, there are many claimants. It’s not just ASEAN members claiming vis-a-vis China. There are claims within ASEAN members themselves,” Clinton said.
Natalegawa said ASEAN’s “cohesion and unity” are essential if there is to be diplomatic progress in the South China Sea disputes.
“I think the track is quite clear what’s ahead of us; namely, we must apply ourselves to have the code of conduct done. Absent a code of conduct, absent a diplomatic process, we can be certain of more incidents and more tension for our region,” he said.
To reduce tensions in the region, “it is not only right that ASEAN must be united, but it is also the smart thing to do,” Natalegawa said.
NEW U.S. FUNDS FOR INDONESIAN STUDENTS
The secretary said the United States is seeking to promote Indonesia’s economic growth through trade and development and she welcomed the Indonesian government’s announcement of more than half a trillion dollars in planned infrastructure development projects, saying the country’s growth is “”essential not only for Indonesia but regionally and globally.”
She also announced that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is investing $83 million over the next five years to support Indonesia’s primary school–level education, and is creating a $20 million fund for graduate-level education for Indonesian students in the United States.
“Education remains the cornerstone of economic growth and individual advancement,” Clinton said, and “these kinds of educational exchanges reflect the model of partnership that the United States is pursuing based on shared values, delivering concrete benefits for our people and enhancing our partnership.”
According to a September 3 State Department fact sheet, the primary education funds expand USAID’s basic education program to include teacher training and development of strategies for reading programs for early grades.
The fact sheet said the past two years have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of U.S. visas issued to Indonesian students. There is also a four-year, $165 million U.S.-Indonesia Higher Education Partnership that includes expanded academic exchanges, including the new Fulbright Indonesia Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) program, the Community College Initiative for Indonesian students and faculty, English language programs for Indonesians, and other educational partnerships.
STRENGTHENED U.S.-ASEAN TIES
While in Jakarta, Clinton also met with ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan September 4 and said the Obama administration has worked over the past three years to deepen, broaden and elevate the relationship between ASEAN and the United States.
“I believe our relationship is stronger and more effective. And that is all to the good, because the United States views ASEAN as central to regional stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific,” she said.
Along with signing ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and opening a mission to ASEAN, President Obama and other senior U.S. leaders have repeatedly engaged with their ASEAN counterparts. The United States has also devoted resources to support ASEAN’s goal of economic and political integration, as well as to narrow the development gap among ASEAN nations, and to promote and protect human rights, Clinton said.
“We are making a sustained, all-out effort to build an enduring, multifaceted relationship between ASEAN and the United States. We want to do all we can to advance ASEAN's goal of integration, because we have an interest in strengthening ASEAN's ability to address regional challenges in an effective, comprehensive way,” she said.