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International Engagement Critical to U.S. National Security Strategy

HONOLULU (Dec. 3, 2010) – A critical focus of the National Security Strategy released by President Obama last May is it its emphasis on international cooperation to meet the global challenges of the 21st century, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer said in a speech today at the East-West Center in Honolulu Hawai‘i.

“To meet these global challenges, the United States has advocated a vision of a common security, based on mutual respect, mutual interest, and mutual responsibility within the international community, and bolstered by investments in our common humanity,” said Brimmer, who is Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs. “As the National Security Strategy makes clear, it is inconceivable to divorce our national security priorities from the sort of robust, sustained multilateral engagement envisioned by the Administration.”

(Click to here to watch a video of Brimmer’s talk.)

The Obama Administration is expanding U.S. engagement with regional bodies, Brimmer said, both those in which America is a member and those in which it is only an observer

“We are open to establishing and enhancing our links with virtually all of them, with the goal of building partnerships to achieve results that benefit the United States and people around the globe,” she said.

The need for greater engagement is particularly acute in Southeast Asia, Brimmer said, calling Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “an indispensable partner of the United States on a host of important global and regional issues.”

“The U.S. and our ASEAN partners face similar challenges from climate change, the recent global financial and economic crisis, as well as traditional and non-traditional security concerns, and we want to work together to develop a more comprehensive and effective response to these pressing issues,” she said.

As examples of increased engagement with ASEAN, Brimmer cited:

  • U.S. accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia in 2009.
  • The nomination of the first-ever resident U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN and the opening of the first U.S. Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta.
  • President Obama’s participation in two U.S.-ASEAN leaders meetings and Secretary of State Clinton’s recent participation in the East Asia Summit in Hanoi.
  • U.S. support for the creation within ASEAN of an Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), established one year ago. “ASEAN has an important role to play in promoting human rights in the region,” Brimmer said, “and its work can and should reinforce the work of global bodies.”

Brimmer also highlighted U.S. engagement in the APEC economic forum, which it is hosting this year. “As a member of APEC, the United States is committed to working with the other economies in the Asia-Pacific region to promote economic recovery and ensure long-term economic growth and prosperity,” she said.

The United States works within APEC to open markets in the Asia-Pacific region, she said, including eliminating barriers to trade and investment, creating better business environments, and laying the foundation for high standard, comprehensive trade agreements – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership – that will help the United States strengthen economic ties with the region.

“The United States is looking forward to hosting the 2011 APEC Summit here in Hawai‘i,” Brimmer said. “As Secretary Clinton has pointed out, the U.S. wants APEC to ‘embrace a 21st century economic agenda,’ and we stand ready to assist APEC as an important, results-oriented forum for driving shared, inclusive and sustainable economic progress.”