Fact Sheet: East Asia Summit

November 19, 2011

At the East Asia Summit (EAS) held on November 19 in Bali, Indonesia, President Obama and other Asia-Pacific leaders discussed the importance of cooperation on the region’s most pressing political and security challenges, including maritime security, non-proliferation, and disaster response.

President Obama’s participation in the EAS was the first by a U.S. president and underscored the Administration’s commitment to deepening engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and playing a leadership role in its emerging institutions. The President has made clear that full and active U.S. engagement in the region’s multilateral architecture helps to reinforce the system of rules, responsibilities, and norms that underlies regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

The EAS was launched in 2005 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bringing together leaders of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and six other Asian countries. With the participation of the United States and Russia for the first time in 2011, the EAS now includes all the major powers of the Asia-Pacific region, including U.S. treaty allies Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as emerging regional powers India and China.

The Summit’s traditional agenda has covered a wide range of regional concerns, including education, energy and the environment, finance, avian influenza, and disaster response. While offering support for the existing EAS agenda – especially disaster response – President Obama called for a broadening of the leaders’ discussions to address strategic and security challenges. The President underscored the shared interest of EAS member states in reaffirming international rules and norms in these areas; enhancing partner capacity to address existing and emerging challenges; and promoting regional cooperation. Specifically:

1) Maritime Security

The Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the world’s busiest ports and most critical lines of commerce and communication. Recent decades of broad regional economic success have been underpinned by a shared commitment to freedom of navigation and international law. At the same time, the region faces a host of maritime challenges, including territorial and maritime disputes, ongoing naval military modernization, trafficking of illicit materials, piracy, and natural disasters.

During the EAS leaders discussions, President Obama enunciated the principles-based U.S. approach to maritime security, including freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the seas, as well as use of collaborative diplomatic processes to address disputes. The President expressed strong opposition to the threat or use of force by any party to advance its territorial or maritime claims or interfere in legitimate economic activity. Reiterating his support for the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as a responsible approach to disputed areas, he encouraged all parties to accelerate efforts to reach a full Code of Conduct.

The President also welcomed engagement by all EAS members in regional institutions devoted to maritime cooperation, including the ASEAN Maritime Forum, which provides a platform to advance common understanding of international laws, including UNCLOS, as well as cooperative efforts on maritime issues. He called on the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, and other groupings of EAS members to support maritime capacity-building measures, particularly in the search-and-rescue and disaster-response areas.

The United States is working with its partners in the Asia-Pacific region to build capacity and promote cooperation on maritime security issues, including by:

  • Providing training, assistance, and equipment to regional maritime police and civil authorities to enhance their capabilities to secure the maritime space and address transnational security challenges such as piracy, illicit trafficking, and illegal fishing;
  • Building facilities and providing equipment and technical support to enhance the ability of Southeast Asian nations to monitor the maritime domain and assess and share information;
  • Hosting regional workshops to promote adherence to standard operating procedures and protocols that ensure safety at sea, help build a shared vision of international norms and behaviors in the maritime domain, and foster discussion of interpretations of customary international law; and
  • Hosting and co-hosting multinational capacity-building exercises with regional military partners.

2) Non-Proliferation

The spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, material, their means of delivery, and expertise poses a grave risk to the international community. The Asia-Pacific region faces acute proliferation challenges requiring concerted international effort. The EAS is an important venue to advance President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons, as outlined in his April 2009 Prague speech, and to promote regional cooperation and capacity building to counter proliferation threats.

In support of these objectives, President Obama and other EAS leaders welcomed the successful conclusion of a 40-year long negotiation between ASEAN and the Nuclear Weapons States to enable the latter’s accession to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) protocol. All sides have agreed to take the necessary steps to enable the signing of the protocol and its entry into force at the earliest opportunity.

President Obama also called on EAS leaders to:

Reaffirm their full commitment to the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in order to maintain peace and stability in the region;

  • Work together to ensure full compliance and implementation of relevant United Nations non-proliferation commitments and to pursue cooperation through other multilateral mechanisms;
  • Reaffirm their support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Action Plan adopted at the May 2010 Review Conference and for the Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Seoul in March 2012, and agreed to work together toward a successful Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference in December 2011;
  • Endorse efforts undertaken in other regional institutions, including the ARF, to strengthen the capacities of all EAS members to address the challenge of proliferation in the Asia-Pacific region;
  • Reaffirm their commitment to develop a culture of transparency throughout the Asia-Pacific region with regard to the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, to increase cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and to ensure the IAEA has the resources and authority it needs to carry out its role; and
  • Commit to sign and bring into force Additional Protocols to Safeguard Agreements with the IAEA with an aim to have the Additional Protocol in place throughout the Asia-Pacific region as soon as possible.

3) Disaster Response and Humanitarian Assistance

The Asia-Pacific region is prone to large natural disasters that have an impact beyond any single country’s ability to respond effectively. EAS member countries experienced eight of the world’s 10 deadliest disasters in 2009 and five of 10 in 2010. The United States has a strong record of working with EAS member countries in disaster preparedness and institutional strengthening, and of bringing a unique set of capabilities, skills, and expertise in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

In order to enhance the region’s disaster response capabilities and cooperation, President Obama:

  1. Pledged further efforts to advance humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the region, including through a proposal to further develop a Rapid Disaster Response Agreement to create a legal and procedural framework for accelerating deployment and acceptance of assistance personnel, supplies, and services in the event of future disasters;
  2. Called for regular disaster relief exercises as a means to improve preparation and interoperability, noting Indonesia and Japan’s successful co-hosting of the ASEAN Regional Forum’s Disaster Relief Execise (DiREx) in March 2011 and commending the Republic of Korea for its decision to host the next DiREx;
  3. Endorsed an Indonesian-Australian paper on enhancing regional cooperation on disaster relief, including enhanced information-sharing, capacity-building, and interoperability; and
  4. Encouraged efforts to build resilience and preparedness at the community level, including developing mechanisms to coordinate public and private sector efforts, such as the recently launched Pacific Rim Coordination Center, a virtual platform that facilitates disaster information-sharing and strengthens public-private partnerships in order to enhance the region’s disaster risk reduction and response activities.