‘US committed to remaining engaged with ASEAN’

National 1 minute, 36 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE United States will remain engaged with ASEAN no matter who is elected as the next US president, the US ambassador to ASEAN, Nina Hachigian said yesterday, stressing the importance of military and security cooperation.

In a telephone press briefing, the envoy said the American maritime presence in ASEAN has fostered peace in the region and rejected recent Chinese accusations that US air and naval patrols in the South China Sea were militarising the disputed waters.

“We’ve been operating in the sea for many decades.

“Our presence has been welcomed across the Asia-Pacific because we’ve provided stability in this region that has allowed other countries to prosper,” she said.

Hachigian added that US operations in the sea were to ensure freedom of navigation, saying its actions were not new or provocative.

“China regularly exercises its navigational rights and freedoms. We respect China’s international legal right to conduct such operations.”

The accusation comes after the US and Taiwan said China appeared to have deployed surface-to-air missiles on a contested island in the sea.

The ambassador said Washington was concerned that these actions were escalating tensions.

But she added that she was encouraged by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent comments that Beijing is committed to non-militarisation of the South China Sea.

“We hope that these words are followed by actions,” she said.

“China and the US have a very robust relationship and we cooperate on a wide range of issues.”

Several nations claim territory in the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also an important shipping route.

Its islets and waters are claimed in part or in whole by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years.

The frictions have sparked concern that the area is becoming a flashpoint with global consequences.

The Brunei Times