Panetta Addresses Southeast Asian Defense Ministers

BALI, Indone­sia, Oct. 23, 2011 — The Unit­ed States strong­ly sup­ports the con­tin­u­ing devel­op­ment of the Asso­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Nations secu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said here today.

The sec­re­tary is in Indone­sia on the first leg of a trip that will take him to Japan tomor­row and South Korea lat­er this week.

Panet­ta addressed the annu­al meet­ing of ASEAN defense min­is­ters here at the invi­ta­tion of his Indone­sian coun­ter­part, Purnomo Yus­giantoro, whom he met with ear­li­er this after­noon, which was ear­ly this morn­ing in the Unit­ed States.

ASEAN was formed in 1967 and now includes 10 mem­ber states: Brunei Darus­salam, Cam­bo­dia, Indone­sia, Laos, Malaysia, Myan­mar, the Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land and Viet­nam.

After the min­is­te­r­i­al, Panet­ta told reporters the Unit­ed States is a Pacif­ic nation and its lead­ers are com­mit­ted to mak­ing the coun­try a force for peace and pros­per­i­ty in the Pacif­ic region.

He and the ASEAN min­is­ters dis­cussed issues of mar­itime secu­ri­ty, pro­lif­er­a­tion, human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief, the sec­re­tary said.

“The min­is­ters were very frank in pre­sent­ing their views,” he said. “I told them that I would do every­thing pos­si­ble … to devel­op a rela­tion­ship in which the secu­ri­ty of this region will be strength­ened for the future.”

A senior defense offi­cial trav­el­ing with Panet­ta and who attend­ed the min­is­te­r­i­al gath­er­ing said on back­ground that the meet­ing was frank but upbeat.

“This was the most open and free-flow­ing ASEAN dis­cus­sion that I have been in,” the offi­cial said. “It’s a tes­ta­ment to the lead­er­ship of Indone­sia for pulling this togeth­er and for set­ting the right tone.”

Each min­is­ter spoke, the offi­cial said, and the South Chi­na Sea was a top­ic many of them addressed.

“What was clear is that there is a com­mon posi­tion that the ASEAN min­is­ters … have artic­u­lat­ed,” the offi­cial said.

A joint doc­u­ment issued by ASEAN defense min­is­ters in July reads, in part, “We [call] on all par­ties to respect the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in and over­flight above the South Chi­na Sea as pro­vid­ed for by the uni­ver­sal­ly rec­og­nized prin­ci­ples of inter­na­tion­al law.”

ASEAN for­mal­ly adopt­ed six fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples in 1976:

— Mutu­al respect for the inde­pen­dence, sov­er­eign­ty, equal­i­ty, ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty and nation­al iden­ti­ty of all nations;

— The right of every state to lead its nation­al exis­tence free from exter­nal inter­fer­ence, sub­ver­sion or coer­cion;

— Non­in­ter­fer­ence in the inter­nal affairs of one anoth­er;

— Set­tle­ment of dif­fer­ences or dis­putes by peace­ful man­ner;

— Renun­ci­a­tion of the threat or use of force; and

— Effec­tive coop­er­a­tion among them­selves.

Dur­ing today’s meet­ing, the offi­cial said, the min­is­ters dis­cussed coun­ter­ing nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion.

“I think we’ve seen a very clear com­mit­ment from ASEAN to address mul­ti­lat­er­al issues through mul­ti­lat­er­al mech­a­nisms,” the offi­cial said. “[Part of] their dis­cus­sion today was about how to main­tain … work­ing togeth­er on mul­ti­lat­er­al issues.”

The offi­cial said many of the min­is­ters dis­cussed nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, and they affirmed no ASEAN nation wants the region to become “an area where weapons of mass destruc­tion or their deliv­ery sys­tems are flow­ing.”

The offi­cial added, “They have all in the past spo­ken, and many of them spoke today, about being com­mit­ted … to ensur­ing the region is not open and free for that kind of trade.”

Panet­ta is sched­uled to meet with Indone­sian Pres­i­dent Susi­lo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono tomor­row before trav­el­ing on to Japan. Lat­er in the week, the sec­re­tary will con­clude his Asia trip with a stop in South Korea.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)