By Jueseppi B.
White House Schedule – The Week Ahead
Monday: President Barack Hussein Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House.
Tuesday: President Barack Hussein Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
Wednesday: President Barack Hussein will deliver remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 36th Annual Awards Gala at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Obama will also attend.
Thursday and Friday: President Barack Hussein Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
Saturday: President Barack Hussein Obama will depart on his trip to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Statement by the Press Secretary the President’s Travel to Asia
The President will travel to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines from October 6 – 12 as part of his ongoing commitment to increase U.S. political, economic and security engagement with the Asia Pacific.
In Indonesia, he will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders meeting. APEC is the region’s leading forum for trade and investment integration. On the margins of the APEC meeting, the President will host a meeting of Leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries. He will also meet with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reaffirm our close bilateral ties and celebrate the third year of our Comprehensive Partnership.
The President will then travel to Brunei for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit (EAS) and to meet with the Sultan of Brunei. ASEAN and the EAS are key forums for regional multilateral cooperation. During those meetings the President will discuss the wide range of U.S. cooperation in the Asia Pacific region, including energy, maritime security, investment, development and trade promotion, as well as other topics of regional and global concern.
In Malaysia, the President will meet with Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia to highlight our growing bilateral ties with Malaysia, and will deliver the keynote address to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Now in its fourth year, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is an initiative the President announced in 2009 to spur job creation through entrepreneurship by connecting young innovators to resources, ideas, and each other.
The President will then travel to the Philippines, the fifth Asian treaty ally he has visited during his presidency. He will meet with President Aquino to reaffirm the strong economic, people-to-people, and security links between our two countries.
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Brunei is located on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo in South East Asia. It is bound by the South China Sea to the north and the Malaysian state of Sarawak to the west and south. The country is divided into two separate enclaves by Sarawak with the main part to the west containing the Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait districts while the east contains the Temburong district. The terrain in the western enclave consists of hilly lowlands and the eastern enclave contains a wide coastal plain that rises to the mountain regions of Sarawak. Equatorial rain forests which are very dense in some places cover 75% of the land area and mangrove swamps as well as sandy beaches lie along the coastal plains. Major Cities (pop. est.); Bandar Seri Begawan 46,000, Kuala Belait 21,200, Seria 21,000, Tutong 13,000 (1991). Land Use; forested 86%, pastures 1%, agricultural-cultivated 1%, other 12% (1993).
OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Indonesia
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Unitary Multiparty Republic
AREA: 1,906,230 Sq Km (736,000 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION 211,732,000
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Indonesia is located in South East Asia and is the largest archipelago nation in the world. It is bound by Malaysia and the South China Sea to the northwest, Papua New Guinea to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the northeast and the Indian Ocean to the southwest. The country consists of five main islands, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan (60% of Borneo) and Irian Jaya as well as 13,667 other small islands and islets. The five main islands account for 90% of the total land area and each island has its own coastal and mountain regions. The islands of Sumatra, Java and Kalimantan are densely forested while most of the rivers are short and principally used for irrigation. Major Cities (pop. est.); Jakarta 8,259,300, Surabaya 2,421,000, Bandung 2,026,900, Medan 1,686,000, Semarang 1,005,300 (1990). Land Use; forested 62%, pastures 6%, agricultural-cultivated 17%, other 15% (1993).
OFFICIAL NAME: Malaysia
CAPITAL: Kuala Lumpur
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Federal Constitutional Monarchy
AREA: 329,749 Sq Km (127,317 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 21,759,500
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Malaysia consists of two geographical segments. (1.) West Malaysia, the southern third of the Malay Peninsula in South East Asia and (2.)East Malaysia which occupies the northern quarter of the island of Borneo. West Malaysia is bound by Thailand to the north, the South China Sea to the east, Singapore to the south and the Strait of Malacca to the west. East Malaysia is bound by Indonesia to the south, the South China Sea to the west and north, and the Sulu Sea to the northeast. The enclave of Brunei is located in the northern region of East Malaysia. West or Peninsula Malaysia consists of a range of steep forest covered mountains with coastal plains to the east and west while the principal river is the Pahang. East Malaysia has a broad swampy coastal plain that rises to jungle covered hills in the interior. The principal rivers of East Malaysia are the Rajang, Baram, Lupar, Limbang, Kinabatangan and Padas. Major Cities (pop. est.); Kuala Lumpur 1,145,100, Ipoh 382,600, Johor Baharu 296,000, Melaka 296,000, Petaling Jaya 254,800 (1991). Land Use; forested 68%, pastures 0.1%, agricultural-cultivated 14.9%, other 17% (1993).
OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of the Philippines
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Unitary Republic
AREA: 299,679 Sq Km (115,707 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 74,448,900
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands and islets located along the southeast rim of Asia. It is bound by the Philippines Sea to the east, the South China and Sulu Seas to the west and the Celebes Sea to the south. The country’s major islands include Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Palawan, Mindoro, Panay, Negros, Cebu, Leyte, Masbate and Bohol. Except for the two large islands of Luzon and Mindanao, the other islands are crests of submerged mountain ranges that contain over 47 volcanoes, of which around 12 are still active. The Luzon and Mindanao islands are a series of peninsulas connected together by plateaux and lowland strips while most of the rivers are short and seasonal in flow. The principal rivers are the Rio Grande de Cagayan, Agno, Abra, Bicol, Pampanga, Pasig and Agusan. Major Cities (pop. est.); Manila 1,894,700, Quezon City 1,627,900, Davao 867,800, Cebu 641,000, Caloocan 629,500, Zamboanga 453,200 (1991). Land Use; forested 46%, pastures 4%, agricultural-cultivated 31%, other 19% (1993).
Brunei Takes on the Challenges of Chairing ASEAN in 2013
By Murray Hiebert, Jeremiah O. Magpile
Brunei Darussalam, the smallest country in Southeast Asia with a population of only 400,000, faces some daunting challenges this year as it chairs the 10-country ASEAN grouping.
For starters, Brunei must help manage tensions regarding the strategic South China Sea following last year’s acrimony after then-chair Cambodia, a major recipient of assistance from Beijing, twice sought to limit discussion of China’s assertive actions in the disputed sea. This prompted protests from several Southeast Asian countries.
Second, with the group’s goal of achieving an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015, Brunei will need to press its neighbors to get cracking on implementing the agreed-upon economic road map.
A third task will involve keeping China and the United States engaged in the East Asia Summit (EAS). Many Southeast Asians wonder what impact the departure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell will have on the U.S. rebalance to Asia and U.S. relations with ASEAN.
Brunei has chosen as the theme for its chairmanship “Our people, our future together.” The sultanate will organize some 400 meetings throughout 2013. These will include two ASEAN leaders’ summits in April and October, the ASEAN Regional Forum attended by the foreign ministers of 27 Asia Pacific countries in June, and the 18-member East Asia Summit, which brings together ASEAN and its most important partners, including the United States, in October.
Bruneian officials say one of their priorities for 2013 will be enhancing the role of ASEAN youths in order to promote a region-wide sense of belonging. Other themes will include discussing environmental issues like climate change and natural disasters, tackling food and energy security, and addressing poverty eradication, sustainable development, and closing the income gap within ASEAN.
Without a doubt, Brunei’s biggest challenge will be to lower the rising nationalist sentiments in the South China Sea disputes. Since ASEAN last discussed the competing claims at the EAS last November, claimants have continued to trade barbs over the issue, and the Philippines has filed a motion to bring China’s claims before a UN arbitration tribunal. China appears to see this latest move as a challenge to its new leadership and it may look for ways to respond, perhaps by refusing to join talks with ASEAN on a long-awaited binding code of conduct for parties to the disputes.
Although Brunei is a claimant in the South China Sea, many observers give the oil-rich nation at least a shot at lowering the temperature in the disputed region because of its normally low-key international diplomatic stance. China is a major trading partner of Brunei, buying mainly oil and gas products, but it is not Brunei’s only partner, making Brunei less vulnerable to economic pressure than Cambodia was.
How well Brunei performs will depend at least in part on the diplomatic skills of its Foreign Ministry. Foreign Minister Prince Mohamed Bolkiah advocates what he calls “defense diplomacy,” a doctrine that promotes regular and frequent dialogue and personal relations among the parties. It is these skills that the foreign minister will try to use to tamp down the dispute.
Economic integration is a potentially huge opportunity for ASEAN because it will reduce barriers to trade and the movement of capital and labor, which would promote economic growth. But most ASEAN countries are still far behind schedule in implementing their commitments, which has already forced the group to delay the launch of the AEC from the beginning of 2015 until the end of the year.
Despite the leaders’ declared goals of establishing an economic community, the interests of individual nations still often trump regional interests. At the end of 2012, ASEAN countries said they had implemented 75 percent of their goals toward achieving the AEC, up from 67.5 percent in 2011. Brunei’s objective this year will be to prod its fellow ASEAN members to step on the gas to implement the reforms to which they have already committed.
Brunei is under the gun to make progress on both the South China Sea and economic integration. Next year, Myanmar will serve as ASEAN chair. Despite its recent political and economic reforms, and efforts to normalize relations with the United States and Europe following five decades of diplomatic isolation, the country suffers from a shortage of the experienced officials necessary to resolve the complicated maritime disputes and press its neighbors to complete their AEC commitments. Myanmar’s chairmanship will likely be more successful if ASEAN and China can take steps this year to draft a code of conduct and if ASEAN countries can make progress in moving closer to the AEC.
Asians will watch carefully in the early months of the year to see if the U.S. rebalance toward Asia changes in the second Obama administration. Will newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who played a key role in the U.S. normalization of relations with Vietnam in the 1990s, visit Southeast Asia early in his tenure and attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in June? Will the presumptive secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, another Vietnam veteran, participate in the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Brunei in May and the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June? Southeast Asians assume that President Barack Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali and the East Asia Summit in Brunei in October.
Some ASEAN countries have expressed concerns that the U.S. rebalance to Asia so far has focused too much on security and not enough on economics. President Obama at his summit with the ASEAN leaders in Cambodia last November unveiled two new programs that should help boost U.S. economic cooperation with the Southeast Asia countries. The first is an energy initiative that will provide $5 billion to the U.S. Export-Import Bank and $1 billion to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to help U.S. companies sell American energy products in the region.
The second, the Expanded Economic Engagement or E3, will seek to boost the economic capacity of the ASEAN countries that have not joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. This initiative will seek to promote trade facilitation for the movement of goods across borders, develop principles to encourage investment, and boost the digital economy, or e-commerce. U.S. officials hope that capacity building in the region under the E3 will make it possible eventually for the United States and ASEAN to negotiate a free trade agreement.
(This Commentary originally appeared in the February 21, 2013, issue of Southeast Asia from the Corner of 18th & K Streets.)
President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with His Majesty Sultan of Brunei
March 12, 2013 | 7:42 |Public Domain
President Obama and His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam speak to the press after a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office.
Remarks by President Obama and His Majesty Sultan of Brunei Darussalam After a Bilateral Meeting
11:54 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome my good friend, His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei. The Sultan and I had the opportunity to get to know each other from a series of multilateral meetings, particularly the ASEAN East Asia Summit meeting. He is a key leader in the Southeast Asia region but also widely respected around the world.
And part of the reason that we thought now was a good time for a meeting here in the Oval Office is because His Majesty will be hosting the next ASEAN East Asia Summit meeting in Brunei this October. There are a range of issues that we’ve worked on together, and that should be no surprise because the friendship between the United States and Brunei actually dates back 160 years.
His Majesty himself has led his country for 40 years now and he’s gone through nine U.S. Presidents. I won’t ask him which one was his favorite — (laughter) — but our interest in having a strong, peaceful, prosperous Asia Pacific region is something that we share.
And so at the ASEAN East Asia Summit, we will be discussing a wide range of issues — everything from how we deal with issues of energy and climate change to how we expand commerce, potentially through the Trans-Pacific Partnership that has the opportunity of creating jobs and prosperity here in the United States but also throughout the region.
We’ll be discussing maritime issues. Obviously there have been a lot of tensions in the region around maritime issues and His Majesty has shown great leadership in trying to bring the countries together to make sure that everybody is abiding by the basic precepts of rule of law and international standards so that conflicts can be resolved peacefully and effectively, and that everybody is brought into that kind of structure.
We’ve also had a chance to work together on educational issues. His Majesty himself and Brunei have helped to finance a number of English language instructors so that more youth in the Southeast Asia region are learning English, which obviously can help to expand commerce, but also strengthen the ties between the United States and the region.
And we’re also going to be doing, for the first time, a joint ASEAN-U.S.-Chinese joint exercises around disaster and humanitarian relief, which points to the fact that our militaries, that are extraordinarily capable, and the bilateral military relationship between the United States and Brunei has the capacity to help people in times of need and to try to help avoid conflict rather than start conflict.
So, overall, I’m very grateful for His Majesty’s outstanding leadership and his friendship. I’m glad that he’s had a chance to visit. He got here yesterday and flew in his own 747, meaning he actually piloted it himself. I think he’s probably the only head of state in the world who flies a 747 himself. And so in case Air Force One pilots have problems, we know who to consult. (Laughter.)
And my understanding is tomorrow he’s going to have an opportunity to take his family up to New York, where we’re going to encourage him to do some shopping because we want to continue to strengthen the U.S. economy. (Laughter.)
So, Your Majesty, it’s wonderful to see you. Thank you so much.
HIS MAJESTY SULTAN HASSANAL: Ladies and gentlemen of the press. Mr. President, firstly, thank you for inviting me to visit the United States. I know you have a very busy schedule. It’s very kind of you to receive me.
This visit gives me a good opportunity to renew the longstanding and warm friendship between Brunei Darussalam and the United States — the relations, which dated back to 1850, with the signing of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation, soon after the USS Constitution called at our port.
President Barack Obama and I have had an excellent meeting this morning. I am indeed very happy with the progress of our bilateral cooperation, especially in energy, education, defense interests. The Brunei-U.S. joint five-year English language program, which was launched last year, is progressing well. It is meant for the people in ASEAN in order to improve and strengthen the English language skills.
On energy cooperation, there are already a number of American companies providing a range of upstream and downstream services in our oil and gas sector. In the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, we are negotiating with further build-up of this economic condition.
I also had the pleasure to share with President Obama some of our plans as ASEAN chair this year. As ASEAN chair, we have extended an invitation to President Obama to the East Asia Summit and the first ASEAN-U.S. Leaders Summit in October this year.
The United States has been a good friend to ASEAN and is actively involved in many of our projects, such as the Comprehensive Energy Partnership and the Expanded Economic Engagement of E3 Initiative. And we are confident that these initiatives will strengthen the economic linkages between ASEAN and the United States.
In closing, I thank President Obama again for today’s meeting. We look forward to welcoming you to Brunei Darussalam later this year, Mr. President, and to working together to strengthen the important relationship between ASEAN and the United States.
END 12:02 P.M. EDT
The Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area
The Brunei – Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) was formed during the Inaugural Ministers’ Meeting in Davao, Philippines on March 24, 1994. The principal aim of this initiative is to increase economic cooperation among participating economies in the sub-region with the ultimate goal to increase trade investments and tourism within the participating areas through cross border cooperation. By strengthening regional cooperation, the BIMP-EAGA hopes to facilitate freer movement of people, goods and services thus expand its market and resource base; and to share common infrastructure and natural resources.
The participants in BIMP-EAGA
ASEAN’s largest economic growth area constitutes Brunei Darussalam, the Indonesia provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Irian Jaya; Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory Labuan in Malaysia; and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines. EAGA covers a land area of 1.54 million square kilometers and is home to 57 million people.
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