Transcript of Telephonic Press Briefing with US Mission to ASEAN Charge d’Affaires a.i. Piper Campbell

Asia Pacific Media Hub
August 7, 2018

Moderator: Hi, good morning from the Asia Pacific Regional Media Hub in Manila. I’d like to thank our participants from around the region for joining us today.

After a busy weekend at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and other multilateral events in Singapore, U.S. Ambassador Piper Campbell, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Mission to ASEAN is joining us today from Jakarta. She’ll be sharing her thoughts on the meetings this past weekend and talking about U.S.-ASEAN relations on the eve of ASEAN’s 51st Anniversary, August 8th.

Ambassador Campbell will make some opening remarks and then we will open it up to Q&A. Today’s call is on the record.

With that, I will now turn it over to Ambassador Campbell.

Ambassador Campbell: Thank you, Mary Beth, and thank you all for joining us today on the eve, as Mary Beth said, of ASEAN’s 51st Anniversary which will be celebrated tomorrow, August 8th.

I just wanted to flag that the Secretary of State released last night his congratulatory statement noting that we’re about to celebrate ASEAN Day 2018. And in the Secretary’s statement which was released from Washington last night, the Secretary welcomed ASEAN’s role as a centerpiece of the Indo Pacific regional architecture and its contributions to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

I mention that because those are themes that came through so clearly over the last week in all of the Secretary’s interactions and all of the U.S. government’s interactions within a range of ASEAN meetings.

This year’s ASEAN theme is a resilient and innovative ASEAN. And we saw that on full display at the Ministerial gathering that just concluded in Singapore.

Just before coming to Singapore at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum on July 30th in Washington, DC, Secretary of State Pompeo joined other U.S. government officials. And in Secretary of State Pompeo’s remarks he reaffirmed the United States’ whole of government commitment to advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific. Secretary Pompeo announced three new initiatives on energy, infrastructure and digital economy at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum, and he used the meetings in Singapore to elaborate and explain how those initiatives will strengthen our support for important regional institutions including ASEAN and U.S.-ASEAN Connect.

Secretary Pompeo brought these same messages to Singapore, reminding the gathering what we know to be true, that the United States is a Pacific nation. And we remain committed to ASEAN centrality under our Indo-Pacific Strategy. We had constructive meetings throughout the week in Singapore and I was honored to be a part of them. And I’m pleased to have this opportunity to talk a little more what we saw and what we experienced in Singapore.

With that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Moderator:Moderator: Thank you very much for those remarks.

We’ll now begin the Q&A portion of today’s call. Because of limited time we’ll try to get as many people in for a first question before allowing for follow-ups.

If we can start with Santi Dewi from IDN Times.

Media: Thank you very much, Your Excellency. My name is Santi Dewi, I’m calling also from Jakarta. I look for work for a media [inaudible] called IDN Times. I’ve got two questions for you.

The first one is because tomorrow there will be an anniversary to commemorate the 51st Anniversary of ASEAN. If you can tell us in the U.S. perspective under the new administration, how ASEAN in the United States perception is an organization [inaudible], play an international role in the global arena. Because many say that it is not an organization which play, is not playing a significant role again because as we are not as united as before.

The second, I’d like to ask about is there any comment from Secretary Pompeo related about the [inaudible] the United States has been sending [inaudible] into the South China Sea and [inaudible] as a show of military might, put pressure on China and other regional countries? That is all. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Campbell: Thank you very much. It’s great to have the first question come from Jakarta. It’s entertaining that we’re sitting in the same city, but on a call all the way through Manila.

It also reminds me to make the point that in addition to the meetings in Singapore, the Secretary on this trip visited Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. So I think the fact that participated, he visited Kuala Lumpur, that he spent two full days in Singapore participating quite actively in a whole range of ASEAN-centered meetings, through his participation both in the US-ASEAN Ministerial meeting where he had the opportunity to speak directly with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers. He then chaired the Lower Mekong Initiative, which is a U.S. initiative with the countries of the Lower Mekong — Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Then he moved from that to the participation in the Ministerial level of the East Asia Summit, and concluded with participating in the ASEAN Regional Forum with not only the ASEAN members, the dialogue partners, but also other important countries from the Indo-Pacific region.

In addition to that very active participation in the ASEAN structured meetings, the Secretary took advantage of the fact that he was in Singapore at the same time as so many other countries, the Ministers of some of the other countries, to have a number of bilateral conversations including with Laos who is going to be the country coordinator for the United States within the ASEAN framework and with Malaysia who just finished up being our country coordinator for the last three years. The fact that the Secretary took the time, in addition to meeting with other countries, to thank Laos as our incoming country coordinator and Malaysia for their work over the last three years, I think is a very tangible recognition of the structure of ASEAN and how the United States – and specifically how the U.S. Mission to ASEAN – works actively every day with ASEAN, the countries of ASEAN as well as with the ASEAN Secretariat here.

I’d also say that the entire last week, starting with the Secretary’s remarks in Washington at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum and then continuing through those visits, through the meetings in Singapore, and culminating or concluding with the visit here to Jakarta is the most tangible expression I can imagine of the U.S.’s continued engagement with this region, the U.S.’s continued recognition that ASEAN is at the center of our Indo-Pacific Strategy, and our recognition of the importance of the Indo-Pacific as a region.

I’m afraid I didn’t exactly, I didn’t fully follow the question about the South China Sea. I’m sure that will come up in an additional, a follow-up questions. But I would just say that the Secretary in both his bilateral meetings, including with China, Japan, Australia, the ASEAN member states, and then in the meetings themselves, had numerous opportunities to make clear the consistent U.S. position on the South China Sea including our belief that any Code of Conduct needs to incorporate the concerns and the rights of third parties.

We are pleased that China and ASEAN are moving towards negotiating on a code of conduct, but we think the meetings like the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum provide really important opportunities for the United States within those meetings to stress the importance of principles like adherence to international principles, including the observation of the UN Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, freedom of navigation and overflight, respecting the rights and concerns of all parties. Those meetings in Singapore provided an excellent opportunity for frank and clear conversations on the situation in the South China Sea, and to raise our very real concerns about ongoing activities of militarization and to ask for clarity about how those actual steps on the ground, how those fit with the principles that were enumerated by almost every country in the discussion.

Moderator: Thank you so much.

The next question goes to AFP.

Media: Hi, good morning. This is Ayee Macaraig from AFP in Manila. I’d like to follow up on your remarks on the South China Sea.

You talked about incorporating the concerns of third parties in the Code of Conduct. Is the U.S. concerned about China’s position in the [inaudible] Code of Conduct [excluding] third parties from naval drills? And secondly, could you elaborate on how the U.S. would operationalize the concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific in waters where China has already militarized certain features in the South China Sea. Thank you.

Ambassador Campbell: Our position on the Code of Conduct as well as the DOC, Declaration of Conduct, has always been that we watch and we are interested in what goes on. We think it’s extremely important that no country pressure other countries within structures like the Code of Conduct negotiations.

It’s important that all countries, regardless of their size, have the opportunity to represent their national interests as well as the very clear international principles including the principles that are enshrined in UNCLOS. So we continue to be consistent in the U.S. position about the DOC and the COC. That position is unchanged.

Secretary Pompeo had, as I noted, the opportunity to express those principles both in his direct conversations as well as in the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum meeting.

Moderator: Thank you so much. The next question comes from Vietnam’s Zing News.

Media: Hello. I’m [inaudible] and I’m calling from Zing News, Vietnam. I have two questions for you around Vietnam. In the [inaudible] Indo-Pacific economic [inaudible], how can the American [plans] to have the impact on a [region], so small in comparison to the Belt and Road initiative from China?

The second question is about the [inaudible] Indo-Pacific region. Mike Pompeo mentioned is the main focus of the Indo-Pacific region [inaudible].

Ambassador Campbell: I apologize. We’re having a little bit of trouble hearing questions clearly, so I apologize if I’m not exactly answering. I’m answering a best I can based on what I’m hearing of the questions.

I think, I guess I would first start to answer what our Indo-Pacific Strategy is, and especially elaborate on the economic component of the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

So just to say that under President Trump’s leadership the United States is committed to working towards fair and reciprocal trade relationships and to increasing its economic engagement with ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific.

During the Indo-Pacific Business Forum, Secretary Pompeo announced a 113.5 million U.S. dollars in new U.S. economic initiatives that will support three specific areas of the digital economy, energy and infrastructure. This represents a strategic investment in deeper engagement with the Indo-Pacific while also growing our own economy and creating jobs at home.

It is our feeling that advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific means ensuring the freedom of the seas and skies, promoting market-based economics and economies, and supporting good governance and liberty. And as I mentioned in reference to the last question, we also engage in the Indo-Pacific in a free and open Indo-Pacific to insulate sovereign nations from external coercion.

Our Indo-Pacific Strategy is not exclusive. It is a strategy which is open to and includes any country which wants, which is open to signing up to these sorts of rules and principles. We think that when you see countries working together on these sorts of principles that that’s what is going to drive Southeast Asia’s economic success.

I’m sorry, again, I’m having a little trouble hearing the questions. I hope that that addressed the question.

Moderator: I’ll try and help interpreting going forward. We have another question from Colin Zwirko.

Media: Thank you for taking my question. I’m calling from NK News in Seoul.

I would like to know what conversations, what specifically did Secretary Pompeo address in Singapore with the Foreign Ministers of the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and others specifically on their known violations of UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea? And what is Secretary Pompeo doing to put pressure on them to comply? Thank you.

Ambassador Campbell: Thank you. That question I could hear clearly so I can get right to the answer.

Again, Secretary Pompeo had a number of bilateral conversations as well as participating. So among his bilateral conversations he did have conversations with the Singaporean Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, and he visited Kuala Lumpur in advance of arriving in Singapore, so he had opportunities to meet both with the Malaysian Prime Minister as well as the Malaysian Foreign Minister. He had the opportunity as well to speak with the Philippine Foreign Minister in the context of the roundtable discussions which occurred during the ASEAN Regional Forum. He participated as well in the East Asia Summit.

In the bilateral conversations and also in the Secretary’s remarks in the East Asia Summit and in the ASEAN Regional Forum which I note included the North Korean Foreign Minister as a participant, the Secretary spoke openly and strongly about the importance of all countries supporting and fully adhering to existing U.N. Security Council resolutions. And we note that the Chair’s statements coming out of both the East Asia Summit as well as the ASEAN Regional Forum addressed the fact that there was large support among the member states, among the Ministers in those meetings, to stress yet again the importance of full adherence to the UN Security Council resolutions.

I note that there have been some news stories in the last few days which question some countries’ adherence to and full support of UN Security Council resolutions. I will say that the Secretary had the opportunity to have a good conversation within the meetings, including in the ASEAN Regional Forum, specifically raised concerns about countries like Russia and their support of Security Council resolutions, and stressed why – and spoke in detail about why – it’s important to maintain the existing sanctions even as the United States and North Korea work forward diligently to bring to full fruition the agreements and the commitments that were undertaken by Chairman Kim Jong-un as well as President Trump during their historic meeting in Singapore.

Moderator: Thanks so much. I think we have time for about two more questions. The next question will go to Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Media: Hello. My name is Linda [Ina Markham] I’m with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney. Thank you for this opportunity and taking my question.

Can I ask about Cambodia and whether Secretary Pompeo has had a chance to speak to the Cambodian Foreign Minister in recent days in light of Cambodia’s election, which was widely regarded as a sham. And also about the concerns that many opposition figures that have been excluded from the political process in Cambodia, have made that their government has slid into autocracy and the Chinese influence is as a result growing, and potential divisive within not just Cambodia but ASEAN.

Did the Secretary have an opportunity to discuss these issues? And what is the United States’ intentions in terms of Cambodia’s political trajectory?

Ambassador Campbell: In terms of Cambodia I would refer you both to the statement which was released by the White House in the day immediately after the election, as well as to the response, the points which Secretary Pompeo made in his press briefing in Singapore. I would characterize both the White House statement and Secretary Pompeo’s point in Singapore as providing a very clear and full picture of the U.S. position on the question of Cambodia. Secretary Pompeo and the Cambodian Foreign Minister, of course, participated in a range of meetings together. They did not have a direct bilateral conversation.

Moderator: Thanks so much. We have time for one last call from the Khmer Times. Please go ahead.

Media: Hello. I’m Makara.

Ambassador Campbell: Can you repeat the question because it’s coming in very muffled.

Moderator: No problem. Go ahead.

Media: Thank you. I have heard that [inaudible] duty on [inaudible] goods from China additional [inaudible]. Is there [inaudible]? Is that [inaudible]?

Moderator: I’m very sorry, sir. You keep cutting out. We cannot hear your question.

Media: I want to ask about the smaller countries on the goods from China. And —

Moderator: I understand you’re asking a question about China. Could you try one more time?

Media: Yeah. China, about the [inaudible] goods.

Moderator: I’m sorry. Were you able to catch that? All I heard was China.

Ambassador Campbell: I’m sorry. I’m hearing China, and I think I may be hearing the word travel or goods, but I’m not hearing —

Media: Yes, I [inaudible] President Trump is trying to increase the additional [inaudible] on the tariff from China, from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Moderator: The question is about tariffs on Chinese goods.

Media: Yeah. So what do you see, where do see the impact on Cambodia?

Moderator: He’s asking about the impact of these tariffs on Cambodia.

Media: Yes.

Ambassador Campbell: I can provide some general comments on the U.S. relationship with China and our perspective on the trade issues. And I can note that these perspectives were directly communicated in Secretary Pompeo’s conversations with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as points very similar to this were made, were raised in all of our conversations in Singapore, both within, this as a topic in our conversations directly with the ASEAN Ministers as well as in the East Asia Summit and the Afghan Regional Forum.

Just to be clear, under President Trump’s leadership, the United States is committed to working towards a fair and reciprocal trade relationship with China. This requires confronting China over its market distorting policies and practices. The way that it forces technology transfers, has some questionable intellectual property practices, and the ongoing cyber intrusions into U.S. commercial networks.

These issues were raised in Singapore in our conversations there.

The goal is to encourage China to behave in a more market-oriented manner. To push back against the harmful effects of Chinese practices and to create a level playing field.

We believe strongly that creating a level playing field will both give Americans a better chance to succeed, but also better meet the interests and concerns of the countries of ASEAN and the countries of East Asia.

Moderator: Thank you so much. Unfortunately, I think that’s the last question we have time for.

I’d like to turn it back over to Ambassador Campbell for some closing remarks. And thank you so much again, Ambassador Campbell, for joining us after your busy weekend.

Ambassador Campbell: It’s my pleasure. Mary Beth, thank you so much for organizing this conversation. I apologize that we were a little bit challenged at times to hear the questions posed. But I think it’s really important that we have opportunities like this to explain to the media of the countries of this region what occurs within the ASEAN-centered architecture. It is an architecture, a set of meetings, a way of working, which the United States greatly values.

We also think that it’s really important to have opportunities like this to discuss with the media what the value of these meetings is. What the substance of the meetings is, and what comes out of those meetings. So it’s with that focus that we’re so eager to engage in this conversation today.

So we’re very happy to do these on a regular basis, and that is something that Mary Beth, if you get the sense that the journalists on the call found value in it, it’s something we’re very happy to do again, especially as we look to November. Especially as we look even in the coming weeks to the Economic Officials’ meeting which will occur on August 31st, September 1st in Singapore. And then leading into another round of Defense Minister meetings of the ADMM+ which will occur in October. And then in November the leaders-level, the Summit which occurs within the East Asia Summit format. So I’m very happy to continue the conversation if it’s useful.

I think in recent days and hopefully in this conversation, we, the United States, have made clear our embrace of ASEAN as the center, indeed the heart, of our strategy. We have re-committed ourselves more than ever to working with and in this region. And Secretary Pompeo through his engagement with a broad range of ASEAN-centered engagements, his multilateral meetings with the Lower Mekong Initiative, the U.S.-ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, the East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Regional Forum as well as his bilateral meetings in the region with the President of Indonesia, the Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, the Foreign Ministers of Burma, Indonesia, and Laos. Really all of that was demonstrating our recognition of the importance of engaging in Southeast Asia and engaging with Southeast Asia.

Over the last week I think it’s notable that the United States announced 113 million dollars in new initiatives related to technology, energy and infrastructure; with the digital connectivity and cyber security partnership which is a $25 million dollar partnership; the Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network, which will be almost 30 million dollars. Asia Edge, a program to enhance the development and growth through energy at about $47.8 million dollars. And other support for regional institutions at around $11.3 million dollars.

In addition, in addition to that $113 million dollars in economic initiatives, the Secretary at the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ARF meeting, announced $300 million dollars in new funding to reinforce our security cooperation. And the security cooperation is in the areas of humanitarian assistance, which I think especially with, given the activities over the last – the developments over the last week where we saw the dam break in Laos, where we saw monsoon-related flooding in Burma, as well as some risk of flooding in Thailand and Cambodia, and just in the last 48 hours when we saw the earthquake in Lombok – all of those things point to why it’s important for the United States, and why it’s important for the region, to address search and rescue capabilities, disaster risk reduction strategies, and also to have the right kind of logistical support to address immediate needs. And the U.S. will continue to work in all of those areas.

The nearly 300 million in security assistance which was announced also covers the area of maritime security. And I want to stress that related to maritime security the United States will work with partners across the Indo-Pacific region to develop coastal radar-enhanced maritime domain awareness, and it is our strong feeling that maritime domain awareness is something which greatly benefits the countries of the region, as well as being an area where the United States, through both the Department of State and the Department of Defense, are committed to working with Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands to help nations successfully monitor their own exclusive economic zones and to address transnational threats. Two final areas for continued security cooperation relate to peacekeeping capabilities and countering transnational crime.

So again I hope that through my comments here in closing as well as to the questions I was able to answer that we’ve demonstrated the breadth and the depth of the U.S. engagement with ASEAN and through ASEAN, with the countries of Southeast Asia, as well as our broader Indo-Pacific strategy.

Thank you very much, Mary Beth. Thank you very much everybody on the call. And Mary Beth, I’m going to hand over to you. I believe you are going to close with some logistical notes.

Moderator: Yes. Thank you everyone for joining us. We will email an audio file of today’s call, and AT&T will also provide a digital recording of today’s call within 48 hours. We’ll also make sure you have the relevant fact sheets and statements that Ambassador Campbell cited on this call.