US pitches for free, open Indo-Pacific in ASEAN Summit
Washington, Nov 14: US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien has pitched for a free and open Indo-Pacific, a strategic region that has witnessed renewed global focus in view of China's expansionist behaviour.
Addressing the US-ASEAN virtual summit on Friday, O'Brien highlighted the tremendous benefit the partnership has brought to the prosperity, security and well-being of over one billion people in the United States and ASEAN nations, the White House said in a statement.
He reaffirmed the US' longstanding commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, it said. The ASEAN is considered one of the most influential groupings in the region, and India and several other countries including the US, China, Japan and Australia are its dialogue partners.
The virtual ASEAN summit, which kicked-off on Thursday, is taking place amid China's aggressive behaviour in the disputed South China Sea. A number of ASEAN countries have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Beijing claims almost all of the 1.3 million square-mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory.
China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region which, in parts, is claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Beijing has impeded commercial activity like fishing and mineral exploration by neighbouring nations in recent years, saying the ownership of the resource-rich maritime territory belongs to China for hundreds of years.
The 10 member countries of ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. O'Brien, who participated in the Summit as Donald Trump's Special Envoy, shared a message on behalf of the President welcoming the 5th anniversary of the US-ASEAN Strategic Partnership.