Tillerson underscores importance of US tie-up with ASEAN

August 7, 2017 - 11:47 PM
Rex Tillerson
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. REUTERS / Karen Lema

MANILA, Aug. 6 – United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the weekend stressed the importance of its affiliation with the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Noting that he has met with ASEAN officials three times in the last six months, with the third one during Sunday’s ASEAN-US Ministerial Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Tillerson said: “I think, it is indicative of the importance that the United States pays and places upon this relationship with ASEAN.”

In his opening remarks for the Ministerial Meeting, Tillerson said that among the issues that have been discussed between him and the ASEAN officials are “a number of matters of mutual security interest, and a number of economic areas of interest.”

He also expects to have discussions on additional topics concerning “threats to all of us and our common response to that” as well as “opportunities that exist among all of those to strengthen relationships.”

Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato’ Sri Anifah HJ Aman, during the same meeting, said the US is a vital partner of the ASEAN “with solid relations encompassing wide areas of cooperation.”

He remarked the world’s largest economy has been ASEAN’s partner for a long time now, with the ASEAN-US relations now on its 40th year.

In a separate development, Tillerson said on Monday he believes Washington and Russia can find a way to ease tension, saying it wouldn’t be useful to cut ties over the single issue of suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

Tillerson said Russia had also expressed some willingness to resume talks about the crisis in Ukraine, where a 2015 cease fire between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country is regularly violated.

“We should find places we can work together… In places we have differences we’re going to have to continue to find ways to address those,” Tillerson told reporters.

Tillerson met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of the ASEAN event in Manila on Sunday, where he also asked about Moscow’s retaliation to new U.S. sanctions against Russia.