The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to promote political and economic cooperation and regional stability. Brunei joined in 1984, shortly after its independence from the United Kingdom, and Vietnam joined ASEAN as its seventh member in 1995. Laos and Burma were admitted into full membership in July 1997 as ASEAN celebrated its 30th anniversary. Cambodia became ASEAN’s tenth member in 1999.
The ASEAN Declaration in 1967, considered ASEAN’s founding document, formalized the principles of peace and cooperation to which ASEAN is dedicated. The ASEAN Charter entered into force on 15 December 2008. With the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter, ASEAN established its legal identity as an international organization and took a major step in its community-building process.
The ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars, the Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community. Each pillar has its own Blueprint approved at the summit level, and, together with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Strategic Framework and IAI Work Plan Phase II (2009-2015), they form the Roadmap for and ASEAN Community 2009-2015.
ASEAN commands far greater influence on Asia-Pacific trade, political, and security issues than its members could achieve individually. This has driven ASEAN’s community building efforts. This work is based largely on consultation, consensus, and cooperation.
U.S. relations with ASEAN have been excellent since its inception. The United States became a Dialogue Partner country of ASEAN in 1977. Dialogue partners meet regularly with ASEAN at the working and senior levels to guide the development of our regional relations. In July 2009, Secretary Clinton signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) which has greatly enhanced U.S. political relations with ASEAN.
Every year following the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, ASEAN holds its Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC) to which the Secretary of State is invited. In 1994, ASEAN took the lead in establishing the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which now has 27 members and meets each year at the ministerial level just after the PMC.
On November 15, 2009, President Obama met with ASEAN leaders in Singapore. This was the first meeting ever between a U.S. President and all ten ASEAN leaders. The President’s meeting has greatly advanced U.S. relations with ASEAN and the East Asia region. Nina Hachigian is the U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN.