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MODERATOR:  Greetings from the U.S. Department of State’s Asia Pacific Media Hub.  I would like to welcome journalists to today’s on-the-record briefing with Daniel J. Kritenbrink, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Yohannes Abraham, U.S. Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.  The speakers will provide readouts of the September 6th to 7th U.S.-ASEAN Summit and East Asian Summit with Vice President Kamala Harris representing the United States.

With that, let’s get started.  Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink, I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Great, Katie.  Thank you very much and good evening, everyone, or good morning, wherever you may be.  Really delighted that you would spend time with us.  We wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about the conclusion of the East Asia Summit and other ASEAN-related summits and the visit of Vice President Harris here to Jakarta.  And I’d like to start by underscoring our deep gratitude to our Indonesian hosts for their outstanding work in chairing ASEAN this year and for being our country coordinator again this year.  We thought that Indonesia displayed very strong leadership as ASEAN chair.  Again, we’re incredibly grateful to them for that.

I would just underscore at the outset that through Vice President Harris’s trip here to Jakarta and her participation in the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit, she was able to demonstrate our strong commitment to ASEAN, to ASEAN centrality, and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.  We believe that ASEAN truly is essential to the regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific, and I think through our upgrade of our partnership with ASEAN to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, I think we’ve demonstrated more than ever how important our engagement with ASEAN and its member-states is to our shared future.

We believe that our 1 billion people, collectively, share a very bright future and we believe that America’s own security and prosperity is inextricably intertwined with what happens here in the Indo-Pacific, and particularly right here in Southeast Asia.

While participating in the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit and her related engagements here in Jakarta, Vice President Harris highlighted our positive, affirmative agenda for the region and how the United States is partnering with ASEAN to deliver real, tangible results for our peoples.  And while the Vice President was here, she was able to underscore really just how important the region is to us.  More than 6,200 U.S. businesses have generated a record $520 billion in trade in 2022 through their trade with ASEAN, and that’s created 625,000 jobs in all 50 states and 1 million jobs throughout ASEAN’s member-states.  So I think you can see that our cooperation is, again, delivering tangible benefits for our two peoples.

And maybe just a brief comment or two as well.  I think another great benefit of our engagements with ASEAN and the fact that ASEAN is in fact central to the region’s architecture was the Vice President’s ability to meet with a number of regional and global leaders while she was here, and she also had the opportunity to engage on, I think, some of the most important issues that the region is grappling with.  Again, she underscored primarily our affirmative agenda with the region: how we’re trying to build our security ties, our economic engagement, and our deep and growing people-to-people ties.  But at the same time, she was able to address some of the key challenges that we face, including challenges in the maritime domain, particularly in the South and East China Sea.  She was able to speak about the ongoing challenges in Myanmar and our desire to continue to cooperate with ASEAN in support of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus.  She addressed the growing threat from the DPRK nuclear and missile programs, and also was able to speak very candidly to the ongoing impact of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

And I think maybe just to conclude my opening remarks, what I was most impressed by and gratified by was the incredible, I think, unanimity that was present in the room around these issues.  I think that the vast majority of countries in the room this week were united in our belief in a series of shared norms and rules around support for the rules-based international order; a desire to ensure that disputes are resolved peacefully and, again, in accordance with international law.

And so why don’t I wrap it up there and I’ll ask my colleague, Ambassador Abraham, if he would like to make some opening comments as well.  But again, we thought this was a very successful engagement and I think demonstrated again America’s strong and enduring commitment to ASEAN and its member-states.

AMBASSADOR ABRAHAM:  Thanks.  Thanks very much for that great readout.  I’ll just start by echoing what the – the Assistant Secretary’s sentiments, particularly as they relate to the great job that Indonesia did this week in terms of hosting a successful summit, following on the heels of a successful July foreign ministerial.  And they’ve done a great job all this year, both as ASEAN chair and also as the U.S. country coordinator, and I want to thank and commend them for the important work they’ve done to help advance the work that we’re doing together.  And that work ranges from health security to climate, to energy, to women’s issues, to transportation.  And under Indonesia’s leadership we’ve seen a significant expansion of how the U.S. and ASEAN work together, and just to echo what the Assistant Secretary said once again, we see that ASEAN-U.S. relationship as being very bright.

Vice President Harris’s participation in the summits as well as her meeting with President Jokowi reaffirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to ASEAN and ASEAN centrality as well as our strategic partnership with Indonesia.  We had a number of productive conversations over the past few days about the shared opportunities we have to together deliver concrete benefits for the people of Southeast Asia, the United States, and the broader Indo-Pacific.

And really, what you saw on display over the course of this week was the fact that there’s an unprecedented expansion – there has been an unprecedented expansion over the last couple of years in engagement between the United States and Southeast Asia, be it through ASEAN, its mechanisms, or its individual member-states.  And that work is really focused on things that matter most to our people and the things that can best improve their lives, and we are fundamentally better positioned to do so when we work together.  And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much – that the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy share so much in common, share so many principles, share a commitment to a rules-based regional architecture.  Because fundamentally, we have very similar shared visions about how to best work for our people.

So with that, very happy to take questions and appreciate, as the Assistant Secretary said, everyone getting on the phone.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will now turn to the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing.  Our first question came in in advance from Laraswati Anwar at Kompas, in Jakarta, Indonesia, who asks:  “There are opinions saying that the U.S. are not seriously considering ASEAN as partner because of its neutrality in the geopolitical rivalry.  How does the U.S. prove this wrong by implementing the ASEAN centrality?”  Over to our speakers.

AMBASSADOR ABRAHAM:  So our engagement with ASEAN is about ASEAN.  It’s about how we work together across the full range of issues to face the challenges and opportunities that matter most to our combined 1 billion people.

So our work this week and our work over the course of the administration has been focused on exactly that, and our work in Southeast Asia is about Southeast Asia.  And ASEAN is a critical partner to the U.S.  We fundamentally think we are both better off when we’re working more closely together, and you’ve seen that manifested most tangibly in the elevation of our relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  And under the framework of that Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, we have embarked on an expanded set of engagements across the full range of issues that are critical to our people, from health security to energy, climate, transportation, economic growth.

And so the U.S. is deeply committed to ASEAN.  President Biden has said ASEAN centrality is at the heart of his Indo-Pacific Strategy.  And we’re really glad to have the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in place to provide a framework for the implementation of that commitment, and that’s something we’re deeply – we deeply look forward to do and are deeply committed to doing.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  If I could just underscore Ambassador Abraham’s excellent points, I would argue that America’s commitment to and our relationship with ASEAN and its member-states has never been stronger.  As Ambassador Abraham said, we’ve upgraded our partnership to a conference of strategic partnership.  We are working in detailed ways in an unprecedented number of sectors that has direct benefits for our two peoples.  Our engagement is at an all-time high.  The President has been out here to the region twice.  He hosted a special U.S.-ASEAN Summit in Washington, D.C. last year, which was unprecedented.  Vice President has been here to the region – I think this was her third trip to the region.  There have been nine different cabinet visits to the region.  So, again, I think our commitment to and engagement with ASEAN is at an all-time high.  And again, our future is inextricably tied to ASEAN, and we’re very proud of that – very optimistic about our future together.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question goes to the live queue to Tetsuo Shintomi of Kyodo News.  You should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Can you hear me?

MODERATOR:  Yes, we can.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Yes, Shintomi-san, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Thank you very much for this briefing.  I would like to ask to – probably to Ambassador Kritenbrink.  In your opening remarks, you said Vice President Harris spoke about DPRK and Russia in Indonesia.  Did she also raise the issue of possible deal that DPRK would sell weapons to Russia during East Asia Summit and other meetings in Jakarta.  And separately, I just would like to confirm whether or not Vice President had any bilateral interaction with the leaders from PRC or Russia, including informal discussions?  Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Shintomi-san, thanks very much for the question.  Here’s what I would say.  I would say, both for Vice President Harris and I would say a majority of leaders in the East Asia Summit plenary today, there was a discussion of growing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.  And I think the Vice President certainly spoke the concerns that we have with – that growing threat of those programs and our commitment to continue to work with partners to counter that threat.  And I think, as you and our partners in the region know, America’s commitment, particularly our security treaty commitments to our Japanese and Korean allies, remains ironclad.

On your other question about whether there was interaction with either Chinese or Russian counterparts, not that I am aware of.  And I think I’ll leave it at that.  I mentioned earlier that the Vice President had an opportunity to interact with a number of leaders formally and informally, but I’m not tracking interaction with either the Chinese or Russian counterparts.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question goes to Phil Heijmans of Bloomberg based in – currently in Jakarta.  Phil, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Catherine, and thank you both for doing this.  My question is:  The East Asia Summit leaders were unable to issue a statement last year in Phnom Penh over what Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said was unacceptable language over the war in Ukraine.  This year the East Asia leaders did agree to a statement, except with no language at all over the war, according to a final draft.  Why would the U.S. agree to that?

AMBASSADOR ABRAHAM:  Thanks for the question.  Just a couple points.  I think the – I would take exception to Foreign Minister Lavrov’s characterization of the negotiations last year.  I remember his comments at the time, and I don’t think they accurately reflected then or they do – do they accurately reflect now how those negotiations took place.  I think what you saw then is quite similar to what you saw this year as well – significant intransigence on the part of Russia and an inability and unwillingness to address their illegal invasion of Ukraine.

And in a document built on consensus, all it takes is one country to block consensus.  And without getting into the negotiating dynamics, I’d just say that Russia’s position and their inability to speak clearly and cogently about – and credibly – about what their engaged in is not a position that enjoys support in that room.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Absolutely.  And Ambassador Abraham, if I could just – really just underscore the points you’ve just made – and maybe make the following addition, Phil, to your question – I was quite struck by and gratified by the fact that I think the Russian position that you’ve outlined represented Russia’s really complete isolation, I think, this week on those issues.  There was tremendous concern expressed by leaders across the region about Russia’s ongoing, illegal war against Ukraine.  And I think, as Ambassador Abraham indicated, in a consensus-based organization like ASEAN in the East Asia Summit, I think the leaders’ statement will reflect only the issues on which there was unanimous consent.

But I think, as is always the case, you’ll also want to look at, I think, the chair’s statement for what I would anticipate would be a more fulsome and accurate description of the conversation this week.  And, again, I was gratified by the fact that, apart from our Russian counterparts who were isolated, I think there was great unanimity on views about the situation in Ukraine.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Our next question came in advance from Lixiang of (inaudible) News, who asks, “China and ASEAN are each other’s largest trading partners.  Does the U.S.-ASEAN policy require ASEAN countries to take sides between China and the U.S.?”  Over to our speakers.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Well, the answer is absolutely not.  The United States of America is not about asking partners to choose, and that includes our partners in ASEAN.  What we are about is giving countries choices and giving countries and entities like ASEAN the ability to make their own decisions, free from coercion.

As Ambassador Abraham said a moment ago, the Vice President’s here – the Vice President’s trip here to Jakarta this week was about ASEAN.  It wasn’t about any other third country.  It was about lifting up what the United States and ASEAN and its member-states are doing together for the benefit of our shared future and for the benefit of our one billion peoples, and it’s really not about anything else.  And I’m confident that if we remain focused on this broad, expansive, affirmative agenda that we have with ASEAN, that we will enjoy a very bright future together, and that has nothing to do with anyone else.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Our next question goes to the live queue to Ryo Kiyomiya from the Asahi Shimbun based in Washington, D.C.  You should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much for taking my question.  So my question is about today’s East Asia summit.  So what kind of messages did Vice President sent regarding the South China Sea and Taiwan?  And how do you describe today’s discussions on China?  So what was their atmosphere today?  And also, did Vice President criticize China’s newly published territorial map?  And if so, if you can share her comment, that’s helpful.  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Well, thank you for the question.  I think what I would say in general was that, of course, the Vice President had the opportunity, as you would expect, to address many of the key issues in the region and to explain America’s position on those issues.  As I indicated earlier, we were also gratified by the fact that there were so many partners in the room who expressed shared views on these challenges.

But yes, as you would expect, the Vice President had an opportunity to express our views on the situation in the South China Sea, our enduring commitment to maintaining freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight in the region, our insistence that disputes be resolved peacefully.  And she also expressed concern about some of the ongoing tensions that we’ve seen manifested in recent weeks in the South China Sea and our expectations about how those issues would be resolved.  And also it should come as no surprise that the Vice President also had the opportunity to express America’s long-held view about the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Our next question goes to Khin Htway from Voice of America based in Bangkok, Thailand, who asks:  “It’s been more than two years that the Burmese junta took power and has continued to commit massive human rights abuses across the country.  ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus has failed to end Burma crisis so far.  It seems ASEAN alone cannot resolve it.  How the U.S. can work together with ASEAN and other democratic countries to find a better political solution for Burma?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Well, thank you very much.  And again, as I hope we’ve made clear, issues in Burma or Myanmar were also raised, I would say, by a majority of countries in the East Asia summit plenary session today.  I want to underscore here that America remains strongly supportive of ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, and we call on the junta to cease its violence against innocent civilians and to return to a path of democracy.  We are confident there will be no solution to the challenges in Myanmar without ASEAN.  But we do believe that the United States and other international partners, working together with ASEAN, have a key role to play in working to improve the situation there.

And I think it’s safe to say that you’ll continue to see the United States take a number of steps designed to increase pressure on the regime so as to compel the regime to make the right choices, to return to a path of democracy, to cease its brutal campaign of violence against the people of Burma.  And we’re going to do that in lockstep with our partners here in ASEAN.

And I think we were also gratified to see that in the ASEAN leaders summit, amongst the ASEAN member-states themselves, we were pleased to see that ASEAN has reaffirmed the Five-Point Consensus.  They’ve taken steps to institutionalize their approach to the Myanmar challenge.  And they’ve also made, I think, some important decisions regarding the continued downgrade of Myanmar’s representation in ASEAN that I think is also welcome.

So what I would highlight for you is that our partnership with ASEAN on the Burma challenge will continue.  This is a very difficult and challenging problem, obviously, but we’re committed to working with ASEAN on it over the long term.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Our next question goes to the live queue, Ben Westcott from Bloomberg in Jakarta.  Ben, you should be able to unmute yourself now.  Ben, we can’t hear you.

All right.  Maybe we’ll move on to another question.  We have a question from Kate Lamb from Reuters, who asks:  “Can you comment on how the U.S. will respond to President Jokowi’s requests for critical mineral trade agreement in relation to EVs?  Further, there are growing concerns about the health of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.  Was this raised in any U.S. engagements this week?  And if so, is there any update about that?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Katie, thanks very much for your question.  Look, I would say a couple of things.  First of all, as was highlighted in the Vice President’s very productive bilateral meeting with President Joko Widodo, I think that the U.S.-Indonesia partnership is stronger than it’s ever been.  We indicated our intent to upgrade our partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  And we also discussed that one of the key areas where we will continue to work together is on the issues related to critical minerals and critical mineral supply chains.

So I think it’s probably best not to get into further detail there, but I think if you look at the readout that we’ve issued from that bilateral meeting and if you look at our engagement with our Indonesian partners, I think you can see that our economic engagement, including our increasingly important economic engagement on critical mineral supply chains I think will remain central to what we’re doing together as partners.

As for Aung San Suu Kyi, yes, concerns about her treatment and her status and her health, opposition to the continued unacceptable detention of Aung San Suu Kyi was discussed this week in various venues, as was – as I indicated a little while ago, I think a widely held view among member-states and other partners of ASEAN and certainly on the part of the United States – our continued concern with the growing violence in Myanmar and our strong call for the junta to cease that violence.  And our commitment I think is stronger than ever to taking steps to increase the pressure on the regime to try to compel them to make the right choices.

Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  For our last question, Ben Westcott from Bloomberg in Jakarta says he’s fixed his microphone and is ready to go.  Ben, you should be able to unmute yourself now.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Can you hear me now?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Yes, we can.  Loud and clear.

QUESTION:  Fantastic.  Look, sorry about that before.  Look, just a quick one.  We were interested in finding out – I mean, there has been some discussion here about U.S. President Biden’s lack of attendance at ASEAN.  I mean, does that show a lack of commitment to the forum, especially given the Vice President had a quite light schedule at the event?  She only had one official bilateral during the event, and that was with the host country itself.

AMBASSADOR ABRAHAM:  I’ll take that one, Ben.  The administration, the President, the Vice President’s commitment to ASEAN and Southeast Asia is clear.  And as the President has said, ASEAN and ASEAN centrality is at the heart of his Indo-Pacific strategy.  And under his leadership you’ve seen an unprecedented expansion in the diplomatic architecture between the U.S. and ASEAN.  That, as I’ve mentioned before, has manifested itself in a couple ways.  It’s manifested itself, one, in our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that is actually structured around the four pillars of the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which provide a framework for how we can work together with ASEAN on critical issues that matter to both of us.

It’s also manifested by an unprecedented span of senior engagements, starting with the President who attended two ASEAN summits and hosted a third, the special summit in Washington, D.C., the first time ASEAN has had a special summit in the White House, to the Vice President, her third trip to the region, five ASEAN countries visited.  At the end of this week, there’s only going to be – if my understanding’s correct, there’s only going to be less than – certainly less than a dozen, probably less than 10 countries around the world that have hosted both the President and Vice President.  Two of those will be in Southeast Asia, in Indonesia and Vietnam.

And it doesn’t stop there.  They’ve directed a whole-of-government set of engagements with ASEAN member-states and through ASEAN mechanisms.  So the Secretary of State has been all around the region, four times to Indonesia alone.  The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Trade Representative, the USAID Administrator, Secretary Kerry have all spent time in the region, most of them via multiple trips and most of them via ASEAN mechanisms.  So the U.S. commitment to ASEAN and to ASEAN centrality is very clear.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Well, that is all the question – the last question that we had time for.  So if – Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink, if you have any final words for us, I’ll turn it back over to you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KRITENBRINK:  Well, Katie, thank you.  Again, I’ll express my gratitude for all the journalists for joining us here.  And just to pick up on what Ambassador Abraham said a moment ago, our commitment to ASEAN has never been stronger.  And that was demonstrated through the Vice President’s trip here this week.  And I think that’s been clearly demonstrated by the unprecedented steps that the United States has taken together with ASEAN over the last nearly three years.  And I think the ambassador has outlined that very well.

We are committed to the shared future of our one billion peoples.  We’re incredibly optimistic about our work together.  And we look forward to working with our Laos partners in the year ahead, as they prepare to take over the ASEAN chair year.  And perhaps I could maybe leave you with one final thought too.  We were quite excited to announce this week the establishment of the ASEAN Center in Washington, D.C., and we think that’s just one more tangible manifestation of our growing ties and our commitment to this vitally important region.

Yohannes, anything else you’d like to add?

AMBASSADOR ABRAHAM:  I think you hit the nail on the head, and I’ll just maybe end where we started, which is to thank folks for making time and look forward to talking soon.

MODERATOR:  Well, thank you for your questions and thank you to Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink and Ambassador Abraham for joining us.  We will provide a transcript of this briefing to participating journalists as soon as it is available.  And we’d also love to hear your feedback.  You can contact us at any time at  Thanks again for your participation and we hope you can join us for another briefing soon.

U.S. Department of State

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