Should the United States Combine the Missions of U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN and Special Envoy for Burma?
August 10, 2010
The White House has not yet released a name for its choice as U.S. ambassador to ASEAN. Before it does, it might consider combining that mission with the position of U.S. Special Envoy for Burma.
The administration has stepped up its focus on Southeast Asia with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates having visited the region last month with related missions to set the table for the United States’ entrance into the East Asian Summit (EAS) and for investing in strengthening bilateral ties with friendly countries around the region. To effectively drive an enduring and effective Asian regional security and trade architecture, the United States has determined, correctly, that it must have a strong partnership with ASEAN. Further, it recognizes that if ASEAN is to be at the core of such structures, it needs to develop stronger institutions and capabilities. A highly professional and proactive U.S. ambassador to ASEAN must be in place to advocate for consistent focus, bandwidth, and resources in this context.
The White House has indicated that the next U.S. ambassador to ASEAN, (succeeding Mr. Scot Marciel, former ambassador and deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia, who has been confirmed by the Senate as the next U.S. ambassador to Indonesia) will be located in Jakarta where the ASEAN Secretariat is based. The United States was the first country to indicate it would name an ambassador to ASEAN and the first to signal that the ambassador would be based in Jakarta, but the Japanese have moved ahead and, while the Obama administration considers its options, have named Mr. Takio Yamada the first ambassador to ASEAN to reside in Jakarta. ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan received Mr. Yamada’s credentials in Jakarta on July 27, 2010.
A U.S. ambassador to ASEAN will need to be a highly skilled diplomat, combining credibility and commitment with diplomacy to avoid stepping on the toes of his or her counterparts serving as heads of mission in the ASEAN countries. It will not be easy to cover the territory in the region as well as visit U.S. agencies inside the Beltway regularly to advocate for support and the resources that will be needed to support a new level of U.S. engagement in key regional forums.
Another position that the United States is being pressured to fill is a U.S. Special Envoy for Burma. This position was mandated by the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 29, 2008. The act was approved in a bipartisan vote and supported by then-senator Barack Obama. The law includes three doctrines: (1) impose new financial sanctions and travel restrictions on the leaders of the junta and their associates; (2) tighten the economic sanctions imposed in 2003 by outlawing the importation of Burmese gems to the United States; and (3) create a new position of U.S. “special representative and policy coordinator” for Burma.
The question is whether the positions should be consolidated.
The Pros. By combining the positions of ambassador to ASEAN and special envoy for Burma, a senior-level diplomat will be forward-deployed in the region and in a position to sustain high-level representation in ASEAN while maintaining focus on one of the most intractable issues hindering real ASEAN integration—the politically cloistered and authoritarian Burmese regime. A dual-hatted diplomat could ensure the centrality of the Burma issue at key meetings while seeking regional support for results-oriented solutions to the problems presented by Burma’s unwillingness to open its political system and take steps away from its current record of human rights abuses, repression, and possible exploration of options for developing nuclear weapons. In addition, it is likely that by combining the missions, both positions could be filled soon.
The Cons. On the other hand, by giving the new U.S. ambassador to ASEAN the Burma job, the United States may put itself back into a policy box that the Obama administration stepped out of early on—namely, by asserting a new engagement strategy for Burma, the Americans got back to the table with ASEAN. No longer did Burma keep the United States from pursuing its regional national interests, from trade and investment to security concerns. In return, the administration made a pact to live up to its commitment to sustain a very high-level focus on Burma, seeking resolution to unacceptable conditions thrust on the Burmese people by the military government. Unfortunately, Burma has shut down energetic initiatives spearheaded by Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell. Rules for elections have provided little if any new political space, dates for elections remain a mystery, and the Burmese government has provided no cooperation to the United States on important issues such as nuclear proliferation, refugees, and human rights abuses of minority groups. Given the commitment of advocacy groups working on Burma as well the urgent need for progress, a dual-portfolio ambassador may find that the ASEAN agenda could be overtaken by his or her Burma mandate.
In conclusion, while the idea of combining the job of U.S. ambassador to ASEAN with that of special envoy for Burma offers a certain bureaucratic efficiency, pursing this option would undercut the ability of even the most experienced diplomat to deliver on each portfolio. The United States should not combine these two important positions, but it should move forward with all speed on nominating qualified candidates for both roles and seeking their confirmation in the U.S. Senate at the earliest possible date.
Happy Birthday—ASEAN Turns 43
Forty-three years ago on August 8 in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was created as the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the ASEAN Declaration.
At the time, the regional grouping was formed to bind a young and increasingly powerful Indonesia into a pact with its neighbors, encouraging it to enter onto the regional and world stage as a source of economic growth and diplomacy, pursuing its interests peacefully. The other objective was to staunch the feared spread of communism from Vietnam into other newly independent nations in the region. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
ASEAN has come a long way. And now, as a 10-country grouping comprising nearly 650 million people and a $1.4 trillion gross domestic product, ASEAN finds itself at the center of a an effort to create a new regional architecture designed in part to encourage two regional giants—China and India—to step onto the regional and global stage peacefully, contributing to growth and stability. Will ASEAN be able to replicate its success? Only time will tell.
On the night of August 7, Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung addressed a packed house of diplomats, including ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, in the elegant Hanoi Opera House to mark ASEAN’s forty-third birthday. Here was the leader of Communist Vietnam, and arguably one of ASEAN’s most forward-leaning proponents, espousing the grouping’s achievements after four decades of change. The very fact of the event is testament to ASEAN’s subtle but very real achievements.
Vietnam is providing very strong leadership in its role as ASEAN chair in 2010. Expect that proactive leadership to continue next year as Indonesia, by far the largest country in ASEAN, takes over as chair. Although few noted the expert diplomatic move at the time, Brunei Darussalam quietly stepped aside several months ago and ceded the 2011 chair to Indonesia. The Vietnam-Indonesia succession should help cement the trend toward the evolution of ASEAN into a more proactive regional organization. Indonesia is clearly finding its voice as a major global player. It must be a strong and responsible leader at home in ASEAN in order to build on a foundation from which to effectively influence the East Asia Summit (which it hosts next fall with President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia attending for the first time), the G-20, and other forums.
CSIS’s Birthday Gift to ASEAN
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In this Issue
- United States and Vietnam engage in nuclear talks
- MCC approves $434 million to Philippines
- Kurt Campbell's Australia-NZ-U.S. Trilateral meeting
- Philippine secretaries of finance and trade advance President Aquino visit
- Indonesia’s 65th Independence Day
- Australia will elect members of the 43rd Parliament of Australia
United States and Vietnam engage in nuclear talks. During a press briefing on August 5, U.S. Department of State spokesman P J. Crowley said that the United States is currently in a “123” negotiation with Vietnam focusing on “civilian nuclear technology” for use in electric power production. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the deal has been under discussion for several months . The negotiation is part of a broad push across Southeast Asia to explore the use of nuclear power to meet increasing demands for power generation while complying with demands to limit the impact on climate change. (See CSIS Southeast Asia Director Ernie Bower’s July 7, 2010 commentary on this trend at http://csis.org/publication/asean-going-nuclear-power). The WSJ article came at a time of heightened Chinese sensitivities regarding U.S.-Vietnam and U.S.-Southeast Asia cooperation following U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s proactive intervention on the South China Sea during the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi two weeks hence . Consequently, on August 6, Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said, "Vietnam and the United States have not yet carried out negotiations on a peaceful uses of nuclear energy agreement.”
Vietnam accused China of violating sovereignty. On August 5, Vietnam accused China of violating its sovereignty by conducting seismic exploration near disputed islands in the South China Sea. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said Chinese vessels have been conducting activities near the Paracels, an area that Vietnam claims, since May. The government of Vietnam has asked Beijing to promote peace and stability by strengthening bilateral relations.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
United States urged China to act responsibly in South China Sea. Following Chinese naval drills last week in the South China Sea, the skipper of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet flagship has asked China to act responsibly when dealing with territorial disputes to avoid political and security tensions. Southeast Asia nations, including Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, also have become increasingly vocal expressing concerns about China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
Vanguard 2010: China’s airborne military exercise. China’s five-day airborne military exercise, called Vanguard 2010, is under way in the central and eastern provinces and seas. This comes a month after China protested against major U.S.-South Korea military exercises in the Sea of Japan, and follows verbal quarrels between the United States and China over South China Sea disputes. Fighter jets, helicopters, and 12,000 soldiers are currently taking part in the drill.
PAD protest. The Thai Patriot Network (TPN), an affiliate of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), staged a rally in front of Government House protesting the memorandum of understanding that was signed with Cambodia in 2000. TPN leader Veera Somkwamkid said the rally was about protecting national sovereignty. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit and PAD leaders convened at the Thai-Japanese Stadium for discussion. The following day, the prime minister held a face-to-face debate with leaders from TPN and PAD on live national TV.
Continuing violence. Bombs and grenade explosions have been an almost daily occurrence over the past several weeks. While media outlets have downplayed the continuing violence and tension, these attacks are a nagging reminder that all is not well in the Kingdom. Last week, another grenade went off in Bangkok’s commercial district on Rangnam Road killing one man. Meanwhile, a former Red Shirt guard was arrested for alleged involvement in the Big C and Rangnam bombings. He reportedly confessed to having received training at the Red Shirt barricade site on Silom.
Reshuffling of military leadership. Given Thailand’s unsettled political status, the military’s role is front and center. That makes the stakes very high as the annual naming of new military leadership positions approaches in September. Current commander-in-chief General Anupong Paochinda is due to retire on September 30. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has submitted a roster of new officers for royal endorsement. General Prayuth Chanocha is poised to replace Anupong for the next four years. A majority of the positions are rumored to be earmarked for officers who led the crackdown on the Red Shirt protests and who are linked to the 21st Infantry Battalion of the Second Army Division, or the "Queen's Guard. ” Also known as the “Eastern Tigers,”this unit has reportedly received support from Privy Council General Prem Tinsulanond. General Anupong has denied the existence of the so-called Eastern Tigers clique within the military.
Thailand’s economy on solid footing. Thailand’s economy is defying analysis suggesting that prolonged political instability would dampen economic growth. Commercial banks and the Bank of Thailand have passed the latest stress test due to high reserves and low debt. Despite financially sound results, the central bank will continue to administer stress tests as it has done for the past six years. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) has increased steadily, reaching the highest level since May 2008 and marking its longest sustained gain since May 1994. Foreign investors are returning for a look. For instance, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council led an investment mission to Thailand last week. Companies nationwide reported a profitable second quarter. Foreign portfolio investment reached $343 million in the last eight trading sessions. Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij expects a 7 percent-8 percent GDP growth rate.
Thailand invests in Burma and Laos infrastructure projects. On August 2, Thailand approved infrastructure investment projects in Laos and Burma worth approximately $131.37 million. The first project is the two-lane R11 Lao road construction covering 56 kilometers. The second project is an extension of 7.5 kilometers of railway from Tha Nalaeng in Laos to Vientiane. These projects are aimed at boostering trade, benefiting tourism, and improving transportation.
U.S. Senate confirmation: Scot Alan Marciel, of California, to be ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia.
Yudhoyono-Bakrie battle continues. Indonesians are fixated on the ongoing soap opera-like high-political drama emanating from the running battle between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Aburizal “Ichal” Bakrie, a former minister in Yudhoyono’s last government and among the country’s richest businessmen. Most political observers note that Bakrie now has the upper hand, largely due to Yudhoyono’s cautiousness and indecisiveness despite being reelected last year with a landslide.
Indonesia warns that tensions could grow on the Korean peninsula. Indonesia has been increasingly outspoken about important regional trends and issues, including its concerns about the welfare of its fishermen in the South China Sea (a Chinese frigate reportedly trained guns on an Indonesian vessel in June in disputed waters). In that context, Indonesia warned that tensions could increase to dangerous levels without resumption of six-party talks over the North's nuclear program. The talks have been frozen since December 2008. During North Korea’s foreign minister Pak Ui Chun’s visit to Indonesia, Indonesia’s foreign minister Marty Natalegawa repeated the condemnation for the attack on the Cheonan, but stopped short of blaming North Korea.
Indonesia expresses support for Thailand. During Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya’s visit to Indonesia, Jakarta expressed its support for Prime Minister Abhisit’s administration. In return, Minister Kasit said Indonesia can expect Thailand’s support on international issues as Jakarta takes over as chair of ASEAN next year and hosts high-profile international events, including the East Asia Summit (EAS) and APEC (in 2013).
Indonesia GDP growth reaches 6.2 percent. The figures topped forecasts and raised the possibility of a tightening of interest rates by the central bank. The Jakarta Composite Index rose 2 percent on the announcement of the GDP figures. The steady stream of positive developments has led to new highs of share prices and record lows for bond yields. Foreign direct investment was $3.7 billion in the second quarter of 2010, a 51 percent increase from the same period last year.
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) approves $434 million to fight poverty, corruption. U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas said the decision by the MCC board of directors, chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “marks a vote of confidence in the Aquino administration and its commitment to confront corruption.” The funding is earmarked for three major projects: to computerize and streamline business processes in the Bureau of Internal Revenue; to expand Kalahi-CIDSS, a community-based, rural development program for poor communities; and for the construction and repair of 220 kilometers of Samar Road, which passes through 15 municipalities.
President Aquino revokes “midnight appointments.” In keeping with his campaign promise to purge the republic of corruption, President Benigno Aquino III issued his second executive order, revoking 977 “midnight” appointments made by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The executive order vacated all positions that were taken on or after March 11, 2010. The election code stipulates that appointments made 45 days before elections are unconstitutional. The executive order excludes appointments in the judiciary branch, including Arroyo’s appointee for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato Corona.
Aquino team reviewing contract with Chinese firm to examine NorthRail train line. Fulfilling another campaign promise, President Aquino’s team is looking into large Arroyo-era contracts suspected of being corrupt or illegal. In this case, the 80-kilometer railroad project to link Metro Manila and Northern Luzon was put on hold during the Arroyo administration due to the alleged quid pro quo deals between China and Philippines for signing the Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) (see CSIS Commentary on the JMSU at http://csis.org/publication/jmsu-tale-bilateralism-and-secrecy-south-china-sea). The Department of Transport and Communications (DOTC) is revisiting the contract with the Chinese contractor. It is likely that this is one of many such contracts that will be re-opened and examined for graft.
AFP prepares human rights handbook. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced it would launch a 200-page guide on military conduct and operations against “threat groups” such as the communist New People’s Army. The doctrinal book is an initiative of the reformist new defense secretary, Lt. General Voltaire Gazmin. It will seek to align military guidance with provisions of international bodies such as the UN Commission on Human Rights, International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC), and the EU-Philippine Joint Support Program. The AFP has been criticized for extra judicial killings (EJK) of leftists, journalists, and political opponents of the Arroyo administration over the past years.
Taiwan, Singapore to discuss trade pact. A month after Taiwan signed the milestone Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, Singapore has formally expressed its intention to negotiate a similar deal with Taiwan. However, China's Foreign Ministry reportedly warned Singapore to step away from the idea, warning the city-state to adhere to the one-China policy and abandon pursuits that appear to recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty. If Taiwan and Singapore ink an economic cooperation agreement, it is likely that Taiwan would sign the agreement as “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu (Chinese Taipei),” which is the name used by Taiwan when it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000.
Singapore and Indonesia conduct naval exercise. Code-named Exercise Eagle, this two-day exercise lasted from August 4 to August 5 and consisted of both shore and sea phases. It involved four ships and two maritime patrol aircraft from the two countries’ navies.
Singapore celebrated its 45th National Day on August 9 amid a prosperous year of booming economic growth. Singapore has expanded 17.9 percent year-on-year in the first six months of this year. However, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the pace of expansion will ease in the latter part of the year. He noted that the economy faces risks from the European debt crisis and slowing U.S. growth.
U.S. Senate confirmation: Paul W. Jones, of New York, to be ambassador to Malaysia.
Singapore, Malaysia bilateral trade up 36 percent in H1. According to Singapore’s Ministry for Trade and Industry, bilateral trade between Singapore and Malaysia reached $39 billion in the first six months of 2010, up nearly 36 percent over 2009. Malaysia’s international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that the "wait-and-see" attitude among Singapore businessmen about investing in Malaysia is over. Bilateral business linkages are set to grow stronger under the auspices Prime Minister Lee and Prime Minister Najib and in the context of further ASEAN integration.
Malaysia vows to curb illegal migration. Under the new amendment to its human trafficking law, Malaysia can now impose harsh sentences including jail terms of up to 20 years and fines of more than $300,000 on human smugglers. According to the Home Ministry, human smuggling was not covered under existing human trafficking laws or immigration laws, thus making enforcement difficult.
Malaysia seeks TPP members' nod to join pact. The Malaysian cabinet has approved the decision that it would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) if invited. Malaysia needs the approval of all eight member countries to accede to the regional trade pact. The eight countries are Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.
Anwar trial postponed. Following allegations that a female prosecutor had an affair with the key witness, the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been postponed until August 9. Anwar’s legal defense team has asked that charges against Anwar be dropped as a result of these allegations. Bipartisan U.S. leaders former vice president Al Gore and former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz urged the U.S. government to speak out against the Anwar trial in an editorial last week.
U.S. senators urge UN investigation of Burma. A group of 32 U.S. senators, led by Dianne Feinstein (Democrat-CA) and Judd Gregg (Republican-NH), urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to support the creation of a UN Commission of Inquiry for Burma. Despite “the use of child soldiers, the destruction of villages, and the displacement of ethnic minorities, the use of rape as a weapon of war, extrajudicial killings, forced relocation, and forced labor,” the United Nations has yet to officially voice its concern and appoint the next UN Special Envoy to Burma. The senators cited these human rights problems and asserted that the creation of a commission will help investigate these possible crimes against humanity.
NDI released report on Burma’s upcoming elections. Earlier this week, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) released a report on Burma’s upcoming elections. After examining the new election laws, constitution, human rights problems, and the transparency process in Burma, NDI concluded that the election “is clearly designed to guarantee a pre-determined outcome and, therefore, does not meet even the minimum of international standards.” Read the full report at http://www.ndi.org/files/NDI_Burma_Elections_0810.pdf
Burmese troops hunt DKBA renegade. Following the fire attacks last week on the Karen ethnic minority group in Burma, senior military officials sent orders to capture the commander of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), Saw Le Bwe. Officials also introduced tight regulations in towns bordering the DKBA Brigade 5, and threatened force against the DKBA officials who were resistant to the Border Guard Force Plan, which seeks to assimilate the DKBA into the Burmese Army.
Thailand’s prime minister to visit Burma? Following the cancellation of his trip to Burma in mid-July, it was recently reported that Burma’s military regime has finally responded to Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s request to visit Burma on August 3. According to the same article, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that the visit would start on Friday, August 6. Although there is a border dispute that could benefit from the reported trip, Burma’s GeneralThan Shwe was hospitalized on August 4, suggesting that a bilateral between the leaders is unlikely. Interestingly, there are no further reports on this trip in the Thai media.
Cambodian PM: War with Thailand is “impossible.” Amid border disputes between Cambodia and Thailand, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen assured the international community that the relations between the two countries would not erupt into hostilities. He said that a war is “impossible,” especially since the “military commanders have met and shared lunch together to ease the tension.” The Royal Thai Army deputy spokesman has also denied rumors that the Thai commanders have reinforced their positions near the temple.
Cambodian government “respects” conviction. A week after the United Nations sentenced Duch, former Khmer Rouge prison chief, to 30 years in jail, Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen said that the government “respects” the court’s landmark conviction because the UN-backed court is “independent.”
Cluster bombs ban raises hope for development. Thirty-seven years after the last U.S. bomb fell on Laos, the Convention on Cluster Munitions finally came into effect on August 1, 2010, banning cluster bombs. The impact of unexploded ordnance (UXO) is widespread across all sectors of Laotian society. Saleumxay Kommasith from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that the country cannot carry out development projects and poverty eradication without eradicating UXO from the land. Technical advisers estimated the costs of clearing agricultural land at approximately $1,900 per hectare. Hopefully, the ban will increase optimism for those working toward development and clearance.
Peg to Singapore dollar stays. The Ministry of Finance of Brunei Darussalam stated in a press release on August 5 that "the Government of His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has no intention or plan to terminate the Currency Interchangeability Agreement between Brunei Darussalam and Singapore."
U.S. Senate confirmation: Judith R. Fergin, of Washington, to be ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
Indonesia and Portugal back Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership. During a bilateral meeting between the Indonesian foreign minister and his Portuguese counterpart in Jakarta, the two countries that formerly occupied Timor-Leste vowed to support its development and membership in ASEAN. Indonesia will chair ASEAN next year, and Timor-Leste’s accession would be a headline deliverable.
Kurt Campbell's Australia-NZ-U.S. Trilateral meeting. The United States held a tripartite meeting with Australia and New Zealand on August 5. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell stressed that these talks were not a re-engagement of the ANZUS treaty, but to discuss political issues and shared national interest among the nations. Secretary Campbell noted that New Zealand should expect increased military cooperation with the United States. "One of those at the top of the list was New Zealand," said Secretary Campbell, when referring to the several bilateral relationships were reviewed when President Obama took office. "You are going to see a very deliberate effort on the part of the United States to work more closely with New Zealand, as a recognition of the role that New Zealand is playing in global politics,” he added.
New Zealand-Malaysia FTA came into force on August 1. The bilateral comprehensive trade agreement covers investment and trade in goods and services. Trade between the two countries totaled $1 billion in 2009 and reached $620 million in the first five months of 2010. Malaysia is New Zealand’s eighth-largest export destination; meat, wool, fish, and forestry products would all be duty free. Trade in services is becoming increasingly important in both countries as science, computer technology, and engineering become more advanced.
Pacific Islands Forum. The forty-first meeting of the forum took place on August 5, 2010, in Port Villa, Vanatu. The communiqué discussed primarily climate change as a threat to the Pacific islanders. Leaders emphasized the need for a legally binding solution for emissions reduction. Leaders agreed on promoting and coordinating efforts in combating climate change such as mobilizing sustainable resources and ensuring resources are accessible and have absorptive capabilities. Leaders welcomed New Zealand’s offer to host the Pacific Islands Forum September 6–9, 2011.
Kevin Rudd backs Julia Gillard in Australian elections. Having recovered from his gall bladder surgery, Kevin Rudd is back on the campaign trail, helping his party. Labor unity has been extremely weak in the run-up to the elections, and the opposition coalition led by Tony Abbott has taken a lead in polls ahead of the August 21 election.
China proposes integrated education with ASEAN countries. The aim of educational integration is to ensure the supply of skilled people for the development of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. Key measures include removal of obstacles to student exchanges and recognition of academic degrees conferred in respective countries so as to enhance the attraction and competitiveness of higher education in the region.
21st ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Environment in Hanoi. Delegates discussed a range of topics on the urban environment, including natural resources effectiveness, 3R Policy (“reduce, reuse, recycle”), biodiversity, and introduction to low-carbon cities of East Asia. The meeting is attended by approximately 150 representatives from the ASEAN member states and six partner countries—Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and India.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Philippine secretaries of finance and trade advance President Aquino visit. Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima and Secretary of Trade Greg Domingo will visit the United States next week to hold discussions with counterparts and key interlocutors to plan President Aquino’s inaugural visit to the United States in September. President Aquino has been invited to speak at CSIS in Washington, D.C.
Indonesia will celebrate its 65th Independence Day on August 17. The Proclamation of Indonesian Independence was read at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, August 17, 1945. The declaration started the Indonesian National Revolution, a five-year diplomatic and armed resistance against the Netherlands until it officially acknowledged Indonesia's independence in 1949.
Australia will elect members of the 43rd Parliament of Australia and general elections will be held on Saturday, August 21, 2010; 14 million Australians are enrolled to vote.
ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) August 20–22. Ministers will meet to discuss economic cooperation within and without ASEAN, including structural and institutional reforms, trade policies, and connectivity initiatives in the region. The AEM-42 is a key forum in preparation for the 17th ASEAN Summit in October. The full schedule of events is available at http://aem42.org/Show.aspx?newsid=558&catid=063003.
Malaysia will commemorate its 53rd anniversary of independence on August 31. On August 31, 1957, the British peacefully ceded colonial rule over what was then known as the Federation of Malaya.
Two U.S. congressional staff delegations will visit Thailand August 14–30. The two staff delegations have been organized by the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., and include staff representing key members and committees of both the Senate and House. Delegation members have agreed to provide a trip debriefing at CSIS after they return.
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