U.S. will be supportive partner for Thailand as ASEAN chair

A senior official at the United States Department of Defense said the U.S. would provide solid support to Thailand in its role as chair country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, particularly in advancing maritime and cybersecurity.

“The U.S. will be a supportive partner in Thailand’s chairmanship year,” said Randall G. Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Security Affairs. “We’ll take Thailand’s lead on what issues Thailand wants to promote during its chairmanship.”

Schriver led the American delegation at the 5th U.S.-Thailand strategic defense talk with Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and his team in Bangkok last week. Thailand is the United States’ oldest treaty ally in the Asia-Pacific region, with first contacts established in 1818 and the first bilateral treaty on trade signed in 1833. The two nations have had a security relationship for 65 years.

Thailand will become the chair country of ASEAN in January. The chair position rotates annually among the ten member states. Thailand was a founding member of the group in 1967 when it consisted of just five countries. Initially, it was a security grouping but has grown in size and scope to cover trade, economic, development, diplomatic, environmental, and people-to-people issues.

ASEAN’s coastlines run along the Indian and Pacific Oceans, making it strategically situated along important global shipping routes. Maritime security is an important issue because of territorial conflicts in the South China Sea, piracy, and environmental issues.

“Maritime security is an inherently multilateral endeavor, and Thailand is well positioned to be a part of that, and we can be a supportive partner in that effort,” Schriver said.

He added that ASEAN members and its dialogue partners could contribute to the strengthening of maritime security, counter-terrorism, and cybersecurity efforts if they work in a multilateral manner.

A free and open Indo-Pacific region is part of the US National Defense Strategy, Shriver said, and each country should be able to protect its sovereignty, uphold international laws and international norms, maintain freedom of navigation and support fair and free reciprocal trade.