U.S. – Japan – ASEAN Trilateral Strategic Dialogue
February 6, 2011

Maui, Hawaii
January 5–7, 2011



At a time of growing dynamism in Asia, the United States and Japan have a shared interest in engaging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help define the future contours of a vibrant and peaceful region. The 10 member countries of ASEAN together comprise the fourth-largest export market for the United States and its fifth-largest two-way trade partner, with $146 billion in total two-way goods trade in 2009. Recent projects such as the 2009 Lower Mekong Initiative signify investment in economic development. The United States has also furthered its commitment to regional institutions by signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) and joining the East Asia Summit (EAS), opening a U.S. mission to ASEAN, and participating actively in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Notably, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred to U.S. interests in preserving freedom of navigation in the South China Sea during the July 2010 ARF meeting in Hanoi. These and other recent developments have come to shape what Clinton referred to as “”forward deployed diplomacy”” in the region based on close relationships with allies and partners and leadership in multilateral institutions.

Japan has a long history of partnership with ASEAN dating back to the Fukuda Initiative of 1977, named after then–Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda who announced a policy to cement mutual confidence with Southeast Asia through political, economic, and cultural ties. Economic engagement with ASEAN remains robust, and in 2008 Japan was ASEAN’s second-largest trade partner: trade with ASEAN comprised 13 percent of Japan’s overall trade. Japan is also a leading official development assistance (ODA) donor to ASEAN. Recent economic initiatives include the entry into force of the Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in December 2008 and an economic development initiative with the countries of the Mekong Region under the rubric of the Mekong-Japan Summit initiated in 2009. In April 2010, Japan appointed an ambassador to ASEAN, resident in Jakarta, to promote cooperation between Japan and ASEAN and to build on dialogues in forums such as ASEAN Plus Three, ARF, and EAS. Japan and ASEAN have agreed to issue a new joint declaration and a revised plan of action at a summit meeting in 2011. The 35th anniversary of the Fukuda Doctrine in 2012 may also afford Japan an opportunity to reaffirm its ties with ASEAN. Renewed U.S. diplomatic focus on the region creates potential for joint initiatives that can further raise consciousness of the U.S.-Japan alliance as a provider of public goods.

To examine ways in which the United States, Japan, and members of ASEAN can collaborate to ensure regional peace and prosperity, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), with the support of the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), organized a trilateral strategic dialogue in Maui, Hawaii. Cochaired by Ernest Bower of CSIS and Michael Green of CSIS and Georgetown University, this Track 1.5 discussion sought to encourage deeper U.S. and Japanese engagement with ASEAN and explore areas for cooperation across a range of challenges. (Government officials participated in their personal capacities.) The participants focused on international security issues, economic integration, and institutional architecture in Asia. The following key findings and recommendations reflect core themes identified by the cochairs and do not necessarily represent the views of all participants or their respective institutions.



§  Enhance the focus on institution building, rule of law, transparency, human rights, democracy, and good governance in U.S. and Japanese assistance and aid programs in Southeast Asia and coordinate such efforts where and when possible. These themes are vital to the region’s stability and growth.

§  Initiate a Burma/Myanmar Working Group focusing on Track 1.5 and Track 2 discussions to explore political and economic change options for the country. The working group would have a mandate to provide ideas and guidance to governments. Participants should include ASEAN member states, the United States, Japan, and other regional and global states concerned about developments in Burma/Myanmar.

§  Support the inclusion of Japan, Korea, and additional ASEAN countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Encouraging and enabling TPP membership by these significant economies should be a priority in the U.S.-Japan economic dialogue.

§  Institutionalize the U.S.-ASEAN Summit/Leaders’ Meeting and initiate joint studies of a U.S.-ASEAN FTA. This will help convince partners and competitors that the U.S. commitment to engage in Southeast Asia will be long term and sustained. Revitalize the U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue process as a de facto senior officials meeting (SOM) at the assistant secretary level. The SOM would have the mandate to identify priorities and a substantive agenda for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit/Leaders’ Meeting.

§  Promote the annual convening of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM +). This step would support enhanced transparency, cooperation, and relationship building among regional defense and military institutions. This official track helps diversify regional forums for defense ministers and should not compete with or reduce the importance of the Shangri-la Dialogue. Military-to-military dialogue is a key confidence-building measure and can focus on specific measures such as developing an incident-at-sea agreement, expanding antipiracy cooperation, expanding joint planning for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and others. This agenda merits priority focus, but the ADMM + currently meets only every three years.

§  Develop a “friends of the chair” mechanism to support Indonesia as it assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN and the EAS in 2011 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 2013. Japan and the United States can play a central role in this mechanism, but it should be inclusive of all ASEAN partners, including China.

§  Proactively encourage the U.S., Japanese, Thai, and Philippine governments to reinforce, invest in, and communicate the value of the U.S. alliance network to ASEAN and as a complement to East Asian regionalism and community building.

§  Invest in and remain committed to the EAS without trying to over-institutionalize or script its processes. The greatest value of the EAS will be open communication among leaders on critical topics. APEC will remain the major transpacific forum for discussion of economics.

§  Establish a U.S.-Japan ASEAN Infrastructure Task Force to identify ASEAN’s primary infrastructure needs for the next 20 years, including governments and the private sector, and build on Japan’s efforts to support the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

§  Strengthen and utilize the friends of the chair mechanism in APEC. The United States, Japan, and Singapore—as current, past, and recently past chairs—should reinvigorate the role of the “”friends of the chair”” mechanism in APEC and coordinate at the senior official, Track 2, and private-sector levels to identify and promote key outcomes for the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii and looking forward to support Russia (chairing in 2012) and Indonesia (in 2013).



Mahani Zainal Abidin, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia

Kiyo Aburaki, CSIS

Michael Auslin, American Enterprise Institute

Ernest Bower, CSIS

Ralph Cossa, Pacific Forum CSIS

Dang Dinh Quy, Institute of Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies, Vietnam*

Roland Eng, Royal Ambassador-at-Large, Cambodia

Michael Green, CSIS/Georgetown University

John Ikenberry, Princeton University

Yoichi Kato, Asahi Shimbun

Kazumasa Kusaka, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

Amy Searight, U.S. Agency for International Development

Susan Sim, The Soufan Group

Sheila Smith, Council on Foreign Relations

Yoshihide Soeya, Keio University

Nicholas Szechenyi, CSIS

Jusuf Wanandi, CSIS Jakarta*

Takio Yamada, Japanese Ambassador to ASEAN


* Were unable to attend but shared insights and reference materials prior to the conference.


To read the full article please click on the link below:http://csis.org/files/publication/110105_Bower_USJpanASEAN.pdf