Relationship with ASEAN, Asian nations crucial for US: Rice

"The relationships that we have and are continuing to build in Asia, both with ASEAN countries and the region more broadly, are crucial to our overall foreign and national- security policy," US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice said at a White House conference call on the UN General Assembly session in New York.

"They are very central to the work we do at the United Nations, both on the Security Council and in the General Assembly, where our partnerships and alliances serve us every day on issues of core importance to our national security and our efforts to advance respect for democracy and human rights and the important work of reform that we do here at the United Nations," Rice said in response to a question.

Obama who will be in New York later this week to attend the UN General Assembly session would be individually meeting a large number of Asian leaders including the heads of state of China and Japan. He has also convened a meeting of Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

"The President wanted to take the opportunity of getting all the leaders together to have a discussion about a range of issues that are important to the United States and to the ASEAN countries," US Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes said.

The US-ASEAN meeting is currently scheduled for two hours -- the longest meeting scheduled by the White House for Obama in New York.

"That's so the President could relay his views and how important he believes ASEAN is and the relationship between the United States and ASEAN to the future of Asia and to critical priorities of the United States, as well as the ASEAN countries," Rhodes said.

Obama will have the opportunity to again speak to each the leaders in a kind of formal and informal basis over lunch as well, Rhodes said, adding that the President enjoyed the ties that he has been able to forge with a number of the ASEAN leaders.
Referring to a speech made by Obama in Japan last year, Rhodes said the President wanted to re-engage basically in the Asian architecture and the economic and security architecture, in organisations such as ASEAN and APEC.

"It is because the United States has been absent. We've been an empty chair at the table, where we had not fully engaged in these organisations for a number of years, particularly as we were focused on other priorities," he said.

Given the centrality of Asia to America's priorities, the US believes that it was essential not just to strengthen core alliances in Asia and not just to deepen cooperation with countries like China, but to engage in a very serious way with these regional organisations, Rhodes said.

It was because President Obama believes that regional organisations can play an important role in coordinating America's efforts on the economic and security side, he added.

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