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Kerry to Address Trade, Security Issues in Southeast Asia

  • Pamela Dockins

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a speech at Singapore Management University in Singapore Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a speech at Singapore Management University in Singapore Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Singapore for talks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other top officials that are expected to focus on issues including the stalled Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks.

Kerry's visit, part of a five-nation mission to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, is aimed in large part at stressing the importance of U.S. trade and investment and links to prosperity for the Asian and U.S. economies.

He will also deliver a speech on U.S. – Asia Pacific economic ties at Singapore Management University.

Tuesday's visit to the island-state comes just days after TPP talks in Hawaii broke down, in large part over disagreements among the 12 member-nations over the breadth of patent and data protections demanded by Western pharmaceutical companies.

The TPP will be “very much actively on the agenda of the United States for the upcoming ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) regional forum,” said Karen Brooks, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Kerry will attend the ASEAN forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday.

While in the region, another focal point for Kerry will be the South China Sea maritime dispute.

China has been creating artificial islands in waters where Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines have overlapping claims.

“The way you get a resolution about the South China Sea dispute, short of full-blown conflict, is if China decides it is too damaging to its own image as a responsible rising power,” said analyst Greg Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Cautious Endorsement of Iran Nuclear Deal

Kerry traveled to Singapore from Qatar, where Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers offered cautious support for the Iran nuclear deal.

The move could further isolate Israel in its vehement opposition to the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“This is the best option amongst other options in order to try to come up with a solution for the nuclear weapons of Iran through dialogue,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya, after the six-nation GCC met with Kerry.

Later, the U.S. and GCC foreign ministers issued a joint statement, saying the “Ministers agreed that, once fully implemented, the JCPOA contributes to the region’s long-term security.”

Late Monday, Kerry met privately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir.

The State Department says they discussed the security situation in Syria along with ongoing efforts to counter Islamic State militants.

Kerry to Attend Commemoration in Vietnam

After visiting Kuala Lumpur, Kerry will wrap up his five-nation tour in the Vietnamese capitol, Hanoi, later this week.

He will mark the 20th anniversary of renewed bilateral ties that were severed four decades ago as the protracted Vietnam War came to an end.

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