The United States announced two new foreign assistance efforts aimed at helping a number of Southeast Asian countries through regional and bilateral assistance to advance maritime capacity building.
Speaking at a press conference in Vietnam, Secretary of State John Kerry announced an initial commitment of $32.5 million in new regional and bilateral assistance, of which $18 million is intended to strengthen Vietnam’s Coast Guard. This will include maritime law enforcement training and five new fast patrol vessels for improving the Vietnamese coastal patrol’s ability to deploy rapidly for search and rescue, disaster response, and other activities.
The remainder of the funds will support bilateral capacity-building programs with other Southeast Asian countries, and increase training for maritime law enforcement officials in Southeast Asia in multilateral settings. The expanded U.S. assistance builds on existing maritime programs for combatting piracy, countering transnational organized crime and addressing terrorist threats.
“This is part of a gradual and deliberate expansion that has been planned for some period of time which we have been working on,” said Secretary Kerry. “It expands on existing agreements and programs that we have now and it builds on a commitment to strengthen maritime capacity within ASEAN and within this region. So, this is really an ongoing policy and not some kind of quickly conceived reaction to any events in the region,” he said.
“No region can be secure in the absence of effective law enforcement in territorial waters,” he said. “This assistance will foster greater regional cooperation on maritime issues and ultimately provide the ability of Southeast Asian nations to carry out humanitarian activities and to police and monitor their waters more effectively.”
A day later, Secretary of State Kerry said that the United States separately will provide $40 million over three years for the Philippines Global Security Contingency Fund program. This program will improve Philippines’ maritime security and maritime domain awareness, as well as law enforcement counterterrorism capacity in the southern Philippines. The program represents an important step that will support Philippines security forces as they combat terrorism and other threats to regional stability.
Including these two new funding commitments, the United States’s region-wide funding support for maritime capacity building in Southeast Asia exceeds $156 million for the next two years.
The United States remains committed to supporting the efforts of Southeast Asian nations to enhance their security and prosperity, including in the maritime domain.