US Boosting ASEAN Capacity Amid South China Sea Tensions


The United States has been boosting aid to four Southeast Asian states amid continued Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, a U.S. official told journalists Thursday evening.

According to William R. Brownfield, assistant secretary at the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, the Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative – initially announced by Secretary of State John Kerry in December 2013 – had now grown to $100 million with funding from all parts of the U.S. government targeted at four ASEAN states: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

“This initiative at this time constitutes more than $100 million of United States assistance for maritime law enforcement to these four nations from all sources,” Brownfield said.

The $100 million figure represents a sum that has built on the assistance that Kerry had announced back in 2013, which was an additional $32.5 million that had intended to take total U.S. maritime security assistance to the region above $156 million over the next two years.

The nature of the support, Brownfield said in fleshing out the initiative, comprises construction, infrastructure, equipment (including vessels), training and capacity-building, and support for greater regional cooperation and coordination. The initiative, he added, was partner-driven and maritime law enforcement-focused, though Washington was prepared to cooperate with any element of governments involved in such activities and would welcome the participation of other international donors as well.

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