U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed the accord along with representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], including officials from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Under the terms of the pact, the U.S. and members of ASEAN will improve police cooperation, share information more freely and crack down on immigration loopholes that terrorists have historically exploited.
The agreement declares that both the U.S. and ASEAN member nations will work “to prevent, disrupt and combat international terrorism.? The U.S. also pledged to boost logistical and technical support for those efforts.
Both sides hailed the pack as a cooperative agreement.
“This is not a case of Big Brother United States imposing on ASEAN,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said. “This is something that both ASEAN and the United States want.”
Powell said the agreement was “a political declaration that brings ASEAN and the United States together in a more intimate relationship.”
During the negotiations, both Indonesia and Vietnam expressed concerns the agreement may pave the way to deployment of U.S. troops in the region, but Sec. Powell said the pact was more focused on logistical and law enforcement efforts.
“We are not looking for bases or places to send U.S. troops,” Powell said.
Powell also stressed the international “war on terrorism” was not intended as a cover to protect government crackdowns against political dissidents or ethnic minorities.
“If we’re going to defeat the terrorists, then we have to attack them from the highest moral plane,” Powell said. “Human rights have to be protected.”
Southeast Asia has seen significant terrorist activity in recent years. U.S. troops are helping train Filipino soldiers to combat the Abu Sayyaf Islamic militant group in the southern part of that island nation. Also, Malaysia and Singapore have also arrested more than 80 members of what they say is a terrorist network that was planning bomb attacks on U.S. and other targets.