Behind the Scenes: Secretary Rice Attending ASEAN Meeting in Singapore

Posted by Sean McCormack
July 23, 2008
ASEAN Meeting in Singapore

More on Secretary Rice's Travel to the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Sean McCormack: Away From the PodiumAbout the Author: Sean McCormack serves as Department Spokesman and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.

We are here in Singapore at the Shangri-La Hotel for the annual ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting. In the past, the meeting was perhaps most well known to the public for the skits or performances in which foreign ministers (and their delegations) performed acts of ritual silliness in the name of diplomacy. For some reason, and I will not ask why, that part of the program has been dropped from this year's meeting. You will not hear any complaints from the American delegation about the revamped program, and most especially me. Musical talent is not a strength.

The program does leave lots of time for serious diplomatic work, though, and Secretary Rice will meet with her counterparts from Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. She will also attend an informal ministerial-level meeting of the Six-Party talks, which will include North Korea. The meeting will be the first time this group has gathered at the ministerial level. While, I don't expect specific outcomes (say final agreement on the verification protocol) it is a good chance for consultations. Separate from the Six-Party talks, I expect Burma to be an important topic of discussion in meetings and hallway conversations.

Will update when I can.

Comments

Comments

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 23, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Sean McCormack,

I can help but ask...( needing my daily dose of humor )...

..."the meeting was perhaps most well known to the public for the skits or performances in which foreign ministers (and their delegations) performed acts of ritual silliness in the name of diplomacy."

Sean, for the sake of the ingnorant, would you care to elaborate on past US "performances"? And I have a follow-up...

"For some reason, and I will not ask why, that part of the program has been dropped from this year's meeting. You will not hear any complaints from the American delegation about the revamped program, and most especially me. Musical talent is not a strength."

Is it that you "will not ask why.." or DARE NOT ask why?...(chuckle)...really that bad eh? Perhaps I should dare not ask about any of this....LOL!

You seem quite relieved by these developments...for some apparently "classified" reason....(chuckle). But hey, I don't have a "need to know" do I? Do I even want to know?

Oh heck yeah! But seriously...

Good to see North Korea has really taken the diplomatic efforts seriously, and in good faith.

The Secretary of State's lending a little personal touch to the effort, and I think that gives weight to the intent to have better relations through "action for action".

Have a nice trip.

Daniel
|
Idaho, USA
July 23, 2008

Daniel in Idaho writes:

Yeah, I think Burma will be the one of the focal points of the ASEAN meeting, even if they don't openly convict the Myanmar government.

I can't help but imagine how things could have gone worse if the Myanmar leader had excepted the position some months back to be the head of ASEAN.

Either way, ASEAN isn't going to push Myanmar, at least not to far. Their next best option, imo, would be to encourage an opening of Burma to better South East Asian trade relations.

Sean
|
Singapore
July 23, 2008

Department Spokesman Sean McCormack writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico -- Eric, Google ASEAN, video, Colin Powell (or Madeleine Albright) and you'll see what I'm talking about. In fairness, Secretary Rice did participate in one of these shows, but she performed a classical music piano piece.

As for not wanting to ask, why tempt the fates? Besides, if I sang in public I would be reported to David Kramer, our Assistant Secretary of State responsible for investigating human rights abuses.

One note: all should also know that our Singaporean hosts have been gracious and conference arrangements have been impeccable.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 24, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Department Spokesman Sean McCormack - Sean, you made my day. Must be getting old...I'd forgot all about Colin Powell's- Village People thing...(chuckle).

I actually ran sound for those folks once, if that says anything...(self-protective memory loss I guess)...

And I could definitely envision Ms. Rice having a real good time with Emerson, Lake and Palmer's, "Ode to the common man." with her chops on a keyboard, speaking as one piano player to another. So yeah, I'd say she's probably safe from the honorable Mr. Kramer.

However, I'm surely not one to tempt fate and question your self-assessment sir. Don't want to get on Mr. Kramer's bad side...(chuckle).

I think it's good for folks to let their hair down and loosen their ties once in awhile, if not essential to sanity.

One thing I like about this blog is that it lends a little atmosphere to the statecraft, and I appreciate you doing this.

Fate being what is, I hope you won't mind if I seize the opportunity to ask you if you'll "take" the following question in similar form as you'd take a question in a briefing. Not because I'm a member of the press, which I'm not. But taken on the question's merits alone.

"Is it desirable and doable to achieve a WMD-free Planet by July, 2045?" (marking 100 years since the first atomic test)

In asking this, I realize that it requires answers from a lot of folks, not just the one that determines foreign policy for this nation. But if it is deemed to be a good thing to ask it of his peers in the family of nations, I'll have the answer I'm looking for.

Fate tempts me to ask this, for as fate would have it, there's a little family history involved. So please understand when I say I've been waiting my whole life for the answer.

And I doubt if I'm alone.

And no, (chuckle) I'm not worried about what Mr. Kramer might think, as it's probably the most under reported human rights issue of all time.

Thanks for your consideration and I hope you will pass the question onward and upward.

Keep up the good work, and by all means, have a good time.

Nice talking with you...

Ba Sepaas

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
July 24, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

What will the role of the US be in the meeting?

With N. Korea participating in an informal capcity, it makes me wonder if they have made any official overtures to joining the bloc?

Zharkov
|
United States
July 25, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

If mutual assistance treaties are any indication, ritual silliness is safer for American taxpayers than secret negotiations resulting in hidden obligations, so please get on with the party.

John P.
|
United Kingdom
July 28, 2008

John in England writes:

I can't help but imagine how things could have gone worse if the Myanmar leader had excepted the position some months back to be the head of ASEAN.

Either way, ASEAN isn't going to push Myanmar, at least not to far. Their next best option, imo, would be to encourage an opening of Burma to better South East Asian trade relations.

.

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