On January 12, the United States and Vietnam co-hosted the first Friends of the Mekong Policy Dialogue under the new Mekong-U.S. Partnership. In his remarks, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Ambassador Atul Keshap emphasized that the United States is committed to a secure, open, and prosperous Mekong region, highlighting the importance of this region to ASEAN centrality and to the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. The 17 participating countries and institutions under the Mekong-U.S. Partnership and the Friends of the Mekong offered recommendations on sustainable infrastructure development and connectivity; human resource development and building the foundations for a Mekong digital economy; sustainable water, natural resource management, and environmental protection; and COVID response and regional collaboration on health security.
The Friends of the Mekong meeting is further evidence of the expanded U.S. commitment to the Mekong region. In September 2020, foreign ministers from Mekong-region countries and Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, along with the ASEAN Secretary-General, launched the Mekong-U.S. Partnership. They pledged to deepen and broaden relations, focusing on critical issues like economic connectivity and infrastructure, human resources development, natural resources, and non-traditional security, including transnational crime, disaster preparedness, and health security.
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership includes the Governments of the United States, Burma, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. The Friends of the Mekong includes Australia, the European Union, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank. India, Brunei, the ASEAN Secretariat, and the Mekong River Commission also participated.