The United States seeks “collaboration, not control” in the Indo-Pacific region, Vice President Pence told a conference of Southeast Asian countries whose leaders gathered in Singapore.

“We all agree that empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific,” Pence said at the 6th summit between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that took place November 11–15.

Five men standing in front of flags waving their right hands (© Edgar Su/Reuters)
Vice President Pence (center) with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at the ASEAN-U.S. summit in Singapore. (© Edgar Su/Reuters)

ASEAN was created in August 1967 by five countries that wanted to work together to better address challenges in Southeast Asia. The group has grown to 10 countries, and as a bloc, ASEAN is the fourth-largest trading partner for the U.S.

The vice president predicted a “bright and boundless future” for the region and called ASEAN an “irreplaceable strategic partner.”

Economic investment

The vice president also laid out a new initiative to increase investment in the region’s digital infrastructure. The initiative is called the U.S.-ASEAN “Smart Cities” partnership.

The Smart Cities are a network of cities across ASEAN that work together to develop “smart and sustainable urban development” through the latest emerging technology.

The initiative’s projects range from developing health technologies in Jakarta to using social media to crowd-source improvements for public transportation in Phnom Penh. (Hover over the cities on the map above for more examples.)

“This effort will spur renewed American investment in the region’s digital infrastructure, advancing prosperity and security in Southeast Asia,” Pence said.

Broad vision for the region

The U.S. vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation, the vice president said. “It only requires that every nation treat their neighbors with respect, [that] they respect the sovereignty of our nations and the international rules of order.”

Pence emphasized the ability of countries to protect themselves and their borders. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with you for freedom of navigation, and our determination to ensure that your nations are secure in your sovereign borders on land, at sea, and in the digital world.”

The vice president also highlighted the importance of “accountable and responsive government, the rule of law, and individual rights” to the economic and security interests of ASEAN.

“We will prosper together. We will be secure together. We will continue to grow closer together as partners and as friends in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pence concluded.