Two years ago this month, the first reports of a new virus emerged. It spread swiftly to every corner of the earth, taking more than five million lives, ravaging livelihoods, and showing us how truly globalized and interconnected our world is. It underscored what we already knew – that partnerships and transparent cooperation must be at the heart of international relations.
The world faces unprecedented, existential challenges that no nation can solve alone. Beyond the suffering caused by the pandemic, our world faces escalating devastation from climate change, the danger of terrorism, and threats to the democratic values that have brought prosperity to our countries.
As daunting as these challenges are, together, I am confident we can overcome them. Whether it is ties with individual nations or partnerships through multilateral institutions, history has shown us that we can accomplish more together than we can alone. This is why the United States is determined to strengthen and deepen our ties with our partners.
On Wednesday, our dedicated U.S. Embassy team welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Malaysia. This was the second Cabinet level visit to this country in just two months—an indication of the strength and importance of our bilateral relationship. The Secretary hopes this visit has re-invigorated our relationship with Malaysia and with the region, offering a positive agenda that reinforces prosperity, security, and strong people-to-people ties.
The 21st century belongs to the Indo-Pacific; as President Biden has said, it is the most consequential region for today and tomorrow. The United States has a long history in the region, marked by close friendships, partnerships, and alliances, and our country is committed to working with all who share the vision of a free and open, connected, prosperous, resilient, and secure Indo-Pacific.
The United States’ diplomatic ties with Malaysia date back to its very founding. Commercial relationships between our nation and this region stretch even further back to the 1800s. As we look forward to celebrating the 65th anniversary of U.S. diplomatic relations with Malaysia next year, I am encouraged by the diverse and expanding partnership our two nations have built together, ranging from trade and investment to security cooperation to cultural and educational exchanges.
The United States is committed to continuing and deepening our relationship with Malaysia, and its ASEAN neighbors, for decades to come. Expanding our relationships with ASEAN nations is the cornerstone of our regional policy. As President Biden said at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, “You can expect to see the United States deepening our longstanding cooperation, pursuing new avenues of ministerial dialogue, investing in countries, and driving inclusive prosperity in this critical region.”
In a global, interconnected, and interdependent world, these types of relationships are essential. As we face urgent threats like climate change, nations need to stand together, and the United States is ready to work with any nation toward shared goals. We will continue to be an ally and partner to nations, and a leader in the global community as the world continues to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. I applaud Malaysia for donating vaccine doses to Bangladesh and Laos and look forward to continuing to partner on health diplomacy.
Alliances and partnerships are at the heart of U.S. international engagement, and we hold democracy and self-determination as bedrock values. We believe in a free and open system, not one in which nations engage in coercive behavior.
The United States is pleased to work with Malaysia to promote democratic values, freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region including the South China Sea, peaceful resolution of disputes, and the territorial integrity of states in our shared international system. The United States supports our partners and friends so that they have choices and control over their own sovereignty.
As the world faces the challenges that lie ahead, it is partnerships and alliances that give us hope and optimism to overcome these challenges. The threats to our freedoms, our economies, our security, and our very planet are daunting, but the U.S. vision for an open, peaceful, and prosperous world maps the way forward. Together, the world can build back better.
(Brian D. McFeeters is the United States Ambassador to Malaysia.)