Finding Common Ground to Connect: UGRAD Students Gather in Washington, DC

Students participating in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program pose for a photograph in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Daniel A. Nicolas serves as a public diplomacy intern in theBureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

I often recall those words that Atticus Finch offered his daughter, Scout, in Harper Lee’s American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. I am mindful of Atticus’s advice on occasions when I meet groups of foreign exchange students and hear them talk with each other about their experiences. Gaining a greater understanding about — and an appreciation for — others is one of the reasons why I believe exchange programs are so powerful.

I recently saw the impact of one such program at an event for participants in theGlobal Undergraduate Exchange (UGRAD) Program.… more »

Culinary Diplomacy in Timor-Leste

President Ruak, First Lady Ferreira, Ambassador Fergin watch Greg Fergin demonstrating how to produce classic bread stuffing. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Judith Fergin serves as U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste.

“I was the third-best cook in the Timorese armed resistance!” President Taur Matan Ruak declared to a multinational crowd assembled at the official residence of Timor-Leste’s head of state on March 14. 

At the event, the President and First Lady Isabel Ferreira presented traditional Timorese cuisine, including a nutritious stew made of ingredients found in the country’s mountainous jungles from which the resistance had operated for 24 years, along with tales of how to locate and prepare some occasionally lethal (but delicious) plants. My husband Greg and I had the privilege of introducing guests to the culinary delights of Thanksgiving, with a turkey and all the trimmings and a pumpkin crumble cake. After watching a spirited demonstration of how to make traditional American stuffing and receiving do-it-yourself-stuffing kits, guests loaded their plates with… more »

Empowering Future Leaders in the Pacific

Future Leaders of the Pacific Conference participants pose for a photograph at the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samao in Pago Pago, Eastern, American Samoa, February 7, 2013. [U.S. Department of State photo/Public Domain]

About the Author: David Huebner serves as the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa.

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to students at the University of Virginia, where he said that for the first time in human history, young people around the world act as a global cohort. He challenged his audience to help them, and us, to use this remarkable network in a positive way. I could not agree more with the urgency of his challenge, which is why Embassies Wellington and Apia have focused so much of our resources over the past few years on taking steps to engage, listen to, and empower the young people of the Pacific.

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting the inaugural Future Leaders of the Pacific conference (#FPL13) in Pago Pago, American Samoa. We at the American Mission to New Zealand and Samoa planned the event, in partnership with the East-West Center…more »

Building on a Strong Foundation of Historic Ties With the Asia-Pacific

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a photo with a member of the Tomodachi program youth in Tokyo, Japan, on July 8, 2012. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Kurt Campbell serves as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Economic issues were also at the forefront of our engagement with the Asia-Pacific region in 2012, particularly fostering economic integration and open markets. On March 15, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement — the largest U.S. FTA in nearly two decades — entered into force. This historic agreement is expected to increase goods exports by billions of dollars annually for both sides, supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in both countries. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) annual meetings,…more »

Multilateral Organizations Play Increasingly Important Role in the Asia-Pacific

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for the ASEAN family photo in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on July 12, 2012. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Kurt Campbell serves as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Regional multilateral organizations play an increasingly important role in the Asia-Pacific and the United States further strengthened its engagement with these institutions. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS), and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) all play a vital role in mobilizing common action for shared concerns. President Obama made his fifth trip to the region in November to attend the East Asia Summit and meet the leaders of the 10 member states of ASEAN. The trip included… more »

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell and National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel participate in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Japan, January 17, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell and National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel participate in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Japan, January 17, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

Demonstrating U.S. Commitment to the Asia-Pacific Region

U.S. President Barack Obama and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi speak to the press at her residence in Burma, Nov. 19, 2012. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Kurt Campbell serves as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

This was an historic and consequential year for U.S. diplomatic relations with the Asia-Pacific region. Following Secretary Clinton’s announcement of a “pivot" to Asia in late 2011, the United States substantially increased efforts to refocus and strengthen its relationships across the Asia-Pacific. We witnessed dramatic improvements in our bilateral relationships and an unprecedented level of engagement with the region’s multilateral institutions. As the Secretary said, the Asia-Pacific is a key driver of global politics and home to the world’s fastest growing economies. As a Pacific power, the United States is irrevocably and geographically bound to the region and our future security and prosperity will be largely defined by events and developments there. With that in mind, the Bureau of East Asian… more »

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns discusses the United States’ commitment to free and transparent trade as he addresses U.S. Policy Priorities for the East Asia and the Pacific Region during his visit to Tokyo, Japan, October 15, 2012. Go to http://video.state.gov for more video and text transcript.]

“Fair Winds, and Following Seas”—Pacific Partnership 2012 Departs Cambodia

U.S. Ambassador William Todd, center, presents donated goods to Cambodian Children's Fund Executive Director Scott Neeson during a donation ceremony at the Cambodian Children's Fund center in Phnom Penh Aug. 6 during Pacific Partnership 2012. Four and a half pallets of toys, blankets and hygiene kits were donated to help local children through the organization.  Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission U.S. military, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies designed to build stronger relationships and disaster response capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region. [U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Feddersen/ Used by Permission]

About the Author: Tom Weinz serves as the dedicated Foreign Service Officer for Pacific Partnership 2012.

Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12), the seventh annual iteration of the humanitarian exercise begun by the U.S. Navy following the tragic 2004 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra, ended officially when the USNS Mercy departed Sihanoukville, Cambodia on August 11.

The mission to Cambodia was a marvelous example of all of the external personnel on Mercy coordinating seamlessly with our U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh personnel to provide an impressively geographically diverse mission. There is an excellent piece by two PP12 female helicopter pilots, as well as a video clip summarizing efforts in Cambodia, on the PP12 blog site.

Because Sihanoukville… more »

Strengthening Security Partnerships Across the Asia-Pacific

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro is greeted by naval officials during his visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on February 15, 2012 [U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Andrew J. Shapiro serves as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

The Asia-Pacific is home to half the world’s population, more than half the world’s GDP and nearly half of its trade. It is home to key allies and emerging powers. It is also home to booming middle classes and growing economic opportunities and is a region experiencing reductions in poverty without parallel in human history.

I recently traveled to the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, where I saw firsthand how, in the words of Secretary Clinton, “It’s becoming increasingly clear that in the 21st century, the world’s strategic and economic center of gravity will be the Asia-Pacific.”

While this region is experiencing many gains, there are also many challenges, including arms proliferation, piracy, trafficking and smuggling, natural disasters and regional tensions between powerful countries. A top priority for our Bureau’s engagement with partners… more »