Phuket, Thailand – A proposal to make the Mississippi and Mekong “sister rivers” has won the support of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, officials said Friday. Clinton met the foreign ministers of the four countries along the lower Mekong River Thursday at the tail end of a South-East Asian foreign ministers meeting held this week on Phuket, a Thai island 600 kilometres south of Bangkok.
“The ministers welcomed, in particular, the initiative of the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission to pursue a ‘sister river’ partnership to share expertise and best practices in areas such as climate change adaptation, flood and drought management, hydropower and impact assessment, water demand and food security, water resource management and other common concerns,” a US press release said.
Clinton arrived in Phuket Wednesday to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia’s main security event, which gathered foreign ministers from the 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations and 17 of their main partners.
It was the first time for Clinton to attend a major ASEAN event and heralded the importance the new US administration has placed on its partners in South-East Asia, she said.
“The United States is back in South-East Asia,” Clinton told a press conference Wednesday night.
“US President [Barack] Obama and I believe this region is vital to global progress, peace and prosperity,” she said.
As proof of the renewed US interest in the region, it plans to open a permanent mission at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta and to soon ask Congress to increase USAID funding seven-fold for climate-change projects for ASEAN members.
Clinton also presided over the first US-Lower Mekong Ministerial Meeting Thursday night, whose discussions focused on health, education and infrastructure development.