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Brunei - US Relations

Relations between the United States and Brunei date from the 1800s. On April 6, 1845, the USS Constitution visited Brunei. The two countries concluded a Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation in 1850, which remains in force today. The United States maintained a consulate in Brunei from 1865 to 1867. Bruneians from the Sultan down see the U.S. presence in Southeast Asia as a critical stabilizing factor regionally and an important strategic counterweight to a rising China.

The bilateral relationship with Brunei continues to improve as The Government of Brunei (GoB), lead by His Majesty the Sultan, seeks closer ties with the United States. Particular attention is focused on expanding military to military cooperation, increasing the numbers of Bruneians studying in the United States, strengthening law enforcement cooperation especially in the areas of counter terrorism and transnational crime, and economic diversification that still protects Brunei's impressive natural wonders.

The United States welcomed Brunei Darussalam's full independence from the United Kingdom on January 1, 1984, and opened an Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan on that date. Brunei opened its embassy in Washington in March 1984. A memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation was signed 1994. The Sultan visited Washington in December 2002 and visited the Pacific Command in Hawaii with then-Ambassador William E. Todd in November 2008. The Sultan also attended the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders meeting in September 2010 in New York. The Crown Prince paid an official visit to Washington, DC and attended the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2011. The U.S. Embassy moved to a new compound, which officially opened on October 10, 2011.

Exposure to the United States remains limited for many Bruneians, including senior Government of Brunei (GoB) officials. The GoB is encouraging, with Embassy support, more military to military engagements, strong educational ties, economic diversification, and environmental protection. GoB sees the U.S. as a leader and innovator in all of these areas.

There have been concerted efforts to strengthen cooperation in education between both countries. At present, there are approximately 30 Bruneian students pursuing their undergraduate or postgraduate studies in the U.S. Through our efforts, we hope to increase the number of Bruneian students in the U.S. and to bring American students to Brunei Darussalam. Since 2002, the U.S. has awarded its Fulbright Scholarship to nine Bruneian students, in which two are still studying.

Brunei's armed forces engage in joint exercises, training programs, and other military cooperation with the United States. Defence relations between Brunei Darussalam and the U.S. have expanded under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defence Cooperation that was signed on November 29, 1994. Since then, defence officials have engaged in joint exercises, training programmes and military exchanges. Under the MOU, a Joint Defence Working Committee (JDWC) was also established and would hold annual meetings on defence. The last meeting was held in November 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition, since 1995 Brunei Darussalam has conducted annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) military exercises with the U.S. Navy. Currently, three students are pursuing their studies at U.S. military academies. Two of the following are pursuing their studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and one student is studying at the U.S. Naval Academy. During Brunei Darussalam's Defence Exhibition (BRIDEX) in July 2011, a good number of U.S. defence companies showcased their products.

Aside from education and defence, Brunei Darussalam and the United States are making efforts to advance its trade and economic ties. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed in 2002 between both countries. Brunei Darussalam is also committed to working with the U.S. through multilateral channels, and is working closely through its ASEAN-U.S. partnership, APEC and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP).

There is a risk that the Sultan will feel it necessary to distance himself from the US if events in the Middle East are perceived to develop in ways unfavorable to the Islamic "ummah." Barring that, however, Sultan Hassanal is likely to continue as a moderate and cautious Islamic leader who sees a strategic relationship with the US within his region as very much in his own interest, but who offers only selected support for US foreign policy interests further afield.

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Page last modified: 20-03-2013 16:46:44 ZULU