Subject: In-town pool report 2: Brunei bi-lat
Pool was ushered into the Oval Office at 11:55. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah wore a dark suit and green tie.
POTUS called it a “great pleasure” to welcome a “key leader in the South East Asian region” who is “widely respected around the world” to the White House. He said they have gotten to know each other at multilateral meetings, including the ASEAN conference last November, and since the sultan is hosting the next ASEAN conference, this was a good time to meet in Washington. This continues the 160-year relationship with Brunei, he said. POTUS noted that the sultan has ruled alongside nine U.S. presidents. “I won’t ask him which one was his favorite.”
POTUS: “Our interests in having a strong, peaceful, prosperous Asian-Pacific region is something that we share.”
He said the issues to be addressed at the October ASEAN conference include: energy and climate change, expanding commerce through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, maritime issues, education and English-language programs, and U.S.-ASEAN-Chinese humanitarian and disaster relief joint exercises.
On maritime issues: “Obviously there has been a lot of tension in the region around maritime issues, and his majesty has shown great leadership as far as bringing countries together and making sure that everybody is abiding by basic precepts of rule of law and international standards so that conflicts can be resolved peacefully and effectively.”
On education: “His majesty himself of Brunei has helped to finance a number of English-language structures for youth in the South East Asia region.” This “expands commerce but also strengthens ties between the United States and other nations in the region.”
On disaster relief: “Our militaries are extraordinarily capable, and our bilateral relationship … has the capacity to help people in times of need and to try to help avoid conflict, rather than start conflict.”
“Overall, I’m very grateful for his majesty’s outstanding leadership and his friendship, and I’m glad that he’s had a chance to visit.”
POTUS noted that the sultan piloted his own 747 here to Washington. “I think you’re one of the only heads of state that flies their own 747.” He then made a joke comparing his experiences flying on Air Force One. Couldn’t make it out on my recording.
Alluding to the sultan’s famed wealth, POTUS expressed his delight that his counterpart and family are heading to New York tomorrow: “We’re going to encourage him to do some shopping” in order to “strengthen the U.S. economy.”
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, referring to note cards, to POTUS: “Thank you for inviting me to visit. I know you have a very busy schedule. It is very kind of you. This is a good opportunity to renew the long-standing friendship between Brunei Darussalam and the United States.
He called his morning meeting with Obama “an excellent meeting” and reiterated many of the points that POTUS made.
“The United States has been a good friend to ASEAN.”
After thanking POTUS, the sultan said he looked forward to welcoming him to Brunei.
POTUS did not answer a question on the Ryan budget. Pool was ushered out about eight minutes after entering.
Fun facts about Brunei via the CIA website:
This South East Asian nation, bordered by Malaysia and the South China Sea, gained its independence from Britain in 1984.
It has one of the highest per capita GDPs in Asia.
The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries.
Brunei is smaller than Delaware.
Islam is the majority religion, and Malay the official language.
76 percent of the population is urban, and almost 93 percent of the population is literate.
The government is a constitutional sultanate, or Malay Islamic Monarchy.
Hassanal Bolkiah was appointed sultan Oct. 5, 1967.
The government provides health care and education through the university level, but taxes are almost 49 percent of GDP.
In 2010, the unemployment rate was 2.7 percent, and the nation had no debt in 2005.
Brunei does not put up with drug trafficking, which is punishable by death.