President Obama's Nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Kurt M. Campbell
Nominee for Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
June 10, 2009

Chairman Webb, Members of the Foreign Relations Committee, it is an honor to appear before you today as President Obama’s nominee to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

I am honored and grateful to President Obama and to Secretary Clinton for placing their trust in me and nominating me to serve the United States of America in this position. I would like to both thank and introduce to the committee my family that is with me here today: my wife Lael Brainard, my three daughters Caelan, Ciara and Chloe, my father- and mother-in-law Albert and Joanne Brainard, and many other friends and family members who have come today to provide support. Particular thanks to Albert Brainard who served this nation with great distinction as a diplomat in Europe during the heights of the Cold War.

I’ve had the good fortune to see Asia from a variety of vantage points over the past 20 years. My first interactions in Asia were as a naval officer serving in Yokosuka, Japan and subsequently as an officer on the Joint Staff. As a treasury official in the early 1990s, I was fortunate to witness firsthand Asia’s remarkable economic transformation from a region of developing countries to a critical driver of the global economy. Later, working at the National Security Council and at the Pentagon as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and the Pacific, I was able to gain a richer appreciation of the importance of American engagement to the security and stability of Asia. In my time outside of government I have had the chance to return to my roots as a professor and academic working on Asia-Pacific issues in the Washington, D.C. think-tank community and to work in the private sector in the most dynamic region on the globe. The last decade has allowed me to witness the dramatic rise of an increasingly integrated and highly innovative Asia – but nevertheless a region that still relies upon strong American leadership and sound judgment.

I’ve had the great privilege to work on Asia-Pacific issues for many years and it is a high honor to have the chance to continue to serve at a moment of enormous consequence and opportunity for the United States in Asia.

I approach my nomination with tremendous esteem for the State Department and its highly talented and capable corps of Foreign Service Officers, Civil Service employees, and Locally Engaged Staff, who represent America in Washington and around the world. If confirmed, I will call upon, and support, the first class team that the United States has in all its East Asia and Pacific posts and in the Department.

Mr. Chairman, as I seek your support, and the support of your colleagues, for my nomination, I am mindful of the depth and variety of your experience in Asia. Few are better versed than you in the complex history of the region and, perhaps more importantly, in the increasing criticality of our engagement with Asia. If confirmed, I commit to working closely with you and all the members of the subcommittee and their staffs on promoting a strong and vibrant American engagement in the region.

There should be no doubt that the United States itself is a Pacific nation, and in every regard -- geopolitically, militarily, diplomatically, and economically -- Asia and the Pacific are indispensible to addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century.

Secretary Clinton’s February trip to Asia underscored the Obama Administration’s commitment to building even closer partnerships with the region and working with Asia on pressing regional and global issues. If confirmed, I plan to vigorously pursue enhanced engagement with Asia and the Pacific across the full range of bilateral and multilateral activities.

The elements of U.S. power -- hard and soft -- and American influence are broad and multi-faceted. Our stepped up engagement must be so as well. We have enormous opportunity to engage not only governments but also East Asian societies more intensively and creatively, with both traditional tools and new technologies. If confirmed, I will urge our diplomats to take every opportunity to reach out to the people of the Asia-Pacific region through a robust public diplomacy program.

Mr. Chairman, for the last half century, the United States and its allies in the region – Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand – have maintained security and stability in East Asia and the Pacific. Our alliances remain the bedrock of our engagement in the region, and the Obama Administration is committed to strengthening those alliances to address both continuing and emerging challenges.

Japan is a cornerstone of our security policy in Asia. The May 2006 agreement on defense transformation and realignment will enhance deterrence while creating a more sustainable military presence in the region. The Guam International Agreement, signed by Secretary Clinton during her February trip, carries this transformation to the next stage. We are also working vigorously with our other critical ally in Northeast Asia, the Republic of Korea, to modernize our defense alliance and to achieve a partnership that is truly global and comprehensive in nature.

Japan and the Republic of Korea have been key partners in our joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in Northeast Asia and, in particular, to denuclearize North Korea through the Six-Party process. Recently this process has suffered serious setbacks, with North Korea stepping away from the denuclearization process and instead carrying out a series of provocations including its April 5 missile test and its May 25 announcement of a second nuclear test. As the President said, North Korea’s actions blatantly defy U.N. Security Council resolutions and constitute a direct and reckless challenge to the international community, increasing tension and undermining stability in Northeast Asia. If confirmed, I would use close bilateral and trilateral coordination with Tokyo and Seoul to make clear that neither the United States nor its allies will accept a nuclear North Korea. We will also work closely with China in order to coordinate our policies on North Korea. And there should be no mistake: the United States is firm in its resolve to uphold its treaty commitments regarding the defense of its allies.

As we work together to ensure peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, we must also continue to work with our regional friends and allies to tackle critical global challenges, including the security of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, energy security and climate change, development and disaster assistance, and responding to the global economic crisis through active leadership in multilateral organizations.

Australia is one of America’s closest friends and allies. We work with Australia on almost every issue, and we are thankful for Australia’s stalwart friendship, support and counsel. Our relations with New Zealand are the strongest they have been in many years as we work together on global and regional challenges from the Antarctic to Afghanistan. While the small size and populations of many Pacific Island countries make it seem sometimes they are overlooked, our ties are deep, and if confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity to strengthen those ties with our many friends in the Pacific.

One of our most urgent tasks is responding to the global economic crisis. It is worth highlighting that four Asian economies (China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan) are now among our top twelve trading partners. Today, the 21 APEC economies purchase some 60 percent of U.S. exports. The strong Asian representation in APEC, the WTO, and the G-20 reflects the increasing importance of Asian economies and their centrality in strengthening the multilateral trading system and recovering from the current financial and economic crisis. I am committed to close U.S. coordination with Asian economies to mitigate the downturn’s impact on their economies and ours, and to spur regional and global economic recovery.

In this respect, Mr. Chairman, I would like to note the opportunities for expanded engagement that lie before us in Southeast Asia. Taken together, the ASEAN countries represent our second largest export market in Asia, at $68 billion, just less than China. ASEAN is the largest multi-country destination for private investment from the U.S., at $130 billion. As the countries in Southeast Asia integrate under the ASEAN Community, including the goal of creating a single market, we can expect the importance of our economic, political, educational and cultural ties with this dynamic and variegated part of East Asia to continue to grow.

The United States and ASEAN are now beginning our fourth decade as Dialogue Partners and ASEAN has just brought into force its new Charter, which provides a framework for much greater regional cooperation on economic, political, human rights and social issues. While the pace of ASEAN’s evolution is unlikely to be dramatic, if we look at its changes over a period of several years, the picture is clearly one of increasing activity, relevance, and willingness to grapple with new challenges. The United States must match the changes underway in ASEAN and ASEAN member countries with renewed engagement which ensures continuation of a strong partnership.

Thailand and the Philippines stand as valued U.S. allies. The United States is working closely with the Government of the Philippines to overcome a persistent terrorist threat through an integrated effort to bolster military capabilities, improve institutions, and foster balanced, sustainable development. Our alliance with Thailand, a major non-NATO ally, provides a critical platform for projecting U.S. efforts in Southeast Asia and beyond. As the Thai people and their leaders struggle to emerge from recent internal tensions and grapple with how to strengthen democratic political institutions, they can count on the steadfast support and goodwill of the United States.

The Administration recently concluded three full days of discussions with Indonesian officials to define the contours of a Comprehensive Partnership that the President of Indonesia and Secretary Clinton called for, and Secretary Clinton met on Monday with Foreign Minister Wirajuda to discuss the partnership and other issues. Our relationship with Indonesia has expanded significantly in recent years, coincident with the growth of Indonesian democracy. It is entirely appropriate that the engagement between the world’s second and third largest democracies has grown to embrace new areas of cooperation. The scope of an effective partnership can certainly extend beyond bilateral topics, as we join together to address regional and global issues such as protecting biodiversity, conservation of tropical forests and extensive coral reefs, improving global peace-keeping capabilities, intensified cooperation in science and education, and restoring balance and growth to the global economy.

Mr. Chairman, the people of Burma deserve better than what they now have. As Secretary Clinton said in Jakarta, neither our sanctions-based approach nor ASEAN’s engagement approach have worked, so the Administration is reviewing policy options with the goal of finding more effective ways to encourage dialogue among the military, the opposition, and the ethnic nationalities, release of political prisoners, and broad-based reform. The recent actions by the Burmese Junta against Aung San Suu Kyi are deeply troubling and we are factoring these developments into our ongoing policy review. While I cannot prejudge the outcome of the policy review, I can say that my approach – if confirmed – will be to engage widely with Congress, with our partners in the region, and with people who know Burma in order to come up with practical, realistic ideas on how we can best encourage Burma to move in a more positive direction.

Last but certainly not least, I want to speak about our relationship with China. The U.S.-China relationship is complex, it is developing rapidly, and it is one of the most consequential of our bilateral relationships.

President Obama agreed with President Hu at the G-20 Summit in London that both the United States and China will seek to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship for the 21st century. China’s rise as an economic power and its growing political and diplomatic influence are developments with global and not merely regional ramifications. Our bilateral engagement with China cuts across a range and depth of issues that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. We currently convene over 50 bilateral dialogues and working groups spanning subjects from aviation to non-proliferation to food safety.

If confirmed, I will carry out the Administration’s objective to expand the cooperative aspects of the bilateral relationship in a way that parallels the complex and comprehensive nature of our engagement with China while further facilitating China’s integration into the international system. In this respect, the ability to conduct frank and honest conversations about the difficult issues where we disagree will be an essential element of our approach. The American people expect us to continue the promotion of human rights and religious freedom in China. If confirmed, I will ensure that human rights, religious freedom for all China’s citizens, and development of the rule of law and civil society remain strong pillars of our engagement. The situation in Tibet will remain a subject of engagement and concern.

Finally, I support the long-standing U.S. commitment to the one-China policy based on the three Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act, which have served to preserve peace and stability across the Strait for the last three decades. We are committed to making available to Taiwan the defense articles and services required for a sufficient self-defense. We welcome recent initiatives from both sides of the Taiwan Strait that have increased interaction and dialogue, and reduced tensions.

Mr. Chairman, let me close by reiterating my fundamental commitment, if confirmed, to do all in my power to ensure that the United States shapes trends in this dynamic region in ways that benefit both our own interests and those of the region as a whole. I strongly believe that close coordination between the executive and the legislative branches will be crucial to this endeavor, and if confirmed I look forward to close cooperation with you, Mr. Chairman, and your colleagues.

Thank you, again, for this opportunity to appear before you. I am happy to respond to any questions you may have.