Briefing on His Upcoming Trip to the Pacific Islands

Special Briefing
Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Washington, DC
June 24, 2011

MS. FULTON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. So glad to see so many of you. It’s been a busy week for Asia Pacific Affairs this week at the State Department, and we’re very pleased to have with us today Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, who’s going to talk about his upcoming trip to the Pacific Islands. So without further ado, I’ll turn it over.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you very much, and it’s good to see all of you here today. What I’d like to do, if at all possible, is to lay out five things this week, and then I’d be pleased to take any questions that you have going forward.

First of all, I’d like to spend a moment or two if I can to talk about what we think were some of the uncovered issues – oh, are you all right?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Okay. Sorry. Are you okay? Are you all right?

QUESTION: I’m just skinned.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Oh, okay. Sorry. (Laughter.) Me too here, so – (laughter) – so let me start. So we’re going to just go over some developments this week, and I’d like to start with, I think – on some issues that we didn’t feel were adequately covered earlier this week from the 2+2 meeting between the United States and Japan. And I just want to underscore that this was the first meeting of the 2+2 which, in many ways, is the driving institutional mechanism between the United States and Japan since 2007. And a number of landmark agreements were reached that we would encourage you to take a look at, and I think underscore both the commitment of both countries to work closely together, but also reflect a very substantial forward momentum.

For instance, the agreement on field carrier landing operations were significant. We came up with a runway configurement for the FRF plan, off-shore Okinawa. We were able to articulate new common strategic objectives for the United States and Japan, not just in the defense of Japan but in the wider regional context in the Asian Pacific region and beyond, given Japan’s important role that they’re playing in the defense of piracy and also developments on – in South Asia and Afghanistan. So, an important meeting, and I think it does suggest that U.S.-Japan relations are firmly back on track, and a reflection that the United States was the first on the scene in terms of international friends to support Japan in its time of need in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake and nuclear crisis. And we were very grateful for the deep public appreciation and private expressions of that from our Japanese counterparts while they were visiting.

Secondly, yesterday, I think as you all know, the Philippine foreign minister was here, Foreign Minister del Rosario. He was here as part of a process to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the strong alliance between the United States and the Philippines. We discussed a range of issues and we are working closely with our Philippine counterparts to increase a number of capacities in relation to governance and assistance, but also maritime domain awareness, which we think is important in terms of the relationship between the United States and the Philippines. And I look forward to closer interactions with them in the coming months.

Today, Foreign Minister Kim will be meeting with Secretary Clinton. Yesterday, he had senior meetings at the White House. In fact, he’s been engaged in close consultations with the United States on the way forward over the course of the last several days. He was very supportive of our efforts in relation to building a very strong American pavilion next year at the Yeosu Expo. And I just want to underscore the very strong alliance relationship that exists between the United States and South Korea. And we are completely in alignment in terms of our goals, strategic objectives with respect to next steps with North Korea.

And then if I may just say as a moment on Saturday, late Saturday, an interagency team from the State Department, from the Department of Defense, from Admiral Pat Walsh, head of our forces in the Pacific, and a senior representative from USAID – we’re making, really, the first trip of its kind. We are going throughout the Pacific. Too often, when we say the Asia Pacific, it is the Pacific that gets short shrift. And so over a week’s time, we will go to Kiribas, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

In many respects, this is really an unprecedented high-level trip, and it will underscore our whole-of-government commitment by the United States to fulfill our moral, strategic, and political, and indeed, long-standing interests in the Pacific. We’ve had strong relations with the – our partners for decades, and we want to continue that going forward. And we will, in each stop, articulate specific steps on assistance, on dealing with climate change, on dealing with the welfare of the people of the Pacific Islands. And in every place, we will try to coordinate closely with partners such as Australia and New Zealand who have deep strategic interests in the Pacific. We’re extremely excited about this trip. We recognize that the challenges affecting the Pacific, ranging from climate change to endemic poverty, are important to address, and the United States wants to be in the forefront of that effort, bringing together a range of international actors that care about developments there.

And then finally on Saturday, a U.S. team in Honolulu will be meeting with Chinese interlocutors as part of a commitment made at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue to hold an Asia Pacific consultation between our two countries to explore and examine our respective views and positions with respect to the Pacific. We talk about a whole number of issues – economic, Afghanistan, developments in Africa – and we thought it was important to step up our dialogue and increase dialogue associated particularly with the Asian Pacific region. It will be our intention to ask some specific questions – what’s the direction of Chinese military developments?

We’re very interested in their diplomacy with North Korea, with Burma, with other players in the Asian Pacific region. I imagine the Chinese interlocutors will ask us about our plans for force posture, modernization, and some of our engagements with our friends and others in the region. This is part of an effort to increase transparency, predictability, and build trust and confidence between two key nations, and we are deeply involved in consultations with all others in the Asian Pacific region as well.

I think with that – let me just also say that we are very pleased with the release of Ai Weiwei and we welcome that step. However, the United States continues to be deeply concerned by the trend of forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and convictions of public interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals, and activists in China for exercising their internationally recognized human rights. And I intend to raise these issues in our discussions over the course of the next day in Honolulu. I’d be happy to take questions. Thanks.

MS. FULTON: All right. Andy.

QUESTION: Andy Quinn from Reuters. On the meeting tomorrow with the Chinese, Secretary Clinton yesterday said the South China Sea was going to be pretty much one of the top agenda items. Could you tell us what your message is going to be to the Chinese, specifically on their activities in the South China Sea? Are you going to warn them of getting involved with Vietnamese boats in the area? And secondly, is cyber security going to play any role in the talks you’re going to have tomorrow? And if so, what?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me just say that the United States has no intention to fan the flames in the South China Sea and we have a very strong interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, and that Secretary Clinton, both at the ASEAN Regional Forum and then again yesterday in her meeting and press comments after with Foreign Minister del Rosario, very carefully laid out our strategic objectives in the South China Sea. And we would urge all interested parties to review those matters carefully, and I expect that we will discuss these issues with a variety of players in the Asian Pacific region, including with China tomorrow.

And then on cyber security, I will say that we had a very useful exchange at the strategic talks that took place, chaired by Deputy Secretary Steinberg, at the last Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and we look forward to continuing that conversation between the United States and China on cyber security going forward. But I think tomorrow, the primary focus of our interactions will be about the Asia Pacific region.

MS. FULTON: Right here. Is this a follow-up?

QUESTION: Yeah. You said that the United States has no intention to fan the flames in the South China Sea, but you’re also going to tell the Chinese that they have an obligation not to fan the flames. Will you tell them to stop their provocations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think I’m going to stand on my statement. I think that’s clear. We will look forward, after our sessions tomorrow in Honolulu, to do a readout from those meetings. But I think we are trying to be very precise in our language, and I’ll just leave it at that if that’s okay.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up.

MS. FULTON: Next question right here.

QUESTION: About the South China Sea: After the Secretary’s comments yesterday, does this – is this sort of showing a shift, the U.S. position backing ASEAN more than China now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No. And indeed, we’ve been very clear that the United States does not take a position on sovereignty issues, but we also have strong principles that are longstanding in the maintenance of freedom of navigation and free and unimpeded legal commerce, and the maintenance of peace and stability. Those principles are longstanding and will continue, and we underscore them in all of our interactions in the Asian Pacific region. It is not our desire to see, as I said, these flames fanned. We want recent tensions to subside and cooler heads to prevail.

MS. FULTON: Next question, Dave.

QUESTION: Well, your interlocutor in Honolulu made a comment earlier this week about – in fact, suggesting that the U.S. keep away, it’s not our issue, and then that the U.S. would be drawn into the fire itself. Is that just a rhetorical flourish, or will you raise that with them?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: If I can say, I think I’ve answered the question. I think I’m going to just stand with what I’ve already said. Thank you.

MS. FULTON: Okay. Next question, Goyal.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Just a follow-up. I know you have answered. U.S. allies in the region, they are concerned about the situation as far as South China Sea from the Chinese. What Chinese are saying to the U.S. actually is a warning. They are warning the U.S.: keep hands off. So how seriously are you taking these warnings from China?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me simply say that I’ve already stated, very clear, our position. Look carefully at what Secretary Clinton laid out yesterday as opposed to a very consequential diplomatic set of steps that played out last year at the ASEAN Regional Forum, and I think our position is quite clear.

MS. FULTON: Okay. Next question, Lalit.

QUESTION: Yeah. The joint statement issued after two – the 2+2 meeting, the effort to do a trilateral dialogue with India, U.S., and Japan. Can you give us a sense what’s the (inaudible) behind the starting of a trilateral dialogue, and what level it would be?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, let me just say that one of the things that’s been most welcome is to see India’s Look East Policy. And we welcome India’s role as a vibrant, strong player in all aspects of Asian Pacific life – economic, commercial, strategic, and the like. We’ve worked closely with them on coordinating our approaches to the ASEAN Regional Forum and to the East Asia Summit. We’ve seen important dialogues taking place between India and China and also between India and Japan.

There are a number of what we might call mini-lateral steps and initiatives in the Asian Pacific region: Japan, South Korea, and China; Japan, South Korea, and the United States. There has been, recently, a substantial set of initiatives designed to improve relations between Tokyo and Delhi, and I think we’ve agreed that an appropriate next step, given some of our interests and our mutual pursuits, is to seek a trilateral session. We will begin that process at my level, at the assistant secretary level, and to just explore and see what areas of common pursuit going forward.

QUESTION: And when do you plan to have the first meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I don't think it has been, the date has been, decided yet, but hopefully in the very near future. Thank you.

MS. FULTON: I’m afraid we only have time for about two more questions.


QUESTION: Thanks. Hi. (Inaudible) Asahi.


QUESTION: Can – talking about the 2+2 with Japan, can you give us a better idea of a timeline with the FRF plan or a new deadline. I know that 2014 has been postponed. Can you give us a little bit more detail?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I don't think I can give you too much more beyond what’s already been said. But I just want to underscore that the message delivered very clearly from Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton to their interlocutors is that we need to see progress and we need to see a sustained commitment on the part of the Japanese Government to fulfill its obligations with respect to the FRF.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’ll take one last question. Hi.

QUESTION: Tomorrow is the first Asia Pacific consultation meeting. Do you have a timeline for the future meetings with the U.S. – between U.S. and China? And secondly, do you consider the South China Sea issue as a flashpoint of this U.S. and China relationship?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We’ve made it very clear that we’d like to continue a dialogue with China on all issues, and we expect to continue the discussions going forward on the Asia Pacific region, and we want to get off to a good start tomorrow. And I think our goal is to ensure that through close consultation and dialogue that we develop a way forward between the United States and China that allows both of us a greater degree of confidence about developments in the Asian Pacific region. I expect, as I said, that we will discuss and lay out clearly our position with respect to the South China Seas, and I anticipate Chinese colleagues will do the same.

MS. FULTON: Assistant Secretary Campbell, thank you.


MS. FULTON: Thank you, everyone.

PRN: 2011/1059