Interview With Asahi Shimbun Newspaper's Yusuke Murayama

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Bali, Indonesia
July 21, 2011

QUESTION: Thank you so much for this.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you; it is my pleasure.

QUESTION: I would like to touch upon three issues if time allows.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I will have more time. So, this is not like Hawaii. I will be here for several days. So we can start and we can do more tomorrow or later today. So, don’t worry about that, ok? So, I will only have about five minutes, seven minutes, and then we can do more later.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Let me begin with the South China issue. So, yesterday, China and ASEAN ruled guidelines of declaration of conduct. And, what is your evaluation of that? Positive?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, let me just say, I think we welcome this step. It’s an important signal that the players are prepared to engage in purposeful dialogue. And, we welcome it as an important step. Clearly, more work needs to be done. But, anything that helps improve communication, and removes the risks of escalation, and the potential for conflict in the South China Sea, we welcome.

So, I think, we will, throughout the next several days, underscore our strong support for the diplomacy that has been undertaken between ASEAN and China.

QUESTION: Last year, at the ARF, Secretary Clinton made strong remarks about the importance of the freedom of navigation, along with Asian countries, which drove some backlash from China. So, how will you address this issue this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think the United States will continue to underscore our strong principles, with regard to, mainly, the freedom of navigation, and our desire to see peace and stability in the South China Sea.

At the same time, we are very pleased to see this diplomatic process continue between ASEAN and China. We have had very broad and deep consultations with a host of maritime ASEAN nations in Asia – including Japan, South Korea, China, and all of Southeast Asia – as we develop our position for the ASEAN Regional Forum in the next few days.

QUESTION: An important issue you just mentioned about, the proposal for the ARF this time. Secretary Clinton said, last year, that the U.S. is prepared to facilitate the initiative for confidence building measures. Is that something you are going to propose this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think what we are beginning to see is a process of workshops and dialogue taking place within ASEAN. As you noticed yesterday and the day before, there are a series of workshops that are being discussed by the Philippines and Indonesia, and we welcome that. The most important thing is that these workshops and dialogues are held, not whether the United States helps facilitate them. So, we support this process very much. And, we think these discussions can only help improve communication and predictability in the South China Sea.

QUESTION: So, for Burma. The so-called democratic government was formed, and Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released. At the same time, I heard that the U.S. now has become more flexible to call them Myanmar in international meetings. So, is it a signal that the U.S. will engage more with the new government?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No. First of all, let me say that the United States has stated repeatedly, our desire to have a constructive dialogue with Naypyidaw, with Burma. But at the same time, we’ve also underscored our general disappointment with the lack of progress in our bilateral engagement.

In the United States, the official title of the country is Burma. On occasion, in an international forum, as a diplomatic courtesy, we will use the term Burma-slash-Myanmar. And, that is not new to this administration; that has been done for years.

But, our position on the country remains clear: we want, very much, to see a diplomatic process inside the country; better dialogue between the government and ethnic groups; we want to see the release of political prisoners; we also would like to see a dialogue established between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi. And, of course, we would like to see very clear indications that Burma has not been involved, is not engaged in proliferation activities with North Korea.

So, we have been very clear on our expectations. And, we are hoping that this new government makes a clear break with the previous government in terms of how it deals with all of these issues, and issues such as welfare of the people, and economic programs, as well.

One last question.

QUESTION: North Korea seems reluctant to proceed in a dialogue with South Korea. Is there any possibility for the U.S. to start a dialogue with North Korea, if South Korea agrees to do so?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No. Our position is clear – that we need to see a sincere and effective effort between the North and the South before there can be a fundamental improvement or dialogue between the United States and North Korea, and, obviously, before we can begin our process to get back on the Six Party Talks. We still believe that a central feature of improving the situation in Northeast Asia is some effective form of North-South dialogue that meets the needs of Seoul.

Thank you very much. And, I’ll be happy to do other meetings. Every day we will have developments and we’ll brief you.

QUESTION: Thank you.