Interview With NHK Television's Kenji Kohno

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

QUESTION: How were your meetings this morning?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, this morning, I just met with our team, preparing for the Secretary to arrive this evening. And we are very excited. We have a lot of moving pieces at this ASEAN Regional Forum. We had a nice trilateral last night with Japanese and Korean friends.

QUESTION: On the agreement yesterday between ASEAN and China, you welcomed the agreement. Why is that? It’s not legally binding. How good is it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well look, first of all, any steps that ASEAN and China can take that ease tensions, that improve communication, that set forward plans for further dialogue, the United States supports. So it’s a critical first step, and one that we welcome.

QUESTION: But, you think it should have some timeline? Or be legally binding?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look we`re at the beginning of a process. We’ve tensions spike over the course of the last several months. It will take strong efforts and goodwill on all sides to improve the circumstances among the claimants in the South China Sea. And, the United States, as you know does not take positions on issues associated with sovereignty; but, we have very strong views with regard to the maintenance of freedom of navigation, and the maintenance of peace and stability. So, we welcome this step yesterday.

QUESTION: Do you think the step yesterday is expected to deter the Chinese activities?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, I’d probably state it differently. This is a very complicated and complex set of issues in the South China Sea. This dialogue between ASEAN and China has demonstrated a productive step yesterday, and we support it.

QUESTION: Do you support the legal binding code of conduct that is supported by some Asian nations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think it’d be fair to say that the United States wants to see a process whereby there is deeper dialogue among all of the claimants and also a deeper discussion between China and ASEAN. But, it is also that case that it is up to those countries to determine the best way to increase trust and confidence and to build a plan of action for the way forward.

So, from our perspective, our primary interest is, as I said, specific principles – maintenance of peace and stability, freedom of navigation – and that’s how we’re going to proceed accordingly.

QUESTION: I see, but I think you told us that you bring some good ideas for resolution. Can you share those ideas?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think right now, the key in jobs like mine is to prepare for my principal. Secretary Clinton will have some specific ideas and she will roll those out at the ASEAN Regional Forum. They’ve been carefully developed after months of diplomacy and consultations with all the groups and actors.

QUESTION: What kind of consultations? What kind of diplomacy? What kind of ideas that she sees --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’ll let her brief you on those when she gets here. No, I can’t --

QUESTION: But, can we have a broad idea --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I can tell you that we’ve had deep discussions with basically all maritime states in Asia, close dialogue with all friends in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and we’ve been very clear that the United States will have a consistent position going forward, and it is our desire to see a diplomatic and peaceful process go forward.

QUESTION: If you can share with us, what is the major point that the Secretary is going to talk to the Chinese about the Regional Forum, the basic American stance on the --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look, it’s going to be very important that the United States and China are in a critical phase, and one of the things that we want to underscore in Bali, here at the ASEAN Regional Forum, is that there are going to be many areas that the United States and China are committed to working together – joint projects, areas where we have common interests and we seek to develop our cooperation further.

I’ll expect that we’ll have close dialogue not only with our Chinese friends, but with other countries here in Bali about a whole host of issues – North Korea, issues around maritime security, development – it’s a very full agenda.

QUESTION: You mentioned North Korea, but do you expect any progress on this issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, we had a very good dialogue yesterday and I would just underscore to you that there is very strong consensus and solidarity among the United States, Japan, and South Korea. And we seek to build on that consensus as we go forward and seek to develop some kind of diplomatic approach with North Korea.

QUESTION: Do you expect the North and South dialogue to resume this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I don’t know; we’ll see how things develop over the course of the next several days.

Thank you.