Interview With Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper's Kyoko Yamaguchi

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

QUESTION: I have three main areas that I want to ask about this morning – the South China Sea, the Secretary’s meetings, and North Korea. So let’s see how many questions I can ask.


QUESTION: So, China and ASEAN are going to reveal a guideline for cooperation in the South China Sea. What is your reaction to it? And also, what do you want to hear from China on this issue, especially in regards to (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me just say, we welcome this as a first step and we think that it has the prospect of improving relations, building confidence in the South China Sea.

Over the course of the last several months, we have seen a ramping up of tensions that have concerned us. And, so, we welcome this step. But, it is a first step, and clearly there is much more work that needs to be done. But, we welcome the effort undertaken by ASEAN and China.

And, Secretary Clinton and the U.S. side will affirm this step very clearly in all of our engagements over the course of the next several days.

QUESTION: So, would you like to hear any kind of commitment from the Chinese side?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: To be clear, this is not an issue between the United States and China. And we want very much for this not to turn into an area of U.S.-Chinese friction. We want to see a process among the claimants, and between China and ASEAN, and we’ve been very pleased by what we’ve seen over the course of the last day or so. But, again, it is simply a first step and there will be a substantial amount of work that needs to be done.

Secretary Clinton will have a specific set of ideas that she will underscore when she speaks at the ASEAN Regional Forum in the next two days.

QUESTION: Can you maybe speak briefly --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I just can’t. You know, the key to these jobs is that you don’t upstage your Secretary.

QUESTION: I understand. Do you plan to address this issue in your trilateral between Japan and Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes. We will talk about it generally. I would say that the primary area of focus in our trilateral is our close coordination on issues associated with North Korea. But, we will underscore our general interests in protecting and supporting the freedom of navigation and maritime security.

But, our trilateral meeting yesterday was to set the scene for the larger meeting between the three Ministers that will take place.

QUESTION: Would you describe that there is an agreement amongst the three countries on the South China Sea on how to (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think it would be fair to say that there is a general agreement among most of the states in Asia that they want a situation where dialogue prevails and tensions are reduced. Most of our discussion last night between Japan, South Korea, and the United States was about North Korea. That is where we were primarily focused. And, a little bit on how we would coordinate our actions at the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

QUESTION: And, specifically how are you going to (inaudible) on China? How are you going to engage China?


QUESTION: On the South China Sea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look, this is a process that will require patience. It is also, again, an effort largely lead by China and ASEAN. The United States has interests, but our primary interests are issues such as freedom of navigation and we seek reduction in tensions. We do not want to see escalation and anything that threatens peace and stability more generally.

Tensions in the South China Sea are nothing new. We have had many spikes over decades. Everyone realizes the complexity of the issues we are dealing with and the important thing is to develop a degree of communication and goodwill among all the players going forward.

I’ll take two more questions.

QUESTION: The Secretary’s meetings. Any chances she will be meeting with North Korea, with Myanmar.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No. I don’t think it’s appropriate at this session and it’s unlikely that she will have a meeting with either of them. I’m sure she will exchange courtesies in the larger settings, but we do not have bilateral meetings scheduled.

QUESTION: Why do you have two separate meetings with China, Dai Bingguo and Yang Jiechi?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: The meeting here is with Yang Jiechi and Dai Bingguo does not go. Secretary Clinton really has two counterparts, in some respects, in China. One is Yang Jiechi and the other is Dai Bingguo. In the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Dai Bingguo is her counterpart, and Yang Jiechi here at the ASEAN Regional Forum.

We have a lot of important business to do with in China and she’s also had very extensive discussions with Japanese and Korean friends of late. And, I think she’d like to check in with Dai Bingguo after, and brief him on her perspectives on how things went at the ASEAN Regional Forum.

QUESTION: What’s the next step on North Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let’s save that. That’s a longer answer, let’s save that for our next meeting. I’ll be back this afternoon; later in the day I’d be happy to have another session with you. Thank you.