Press Availability at the ASEAN Summit

Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sheraton Grande Laguna
Laguna Phuket, Thailand
July 22, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying how delighted I am to be here in Phuket for meetings with the nations of ASEAN and its partners throughout the region. This visit to the ASEAN Regional Forum follows my February trip to Jakarta and my visit to the ASEAN secretariat, where I stressed America’s commitment to strengthen our presence and engagement in this region. I said then that I would attend this ministerial, and that we would begin the process of accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and that we will build a deeper and more dynamic partnership with ASEAN.

And that is why I am here today. The United States is back in Southeast Asia. President Obama and I believe that this region is vital to global progress, peace, and prosperity, and we are fully engaged with our ASEAN partners on the wide range of challenges confronting us, from regional and global security to the economic crisis to human rights and climate change.

After this, I will have the honor of signing, on behalf of the United States, the Instrument of Accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. This treaty seals our commitment to work in partnership with the nations of ASEAN to advance the interests and values we share.

I am also proud to announce that the United States intends to open a U.S. mission to ASEAN headed by an ambassador in Jakarta in the very near future. I have instructed my staff to begin consultations with the ASEAN secretariat, the Indonesian Government, and the United States Congress on the steps needed to open such a mission. As a first step, we will shortly assign an experienced diplomat to Jakarta to work with ASEAN on this effort.

Tomorrow, I will host the first ever ministerial meeting between the United States and the countries of the Lower Mekong – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand – to discuss our shared interests and our emerging partnership on issues related to water, health, and the environment.

I would also like to announce the Obama Administration’s commitment to deepen our engagement in Asia on the critical issue of climate change. We have asked the United States Congress for a seven-fold increase in our USAID climate change funding for this region. And we are planning to launch a new regional climate change initiative to support cutting-edge research and scale up investments in innovative climate change and development solutions in Asia, especially Southeast Asia. We will ask for a high-level dialogue on climate change within ASEAN so that together, we can help the world confront the threat of a warming planet and a transition to a clean energy future.

These steps are important because Southeast Asia and ASEAN are critically important to our future. ASEAN’s ten members host nearly 600 million people, including two of our treaty allies and the world’s third-largest democracy, which just completed very successful elections in Indonesia. The region is our sixth-largest export market, hosts more U.S. business investment than China, and straddles critically important shipping lanes.

So ASEAN is a region of great diversity where people of different backgrounds, religions, and every other diversity of the human experience are working to build a community. Just this week, ASEAN agreed on the outlines of a human rights body that can help promote the values we share with many of ASEAN’s member countries, and hopefully contribute to positive change in Burma.

On a personal note, let me say how shocked and saddened I was by the vicious terrorist attacks in Indonesia last week. We stand by Indonesia in these difficult times and we celebrate their successful election and the vibrancy of their democracy. The Obama Administration is proud to embark on a sustained, comprehensive partnership with Indonesia. And it will span all aspects of our relationship – diplomatic, political, strategic, cultural and so much else. I am convinced this partnership will yield very positive results.

So these are all important steps that the United States wants to take with our ASEAN partners, and to encourage ASEAN as it moves down the path it has set for itself. I also wanted to take this opportunity to talk about my meetings with the foreign ministers of our partners in the Six-Party process. We discussed the need for a vigorous, unified, and transparent implementation of Security Council Resolution 1874. We consulted on the steps that we are taking individually and the actions that we can take in concert to enforce the financial measures, the arms embargo, the inspection provisions, and other elements in the resolution.

All four of the other foreign ministers agreed that full implementation is important to demonstrate unanimity and resolve in the face of North Korean provocations, and to make clear that complete and irreversible denuclearization is the only viable path for North Korea. We do not intend to reward North Korea just for returning to the table, nor do we intend to reward them for actions they have already committed to taking and then reneged on. The path is open to them, and it is up to them to follow it. Unless and until they do, they will face international isolation and the unrelenting pressure of global sanctions.

Thank you all very much.

MR. KELLY: The Secretary will take a few questions. The first question will be from (inaudible) from Yonhap.

QUESTION: Thank you for your remarks, Madame Secretary. I’m (inaudible) from Yonhap News, a newswire of Korea. Actually, I have two questions regarding comprehensive package for – it’s a package for North Korea. First, could you give us more details or – I mean, more concrete items – just a couple of – to be included in those package? And the second one is, if North Korea, Pyongyang, will not accept those package deals, then what’s going to happen? I mean, what are you going to do for the process of denuclearizing North Korea?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent questions. First, let me emphasize that the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea are all united on our approach. We share a common goal of ending the nuclear weapons program and the nuclear program in North Korea so that we can have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We have made it very clear to the North Koreans that if they will agree to irreversible denuclearization, that the United States, as well as our partners, will move forward on a package of incentives and opportunities, including normalizing relations that will give the people of North Korea a better future.

It is tragic to look at what happens to the people in North Korea. They, as you know so well, don’t have enough to eat, they don’t have the opportunities that they deserve to have. So we are very clear that we are willing to discuss the future with North Korea, but only if they agree to the denuclearization. Our policies among the five of us are aimed at avoiding conflict and instability in the region, and I think we are pursuing, in this united front, a very positive approach that we hope the North Koreans will respond to.

MR. KELLY: Next question, Mark Landler from New York Times.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, picking up on what you just said, and knowing that you’ve just emerged from these meetings with four foreign ministers, I’d like to ask you a little more about the concrete, irreversible steps that you refer to. Have you reached an understanding and agreement with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea about the nature of these steps? And would you be able to tell us a little about what they might include, whether it be the disablement of the Yongbyon plant, surrender of plutonium stockpiles, or other similar measures? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mark, our goal is to have what we call irreversible denuclearization. So the points you just made are part of achieving that goal.

We know that North Korea made commitments in 2006 which they did not fully comply with. We do not want to be in another negotiation that doesn’t move us toward the goal of denuclearization. So we want verifiable, irreversible steps taken. And the technical experts will provide us with the details as to everything that must be done. But the net result is that North Korea will commit itself and eliminate its capacity to do anything other than have a denuclearized future.

We know that this is difficult, and we understand the challenges we face. But I think it’s remarkable that the five of us are not only committed to the goal, but talking very specifically about what needs to be presented to achieve that goal. And the United Nations Security Council resolution, which was unanimously supported by all of us, is being implemented vigorously by all of us.

So I think we are on a very strong position in dealing with the North Koreans, and now we wait to hear whether they are willing to respond positively.

MR. KELLY: Next question, we’ll call on (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madame Secretary –


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, today you suggested that the United States would offer a defense umbrella to your allies in the Gulf to protect them against the threat of a nuclear Iran. We were wondering whether you could flesh out exactly what you mean by this; a missile shield, a nuclear umbrella? And what concrete steps have you already taken or are planning to take to that effect?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am not suggesting any new policy. In fact, we all believe that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable, and I’ve said that many times, as you have heard. I was simply pointing out that Iran needs to understand that its pursuit of nuclear weapons will not advance its security or achieve its goals of enhancing its power, both regionally and globally.

For example, as the President and I have both said, the focus that Iran must have is that it faces the prospect, if it pursues nuclear weapons, of sparking an arms race in the region. That should affect the calculation of what Iran intends to do and what it believes is in its national security interest, because it may render Iran less secure, not more secure.

Now Iran has both rights and responsibilities. As I said in a speech I gave last week and as our Administration has said repeatedly, Iran has a right to the development of peaceful, civil nuclear power. And there are a number of ways that we have discussed with various countries as to how we could achieve that. This has been part of the discussion in the P-5+1; I have spoken about it with my counterparts on numerous occasions. So the prospect of peaceful civil nuclear power is there for Iran if indeed that is its purpose. But the world community is united in a rejection of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. And we want to point out that it may not actually deliver the positioning and enhanced power that Iran believes it could.

MR. KELLY: Last question from (inaudible).

QUESTION: Hello. Do you think that the ASEAN should kick out Burmese Government from the regional organization – ASEAN membership? And do you – don’t you have any idea to talk to Burmese Government directly? Because you have a opportunity to talk to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam tomorrow. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: ASEAN and the ASEAN countries are moving in a very positive direction. The increased emphasis on human rights that ASEAN is committed to exploring is very welcome.

Burma is moving in the opposite direction of the other ASEAN countries. And we have been very clear in stating that the United States would like to see changes in the behavior of the regime in Burma, and we think other countries in the region would as well.

I spoke at length yesterday in Bangkok about the concerns that are being expressed about cooperation between North Korea and Burma in the pursuit of offensive weapons, perhaps even including nuclear weapons at some point. So there are lots of issues that Burma raises for the entire region, not just the United States.

I think it’s important to encourage the Burmese leadership to begin to open up, to pursue the model that other ASEAN countries are following. And we have called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, which we believe is very important. It’s so critical that she be released from this persecution that she has been under. And if she were released, that would open up opportunities, at least for my country, to expand our relationship with Burma, including investments in Burma. But it is up to the Burmese leadership.

And we can only hope that perhaps in the conversations that are occurring between many other countries and representatives of Burma here today, there will be progress in persuading the Burmese leadership to change direction. So it is a matter of obvious interest and concern to the United States, but we have to see some evidence that Burma is willing to make these changes and take these actions.

And with respect to ASEAN and what ASEAN might do with Burma, that is, of course, up to ASEAN itself. But we should stay focused on trying to convince the Burmese leadership that they have a better future by moving away from isolation and treating their own people better and giving their people a chance to have a true election next year that will help to chart a new course for the people of Burma.

Thank you all very much.

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PRN: 2009/T9-14