America's Engagement in the Asia-Pacific
Secretary of State
Aloha. The original idea for this speech is that we were going to do it outside. And if you saw the front page of the newspaper this morning where I was being greeted by Admiral Willard with my hair straight up in the wind – (laughter) – we decided we didn’t want another story about my hair. (Laughter.) So we appreciate the hotel accommodating us and allowing us to meet inside, although granted the lure of the beauty of Hawaii is right out those doors.
I want to thank the senator for his introduction, but much more than that, for his friendship, his leadership, and his service to our country. There isn’t anyone active in public service today who has done more in more capacities to really represent the American dream and to firmly root it in the soil of his native Hawaii and to represent, in the very best American tradition, the soldier, the Medal of Honor winner, the senator, and just an all-around wonderful man. (Applause.) And of course, it’s absolutely a treat to see him here with Irene and to have a chance to see both of them is a special pleasure for me.
I also want to recognize Congresswoman Mazie Hirono who is here. Thank you so much Mazie. (Applause.) And Mayor Peter Carlisle – Mayor, thank you for being here. (Applause.) I think both Senator Akaka and Congressman Djou were unable to come, but I want to recognize Senator Colleen Hanabusa who is here. Thank you so much Colleen for coming. (Applause.) And when you’ve been in and around American politics as long as my husband and I have been, you make a lot of friends over the years. And I’m so pleased that George Ariyoshi and John and Lynne Waihee and Ben Cayetano are here as well. Those are wonderful friends who we served with and got to know over the years. (Applause.) And I want to recognize Admiral Willard, our PACOM commander; Australian ambassador to the U.S., Kim Beazley. I know there are also students from the East-West Center, and there are some high school students. And I thank the students particularly for being here and all of the sponsors of this occasion.
I’m delighted to return to Hawaii. As Charles Morrison said, my trip last time was cut short by the terrible earthquake in Haiti. But this is the birthplace of our President and America’s bridge to the East, and it is where I am kicking off a seven–country tour of the Asia-Pacific region.
I’ve been looking forward to this trip for some time. From Hawaii it will be onto Guam and then Vietnam and Cambodia, then Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia, and American Samoa. It is an itinerary that reflects Asia’s diversity and dynamism. And it complements the route that President Obama will take in just a few weeks when he visits India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea. Together, the President and I will cover a significant portion of this vital region at a pivotal moment, after nearly two years of intensive engagement. And everywhere we go, we will advance one overarching set of goals: to sustain and strengthen America’s leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and to improve security, heighten prosperity, and promote our values.
Through these trips, and in many other ways, we are practicing what you might call “forward-deployed” diplomacy. And by that we mean we've adopted a very proactive footing; we've sent the full range of our diplomatic assets – including our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our teams on a wide range of pressing issues – into every corner and every capital of the Asia-Pacific region. We have quickened the pace and widened the scope of our engagement with regional institutions, with our partners and allies, and with people themselves in an active effort to advance shared objectives.
This has been our priority since Day One of the Obama Administration, because we know that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia. This region will see the most transformative economic growth on the planet. Most of its cities will become global centers of commerce and culture. And as more people across the region gain access to education and opportunity, we will see the rise of the next generation of regional and global leaders in business and science, technology, politics, and the arts.
And yet, deep-seated challenges lurk in Asia. The ongoing human rights abuses inflicted by the military junta in Burma remind us there are places where progress is absent. North Korea’s provocative acts and history of proliferation activities requires a watchful vigilance. And military buildups matched with ongoing territorial disputes create anxieties that reverberate. Solutions to urgent global problems, like climate change, will succeed or fail based on what happens in Asia. This is the future taking shape today – full of fast-paced change, and marked by challenges. And it is a future in which the United States must lead.
Because the progress we see today is the result not only of the hard work of leaders and citizens across the region, but the American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who protect borders and patrol the region’s waters; the American diplomats who have settled conflicts and brought nations together in common cause; the American business leaders and entrepreneurs who invested in new markets and formed trans-Pacific partnerships; the American aid workers who helped countries rebuild in the wake of disasters; and the American educators and students who have shared ideas and experiences with their counterparts across the ocean.
Now, there are some who say that this long legacy of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific is coming to a close. That we are not here to stay. And I say, look at our record. It tells a very different story.
For the past 21 months, the Obama Administration has been intent on strengthening our leadership, increasing our engagement, and putting into practice new ways of projecting our ideas and influence throughout this changing region. We’ve done all this with a great deal of support from leaders on both sides of the political aisle who share our vision for America’s role in Asia. Together, we are focused on a distant time horizon, one that stretches out for decades to come. And I know how hard it is in today’s political climate to think beyond tomorrow. But one of my hopes is that in Asia and elsewhere we can begin doing that again. Because it took decades for us to build our infrastructure of leadership in the world, and it will take decades for us to continue and implement the policies going forward.
So now, at the start of my sixth trip to Asia as Secretary of State, I am optimistic and confident about Asia’s future. And I am optimistic and confident about America’s future. And I am optimistic and confident about what all of these countries can do together with American leadership in the years ahead.
So today, I’d like briefly to discuss the steps that the Obama Administration has taken to strengthen the main tools of American engagement in Asia: our alliances, our emerging partnerships, and our work with regional institutions. And I will describe how we are using these tools to pursue this forward-deployed diplomacy along three key tracks: first, shaping the future Asia-Pacific economy; second, underwriting regional security; and third, supporting stronger democratic institutions and the spread of universal human values.
Let me begin where our approach to Asia begins – with our allies. In a vast and diverse region, our bonds with our allies – Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines – remain the foundation for our strategic engagement. These alliances have safeguarded regional peace and security for the past half century and supported the region’s remarkable economic growth. Today we are working not just to sustain them but to update them, so they remain effective in a changing world.
That starts with our alliance with Japan, the cornerstone of our engagement in the Asia-Pacific. This year, our countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of our Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. But our partnership extends far beyond security. We are two of the world’s three biggest economies, the top two contributors to reconstruction in Afghanistan, and we share a commitment to leading on major global issues from nonproliferation to climate change. To ensure that the next fifty years of our alliance are as effective as the last, we are broadening our cooperation to reflect the changing strategic environment. I covered the full range of issues that we face together in my two-hour discussion and then my remarks with the foreign minister from Japan yesterday.
This year also marked a milestone with another ally: the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, which Secretary Gates and I commemorated in Seoul this past summer. And in two weeks, our presidents will meet in Seoul when President Obama travels there for the G-20 summit.
Our two countries have stood together in the face of threats and provocative acts from North Korea, including the tragic sinking of the Cheonan by a North Korean torpedo. We will continue to coordinate closely with both Seoul and Tokyo in our efforts to make clear to North Korea there is only one path that promises the full benefits of engagement with the outside world – a full, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.
The alliance between South Korea and the United States is a lynchpin of stability and security in the region and now even far beyond. We are working together in Afghanistan, where a South Korean reconstruction team is at work in Parwan Province; in the Gulf of Aden, where Korean and U.S. forces are coordinating anti-piracy missions. And of course, beyond our military cooperation, our countries enjoy a vibrant economic relationship, which is why our two Presidents have called for resolving the outstanding issues related to the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement by the time of the G-20 meeting in Seoul.
Next year marks another celebration – the 60th anniversary of the alliance between Australia and the United States. In two weeks, I will finish my tour of this region with a visit to Australia for the 25th anniversary of the Australia-U.S. ministerial; it’s called AUSMIN. And Secretary Gates and I will meet with our counterparts, Foreign Minister Rudd and Defense Minister Smith. And I – we’ll also meet with Julia Gillard, Australia’s first woman prime minister, and have a chance not only to consult with the leaders, but also to give a policy address about the future of the alliance between Australia and the U.S.
With our Southeast Asian allies, Thailand and the Philippines, the United States is working closely on an expanding range of political, economic, environmental, and security-related issues. This summer, we launched our Creative Partnership Agreement with Thailand, which brings together Thai and American universities and businesses to help develop the innovative sectors of the Thai economy. With the Philippines, we will hold our first ever 2+2 Strategic Dialogue this coming January. And last month, I had the pleasure of joining President Aquino in signing a Millennium Challenge Compact to accelerate economic development and decrease poverty in the Philippines.
With each of our five allies in the region, what began as security alliances have broadened over time and now encompass shared actions on many fronts. And we will continue to ask ourselves the hard questions about how to strengthen the alliances further, tailoring them for each relationship to deliver more benefits to more of our people.
Beyond our alliances, the United States is strengthening relationships with new partners. Indonesia is playing a leading role in the region and especially in regional institutions. As chair of ASEAN next year, Indonesia will host the 2011 East Asia Summit. And as the creator of the Bali Democracy Forum, it is a leading advocate for democratic reforms throughout Asia. Our two presidents will formally launch our new Comprehensive Partnership Agreement during President Obama’s visit to Indonesia next month.
In Vietnam, we are cultivating a level of cooperation that would have been unimaginable just 10 years ago. Our diplomatic and economic ties are more productive than ever, and we’ve recently expanded our discussion on maritime security and other defense-related issues. Vietnam also invited us to participate as a guest at the East Asia Summit for the first time this year. That opens up a critical new avenue for cooperation. And though we still have our differences, we are committed to moving beyond our painful past toward a more prosperous and successful relationship.
Few countries punch as far above their weight as Singapore, and we’re working together to promote economic growth and integration, leveraging Singapore’s leadership in ASEAN and the role it has played in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And in Malaysia and New Zealand, our diplomats and development experts are bringing their talents to bear and building stronger ties on every level, including increased trade, people-to-people exchanges, and efforts to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
In a crowded field of highly dynamic, increasingly influential emerging nations, two, of course, stand out – India and China. Their simultaneous rise is reshaping the world and our ability to cooperate effectively with these two countries will be a critical test of our leadership. With growing ties between our governments, our economies, and our peoples, India and the United States have never mattered more to each other. As the world’s two largest democracies, we are united by common interests and common values.
Earlier this year, we launched the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. And one of the core issues we addressed is India’s growing engagement and integration into East Asia, because we believe that India is a key player in this region and on the global stage. That’s why President Obama is also beginning his own major trip to Asia next week with a stop in India. His trip will bring together two of our top priorities – renewed American leadership in Asia and a U.S.-India partnership that is elevated to an entirely new level.
Now, the relationship between China and the United States is complex and of enormous consequence, and we are committed to getting it right. Now, there are some in both countries who believe that China’s interests and ours are fundamentally at odds. They apply a zero-sum calculation to our relationship. So whenever one of us succeeds, the other must fail. But that is not our view. In the 21st century, it is not in anyone’s interest for the United States and China to see each other as adversaries. So we are working together to chart a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship for this new century.
There are also many in China who believe that the United States is bent on containing China, and I would simply point out that since the beginning of our diplomatic relations, China has experienced breathtaking growth and development. And this is primarily due, of course, to the hard work of the Chinese people. But U.S. policy has consistently, through Republican and Democratic administrations and congresses supported this goal since the 1970s. And we do look forward to working closely with China, both bilaterally and through key institutions as it takes on a greater role, and at the same time, takes on more responsibility in regional and global affairs. In the immediate future, we need to work together on a more effective approach to deal with North Korea’s provocations to press them to rebuild ties with the South and to return to the Six-Party Talks.
On Iran, we look to China to help ensure the effective implementation of global sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. On military matters, we seek a deeper dialogue in an effort to build trust and establish rules of the road as our militaries operate in greater proximity. On climate change, as the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, w have a shared responsibility to produce tangible strategies that improve energy efficiency and advance global climate diplomacy.
On currency and trade, the United States seeks responsible policy adjustments that have been clearly articulated by Secretary Geithner and a better climate for American businesses, products, and intellectual property in China. Looking beyond our governments, our two countries must work together to increase the number of students studying in each country. And we have an initiative called 100000 Strong to promote that goal. And on human rights, we seek a far-reaching dialogue that advances the protection of the universal rights of all people. We will welcome President Hu Jintao to Washington in early 2011 for a state visit. The United States is committed to making this visit a historic success. And I look forward to meeting with my counterpart, State Councilor Dai Bingguo later this week to help prepare for that trip.
Now, our relationship with our allies and our partners are two of the three key elements of our engagement in the Asia Pacific region. The third is our participation in the region’s multilateral institutions. When I was here in Hawaii 10 months ago, I spoke about the importance of strong institutions for Asia’s future. And let me simply state the principle that will guide America’s role in Asian institutions. If consequential security, political, and economic issues are being discussed, and if they involve our interests, then we will seek a seat at the table. That’s why we view ASEAN as a fulcrum for the region’s emerging regional architecture. And we see it as indispensable on a host of political, economic, and strategic matters.
The United States has taken a series of steps to build stronger ties with ASEAN, including acceding to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and opening a U.S. mission to ASEAN. Secretary Gates recently returned from Hanoi where he participated in the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting. President Obama has personally engaged with ASEAN leaders twice to signal how seriously the United States takes our engagement. And we’ve taken a leading role in the ASEAN Regional Forum, where we have discussed ongoing security issues such as North Korea and the South China Sea. On the latter issue, we are encouraged by China’s recent steps to enter discussions with ASEAN about a more formal, binding code of conduct.
With regard to APEC, we see this as a pivotal moment in which APEC can revitalize its mission and embrace a 21st century economic agenda. And we admire Japan’s forward-leaning leadership at this year’s APEC. They have defined a new path forward for APEC on trade liberalization and promoted specific efforts to increase business investment in small and medium enterprises.
We have been closely collaborating with Japan to prepare the way for our own leadership of APEC next year, and that will build on the leaders meeting here in Honolulu. And I appreciate the Host Committee members who are here for your support of this important meeting. Our aim is to help APEC evolve into an important, results-oriented forum for driving shared and inclusive, sustainable economic progress.
The United States is also leading through what we call “mini-laterals,” as opposed to multilaterals, like the Lower Mekong Initiative we launched last year to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. And we are working through the Pacific Island Forum to support the Pacific Island nations as they strive to really confront and solve the challenges they face, from climate change to freedom of navigation. And to that end, I am pleased to announce that USAID will return to the Pacific next year, opening an office in Fiji, with a fund of $21 million to support climate change mitigation.
Now, immediately following this speech, I will leave for Hanoi, where I will represent our country at the East Asia Summit. This will be the first time that the United States is participating and we are grateful for the opportunity. I will introduce the two core principles that the Obama Administration will take in its approach to the EAS—first, ASEAN’s central role, and second, our desire to see EAS emerge as a forum for substantive engagement on pressing strategic and political issues, including nuclear nonproliferation, maritime security, and climate change.
So these are the primary tools of our engagement —our alliances, our partnerships, and multilateral institutions.
And as we put these relationships to work, we do so in recognition that the United States is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the Asia Pacific—because of our history, our capabilities, and our credibility. People look to us, as they have for decades. The most common thing that Asian leaders have said to me in my travels over this last 20 months is thank you, we’re so glad that you’re playing an active role in Asia again. Because they look to us to help create the conditions for broad, sustained economic growth and to ensure security by effectively deploying our own military and to defend human rights and dignity by supporting strong democratic institutions.
So we intend to project American leadership in these three areas—economic growth, regional security, and enduring values. These arenas formed the foundation of American leadership in the 20th century, and they are just as relevant in the 21st century. But the way we operate in these arenas has to change—because the world has changed and it will keep changing.
The first is economic growth. One theme consistently stands out: Asia still wants America to be an optimistic, engaged, open, and creative partner in the region’s flourishing trade and financial interactions. And as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in the dynamic markets of Asia. These are essential features of the rebalancing agenda of our administration.
Now, for our part, we are getting our house in order—increasing our savings, reforming our financial systems, relying less on borrowing. And President Obama has set a goal of doubling our exports, in order to create jobs and bring much-needed balance to our trade relationships.
But achieving balance in those relationships requires a two-way commitment. That’s the nature of balance—it can’t be unilaterally imposed. So we are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness. American businesses and workers need to have confidence that they are operating on a level playing field, with predictable rules on everything from intellectual property to indigenous innovation.
When free trade is done right, it creates jobs, lowers prices, fuels growth, and lifts people’s standards of living. I mentioned our earlier – I mentioned earlier our hope to complete discussions on the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement to permit its submission to Congress. We are also pressing ahead with negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an innovative, ambitious multilateral free trade agreement that would bring together nine Pacific Rim countries, including four new free trade partners for the United States, and potentially others in the future.
2011 will be a pivotal year for this agenda. Starting with the Korea Free Trade Agreement, continuing with the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, working together for financial rebalancing at the G-20, and culminating at the APEC Leaders Summit in Hawaii, we have a historic chance to create broad, sustained, and balanced growth across the Asia Pacific and we intend to seize that.
Sustained economic progress relies on durable investments in stability and security—investments the United States will continue to make. Our military presence in Asia has deterred conflict and provided security for 60 years, and will continue to support economic growth and political integration.
But our military presence must evolve to reflect an evolving world. The Pentagon is now engaged in a comprehensive Global Posture Review, which will lay out a plan for the continued forward presence of U.S. forces in the region. That plan will reflect three principles: Our defense posture will become more politically sustainable, operationally resilient, and geographically dispersed.
With these principles in mind, we are enhancing our presence in Northeast Asia. The buildup on Guam reflects these ideas, as does the agreement on basing that we have reached with Japan—an agreement that comes during the 50th anniversary of our mutual security alliance. We have also adopted new defense guidelines with South Korea.
In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, we are shifting our presence to reflect these principles. For example, we have increased our naval presence in Singapore. We are engaging more with the Philippines and Thailand to enhance their capacity to counter terrorists and respond to humanitarian disasters. We have created new parameters for military cooperation with New Zealand and we continue to modernize our defense ties with Australia to respond to a more complex maritime environment. And we are expanding our work with the Indian navy in the Pacific, because we understand how important the Indo-Pacific basin is to global trade and commerce.
Now, some might ask: Why is a Secretary of State is talking about defense posture? But this is where the three D’s of our foreign policy—defense, diplomacy, and development—come together. Our military activities in Asia are a key part of our comprehensive engagement. By balancing and integrating them with a forward-deployed approach to diplomacy and development, we put ourselves in the best position to secure our own interests and to promote the common interest.
This is true for our forces on the Korean Peninsula maintaining peace and security, our naval forces confronting piracy, promoting free navigation, and providing humanitarian relief for millions of people, and our soldiers and civilians working closely with friends and partners in Southeast Asia to train, equip, and develop capacity for countries to respond swiftly to terrorist threats.
More than our military might, and more than the size of our economy, our most precious asset as a nation is the persuasive power of our values—in particular, our steadfast belief in democracy and human rights.
Our commitment to uphold and project these values is an indispensable aspect of our national character. And it is one of the best and most important contributions we offer the world. So of course, it is an essential element of everything we do in U.S. foreign policy.
Like many nations, we are troubled by the abuses we see in some places in the region. We join billions of people worldwide in calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi; her imprisonment must come to an end. And we are saddened that Asia remains the only place in the world where three iconic Nobel laureates—Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, and Liu Xiaobo—are either under house arrest, in prison, or in exile.
As we deepen our engagement with partners with whom we disagree on these issues, we will continue to urge them to embrace reforms that would improve governance, protect human rights, and advance political freedoms.
And I would like to underscore the American commitment to seek accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred in Burma by working to establish an international Commission of Inquiry through close consultations with our friends, allies, and other partners at the United Nations. Burma will soon hold a deeply flawed election, and one thing we have learned over the last few years is that democracy is more than elections. And we will make clear to Burma’s new leaders, old and new alike, that they must break from the policies of the past.
Now, we know we cannot impose our values on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal—that they are cherished by people in every nation in the world, including in Asia—and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. In short, human rights are in everyone’s interest. This is a message that the United States delivers every day, in every region.
Now, we also know that we have to work with these countries on many issues simultaneously, so we never quit from promoting all of our concerns. We may make progress on the economy or on security or on human rights and not on the other one or two, but we have to have a comprehensive approach. And what I have described today is a mix of old commitments and new steps that we are taking. And through these steps, we will listen, we will cooperate, and we will lead.
Of course, it is the people of Asia who must make the tough choices and it is their leaders who must make an absolutely fundamental choice to improve not just the standard of living of their people but their political freedom and their human rights as well. Asia can count on us to stand with leaders and people who take actions that will build that better future, that will improve the lives of everyday citizens, and by doing so not just grow an economy but transform a country. We make this commitment not just because of what’s at stake in Asia, we make this commitment because of what is at stake for the United States. This is about our future. This is about the opportunities our children and grandchildren will have. And we look to the Asia Pacific region as we have for many decades as an area where the United States is uniquely positioned to play a major role in helping to shape that future.
I know how much Hawaii serves as that bridge to the Asia Pacific region, and I know how the very diversity and dynamism of Hawaii says so much about what is possible not only in our own country but in countries throughout the Pacific. So we will continue to stand for what we believe is in America’s interest and what we are absolutely convinced is also in the interests of the people of Asia as well. And I look forward to returning to Hawaii for the APEC Leaders Summit when we will take stock of what we have accomplished and how far we have come, and to look to the leaders and people of Hawaii to continue to show us the way.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)