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2010-03-05 | Strong U.S. Engagement with Asia-Pacific Region Is Vital

Strong U.S. Engagement with Asia-Pacific Region Is Vital

05 03 2010
Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell during a recent visit to South Korea (Photo: Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell during a recent visit to South Korea)

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell during a recent visit to South Korea (Photo: Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell during a recent visit to South Korea)

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington - Free trade and strong economic engagement remain critical pillars for U.S. relations in East Asia and the Pacific, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell says.

At the same time, despite significant economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, it is home to many of the most pressing security challenges of the modern era, Campbell added in prepared congressional testimony March 3. "What is often absent in our discussion about the ‘Asian miracle' are the challenges posed by uneven growth, poverty, and weak and ineffective governments," he said.

"Hundreds of millions have yet to benefit from the fruits of the Asian miracle, and income inequality continues to strain the capacity of governments to provide for their citizens."

Trade with Asia is increasing faster than in any other region, and the United States currently exports more goods to Asia than it does to the European Union, and nearly as much as it does through the North American Free Trade Agreement. One of the consequences of the global economic recovery that is under way is that American and Asian economies have become increasingly interdependent, Campbell said.

Campbell acknowledged in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific that the region is a key driver for technological innovation in the world and accounts for nearly a third of the global gross domestic product, a measure of the worth of all goods and services produced.

Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told the House committee that while the United States faces challenges in other regions of the world, "the most significant geopolitical events of the 21st century are playing out in the Asia-Pacific." Of note, he said, are issues of climate change, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, extremist groups, unresolved territorial disputes, and growing competition for energy and natural resources.

Citing the rise of new powers India and China and their interactions with established powers such as Japan and the United States, Campbell said a comprehensive strategy that creates space for new powers can ensure they emerge peacefully and in a way that advances the international system, and conflict need not be an issue.

Part of the responsibility of the United States in the region, he said, is to enhance and deepen its strategic engagement and leadership role. "The rapid emergence of transnational security challenges demands collective action," he said. "In fact, working with allies and partners is critical to solving some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. Nowhere is this truer than in the Asia-Pacific region."


In the past year the United States has re-engaged in the region through high-profile visits of the senior U.S. leadership and participation at high-level regional meetings, Campbell said. In March President Obama will make his second trip to the region since taking office, visiting Indonesia and Australia.

Obama visited Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea during a 10-day trip in November 2009 that focused on economics, trade and security issues. During that trip Obama attended meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, meeting with leaders from across the region.

The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting was held in July 2009 and was hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The continuing dialogue provides a venue for Chinese and U.S. officials to address issues affecting both nations, the region and the globe, Campbell said. Clinton also attended meetings in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and China.

"The pace of our engagement with the region signals the renewed emphasis we place on developing partnerships in this critical region," Campbell told the committee.

In addition to high-level visits, Campbell said, the United States is renewing engagement in other ways. After a formal review of U.S. policy toward Burma, Obama reaffirmed fundamental goals: a democratic Burma at peace with the region and a Burma that respects to rights of its people.

"A policy of pragmatic engagement with the Burmese authorities holds the best hope for advancing this goal," Campbell said. "Under this approach, U.S. sanctions will remain in place until Burmese authorities demonstrate that they are prepared to make meaningful progress on U.S. core concerns."

During the president's trip later in March to Australia, he will seek to deepen the bilateral alliance, Campbell said. "This is one of our strongest alliances in the region and in the world."

Campbell told Congress that the Asia-Pacific region is of vital and permanent importance to the United States, and it is clear that the countries in the region want the United States to maintain a strong and active presence. "What happens in the region has a direct effect on our security and economic well-being," he said.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: