Text: " U.S. Foreign Policy in East Asia and Southeast Asia" Winston Lord Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Usia Foreign Press Center Washington, D.C. January 14, 1997
I'd also like to thank this group that I've met with on many occasions. I am not just being diplomatic. I am about to be a private citizen. I can drop my diplomacy. I mean it when I say that I have enjoyed these sessions. I hope they've served your interests. They've certainly, I think, given me a chance, on behalf of the president and the secretary, to expound our policies and to respond to your questions. And I think it's an important dialogue for public understanding and indeed for American interests. So I will miss these sessions. This will be the final one, certainly in my present capacity and perhaps in any capacity. But I will always recall these sessions with great warmth and gratitude.
With your permission, let me make a few more general remarks about what we've tried to do the last four years. I'll try to keep it as brief as possible so we can get to your questions. If you ignore Jake's admonition and ask more than one question, that's okay. I'll just pick one to answer. I'll take the easiest one and just do the one that I like the best.
When I was up before the Senate for my confirmation hearings back in March 1993, I made the statement that today no region in the world is more important for the United States than Asia and the Pacific, and tomorrow, in the 21st century, no region will be as important. And I said that then, and I say it now as someone with a global perspective. Most of my career has been of a general nature, not just Asian Pacific, so I hope I'm not being parochial when I make such statements. And I'm more convinced than ever of the validity of those statements, after four years on this job.
And it's been an honor to serve in this administration, to serve President Clinton and Secretary Christopher. And I think the administration can take some satisfaction in how we have elevated the Asia-Pacific region on our agenda, laid the groundwork for further work toward a Pacific community, as the president called for early in his administration.
There's no question we've made some mistakes along the way. I'm not here to be overly self-congratulatory. But I do leave with a certain sense of satisfaction of what we've been able to achieve, and I think where we have maybe had some tactical miscues, we've done some course corrections, whether stylistic or substantive, along the way. Therefore, I think we're ending up on an even more positive note than the early going.
In general, the president has elevated the agenda by making his first trip overseas as president to the region -- our two treaty democratic allies in Korea and Japan, back in 1993 -- and his first trip after his reelection to our other three treaty allies and democratic nations of Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand, in South Asia.
We have maintained our force levels despite budget cuts. The president has articulated his vision of a Pacific community, and we've backed it up with not only rhetoric, but trips and conferences. We've revitalized our security alliances. We've entered into regional security dialogues. The president lift APEC up to the summit level. And working with other leaders of the region, we have made dramatic progress, looking forward toward freer trade and investment in the region. More specifically, among the areas that we take some satisfaction in, and again, without claiming perfection, our most important partnership with Japan, we have strengthened those ties and we have reaffirmed and highlighted our security alliance, which we think serves the stability of the entire region and the prosperity of the entire region, not just our two countries. And the president's trip in April was a particularly successful summit across the board.
We pursued an ambitious global agenda in some of these new problems in the world, like the environment. We have made significant progress on the trade imbalance front in terms of opening up Japan's market. And we've cooperated on almost every continent, whether it's in peacekeeping or political consultation or financial collaboration.
In Korea, we froze the most dangerous security challenge, nuclear potential of North Korea, facing this administration in the region when we came into office, and, I would argue, perhaps the most urgent security challenge facing the administration anywhere in the world. It has not always been easy, but, working closely with our South Korean allies as well as the Japanese and also the Chinese and Russians and others, we have maintained that freeze. It will -- the agreed framework will realize the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program in several years.
Meanwhile, we have maintained the principle that the North must talk to the South with respect to the future shape of the peninsula. And the peace process; the two presidents -- of South Korea and the United States -- put forward their four-party proposal in April. And we're pleased that over the December-January period, we managed not only to get the submarine incident behind us and the agreed framework momentum resumed, but the North Koreans agreed to a joint briefing which will take place in a couple of weeks. And this means that they will finally, as they should have before now and as they must in the future, sit down with South Korea as well as ourselves to discuss the possibilities for peace on the peninsula.
We've also strengthened the financial underpinnings of KEDO in December with the joining of the European Union.
With China, we've had some zigging and zagging, and I think that's due to some objective difficulties, including the mood in China and the complexity of the issues. But both countries want a better relationship. We've been working hard. We stabilized the relationship since the tensions of last spring. We're beginning to expand our positive agenda that doesn't always get the attention that our problems do, and we're trying to manage those inevitable problems and frictions.
Over time, we'd like to see China fully integrated into the world community as a cooperative major power, as it is already and will be in the next century. But neither we nor the Chinese have any illusions that this will be an easy process. We have to keep working at it. Both sides are going to have to show mutual sensitivity, make mutual efforts. But we've set up a schedule of very high-level meetings, intensive cabinet, subcabinet and state visits over the coming year or two that should propel this process forward.
One of the most significant achievements and one of the least noticed, in my view, over the last four years has been the normalization of our relations with Vietnam. This has served our priority goal of getting the fullest possible accounting for the missing-in-action in Southeast Asia. And it has also promoted other American interests, such as economics, regional security, control of narcotics traffic, refugees, et cetera. And it's helped to heal the wounds of war.
In Cambodia, a very important United Nations success story, with international support and American support specifically, we have seen a dramatic move away from the killing fields, reduced violence, almost 400,000 refugees sent back to Cambodia and reintegrated in that society, free elections under U.N. supervision, a coalition working against the Khmer Rouge, major Khmer Rouge defections, and death threats essentially reduced to banditry. We have seen the granting of MFN and a trade agreement with Cambodia. And Cambodia has made some significant progress on economics. There are problems there. We've made that clear to the Cambodians, although recognizing the tremendous challenges they face. And in particular, it's important that the coalition continue to work together as they look toward the elections coming up the next couple of years.
I have mentioned a couple of alliances, in addition to those in North Asia. Through presidential trips and ministerial meetings and other ways, we have revitalized our alliances, specifically in Australia where the president visited, but also in Thailand and the Philippines. In addition, with New Zealand, we have revitalized our political ties, although we haven't resumed our full alliance relations. But we have greatly enriched our dialogue. And they've been very cooperative in many areas, even though there's still unfinished business there.
We've promoted our values in democracy in the region, whether it's consolidating it in places like Mongolia, a very inspiring story, where the Mongolians are trying for political freedom and economic freedom at the same time, even though they're a country that's got terrible natural disaster problems and a new government, and it's sandwiched between two giants -- only 6 million people. It's a very important story, and we've given them strong support.
We have welcomed democracy elsewhere, whether it's the continued movement in Taiwan and the free elections there, or our support, as I say, in places like Cambodia, as well as promoting it in more repressive societies where liberty still must take hold.
We've also tried to integrate global objectives and perspectives into our regional efforts, whether it's arms control or whether it's environmental policy. So much of what we've done on a global basis has been very relevant to the Asia-Pacific region and indeed has benefited from the participation of the nations of the region, whether it's the extension of the NPT, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or signing of a nuclear weapons-free protocol for the South Pacific, not to mention our environmental policies on a global basis, which have resonance in Asia, with its huge population, pressure on energy and other resources.
We have a major environmental program with Japan, and this will be an increasingly important agenda item with China. And when the vice president goes to China, this will be a central theme.
Finally, we have promoted regional architecture, working with the nations of the region. This does not get headlines, necessarily, but I think ten years from now it may be seen in retrospect as the single most important legacy of this administration -- trying to build a Pacific community, not in any way blurring individual national identities, not being naive, cherishing individual identities and national cultures and histories, but at the same time recognizing more and more what we share in common with respect to prosperity, peace, values, and some of these global issues.
And so, on the economic side, by lifting APEC to the summit and the important meetings we've had since then, I think you've seen a dramatic move and a dramatic integration of the regional economic scene and the promotion of prosperity in the world's most dynamic region.
And then, on the regional security side, on top of our alliances and our forward military presence, we have energetically engaged in regional security dialogues.
This is not to say we don't have very large challenges in front of us. Somewhat inevitably I've dwelled on where I think we've made progress. I would acknowledge where sometimes progress came slower than we would like. Sometimes we'd have to shift our tactics. But on the whole, with the president's and the secretary's leadership, I feel we leave a really quite positive legacy in this region. I think you will see that legacy continued and enriched in the second term of the Clinton administration. This will require and, I believe, will get very strong, sustained presidential and Cabinet attention. With respect to the president, he knows full well, through his trips and his involvement, of the importance of this region, and he laid out his agenda for the second term for the Asia-Pacific area in his speech in Australia.
So I see considerable presidential attention to this region consistent with his convictions and our national self-interest.
The nominee for Secretary of State, Mrs. Albright, spent a considerable time laying out objectives in Asia right at the top of her opening statement and in her questions and answers. Sandy Berger, the new national security adviser, has spent a great deal of time on Asian problems in the first term as well as in his general background. And Senator Cohen, who is up to be secretary of Defense if confirmed by the Senate, has a great interest in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia.
Another element that will be needed, in my opinion, will be the maintenance of our force levels in the region, which are clear evidence of our engagement and commitment and a source of stability. That's why the quadrennial defense posture review that's going to take place over the coming months already under way is very important and I'm confident will reinforce this commitment to the region.
Then, of course, we need resources to show the kind of diplomatic leadership that the American people, I think, still expect and understand is in their own national interest. Even in today's press, you have seen encouraging reports of how the president will be going for larger sums despite our budget stringencies. I think there's a growing recognition in the Congress and the American people, and certainly there's a conviction in the executive branch -- Secretary Christopher and Mrs. Albright have been fighting hard for this -- that we must stop this erosion of our ability to carry out our leadership role in our own concrete national interests, and therefore, the resource factor will be very important. For Asia, with its dynamic economies, it's less important in the foreign aid field, although we have some very specific programs, like promoting democracy in Cambodia, Mongolia, the tuna treaty in South Pacific and other elements that are very important, but it is very important for our diplomatic and commercial presence.
And finally, we can't carry out successful policy and continue to elevate this region on our agenda without the cooperation of the Congress, and not just financial. And that is why I hope more and more Congress people will go to the region. I think this is invaluable. And that is why working with the Congress will be a high priority. But I have found, despite some problems with Capitol Hill, that there's a broad recognition of the importance of this region and broad support for the basic pillars of our policy.