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The US is back in Asia
Friday, 01 July 2011 08:24

Thanks to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the US is right back in Asia.  Right now, the Americans are trying to manage China's shenanigans in the South China Sea, by lending their support to the Philippines and Vietnam.


Late last year, Clinton laid out very clearly America's approach in her recent major speech on America's Engagement in the Asia-Pacific.  But it is a wonderful speech that must be read.


First, a few introductory words.  The last couple of years have been very puzzling up here in North East Asia.  Two years ago, the US people elected a President who was born in the Pacific, who declared the US a Pacific nation and who is very interested in the Asia-Pacific.  This is quite a change after George Bush's Obsession with the Middle East.  


But then the Japanese people elected a Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who sought to distance himself from America and cozy up to China.  What an aweful coincidence!  Subsequent events showed just how foolish Hatoyama was.


Now, under the leadership of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and thanks to childish behavior on the part of both China and Japan, the US is very much back in Asia, and US/Japan marriage is as safe as houses.  This is Clinton’s message -- please read some of the excerpts with me.    


After years of Republican neglect, the Obama administration has been seeking to “sustain and strengthen America’s leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and to improve security, heighten prosperity, and promote our values”.  As Clinton said, “we know that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia”.


“And yet, deep-seated challenges lurk in Asia. The ongoing human rights abuses inflicted by the military junta in Burma … North Korea’s provocative acts and history of proliferation activities … military buildups matched with ongoing territorial disputes create anxieties … 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 … it is a future in which the United States must lead …there are some who say that this long legacy of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific is coming to a close … our record … tells a very different story.”


“… 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 …

… our approach to Asia begins – with our allies … – Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines … These alliances have safeguarded regional peace and security for the past half century and supported the region’s remarkable economic growth …


… our alliance with Japan (is) 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 ...


… the alliance between South Korea and the United States is a lynchpin of stability and security in the region and now even far beyond …


… next year marks another celebration – the 60th anniversary of the alliance between Australia and the United States …


… 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 …

… 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 …it is a leading advocate for democratic reforms throughout Asia …


… In Vietnam, we are cultivating a level of cooperation that would have been unimaginable just 10 years ago … we’ve recently expanded our discussion on maritime security and other defense-related issues…


… we’re working together … 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 …


… 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 … 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 …


… Now, the relationship between China and the United States is complex and of enormous consequence, and we are committed to getting it right … 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 … But U.S. policy has consistently … supported this goal (of growth and development) since the 1970s. And we do look forward to working closely with China …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 … On military matters, we seek a deeper dialogue in an effort to build trust … On climate change, as the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a shared responsibility …


... On currency and trade, the United States seeks responsible policy adjustments …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…


… When I was here in Hawaii 10 months ago, I spoke about the importance of strong institutions for Asia’s future … 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 indispensible 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 …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 …We have been closely collaborating with Japan to prepare the way for our own leadership of APEC next year … Our aim is to help APEC evolve into an important, results-oriented forum for driving shared and inclusive, sustainable economic progress …


… immediately following this speech …I will represent our country at the East Asia Summit. This will be the first time that the United States is participating …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.


… 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.


… 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 …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 …


… 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…”


Winston Churchill once said that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."  Let me say that the US is the world's worst superpower, except for all other possibilities.


Dear American friends, welcome back to Asia!




America's Engagement in the Asia-Pacific, Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State, Honolulu, October 28, 2010



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