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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Administration Policy and Priorities in Asia

FPC Briefing
Kurt Campbell
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Jeffrey Bader, NSC Senior Director for Asian Affairs
Foreign Press Center
New York, New York
September 23, 2009



3:00 P.M., EDT


MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming and thank you for waiting. We’d like to thank the Foreign Press Center again for its hospitality. And I would like to introduced two senior officials: Jeff Bader, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council; and Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific.

And now, over to Jeff and Kurt. Thank you.

MR. BADER: Thanks much, Ben, and delighted to be here with my old and dear friend, Kurt Campbell, to talk to you all today. We’ve had a very interesting few days up here with the President, Secretary of State meeting with Asian leaders. In fact, the President, because of a tight schedule, had only five bilateral meetings while he’s been here, and two of those were with Asian leaders, with President Hu Jintao of China and Prime Minister Hatoyama.

Since the Administration came into office in January, the Obama Administration has been paying considerable attention to Asia. In the first eight months of the Administration, with a crushing international and domestic agenda, the President has sought to build strong and durable ties with allies and partners in the region.

The first visitor that the President greeted at the White House was the prime minister of Japan. He has welcomed to the Oval Office Prime Minister Rudd of Australia, President Arroyo of the Philippines, from – the president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak – a variety of visitors from China, including Vice Premier Wang-Chi-Sun, chairman of the NPC Wu Bangguo, Dai Bingguo, state councilor, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. He’s met twice with President Hu Jintao, including yesterday, and of course, he had his first meeting today with Prime Minister Hatoyama.

The first overseas trip that the Secretary of State took was to Asia. That hasn’t been done for 50 years. As you know, she visited South Korea, Japan, China, and Indonesia. This was meant to be a signal. This was no accident. The character of our interaction with our Asian colleagues, partners and allies has not been an arm-twisting, lecturing approach. It’s been collaborative. Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton believe in the value of listening and being sensitive to the political needs of the – of our interlocutors.

Well, what have we done through these relationships that we’ve developed? We’ve worked very hard, and I believe successfully, to build trust and confidence in our key allies in Tokyo and Seoul in our approach to the key security issues of the North Korea nuclear and missile program. We have developed – President Obama has developed a close – a very close relationship with President Lee Myung-bak. We have been firm where it matters – that is, in response to North Korean provocations. And we’ve been reasonable in response to constructive suggestions by our partners.

We’ve established a very strong pattern of close consultation with our partners in the Six-Party Talks, and that is not merely a phrase. We’d never do anything vis-à-vis the North where we do not extensively consult with our allies and partners in advance. And the result of this approach has been unprecedented unity in the international community in the face of North Korean provocations, the passage of a presidential statement by the Security Council and Security Council Resolution 1874. And this unity has helped persuade North Korea – has started to persuade North Korea to change its approach and to halt the provocations that were the pattern before.

We’ve enjoyed a smooth transition in the relationship with China. This has not always been the case in the past in administrations, including administrations I’ve been associated with. Smoothness is not important merely for those of us who work because it makes life easily, but stability in a relationship of this magnitude is an important thing. The U.S.-China relationship is sound, and a strong U.S.-China relationship is critical to achievement of our global and our regional goals.

We have established a strategic and economic dialogue that Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner chaired, and which was – has been an unprecedented forum for dialogue on the key strategic and economic issues. We’ve restored military-to-military relations with China. We’ve avoided destructive swings in the relationship, and we’ve elicited close collaboration from the Chinese on North Korea and on rebuilding the global economy.

Southeast Asia – we’ve had a new emphasis on Southeast Asia. Secretary Clinton announced our accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, something that the Southeast Asians and the ASEAN countries have been seeking for 20 years. Secretary Clinton paid the first-ever visit to ASEAN headquarters in Jakarta. President Obama’s speech in Cairo aimed at the Muslim world was very well-received in key countries in Southeast Asia, notably Indonesia and Malaysia.

As for out – it takes time to get outcomes. This is – we’re eight months in, and one should not expect sudden alterations in longstanding patterns, but we’re investing in these relationships for the long term. I think we’ve already gotten some significant benefits. We’ve gotten significantly increased contributions, for example, from a number of countries in the region for our efforts in Afghanistan. In this regard, I’d single out Australia, New Zealand, which have increased their presence; South Korea, which is examining how it can be helpful; and Japan, which has been extraordinarily helpful in paying salaries of the Afghan National Police and in providing a billion dollars in assistance to Pakistan. We’ve had military contributions from countries such as Singapore, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea in combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden. President Hatoyama just announced his support for an initiative to combat H1N1 – the H1N1 virus, an $11 million contribution to WHO.

The last thing I’d say before turning it over to Kurt is that two anchors of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific are the U.S. alliance with Japan and a positive relationship with China. In the meetings with President Hatoyama and President Hu Jintao, the last two days illustrate the centrality of these two relationships to our regional and global goals. In both conversations, we talked about not only the bilateral benefits we derive from these relationships, but global issues such as global economic recovery, climate change, nonproliferation on North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan.

And Kurt and I look forward to answering your questions about those meetings among others. Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you, Jeff, and again, it’s great to be here, and thank you all for showing up. Let me just fill in a few other things to build on Jeff’s excellent briefing, if I would.

A very large number of bilateral meetings over the course of the last several days; this is not just a venue for high-level dialogue between the leaders, but also an enormous group of foreign ministers, senior officials and others are here. And I thought I’d give you just a general sense about what the overall flavor of these discussions have been. I think it’s no secret that there are occasional anxieties that the United States will become preoccupied away from Asia during an absolutely critical time, that we might be preoccupied away from the drama that’s unfolding.

And I think what we’ve seen over the course of the last several months is a recognition that the United States is really here to stay and here to play. We are not in any way seeking to diminish our responsibilities or role in the Asia Pacific region. And you will see, going forward, a high-level engagement at the highest levels, both directly and in other forums with our Asian interlocutors. And I think that message and critical, concrete steps to back it up was very much appreciated by Asian interlocutors.

Number two, we are trying where we can to diminish this gap in both expectations and delivery between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia is increasingly dynamic. We have launched, as you know, a major initiative, a comprehensive partnership between the United States and Indonesia. And we’re also taking steps to seek further dialogue and interaction with all the countries in Southeast Asia.

Third, a recognition that new issues are increasingly coming to the fore in terms of our both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy; in every session I attended, the issue of climate change was front and center, and a recognition that the United States, other developing states need to take special care in terms of handling the upcoming diplomacy associated with Copenhagen, but also recognition that other nations in the Asian Pacific region will need to do their share as well.

On some out-of-area issues, I think what’s significant increasingly is almost every country we interacted with in Asia, from Mongolia to Korea to Japan to various states in Southeast Asia and Australia – several of these countries have stepped up with specific assistance to Afghanistan, a recognition that this is not just an American challenge, but a global one and, increasingly, an Asian one.

There was also greater appreciation, particularly from Southeast Asian friends, about a renewed American set of efforts designed to seek a just peace in the Middle East. And so, increasingly, countries like Malaysia and Indonesia follow developments in the Middle East extraordinarily carefully, and they seek an activist and engaged and fair-minded American approach to those challenges.

Lastly, I would just say that the issue of Iran came up in virtually all of our sessions. The United States, the President, the Secretary of State, all the senior interlocutors from the United States, underscored our willingness, our desire to sit down to have a dialogue with Iranian interlocutors. But at the same time, we made very clear that our patience is limited. And many of the countries in Asia have close ties with Iranian interlocutors, both economic and political ties, and we called on all of them to underscore in their private and public interactions with Iran the importance of seeking an early constructive dialogue with the United States and the international community on issues associated with their nuclear ambitions.

And I must say, in many of our private meetings, a recognition that the United States has put out its hand and Iran has yet to grasp it. And we look forward to support from our Asian friends in helping to communicate this message quite clearly to Tehran.

I think with that, I think Jeff and I will open it up for questions, and we’ll sort of jump back and forth. If I could ask you to identify yourself so we know who’s asking the question, that’d be terrific. And there’s a man with a microphone here on the side. Thank you.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Why don’t you wait for the microphone. Jeff, it has to be picked up, so why don’t you --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) The State Department spokesman said that the U.S. has no intention to renegotiate on the issue of Okinawa. And just two days ago, P.J. Crowley said that the U.S. will continue discussions with the new government on this issue. So are you taking a step back from the previous statement, or where do you stand right now on that issue after the – sorry, after the meeting between the prime minister and the President this morning?

MR. BADER: Okay. President Obama and Prime Minister Hatoyama had an excellent meeting. It was their introductory meeting. The primary – I would say the primary message of the meeting was the centrality of the alliance in foreign policy of both our countries, strong statements of commitment to the alliance, agreement that the alliance is critical to U.S. national interests, to the defense of Japan, and to security of the region. That was, to me, the central agreed message of the meeting.

Now, in addition, they discussed a number of other subjects, as Kurt indicated – Iran – Iran was discussed. Let me just mention the subjects, and then go into more depth as needed. But Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, global economy, and climate change were the subjects.

Just briefly on North Korea, I would rather, you’ll forgive me, speak about what the President said, because that is our custom. We would prefer to leave to the Japanese side to describe what Prime Minister Hatoyama had to say. But I would say that there was an extraordinary meeting of the minds as a general proposition. But on North Korea, the President emphasized our commitment to denuclearization, to the Six-Party Talks, and to the necessity of North Korea living up to its commitments.

On Pakistan and Afghanistan, the President expressed appreciation for what Japan has done in terms of contributions to stabilize both countries, its extraordinary contributions in both cases.

And on climate exchange, that we expect to cooperate closely as the world’s two leading economies and that the U.S. has a lot to learn from Japan in the area of clean and efficient energy.

On economic – global economic recovery, the same point about the importance of the two leading economies in the world working together, and the necessity of recovery helping not just the global economic situation, but ordinary people in both countries.

And am I missing anything? I think those were the main points.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thanks, Jeff. Just to build on one or two things. First of all, I was struck by how warm the meeting was. These are men of a similar generation, similar kind of educational experiences, similar kind of approach to the role of government and modern societies. And so I sensed an immediate connection and, I think, a connection that can be built upon in the coming months and years.

Secondly, to signal that this is not just a partnership but a relationship of equals and of strong independent nations, President Obama, on a couple of occasions, actually complimented the courage of Prime Minister [Hatoyama], particularly on his climate change commitments and the determination to play a leading role there, and as Jeff indicated, a desire for the United States to learn from Japan. We have much to learn from the Japanese model in terms of greater fuel efficiencies, construction design, and the like. So a very positive meeting overall, a very positive meeting. And not only underscoring the foundation of our alliance and its centrality, not only in our security but in the security in the Asia Pacific region, but a pretty clear roadmap of the things that we want to focus on, externally engaged, in the months ahead.

Now, let me just say that I just returned from Tokyo two days ago – three days ago – and we had extensive discussions both with our interlocutors in the government and the ministry of foreign affairs, and also with the new members of the Democratic Party of Japan.

We agreed to a couple of principles in particular. One is that we are not going to discuss the details of this set of issues, the complexities of our bilateral alliance, in public. We are going to consult extremely closely in private. We are going to underscore – excuse me just for a second here, we do a lot of talking up here in New York. We are going to underscore areas where we think continuity and a clear way forward is important, and we’re also going to want to work with Japan. Remember the government has been in power for four or five days now, so they want to do a review. They’ve announced that they’re going to do a review in a couple of areas. We want to participate in that. We’ve offered our assistance. And we will try to approach these consultations in the most responsible and engaged way.

On specifics, we’re still very early. And I’d like to just underscore that we want to walk a fine line. There are areas that we think that continuity is important and that previously agreed agreements should continue; but at the same time, the United States cannot be in a position where it dictates. This is a true alliance, and it is incumbent upon the Government of the United States to listen to the views and the values and the aspirations of the new government, and it can be no other way. And so we – I think we’re off to a very good start, an excellent meeting, and we’ll work closely with Japanese friends, in many respects, behind the scenes in the coming months. Thanks.

QUESTION: Did the President actually bring up the areas of continuity?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Of continuity?

QUESTION: Yeah. Where he would like to see --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: We did not – yes, in terms of Afghanistan and climate change and North Korea and the global economy. Yes.

QUESTION: In terms of Afghanistan and climate change?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). The U.S. Administration – the continuity – I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean by continuity on climate change because –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: (Inaudible) answer your question, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: No, no, I know. But I think a shorter question and what we’re all trying to get – have been trying to get at for the last couple of days is about Okinawa and the refueling mission.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Those issues --

QUESTION: Those are two issues where you would like to see this continuity?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Those issues did not come up. To your direct question, did those issues come up in the interaction between the two leaders, they did not, no.

Yes.

QUESTION: I’m (inaudible) with Yomiuri Shimbun. Thank you for having us today. And do you have any particular issues which you hope to have resolved before the President’s visit to Japan? And how do the U.S. react if agreement on critical issues such as Futenma relocation plan and the new form of Japanese assistance for Afghanistan cannot be reached by then?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Most of what we’re doing over the course of the next several weeks is to ensure the best possible set of meetings between our senior leadership when that takes place, and so we have intensive working-level meetings. Deputy Secretary Steinberg will be in Japan in a few days. I will be returning shortly. Secretary Gates will be in Japan. So we have many opportunities for high-level intense interaction between our two sides. The – in our sessions to date, I think the United States warmly thanked Japan for its very generous contributions, not just to Afghanistan, but to Pakistan. And I think we want to work together on how Japan can go forward to both continue those commitments and build on them in the future. And I think you’re going to hear more about that directly from the Japanese Government in the coming weeks.

I must say I also – I see a slight difference in the way things are manifested in our interactions. In our meetings to date, it has been – the Democratic Party of Japan, their new government –coming with ideas and suggestions, rather than the United States urging or asking Japan to participate. I saw a very real determination to take the initiative in a variety of areas. And for us, that’s extremely welcome.

MR. BADER: Presidential trips are all good and important things, and they provide opportunities to achieve things which are otherwise difficult. But we are not setting deadlines for resolution of difficult problems. We’re certainly setting the President’s trip as a deadline. The DPJ has come into office with a variety of positions, some of which are different from the previous government. They are reviewing some policies. It’s going to take some time for them to complete their reviews. We are not saying the deadline for completing review happens to be when the President comes to Japan. The deadline is going to be a self-imposed deadline based on processes within Japan. So I would not put that as a particular target, no.

MODERATOR: Yes, here. Actually, it’s in the back here and then we’ll go. I’m sorry. I apologize. And I’ll go to you next, I promise. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) of Sankei Shimbum, Japan. Thank you for having us. I want to clarify the U.S. position with regard to the realignment of U.S. force in Japan. So the new government want to change that plan. So are you willing to re-negotiate the problem or just as you said, to listen and to answer their question. Which is the U.S. position?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me if I can, try to be clear here. We agreed when I was in Japan to do – to abide by certain principles. One is that there are some complex details associated with the smooth functioning of our security and military alliance. We think it’s best to undertake a dialogue quietly and professionally between our two sides and we’re going to do that, number one. Number two, we’re also going to try not to respond to every press report and every utterance of either a Japanese Government official or someone who’s been closely associated with one group or the other.

My sense is that there has been no fundamental statement on these issues that have come out of the Japanese Government. What we have heard, quite clearly, is, as Jeffery Bader just said, is that they want to review carefully some specific issues associated with our alliance. We accept that, we understand it. It’s a perfectly understandable desire. And we support that process, and we will want to provide input into it, and towards an end that at the end of the process that our alliance will be stronger, that there will be greater public support for it in Japan, although, frankly, it’s hard to imagine much higher support. Your own newspaper had a poll of Japanese attitudes of the United States a few weeks ago – highest ever measured. So the highest support for the United States currently exists in Japan in its history. So we feel very good about the public basis of support for alliance not only in Japan, but the United States. But through this process, we think we will be able underscore strong levels of commitment on a range of our activities, both bilaterally, multilaterally, and globally.

MR. BADER: If I could add one point. As Kurt emphasized, we don’t yet have the completion of the review by the Government of Japan. There is really no point in responding to statements made before the election or statements made by this or that parliamentarian. When you’re a government, you speak with one voice authoritatively. And when the DPJ has completed its review and is prepared to speak authoritatively on these issues, then we will be in a position to respond. But there’s no point in responding to 17 different hypothetical positions.

MODERATOR: A couple more. Yes, I promised you. Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. My name (inaudible) of Asahi newspaper in Japan. Thank you for the opportunity. My question is about North Korea. Through the series of top-level meetings this week, it seems to me that you have got already consensus with Six-Party partners for the coming bilateral talks with North Korea. So my question is when and how do you make a final decision whether to send a special envoy to Pyongyang or not? And – so when do you think actually the meeting will be – will take place?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I want to talk generally, and then I want Jeff to do the specifics. Let me just say I would just differ with one point of your question as stated. I don’t think there’s a consensus. I think there’s actually a very strong consensus and a strong trust that has developed among the partners about how to engage North Korea. A recognition that there were some very serious provocations, a desire that if we are to move forward, we must do so fundamentally in the Six-Party framework and that North Korea must abide by commitments it itself took in 2005 and 2007. And that any process that is initiated in the future has to be based on this strong consensus and close dialogue that’s been established over the course of the last several months.

Jeff?

MR. BADER: I think Kurt has stated the objectives perfectly. As you know, Ambassador Bosworth recently went out to the capitals of partners. This is – he’s made a number of trips since January 20th. We have established a pattern that that is how are going to make decisions with regard to interaction with North Korea. We’re not going to sit back and have Kurt and me speak on the phone and decide here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to speak to the capitals. And as Kurt indicated, we came back with a strong – we have, I think, solidified the strong consensus we already have.

I would take exception with the premise of your question about a decision to send Ambassador Bosworth to Pyongyang. No such decision has been made yet. We have long made clear that we are prepared, we are willing to have bilateral meetings with the North Koreans if they will achieve the objectives that Kurt outlined; namely, return to the Six-Party Talks, commitment to irreversible denuclearization, and acceptance of their previous commitments in 2005.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Can I just add one other – one other critical part of our strategy that will continue is efforts to implement 1874 – UN Resolution 1874. And let us just say that we’ve had some very real successes across a range of fronts both going at some financial entities that were involved in some nuclear activities – nuclear-related activities in North Korea, both seizures and searches of ships and other modes of transport. And there is a strong consensus that that set of efforts is going to continue into the future. And I must say there is at least some anecdotal evidence that these sanctions are beginning to bite, and that one of the reasons that North Korea has decided perhaps to reengage with the parties and the partners of the Six-Party framework is precisely because of the discipline and the scope of these sanctions.

MODERATOR: Last question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes – right there, with the sort of orangish-pink tie.

QUESTION: My name is Mark Goldberg. I write the blog UN Dispatch. I’m wondering, if in the bilaterals between Hu Jintao and President Obama, if the situation in Myanmar was at all discussed and, if so, what was raised. Thank you.

MR. BADER: The issue was not discussed. It’s not because we wouldn’t like to discuss it. It’s just that these meetings, regrettably, are not long enough to discuss every issue we’d like to discuss. When you have interpretation – two-way interpretation, your meeting time is dramatically reduced and we did not discuss it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: If I could just add just one – just one thing. As is often the case, we had a number of preliminary meetings, pre-meetings, preparation meetings between American and Chinese representatives in advance to not only talk about the summit, but the overall set of issues. And I think one of the points that the United States underscored in some of those meetings is that there will be a determination on the part of the United States to seek closer dialogue with China about the situation in Burma. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

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