printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Foreign Policy Goals and Objectives in Southeast Asia for 2011

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Washington, DC
February 2, 2011

Date: 02/02/2011 Location: Washington D.C. Description: Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell briefs on the U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives in Southeast Asia for 2011 at the Washington Foreign Press Center. - State Dept Image

2:30 P.M. EST

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you all very much for being with us this afternoon. For the sake of time – I know you all have lots of questions – we’re going to get right into the briefing. Assistant Secretary Campbell will give brief remarks, and then we’ll open it up for question and answer. A caveat to the question-and-answer period, please be advised, again, that only members of the Foreign Press will be able to ask questions. Additionally, members of the Diplomatic Corps are not invited to participate in the question-and-answer period, so please keep that in mind.

Without further ado, Assistant Secretary Campbell.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you very much, and it’s an honor to be back here at the Foreign Press Center. Good afternoon to everyone, nice to see so many friends here today.

I’ll just make a couple of opening comments about if that’s all right, and I’ll be happy to take any questions. I know there are a lot of journalists here from Northeast Asia and I know there’ll be some questions regarding developments in Northeast Asia. But I’ll talk a little bit about just the last couple of weeks in terms of my own activities.

First of all, I think as you all know, we had a successful – we think very highly successful visit of President Hu to Washington two weeks ago. I was deeply engaged in the work with my counterpart Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai on the joint statement and worked closely with my colleague and friend Jeff Bader on all elements of this visit. And I think we were very pleased. I think this was a visit in which we stated very clearly our desire to have a strong, deep, and comprehensive relationship with China, but we also were clear about areas of divergence where we have differences of view and differences of perspective. We didn’t try to hide from those. We were upfront and clear about them. And I think if you look carefully at the speeches given in advance of the visit by Secretaries Geithner, Clinton, and the Secretary of Commerce, you will see a very clear theme in which we articulate areas where we want to work together but also challenges that endure in every particular area.

I’m happy to talk about specifics associated with that trip, but I should just say last week I was in Hawaii and Southeast Asia. I think part of what we are trying to do is send a very clear message that, of course, U.S.-China relations are important, but they are embedded in a broader, wider region, and we are deeply committed not only to our security partners in Northeast Asia, a strong relationship with China, but taking steps to underscore our commitment to renew the engagement in Southeast Asia and also the Pacific.

Too often when we say the Asian Pacific region, the word that gets short shrift in that is the Pacific, and so one of the things that we did in Hawaii was meet a series of our ambassadors in other countries, Pacific nations, who are in many respects suffering from real challenges in terms of climate change, some issues associated with poverty and disease. The United States has taken efforts in the course of last year so to reengage in terms of USAID programs and a variety of steps to underscore an enduring American commitment to the security, to the health and the well-being of the people of the Pacific.

We also had a chance for trilateral coordination between the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. I think as you all have seen that over the course of the last year, we have rebuilt our relationship with New Zealand after a period in which we had very little security interaction. And we are now working closely together on a range of issues. Those discussions between the three nations centered on not only developments in Northeast Asia but developments associated with Fiji and other island nations and developments in the South Pacific.

I also was in Singapore and the Philippines. In the Philippines, we had the first-ever Strategic Dialogue, which brought together my counterpart and good friend from the Defense Department, Derek Mitchell. He led a large delegation. I had a large group from the State Department and other parts of the U.S. Government in which we sat down with our counterparts in the Philippines. And again, this is the first time we’ve ever had such a dialogue to review areas of common purpose, to underscore our strong commitment to the security to the Philippines and to find areas that we can work together in the future.

I think of specific concern was a desire to step up our activities to support the Philippines in terms of maritime awareness, maritime engagement, and other issues associated with the very large area that the Philippines is responsible for in terms of their own territorial waters but also waters adjacent to the Philippines as well. And I think these talks were important. We also underscored that the United States was going to work closely with the Philippines as part of the new program in which enhanced partnership, in which we wanted to work carefully to identify areas of economic and political engagement, allow the Philippines to take the next step on its road to development.

And in Singapore, a close strategic friend in the region, we stopped off for deliberations. They were particularly interested to discuss next steps in the U.S.-China relations. I think what they were particularly interested to know is next steps in the mil-to-mil relationship between the United States and China. I think we were able to tell them that there were some very hopeful steps in terms of the visit of Secretary of Defense Gates to China in the immediate period before the summit, and clearly, there is a roadmap for increasing contacts and engagement. We are looking for a relationship with China’s military that is steady, that is stable, that allows for greater transparency, and also creating mechanisms and procedures whereby if there are accidents or inadvertent developments between the United States and China, we are quickly and reliably able to communicate with our counterparts to ensure that there are no disagreements that cause a disruption to peace and stability.

I would say that if you look into 2011, it is an incredibly consequential year for American policy in the Asian Pacific region across many fronts. We recognize that Asian friends are grateful for a reengagement at the strategic and political level. Obviously, they know of our enduring military commitments in the Asian Pacific region. What they are really looking for us to do is to step up our game economically, commercially, and in the trade realm.

I think one of the most important things that the United States can do in that respect is to recover. And clearly, I think you can see that President Obama is working very closely with new members of his Cabinet and in the White House to underscore his commitment to boost exports, particularly to the Asian Pacific region. There are plans underway now to cement the Korea Free Trade Agreement for full ratification. And obviously, our efforts associated with the transpacific partnership, which would be the most innovative trade agenda that the United States has ever done, has really taken off. There have been substantial and very important discussions with all of the potential partners, and we recognize how significant this will be for us as we move forward.

Later this year, President Obama will represent for the first time the United States at the East Asia summit. We think that’s very significant. We also hold a next round of our U.S.-ASEAN partnership meeting at the head-of-states level. And of course, 2011, the United States is holding and hosting the APEC meeting in Hawaii, in which we are looking to streamline the agenda and make clear the continuing relevance of APEC as an institution in the Asian Pacific region.

So incredibly busy sessions. Secretary Clinton will be hosting her counterparts, along with Secretary Geithner, for next round of the Strategic Economic Dialogue in May. And you will have seen, when President Hu visited, that the United States has announced that Vice President Biden will be going to Asia later this year to meet with the future leader of China as part of a counterpart visit. So we recognize that even with all the challenges and difficulties that we are confronting currently in the Middle East that it is extraordinarily important to underscore that the United States recognizes very clearly that the 21st century is going to be being played out in the Asian Pacific region.

Why don’t I stop at that and I’ll be happy to take questions. And if I could just ask you, just to identify – I know most of you, but just for the record, I’ve been asked to – for each of you to identify yourselves, if you would, please.

Yes, old friend.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Campbell. John Zang with CTI-TV of Taiwan. AID Chair Erin Burkhart (ph) spoke in Taipei and he mentioned that China actually proposed a full communiqué in preparation for President Hu’s visit, but that proposal was rejected by the United States side. Could you share with us on what grounds and how the United States rejected that proposal? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, thank you very much. I’m not going to elaborate on what Mr. Burkhart (ph) said in Taiwan. I would simply say that this – the document that was issued from the United States and China was a statement and we thought that the language on the Taiwan Straits was very clear and very positive, and we welcomed the positive developments across the Taiwan Straits. We also very clearly recognize our responsibilities. Before the visit of President Hu, Secretary Clinton reaffirmed our commitment not only to the three communiqués but the Taiwan Relations Act. And President Obama, in his public statements during the visit of President Hu, also underscored our unique responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act. Thank you.

I’ll go to – in the back next. Then I’ll come to you.

QUESTION: Thanks. Sean Hannan with AFP.


QUESTION: I wanted to ask you a bit about the situation in Burma, what’s your reading of things there now In 2011, do you see a resumption of dialogue in any way? And where do things more broadly stand right now? There is the release of Aung San Suu Kyi but also the new parliament in the elections. Are there hopeful signs or is it too early to tell which way things are going?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, I think we’ve stated very clearly in the past that we were disappointed with the preparations in advance for the elections held last year, and we think that most of the efforts domestically revealed that the process was fatally flawed. As you know, today the new parliament sits inside the country. We did welcome the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. We have been in deep consultations with her, along with many other nations. And we have encouraged her role and we will be continuing to press the authorities in the country about allowing her political party to take on a legal status despite the ruling of the Supreme Court.

I think, generally speaking, the United States recognizes that there are many problems inside the country. There’s the lack of dialogue with the key ethnic minorities. The vast majority of political prisoners have not been released. There are enormous difficulties to conduct any aspect of civil society. And the country continues to engage in proliferation activities that are antithetical to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region and in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. So there are many problems and many challenges.

I think the United States nevertheless still believes that a form of engagement and testing the leadership in terms of its goals and ambitions is an appropriate next step. And so we will be watching carefully and closely for positive signs. But we also stand ready to take steps, should there be a continuing of – a continuation of negative trends or backtracking even further on the kinds of things that we’d like to see inside the country.

Overall, we remain concerned and disappointed. One of the reasons for this trip was to coordinate closely with our friends in Southeast Asia. You will have seen that several Southeast Asian nations have come out saying it’s time to lift sanctions. We have stated very clearly we think that that is obviously premature and that we are looking for much more concrete steps from the new government as they form a new government policy on a host of issues.

Yeah. The woman and then – sorry, thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s Jane Cowan from the Australian Broadcasting Corp.


QUESTION: I wonder what consequences you’d say – what potential consequences for Asia and the Pacific from the situation in Egypt, first of all. And also, will the President be visiting Australia, finally, anytime soon?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Okay. First of all, can I just say I think I speak for everyone here and others that we are watching with concern and sadness, with terrible, horrible weather in Queensland and elsewhere. The United States has offered, and we will continue to stand by, to provide direct assistance where we can be helpful to Australia. And we’re in close consultations in a range of venues about how we can do that going forward.

I think there are a number of reactions in Asia to the developments in Egypt. One of them is obviously a concern for whether there will be spillover effects in other parts of the Middle East and what that might mean to regional stability as a whole. I think other countries that have centralized authoritarian leaders are always worried about what the consequences will be and whether there are follow-on effects. And I think there probably is a recognition that such an event really takes an enormous amount of focus from the United States Government, given our strong commitments to the region and also to the people of Egypt, and they are going to want to see that the United States can continue a strong engagement in Asia at the same time that there is deep challenges in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

And on issues associated with presidential travel, I will refer you to the White House. So obviously, we are deeply engaged in high-level visits all the time. And I know that we’re looking forward to having closer consultations at a senior level soon, but I really can’t talk much about the President’s travel schedule. Thanks.

MODERATOR: Assistant Secretary Campbell, we should probably shoot to New York.


MODERATOR: New York, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon, Mr. Campbell. Shehabuddin Kisslu Probe News and I’d just like to request you to give your answer. Would you kindly just tell us what is the – as you have remarked that the air warnings*, American air warnings* and American engagement in that region – would you kindly tell the U.S. strategic position on the Bangladesh-India-American issue that is in the international forum right now?

And secondly, would you kindly be able to tell us what is the U.S. policy stand on the international tribunal’s trial on crime against humanity in Bangladesh, please?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Okay. Let me take part of that question and then I’m going to have to take for guidance the second part of your question. I know this is going to sound hopelessly bureaucratic, but Bangladesh is not in my area of operation. And so I’d love to be able to give you a knowledgeable answer but I can’t, and so I’m not going to pretend. I’ll have to take that for review and I’ll get back to you.

On the first part of your question, I will say that one of the primary goals of the U.S. Government going forward – and we’d like to expand on this in 2011 and 2012 – is to further seek opportunities and avenues of cooperation: strategic, military, political, with India in the Asian-Pacific region. We believe that Asia’s role, its policy to look east, is now really starting to bear fruit. And we want to work closely with Indian friends on a range of issues – strategy for how to work together in the East Asia summit now that the United States is a full member, working together in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and increasing dialogue and discussions on a range of mutual security issues in Southeast Asia and in Northeast Asia as well.

We have seen in recent months a substantial increase in Indian activities with a variety of states in Southeast Asia, but also most notably with Japan, and we would seek to support that going forward. We have also increased our deliberations with India about a variety of developments in Southeast Asia, and including the Pacific, and we think that this is a very important ingredient. We also, frankly, support an improvement in dialogue between India and China and we would seek to take steps to facilitate that as we move forward. Ultimately, we think that India’s role in the Asian Pacific region is – stands to be one of the most important new developments over the course of the next decade moving forward.

Hi, Nadia (ph).

QUESTION: Hi. Happy New Year.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Happy New Year to you, too. Today, right?





QUESTION: After this briefing. (Laughter.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: You look like you’ve been out celebrating.

QUESTION: ( Nadia Tsao, Liberty Times,Taiwan) And I think in the joint statement, there’s a sentence mentioned that you would support and want to see more engagement between Taiwan and China other than economic. You also want to see the political issues advanced. I wonder that – do you have any idea or picture what kind of political engagement that should be? And also, Taiwan’s government mentioned on several occasions, if they want to talk about a political issue with China, they need U.S. support so they can go on with confidence. And – but we haven’t seen much, really, developments between U.S. and Taiwan so far regarding arms sales of F-15s the Taiwan Government’s request or high-level dialogue. But will be able to see some breakthrough this year? Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you very much. Let me just say it is the position of the U.S. Government not to comment about the security situation in terms of arms sales vis-à-vis Taiwan, so I will not be finding new ground here. This is the longstanding American position. I stand by it.

The language in the joint communiqué is meant to be very careful –

QUESTION: Joint statement.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: In the joint statement, sorry. I didn’t mean the – sorry, stuck in my mind is – in the joint statement was very clear in terms of welcoming contacts across the Taiwan Strait. We believe that those contacts are the business of the people of China and Taiwan to discuss among themselves, to take the appropriate steps at the appropriate timing. The United States takes no particular view. We think it’s extraordinarily important that there be comfort on both sides. Primarily what the joint statement did was to welcome ECFA* and the burgeoning of economic ties between the two countries, between the two sides. And we think that’s an important step in improving confidence. And we know that there are ongoing dialogues across a range of issues, culturally and the like. I think I would just simply say that the United States supports these. And anything that will build trust and confidence to a greater degree, we think is in the best interest not only of the United States but all the peoples involved.

QUESTION: Well, does it mean a breakthrough between U.S. and China on arms levels?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look, we think we have a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan. We have a number of interactions with them and those will continue in 2011 and beyond.


QUESTION: Hi. My name is Sungwon Baik from Voice of America Cambodia. Thanks for your briefing. Wondering if North Korea has recently asked a food aid from the United States via their New York dialogue channel?

And related, the famed diplomatic source also mentioned that the United States is positive about resuming aid to North Korea. Could you state your position, please?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes, very clearly I can state that. I think it would be fair to say that the United States is and continues to monitor the humanitarian situation in North Korea but we have no plans for any contributions at this time.

Question: Ai Awaji, Jiji Press


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Oh, please, yeah. I’m not – just so you know, I won’t have much more beyond that, but I can repeat the answer, so – (laughter) – go ahead. Go ahead, Ai, ask a question.

QUESTION: Hi. I understand that the United States has expressed its readiness to provide assistance if North Korea agrees some conditions in terms of monitoring, interpreters on food aid before. And I’m wondering if you still have the same position.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: No, I think – let me try this one again. See – I think I can do it with more gusto now. (Laughter.) The United States continues to monitor the humanitarian situation in North Korea but has no plans for any contributions at this time.

QUESTION: I mean, if North Korea had asked food aid.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think I’ll just stand with that statement, if that’s all right. Thank you.


QUESTION: Hi. Liming Yang from China Youth Daily. During your trip in the Philippines, both sides agree to increase the cooperation in the territorial defense and maritime security. Could you elaborate a little bit about the specific areas in which U.S. and the Philippines are cooperate with?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you. I think I would simply say the United States and the Philippines have had a broad cooperation in the last decade or so that has centered primarily on terrorist issues in Mindanao and elsewhere, and I think that cooperation has been significant and very important, both for the United States and the Philippines. I think there’s a recognition that, in terms of next steps, the United States wants to support the Philippines as it builds capacity and capabilities to better able to monitor the – its territorial waters and elsewhere. And so that process will involve the potential provision of equipment through excess defense sales, training of elements of their coast guard and navy, and deeper consultations at a strategic, political, and military level. And I think we’re committed to do all of those things.

The Philippines remains a strong tree ally, we are committed to its security, and we believe that a carefully designed program which insists on clear progress and close coordination is in the best interests of both countries. Thanks.

MODERATOR: Okay. Just before we proceed, Assistant Secretary Campbell has an engagement after this, so we have time for maybe one or two questions.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’ll try to take two or three and then – and I’ll move quickly. I’m – it’s my fault. I’m out of practice answering too long.

I’ll take you. Thanks.

QUESTION: Kyoko Yamaguchi from Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. I have a question about North Korea. I would like to ask you how you plan to address the uranium enrichment program issue. Do you plan to bring this to the Security Council meeting? Or since there is talk of resuming Six-Party Talks, do you plan to bring this as an issue and to be discussed in Six-Party Talks?

And also, if I may, since there would be a meeting between North and South Korea, it’s appearing they are meeting for the military talks, what do you exactly expect to see to come out of this meeting? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Let me take the first question first – the second question first. First of all, we welcome a resumption of dialogue. We are in close consultations with our South Korean allies and friends and we fully support them in this overall process. We stand with them in wanting to see from North Korea a sincere commitment to a variety of steps, including a renunciation of the provocative actions of the last half year, a commitment to take the appropriate steps that will allow the Six-Party Talks to resume, and other signals of a desire to work more closely with the South Koreans. We recognize and believe that the essential first step in any process of reengagement with North Korea requires a North-South – a true and significant North-South dialogue.

On the first part of your question, I think I would refer you to what Deputy Secretary Steinberg said when he was in both Japan and South Korea. And I think we believe that the international community and our key partners and allies have been very clear that any uranium enrichment program or any other kind of nuclear program, for that matter, that is being undertaken by the North Koreans is in violation of its commitments and obligations, including the 2005 joint communiqué, UN Security Council provisions, and other international acts. And I think we are working closely with our allies and friends in terms of the appropriate venue to press our case in this regard.


QUESTION: I am Ther N Oo, Voice of America Service. I have a question about the U.S. policy on Burma. Both sanctions and engagement doesn’t seem to be working. So you said that all political prisoners are still in prisons and new parliaments are totally controlled by the military. So do you have any plan to review the policy, on ongoing with this policy? Do you think you can see more hope, to any more hope for the changes in Burma?

ASSISSTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Look, I think one of the things that I will say, we have been disappointed. There’s no question about the overall engagement policy over the course for the last year that was enunciated by President Obama and laid out clearly by Secretary Clinton. We have tried to be very clear about potential steps that Burma could take and that we would respond to accordingly. We have been disappointed basically across the spectrum in this regard.

It is also the case, however, that we believe a degree of engagement serves the best interests of the United States and our regional policy. And we think that it is appropriate to at least create the opportunity to test this new government about whether they are prepared to take the necessary steps to rejoin the international community and also to work more closely with the United States and other partners.

What we have tried to do all along this – in this process is not oversell the results. We’ve never come back and said we’ve made this progress or this step. We’ve tried to be very clear form the outset what we would need to see, and we have never shied from underscoring our disappointment from what we’ve seen from the leadership.

Now it is true that over the course of the last year, there was a lot of uncertainty and maneuvering inside the country in anticipation of this flawed election. I think it’d be fair to say that we are still waiting to see what steps a new government might be prepared to take, although, frankly, we are quite concerned about steps that we’ve seen to date and are not encouraged by the level of dialogue that we’ve seen inside the country. And frankly, we stand with Aung San Suu Kyi in much of what she’s said in terms of giving the government a chance to declare its intentions on a range of issues.

I can take two last questions. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thanks. Bradney Norington from the Australian newspaper --


QUESTION: You, too. In light of President Hu’s visit to Washington, do you have confidence in China playing a more positive role in reining in some of the rogue behavior of North Korea and bringing North Korea to the table in meaningful negotiations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPELL: Thank you. It’s a very good question. I think we had a very constructive set of discussions with China’s interlocutors before and during the visit of President Hu Jintao. And you will have seen in the joint statement and in other statements by both the U.S. and Chinese side, for the first time in many months China has stated very clearly its concern associated with an element of North Korea’s provocative behavior, namely the uranium enrichment program.

I would – I think it’s fair to say that consultations between the United States and China have intensified. We believe that China plays a critical role in a dialogue on the Korean Peninsula and we continue to make clear to our interlocutors in Beijing that it is essential for them to weigh in in Pyongyang about the need for North Korea to renounce its very provocative steps and take sincere efforts to reengage across a range of issue as part of a process towards the Six-Party Talks. And I think we were pleased by some of the interactions that we had with Chinese friends but it is still at the beginning stages, and we will continue to build on that. That’s one of the reasons that Deputy Secretary Steinberg went to Beijing last week.

Last question. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. Patrick Braden from Global Future. In light of all the rumors of Japan’s acceding to The Hague Convention on Child Abductions, do you have any idea of how long it might take to actually return some of these American citizen children who have been abducted illegally from the United States?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I would say just not soon enough, frankly. And I – this is an issue that’s very important to Secretary Clinton and to the White House. I just want to underscore that the situation in which a large number of American families have been separated, that children have been illegally taken from rightful custody situations and are kept away from parents, is a deeply worrisome situation. We are in close consultation with our Japanese friends. We have underscored to them how it is – how essential it is for them to join with the vast majority of the industrialized democracies in signing on to The Hague Convention and taking the necessary steps, not only going forward on these issues but also dealing responsibly and humanely with the existing cases.

I have found that as I – as we put a face on these issues, talk directly to Japanese friends, once they have a greater knowledge of these issues, they, too, want to see justice for these families and this really heartbreaking set of circumstances. So I thank you for the question. It’s going to be important that we see progress soon on this issue. There is a building degree of anxiety, and in some places anger, on Capitol Hill. I’ve been working closely with Japanese counterparts. I’m a very good friend of Japan, very strong supporter of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Let’s take the opportunity over the next several months to get this done and to move beyond this issue and focus on the critical issues between the United States and Japan in a new Asian set of circumstances.

Thank you all very much. I really appreciate being here today.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

# # #