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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S Foreign Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region

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

New York, NY
September 28, 2012



FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2012, 9:30 A.M., EDT


MODERATOR:  Welcome, everyone.  I’m really pleased that Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell from the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs can be with us this morning.  I know everyone is pressed for time, including Assistant Secretary Campbell, so I’m just going to turn the mike over to him right away.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Thank you very much.  I’m sorry to keep you all waiting a few minutes.  We’re moving about in the rain here in New York, and it’s good to see you, even on a rainy day.  (Microphone feedback.)  It’s okay.  Just let me know.

So let me, if I may, just give you a little bit of background, and then I’m happy to take some questions.  The Secretary, the State Department, and other key officials from the White House have had a series of meetings over the course of the last several days up here at the United Nations.  Some of them have already been de-briefed by our assistant secretaries over the course of the last few days.  But just to give you a sense of some of our interactions. 

Clearly, we’ve had some very important bilateral engagements with the Government of Burma/Myanmar.  We’ve had a very good set of meetings with the President, following on last week’s historic visit of Aung San Suu Kyi to Washington, and now she makes her way around the country.  The Secretary indicated the number of steps that we are following through on, including our intention to lift the import ban.  We’re talking in detail about a range of projects designed to assist the government on capacity building, on health, on development, and a number of steps to increase responsible American business investment inside the country.

We’re excited about the prospects.  Much more work needs to be done, but the steps that have been taken to date are hopeful and suggest a much brighter future for the people of the country.

Secondly, we’ve had bilateral engagements and we’ll have others today with some of our key friends in the region.  A session yesterday with Foreign Minister Yang.  The Secretary will be meeting today with Foreign Minister Gemba of Japan.  We will also be holding a trilateral meeting between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.  We will underscore the importance of strong coordination among these three countries that much of what we have done in the recent period has been based on stronger coordination between the three capitals, and we want to underscore our strong strategic interest to ensure that relations between each of our countries is strong, durable, and forward-looking.

Yesterday, the Secretary met with the ASEAN foreign ministers to talk about progress on a range of issues, including dialogue related to the South China Sea.  We’re taking a number of steps diplomatically to boost economic engagement and also aid and assistance, people-to-people exchange, in advance of the East Asia Summit when President Obama represents the United States in Phnom Penh in November.

In addition to these meetings, we’ve had a number of interactions about every aspect of our diplomacy, not just in Asia but in the Pacific.  UN Ambassador Susan Rice met with all the leaders of the Pacific yesterday following on Secretary Clinton’s visit to the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands in August to underscore our strong determination to play our historic, strategic role in this region as well.  And not only Asia is deserving of greater American engagement, but the Pacific. 

So it’s been very busy.  A lot of issues have been covered.  We have tried to send an overarching message that it is strongly in the interest of all countries, including the United States, that territorial matters be handled carefully and that we very much want cooler heads to prevail in the current environment, and that we are seeking to support quiet, effective diplomacy across the board.

With that, let me stop.  I’d be happy to take questions if you would just let me know who you are so I know who I can call on.  So, anyone?  Any questions?  Yes.

QUESTION:  Mineko Tokito from Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.  Thank you very much for doing this.


QUESTION:  Let me ask about the Senkaku issues between China and Japan.  So after the meeting with the Secretary, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made a speech yesterday, last night, and harshly criticized the Japanese position towards Senkaku issues, and there was some exchange between those two countries following that.  So do you see any signs of tensions, any tensions easing up in the near future?  And is there anything that the United States can potentially do further to – for the easing of tensions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Yes.  Thank you.  Well, first of all, we have strongly encouraged both sides to undertake serious, sustained, and effective diplomacy, and we strongly underscore that this matter needs to be handled peacefully and respectfully and diplomatically.  It is our strong interest to see a vibrant relationship between Japan and China continue.  The economic miracle that is East Asia in many respects has been built on the strong commercial and economic partnership that has been constructed over decades between the two countries that is extended through Southeast Asia, South Korea, and elsewhere.  That is strongly in our interests to see those relations continue and to prosper.

We have indicated quite clearly that this is a matter for diplomacy between the two countries.  The United States has no intention and will not play a mediating role, but we have high confidence in the judgment and the recognition on both sides of the importance of this relationship.  And we believe and – we believe strongly that positive dialogue will have good results.


QUESTION:  Frances Berrocal from Mainichi Shimbun.  Does the U.S. encourage China to
bring this to the ICJ, to the International Court of Justice, or do you believe a bilateral solution is best?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Look, I think we will stand by our position.  The specific details about how and the mechanisms and manner in which the issue should be dealt  with, again, is a matter between Japan and China.  We do believe, however, that in the current environment, we want tensions to subside and we want diplomacy to increase.


QUESTION:  Jun Kaminishikawara with Kyodo News, hello.


QUESTION:  Thank you.  I would like to ask about Takeshima, or Dokdo in Korean.  I understand the United States does not take a position on the territory disputes, but I’m a little bit confused by a very old letter, in the 1950s, from then Assistant Secretary Rusk to Korean ambassador.  It’s – I think you know that --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  In fact, I – at every meeting someone is brandishing old letters or old maps or --

QUESTION:  All right.  Yeah. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  I think if I can just say, first of all, we have a very clear and principled position, and we believe that all of these matters need to be dealt with in careful diplomatic engagements.  I’m not familiar with the particular details of this letter --


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  -- and I will have really nothing further I can add to what I’ve already said.

QUESTION:  Let me just finish.


QUESTION:  Yeah.  Well, it just says – according to our information that then Assistant Secretary said – according to our information, it’s never treated as part of Korea.  Since 1905, it has been under the jurisdiction of Japan.  So I just wonder, has the United States changed its position, or it’s just – this letter doesn’t mean that United States said that the island is part of Japan. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  I have really nothing further to add on this particular matter, beyond our principle position that we do not take a position and we want diplomacy and good relations between Japan and South Korea to continue.

MODERATOR:  We have two questions in Washington.


QUESTION:  Hi, Assistant Secretary.  Betty Lin of the World Journal.  Chinese admitted that they had sent warships to the disputed Senkaku Islands, and I’d like to have your take on their crossing the island chain.  And also they just launched a first aircraft carrier right after (inaudible).  And I’d like to have your take.  And there was this (inaudible) advertisement by the Chinese on Senkaku Islands, saying that – or the Diaoyu Islands – I’d like to, one, see how you can see this being resolved,  given, as you said, that U.S. cannot be the mediator.  Who can be the mediator? 

And some people suggest Chinese Government is behind the anti-Japanese sentiment.  And then 18th Party Congress is coming up, and if that’s the case, then how can people come – all come together?  Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Thank you.  We have several questions here.  Let me just try to get at a few of them.  First of all, these territorial tensions that we have seen both in Northeast Asia and in Southeast Asia are nothing new.  They have existed for decades, and in fact, the remarkable prosperity and achievements that we have seen in terms of integration has taken place in Asia despite these tensions.  And leaders, for decades, have decided that it is in the best interests of all concerned to put these issues aside, particularly issues that are extraordinarily difficult to solve.  I think there has been a recognition that they must be managed effectively.  And I think that is our prevailing view, and we think that is very strong wisdom. 

We have underscored that sentiment in every meeting that we’ve had across the region, asking everyone to keep a larger frame in mind about the importance role that Asia plays in terms of global peace and particularly prosperity.  We believe that the introduction of a military dimension in any of these complex, sensitive territorial matters is unwise, and we strongly encourage diplomatic and peaceful means to be the order of the day.

MODERATOR:  There’s one more --


MODERATOR:  One more in Washington?

QUESTION:  Thank you.  This is Lalit Jha from the (inaudible) Press Trust of India.  Can you take us through the next steps the Administration, the Congress is going to take on removing all of the sanctions in Burma?  Is it really going to be all the sanctions?  And it is in this context that (inaudible) in the U.S. to campaign for Burma.  Yesterday he issued a statement saying that they are against removing all the sanctions of Burma, this is not the right time, and because they feel that the (inaudible) is still (inaudible).   And finally, do you think when the President travels to Vietnam for the Asia Summit, is there any chance for him going to Burma?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Yeah, and just on that latter point, actually the East Asia Summit is in Cambodia, not in Vietnam, and we anticipate the President obviously will be going to Cambodia.  Any other stops will be for the White House to determine and to announce in due course.  We have nothing to say on the scheduling of the President in the coming weeks or months. 

On the particulars associated with sanctions-easing and the economic steps that we are proposing between the United States and Burma/Myanmar, I think we have done this in a very careful step-by-step, judicious way in very close consultation with key stakeholders in the Congress.  Secretary Clinton is – has very, very regular conversations with all the key interlocutors, including Senator McConnell, Congressman Crowley, and others.  We will continue that process; we are also in very close consultation with those in country inside of Burma, inside Myanmar, that have very strong interests in how the process of American engagement, transparent investment, responsible investment take shape.  We’ve had very detailed conversations with Aung San Suu Kyi and her interlocutors as well as those in ethnic minority communities.  We believe that we have approached this problem with great care and responsibly.  We think the step-by-step process has drawn wide support both in the business community and the international community. 

And I would just point out that our steps are carefully coordinated not only domestically but with our international partners – with Europe, with Australia, with New Zealand, with Japan, with South Korea – and I think this process has been done very responsibly and will continue accordingly. 

It is very difficult, given how sanctions-laden the country is, to remove them in a way that is – it’s very challenging to do this without extraordinary legal background and consultation.  We are seeking to do that at every stage, but we think that the steps that we have taken to date have been appropriate and they are sending a strong message to the government and to the people of the country of our interest in sustaining the reform process.


QUESTION:  Hello.  Thank you for briefing us.


QUESTION:  I’m from Vietnam News.  Nice to see you.


QUESTION:  (Inaudible) about the relationship between U.S. and Vietnam.  How is this going, and the future of these relations?  And your idea to improve it to – the strategic relationship?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Look, thank you very much.  I, in fact, had a very good meeting yesterday with Vice Foreign Minister and my good friend and colleague from Vietnam.  We reviewed the progress to date on U.S.-Vietnam relations, and I think you’ve seen a broad improvement in ties on the economic side, on the political side, on the strategic side.

Obviously, Vietnam made the remarkable and important choice to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  That has been a very important step.  And we are in the midst of sort of the critical stages of those negotiations.  We’ve strongly encouraged Vietnam’s role in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit.  I think U.S.-Vietnam relations have improved substantially and responsibly, and we’re prepared to take next steps.

Clearly, though, however, there are important domestic considerations.  We’re concerned about the continuing human rights abuses, the arrest of some very prominent people in civil society, and religious communities inside the country.  We believe that U.S.-Vietnam relations have enormous promise in the future, and we’re prepared to do our part accordingly as the situation improves.

Yes, these two.  Yes, please, and then the gentleman in the glasses.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Hello, (inaudible) with Tokyo Broadcasting System.


QUESTION:  Hi.  Going back to territorial disputes again --


QUESTION:  -- you just mentioned that U.S. would not be taking any mediating role, and are – seem to be a kind of interesting comment because I’ve seen Secretary Clinton in the course of the past one month, she’s been calling for or urging all the active parties to engage in peaceful talks and diplomacy, which I do think are effective, but what do you think U.S. (inaudible) playing a mediating role?  Do you think that would add another tension on some active parties, supposedly China being bothered by the U.S. getting involved or taking an active role in this territorial issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Look, let me just say I think there’s a general and a very reasonable approach by all the countries in the region, that they welcome the United States setting clear principles for engagement, clear overarching policy framework, but refrains from active role in any of the disputes or any of the mediation, and rejects a mediation role.  We think that’s appropriate.  So this is not something simply derived in American strategic councils, but in fact, it is a view that is widely shared across the region.  We think it’s the responsible view as well.  So the United States will not be playing that kind of role going forward.

Yes, sir.  There it is here.

QUESTION:  Thank you. 


QUESTION:  I’m Pincas Jawetz, and I’m with Sustainable Development Media.  And my question is if the opening up of a post-Rio era – if any of these topics were part of the discussions in Asia and the Pacific?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Yeah, thank you.  Very good question, and I’m sorry that I didn’t address a little bit of that at the outset.  There are a number of issues on health and sustainment development that are deeply embedded and woven into our programs.  For instance, we have a very critical component and substantial resources devoted both to the Lower Mekong Initiative in Southeast Asia and to our work in the Pacific that deals with the consequences of climate change and how to deal with those issues. 

We also continue to work on issues associated with disease patterns in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific, efforts to improve health networks, and, frankly, an issue that is near and dear to the Secretary – the status of women in Asia as a whole.  So we believe those matters are a critical part of our diplomacy, and we don’t put them to the side.  They’re integrated into our main efforts.

I can take a couple more questions.  Is there anyone else before I go back?  Okay.  Let’s go back to you.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.


QUESTION:  My question is about North Korea.


QUESTION:  It’s been reported that Clifford Hart met with Choe Son-hui in China recently.  Could you tell us about the purpose of this meeting?  And what’s your assessment of North Korea’s nuclear program at this stage?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Yeah, thank you.  Well, look, we are – we continue to have regular discussions, dialogues, and updates among all the key partners in Asia on developments in North Korea.  So we are in close consultation with China, with Japan, with South Korea, with Russia, with other countries in Southeast Asia.  Our position remains quite clear and firm that North Korea should fully support and embrace the 2005 agreements and to proceed back into effective diplomatic engagement in the Six-Party process.  We also would like to see an improvement in relations between the North and the South, and our clear policies for what’s necessary for North Korea to assume a more respectable role in the international community are well known, and those have to do with their nuclear program, their missile activities, and other issues that we have expressed strong concern over consistently for decades.

MODERATOR:  We’ll take just one last question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Let me just – anyone else that has not asked? 

Go ahead, thanks.

QUESTION:  Yeah, a question on TPP?


QUESTION:  Can you tell us of the developments of the TPP and negotiation that have just happened, 14th --


QUESTION:  -- round of TPP in --


QUESTION:  -- Virginia?  So just briefing us about this progress?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Thank you.  Look, for the specific – we’re now at that level where the negotiations are extremely detailed, and for the appropriate update, I would strongly urge that you are in contact with our U.S. Trade Representative’s Office or the key economic officials that are responsible for the conduct of these negotiations.

I would simply say that we are extremely bullish on this agreement.  We think it’s an important economic and commercial contribution to Asia.  Very high quality, lots of enthusiasm among partners who are interested in potentially joining, and we are making progress among the existing members.  I think that’s all I can say now, but for specifics, I would direct you specifically to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.

Thank you all very much.  It’s good to see you this morning.  I hope you don’t get too wet as you walk out. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL:  Thank you.  Hope you all have a good day.

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