Speaking on October 28th, 2010 at the start of an extensive tour of Asia and the Pacific, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States is working to sustain and strengthen its engagement in the region. “There are some who say that this long legacy of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific is coming to a close, that we are not here to stay,” Clinton said. “And I say look at our record. It tells a very different story.”
Clinton’s speech was hosted by the East-West Center in cooperation with Pacific Forum CSIS, the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, the Japan-America Society of Hawaii, the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the APEC 2011 Hawai‘i Host Committee and the University of Hawai‘i.
Clinton delivered her address as she embarked on a two-week tour through the region, talking about U.S. intention to remain a leader in economic growth, regional security and human rights issues. Her trip includes stops in Hawai‘i, Guam, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia and American Samoa. Clinton noted her visit precedes one by President Barack Obama next month when he visits India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.
She said the two trips are part of a strategy of “forward-deployed” diplomacy in a region where much of the history of the 21st century will be written. “For the past 21 months, the Obama Administration has been intent on strengthening our leadership, increasing our engagement and putting into practice new ways of projecting our ideas and influence throughout this changing region,” she said.
Clinton spent a portion of her talk on China, explaining that some people believe that American and Chinese interests are fundamentally at odds, applying “a zero-sum calculation, so whenever one of us succeeds, the other must fail.” But that is not the United States’ view, she said: “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.”
Clinton acknowledged that the relationship between the two countries is complex, but she disputed the view of some Chinese who believe the U.S. is bent on colluding with allies in the region to contain China. Many commentators have speculated that a brief stop on China’s Hainan island was added to the secretary’s itinerary at the last minute largely to assuage such fears. During her few hours on the island she will meet with State Councilor Dai Bingguo to discuss upcoming meetings between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
She said China has experienced breathtaking growth and development since the beginning of diplomatic relations with America, and that the U.S. is looking forward to working closely with China, both one-on-one and through key multinational institutions, as it takes on a greater role and more responsibility in regional and global affairs. She listed North Korea, global sanctions for Iran, currency, trade and human rights among the important topics of discussion for the U.S. and China.
Clinton said that U.S. foreign policy in the region would continue to rely on fortifying longstanding alliances with countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines while developing emerging partnerships with nations such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand.
She said it also includes more participation in regional multilateral institutions, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Clinton’s visit to Vietnam marks the first time the U.S. will participate in the East Asia Summit, a multilateral body that she said the U.S. hopes will become a substantive forum for pressing strategic and political issues such as nuclear nonproliferation, maritime security and climate change.
“Let me simply state the principle that will guide America’s role in Asian institutions,” she said. “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.”
She said that many countries in the region continue to look to the U.S. “to help create the conditions for broad, sustained economic growth and to ensure security by effectively deploying our own military and to defend human rights and dignity by supporting strong democratic institutions.”
Clinton also reiterated criticism of Burma’s human rights record and noted that Asia is the only area in the world where three Nobel laureates (Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, and Liu Xiaobo) are either under house arrest, imprisoned or in exile.
“Like many nations we are troubled by the abuses we see in some places in the region,” she said, adding that the United States joins people worldwide in calling for the release of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. “Her imprisonment must come to an end,” Clinton said.
Clinton said America is committed to seeking accountability for human rights violations in Burma through an international commission of inquiry, and she called upcoming elections in Burma “deeply flawed.”