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News Release


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 103-96
February 26, 1996

Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Commonwealth Club of California

and World Forum of Silicon Valley

Friday, February 23, 1996

Nearly 50 years ago, as a young soldier, I landed at the port of Naha in Okinawa. I and my fellow soldiers comprised the 1541st Engineering Company which was a small part of the army of occupation of Japan. Never shall I forget the scene of devastation that I saw when our LST landed at Naha. Over 160,000 combatants and civilians had been killed in this last great battle of the Pacific, and the evidence was all around in the southern half of the island where we landed. It was stripped bare of vegetation and livestock, hardly a building was left intact. This was my personal experience with the horrors of World War II which left 50 million people dead and hundreds of millions of people homeless.

Our national experience with the horrors of World War II taught us an important lesson. Because as horrible as World War II was, we knew that a World War III with nuclear weapons would be even more horrible. Indeed, would threaten the extinction of humanity. Therefore, we vowed not to repeat the errors that were made at the end of the first World War. At that time, the European victors sought revenge and reparation. The Americans simply disengaged and a new war resulted in less than one generation.

So after World War II with this lesson in mind, the United States and its allies sought to prevent a future war by holding out a hand of reconciliation and economic assistance to our former enemies. In Japan and in Europe, these efforts

-- most notably the Marshall Plan -- were an outstanding success. The economies of Japan and western Europe rebounded. Democracy drew deep roots. And this formed the basis for military cooperation with western European and Japan which lasts to this day.

But Joseph Stalin rejected the Marshall Plan both for the Soviet Union and for the eastern European countries which he dominated. So our preventive efforts with the Soviet Union failed. Ironically, the preventive efforts worked with the former enemies but did not work with our allies in the war. So, instead the Cold War ensued and for more than 40 years, all of us lived with the threat of nuclear holocaust. Because having failed to prevent the conditions, the conflict, the United States then fell back to a strategy of deterrence. And for the next 40 plus years, deterrence worked and World War III was averted.

But finally, largely as a result of the fundamental flaws in its political and economic system, the government of the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact along with it. And the newly independent states sought to establish governments based on democracy and a free market system. I have to concede that the outcome of this unprecedented transformation is still quite uncertain. But today, the threat of worldwide nuclear conflict has receded. The former Warsaw Pact nations are seeking to join NATO. And Russia and the United States are seeking to cooperate both in the economic field and in the security field.

Clearly, deterrence and warfighting capabilities still have to remain central to America's Post-Cold War security strategy. But they cannot be our only approaches in dealing with the threats to our security. Instead, the dangers facing us today point us towards the greater role for what I will call preventive defense. Just as preventive measures helped shape our security environment following World War II, preventive measures can help us deal with the post-Cold War dangers. Indeed, the end of the Cold War allows us to build on the types of preventive measures introduced by George Marshall in Western Europe, and extend them to all of Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

There are few places where preventive defense is more important than in the Asia-Pacific region. Because conflict, real or threatened, would jeopardize the tremendous gains we have made in building stability, economic success, and security in the region.

In this region, preventive defense is built on four pillars: alliances, regional confidence building, constructive engagement with China, and a framework agreement with North Korea. I'll describe each of these briefly because they are the pillars on which our security strategy is built in the Pacific.

The first pillar of preventive defense rests on our alliances with Japan and Korea. These should never, never be taken for granted. Last year, the horrible incident in Okinawa provoked questions in Japan about the importance of the U.S.- Japan alliance, with some in Japan calling it a relic of the Cold War. They are wrong. Both the United States and Japan know that our close partnership is vital to the economic and the political health of the region, indeed, of the world. By working together, the United States and Japan have made real progress towards our shared goal of seeing prosperity and freedom flourish around the globe. Our cooperative efforts have kept a lid on regional conflict, guaranteed freedom of the seas, and they have reduced the risk of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And finally, they have promoted democracy, respect for human rights and free markets. The security and the stability of this entire region absolutely depends on our continued alliance with Japan. This coming April, our two Presidents will sign a joint security declaration reaffirming this central truth.

In addition to our relationships with Japan and Korea, we have security interests that are shared by countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. That is why the second pillar of our preventive defense strategy includes the promotion of multilateral initiatives -- initiatives that can serve to reduce tension and promote peace throughout the region. These initiatives include joint military training and joint peacekeeping operations. They include institutions such as ASEAN and the ASEAN regional forum, where we can air and address mutual interests and concerns.

To advance these very multilateral security institutions, I invited defense delegations from 34 Asia-Pacific nations to join me in Hawaii last fall for the commemoration of the ending of World War II. That same weekend, we cut the ribbon on the Asia-Pacific Security Center in Honolulu, where civilian and military personnel from all across the region will meet and learn together. This Asia-Pacific Center will be a counterpart to the Marshall Center in Germany. That center is helping to build a web of security relations in eastern and central Europe. These contacts build trust, understanding and cooperation.

One way for the Asia-Pacific defense leaders to participate in this web of security relationships is by convening a regional defense ministerial where our defense leaders can meet and discuss security issues we all share, and get to know one another. This event could be modeled after the Defense Ministerial of the Americas, which the United States hosted last summer for all 33 democracies of the hemisphere. It was a real success, and it led to greater confidence, understanding and cooperation among the militaries of our hemisphere. We can do the same thing in the Asia-Pacific region.

The third pillar of our preventive defense strategy, and one which is most controversial today, is constructive engagement with China. This constructive engagement has been a consistent policy of the United States for more than 20 years under six Presidents of both parties. It will remain our policy because China is playing an increasingly important role in the security of the region, indeed, in the security of the world. It is not hard to see why.

China, of course, is the world's most populous country with perhaps the fourth largest economy in the world. China is already a major military power and is engaging in an ambitious military modernization program. It is also a nuclear power, and it has a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council. All of these factors together lead to an inescapable conclusion that China is a power of global significance, not simply of regional significance.

It is a fundamental fact that U.S. and Chinese interests will be sometimes in harmony and sometimes in conflict. Our policy has been to take both of these into account, both the times when we're in harmony and the times when we're in conflict. We believe that through a healthy, honest dialogue we can work together when our mutual benefit is served, and we can work to reduce tensions when our interests conflict.

We do not choose engagement as a favor to China. We choose engagement as a favor to ourselves to promote our own national security interests. Engagement provides an avenue to influence China, to help curb rather than exacerbate the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Engagement provides an avenue to influence China to play a stabilizing role in unstable countries in the world where we have a profound security interest, such as the Korean Peninsula. Engagement opens lines of communication for the Peoples Liberation Army, which is a major player in Chinese politics. By engaging the PLA directly, we can help promote more openness in the Chinese national security apparatus in its strategic intent, procurements, budgeting and operating procedures -- all of the components that make up the Chinese national security institution. This will not only help promote confidence among Chinese neighbors, it will lessen the chance of misunderstandings or incidents when our forces operate in areas where Chinese military forces are also deployed.

Critics in the United States of this policy -- and we have many of them -- say that instead of engaging China we should contain China just as we did with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These critics see a strong, growing China as an implacable threat to the United States, and believe that we must oppose China at every turn. They go on to assume that since containment implies opposing China at every turn, that engagement must mean accommodating China at every turn.

This line of argument is flawed. It's flawed in the practical sense, since containment could actually undermine our security. A China that feels encircled by a United States containment policy is quite unlikely to cooperate on U.S. vital security objectives. And containment could actually create those security problems for the United States. It could push China to accelerate its defense modernization, which in turn would contribute to a regional arms race, increasing the likelihood of military conflict in regional hot spots like Taiwan, the Spratly Islands and the Korean Peninsula.

Containment could also lead the United States and China to close their markets to each other and set back our efforts to persuade nations throughout the region to open and not to close their markets. And finally, containment would only provoke reflective and intractable Chinese opposition to those U.S.-led security initiatives in the U.N. and other multilateral bodies.

The containment argument is also flawed philosophically because it presumes that engagement equals appeasement. That idea is dead wrong. Engagement is not appeasement. Engagement does not mean that the United States simply acquiesces to the policies or actions with which we disagree, such as China's ongoing human rights violations. We will not acquiesce to those. But on the other hand, we will not try to isolate China over those issues. You can not isolate a country with more than a billion people.

Engagement recognizes that the best way for changing China's policies that we don't like is through diplomacy and dialogue. And it recognizes that even when we strongly disagree with China, we can not make our entire relationship hostage to a single issue, that we still have security reasons for maintaining lines of communication.

Engagement also does not preclude us from pursuing our interests with all appropriate instruments of our national power. Indeed, while we are committed to engagement, we are not committed to engagement at any price. It is important for audiences on both sides of the Pacific to understand both sides of that sentence.

In short, our policy of engagement is founded on neither faith nor idealism. It is instead rooted firmly in reality and in self interest. And it recognizes that seeking to contain and confront China can only slow down the pace of positive change that is occurring there.

So, I believe that engagement is in our self interest. But I also believe that it is in China's self interest. But for engagement to work, China's leadership also must see it that way. It takes two to tango. It takes two to engage. Our policy accepts China at its word when it says that it wants to become a responsible world power. But China sends quite the opposite message when it conducts missile tests and large military maneuvers off of Taiwan, when it exports nuclear weapons technology, or it abuses human rights. It is time for China to start sending the right messages.

For our part, the United States has tried very hard to send China the right message. We have reaffirmed that we have no intention of advocating or supporting a policy of two Chinas, or a policy of one China, one Taiwan. We have a one China policy and it rests on three legs. The first leg, Washington-Beijing relations, is built around this constructive engagement I've described and based on the Shanghai communiqués. The second leg is Washington-Taipei relations, which include helping Taiwan defend itself as called for in the Taiwan Relations Act. And the third leg is a promotion of healthy Beijing-Taipei relations based on increased trade, investment, and other peaceful activities across the Taiwan Strait, which benefit both China and Taiwan and indeed, the regional economy and unity.

Inherent in each of these three legs is dialogue, dialogue which serves to diminish tension and misunderstanding over perceived slights or unwelcome actions.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of Beijing and Taipei to determine the future of Taiwan, but this must be done peacefully. It is in the abiding interest of Beijing, Taipei and Washington that relations maintain a healthy peaceful course without provocation or overreaction by any capital, and to continue to follow China's maxim of "patience and caution" in dealing with Taiwan. Indeed, it is the abiding interest of every capital throughout the Asia-Pacific region that one of the region's greatest powers is stable and at peace.

The fourth pillar of our preventive defense strategy is to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Asia-Pacific region. In the spring of 1994, North Korea was prepared to process plutonium from its resource reactor at Yongbyon. This would have allowed it to extract enough plutonium to make five or six nuclear bombs, and it threatened to do so, all the time making menacing public remarks aimed at South Korean and Japan. One of these famous remarks was a statement that they would turn Seoul into a "sea of flames."

A group of nations led by the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan insisted that North Korea stop its nuclear program or face severe economic sanctions. North Korea responded by stating that the imposition of sanctions would be considered by them to be equivalent to an act of war. Therefore, as we prepared in the spring of 1994 to impose these sanctions, the United States made plans to make a major increase in its military deployments in South Korea.

I have vivid recollections of the meeting in the Cabinet room where we presented to the President the requirement for additional troop deployments in Korea. That turned out to not be necessary because of the firm resolve in the United States and Japan and South Korea, resolve that convinced North Korea to reverse course and sign the Agreed Framework. This agreement froze the North Korean nuclear program and drew the region back from the brink of conflict. That was a year and a half ago. Since then, our relations with North Korea have remained rocky, but the North Koreans have abided by the Agreed Framework and have sustained a freeze on their nuclear weapons program.

Taken together, these four pillars of our preventive defense strategy in the Asia-Pacific have created the conditions that minimize the threat of war. But preventive defense cannot by itself assure our security. We are still faced with dangers and potential threats that require us to maintain military forces powerful enough to be a persuasive deterrent, or if deterrent fails, powerful enough to fight and win.

We continue, for example, to maintain a nuclear deterrent to protect against the danger that a major nuclear threat to the United States might reemerge in the future. And we maintain a powerful conventional military force, the most powerful military force in the world today, I believe. That should be capable of dealing with any major regional conflict with which it would be confronted.

Past regional conflicts have been enormously costly in blood and in treasure as is demonstrated by the Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm. And today, medium sized countries -- North Korea, Iraq, Iran -- driven by virulent nationalism and armed with modern weapons can cause enormous damage to their neighbors. And to compound this threat, these nations are seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Thus, our vital interests dictate that the United States maintain a strong deterrent force and we maintain a strong security presence in the Asia-Pacific region. A key, an absolute key, to our deterrent strategy is our forward military presence, which includes about 100,000 U.S. military personnel in the Asia-Pacific region. We keep about 80,000 ground and Air Force personnel in Japan and in Korea, and 20,000 to 30,000 naval personnel in a powerful fleet in the Western Pacific.

These forces supplement the large and competent military forces of Japan and South Korea, and any potential aggressor knows that they are backed up by a large and a highly ready force in the United States along with the airlift and the sealift that can project this force anywhere in the world.

These military forces provide a security umbrella that protects the entire region. It is the damper on regional arms races and a damper on nuclear weapons proliferation. And it is America's presence in the Asia-Pacific region that is the most important factor in guaranteeing its peace and stability. Indeed, it has been rightly said that the stability and security that our forces in the Western Pacific provide is the oxygen that helps fuel the engine of the Pacific economic growth.

John Milton once wrote "Peace hath its victories no less renowned than war." Today, the Pacific is at peace. The victory of this peace has provided a renowned opportunity to ensure freedom, security, and prosperity for the new century. The duty to seize this opportunity lies in each of our nations: in the words of our leaders, in the works of our diplomats, in the halls of our universities, and in the hearts of each of us.

Thank you.

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