Clinton: U.S. Reach, Resolve Key to Asia-Pacific Stability
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2012 The world’s economic prospects, human rights goals and hopes for peace center on the Asia-Pacific region, the nation’s top diplomat told future Navy leaders last night.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton highlighted key points of the U.S. strategy for that region during a Forrestal Lecture address to midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Clinton noted that the Asia-Pacific region holds much the same position the European region did after World War II. “We watched as increasing economic integration raised standards of living, as fundamental freedoms became enshrined in international law, and democracy took root and thrived,” she said.
Today, the area stretching from the Indian Ocean to the U.S. Pacific coast harbors similar challenges and potential rewards for economic and social progress, Clinton said. The zone contains half the world’s people and many of its most dynamic trade and energy routes, she told the midshipmen.
“Surging U.S. exports to the region are helping drive our economic recovery here at home,” she added. “And future growth depends on reaching further into Asia’s growing consumer base and expanding middle class.”
U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy aims to develop a regional architecture that supports fair and stable trade and development, the secretary said. She acknowledged that some leaders in the region view that strategy as “code” for an American approach that protects “Western prerogatives” and denies rising powers a fair share of influence.
“The argument goes that we’re trying to draw them into a rigged system that favors us,” she said. “Well, that is just not the case.”
The United States is working with Asia-Pacific countries to build multinational alliances and partnerships, Clinton said. She outlined what she called universal principles essential to that effort: “fundamental freedoms and human dignity; an open, free, transparent, and fair economic system; the peaceful resolution of disputes; and respect for the territorial integrity of states.”
Those norms help all nations live and trade in peace, and helped “fuel, not foil” the rise of emerging powers including China, India and Indonesia, the secretary said.
Security, access to markets and international trust grow from those norms, and the nations that benefit from those conditions have a real stake in the success of that system, she said.
“As their power grows and their ability to contribute increases, the world’s expectations of them will rise as well,” Clinton added.
The South China Sea is one place where multinational agreement is crucial, she said, noting that it connects many of the region’s nations, several of which have competing claims on its waters and islands. She added the stakes are high for maritime security and navigational freedom, as half the world’s merchant tonnage flows through the South China Sea.
The secretary added the United States has no territorial claims there and does not side in territorial disagreements, but as a seafaring nation has a lasting interest in protecting the sea, respecting international law and promoting peaceful resolution of disputes that arise out of navigation.
Clinton said President Barack Obama’s attendance at the East Asia Summit in November and ongoing U.S. leaders’ engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations demonstrate the U.S. strategy of building inclusive regional norms. Without U.S. involvement to help in managing relations between peoples, markets and nations, and to establish security arrangements that provide stability and build trust, many smaller nations’ interests might suffer, she said.
The secretary noted human rights are a critical issue in the region. While nations including South Korea, Burma and Indonesia have made full or partial progress toward democracy, North Korea’s government in Pyongyang remains both a repressive regime and a regional threat, she said.
“North Korea is readying a long-range missile launch that will violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and put its neighbors and [the] region at risk,” she said.
Noting the launch threat followed just weeks after North Korea agreed to halt nuclear and missile testing, Clinton said the speed of that turnaround raises questions about Pyongyang’s desire to improve relations with the United States and nearby nations.
“This launch will give credence to the view that North Korean leaders see improved relations with the outside world as a threat to the existence of their system,” the secretary said. “And recent history strongly suggests that additional provocations may follow.”
U.S. leaders are working around the clock with South Korea and Japan to strengthen alliances and sharpen the deterrent against North Korean threats, she said.
Russia and China also share a strong interest in stability on the Korean peninsula, Clinton said, “and will join in sending a message … that true security will only come from [North Korean leaders] living up to commitments and obligations first and foremost to their own people.”
The secretary said the United States is not seeking new enemies in other nations, including China. Noting the expanding trade and interaction between the two nations, Clinton said the United States and China are “thoroughly, inescapably interdependent.”
It is in both nations’ interest that each nation thrives, she said, so long as progress contributes to the regional and global good. “Let me go one step further,” she added. “We will only succeed in building a peaceful, prosperous Asia-Pacific if we succeed in building an effective U.S.-China relationship.”
Clinton said some nations in Asia and elsewhere act as selective stakeholders, choosing when to participate and when to stand apart from the international system. She warned while that approach may suit their interests in the short term, “it will ultimately render the system that has helped them get to where they are today unworkable. And that would end up impoverishing everyone.”
Clinton said a sound 21st-century approach to building Asia-Pacific security and economic strength “takes consistent effort, strong partnerships, and, crucially, American leadership.”
Only the United States, she added, has “the global reach, the resources and the resolve to deter aggression, rally coalitions, and project stability into diverse and dynamic areas of danger, threat and opportunity.”
The U.S. military is a foundation of U.S. capability in the Asia-Pacific, Clinton said, and national strategy calls for a “more geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable force posture in the region.”
The secretary noted that a posture shift is under way, as the first six-month rotational deployment of U.S. Marines arrived in Darwin, Australia, last week. In addition, she said, the United States is deploying state-of-the-art ships to Singapore and is modernizing basing arrangements with allies in Northeast Asia.
U.S. leaders also are working to forge a durable military-to-military relationship with China, she said.
“Our navies already work together to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa,” Clinton said. “But we can, we should, and we must do more together. We also hope to strengthen the … strategic security dialogue, which brings American and Chinese military and civilian leaders to the table to discuss sensitive issues like maritime security and cyber security.”
America’s men and women in uniform make a difference in the lives of people all over the world, she said.
In the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. service members “made a difference in the lives of those people in the Japanese community rescued from the flood waters, or to the Singaporean sea captain protected from pirates, or the Korean family shielded from aggression,” the secretary said.
“When it comes to ensuring stability and security in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, there is simply no substitute for American power,” Clinton said.