United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Release

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

News Release


Release No: 034-98
January 27, 1998

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Academy of Military Sciences Beijing, China Monday, January 19, 1998

A year ago, in his address to the National Defense University in Washington, Minister of Defense General Chi observed that as we are "about to cross the threshold into a new millennium, bringing what we accomplished in the past into the future." He also observed that as we approach this threshold, we see a world that is "caught in profound and complex changes."


As fortune would have it, the itinerary for my current trip has brought me into a whirlwind of change more profound and complex than perhaps General Chi envisioned a year ago. And as I have met with leaders grappling with this hurricane that emerged so unexpectedly, I have sought to assure them that the American commitment to the region demonstrated in the past will continue now and into the future, serving as an anchor of stability amidst the storm.

East Asia's tremendous economic development has depended upon a number of factors, including the discipline and hard work of the peoples of Asia. But one critical factor has been vast investments in productive capacity and supporting infrastructure, with a large portion of those investments pouring across international borders. And as the events of recent weeks have demonstrated, just as nature abhors a vacuum, investors abhor instability. Like a school of fish, investors will gather in warm, calm waters but then disperse in a flash at the first hint of danger.

For half a century, America's military presence and engagement has been the basis for stability in East Asia and has ensured that the Pacific Rim is lapped by warm, calm waters in which investors want to swim. And no nation has benefited more than China from the stabilizing effect of American military engagement in Asia. My first effort as Secretary of Defense was to direct a comprehensive review of American defense strategy and military posture. That review reaffirmed America's strategic commitment to remain forward-deployed in the region. The review also made hard budgetary choices to ensure that we would have the resources to fulfill that commitment. And it gave greater impetus to the transformation of our military forces through the introduction of new technologies, new operational concepts and new organizational structures, which together will make our forces more capable even as they are more efficient.

Our forward deployed posture supports our strategy of engagement in the Asia Pacific region that we pursue through our bilateral alliances and security relationships, our participation in interlocking multilateral security fora, and our strategic engagement of China.

The first pillar of our security strategy in the region is the network of alliances with Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines. These and our other bilateral relationships in the region were forged in the Cold War. But today they are not reactive, they are pro-active. Standing not against anyone, but standing for shared objectives, not least of which is the stability that undergirds the region's peace and prosperity. We have worked hard to update these bilateral relationships to meet the requirements of a new era. Because they will be better able to promote stability as the region experiences turbulent change, these updated alliances benefit all countries of the region. The US-Japan security alliance, for example, will be as important to Asia's future as it has been to its past. The stability it has created has propelled an economic tide that lifted millions of people throughout Asia. In September, the U.S. and Japan completed revisions to the Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation to ensure that we are prepared for today's challenges from peacekeeping and humanitarian relief to responding to regional crises that affect Japan's security, such as on the Korean peninsula. The Guidelines also enhance predictability and confidence in the region by increasing the extent to which Japanese and American security structures are integrated. What these Guidelines do not do is seek to isolate any nation in the region. On the contrary, they are designed to expand stability for the benefit of all nations.

That is why the U.S. and Japan made the process for revising the Guidelines as transparent as possible. We repeatedly engaged China and other countries of the region in discussions about our intent, and we even published a draft of the

revisions last June so that governments throughout the region could assess what we were doing and offer their perspectives. This open, transparent process underscores that the revised Guidelines jeopardize no one's interests and, indeed, should serve as a model for how transparency in security matters can promote confidence and reduce misunderstanding.

An important objective of the revised Guidelines is to ensure that the U.S. is fully capable of meeting its security commitments to the Republic of Korea, our other treaty alliance that remains essential to stability and peace in Northeast Asia. We appreciate the contribution China is making toward stability and orderly change on the peninsula. Our cooperative effort in the Four-Party talks has, for the first time, brought together North and South Korea, the United States and China. And our cooperation on the 1994 nuclear Agreed Framework has reduced a grave danger to the region.

Given the complications posed by the ongoing financial crisis, our countries and others in the region will have to enhance our cooperation to ensure the Agreed Framework is implemented. Moreover, we should not limit ourselves to the goal of rendering the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons. We should also aim to eliminate chemical and biological weapons from the peninsula, as well.

Looking to the future, I can state that the U.S.-Korean alliance will continue to promote peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, even after the immediate threat to stability has receded on the peninsula. I would also note that the United States places great importance not only on America's bilateral alliances, but also on bilateral relationships between countries in East Asia. American interests and the interests of entire region are best served if China also has good relations with Japan, Korea and Russia, and if those countries have good relations with each other.

Another pillar in our regional strategy is the set of overlapping multilateral frameworks for discussion and cooperation. The United States and China are together engaged in a several multilateral channels such as the ASEAN Regional Forum; an unofficial trilateral dialogue among the US, China and Japan; military conferences on practical security cooperation, and; the Four-Party Talks on the Korean Peninsula. While we are working together constructively in these multilateral fora, the United States views a broad and deep engagement directly between our two countries as an essential pillar of our regional strategy.

We seek a steady and sustained engagement that can help prevent the "zig-zags" in our bilateral relationship that General Chi discussed a year ago in his Washington speech. Today, China is an Asian power, and rightfully so. The United States does not fear this, nor do we view China as an adversary. Rather, the U.S. seeks to encourage China to step forward as a responsible and cooperative great

nation. A nation that preserves its unique identity, but is more open on security matters and more respectful of the rule of law. A nation that adheres to international norms, including peaceful resolution of disputes, the control of weapons of mass destruction and freedom of the seas. And a nation that joins us in rejecting a zero-sum attitude toward security by recognizing the common interests we all share in a stable environment that ensures security and promotes prosperity.

As General Chi observed

Additional Links

Stay Connected