THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY ANTHONY LAKE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS TO THE JAPAN-AMERICA SOCIETY WASHINGTON, D.C. (as prepared) October 23, 1996
Tonight, I want to speak with you about the enduring importance of American engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States has been a Pacific power since the first China Clippers and the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron set sail from our shores almost two centuries ago. By the time of the Second World War, countless Americans had traveled across an ocean that Herman Melville called the "tide-beating of the Earth" -- many to make fortunes, some to save souls, but all to swell a two-way flow of commerce and culture that helped to strengthen and enrich our country. After the war, our leaders understood that America's future would not be secure if Asia's was imperiled. Our military presence provided the stability that gave Asian nations the chance to build thriving economies. In turn, America benefited from strong security ties with our allies and partners growing economic links and the talent and drive of millions of Asian immigrants.
President Clinton came into office determined to renew and reinforce our commitment to remain a Pacific power. Today, we are a Pacific power. We have maintained about 100,000 troops across the Pacific -- just as we maintain about 100,000 troops in Europe. We have revitalized our alliance with Japan -- the cornerstone of our engagement -- for the challenges of a new century. We have acted decisively to preserve stability, sending our carriers to calm the seas off Taiwan and our Apache helicopters and Patriot missiles to keep the peace on the Korean Peninsula. We have opened a new chapter in our relations with Vietnam, while working for the fullest possible accounting of the Americans missing there. And we have advanced an ambitious diplomatic agenda across Asia -- strengthening democracy, spurring economic integration, launching regional security talks, helping American businesses, and protecting the health and welfare of American citizens.
We will continue to be a Pacific power -- not because we are sentimental moralists, but because we have cold, hard interests in a region that accounts for half the world's people, much of its resources, a quarter of its goods and services, and most of its biggest militaries. Our security and prosperity depend on our engagement where the interests of so many powers converge -- and where we fought three wars in the last half-century. An American withdrawal would create an unhealthy vacuum. It could kindle arms races from Northeast Asia to the South China Sea. It could make us more vulnerable to new threats like the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists who plot to blow up American airliners, and criminal gangs that export illegal aliens and import stolen cars. It could slow the proud march of Asia's newest democracies to a crawl. And it could shut us out of the world's most vibrant markets, harming 40 percent of our trade and over two million of our jobs, and hurting our chances to benefit from more than $1 trillion in Asian infrastructure projects alone over the next decade.
In short, just as America's strength at home continues to depend on our engagement in Europe, we also must be either a Pacific power, or no power at all.
But power is not an end in itself. We must answer the fundamental question about the purpose of our power -- the power of our military and our diplomacy, the power of our ideals and example, the power of our economy.
Let me tell you what I told the Asian leaders with whom I met on my recent trip in the region. With the end of the Cold War, the purpose of our power in the Pacific is stability. Our victory in what President Kennedy called our "long, twilight struggle" has left us with no single, overarching foe to contain -- and we are in no hurry to create a new one.
We must and will always be prepared to defend our interests, whether in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe or elsewhere around the globe. But as we defend those interests or respond to crises, diplomatically or militarily, we must also pursue our strategic vision of how to build a world where our people can prosper in peace.
Today, Asia faces a choice between two global visions for the 21st century. The first is a return to the zero-sum politics of the 19th century -- a world where great powers are permanent rivals, acting as though what was good for one power was, by definition, detrimental to another. The second is a world where great powers act to increase cooperation, avert chaos, and strengthen economic growth, while preserving the balances of power that preserve the peace.
As the world's most powerful nation, the United States will survive and prosper under either vision. But in a world grown closer, both the costs of conflict and the rewards of cooperation have risen. That is why we are convinced that the second vision holds greater benefits for the American people. This vision is driven by interests, not altruism. It serves our national interest if great powers can work together to establish global norms in areas such as trade, nonproliferation and the environment, and join in combating common threats such as terrorism and international crime. Establishing these rules of the road will help promote the stability that benefits us all. And we want to work with Asia's leaders as those rules are developed.
President Clinton laid out his vision of an Asia-Pacific community built on shared efforts, shared benefits, and shared destiny when he traveled to Japan and Korea in July 1993 -- his first trip overseas as President. By working together over the last four years to strengthen the region's unprecedented stability, we are laying the groundwork for a true regional community.
Our efforts to promote greater stability have taken three forms: strengthening our alliances, deepening our engagement with China, and enlarging the region's community of democracies.
First, we have revitalized our alliances and maintained our forward-deployed forces because we share the view of almost every country in Asia that a strong, American security presence remains the bedrock for regional stability.
To strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto signed a new charter last April that will benefit all the nations of Asia. Since 1952, our security ties have been essential to creating the stable environment that has enabled countries in the region to focus more on their economies than their arsenals. Japan's continued support for our military presence and closer links between our armed forces will maintain those conditions and enable us to deepen our cooperation on behalf of peace and stability. We have also worked together to ease the burden of our bases in Okinawa without weakening our forces.
Our alliance with a democratic and prosperous Japan is one of the great success stories of the last half-century. Together, we are supporting peace in the Middle East and Bosnia, reform in Russia, and the consolidation of democracy in Haiti. And through our Common Agenda, we are global partners in the fight to preserve the environment and halt scourges like AIDS. We look forward to working with Japan's new government to ensure that our alliance's next five decades are as successful as its last.
With our ally South Korea, we are working to reduce the tensions on the Korean Peninsula that threaten all of Northeast Asia. Working with South Korea, Japan and China, our determined diplomacy has stopped North Korea's dangerous nuclear program in its tracks and put it on the path to eventual dismantlement. As I speak, its facilities remain frozen under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose technicians are on the ground canning spent fuel for shipment out of the country. President Clinton and President Kim Young Sam have proposed four-party talks that have the potential to close one of the Cold War's last open chapters and lead to a permanent peace on the peninsula.
We have also reinforced our alliances with Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand -- and President Clinton looks forward to deepening those ties when he visits each of these countries next month. We have magnified the power of our forward-deployed forces by expanding our access to military facilities with ASEAN nations such as Singapore. And we have begun building a new architecture for regional security cooperation. While we have not tried to create carbon copies of European institutions such as NATO and the OSCE, we have worked with our allies and partners in Asia to open security dialogues that will strengthen our ability to confront common challenges. These initiatives are already helping to defuse tensions in the South China Sea and to dispel distrust across the region.
A second key element of regional stability is our engagement with China. With its emergence as a great power, China will play a central role in deciding whether the next century is one of cooperation or zero-sum rivalry and conflict. As President Clinton has said, a secure, stable, open and prosperous China -- in other words, a strong China -- is in our interest. We welcome China to the great power table. But great powers also have great responsibilities.
Our cooperation is essential to security in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. We worked closely with China to secure passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty last month and the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty last year. We have cooperated to consolidate peace in Cambodia and ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula.
As you know, this spring presented real challenges to all of us who believe in the importance of constructive U.S.-China relations -- chief among them China's military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. By sending two carrier groups to the area, we made clear that any use of force against Taiwan would have grave consequences. We also reiterated our commitment to our "one-China" policy and encouraged both sides to resume the dialogue that is essential to a peaceful resolution of their differences.
Our clear understanding of each other's position on Taiwan, together with strong progress in other areas, has restored the positive momentum to our relationship. When I traveled to Beijing this July, I found China's leadership clearly eager to expand our strategic dialogue. Since then, we have held important high-level talks on nonproliferation and trade. Of course, the United States and China will continue to have important differences -- especially in areas such as human rights, where China's recent conduct has been of particular concern. But we agree that the best way to manage those differences is through engagement, not pervasive confrontation -- building agreement where our interests converge and dealing frankly where they do not. We will have the opportunity to make further headway next month, when Secretary Christopher will travel to Beijing, and President Clinton will meet with President Jiang Zemin at the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Manila.
The third key element of regional stability is democracy and human rights. Put simply, open societies make for better neighbors. Whether in the Asia-Pacific region or around the world, history shows that governments that abuse their citizens at home are also more likely to provoke conflicts or cause problems beyond their borders, whether by spawning refugees, sheltering narcotics traffickers, or damaging the global environment.
Of course, we promote the rule of law and human rights not just because it advances our interest in stability, but because doing so is true to our ideals as Americans. Democracy comes in many forms. We do not seek to impose our own vision on others. Indeed, the democratic odyssey of countries from Mongolia to Thailand demonstrates that the desire for political freedom is a home-grown commodity, not an American export. Across Asia and around the world, we will continue to speak out on behalf of those who defend universally recognized rights. We will continue to push repressive regimes in places like Burma to pursue national reconciliation and genuine political dialogue. And we will continue to assist new democracies like Cambodia by encouraging the development of political parties and political institutions.
By using our power to promote stability, we accomplish two goals. First, we help hundreds of millions of people to live what President Clinton has called "the quiet miracle of a normal life." Thanks to America's efforts, the Pacific has finally begun to live up to its name. In Cambodia, farmers can till fields that once yielded only death and destruction. In South Korea, schoolchildren can worry more about their exams than about war. And in Thailand, one of the biggest threats that a thriving democratic middle class now faces are traffic jams.
Second, in promoting stability, we spur the economic progress that benefits all our businesses and workers. Freed from the threat of war and inspired by a greater stake in their futures, the peoples of an Asia-Pacific region at peace have propelled their nations into the front ranks of economic growth.
Now, our economic strategy is enlarging the shared stake that we have in sustaining that growth. The United States is working to encourage the free flow of trade and investment that is creating jobs and opportunities for Americans, fueling Asia's high-octane economies, and uniting nations across the Pacific in the common pursuit of prosperity.
President Clinton came into office determined to create an open global trading system for the 21st Century -- a goal that we will advance this December at the first meeting of the new World Trade Organization in Singapore. Decades from now, people will look back on this period as a time of revolutionary change in the world trading system. The more than 200 trade agreements that we have negotiated have helped to create more than one million new American jobs and to restore our status as the world's biggest exporter.
Nowhere has our strategy been more important -- or more successful -- than in Asia, home to the world's most dynamic economies and some of our most important trading partners. As the world's two largest economies, the United States and Japan have a special responsibility to uphold the goal of open trade. And we are. Our 22 trade agreements with Japan -- covering everything from medical parts and auto parts to rice -- have raised our exports in those areas by 85 percent. They have also helped to reduce our overall trade deficit by 10 percent last year -- the first decline since 1990. And the deficit for the first seven months of the year is nearly 30 percent lower than for the same period in 1995. Now we are working to ensure full implementation of those agreements, as well as to resolve our differences in other important areas.
It is also in our strategic interest to ensure the smooth integration of China -- now our fastest growing export market and soon to be the world's largest economy -- into the global trading system. Our economic engagement is bringing down barriers to our products and protecting our intellectual property. Now we are working to bring China into the World Trade Organization on commercially viable terms. That is the best way to ensure that China lives by the economic rules of the road and has the opportunity to help set those rules. Because China will have an enormous impact on the future of the global economic system, it is especially important that it lives up to the standards of openness and transparency that the WTO requires of all its members.
We also have a strong interest in supporting open trade with the ASEAN nations -- now our third largest export market. Our two-way trade has expanded nearly 50 percent over the last two years, reaching more than $100 billion in 1995.
But increasingly, it is the ambitious regional efforts that we have launched -- from NAFTA and the Free Trade Area of the Americas to APEC -- that are spearheading the drive toward a world where the flow of trade and investment is limited only by our imaginations. Three years ago, President Clinton set out a bold vision of regional economic integration at the first historic APEC Leaders Meeting in Seattle -- a vision given life by the landmark commitment the leaders made one year later to achieve free trade and investment in the region by the year 2020. Next month in Manila, we will set out plans to achieve that goal, as well as work to strengthen regional financial institutions and preserve our shared environment.
At this year's APEC Leader's Meeting and on each stop along his trip, President Clinton will also deliver a simple message, loud and clear: the United States will remain a Pacific power. The interests that compel our engagement have grown. And our determination to create a community of shared efforts, shared benefits, and shared destiny is stronger than it has ever been.
The advances that we have already made attest to the remarkable
fast-forwarding of history in the Asia-Pacific region over the last
half-century. Some of its nations have risen from the ruins of war and
tyranny to the heights of peace and democracy. Many have transformed
themselves from colonialism's oldest outposts to capitalism's newest
frontiers. And almost all have succeeded in offering their people a
future much brighter than their past. This dramatic progress was
America's interest, and we were there to support and encourage it every step of the way.
Now, on the edge of a new era and the brink of a new millennium, American leadership in the Asia-Pacific region is essential to security, prosperity and freedom not just across an ocean but around the world. As we strive to advance our global interests, how well we respond to the challenges of what some call the Pacific Century will determine whether it will be an American Century as well.
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