|For Immediate Release||October 23, 1996|
Tonight, I want to speak with you about the enduring importance ofAmerican engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States has been a Pacific power since the first ChinaClippers and the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron set sail from our shoresalmost two centuries ago. By the time of the Second World War,countless Americans had traveled across an ocean that Herman Melvillecalled the "tide-beating of the Earth" -- many to make fortunes, some tosave souls, but all to swell a two-way flow of commerce and culture thathelped to strengthen and enrich our country. After the war, our leadersunderstood that America's future would not be secure if Asia's wasimperiled. Our military presence provided the stability that gave Asiannations the chance to build thriving economies. In turn, Americabenefited from strong security ties with our allies and partners growingeconomic links and the talent and drive of millions of Asian immigrants.
President Clinton came into office determined to renew andreinforce our commitment to remain a Pacific power. Today, we are aPacific power. We have maintained about 100,000 troops across thePacific -- just as we maintain about 100,000 troops in Europe. We haverevitalized our alliance with Japan -- the cornerstone of our engagement-- for the challenges of a new century. We have acted decisively topreserve stability, sending our carriers to calm the seas off Taiwan andour Apache helicopters and Patriot missiles to keep the peace on theKorean Peninsula. We have opened a new chapter in our relations withVietnam, while working for the fullest possible accounting of theAmericans missing there. And we have advanced an ambitious diplomaticagenda across Asia -- strengthening democracy, spurring economicintegration, launching regional security talks, helping Americanbusinesses, and protecting the health and welfare of American citizens.
We will continue to be a Pacific power -- not because we aresentimental moralists, but because we have cold, hard interests in aregion 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 interestsof so many powers converge -- and where we fought three wars in the lasthalf-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 ofweapons of mass destruction, terrorists who plot to blow up Americanairliners, and criminal gangs that export illegal aliens and importstolen cars. It could slow the proud march of Asia's newest democraciesto a crawl. And it could shut us out of the world's most vibrantmarkets, harming 40 percent of our trade and over two million of ourjobs, and hurting our chances to benefit from more than $1 trillion inAsian infrastructure projects alone over the next decade.
In short, just as America's strength at home continues to depend onour engagement in Europe, we also must be either a Pacific power, or nopower at all.
But power is not an end in itself. We must answer the fundamentalquestion about the purpose of our power -- the power of our military andour diplomacy, the power of our ideals and example, the power of oureconomy.
Let me tell you what I told the Asian leaders with whom I met on myrecent trip in the region. With the end of the Cold War, the purpose ofour power in the Pacific is stability. Our victory in what PresidentKennedy called our "long, twilight struggle" has left us with no single,overarching foe to contain -- and we are in no hurry to create a newone.
We must and will always be prepared to defend our interests,whether in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe or elsewhere around theglobe. But as we defend those interests or respond to crises,diplomatically or militarily, we must also pursue our strategic visionof how to build a world where our people can prosper in peace.
Today, Asia faces a choice between two global visions for the 21stcentury. The first is a return to the zero-sum politics of the 19thcentury -- a world where great powers are permanent rivals, acting asthough what was good for one power was, by definition, detrimental toanother. The second is a world where great powers act to increasecooperation, avert chaos, and strengthen economic growth, whilepreserving the balances of power that preserve the peace.
As the world's most powerful nation, the United States will surviveand prosper under either vision. But in a world grown closer, both thecosts of conflict and the rewards of cooperation have risen. That iswhy we are convinced that the second vision holds greater benefits forthe American people. This vision is driven by interests, not altruism.It serves our national interest if great powers can work together toestablish global norms in areas such as trade, nonproliferation and theenvironment, and join in combating common threats such as terrorism andinternational crime. Establishing these rules of the road will helppromote the stability that benefits us all. And we want to work withAsia's leaders as those rules are developed.
President Clinton laid out his vision of an Asia-Pacific communitybuilt on shared efforts, shared benefits, and shared destiny when hetraveled to Japan and Korea in July 1993 -- his first trip overseas asPresident. By working together over the last four years to strengthenthe region's unprecedented stability, we are laying the groundwork for atrue regional community.
Our efforts to promote greater stability have taken three forms:strengthening our alliances, deepening our engagement with China, andenlarging the region's community of democracies.
First, we have revitalized our alliances and maintained ourforward-deployed forces because we share the view of almost everycountry in Asia that a strong, American security presence remains thebedrock for regional stability.
To strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, President Clinton and PrimeMinister Hashimoto signed a new charter last April that will benefit allthe nations of Asia. Since 1952, our security ties have been essentialto creating the stable environment that has enabled countries in theregion to focus more on their economies than their arsenals. Japan'scontinued support for our military presence and closer links between ourarmed forces will maintain those conditions and enable us to deepen ourcooperation on behalf of peace and stability. We have also workedtogether to ease the burden of our bases in Okinawa without weakeningour forces.
Our alliance with a democratic and prosperous Japan is one of thegreat success stories of the last half-century. Together, we aresupporting peace in the Middle East and Bosnia, reform in Russia, andthe consolidation of democracy in Haiti. And through our Common Agenda,we are global partners in the fight to preserve the environment and haltscourges like AIDS. We look forward to working with Japan's newgovernment to ensure that our alliance's next five decades are assuccessful as its last.
With our ally South Korea, we are working to reduce the tensions onthe Korean Peninsula that threaten all of Northeast Asia. Working withSouth Korea, Japan and China, our determined diplomacy has stopped NorthKorea's dangerous nuclear program in its tracks and put it on the pathto eventual dismantlement. As I speak, its facilities remain frozenunder the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whosetechnicians are on the ground canning spent fuel for shipment out of thecountry. President Clinton and President Kim Young Sam have proposedfour-party talks that have the potential to close one of the Cold War'slast open chapters and lead to a permanent peace on the peninsula.
We have also reinforced our alliances with Australia, thePhilippines, and Thailand -- and President Clinton looks forward todeepening those ties when he visits each of these countries next month.We have magnified the power of our forward-deployed forces by expandingour access to military facilities with ASEAN nations such as Singapore.And we have begun building a new architecture for regional securitycooperation. While we have not tried to create carbon copies ofEuropean institutions such as NATO and the OSCE, we have worked with ourallies and partners in Asia to open security dialogues that willstrengthen our ability to confront common challenges. These initiativesare already helping to defuse tensions in the South China Sea and todispel distrust across the region.
A second key element of regional stability is our engagement withChina. With its emergence as a great power, China will play a centralrole in deciding whether the next century is one of cooperation orzero-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. Butgreat powers also have great responsibilities.
Our cooperation is essential to security in the Asia-Pacific regionand around the world. We worked closely with China to secure passage ofthe Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty last monthand the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treatylast year. We have cooperated to consolidate peace in Cambodia andensure stability on the Korean Peninsula.
As you know, this spring presented real challenges to all of us whobelieve in the importance of constructive U.S.-China relations -- chiefamong them China's military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. By sendingtwo carrier groups to the area, we made clear that any use of forceagainst Taiwan would have grave consequences. We also reiterated ourcommitment to our "one-China" policy and encouraged both sides to resumethe dialogue that is essential to a peaceful resolution of theirdifferences.
Our clear understanding of each other's position on Taiwan,together with strong progress in other areas, has restored the positivemomentum to our relationship. When I traveled to Beijing this July, Ifound China's leadership clearly eager to expand our strategic dialogue.Since then, we have held important high-level talks on nonproliferationand trade. Of course, the United States and China will continue to haveimportant differences -- especially in areas such as human rights, whereChina's recent conduct has been of particular concern. But we agreethat the best way to manage those differences is through engagement, notpervasive confrontation -- building agreement where our interestsconverge and dealing frankly where they do not. We will have theopportunity to make further headway next month, when SecretaryChristopher will travel to Beijing, and President Clinton will meet withPresident Jiang Zemin at the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Manila.
The third key element of regional stability is democracy and humanrights. Put simply, open societies make for better neighbors. Whetherin the Asia-Pacific region or around the world, history shows thatgovernments that abuse their citizens at home are also more likely toprovoke conflicts or cause problems beyond their borders, whether byspawning refugees, sheltering narcotics traffickers, or damaging theglobal environment.
Of course, we promote the rule of law and human rights not justbecause it advances our interest in stability, but because doing so istrue to our ideals as Americans. Democracy comes in many forms. We donot seek to impose our own vision on others. Indeed, the democraticodyssey of countries from Mongolia to Thailand demonstrates that thedesire for political freedom is a home-grown commodity, not an Americanexport. Across Asia and around the world, we will continue to speak outon behalf of those who defend universally recognized rights. We willcontinue to push repressive regimes in places like Burma to pursuenational reconciliation and genuine political dialogue. And we willcontinue to assist new democracies like Cambodia by encouraging thedevelopment 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 PresidentClinton has called "the quiet miracle of a normal life." Thanks toAmerica's efforts, the Pacific has finally begun to live up to its name.In Cambodia, farmers can till fields that once yielded only death anddestruction. In South Korea, schoolchildren can worry more about theirexams than about war. And in Thailand, one of the biggest threats thata thriving democratic middle class now faces are traffic jams.
Second, in promoting stability, we spur the economic progress thatbenefits all our businesses and workers. Freed from the threat of warand inspired by a greater stake in their futures, the peoples of anAsia-Pacific region at peace have propelled their nations into the frontranks of economic growth.
Now, our economic strategy is enlarging the shared stake that wehave in sustaining that growth. The United States is working toencourage the free flow of trade and investment that is creating jobsand opportunities for Americans, fueling Asia's high-octane economies,and uniting nations across the Pacific in the common pursuit ofprosperity.
President Clinton came into office determined to create an openglobal trading system for the 21st Century -- a goal that we willadvance this December at the first meeting of the new World TradeOrganization in Singapore. Decades from now, people will look back onthis period as a time of revolutionary change in the world tradingsystem. The more than 200 trade agreements that we have negotiated havehelped to create more than one million new American jobs and to restoreour 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 ofour most important trading partners. As the world's two largesteconomies, the United States and Japan have a special responsibility touphold the goal of open trade. And we are. Our 22 trade agreementswith Japan -- covering everything from medical parts and auto parts torice -- have raised our exports in those areas by 85 percent. They havealso helped to reduce our overall trade deficit by 10 percent last year-- the first decline since 1990. And the deficit for the first sevenmonths of the year is nearly 30 percent lower than for the same periodin 1995. Now we are working to ensure fullimplementation of those agreements, as well as to resolve ourdifferences in other important areas.
It is also in our strategic interest to ensure the smoothintegration of China -- now our fastest growing export market and soonto be the world's largest economy -- into the global trading system.Our economic engagement is bringing down barriers to our products andprotecting our intellectual property. Now we are working to bring Chinainto the World Trade Organization on commercially viable terms. That isthe best way to ensure that China lives by the economic rules of theroad and has the opportunity to help set those rules. Because Chinawill have an enormous impact on the future of the global economicsystem, it is especially important that it lives up to the standards ofopenness and transparency that the WTO requires of all its members.
We also have a strong interest in supporting open trade with theASEAN nations -- now our third largest export market. Our two-way tradehas expanded nearly 50 percent over the last two years, reaching morethan $100 billion in 1995.
But increasingly, it is the ambitious regional efforts that we havelaunched -- from NAFTA and the Free Trade Area of the Americas to APEC-- that are spearheading the drive toward a world where the flow oftrade and investment is limited only by our imaginations. Three yearsago, President Clinton set out a bold vision of regional economicintegration at the first historic APEC Leaders Meeting in Seattle -- avision given life by the landmark commitment the leaders made one yearlater to achieve free trade and investment in the region by the year2020. Next month in Manila, we will set out plans to achieve that goal,as well as work to strengthen regional financial institutions andpreserve our shared environment.
At this year's APEC Leader's Meeting and on each stop along histrip, President Clinton will also deliver a simple message, loud andclear: the United States will remain a Pacific power. The intereststhat compel our engagement have grown. And our determination to createa community of shared efforts, shared benefits, and shared destiny isstronger than it has ever been.
The advances that we have already made attest to the remarkablefast-forwarding of history in the Asia-Pacific region over the lasthalf-century. Some of its nations have risen from the ruins of war andtyranny to the heights of peace and democracy. Many have transformedthemselves from colonialism's oldest outposts to capitalism's newestfrontiers. And almost all have succeeded in offering their people afuture much brighter than their past. This dramatic progress wasprofoundly inAmerica's interest, and we were there to support and encourage it everystep 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 thechallenges of what some call the Pacific Century will determine whetherit will be an American Century as well.
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Japan - America Society, October 1996