Transcript: Kurt Campbell, U.S Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand October 10, 2011
Dr. Thitinan: His Excellency, Dr. Kurt Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Excellencies, distinguished members of the media, distinguished academics, members of the public, students, good afternoon and welcome to our distinguished public lecture today by Dr. Campbell. I want to first apologize for the wait. We had some volatile weather in Thailand and Dr. Campbell has come at a critical time for us here. We had ominous flooding disaster in many provinces affecting millions of lives. So I hope that your presence will chase away the rains and keep the water level slow. Now on the logistics, Dr. Campbell has graciously agreed to speak for 20 minutes or so. We have plenty of time for Q and A, up to 40-50 minutes, so please prepare your questions and comments, if necessary, but please keep them concise and to the point. The topic today is U.S. engagement in Asia, not just with Asia but in Asia. And I know that Dr. Campbell will be able to speak the gamut of the issue that we are concerned with. In Asia, we are very concerned with a number of issues—the world economy is wobbly, the debt crisis in Europe, economic difficulties in the U.S. and many other challenges in the near term. In Asia, we’ve been resilient. I’ve been to a number of seminars in Asia. The two ordering paradigms that are uncontested are that the international system is going through change. The post-second World War institutions no longer can respond to the growing challenges and requirements that we have today. And also in Asia, we have the most vibrant region but it does not have a vehicle and architecture and apparatus for resolving conflicts and discord. We can see that in the South China Sea, a lot of noise in the South China Sea now, a little bit calm now but unresolved. We have a number of other issues in the region—the Korean Peninsula and the, of course, what happens now in Burma, Myanmar. There are some movements that portend perhaps positive change but I know that you’ll be able to address that. We want to know about many things here. I want to thank the U.S. Embassy and Dr. Campbell for being accessible and the U.S. as a major power that is the most accessible and it communicates the most. And it’s also a great power that has power. We have a number of great powers in the region. We live in a region with an organization called ASEAN. It’s very important to us in Thailand and in the neighborhood what happens to ASEAN. ASEAN now has a goal of having community by 2015. I think that in the ideal world, ASEAN would like to maintain neutrality and not having any major power around but since we have to have the major powers, ASEAN insists on a centrality in regional architecture formation. So a number of issues and I know that we sent out the bio, the breathtaking bio of Dr. Kurt Campbell. He’s in fact a professor, formally professor at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School, and I suspect that he’ll return to something like that. He has been in and out of government. His expertise is wide-ranging. It is very impressive, among his many hats, he has been the founder, co-founder, of the Center for A New American Security. He has been the Henry Kissinger Chair of National Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He is an accomplished author, having written and co-authored books on foreign policy, American roles in Asia, terrorism and even climate change. So his expertise is enormous. I last had conversation with Dr. Campbell in Washington last April and he discussed at a dinner on Myanmar and the two Koreas future prospects of Myanmar and the two Koreas and I know that Dr. Campbell is a personable, sincere man with a steep expertise in issues that affect our lives and our times. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Dr. Kurt Campbell.
Campbell: That was wonderfully gracious. Thank you very much. I’m very grateful to be here, to be back in Thailand and have an opportunity to spend the afternoon with you. Before I get started, just to go through my remarks, I just want to take a few moments on behalf of the United States government and indeed all Americans to reach out to the people of Thailand to offer our most sincere condolences for the tragedy of the floods that is occurring as we speak. We are following the situation extraordinarily carefully. I look forward to having discussions later this afternoon with senior members of your government and we are committed to do anything we can to support. We’re watching it carefully. We are in close consultation with the authorities here and we stand by to be of assistance.
I just want to take a moment, if I can, to pay my respects and strongest possible support to America’s best. We have sent our finest ambassador here. I think all of you had a chance to get to know her. She is a one woman State Department. Kristie Kenney has served with enormous distinction. I can’t imagine a better person to trust this important relationship within her and I thank her for her service and all the people at the U.S. Embassy for what they are doing.
I’d like to just make a few general remarks about U.S. policy in Asia and then hopefully talk specifically about the partnership of Thailand and some of the hopes that we have over the course of the next several months. Obviously, we celebrate your successful election and we’re working closely with the new government, seeking to build deeper ties on our relationship that is remarkable and historical. Let me first say that this period of American engagement in Asia probably will best be understood only in retrospect because it’s difficult to understand the full scope without looking at it in a global basis. And what I would suggest is the United States is in a process now of one of the most important transitions– repositioning, rebalancing of American foreign policy priorities in our history.
And what you will see over the course of the next few years is the United States responsibly shifting its resources and capabilities more from the Middle East and South Asia towards Asia and East Asia as a whole. I think we understand quite deeply and profoundly that the majority of the history of the 21st century will be written in the Asia-Pacific region. Clearly, although we have enduring important responsibilities in the Middle East and South Asia, we recognize that the future is here and as we think about the major sets of developments that we want here, we want a major chapter devoted to an enduring and strong American presence in the Asia-Pacific region. So we are committed to taking these steps to transitioning from the Middle East and South Asia more towards Asia and the Pacific as well.
Now, when you think about that kind of transition, you think well, that can’t be that difficult at a fundamental level. But if you look historically at the United States, you will recognize that this is an extraordinarily challenging endeavor and there are many things that could take it off course and we have to be vigilant to several of them. One is that it would be difficult to imagine a more demanding period than the period that we are living in with respect to the Middle East. Enormous changes, the Jasmine Revolution, ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and numerous challenges on a daily basis. We will continue to play a strong role in the Middle East and South Asia but again, the demands, the importance of the Asia- Pacific region beckons.
A second reason is the call to come home. If you look historically at American major endeavors on the battlefield like after the First World War, after the Second World War, after the Korean conflict, after Vietnam, there is a tendency on the part of Americans, and even on the part of some strategists, to come home, to focus more attention on domestic pursuits. Now clearly, we believe and we argue forcefully that because America’s future is so inextricably connected with the Pacific and with Asia, it is essential that we remain engaged strongly and that we find that when we withdraw from global politics on this sort of order that very bad things tend to happen.
So we would argue strongly against isolationist voices and that commentary that suggests that the United States should reposition itself more towards domestic endeavors. And I think we’ll be successful on both counts.
So when you ask yourself a question about an American engagement with deep consequences, what are the elements of that and how is it being advanced in a course of American diplomacy? I’d like to go through several aspects of what we start to do over the course of the last couple of years. And what I expect future Secretaries of State, future Presidents to follow through on.
One of the things that we are grateful for is that I know all of you follow some politics, at least, in the United States. Clearly, there is enormous controversy around almost every issue in politics in the United States. However, we have been the beneficiaries in Asia of generally a bipartisan commitment. One of the things that we have seen over decades is the belief that the core principles of American engagement are consistent with both political parties and we are grateful for that and we seek to build on that and hand that off to a new administration in good shape, with a desire to see those policies continued. The basis of how we seek to proceed at the Asia-Pacific region is maintaining a strong security in political alliances. And we believe that those alliances are in no way inconsistent with other aspects of architectural development that my colleague talked about in his very nice introduction.
So if we look at our relationships with Japan, with Korea, with Thailand, with the Philippines, with Australia and our other strong political partnerships like with Singapore, and the like, we believe that those relationships are central to an enduring American century of purpose in the Asia-Pacific region. But these alliances require constant attention. A great Secretary of State, George Schultz, once talked about it as if it were gardening, the idea that you need to get out all the time to work to ensure that the garden was healthy. I think it’s a useful metaphor but in many respects it goes beyond that because it is not simply maintenance of something that is existing. Asian architecture, in terms of our bilateral relationships, requires constant updating and our reflection of new challenges that we face on a daily basis.
Later this week, the Korean president will be coming to the United States. I think it’d be fair to say that U.S.-Korean relationships have never been stronger. And obviously, we work very closely over the course of the last two years with the new government in Japan. I think there’s now a deep recognition in Japan across the full spectrum of political leadership, that a close relationship with the United States is an essential feature of a successful Japanese foreign policy and we believe that in order to operate effectively in the Asia-Pacific region, we also need a closer relationship with Japan.
So each one of these alliances, we seek to nurture, to update and to support and one of the reasons that I’m here meeting with our Ambassador and our interlocutors in Thailand are to take those steps over the course of the next year to ensure that our extraordinarily vibrant relationship with Thailand grows and keeps pace with the challenges of the 21st century. So the top of what we’re doing is sustaining these security partnerships.
Secondly, we recognize fully and fundamentally that we need to extend our relationship building beyond this traditional core of key partners. And, so, that is the reason why we work so closely with a broad range of players in the Asia Pacific region to develop a new kind of capabilities and new relationships.
President Obama spent a good part of his youth in Indonesia, and that has given us really enormous unprecedented opportunities to develop a different kind of relationship with Indonesia. We’ve consequently developed a comprehensive partnership which seeks to build the much closer relationship between the United States and Indonesia.
India is a country that increasingly looks to the future, to the Asia Pacific region. And we believe that the current Indian government policies of looking East is one of the most important contributions that India can make to develop commerce and global prosperity. We have been working closely with India to ensure that as they deepen their ties and relationships in the Asian Pacific region that we do it in such a way that we build trust and confidence. The United States has been deeply involved in trying to engage India in a variety of what we might call mini-lateral meetings. We will seek discussions between the United States, India and Japan, and we have begun discussions about how we advance important conversations including the United States, India and China – the three great emerging powers of the Asia Pacific region, but it doesn’t stop there.
Virtually, every country in Asia currently is involved in a deep strategic set of interactions with the United States. Malaysia, New Zealand – the country that we have remarkably little connectivity with militarily or strategically for 25 years – has now seen a renaissance in relations with Washington. All the countries of ASEAN and indeed as what was noted in the introduction, we have started also to reach out to Nay Pyi Daw to try to develop a new kind of relationship with Myanmar – Burma.
In addition to these critical relationships, clearly it is of vital importance for the United States and China to work together in the 21st century. It is among the most important relationships and we spend an enormous amount of time on economic, on political, on cultural, on strategic issues. And I would simply say that on virtually every level we have started to build a stronger, deeper, more comprehensive and more positive relationship between the United States and China. We fully recognize that this is among the most complex relationships that the United States has ever had with any country and will take remarkable effort to ensure a possible forward-looking agenda in the future.
After the stop in Thailand, I’ll be going to Beijing to be meeting with my counterpart vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai for what we call the Asia Pacific consultations. This is part of the process to deepen our understanding of mutual perspective on critical issues like the developments on the Korean peninsula, the situation in Southeast Asia, the role of North Korea cross-strait dynamics. Every aspect of Asian security, politics and economics will be discussed. And we are seeking to find those areas where the United States and China can work together productively, and, just as importantly, identify those areas where the mistrust or the potential for accident or miscalculation, and seek to focus on our effort to prevent incidents or developments from escalating that could in some way risk larger relations between our two great nations. So, I just want to underscore that the United States is very much committed to ensuring a strong progressive partnership between Beijing and Washington.
In addition to these political and strategic ties, I think it is clear that one of the most important things that Asia looks at for the United States is that we continue to play a role as an open optimistic engaged trade and economic partner. And clearly the events of the last week or so, I think, underscore our enduring commitment in this regard. President Obama submitted three important trade agreements to Congress last week. We’re expected to create a trade agreement which is the most significant trade negotiation that the United States has had for decades to be voted on Wednesday before the arrival in the United States of President Lee Myung-bak. In addition, we are looking for APEC to make consequential efforts towards a framework agreement between all the key partners in the so-called transpacific partnership. This, we believe, is an extra-ordinarily important 21st century trade agreement that have enormous possibilities for the region and the participants in this overall organization.
We believe that as you look at the Asia Pacific region and you look at what’s necessary over the course of the next several years, a major re-balancing in which Americans need to save more and frankly Asians, and in particular China and others, need to invest more and purchase more products from places like the United States. And that re-balancing can be one of the most important contributions to stability on the global economic scene.
But I will say all of my conversations in addition to our important security role, almost every country looks to the United States to continue to play a strong and confident role on the economic side. And we recognize that there are concerns about the United States, but I would simply state to you clearly that if you look over the history of the last 25 or 30 years, there have been a number of times when observers have counted us out or down. After the Vietnam War, there was a belief that the United States had lost and we were withdrawing from the region permanently. At the end of the Cold War, there was a belief that we had exhausted ourselves and that we would be unable to play a consequential and deep role in the Asia Pacific region.
And more recently, there had been conversations about whether the United States had finally met its match on the global scene and that we would somehow withdraw. I would simply say that the United States has deep enduring qualities, including our ability to innovate, to modernize our efficiencies, and our educational systems are such that we, I believe, are destined to play a strong critical, primary role in the Asia Pacific region for decades to come. And I think that one of the reasons that we are involved in the global re-positioning is to send this critical message.
So, in addition to the strategic and economic dimensions of our engagement, one of the important points that our hosts underscore is that there has generally been a lack of critical deep institutions over the course of the last several years in Asia. There are a number of important institutions, but they have yet to find their full footing on some of the important security, political and economic issues.
Last year we were extra-ordinarily grateful that the United States was invited to join the East Asia Summit. After APEC in Honolulu, President Obama will be going to Bali to meet with the other leaders of the East Asia Summit. And we are seeking to make a major effort to build and help support the institutions of Asia in the 21st century and there are several of them.
Perhaps the most important one that gets the least attention as an Asian institution is actually G-20. It’s remarkable how the Bush administration and the Obama administration had made the transition from the G-8, which was essentially a European architecture, to the G-20, which with fully half of its members from Asia play a critical role on a variety of fronts in terms of sustaining engagement in the Asia Pacific region. We have joined the East Asia Summit. We’ve started to play a major in the ASEAN regional forum. We found that of late the ASEAN regional forum has played a critical role in providing a venue for discussions for issues of maritime security and the like. And we look for that process to continue.
In Bali, the President will also host his ASEAN counterparts for the third US-ASEAN leaders’ meeting. And in that session, we will advance a number of major new initiatives. The United States is working with a number of states. We send a large number of English trainers throughout Southeast Asia to advance the teaching of English. We are working to support what we call the Lower Mekong Initiative. The Mekong is one of the world’s great rivers and it’s under siege – environmentally there are lots of challenges. We have a sister river with the Mississippi. And we work closely with a number of countries and global institutions and international financial institutions to support work aimed at improving the health and understanding the dynamics associated with the Mekong.
These institutional commitments are extra-ordinarily important because we believe for Asia to play its critical role in the 21st century, we need better, more sustaining institutions to help support dialog cooperation across a range of issues. And we are confident that the region is prepared for a period of intense institution building. The United States wants to be part of that.
In the past we’d been somewhat ambivalent about whether we want or we need to be engaged. I would say that the new American approach is if it’s an important setting, if you’re talking about critical, political, strategic or economic issues, we’d like to sit at the table. And as such, we are committed to playing a vital role in these meetings.
In addition to all of these, we obviously want to sustain what we think is one of the most important contributions that we bring to the Asia Pacific region, and that is our security presence. We have provided the peace stability, working with partners and allies for the better part of the last half century. And I would argue that in many respects the last 30 or 40 or 50 years in which we’ve seen remarkable progress economically and politically in many ways have been underwritten by the full presence of the United States and we will seek to continue that effort and to diversify it. So, you’ll see over the course of the next several months and the next few years efforts on the part of the United States to diversify our capability from a small number of bases in Northeast Asia to a range and myriad of different kinds of arrangements throughout Southeast Asia and also with Australia, as well.
So, taken together what we believe this suggests is a full-court effort to step up our game with a full and deep recognition that the United States needs to play this kind of decisive role in the most critical region on the planet.
Now, with respect to Thailand, we’re here over the course of the next day or so, and then again later in the year when the President has an opportunity to meet with the new prime minister to engage deeply with the new leaders of Thailand to underscore our commitment to this partnership and to find areas and arenas where we can deepen our cooperation and find new venues for our work together. We’re thrilled by the success of recent elections. We’ve followed the developments here closely.
And I am very grateful to be able to be here with you today. I think I probably talk long enough that I probably at least give you a little bit of a sense of what we are seeking to accomplish. I will tell you at a personal level I cannot imagine a greater chance and the service in this capacity at this time when the United States is prepared to fulfill its destiny of continuing a strong role in the Asia Pacific region. Thank you all very much. And please if you will, when you ask your question and if it’s a statement, just put at the end ‘Aren’t I right?’ or something like that. Or, identify yourself, so I’ll know who you are and we’ll have a better conversation. So, thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Assistant Secretary Campbell has given us an extensive survey of the global landscape and the regional review. Also, I…
Dr. Thitinan (Moderator): Thank you, Mr. Campbell for a substantive survey…
CAMPBELL: Thank you.
Moderator cont’d: On the global landscape and the regional development on video. Also I think the basketball analogy is apt. The U.S., if I may summarize your remarks, is engaged in a full court exercise, not just bilateral man to man, but the U.S. treats the region as a region. This has been a recent development that our neighborhood appreciates. The floor is now open to questions and comments. Please just identify yourself very briefly and go ahead. The first comes from Marawan Makar of Interpress Service.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Yah, it’s a question about Burma/Myanmar. A couple of, a few days ago the Burmese government signed what seems like a peace agreement with the United Wall State Army. The U.S. Government considers the UWSA a narcotic organization and has banned it. My question to you is would you encourage these talks in the spirit of promoting dialog given that you’ve got them on the banned list and also concerned secondly that the UWSA may be a Trojan horse of the Chinese given the strong ties between the UWSA and the Chinese government?
CAMPBELL: Let me, if I can to answer your specific question with a broader answer, if I may. As you know two years ago after an extensive review, the United States decided to try a different approach with respect to our diplomatic efforts with regard to Burma. We have been engaged in a number of conversations with the previous government and subsequently since the recent elections. Now I think it would be fair to say the elections themselves were flawed in many critical ways and we have continuing concerns about a number of developments inside the country. But, it is also undeniably the case that there are dramatic developments under way. There has been a very consequential dialog between the leader and between Aung San Suu Kyi. She has had some guardedly careful remarks, but nevertheless remarks that underscore her commitment to a process of dialog-ongoing discussion with the leadership of the country. We have certain (tech noise). We have made clear our desire to see continuing progress on issues such as prisoner releases and what we would consider to be important aspects of dialog between the central government and various ethnic groups inside the country. And, obviously we have clear red lines with respect to the proliferation concerns and relationships that have existed in the past between Burma and North Korea. We have stated clearly that we are prepared for a new chapter in our relations, and we are watching carefully development s on the ground. And I think it would be fair to say we will match their steps with comparable steps and we are looking forward over the course of the next several weeks to continuing a dialog that has really stepped up in recent months. So, I would say we are careful. We are watching the situation closely. There are some developments that clearly demand greater attention and focus. We are in deep conversations with our partners in ASEAN, in Europe, and elsewhere. One of the issues will be discussing this afternoon with Thai authorities are their assessments. Obviously Thailand has enormous insights into the situation on the ground. I look forward to hearing those from our/my counterparts directly. It’s too early, too soon, to make any final judgments, but at the same time, it’s also too soon to dismiss them, as well. So, we are in the midst of a deep diplomatic process which I expect will continue.
MODERATOR: Yes, second question from the ambassador of Poland.
QUESTION: Yes, I am the ambassador from Poland. Just one question sir, if possible, on the South China sea, which become a sort of an internal Chinese lake, if you look at Chinese maps right now. How do you see the future of this area because it has become a flash point and one of the major points or agendas of all regional meetings recently? Thank you.
CAMPBELL: Yes, well, first of all just let me say that I think there is a deep recognition in Asia that it’s prosperity rests on maritime security and the confidence that freedom of navigation, freedom of the seas will be respected. The United States has clearly articulated our national interest in this regard, and determination to maintain peace and stability. Secretary Clinton has welcomed the diplomatic process that we’ve seen to date between ASEAN and China. We believe that it’s an important first step and we’d like it to continue. There are a number of workshops and interactions that are under way in the region which we think is important in terms of improving communication and, if at all possible, removing areas of potential mistakes or miscalculations. We recognize that these are long standing issues. We think that questions associated with sovereignty need to be resolved using the criteria carefully set up in the law of the sea. The United States is not a playment, so we do not take particular positions. Our primary interest is in the manner in which issues are discussed. We insist they are done in a way that does not involve coercion or threats, and we welcome a diplomatic process that underscores the larger commitment that all Asian-Pacific countries have in the maintenance of peace and stability.
MODERATOR: OK. The next question from Professor Wiwat Mugandee. Professor Wiwat taught American Foreign Policy here at Chulalongkorn University for many years.
QUESTION: Well, thank you, Dr. Thitinan. Welcome.
CAMPBELL: Thank you. It’s an honor to see you again, sir.
QUESTION cont’d: Distinguished speaker, I would like to thank you for the sensible and encouraging statement. There’s no better policy than engagement and I think that you are correct. But how you going to convince the people in this part of the world, or the countries in this part of the world, your willingness will be matched by your resources, given the situation that you have troubled economy at home, at the moment. It might be better later on. And also given the emerging “mutual” politics of regionalization that intensify relation of ASEAN countries together more than ever? I think the United States have to put more effort against the tide of this regionalization. How would you bridge the gap between your intension and your capability? Thank you.
CAMPBELL: Thank you, sir. As expected an excellent and thought provoking question. I thank you for it. Let me say I think the United States has many advantages in the set of circumstances you lay out. First and foremost is, I have been working on Asia for at least a little while, most of my career, about 25 year. I have worked in this particular capacity for three years. I have never, ever seen a situation in which the United States’ role has been more encouraged. In fact, every single country that we visit says, not only welcome, but when are you coming again. So there is an enormous desire to have the United States more deeply engaged. And that has not always been the case. I think, secondly, we come with a deep recognition that every country in Asia wants to improve its relationship with China. We recognize how important it is, and that is not geo-strategy, it’s geography. Every country wants a better relationship with China. We understand that and we support that. And we believe that a good relationship with the United States can help support a country in its overall efforts to have a good relationship with China. So, I think that under riding fact has been an enormous advantage for the United States going forward. Secondly, let’s keep in mind it’s not as if the United States is starting from scratch. We have decades of experience in the Asian- Pacific region, and lots of periods in the past where you questioned whether we would have the staying power to maintain our capability. I think it is undeniably the case that over the last couple of years we have dramatically stepped up our game and I would believe that that will continue going forward. In fact, I have to say one of the most, you know, in an environment of anxiety that we all live in, I often get the question, “Will you be able to continue this level of engagement?” Let me just say that’s a lot better question than, “Will you have any engagement at all?” So, I like that fact that there’s at least a recognition that we have stepped up our game. And then lastly, I think it’s important to recognize the last year or two have been challenging economically for the United States. But at the same time, we have demonstrated time and time again an ability to recover and come back stronger. And I fully believe if you look at every indicator with respect to efficiencies and business capacities to regroup and engage, I think the United States has every reason to be confident, and Asia has every reason to be confident in American capabilities. I will also say, that, remember for decades the Unites States has largely been a self –sufficient economy. Most of our products, goods and services, have been sold inside the United States, or in the immediate vicinity. We are in many respects now just on the verge of the beginning of finding substantial export markets in the Asian-Pacific region. Clearly sectors, aerospace and the like have been successful, but I believe we are on the verge of a dramatic increase in our economic and political engagement in Asia. And I am very confident about that. And I would also say that some of our efforts that we are undertaking at the State Department recognize and reflect the new qualities of what’s necessary for the Asian-Pacific region. Here I want to commend one of the things Ambassador Kenney is fantastic about is realizing that new age diplomacy is not issuing scripts with, you know, wax/seals, it’s much more innovative, using new kinds of technologies and capabilities. The United States last year, President Obama, Secretary Clinton launched an initiative that will, over the course of four years, see the number of American students going to China to the level of about 100,000. That is a dramatic increase from just over a few years in the past. I think there is a recognition at every level that if you want to be successful you need to understand more about China. This is not simply a program that brings government resources to the table. In fact remarkably few government resources are involved. This is a public-private partnership where American foundations, other companies have made massive contributions in order to support this overall endeavor. We think increasing this level of exchange between students, between universities, underscores our commitment to the region as a whole. So, I’d say quite honestly, I am confident, at a strategic level, that the United States grasps the importance of this moment. And I can only tell you what I believe and where I think the United States will go. I think the two things that I would underscore is look at our history and also a recognition that the evidence is in our performance. And, I would simply say watch our performance, watch this space. OK?
MODERATOR: Yes. Peter Janson, from DPA. Please.
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MODERATOR: Excuse me. You’re next. Peter Jansen.
QUESTION: Peter Jansen, DPA.
CAMPBELL: Hi Peter.
QUESTION: Just a follow up question on Myanmar/Burma, Burma/Myanmar. You said you were ready to match every step that the government takes with your own step. Could you possibly spell out what some of those steps might be because obviously everybody’s waiting for an amnesty? It might happen very quickly. People are waiting to see if NLD will join the by-election that might happen fairly soon. But, can you just sort of give us some idea of what’s in store here and what we can expect?
MODERATOR: Dr. Campbell, excuse me, let me interrupt. Let me take a round on Burma/Myanmar, I know there are a lot of concerns about the recent movements. Any other questions or comments related to recent movements in Burma/Myanmar? Please. Tell us your name.
QUESTION: (too fast to understand – Japanese) One more question is that you mention about the new relationship with Myanmar. What kind of a relationship do you expect to have with Myanmar in the near future?
MODERATOR: And then there was one or two more. Hassina Koyokoyi a journalist, and then you, sir.
QUESATION: This is Miata from the BBC Burmese Service, Bangkok bureau. My question is, you are going to China to meet with your counterpart, so where is Burmese policy between your relation with China? And then my second question is, when will you go again to Burma to discuss with Myanmar officials to increase more cooperation or diplomatic ties between Myanmar? I mean sir, will you appoint ambassador level soon between two countries? And my third question is recently the Burmese government suspended the Myitsone damn project, it’s a very huge project in Myanmar. So, is it possible that for you to lift the sanctions?
MODERATOR: OK. We’ll take this as a round on Burma/Myanmar. Would you like a piece of paper, Dr. Campbell?
CAMPBELL: I don’t need it because I am not going to answer all those questions. So, I…just to be blunt. So, I appreciate the chance. Let me underscore a couple of points, if I can. First of all, we do discuss the situation in Burma with a variety of countries, including all of the countries in Southeast Asia, many of which have passed consequential messages for us. We also discuss this with European countries, with Northeast Asian countries, with India, and also with China. In the past, our discussions with China have been to urge Chinese leaders to underscore in their interactions with Napeda that the leaders take this opportunity to engage and to establish and new kind of relationship, not only with the United States, but with the international community, and take the necessary steps. We’ve explained why we think such a move in actually in China’s best interest and that it is not in China’s interest to have Burma/Myanmar be an outcast and shunned globally. And, we also have underscored the potential for refugees that could cross into China and that instability there is not in their interest. We’ve had useful discussions with counterparts in China, and I think that’s probably all I’ll say in this respect. And we know that they have deep interactions in Nepada on a regular basis. Secondly, I think it would be fair to say that the pace of our diplomacy both in the region, with Europe, Northeast Asia has stepped up very, very substantially in recent months as we watch carefully at every development whether it be the suspense of the damn, whether it be the dialog with Aung San Suu Kyi, other elements within debates in the parliament, we watch all of those steps very carefully. And I will underscore, and clearly state we have also had discussions with representatives of the government. I think at this stage I am comfortable only saying the United States is prepared to match the steps that have taken, have been taken, and we are in the process of consultations inside the U.S. government, also with key players on our, in our legislative branch on Capitol Hill. We still think it’s early, and there is much that is left to be done. And we have enduring concerns, but at the same time we have to reflect on what appears to be substantial steps that are underway inside the country, and we hope this will lead Burma/Myanmar towards a better future. And, if they take that path, the United States and other countries would like to support them towards that better future. I don’t think I can….and I know that there will be a lot of other questions, I’m not going to get into other specifics on this, and I’ll apologize, but we’re right in the midst of some of this discussion and I think that’s as good as I can do for you here today.
MODERATOR: It’s understood. Good. Thank you. Hassina Koyokoti?
QUESTION: Hi Ambassador Campbell. Hassina [last name too fast] freelance correspondent. We appreciate that you can’t get into specifics, but could you outline for us the steps that need to take place before you will match, have comparable steps. For instance, what will Myanmar/Burma need to do before sanctions will be lifted? And you’ve talked about the substantial changes taking place in Burma/Myanmar. How surprised are you by these changes? And if you could also give us some information about Burmese leader Thein Sein, how much of his own man is he? And, how much of a domestic backlash do you expect from the hawkish factions in the….in Burma/Myanmar? Thank you.
CAMPBELL: Those are hard questions. I’m not going to lay out again the answer matching for matching. We have consistently said over the course of several years the areas of our concern, and I think I articulated those at the outset, but I will quickly go through them again. Obviously we’d like to see continuing sustained dialog with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. We would need to see progress in terms of some of the domestic diplomacy with regard to continuing abuses and challenges with respect to ethnic groups inside the country. We have enduring concerns both past and present on interactions with North Korea that are antithetical to UN Security Council, or rather that are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. There are a number of other issues associated with political prisoners and the conduct of political life inside the country. Now, it would be fair to say that, compared to what we’ve experienced in the past, there are clearly changes afoot. But we’re at the very early stages of that process and we are looking to see whether they will be sustained, whether they will continue, and whether they will grow. So, we understand very clearly what the areas that we’re looking to in terms of sustained progress and we’ve communicated those areas clearly to our interlocutors, and there’s no secret on this. That’s been the case for many years. And we stand vigilant in terms of seeking true progress in each of these areas. I think it would be fair to say that we do not, we cannot know about the internal politics inside the country. And, we have attempted to engage across a number of sectors and to keep as many lines of communication open as possible, but, you know, the process of what goes on behind the scenes is still in many ways a mystery to us. And then simply, I have had a chance to meet Thein Sein, I met him when he was the prime minister in the previous government and we had a short meeting, and it would be difficult for me to make any assessment, but several people who have met with him consider him a very serious interlocutor and a man prepared to engage differently. And, we’re in the process of playing that out.
MODERATOR: Thank you. I think the gentleman over here had a hand up.
QUESTION: My name is Joe Masler(?) . I am columnist with the Thai Manager magazine [too fast to understand] 360 Degrees. My question is more a general question, it refers to a statement you made earlier. You clearly stated that there is hardly any shared point of view among the two major parties in the U.S. on any major political issue, but you stated that in terms of Asia there is a common ground and bipartisan engagement. So, the objectives may be the same, the direction may be the same, but I assume there are some differences on the steps which might be taken to achieve both directions. And, as we have a next year election in the U.S., and there might be, let’s just assume for one second there is a change in political leadership, can you briefly outline what are the major differences in terms of its engagement in Asia between the two major parties in the U.S.? And what changes might be occur in case there is a change in political leadership next year? Thanks a lot.
CAMPBELL: First of all, there’s no manual for how to have a job like mine. One of the few things that people teach you though is don’t answer hypothetical questions. So, I will simply give you a broader answer, but I’m not going to get into a speculation about our coming political season. I would simply say if you would look at most of the key foundations of our approach in Asia, there’s a strong bipartisan commitment to a, to an enduring defense and security set of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. That is undeniably the case. They were strengthened in the Clinton and the Bush and now the Obama administrations. So a very clear determination in that respect. The Korea free trade agreement that was just signed by President Obama was negotiated during the Bush administration. The major engagement with India in the Asia-Pacific region was first launched by President Bush. It was one of his most strategic endeavors to bring India into the international community, and it was sustained and continued and diversified under this administration. I believe all the critical components: trade, economics, strategic and political, there is broad consensus in terms of how to overall engage in the Asian-Pacific region. And, I would simply say, if you look at China-US policy, probably the most challenging and consequential aspect of diplomacy, for the United States in the Asian-Pacific region, the succession of eight presidents has essentially made a commitment towards an engagement strategy which recognizes that a good relationship between the United States and China is in the best interests in all players and that the Asian-Pacific region is big enough for the both of us.
MODERATOR: Yes. Zhan Kiti. Professor Kiti from Thammasat University’s faculty of political science.
QUESTION: OK. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for Dr. Campbell. Well, I have a question regarding regional institutions. I think you mentioned in your statement that the U.S. wants to be a part in regional institution building for regional cooperation in East Asia, and in the upcoming East Asia summit that will be taking place in November. So, my question is, what would you expect for institution. What kind of institution that U.S. expects to be, to have in East Asia, specifically during the East Asia summit? Will the U.S. propose something for institution building because it’s the first time the U.S. came to take part in the summit so I guess the U.S. may come up with some big proposal? Thank you.
CAMPBELL: Thank you. It’s an excellent question. Let me try to answer it. First of all, one of the most important things that the United States did at the outset, Secretary Clinton was to try…sign the treaty of amity and cooperation which allowed us to engage in a more substantial way with ASEAN. And we recognize, as our chairperson has indicated, that ASEAN is at the core of the most important developments and institution building in Asia. We support that and we believe that is a critical fact. You will note that in recent years the country that was the first to send an ambassador to ASEAN in Jakarta was the United States, an outside ambassador. And we believe that this attempt to establish a workable secretariat is a critical component to putting down deeper roots in terms of institution building as a whole. Now the question that you ask about the United States coming to the East Asia summit is a delicate one because we are new comers to an institution that is already well established. I will tell you one of the wonderful things about working for President Obama is, I’ve been around a lot of political leaders in my life, but I’ve never been with one who is a better listener. A better…He has the best ability of anyone I have ever seen to really listen, seriously listen to what others around him are saying and to get the flow of conversation. In many respects he understands the ASEAN way. And so when the United States comes to the East Asia summit, we intend to engage on the five subject areas that have been established over the course of several years. And we believe that we’ll bring some critical contributions to each of these areas, but in addition, we will carefully, carefully suggest that there might be other areas that we could expect to see dialog and discussion among all the critical countries. I think the United States would like to have a discussion in the EAS on the importance of maintaining maritime security. I think one of the challenges that we have faced in terms of the dramatic natural disasters that have hit Asia over the course of the last several years, think about it, the tragedy of Aceh, the nuclear horrors of Fukishima, and now the terrible flooding of Thailand. We need to be able to take steps in advance, all the countries of Asia, that will allow us to respond more comprehensibly together to meet challenges of either a region or a specific country. So we will come to the table with some ideas on humanitarian cooperation in advance of crisis, not just after. And frankly, we have enormous areas of lessons learned from this recent experience of trauma that has taken us through Asia. And lastly, if we look at common challenges like proliferation, we all have an interest ensuring that nuclear weapons, not nuclear technology, not proliferate in the Asia-Pacific region. I think there are steps that our countries working together that we can take that will limit those challenges. So, I think the United States will come with some ideas. We will advance them carefully, but we will advance them in the spirit of a partner, someone who will listen to the concerns of others and will be clear about our desire to work together in an environment in which we all share principle interests, again in the maintenance of peace and stability and prosperity.
MODERATOR: OK. We have time for perhaps one or two more.
CAMPBELL: I will try to do my best to remember questions. So if you want to take a few questions, I will try to remember them and answer them. I see the gentleman here with the black t-shirt has been very patient.
MODERATOR: We’ll take the last round. Jerry Harmer from AP TV, then we’ll take Simon in the back and this lady over here.
QUESTION: So this morning, as you may be aware, an American citizen faced the Thai court here, charged with insulting the Royal Family. I’m wondering do you have any specific concerns about that case and the implications of that case and will you be making any of your concerns clear during this visit?
CAMPBELL: First, thank you for your question. I would simply say that members of our embassy team were there today in the court. We do have a strong belief in freedom of the press and we will continue to raise this case directly with Thai authorities. I think that’s probably all I’ll say about it at this juncture.
MODERATOR: Simon. Tell us your full name, Simon.
QUESTION: (inaudible) And just to follow on from that, there’s a separate case say filed against another U.S. citizen in California with a separate legal action following on in the U.S. from that, so maybe you could comment on that too. Two other quick ones. Why is the U.S. not selling Taiwan the more advanced model F-16s it’s been seeking? And also, can you give an overview of what’s going to be discussed when the Korean president comes to the U.S. later this week?
CAMPBELL: OK. Three very diverse….Let me try to go back. On the first question, sir, I don’t have enough information about that to give you, so I’ll try to make sure that our embassy directly provides information on that first case which I am just not aware of and I apologize for that. The… When President Mebak comes to the United States, I think there are a range of things that we are going to want to discuss. One of the most important things that have happened in recent years is what we would refer to as a global Korea. Korea has been one of the most successful countries in Northeast Asia, but they are working more and more with the United States and other countries in the international realm One of the countries that was most engaged and entrepreneurial in the aftermath of Haiti was Korea with ideas for creating manufacturing sites that would work cooperatively with the United States and Korea. They have been deeply engaged with us in a variety of areas in the Middle East and in Asia as a whole. So, I think we are going to want to talk about how the United States and Korea can make sure that we have opportunities for close cooperation in a whole range of new challenges. In addition, I think, obviously, our two countries will talk about where we are in terms of our engagement with North Korea. It’s very clear that the North Koreans in the past have tried to split us, split our alliance, to create tension. One of the things that we’re extraordinarily proud of is that the United States and Korea have never had a closer alignment. We’ve never been closer and we have orchestrated and cooperated in every aspect of our diplomacy with respect to North Korea. And, we share a very clear determination that we are only interested in serious efforts on the part of North Korea. We will not resume a diplomatic path that has failed in the past. We need to see sincere, clear efforts and a different kind of determination to proceed ahead with de-nuclearization. On the situation on Taiwan, I think you may have seen, I had the good fortune to testify on Monday before the, or Tuesday I guess, House Arm Service….House Foreign Affairs Committee, and I think we stated very clearly there that we take the preservation of peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits as one of our most important contributions to the Asian-Pacific region. We abide very closely by the foundational aspects of our relationships in the western Pacific in that regard, the three communiqués of the Taiwanese Relations Act, the so-called Six Assurances, we believe those have been the foundation for our engagement and they have served us well over the course of many years. Taiwan enjoys prosperity, security, and frankly an unprecedented level of dialogue across the Taiwan Straits and that is due in no small part to the U.S. role in terms of our engagement with the key players across the Taiwan Strait. We welcome the diplomacy that has taken place in recent years and we believe that the steps we have taken to provide defense articles to Taiwan have been the appropriate ones, and I would simply say that if you look at the arms sales in 2010 and 2011 that have been made by the Obama administration, they are more than any other two comparable years since the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979. So we think we’ve done the right thing, we have ruled nothing out for the future, and we are prepared to support in the maintenance of peace and stability going forward.
MODERATOR: Thank you, last question from the lady in the pink shirt, did you have a question? Please go ahead.
QUESTION: My name is Mani Shan, I am RFA Laos Service. My question is very specific regarding Laos. Since you know it’s hard for me, you know, to have somebody to talk about it very, you know. And my question is what is the status of the relationship between Laos and the U.S. in terms of the present and in the future? Will there be any more cooperation in the future?
CAMPBELL: First, thank you very much, and I appreciate the question. One of the best trips I’ve had the opportunity to take as an Assistant Secretary was to visit Laos to launch a new strategic dialogue that is taking place between the government of Laos and the United States, and we’ve had a return visit as well, and we’re looking forward in the coming months to have another opportunity to sit down with our Laotian counterparts. There are a variety of areas that we are working on together. One is enduring issues associated with health. And those programs continue. We also believe that there are steps in terms of unexploded ordinance, the legacy of the Vietnam War, that there are important things that the United States and Laos can do together and we have worked together in those areas. We have worked on some cultural and educational exchanges. Obviously, we’re in a different budgetary situation than we have been in the past, but nevertheless I think our government is committed to take the necessary steps to improve our communication and our engagement. Laotian students and military officers have had a chance to study at the Asia-Pacific Center in Hawaii and we’re looking always for areas we can support a better and a deeper relationship between our two countries. I, frankly, have enjoyed those discussions as much as any I’ve had and I look forward to continuing them looking forward. I can take one more question.
MODERATOR: Last one. Mr. Tomorra, of Japan Overseas Development Corporation.
QUESTION: Thank you very much Ambassador Campbell. My name is Tomorrow, from JODC, which is a Japanese government development agency. And my question is related, Dr. Campbell, and especially I am very interested in how the United States would propose or get engaged in economic pillars of this ASEAN and East Asian integration, especially in terms of connectivity. The United States would have big benefit by the contribution of the United States, plentiful knowledge, but I have not yet seen concrete proposal or orientation from the United States in terms of economic pillar, so I’m very interested.
CAMPBELL: Thank you, it’s an excellent question. And I would simply say that we recognize the new effort toward connectivity is extremely important. And the United States needs to join in this effort and that when President Obama hosts the next round of the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, which will be our 3rd meeting since he’s taken office, in Hawaii, that we will have a few specific suggestions with respect to a potential American role in supporting connectivity. Ultimately, we believe getting the American business community engaged and excited on these matters is extraordinarily important and I must take the opportunity to thank our Japanese colleagues. They have been among the most reinforcing and encouraging in terms of urging the United States to participate in this regard and we intend to do so. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. In 1988, let me bring this to a conclusion this way, the late professor Samuel Huntington published an article in Foreign Affairs, it was called “The U.S. and the World,” something to that effect, but its subtitle was “Decline or Renew?” At the time, the global sentiment was that the U.S. was in decline. Of course, in the 1990s the U.S. showed resilience and an inner-strength for innovation and eventually from scleroses and politics and a stagnant economy, it recovered and became robust in the late 1990s. And in the last 10 years, there have been some doubts. I have to tell you, Dr. Campbell, that there is a net regional perception that the U.S. is down. But I think that people in this region do not count the U.S. out. Perhaps down but not out and the rest remains to be seen. Thank you very much for taking time from your very busy schedule and providing access to us.
CAMPBELL: I would simply say, historically, those who have bet against the United States have lost a lot of money. [laughter] Thank you.
MODERATOR: This is a Summit Season. [applause] This is a Summit Season. The last quarter of this year, and I think we have many people in Thailand and in ASEAN wondering what will happen next, so thank you very much for your time, for taking the time to come here straight from the rain and standing up for an hour and a half – two hours – please join me in thanking Dr. Kurt Campbell.
Source: U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand