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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2002 East Asian and Pacific Affairs Remarks, Testimony, and Speeches

U.S.-East Asia Policy: Three Aspects

James A. Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson Center
Washington, DC
December 11, 2002

Before beginning our discussion on U.S. policy in East Asia, -- our "Asiaview" -- I would like to thank Bob Hathaway, whose leadership of the Asia Program has made the Wilson Center an important part of the East Asian affairs community in Washington. I had the opportunity to speak to a similar gathering here at the Wilson Center last March following the President's Asia trip and I am very pleased to be invited back again.

The Wilson Center's review of U.S. policy in Asia is timely, coming almost 2 years into the Bush administration and just preceding the new session of Congress. Incidentally, the 108th Congress will return the steady and experienced leadership of Senator Lugar to the Foreign Relations Committee, and we very much look forward to working with him and his colleagues on Asian issues.

In the past 2 years, there have been major, even momentous, changes in East Asia, just as in the rest of the world. The terms P-3 reconnaissance aircraft, Hainan Island, 9/11, al-Qaeda, axis of evil, homeland security, Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiah, and KEDO have entered the public lexicon of our foreign policy and domestic politics. These new ingredients intertwine with our traditional policy priorities of regional security, stability, democratization, free markets, and human rights, presenting us with a dynamic and challenging policy matrix.

In these 2 years, the world has become more complex and multivariate, rendering foreign policy making increasingly difficult. We are reorganizing to meet the challenge, creating a Department of Homeland Security and exercising a new determination to lead abroad -- in Asia and throughout the world.

I regret that there isn't time for the kind of extensive tour d'horizon the important East Asian region deserves, but I would at least like to focus on three salient issues: terrorism, the Korean Peninsula, and ASEAN.


We are receiving excellent cooperation in East Asia on the global war on terrorism. Long a preeminent policy concern, counterterrorism -- or “CT” as we now refer to it -- leaped to the top of the list of policy priorities after September 11. The cooperation of East Asia countries has buttressed U.S. efforts to confront the many guises of terrorism and resulted in a stronger and more comprehensive international coalition against terrorism.

Asian countries know only too well the challenges of international terrorism. Even before the vicious bombing that destroyed almost 200 lives in Bali, the threat of terrorism was a reality in East Asia. The resolve of most Southeast Asian countries to confront terrorism head-on has been magnificent and has already prevented a number of planned terrorist attacks.

ASEAN and its members have been on the front line of the global war on terrorism. Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines moved quickly after 9/11, interdicting a number of planned terrorist attacks and disrupting the operations of Jemaah Islamiya and other al Qaeda-related organizations in the region. ASEAN has mobilized its member nations to deal with all aspects of the terrorist threat, including financial, customs, immigration, law enforcement and military cooperation. The U.S.-ASEAN Joint Declaration on Combatting Terrorism, signed by Secretary Powell and ASEAN in Brunei on August 1, provides an umbrella under which a broad range of cooperative CT activities are being organized. In late July, each ASEAN government, acting this time in concert with the U.S. and other members of the ASEAN Regional Forum, agreed to extensive actions to combat financial terrorism.

Japan, our linchpin ally in Asia, continues to make extraordinary contributions to the global war on terrorism. Last month, the Japanese Government extended for an additional six months its "Basic Plan" to support Operation Enduring Freedom, including providing valuable refueling services to U.S. and U.K. ships, and to date has disbursed a remarkable $375 million in contributions to humanitarian and refugee relief to Afghanistan. The December 16 -- next Monday -- U.S.-Japan 2+2 meeting will bring Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld together with their Japanese counterparts for an in-depth discussion on CT cooperation.

Close cooperation is an invaluable weapon in the war on terrorism. We are not only consulting with the Japanese, the Australians, and Southeast Asian countries on counterterrorism, but we are coordinating policy and action. On the Korean Peninsula, Japan and the R.O.K. are our partners as we weigh options for dealing with the threat from the North.

With China, we are greatly encouraged by the increasingly close counterterrorism cooperation we have established. We are sharing CT information to an unprecedented extent, but making judgments independently. After a thorough review last summer, we designated the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, or "ETIM," to be a terrorist group under U.S. law. We took this step, not as a concession to the P.R.C., but based on independent evidence that ETIM is linked to al-Qaeda and has engaged in deliberate acts of violence against unarmed civilians.

We are also hopeful that Vice President Cheney's visit to China -- probably next Spring -- will lead to additional opportunities to strengthen our relationship, to identify common ground, and to find new avenues for cooperation.


On the Korean Peninsula, we face diametric extremes in the war on terrorism. The R.O.K. has been among the most helpful allies in the war on terrorism; North Korea poses the greatest threat to the region -- due, among other things, to its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Before going further, let me underline the sense of sorrow and responsibility that the U.S. Government -- and I personally -- feel for the tragic deaths of two schoolgirls in June due to a traffic accident involving U.S. forces in Korea. As President Bush said in expressing his own sadness and regret not many days ago, the United States is committed to working closely with the government of the Republic of Korea to help prevent such accidents. Policy makers in the U.S. and the Republic of Korea have no doubt about the importance of the alliance to our countries, now and in the future, but, as Secretary Rumsfeld and Defense Minister Lee said last week, we need to do a better job of communicating the value of the alliance to the people of both countries.

Our North Korea policy is an example of how we have adjusted policy mid-stream in response to new information and a new calculation of the threat from North Korea.

Many of you know that during my visit to North Korea on October 3-5, top North Korean officials acknowledged the existence of a covert uranium enrichment program. Ironically, the North Koreans sought to blame their own misbehavior, which constitutes a fundamental violation of the Agreed Framework's goal of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, on the alleged "hostility" of the U.S. Government. When I pointed out, however, that we had recently learned that the North Koreans had been pursuing a highly enriched uranium (HEU) program for more than 2 years, even as very senior U.S. officials were holding talks with Kim Jong Il personally, the North Koreans had no response. The North Koreans concluded by telling me that they regarded the Agreed Framework as "nullified." Given their actions, that is one North Korean statement that stands on its own.

How did we get to this stage? It's instructive to put this development into the perspective of the last 2 years of our relations with the D.P.R.K.

When the Bush administration began in January 2001, we instituted a comprehensive review of our foreign policy toward East Asia, including North Korea. At the conclusion of this review in June 2001, we agreed to speak to the North Koreans "any time, any place, without pre-conditions."

It was not until almost a year later that North Korea evinced any interest in a dialogue with us. But talks planned for July 2002 had to be postponed due to a North Korean attack on South Korean naval vessels that resulted in the death of South Korean sailors.

In the meantime, last summer we received conclusive information that North Korea was pursuing at a substantial level an HEU program to manufacture nuclear arms in spite of its commitment under the terms of the 1994 Agreed Framework. We now had a pre-condition.

Thus, in my initial meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan on October 3 in Pyongyang, I stated that the United States now had a pre-condition to further engagement -- that the D.P.R.K.'s uranium enrichment program be dismantled immediately. I told the North Koreans that we had been prepared to present a "bold approach" to improve bilateral relations. This was a policy that President Bush had developed in consultation with our allies. We had been ready to take significant economic and diplomatic steps to improve the lives of the North Korean people if North Korea altered its behavior on a range of important issues. But given the fresh information of nuclear weapons development efforts, I told my North Korean interlocutors that this approach was no longer possible without action on their part.

I did not confront the Vice Foreign Minister with specific evidence of their uranium enrichment program, but I was emphatic that the U.S. knew the program was being aggressively implemented and it was a serious violation of international agreements. I asked the North Korean Government to weigh its response carefully.

At first, my counterpart angrily denied that the D.P.R.K. had an HEU program. He dismissed my statement, claiming it was a fabrication, but later, of course, the North Koreans took another line.

My last meeting in Pyongyang was with First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju, who surprised me by making it quite clear, even before I was able to make my presentation, that North Korea was proceeding with an HEU program and that it considered the Agreed Framework to be "nullified." As I mentioned, he tried to blame this situation on U.S. policy under the current U.S. administration, but made no response when I pointed out that the HEU program began well before the current administration.

I want to be clear that North Korea's covert nuclear arms program violates its explicit written commitments. These are contained not only in the Agreed Framework, but also in the Nonproliferation Treaty, North Korea's safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Joint North-South Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Since my visit to Pyongyang, we have been engaged in extensive consultations with our friends and allies to bring maximum diplomatic pressure on the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Our consultations have born fruit with a series of strongly supportive international statements calling on the D.P.R.K. to eliminate its HEU program immediately and verifiably:

  • On October 25, a statement issued by President Bush and President Jiang Zemin of China at Crawford, Texas;
  • On October 26, a trilateral statement issued by President Bush, President Kim Dae-Jung, and Prime Minister Koizumi at the APEC meeting in Mexico;
  • On November 14, a statement issued from the Executive Board of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), which consists of representatives of the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S.;
  • On November 19, an EU Council statement;
  • On November 29, an IAEA resolution on the implementation of safeguards in the D.P.R.K.; and
  • On December 2, a declaration issued by Presidents Putin of Russia and Jiang Zemin of China.

These are only some of the many statements that the international community has made on the issue. Clearly, diplomatic pressure is building for North Korea to change course. We hope that North Korea will respond positively. But we are not advocating a return to the status quo ante. At the same time, we have no intention of bargaining with North Korea or offering inducements to convince the regime to live up to the international treaties and agreements it has already signed.

However, if Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear program immediately and verifiably, a better U.S. relationship with North Korea might become possible. As the President said recently, we hope for a different relationship with North Korea. We want this situation to be resolved peacefully and ultimately we seek friendship with the people of North Korea. To reach this goal, the D.P.R.K. must take the first step.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Let me turn now, if I may, from the Korean Peninsula to Southeast Asia. Over the past 2 years, the administration has been examining ways to strengthen our relations with Southeast Asia, a region of great importance to the United States -- our fourth-largest regional trading partner -- and pivotal for the peace and security of East Asia.

Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable to a range of transnational threats. The high incidence of illicit narcotics trade, crime, trafficking in persons, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, environmental degradation, in addition to the serious potential for terrorism, represent a clear and present danger for the people and governments of Southeast Asia.

These transnational threats are present worldwide. They recognize no borders. They jeopardize political and social stability and prevent a region from growing and maturing into an identity that is uniquely its own. We have a two-track program for strengthening U.S. cooperation with and assistance to Southeast Asia, a commitment only reinforced by September 11. First, we want to enhance engagement with the region’s flagship, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Second, we want to expand trade with ASEAN countries, including offering the prospect of bilateral free trade agreements to ASEAN countries that are committed to economic reform and transparency.

ASEAN Cooperation Plan (ACP)

Secretary Powell chose a prestigious stage -- the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference in Brunei in August 2002 -- on which to announce our ASEAN Cooperation Plan (ACP). The plan seeks to enhance U.S. engagement with ASEAN and to support a healthy and more integrated ASEAN.

I think it's fair to say that ASEAN is not now living up to its potential. A wide gap separates its new and old members and erodes ASEANS' ability to function well. The older members are more developed economically and are internationally competitive. The newer members have not yet awakened economically. We would like to support ASEAN’s own efforts to “integrate” the region by reducing the development gap between the new and old members.

To this end, we will seek ways to expand our cooperation with and assistance to ASEAN. We want to support ASEAN’s own efforts at “integration,” a codeword for helping the newer and poorer members -- Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Burma -- develop politically and economically in order to close the “development gap” that divides and weakens ASEAN. We want to work with ASEAN in the areas of good governance, rule of law, investment and development policies, democratization, and civil society, on the belief that these values are the foundation of a modern, pluralistic society.

We are also taking a regional approach on transnational threats. We are encouraging Southeast Asian nations to share information on terrorism, to develop better mechanisms to identify and cut terrorism's financial tentacles in the region, and to tighten border controls. We have begun to pursue with ASEAN and others measures to enhance maritime security, not only against the growing problem of piracy but also against potential terrorist attacks. On HIV/AIDS, we would like to integrate our already extensive prevention programs and knit them into a regional approach. Trafficking in persons frequently takes place across borders, so we are planning a regional response to that problem as well, using our assistance funds to encourage regional cooperation.

Finally, we are also working with Cambodia, as the current ASEAN Chair, and the ASEAN Secretariat to build the capacity of the Secretariat to serve ASEAN by providing technical expertise and training mid-level managers. We would like to further regionalize our cooperation and assistance programs in the region by channeling them through the ASEAN Secretariat, as its capacities increase.

Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative (EAI)

President Bush announced the second component of our ASEAN initiative at the APEC meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico in late October. Known as the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative, or "EAI," it is intended to enhance our already close commercial relationship with ASEAN, with which the U.S. had two-way trade of nearly $120 billon in 2001.

EAI will support the efforts of ASEAN countries to increase their competitiveness, attract investment, generate economic growth, and strengthen ties to the U.S. Quite simply, EAI provides a roadmap for closer trade relations, offering the prospect of bilateral Free Trade Agreements, or "FTAs," to ASEAN countries that are WTO members and have concluded umbrella Trade and Investment Framework Agreements with us.

For those countries that qualify, we would consult on trade and investment issues, seeking to resolve any potential obstacles and to prepare for possible FTA negotiations. We agreed on the core elements of the U.S.-Singapore FTA on November 19 and we have proposed that future FTAs with other ASEAN countries follow the same high standards of the U.S.-Singapore FTA.

Our goal throughout this process is to create a network of bilateral Free Trade Agreements between the United States and ASEAN countries and a common and prosperous future. For ASEAN, this initiative will boost trade and direct investment into the ASEAN region. For the U.S., it will stimulate greater exports, particularly in agriculture, and increase the number of U.S. jobs -- estimated to be about 800,000 already -- supporting U.S. exports to ASEAN.

A Perfect Marriage

I am excited about our efforts to engage ASEAN both collectively and through its individual members. It's the perfect marriage of a creative policy response to a challenging, competitive situation. As I mentioned earlier, foreign policy making these days is a demanding process. Ideally, we look ahead with enough vision that we can make change happen for the better. That is what we are trying to do with ASEAN. We also need to be prepared to respond to unexpected developments, even if that means imposing new conditions on our policy, as we have been forced to do with North Korea. In both cases, we are proceeding deliberately, consulting closely with our friends and allies. I am reminded that one of Secretary Powell's favorite phrases is that "optimism is a force multiplier." That's a part of our strategy, too.

I would be happy to take your questions on my remarks or any other aspects of our policy on East Asia.


Released on December 11, 2002

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