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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

President Bush's Trip to Asia: Outlook and Policy Prospects

James A. Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Washington, DC
March 18, 2002

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and to speak to such a distinguished and well-informed group. I am pleased to see many long-time Asia watchers in the audience as well as many new faces.

Bob (Hathaway) asked me to share some thoughts with you about the Presidentís trip to Japan, Korea, and China -- what was accomplished, and what we see in terms of next steps.

The trip was far more than a raincheck for visits to Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing scheduled last October in conjunction with the APEC summit. September 11 and the beginning of the counter-terrorism campaign forced the President to postpone his visits to capitals -- a decision which was met, by the way, with gracious understanding by all of the Presidentís counterparts.

That President Bush chose to travel to Shanghai for the APEC summit last fall is a mark of the significance we attach to the region and to what APEC can accomplish.

That his postponed visits to capitals were rescheduled at the first opportunity demonstrates the tremendous importance he attaches to America's relationships with Japan, Korea, and China, and with Asia in general.

President Bush places great value on personal relationships. This trip enabled him to deepen his personal friendship with Prime Minister Koizumi first established last June at Camp David, and with President Kim, who visited Washington about a year ago. And, of course, the President was eager to build upon the personal relationship he began with President Jiang last October in Shanghai. He also wanted to extend to each leader personally our respect and appreciation for the strong contributions each is making to the war on terrorism.

Let me start with a conclusion. The visit was in all respects highly successful, not only by our measures but by virtually unanimous consensus in Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing.

And to respond to the second part of Bobís prescription -- where does the President's trip lead in policy terms -- the short answer is that because it was successful, it takes us further down the road on Asia policy, and faster, than we anticipated we would be at this point in the Administration, particularly after 9/11.

We can take some credit for this, but we canít take all of it. The response of all three states to the war on terrorism set a positive tone for visits to each capital. The President was sincere in his wish to thank all three of his counterparts for their strong support. So we need to give credit where itís due, and the President did that.

Common Objectives

It might be helpful if I first touch on a few of the common themes and objectives the President wanted to convey on his trip, then move on to their country-specific iterations.

First, the trip highlighted the value of our core alliance relationships with Japan and South Korea. It also underscored our desire to set a positive course for our complex and ever-developing relationship with the People's Republic of China.

A second objective was to acknowledge and develop further the excellent counter-terrorism cooperation we have received from these countries since 9/11. Our allies, Japan and South Korea, have been unstinting in their support of the global war against terrorism. We are also gratified by the positive response from the P.R.C. that opens new avenues for cooperation with China.

A third objective was to stress in each capital our strong interest in economic growth and free trade.

Finally, the trip provided an opportunity to express our strong concerns about WMD proliferation. The President's view into North Korea from the DMZ provided a powerful reminder of North Korea's dangerous potential and of the absolute necessity for a peaceful solution to the conflict that divides the Korean people and threatens the stability of Northeast Asia. That is a perspective shared by the Presidentís colleagues in Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing.


In Japan, the President sought to reaffirm the vital strategic relationship that our two countries enjoy and to demonstrate our support for the Prime Minister's efforts to nurse Japanís economy back to health.

The President had two long meetings with Prime Minister Koizumi on his schedule, as well as an informal dinner that Mrs. Bush attended. The Bushes also lunched with the Emperor and Empress. These meetings went well and gave the President unique insights into Japanese political culture and tradition.

I think, too, the Presidentís initial meeting with PM Koizumi back in June set the stage for a growing personal relationship between our two leaders unmatched since the "Ron-Yasu" years. Deep rapport between leaders can yield a relationship that is broader, deeper, and richer than the norm.

Perhaps the most remarkable event in Japan was the extraordinarily warm reception that the President received during his speech in the Diet. It is customary for Diet members to give a speaker polite applause before and after a speech, but the President was interrupted over 25 times in the course of his speech.

High on our agenda in Tokyo was the global war on terrorism. The President thanked Japan not only for its significant contributions, but also for the way in which they were accomplished.

At that critical time, Japan responded quickly with a precedent-setting agenda and gave us a shining example of the kind of leadership that it is capable of, and that many of us in the Administration had hoped and expected we would one day see.

Japan has showed great generosity in aiding refugees in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere in West Asia. It is helping to rebuild liberated Afghanistan and it co-hosted a major pledging session of Afghanistan donors in January in Tokyo, which the Secretary attended. Domestically, the Koizumi government pushed through the passage of legislation allowing participation, in theater, of Japanese Self-Defense Forces, including naval vessels operating in support of the coalition. This was accomplished skillfully and engendered little or no reaction from Japanís East Asian neighbors.

On the economic side, Japan remains in the grip of an unrelenting, decade-long economic slump. As you know, PM Koizumi faces formidable challenges in addressing this problem and in restructuring Japan's economy. The President was careful not to pressure the Prime Minister with economic advice. Rather, the two leaders reviewed the Japanese government's approach to the economic situation. The Prime Minister acknowledged the importance of rapidly eliminating non-performing assets from the balance sheets of the nation's banks.

Of course, structural reform entails considerable political risks, and no one knows this better than Prime Minister Koizumi. Reform on the scale that is necessary will produce winners -- primarily the Japanese people. It will also produce some losers, some of whom are powerful and deeply entrenched in the current system. We recognize that Prime Minister Koizumi must choose the approach to reform that is most effective within the context of the Japanese body politic -- and we will support him.

Japan is our indispensable partner -- politically, economically, diplomatically, and militarily. No clearer example comes to mind than the Japanese response to 9/11. But to continue to play that essential role, Japan must revive herself, a goal that is also in our fundamental national interest. We want to see a globally engaged and positive Japan with the means and increasingly the vision to "punch its weight" internationally.

Vision, Will, Wherewithal

I think there are three keys to a successful, global U.S.-Japan relationship: vision, will, and wherewithal. For years, Japan has had the wherewithal -- in spades. But for many and complex reasons, it has suffered a relative lack of vision and will. We hope this is changing.

So one outcome of the Presidentís visit is that the table is truly set for a U.S.-Japan relationship with tremendous potential, not just to enhance regional stability, but to contribute significantly on a wide range of global issues.

It would be ironic and unfortunate if, just as Japan appears ready -- with the vision and the will -- to shoulder fully its global responsibilities, it should lose the wherewithal. In essence, that is why we so strongly support the Prime Ministerís efforts to address regulatory reform, curb deflation, and clean up bad bank loans.

This is a campaign that will take time -- itís going to be a protracted effort. Prime Minister Koizumi knows this, and President Bush knows he knows. President Bush also believes that Japan has history working in its favor. In his Diet speech, he referred to two earlier, massive transformations that owe their successful outcomes to the will and determination of the Japanese people. In the Meiji years, Japan changed itself from a feudal society into a modern Western state in a generation. After World War II, Japan again transformed itself, moving from a defeated nation with a shattered economy to full OECD membership in fewer than 20 years. The President made it clear in Tokyo that he believes Japan is up to the current challenge.

The U.S.-Japan relationship remains at the core of our policy in Asia. Despite its problems, Japan remains the worldís second-largest economy. While we expect to continue and even expand our cooperation on a wide range of issues -- from economic support for Afghanistanís reconstruction to the global war on terrorism to coordination of North Korea policies -- Japanís economic recovery will determine the true parameters of the U.S.-Japan relationship in the years ahead. We eagerly support the reformation once again of Japan's economy, but it is a task that Prime Minister Koizumi and the Japanese people must design and carry out as they best see fit.

South Korea

The President's trip to Korea celebrated President Kim Dae-Jung's far-sighted accomplishments and demonstrated our commitment for R.O.K. efforts to enhance stability on the peninsula.

President Kim is an extraordinary individual -- a man whose vision and leadership have assured his place in the history of his country and the world. He has solidified the evolution of democracy in South Korea, reached out in an unprecedented way to the North, and guided his country successfully through the perils of financial upheaval. His welcome to President Bush was most gracious.

In Korea, we aimed, as noted, to reconfirm our 50-year alliance with the R.O.K. Further, President Bush had two principal objectives in addition, of course, to his desire to discuss the war on terrorism with President Kim.

First, the President wanted to further coordinate with the Republic of Korea our approach to the North. Prior to the Presidentís arrival, it's fair to say that there was some worry and apprehension about the Administration's policy toward North Korea.

President Bush put these concerns effectively to rest. The meeting of the two Presidents, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice lasted longer than expected and went very well. A senior Blue House official personally told me that President Kim emerged from these discussions "extremely pleased" with their content.

President Bush also signaled our strong support for the work remaining to be done to achieve meaningful reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

The President endorsed the Republic of Korea Governmentís Sunshine Policy. Even in the absence of reciprocity from the North, this policy remains the best hope for family reunification, for stability on the peninsula, and for peace in Northeast Asia.

The President also reaffirmed to President Kim that the United States is fully committed to coordinating U.S. policy toward North Korea with Japan and South Korea through the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG) process.

A second objective of the visit was the Presidentís desire to acknowledge and to applaud South Korea's rapid recovery from the Asian financial crisis. President Kim and his government, by instituting tough economic restructuring policies early, set a successful course through uncharted waters. The result is that the R.O.K. now leads its Asian neighbors on the path to recovery; GDP growth is back to a healthy rate and prospects for 2002 look very good.

Demilitarized Zone

The visit to the DMZ made a lasting impact on President Bush. At the Dorasan train station, the President saw a graphic example of the extent to which the R.O.K. is going to reach out to the North. The train tracks come to an abrupt end at the DMZ because Pyongyang has not lived up to its agreement to extend its part of the rail line north to meet the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Connecting the rail line would have obvious trade benefits to both North and South Korea. The D.P.R.K.'s failure to complete the line, which would bring a steady stream of tariff revenues to North Korea's nearly-empty coffers, makes no apparent sense.

The DMZ visit also reinforced the Presidentís perspectives on the dangers of North Korean proliferation -- regrettably, a source of increasingly scarce revenue for the North. We are carefully and conscientiously investigating the possible proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, which at this time is unconfirmed, and we are committed to pursuing through diplomatic channels the issue of North Korea's proliferation of ballistic missiles, which is confirmed.

In the wake of September 11, we have no doubt that terrorists would use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) if available to them. If we were eager to address North Koreaís role in proliferation of WMD or their means of delivery before 9/11, we are exponentially more eager to do so now.

From President Bush's perspective, a government that lets part of its population starve while devoting ever-scarce resources to building an inflated and unnecessary military machine is one that has abdicated its responsibility to its people.

Nevertheless, the regime in Pyongyang is the government of North Korea, and I believe the President was successful in sending a clear message to that government that we want a dialogue and are prepared to engage in this dialogue anytime, anywhere, any place, without pre-conditions. The President also stated, clearly and for the record, that we have no intention of invading North Korea. We urge the North to respond positively. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the future of the Korean Peninsula will be a peaceful one.


President Bush met extensively with P.R.C. President Jiang Zemin during his visit to Beijing. The President also met Vice President Hu Jintao and Premier Zhu Rongji.

These personal relationships will develop further in the near future. Vice President Hu has been invited to visit the U.S. as a guest of Vice President Cheney. President Jiang will be coming to the U.S. in late October in connection with the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Mexico.

While he was in Beijing, the President underlined our commitment to candid, constructive, and cooperative relations and highlighted our ongoing cooperation in the war on terrorism. He talked with the Chinese leaders about our common interests in South Asia, on the Korean Peninsula, and in other regions as well as in the UNSC.

On the bilateral side of our relationship with China, the President emphasized the challenges that China faces in fulfilling its ambitious plans for economic development and implementation of its WTO commitments. China will be opening its economy to greater and greater competition with the rest of the world; this will be a difficult and painful process for many, but we support the tough decisions that the Chinese leadership's commitment to economic reform requires.

Another important priority in our bilateral ties is areas where we do not see eye-to-eye with the Chinese. These include Taiwan, non-proliferation, human rights, and religious preference issues. The President touched on all of these in Beijing.

We share a broad perspective with the Chinese on some elements of global nonproliferation but not on others. Over the years, we have had productive discussions on nuclear and other forms of nonproliferation. The current focus of our bilateral talks with the Chinese is on missiles and related equipment or technology. China has not yet issued transparent export control regulations, as it said it would, to get control of dual-use exports that could be used in association with WMD programs. We plan to keep at this in our bilateral talks with China -- it's another important priority for us.

Improvement in human rights in China is another priority topic the President spent time on. We recently published our human rights report on China so I won't enumerate the deficiencies we see there. I do want you to be aware that we have frank and frequent discussions with China on human rights issues, ranging from the President's personal efforts to rekindle dialogue between Beijing and the Vatican, to our concerns about individual cases, to our hope for systemic reform and greater engagement with international organizations that promote respect for fundamental freedoms.

One of the high points of the visit was President Bush's appearance at Qinghua University, including live broadcast to the Chinese people of his remarks. The President was particularly delighted to engage students directly, hear their concerns, and promote the values of tolerance, diversity, and liberty that are the foundation of American political and social life.

I believe that overall, the President's trip was a milestone in advancing U.S. interests in Asia and a promising foundation for progress. Presidential visits have a dramatic impact in strengthening international ties. As the Chinese frequently noted, President Bush's trip came 30 years to the day after President Nixon's historic visit. The President made clear that we'd like to see even more positive developments in U.S.-China relations over the next 30 years.

Challenges Ahead

As President Bush flew home to the U.S., he said goodbye to a China that is on the cusp of a new era of leadership. China will see significant changes through the fall of this year and spring of next, but the world is changing, too, and China's challenge will be to keep up with those developments.

The devastating World Trade Center tragedy has highlighted the fact that we and the Chinese share a common enemy in international terrorism. The task now before us is to deepen the cooperation that has grown out of 9/11, make it permanent, and channel it to new areas where we have critical issues that need to be addressed. South Asia is one focus of this cooperation, but by no means is our counterterrorism cooperation limited to one region or one set of issues. China needs to be part of the international response to terrorism in all its guises.

We continue to discuss with China the roles it might take on in important regions throughout the world, including in the Middle East and in other regional conflicts, where our interests in promoting dialogue, peace, and stability, coincide with China's.

Bilateral relations will continue to feature challenges and opportunities. Taiwan remains a core and sensitive issue from both sides' perspective. Nonproliferation and human rights will remain on our agenda, and, on the trade front, we're working hard to advance WTO implementation and increase our access to China's market. Agriculture is a key component: we seek to keep the Chinese market open to U.S. soybean exports, which are worth $1 billion to American farmers. American consumers, businessmen, educators, and workers all benefit from a healthy and growing trade relationship with China.

We have come a long way in our relations with the P.R.C. The President has outlined a clear, productive path for deepening our ties. The pace and scope of improvements will depend on each side's perception of its national interest and the degree to which the two coincide. I'm confident that, despite the inevitable ups and downs of U.S.-China relations, we're on the right track with China: thanks to the President's extensive efforts, we have established a sensible, mature, and clear-headed foundation that will serve us well in the years to come.

Let me end my remarks here, with the hope that I have provoked some challenging and interesting questions.  

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