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Welcome to "Ask the State Department" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to State Department officials.

Secretary Rice recently traveled to Malaysia to meet with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on July 27 and sign the Framework Agreement for the Plan of Action to implement the ASEAN-U.S. Enhanced Partnership. She participated in the 13th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting July 28. Eric John, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, discussed the meeting and answered questions online.

Eric John, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Eric G. John, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Event Date: July 31, 2006

Eric from Santa Fe, New Mexico writes:

Dear Deputy Assistant Secretary John,
A lot has been made of China's role as a "stakeholder" in regional and global affairs. Recently they have joined the space faring community. I pose a suggestion to the U.S. Department of State that a seat be offered on the next available shuttle flight to them, so that a cooperative rather than competitive mindset be realized in this international arena. Any thoughts on this? Best Regards.

Eric John:

We applaud China's success as only the third country to launch people into space. China has told us that it intends to pursue exploration and research that is devoted to the peaceful use of space. Specific questions regarding joint manned space flights with any country are best answered by NASA, the organisation that is responsible for the US space program.

Oliver from Washington, DC writes:

There has been "bad blood" between some members of ASEAN and Australia concerning Australia's potential membership to the organization. How engaged is the U.S. on this matter? Will the U.S. provide any assistance or guidance?

Eric John:

Although Australia is not a member of ASEAN, it has been a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN since 1974 and has acceeded to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Australia is also a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, an international body, of which the United States is a member, where countries work together to address issues of common concern. The U.S. works closely with Australia in this and a number of other regional fora, reflecting our close ties and deep friendship.

Sinead from Dublin, Ireland writes:

There has been a lot of media attention devoted to the North Korean Missile launches of July 4th. Doesn't North Korea have the right to test missiles as long as they remain in NK air space? Did any of the missiles launched on July 4th leave NK air space and land in international waters?

Eric John:

All the missiles landed in the Sea of Japan, and the DPRK did not issue adequate warning regarding its conduct of tests in that area.

Nicholas from San Francisco, California writes:

In Secretary Rice's remarks she condemned "The launching of seven ballistic missiles on July 4-5 here in Asia that violated a self-imposed missile moratorium..." How did the test missile launches specifically violate the moratorium? Did any of the missiles leave North Korean air space or land outside its territorial waters?

Eric John:

The United States regards North Korea's test launch of the long-range Taepo-dong 2 ballistic missile as inconsistent with the September 19 Joint Statement by the participants of the Six-Party Talks, committing all parties to "joint efforts for lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia." Further, the launch is inconsistent with the 1999 missile-launch moratorium on flight tests of long-range missiles unilaterally declared by Kim Jong-Il, which he later voluntarily reaffirmed. .

Lucy from Utah writes:

If every country has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 miles, then there wouldn't have been any foreign vessels endangered by North Korea's missiles. Isn't this basically the same as a country conducting tests on their own land?

Eric John:

No. In the exclusive economic zone, all States enjoy, among others, the freedoms of navigation and overflight. Coastal States are required to have due regard for these freedoms, including a duty to warn all ships and civil aircraft of dangers to their safety.

John from Tokyo, Japan writes:

I have read that one of the consequences of the North Korean missile launches is that Japan, where I live and teach English, may seek to become a nuclear power. How close did the missiles come to Japan? Did any of the missiles approach or land in Japan's territory? Does Japan have a different policy towards North Korean than the United States?

Eric John:

All the missiles landed in the Sea of Japan - none landed on Japan. The United States and Japan continue to work closely together on a coordinated approach to the DPRK, including in the Six-Party Talks. We strongly supported Japan's efforts in the Security Council to address the North Korean missile launches and joined with the other UNSC members in adopting UNSC Resolution 1695. For more specific comment on Japan's policy towards North Korea, I'd refer you to the government of Japan.

Caitlin from Springfield writes:

When different government officials make statements, are they all using the same facts? For example, when Secretary Rice talks about North Korea's "barrage of ballistic missiles" and Ambassador Bolton talks about North Korea launching missiles "into the waters surrounding its neighbors," have they both been briefed by the DOD and given some fact sheet about exactly how many missiles were fired and where they went? Do the various entities -- State Dept., UN Mission, White House -- all have the same facts?

Eric John:

Foreign Policy is determined by the President and coordinated by an interagency team that includes the Secretary of State and the Ambassador to the UN, among others. This team coordinates closely in order to successfully implement the President's foreign policy.

Daisy from Charlotte, North Carolina writes:

I'm curious about this clause from UN Resolution 1695, which condemned North Korea's recent test missile launches: "Expressing further concern that the DPRK endangered civil aviation and shipping through its failure to provide adequate advance notice." Does this mean that the test missiles could have hit airplanes and/or ships in international air space and waters? Did this almost happen? What would the diplomatic response have been if any of those missiles had landed somewhere besides international waters in the Sea of Japan?

Eric John:

North Korea did not provide adequate notice before test launching missiles earlier this month It is difficult to speculate about the diplomatic response if the missiles had landed differently. The international community, however, has strongly criticized North Korea's actions, as evidenced by the unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1695, which in addition to condemning the launches, "demands" that the DPRK suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching.

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