James A. Kelly: U.S.-East Asia Policy
James A. Kelly: U.S.-East Asia Policy
U.S.-East Asia Policy
James A. Kelly, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Remarks to the Woodrow Wilson Center Conference on George W. Bush and Asia: An Assessment
November 9, 2004
I was very pleased to receive your invitation to introduce today's program assessing the Bush Administration's East Asia policy--which, I can see, will result at the end of the day in my own report card for the last 4 years. Never before have I been given the opportunity to help write my own report card.
As I address this Administration's accomplishments thus far in furthering our foreign policy in East Asia and the Pacific, I hope you will conclude that we deserve "A's". We have come a long way since January 2001, with many successes that have expanded security and opportunity for America. While no Administration can claim to have resolved all the issues confronting it in only 4 years, we can say with confidence that we've had excellent achievements and made solid progress in Asia. We've faced many challenges during this Administration--especially the realities of a post-September 11 world--and we're proud of our record. We also put in place new structures and mechanisms that can serve as a foundation for further progress in the new century.
If there is one constant in Asia it is rapid change. For the most part, that change has been positive, dynamic, and very much in the interests of the United States. Asia is largely at peace. Democracy, perhaps the greatest success story in recent years, is blossoming. Economic growth has rebounded, led by China, a re-energized Japan, and an ASEAN region that has left the financial crises of the late 1990s behind. Growing intra-regional trade and investment have raised living standards, dramatically reduced poverty, and brought new opportunities to hundreds of millions. These positive developments have naturally led to efforts to consider new regional architecture arrangements. The United States supports efforts that contribute to openness and inclusiveness. We are, and will remain, an essential and pivotal power in the region.
Engagement with China
One essential Asian question concerns the peaceful rise of China. From a bad start--the EP-3 incident of April 2001--with effort from both sides, we have successfully forged an effective relationship with China that defies description by any slogan.
We have worked hard to develop a relationship that lets us communicate often and directly to address common challenges--regional and global, economic and political. In fact, the Secretary of State has already talked on the phone with Foreign Minister Li 14 times this year, and the two men have met face-to-face five times. And as the Secretary said on his most recent trip to Beijing, in our search for common ground, we are finding many more areas in which we agree than in which we disagree. First and foremost is our joint dedication to a Korean Peninsula that is free from the threat of nuclear weapons. Here we are encouraging China to move from being a convener and mediator among the Six Parties to becoming an even more active participant in the effort of persuading the North Koreans that their security and prosperity are best assured by putting nuclear weapons aside. China has responded in a way that shows it can be a "player" in this process, not just an interested observer on the sidelines. Increasingly, that is how China engages us and the world, and that shows an important maturity in its foreign policy.
We also have differences and disagreements, of course, whether on Taiwan, Hong Kong, human rights, religious practice, or encouraging a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. There has been some progress on the latter, and we work to be direct on our approaches to all of these matters so that a crisis does not arise out of a misjudgment.
Strengthening of Alliances
From the beginning, President Bush emphasized strengthening and revitalizing our alliances, and, in Asia, we have succeeded quite well. Nurturing our alliances is work that is never done. As Secretary Shultz used to put it, the "garden" must be tended, and that was what Secretary Powell was doing late last month in Northeast Asia. In each case, the ties we have with our five key allies in the region--Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.), the Philippines, and Thailand--have been strengthened since 2001.
This Administration came in with a vision for advancing our relations with Japan toward a more mature partnership. Many senior officials in the Administration had worked closely with Japan and saw much more potential for U.S.-Japanese relations. Among these is Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, who was one of the driving forces behind a noted study on U.S.-Japanese relations issued before his current appointment. September 11 gave those efforts a new urgency and focus, and the Administration has continued to expand and deepen our alliance with Japan since then.
President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi established a very warm relationship when they first met at Camp David in 2001. Their confidence in each other has brought our cooperation to new heights. Indeed, there is too much good news about Japan to cite in the time we have today, but I can say that within three months of 9/11, Japan began providing fuel at no cost to U.S. and other coalition ships patrolling to prevent terrorists from using sea lines in Operation Enduring Freedom. Japan has now provided over 84 million gallons of fuel to coalition vessels, and recently extended the program for six more months. Japan has also proven itself to be a major partner in rebuilding Afghanistan.
Japan now has deployed in Iraq members of its Self-Defense Forces to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, Japan's first such overseas deployment in the postwar era. In the Six-Party Talks, where our cooperation is critical, as a partner in important areas of ballistic missile defense, in its cooperation with the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), in the key acts of legislation passed, Japan has become an even more vital partner. It is also fair to say that the Japanese people are increasingly aware of their country's need to play a more significant role in regional and global affairs. And these opinions are resonating among the country's political leadership.
We are consulting closely with Japan on our U.S. military presence there in order to enhance deterrence and maintain the security of Japan while addressing the concerns of base-hosting communities. Equally important, we are resolving challenging trade issues in a spirit of cooperation. Last month, talks in Tokyo ended a 10-month ban on U.S. beef imports brought on by fears over BSE--mad cow disease. This temporary agreement will resume U.S. beef imports to Japan, giving Japanese consumers access to safe, high-quality U.S. beef while restoring an important trade link.
Some have called this a "Golden Age" in U.S.-Japan relations. I believe the Administration has indeed set a "gold standard" for future cooperation with Japan.
Our alliance with Australia has been strengthened by the especially close personal relationship President Bush developed with Prime Minister Howard. This began with the events of September 11 when the Prime Minister was visiting the United States. The U.S.-Australian relationship is at a new level. Bilateral security is enhanced by stronger defense, non-proliferation, and counterterrorism ties, and broadened joint intelligence cooperation, while trade barriers have been diminished through an historic Free Trade Agreement. And, of course, Australia has been a vigorous ally in the global war on terrorism, including its dispatch of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Prominent among the policy successes of the past 4 years has been the consolidation of our partnership with South Korea. I consider this a particularly satisfying achievement, not least for the difficulties we have overcome. When Roh Moo-hyun campaigned for the R.O.K. Presidency, there was talk of his charting a "middle path" between the D.P.R.K. and the United States. But his victory, and later that of the Uri Party, instead committed a far broader range of the South Korean political spectrum to the close military and political ties between our two nations.
How to explain this? By understanding and appreciating the strengthening of democratic institutions in South Korea. Recent elections empowered the reform-minded '386 Generation.' Too young to have experienced directly the 1950 53 conflict and too often suspicious of U.S. motives, their rise to political maturity challenged us to anchor bilateral relations more deeply, and on what could be clearly seen as a more equal basis. We have to work to justify the importance of our ties in new terms to a new generation of leaders. This is as it should be. I am proud to have cultivated cordial relationships with key Uri figures like Floor Leader Chun Jung-bae and Party Chairman Lee Bu-young. Secretary Powell, former Ambassador Tom Hubbard, and our new Ambassador to Korea, Chris Hill, among others, have met with many of the numerous first-term parliamentarians. There has been more contact with young Koreans as we have reached out to make new friends and bring new energy to our public diplomacy. This outreach has enjoyed considerable success, paving the way for the smooth restructuring of the U.S. military presence in South Korea, the R.O.K.'s sizable and courageous contribution to the coalition effort in Iraq, and to the R.O.K.'s central role in working with us in the Six-Party process. I believe that by encouraging appreciation among R.O.K. reformers and younger policymakers of our shared interests--and these remain both broad and deep--we have grounded more firmly our future relations with this strategic partner.
Another success of this Administration is that relations with the Philippines have rebounded after reaching a low point in the mid-1990s after the withdrawal of our bases. In the Global War on Terror, a joint U.S.-Philippine operation in 2002 cleared Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists from what had been one of their strongest bastions on Basilan Island. In addition, Philippine officials enthusiastically support the jointly-funded Philippine Defense Reform, which we recently launched, to restructure and train the Philippine armed forces. This will make them a stronger force for stability and will discourage terrorists from moving into the area. The Philippines was one of our first coalition partners to send forces to Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and earlier this year we named that country a Major Non-NATO Ally. While we were disappointed at their sudden withdrawal from Iraq following the kidnapping of a Filipino citizen, our alliance remains strong and we continue to cooperate on a broad range of issues.
We have steadily strengthened our alliance relationship with Thailand over the past several years. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Thailand began providing vital over flight rights and access to facilities for Operation Enduring Freedom and the conflict in Afghanistan. It became an active provider of stabilization forces when it sent an engineering battalion to Afghanistan to help rebuild Bagram airfield. In the war against terrorism, Thailand has also been a staunch partner and ally. In August of last year, Thai authorities captured senior Jemmah Islamiyah terrorist Hambali, who was responsible for the deadly bombings in Bali and Jakarta. Thai troops served bravely in Iraq, where they suffered two fatalities in December 2003. President Bush, following his State Visit to Bangkok last fall, recognized the strength of the alliance by designating Thailand as a Major Non-NATO Ally. And Thai leadership at last year's APEC strengthened that forum, and also highlighted Thai economic resurgence. Now, FTA negotiations are proceeding.
Since the beginning of this year, Thailand has been confronting a significant surge in violent attacks against its security forces, government officials, schools, and other symbols of central Thai authority in the far southern provinces. The roots of this violence are complex and will require the Thai government to address long-standing resentment by the local population against central rule. As a long-time friend and ally of Thailand, we will continue to offer our support, while making clear our views on the importance of respect for human rights in dealing with the ongoing violence.
Cooperation on Counterterrorism
The counterterrorism cooperation we have received from Asia-Pacific countries goes well beyond just these five allies. An ironic by-product of the September 11 terrorist attacks has been a strengthening of our ties with many of the governments of the region--which appears to be the exact opposite of what the terrorists would want. Immediately after the attacks, we received an outpouring of support for our efforts to eliminate the scourge of al Qaeda. This support came in the form of offers of military or materiel assistance, as well as statements of solidarity and offers of other kinds of counterterrorism collaboration. Governments around the region have cooperated in freezing terrorist assets, and Malaysia established a regional counterterrorism training center for which we have provided several courses. There is a growing realization throughout the region that terrorism threatens all civilized governments, and that the best way to confront this menace is to work together pro-actively. Terrorists routinely disregard national boundaries; we need to reach across those boundaries to defeat them.
Indonesia tragically discovered on October 12, 2002, that it was not immune to the tide of Islamic radicalism when close to 200 people, foreign visitors and Indonesians, perished in the devastating Bali bombing. In the months since then, Jakarta has seen two other major bomb attacks, but the government has also taken major steps to arrest terrorist operatives, put them on trial, and convict them. The United States and others, notably Australia, have provided assistance to Indonesia to help them pursue and confront terrorism. Our cooperation has been one element of our overall relationship with this burgeoning democracy and contributed importantly to the safety and security of the entire region.
Compacts of Free Association
Although issues involving the most populous or wealthiest of Asia-Pacific nations occupied much of our attention, we also achieved little heralded, but significant successes with two of the smallest countries in the region. During the past two years, we renegotiated Compacts of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a continuation of our unique relationships with these sovereign countries. These compacts contain revised immigration procedures that allow both nations' citizens continued privileges while improving security measures. They also provide for new management and financial oversight to ensure that U.S. support to these nations results in real improvement in the peoples' lives and lays the groundwork for long-term growth and prosperity. I should also note that these nations, as well as Palau, have shown a commitment to keeping the world free of terror. Hundreds of their citizens are serving in the U.S. armed forces; both the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau have lost countrymen in the service of our country in Iraq.
Asia is also vitally important to the United States in an economic sense. U.S. trade with East Asia and the Pacific totals over $600 billion a year--a figure that exceeds our trade with the EU--and it's growing at a rapid clip. Home to nearly 30% of the Earth's population, East Asia accounts for over a quarter of world production and nearly a quarter of world trade--and those numbers are growing, too. The region buys about 40% of our agricultural exports and supports, directly and indirectly, millions of American jobs in all sectors of our economy. For these and many other reasons, East Asia is just as important to the United States in an economic sense as it is in a military, diplomatic, or geopolitical sense.
The Administration's economic policy was rooted in clear and mutually reinforcing goals:
* to open markets for U.S. goods and services; * to improve the region's overall business environment; * to maintain a stable macro-climate favoring open trade and sustainable growth; * to encourage regional cooperation.
Opening markets for U.S. goods and services is priority number one. Toward this end, the Administration worked hard, and to excellent effect, to put the once-wobbly Doha Round of the WTO negotiations back on track. The Administration scored successes in reducing trade barriers across a wide range of sectors through free trade agreements, or FTAs. Our FTAs helped create new opportunities for American business and benefit American consumers by ensuring more competitive prices on the goods and services covered by the agreements. Our FTA with Singapore came into force on January 1 of this year; we have recently concluded an FTA with Australia; and we have entered into FTA talks with Thailand. We also have Trade and Investment Framework Agreements with a number of Southeast Asian partners.
China has been a major focus of Administration attention, and rightly so. China made some strides since its WTO accession in opening its markets, but we continue to have serious concerns, especially with respect to IPR enforcement, standards, transparency, and services. We are encouraged by Chinese leadership pledges to implement market-access commitments, but the next Administration will have to remain deeply engaged with the Chinese until full implementation of its WTO commitments is achieved.
For open markets to be meaningful to the business community, there must also be a favorable business environment, and the Administration worked hard to achieve progress in this area. We helped improve the business environment in Asia by developing transportation links, opening up the Asian civil aviation and telecommunications industries, improving intellectual property rights protection, and combating corruption. Working through the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Maritime Organization, for example, we helped make air and maritime services more secure for passengers and cargo alike. The U.S. Container Security Initiative now includes many major ports in Asia. The United States worked bilaterally and multilaterally to improve IPR protection, and we obtained good results in some places, but piracy and counterfeiting are still rampant in many parts of Asia. In these and other ways, we improved the business environment in Asia to the benefit of U.S. businesses, workers, and farmers. I regard our work in this area as a significant success, though there is plenty more to do.
Maintaining a stable macroeconomic climate is the third element of our economic approach to Asia, and here again, we have met with great success. The region has certainly come a long way since the financial crisis of 1997-1998. We have encouraged, among our Asian partners, more prudent and sustainable fiscal policies, monetary policies focused on price stability, and increased openness to international trade and capital flows. As a result, interest rate spreads are down; there have been no major foreign exchange or balance of payments crises; "contagion" is less prevalent; and, among those economies with flexible exchange rates, volatility has decreased. Japan is showing strong signs of recovery, and China is maintaining a strong rate of growth.
The United States has invested a terrific amount of time urging China to move toward a more flexible, market-based exchange rate for its currency, and the Chinese agree that making this transition is a top priority. China is undertaking important measures to liberalize capital flows, to restructure its banks, and to develop a currency derivative market. While China clearly needs to do more, these are all steps in the right direction.
Increased Regional Cooperation
Our Asian partners have begun forging more regional organizations among themselves, reflecting their growing cooperation. We welcome this trend, understanding that strengthened ties and cooperation between nations of the region contribute to regional prosperity and stability, two of our highest priorities. I have seen suggestions that the growth of regional organizations reflects a loss of U.S. influence in the region. I disagree. The trend toward regional cooperation offers the United States the opportunity to engage on a multilateral level to address issues we were unable to resolve through bilateral approaches.
Throughout this Administration, the United States brought important leadership, expertise, and resources to address the economic, political, and security challenges facing the region. We provided active leadership in the ASEAN Regional Forum, attending dozens of working level meetings throughout the region. The Secretary himself attended each year's ARF Ministerial meetings. We supported confidence-building measures and cooperative work in key areas such as enhancing the security of Southeast Asia's strategic waterways, non-proliferation, and counterterrorism. We have also worked to strengthen ARF as an organization, getting agreement on an ARF Unit within the ASEAN Secretariat and guiding the ARF members toward preventive diplomacy.
The United States also participated actively in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum or APEC. APEC provides a unique opportunity for leaders from around the region to meet annually. In fact, the President, Secretary of State, and U.S. Trade Representative will all be attending the APEC annual meeting in Chile next week. President Bush will meet with his 20 APEC counterparts and work through a very substantive agenda that includes three key objectives:
* support for trade liberalization and facilitation, especially by supporting the Doha Development Agenda and ensuring that FTA's are truly trade-liberalizing, WTO-consistent, and comprehensive; * concrete action to implement the APEC Leaders' 2003 Bangkok Commitments on security; * promotion of transparency and fighting corruption.
The President announced in October 2002 the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative, which we are using to deepen our trade relations with Southeast Asia. We have implemented the ASEAN Cooperation Plan, announced by the Secretary in 2002. Under this plan, we have committed over $9 million to fund cooperative projects with ASEAN on issues from trade facilitation to counterterrorism to disaster management. In this work we developed partnerships with other countries like Australia and Japan who contribute financial support for projects of common interest.
At the beginning of the Administration, we reaffirmed America's traditional policy priorities of security, stability, democratization, free markets, and human rights. These priorities formed the cornerstone of our engagement with the region throughout the 4 years. We pressed forward on a broad front on these priorities, raising them at every opportunity and supporting them with our actions and assistance. What we have seen over the past 4 years are several trends favorable to our interests in the region.
Spread of Democracy
None of the trends is more important than the region-wide strengthening of democracy. Already this year, successful elections have taken place in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and even Hong Kong, for half of its Legislative Council seats. In the coming months, East Asians can look forward to elections in Taiwan and Thailand. The success of democratization cannot help but demonstrate to the remaining non-democratic countries the advantages of giving the people a voice in their own governance.
I would especially like to mention the remarkable democratic progress we have seen in Indonesia. Very little in its history of colonial rule prepared it to succeed as a democratic state. After a hard-fought battle for independence in the 1940s, its first hesitant steps toward democracy were followed by 32 years of autocratic rule under former President Suharto. In the late 1990s the Asian economic crisis provided the final stimulus for transition to a new political regime. This year, Indonesia successfully conducted a series of elections, voting in a new parliament and for the first time in its history, a directly-elected president. International observers hailed these elections as fair and peaceful exercises, and the Indonesians are rightfully proud of the transition they have gone through. Incidentally, Indonesia's most recent election turnout was about 117 million, one million more than the number of American voters who cast ballots last week, despite our 25% larger population. Throughout this time of democratic reawakening, the United States has stood by Indonesia, providing support for its people and assistance in strengthening its democratic institutions. As an example, in August of this year, the Embassy signed an agreement with the Government of Indonesia for a 5-year program that will provide a total of $468 million for basic education, water, nutrition, and the environment.
Increased Economic Opportunities and Greater Prosperity
Prosperity is growing, and nations of the region are moving toward greater economic openness, lower trade barriers, and regional cooperation. Income levels have doubled and redoubled almost everywhere in East Asia. East Asian nations are looking increasingly beyond their borders for markets, investment capital, higher education, and ideas.
Increased Security and Stability
East Asia is an area largely at peace, despite the long-standing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the Taiwan Straits or the handful of local separatist conflicts. There has been a widespread rejection of radical Islam in Southeast Asia. The kind of radical Islam that spawns terrorism appeals to a very small segment of society and the terrorists are few in number. Throughout the East Asia-Pacific region, governments and people have recognized the advantages of resolving differences through dialogue and the ballot box, and of maintaining political stability as an essential ingredient of economic prosperity.
Increased Attention to Global Issues
The U.S. continues to lead the way on alleviating human misery in Asia by combating human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, narcotics trafficking, international crime, and promoting human rights. We've noticed a large increase in interest in the region to these issues. The increased efforts by governments in the region to combat human trafficking and to fight HIV/AIDS are very positive signs. Development assistance is up sharply in Asia and even more world-wide; appropriated State Department and USAID resources for all of Asia totaled $2.9 billion in FY '04, compared to $1.93 billion in FY '02. At the UN in September 2003, President Bush pledged a significant $50 million to combat human trafficking. On HIV/AIDS, the President has committed the largest portion of funds toward ending this horrible disease--$15 billion over 5 years. Under the President's leadership, Vietnam was added as the 15th country to receive funds under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The Emergency Fund will work with NGOs to prevent at least 660,000 new infections, and provide care for 65,000 people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. This is just a small example of giving substance to these issues.
Millennium Challenge Account
Every so often, a really significant new program appears. President Bush took our international development goals one step further and stated that America must lead by example. He created the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)--a bold, new initiative that provides the greatest amount of foreign development assistance since the Marshall Plan. Through the MCA, the U.S. provides development assistance to nations with a proven record of governing justly, investing in their people, encouraging economic freedom, and fighting corruption. Congress approved $1 billion in start-up funding in 2004, and we hope to increase this to $5 billion a year by 2006. Sixteen of the world's poorest countries were selected for the first year of the program, including two in the East Asia-Pacific region: Mongolia and Vanuatu.
Through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, we negotiate compacts--or contracts--with developing countries to establish mutual responsibilities and expectations. We invest in their projects and measure the results in economic growth and poverty reduction. We believe this program will encourage other countries to follow suit and improve their governance in the future.
These successes over the four years of this Administration represent a solid record of accomplishments.
The Challenges Ahead
While it is clear that we have contributed much in the last 4 years to bring security, stability, democracy, and prosperity to the Asia-Pacific region, key problem areas remain. Chief among these are the situation in North Korea and continuing cross-Strait tensions. In addition, in the future, we will also have to contend with such challenges as promoting genuine national reconciliation and democracy in Burma; opening China to equal trade in products and services; countering terrorism; and addressing issues of a global nature, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, environmental degradation, drug trafficking, the spread of infectious diseases, and human trafficking. What this Administration did achieve was to put in place structures and mechanisms that will help future Administrations resolve these challenges.
Good Starting Point
I have already mentioned the generally good bilateral and multilateral relations and the strong alliances we have grown and nurtured for the last 4 years. This wealth of friendship and good will serve to open doors for the second Bush Administration.
We also began the work of restructuring of our global defense posture to improve reactions to emerging threats while maintaining the ability to address traditional threats. We are taking advantage of advances in technology that have multiplied the combat power of our individual soldiers to reduce our military footprint in the region. At the same time, we are using our increased mobility to guarantee that we will be present when needed to help our friends and allies. Our forces will not only be available to meet long-standing threats lingering from the past century, but will also be able to move rapidly anywhere in the region to confront new threats. We are engaged in discussions with our allies and friends on how best to go about this restructuring while maintaining our commitments to them.
Although, as I mentioned, we did not successfully reduce the long-standing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, we have established what we believe offers the best hope for resolution of this problem: the Six-Party Talks framework. As I explained here at the Wilson Center in December of 2002, our discovery, and Pyongyang's subsequent acknowledgement, of a covert uranium enrichment program, required us to adjust policy midstream by recognizing that in this instance bilateral diplomacy had failed. We now adhere to the principle that multilateral diplomacy is the best way to ensure that North Korea lives up to its international commitments and obligations. This administration remains committed to a peaceful resolution of the multiple problems on the Korean Peninsula, beginning with the necessity for the D.P.R.K. to denuclearize. As President Bush said during his visit to the R.O.K. in February 2002, "We're prepared to talk with the North about steps that would lead to a better future, a future that is more hopeful and less threatening." Nonetheless, we are sober and realistic about the prospects for diplomacy and will not approach the D.P.R.K. with blinders on. North Korea needs to make a strategic choice and, so far, shows no sign of a readiness to change course.
The Six-Party Talks, hosted by China, harness the diplomatic leverage of the parties most directly affected by D.P.R.K. proliferation to our effort to dismantle in a permanent, thorough, and transparent manner all of North Korea's nuclear programs. We recognize that all the countries in Northeast Asia have a vital stake in this issue. The Six-Party Talks framework allows each to contribute to a successful outcome for all. The D.P.R.K. and the nuclear issue it poses represent a continuing challenge.
Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Another threat to regional and global security is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. While in the past we were primarily concerned with proliferation from state to state, we have become more conscious of the possibility that terrorist organizations could use these weapons to wreak death and destruction on innocent persons in any location in the world. For this reason we initiated the Proliferation Security Initiative to stop the transit of these weapons. I am pleased to say that Australia and Japan are among the core participants in PSI.
Today, the states that border the Strait of Malacca are beginning to work together to ensure the security of that strategic waterway, through which half the world's oil flows to markets in the region and beyond. We will continue to look for ways in which we can help these littoral states, which have the sovereign responsibility for ensuring the security of straits, to enhance their capabilities and their cooperation. Enhanced maritime security in the Malacca Straits can deter or even prevent a range of transnational maritime crime, including smuggling, trafficking, and potential acts of terrorism.
We continue to follow closely developments in Burma and remain deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. Over the course of the past several weeks, a number of senior Burmese officials have been ousted from their positions and replaced by hardliners. The current Prime Minister, Soe Win, was reportedly involved in the decision to attack Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters on May 30, 2004. In my opinion, Burma is moving steadily away from its ASEAN counterparts and toward a most objectionable one-man rule. We continue to press Burma's leader and his henchmen to engage the democratic opposition and ethnic minority groups in a meaningful dialogue leading to genuine national reconciliation, to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and to allow the National League for Democracy to reopen its offices and to take steps to respect and ensure the free exercise of the fundamental human rights of the people of Burma.
For the past 4 years, this Administration maintained a vigorous policy of engagement with the East Asia-Pacific region, and it has established a good structure to continue to move forward in President Bush's second term. Some have suggested that the U.S. is withdrawing from the region. But the record of the Bush Administration is clearly reflective of an intensified American involvement and certainly not any withdrawal. Let me end with this thought: we are an Asia-Pacific country not only by geography, but also by virtue of our openness to free trade, our support for the growth of democracy, our interest in worldwide security and stability, and the enduring ties of the millions of Americans of Asian origin. We are a key player in the region, and we are in the region to stay.
Released on November 17, 2004