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Zoellick at U.S. Ambassador's Residence Malaysia

Zoellick at the U.S. Ambassador's Residence Kuala Lumpur


Remarks at the U.S. Ambassador's Residence
Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
May 9, 2005


DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Thank you all for joining us today. My name is Bob Zoellick and I'm the Deputy Secretary of State. This visit to Malaysia is the fifth stop of six that I am making throughout Southeast Asia over the course of the past week. I started out in Thailand, then Philippines, then I went to Vietnam, both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. On Saturday I was in Jakarta, and on Sunday I went to visit Aceh to see the reconstruction effort. And so I came into Kuala Lumpur last night.

I had a good set of meetings today. We will go on to Singapore and have meetings in Singapore tomorrow. And then on the day after I return, on May 12, there is a meeting of private sector companies and NGOs coordinated by the Asia Society and the Asia Foundation in Washington to focus on the post-tsunami reconstruction effort that will be attended by President Bush 41 and President Clinton. And I will be taking part in that as well, so it will give a nice chance for me to summarize this trip.

The primary purpose of the visit to the region was that, as President Bush started his second term, I wanted to be able to come and consult with our partners and friends to be able to get some of their ideas across security, economic and political topics. This complements the visits that Secretary Rice made to South Asia early in the second term and northeast Asia. I have particular pleasure to be able to visit Malaysia again, which I have visited many times in both government and private capacity. It's a country that I think has got extraordinary beauty, it's economically successful, its culture it's now a member of the Community of Democracies and the chair of the OIC.

I had a chance very fortunately to be able to meet the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, but I also wanted to get a better sense of some of the discussions about Islam in Malaysia, so the Ambassador was kind enough to organize a group here. I met with some scholars from universities, some NGOs, representatives of PAS and human rights organizations, so I had a fuller discussion about some of those topics. And I also had the chance to stop at a local high school where there's a special program that had been arranged by Citicorp and others to try to encourage entrepreneurship. I got meet with some of the young high school students with their entrepreneurial venture, to which we contributed 50 Ringgit and got a good product.

In terms of the government discussions, I wanted to start by thanking them for the excellent cooperation we had in the aftermath of the tsunami, where a lot of the ties between the United States and Malaysia bore very important fruit because we were able to work closely with Malaysian counterparts to bring food and water and supplies into Aceh twenty-four hours a day to be able to bring the needs through. And in some ways it represents a good aspect of how Malaysia is a very close and multi-faceted partner of the United States.

I had discussions on security topics, including counter-terrorism, anti-proliferation and maritime security. As some of you might have seen, I had a chance to witness the Ambassador's signing of a special Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, which represents our military-to-military cooperation with Malaysia. This is an agreement under which we exchange various services and some of the basic supplies. We also as a part of that talked about some of the cooperation that we look forward to with a U.S. Megaports Initiative. This is an initiative that has the United States provide some of the equipment and background to monitor cargo for radiation.

On the economic side, we discussed some of the development plans in Malaysia and some of the issues related to them. The Prime Minister outlined development in the agricultural sector, including biotechnology. As I am here, there is a meeting of my former office with Malaysian colleagues in Washington under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, the TIFA. We talked about technology development, as Malaysia moves up the value-added chain, and intellectual property rights. Malaysia is the United State's tenth largest trading partner, representing a little bit short of $40 billion dollars of trade. The U.S. is Malaysia's largest export market. In foreign direct investment, the U.S. is the largest foreign direct investor here; there are about $20 billion to $30 billion dollars [invested] that covers energy, technology and the financial sector.

We also talked about ASEAN relations, as would make sense given the nature of the countries I have visited and since Malaysia will be the incoming chair of ASEAN. I tried to get views of my Malaysian colleagues about some of the issues and developments in the region. We also talked about Iraq and the Middle East. In some of this, I was interested in learning more about Islam hadhari, not only from the people we met at the roundtable, but I also had a chance to talk a little about this with the Prime Minister because we think the Malaysian experience is one that is very important, the tolerance, the moderate Muslim majority country, the development of democracy, the rule of law here. And I was in Iraq not too many weeks ago as the new government was forming, and so we talked about ways in which, perhaps, the government here could share some of its experience with the Iraqis as well as helping the new Palestinian Authority as well.

So as you can see it was a broad set of subjects, so I would be pleased to try to answer any of your questions. If you would, please give your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Jega from the AFP, sir. On maritime security, sir, could you tell us, how do you think of the current situation in the Malacca Straits? The first quarter of this year we saw a rise in attacks, especially tankers that carry specialized cargo. What is the U.S. concern and has it changed?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I had a chance to discuss this issue on Saturday in Indonesia, as well as here. Obviously, we respect the role of the littoral states as the player with the responsibility for maritime security. And so what we were exploring was ways that the United States and others might be able to help develop some of the capacity to be able to gain information in real time so that the countries in the littoral states can act against issues of piracy or crime or other questions. And in both Indonesia and Malaysia I think there was an interest in this, recognizing, you know, the respect that we have for their role as the countries with the responsibility under international law for the Straits.

QUESTION: My name is Ito from Japanese newspaper Nikkei. I'd like to ask you about the U.S. stance on the upcoming East Asia Summit. Japan is proposing to other ASEAN countries to include the U.S. as either a full member or dialogue partner or an observer status, but Japan cannot get a favorable reaction from ASEAN members to include the U.S. So what kind of opinion do you have on the issue?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I think -- I did have an opportunity to discuss the upcoming summit here with Malaysian officials. And I think to start one needs to put the summit in the context of other multilateral groups here. The one that is most important for everyone is ASEAN, and that's the heart of the discussions that I've had with my colleagues all throughout the region. But then we have the ASEAN Regional Forum, which discusses security issues with ASEAN, we have APEC and there's the ASEAN Plus Three Arrangements. So there's a multiplicity of arrangements here.

And I think the sense that I got in Malaysia, as well as other countries in the region, is an interest in having the summit be an open and inclusive process. I think that is most likely -- if countries meet some of the conditions that the ASEAN countries have put forward, that's most likely to include India, New Zealand and perhaps Australia. So, as I have mentioned throughout, the United States presence in both security and economic terms is a daily fact of life, as people saw on December 26, where, fortunately, our Navy and our AID mission were able to provide some extraordinary support, with the help of partners like Malaysia, to Aceh. So we have many ways in which we interact with the region and some of the countries that will be attending are our treaty partners: Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Korea. And so I think in general I was trying to get a sense of what people might think this summit might cover. And I think that the parties themselves are still considering that, since it wouldn't be until later in the year.

QUESTION: Hi, I'm Melissa Goh from Channel News Asia. Mr. Zoellick, can you tell me what's the one clear message that you are bringing this time in your six-nation Southeast tour from the Bush Administration in its second term, specifically in terms of foreign policy?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: That's a good question. I would say that the one clear message is that we have a very strong interest in and set of ties with Southeast Asia. And that, therefore, early in the President's second term we wanted to listen to and learn to their ideas about the state of the relationship, bilaterally but also regionally, and also how we can cooperate on issues in the broader region and even dealing with the Middle East.

So in that sense, I didn't come with a set of particular proposals. Each country has some specific items. So, for example, in Vietnam, I was talking about the WTO accession and the bilateral agreement. In Thailand, I was talking about our work with the Free Trade Agreement that we've had. In Singapore, we are implementing a Free Trade Agreement, so I'll be stopping at some places that will show the benefits of some of the intellectual property rights connections. In the Philippines, we talked about some of the efforts -- with Malaysia's help -- the government is making the deal with Mindanao and some of the MILF, the liberation front there. And, throughout it all, there are the ties of interest in dealing with counterterrorism, anti-proliferation issues, maritime security in many of the countries in the region. So the united theme is the fact that very early in our tenure we wanted to visit Southeast Asia, which I have dealt with over many years, and talk to people who I have the good fortune to know and work with in other capacities and get their perspectives into our thinking process. In some cases, we'll be having some of the leaders visiting soon. President Yudhoyono of Indonesia will be coming on May 25th. I just issued an invitation to the Vietnamese Prime Minister to come on June 21st. So in that sense it's kind of some advance work on some of those ties.

I think if there is any subject that has a particular interest in the United States, it's the aftermath of the tsunami, which hit Thailand, Malaysia and obviously Indonesia, which was extremely badly hit, and to see what we can try to do to try make the pivot from the humanitarian aid to reconstruction support. So in that sense the day I spent yesterday in Aceh with Pak Kuntoro, the individual whom President Yudhoyono has now designated to take charge of the operation there, was particularly useful, because I got to initiate an important piece of the infrastructure development, a 250-kilometer road, to see communities, to talk to some of the officials. And when I get back, this conference that I will be speaking at, its prime focus will be to try to continue the private sector support for the post-tsunami environment. So that is one reason I wanted to come out here quickly because we had, shortly after the tsunami hit, Secretary Powell and Governor Jeb Bush and we had presidents -- former Presidents Bush and Clinton -- and I now I was trying to make sure that we keep the focus of attention on this region. But given the other topics that I mentioned, there is a broad set of subjects to discuss. Over here.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. I'm Chung from Bloomberg. Can you tell us at this point in time, what is the latest view on the Ringgit peg?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, we didn't really discuss the topic, other than the Embassy is concerned that if it changes it will affect their budget (laughter). Any others? Oh, I can't give you a second one until I give everybody else a chance. Anyone else want a chance? OK. This is a quiet group. OK, why don't you do the second one and the last one. Go ahead. You get a second shot.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for giving me this second opportunity. I'd like to my next question is about the North Korea nuclear-related issue. I think every international society understands the importance of the Six Party talks to resolve the issue, but only North Korea doesn't want to come back to the table. So how can the U.S. and whole international community move North Korea to be back to the table?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Because this is at a very sensitive point, and there are discussions going on while I've been traveling, I really don't have anything to add to what you've heard publicly on that topic, other than to make two points. One, which is implicit in your question, which is that the other five parties have all been trying to encourage North Korea in a positive way. And North Korea seems to be resisting, so it will be important for all five parties to continue to communicate that message. The second point was -- it just shows the depth of the relations -- this is also a subject that I discussed here and I understand it was a discussion at the recent ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting. Because everybody is concerned about the danger of nuclear proliferation and the destabilization in the region. In fact, on that, it could be another interesting aspect, and in a way it related to my conversations here about anti proliferation measures, export controls, the proliferation security initiative, other topics that we're working on because we can see that while there are five other parties with North Korea in those talks, this is an issue that really concerns everyone in the region and, indeed, internationally.

SPOKESPERSON: Thank you very much

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Thanks much.

2005/493

Released on May 9, 2005

ENDS


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