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American Principle and Purpose in East Asia

Good evening. Admiral Larson, thank you for your kind introduction. Captain Bogle, Dean Shapiro, Captain Evans, midshipmen, I am delighted to have a chance to address the Naval Academy community and the participants in your annual Foreign Affairs Conference.

I am also pleased that the Conference organizers chose as your topic this year the great unfinished cause of our times--the struggle for democracy.

This Academy has been the training ground for many of the heroes of that struggle.

Their memory is strong within us and cherished by us. For within the past few years, we have celebrated what sometimes seems the fiftieth anniversary of everything. And as we have recalled the bravery of sailors, aviators, soldiers and Marines from Normandy to Leyte Gulf to Tarawa to Iwo Jima, we have been in awe of their sacrifice and inspired by their example.

The lessons they bequeathed to us are many:

-- We must maintain strong alliances, for there is no better way to prevent war. -- We must be prepared to defend our interests whether in air, on land or at sea. -- We must never take freedom for granted. -- And as Americans, we must continue to carry aloft the banner of leadership.

Today, we are approaching the threshold of a new century in a new era of possibility and risk. The class that entered this Academy last fall will graduate in the year 2000. You will embark upon your careers of service at a time when America is strong, prosperous, respected and at peace.

You will look across the Caribbean and see a nearly-complete hemisphere of democracies, and a group of forward-looking leaders with whom we are striving to consolidate the sway of freedom, defeat the plague of drugs and lay the groundwork for sustainable economic growth.

You will look across the Atlantic and see a NATO strengthened by new members and trained for new missions in a Europe in which every democracy--including Russia--is our partner and every partner is a builder of peace.

And you will look across the Pacific, where you will see a region of dynamic economic growth, thriving new democracies, and complex political and security challenges.

It is American policy toward this region--East Asia--that I would like to discuss with you tonight.

When the Cold War ended, some Asian leaders feared that we Americans would retreat from our historic presence in the region. If any remnants of that perception persist, let me dispel them now. As President Clinton has repeatedly made clear, and as the U.S. Navy helps ensure, America is and will remain an Asia-Pacific power.

Our role there is vital, from the stabilizing effects of our diplomatic and military presence, to the galvanizing impact of our commercial ties, to the transforming influence of our ideals. And our commitment is solid because it is solidly based on American interests.

We have an abiding security interest in a region where we have fought three wars in the last half-century, and where almost any significant outbreak of international violence would threaten our well-being or that of our friends.

We have an abiding economic interest in a region that is characterized by explosive growth, and with which we already conduct more than 40% of our trade.

We have an abiding political interest in a region whose cooperation we seek in responding to the new global threats of proliferation, terrorism, illegal narcotics and the degradation of our environment.

And we have an abiding interest as Americans in supporting democracy and respect for human rights in this, the most populous region of the world.

These interests cannot be separated into discrete boxes. They are reinforcing. The vitality of the international economic system rests upon international political order. Political order depends, in great measure, on military security. And economic stability reduces the likelihood of dangerous conflict. When each of these pillars is strong, progress on all fronts is possible. If one pillar collapses, stress on the others is multiplied.

For this reason, we are working with our allies and others in the region to build an Asia-Pacific community based on a full range of interests, including economic growth, the rule of law and a shared commitment to peace.

To this end, we are fortifying our core alliances, maintaining our forward deployment of troops, and supporting new multilateral security dialogues such as the ASEAN Regional Forum. We are negotiating agreements to open markets for American goods, services, and capital. And we are actively promoting the trend within the region towards greater political openness.

Although many of our initiatives in East Asia are regional in nature, most are grounded in key bilateral relationships. Of these, especially prominent are those with Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China.

Five decades ago, our predecessors made a strategic decision to help Japan rebuild from the destruction of World War Two. The resulting alliance of two great peoples, two great democracies and the two largest economies in the world is not directed against any particular adversary. Rather, U.S.-Japanese cooperation is for peace, for prosperity, for democracy and for economic and political development around the globe.

Militarily, we are committed to maintaining our presence in Japan, to being good guests there, and to working with our hosts to expand the already high degree of cooperation among our armed forces.

Economically, we will continue to strive for a more balanced relationship. Since 1993, we have negotiated 23 market-access agreements that have narrowed our trade deficit and set the stage for further progress. And politically, we are working with Japan almost everywhere, from peace in Bosnia to development in Africa to reform at the UN to our pathbreaking Common Agenda on global issues.

In ten days, Prime Minister Hashimoto will be in Washington, and I know that President Clinton is looking forward to reviewing with him ways to further strengthen our alliance.

The U.S.-Japan partnership is a cornerstone of our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and a vital contributor to Asian security. Central, as well, is our friendship with the Republic of Korea. Since the Armistice four decades ago, South Korea has climbed the ladder from poverty and destruction to become an active democracy with a modern economy.

Today, our annual trade with Korea tops $50 billion, and we work with the Government in Seoul on a range of political matters. But most critical is our shared effort, as allies, to preserve stability on the Korean Peninsula.

To this end, the Agreed Framework we have negotiated has frozen North Korea's dangerous production of nuclear materials and required it to take the steps necessary to comply fully with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. U.S. and South Korean diplomacy has thereby preserved the Peninsula's stability in the short term, while preparing the way for discussions that may lead to full reconciliation in the long term.

A year ago, Presidents Clinton and Kim proposed talks involving the two Koreas, China, and the United States. We have recently joined with South Korea in briefing the North on the details of these proposed Four Party talks. And we look forward to what we hope will be a positive response at meetings scheduled this week in New York.

We are also continuing to respond to North Korea's food shortage, the tragedy of which has been documented not only by UN officials but by recent visitors from Congress. Although the threat of famine results largely from the failed policies of the North, we view the suffering as an humanitarian, not a political issue. Earlier this year, the United States contributed $10 million in response to a World Food Program appeal. Today, I have announced that we will commit an additional $15 million.

In February, I visited U.S. troops in the DMZ. These men and women are the visible, human evidence of our commitment to South Korea's security. As I talked with these young Americans, shook their hands and thanked them, I felt again the urgency of the challenge that Korea presents to us all.

Our alliance with the Republic of Korea is a source of stability and vital for the defense of freedom. North Korea has begun to move, ever so slowly, in the direction of greater contact and openness with the outside world. While maintaining our firm policy of deterrence, we will also continue to make clear the benefits of cooperation.

The future of the Peninsula is for Koreans to decide. Our role is to support the South in its efforts to assure peace. We are doing that, and we will maintain that commitment for as long as our help is required.

No nation will play a larger role in shaping the course of 21st century Asia than China. With its huge population and vast territory, China's emergence as a modern, growing economic and military power is a major historical event.

In the United States, there are some, alarmed by China's rise, who suggest that our policy should be to contain China. Such a policy assumes and would, in fact, guarantee an outcome contrary to American interests.

A policy of containment would divide our Asian allies and encourage China to withdraw into narrow nationalism and militarism. Our interests are served by an Asia that is coming together, not splitting apart--and by a China that is neither threatening nor threatened.

What we see in Asia today is not a clash of civilizations, but a test of civilization. And that test is whether we can seize the opportunity for mutually beneficial cooperation that now exists, for we are privileged to live in an era when the protection of security and prosperity is not a zero sum game.

Much is made in the foreign policy journals of the dialogue that is underway between our government and the government of China. What those journals sometimes ignore is that--in addition to what is occurring at the official level--ties between the American and Chinese people are deepening at every level.

From the Bay area to Beijing, from New York to Shanghai, we are visiting each other, studying with each other, doing business with each other, philosophizing with each other and learning from each other. It is our peoples, even more than our governments, that are bringing the old era of mutual isolation and miscommunication to a decisive and irreversible end.

But for America, the strategic benefits of our official dialogue with China are also tangible, clear and growing. We are not yet where we want to be, nor has China evolved as rapidly or thoroughly as some have hoped, but the direction we must go is clear: greater interaction based on China's acceptance of international norms.

For example, the United States has an interest in China's integration into the global trading system. Accordingly, we support its entry into the World Trade Organization on commercially acceptable terms. And we have worked with China to develop a list of concrete steps that would broaden access to its markets and bring its trade practices into line with WTO rules.

In the security arena, when the Clinton Administration took office in 1993, the U.S. and China generally did not see eye to eye on nuclear issues, and the Chinese were selling dangerous weapons and technologies with impunity. Through our dialogue, we have built a record of cooperation on agreements to enhance international nuclear safeguards, ban nuclear tests and make illegal the possession and production of chemical arms.

We also welcome China's commitment not to assist unsafeguarded nuclear activities and its agreement to abide by the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime. We remain concerned, however, about the adequacy of China's export control system. Difficulties have arisen, for example, over Chinese exports of arms as well as sensitive goods and technologies to Iran and Pakistan. Through our dialogue, we are working with China to strengthen export controls and expand cooperation in the development of peaceful nuclear energy and other areas.

More broadly, we have maintained a good working relationship with China at the UN Security Council; we consult regularly on Korea; we are exploring steps to avoid military incidents at sea; we have a shared interest in fighting international terrorism and crime; and we have joined forces on specific problems such as halting the inhumane and criminal practice of smuggling illegal aliens.

Finally, as the world's top producers of greenhouse gases, the U.S. and China must cooperate in responding to the strategic danger posed by threats to the global environment. Those of you who have traveled in East Asia know that the "Asia miracle" has been accompanied in some places by undrivable streets, unbreathable air, undrinkable water and unbearable living conditions. We all should care whether the globe's strongest power, and its largest, are able to work together to ensure a future that is not only wealthier--but healthier.

The U.S.-China relationship is guided by principles set out in the 1972 Shanghai and two later Communiqués. Pursuant to these documents, we recognized the Government of the PRC as the sole legal government of China. At the same time, under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, we have maintained strong unofficial ties with the people of Taiwan, thereby helping to propel Taiwan's flourishing democracy.

Although leaders in both the PRC and Taiwan recognize the need to resolve differences peacefully, those differences remain a potential source of instability. That is why we have stressed to both Beijing and Taipei that our "one China" policy is firm, and that they should do all they can to build mutual confidence and avoid provocative actions and words.

In this regard, our naval presence in the Pacific plays a stabilizing role. When China's military exercises caused tensions in the Strait early last year, our deployment of two aircraft carriers helped lower the risk of miscalculation.

Another important element in the U.S.-China dialogue is our interest in the future of Hong Kong.

Two centuries ago, Hong Kong was a treeless granite island populated by leopards, tigers, mongooses, butterflies and what has been described as "an unusual variety of newt". Today, it is a vital and astonishing center of global commerce. I am a skeptic about the human ability to predict the future, but I pay homage to the 12th century Chinese poet who imagined a Hong Kong ablaze "with a host of stars in the deep night and a multitude of ships passing to and fro within the harbor."

On July 1, less than ninety days from now, the world will watch with a mixture of hope and concern as Hong Kong reverts to Chinese sovereignty. The United States supports this reversion under the terms of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which calls for the preservation of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and its way of life and basic freedoms.

As I assured Martin Lee, the leader of Hong Kong's largest democratic party, in a meeting I held with him yesterday, the United States is deeply committed to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, as elsewhere.

In addition, 40,000 Americans live in Hong Kong; our citizens have $13 billion in investments there; and we have an interest in law enforcement cooperation and in port access for Navy ships. Advancing these interests depends on the rule of law and protection of civil liberties in Hong Kong.

Accordingly, I have decided to accept the invitation of the British and Chinese Governments to represent the United States at the reversion ceremony in July. By so doing, I will underline American support for the continuation of Hong Kong's current way of life and freedoms. And I will emphasize America's continued involvement in protecting our interests and supporting Hong Kong's people as they enter the Chinese nation.

A major area of disagreement between the United States and China is human rights. We recognize that the Chinese people today possess far more options in their daily lives than did their parents. Progress has also been made in revising civil and criminal law and in permitting a degree of choice in village elections.

China is changing, but the Chinese government's repression of political dissent has not.

The United States will continue to shine the spotlight on egregious violations of internationally-recognized human rights in China, as elsewhere. The world cannot and should not be allowed to forget dissidents such as Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan, both of whom have been sentenced to long terms in jail for their non-violent support of democracy.

We have expressed to China particular interest in seeing the release of those imprisoned for the peaceful expression of political, religious, or social views and, as a first step, the release on medical parole of those who are eligible. We have urged that international humanitarian organizations be given access to prisoners. And we have stressed the value of resuming negotiations between Beijing and the Dalai Lama for the purpose of preserving Tibet's unique cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage within China.

Earlier today, the UN Human Rights Commission decided not to consider a resolution we had cosponsored that would have urged China to improve its human rights practices. We regret that decision. We congratulate the Government of Denmark for sponsoring the Resolution and the others who cosponsored it.

The Clinton Administration views human rights as an essential part of what our country is all about. We recognize that no nation is perfect, and that none has all the answers. But we also believe that human rights are a legitimate subject for discussion among nations. On this, we differ with China. But we also differ with those who believe that the way to improve human rights conditions in China would be to deny to that country the trading status we accord to most others.

For years, the debate in Washington linking trade to human rights in China has raged. And for years, it has failed to advance American interests or to produce progress in China.

Instead, this debate has divided us, and blurred the focus we should be putting on Chinese practices. The debate has also created the perception that our economic ties to the PRC and our concerns about human rights are in opposition when, in fact, they are two sides of the same coin. Economic openness and political liberalization are not identical, but they do reinforce each other. Both add to China's integration within the world community.

As Americans, we all enjoy a good debate, but we should also realize that--in this debate--we all have the same goal. And that goal is a China that is a responsible and deeply engaged participant in the international system, and that is meeting international norms including those that concern the treatment of its own people.

The strategic dialogue between the United States and China is not based on any particular presumptions about the future. On the contrary, it is designed to influence the future in a manner that serves the interests of both countries, the region and the world.

Later this month, we will welcome Vice Premier Qian Qichen to Washington. And later this year, we look forward to a meeting between President Clinton and China's President Jiang Zemin. Throughout, we will continue efforts to narrow differences, expand cooperation and build understanding. And we anticipate that the larger process of increased ties between the American and Chinese peoples will accelerate with profoundly positive results.

The unifying trends of economic and political modernization that are sweeping East Asia have not erased the region's kaleidoscopic diversity. Nations are adapting to growth and change each in their own distinctive ways. But the struggle for democracy in two countries, in particular, deserves mention now and here.

In Cambodia, the terror of Khmer past--Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge--has faded in relevance and power. But the transition to a democratic future has been slowed by corruption, infringement of civil liberties and political violence.

As Cambodians prepare for elections next year, we call upon all factions to honor the past sacrifices of the Cambodian people and to agree to debate their differences openly and to settle them peacefully, in accordance with the popular will.

In Burma, a military dictatorship continues to repress a democratic movement that enjoys wide and proven popular support. The outcome of this struggle matters to us because Burma's potential can only be realized by a government accountable to its people. And it matters because Burma is the largest source of heroin in the world.

Our policy is to oppose repression and support a dialogue between the government and the democratic opposition, led by the Nobel-prizewinning Aung San Suu Kyi, and including the leaders of Burma's many ethnic groups.

U.S. officials, myself included, have stressed to Burma's military the opportunity presented by a democratic opening. Unfortunately, the government has responded by placing even greater limits on the right of political expression and by throwing peaceful demonstrators in jail. These decisions continue to have a corrosive effect on the Burmese government's standing at home and abroad; and Burmese leaders are on notice that, unless the clouds of repression are lifted, they will face investment sanctions under U.S. law.

There are some scholars who suggest that democracy and respect for human rights are not well-suited to Asia, and that our focus on them is an attempt to impose alien values. But to me, that argument is more rationalization than rational.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reflects aspirations that are common to all cultures on all continents. Those who stood up to tanks in Tiananmen Square, transformed the Philippines from kleptocracy to democracy, and who are now raising their voices for freedom in Burma are both true democrats and true Asians. They deserve our respect and the world's.

Before I close, I would like to stress again one central point. American policy in Asia has many facets, but those facets are inter-related, not separate and distinct. If you are an American interested in investing in Asia, you will care whether the legal structure in that country respects individual rights, and whether the political and security environment is stable.

If you are a military planner, you will want to see nations moving ahead with economic and political reform because you know that democracy is a parent to peace.

If you are a human rights activist, you will want to encourage outside investment, expanded trade, and a broad dialogue between nations that are democratic and those that are just beginning to experiment with democratic institutions.

And if you are Secretary of State, you will be determined to move ahead on all fronts, encouraging the full integration of every country in the region into an international system based on the rule of law.

Fifty years ago this month, President Harry Truman addressed an American people still weary from war and wary of the commitments that loomed in the dawn of the postwar world. He said that "the process of adapting ourselves to the new concept of world responsibility is naturally a difficult and painful one. But it is not in our nature to shirk our obligations."

Truman continued by saying that "we have a heritage that constitutes the greatest resource of this nation, I call it the spirit and character of the American people. We.not only cherish freedom and defend it, if we need with our lives, but (we) also recognize the right of other (people) and other nations to share it."

It was not enough, after World War II, to say that the enemy had been defeated, and that what we were against had failed. The scourge of war had cut too deep. The generation that defeated Hitler and won the war in the Pacific was determined to build a foundation of principle and purpose that would last. Together, they designed the institutions and alliances that would one day defeat Communism, promote prosperity and strengthen the rule of law around the world.

To them, and to all those who have fought and sacrificed so that we might be free, we have inherited a duty to history and to ourselves. If we allow the momentum towards democracy to stall, or turn away from our responsibilities, or take for granted the blessings of liberty, we would betray generations past and future, and squander all that is truly precious to ourselves.

The dawn of a new century carries with it no guarantees. It will be our shared task, as diplomats, sailors, marines and just plain citizens to shape a future in which our interests are advanced, our values flourish, our goodwill is understood and our determination and capacity to defend freedom is never in doubt.

Tonight, as I look out at you--the Naval officers and leaders of tomorrow--I have no doubt that in this shared task, we will prevail. Thank you very much.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).