Principles of U.S. Engagement in the Asia-Pacific
Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Before the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs Senate Foreign Relations Committee
January 21, 2010
U.S. Principles for Engagement in the Asia-Pacific Region – The Asia-Pacific region is of vital and permanent importance to the United States and it is clear that countries in the region want the United States to maintain a strong and active presence. We need to ensure that the United States is a resident power and not just a visitor, because what happens in the region has a direct effect on our security and economic well-being. Over the course of the next few decades climate change, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and widespread poverty will pose the most significant challenges to the United States and the rest of the region. These challenges are and will continue to be most acute in East Asia. This situation not only suggests a need for the United States to play a leading role in addressing these challenges, but it also indicates a need to strengthen and broaden alliances, build new partnerships, and enhance capacity of multilateral organizations in the region. Fundamental to this approach will be continued encouragement of China’s peaceful rise and integration into the international system. A forward-looking strategy that builds on these relationships and U.S. strengths as a democracy and a Pacific power is essential to manage both regional and increasingly global challenges.
With the positive outcomes of renewed engagement as a backdrop, I would like to discuss a series of principles that will guide our efforts moving forward. Intrinsic to our engagement strategy is an unwavering commitment to American values that have undergirded our foreign policy since the inception of our Republic. In many ways, it is precisely because of the emergence of a more complex and multi-polar world that values can and should serve as a tool of American statecraft. Five principles guide the Obama administration’s engagement in East Asia and the Pacific. In her January 12speech in Honolulu, Secretary Clinton detailed the five principles for how we view the Asia-Pacific architecture and U.S. involvement evolving. These include the foundation of the U.S. alliance system and bilateral partnerships, building a common regional economic and security agenda, the importance of result-oriented cooperation, the need to enhance the flexibility and creativity of our multilateral cooperation, and the principle that the Asia-Pacific’s defining institutions will include all the key stakeholders such as the United States.
For the last half century, the United States and its allies in the region – Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand – have maintained security and stability in East Asia and the Pacific. Our alliances remain the bedrock of our engagement in the region, and the Obama Administration is committed to strengthening those alliances to address both continuing and emerging challenges. The United States, therefore, must maintain a forward-deployed military presence in the region that both reassures friends and reminds others that the United States will remain the ultimate guarantor of regional peace and stability. There should be no mistake: the United States is firm in its resolve to uphold its treaty commitments regarding the defense of its allies.
Our alliance with Japan is a cornerstone of our strategic engagement in Asia. The May 2006 agreement on defense transformation and realignment will enhance deterrence while creating a more sustainable military presence in the region. The Guam International Agreement, signed by Secretary Clinton during her February 2009 trip, carries this transformation to the next stage. As part of our ongoing efforts to assist the Government of Japan with its review of the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) Agreement, a high-level working group met in Tokyo in November and December, and the Government of Japan is continuing its review. In addition to our focus on these issues, we are working to create a more durable and forward-looking vision for the alliance that seizes upon Japan’s global leadership role on climate change and humanitarian and development assistance programs, to name a few. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the alliance, we will work closely with our friends in Japan to think creatively and strategically about the alliance.