Posts Tagged ‘Asia Pivot’

Hillary begins this chapter  by revisiting a speech she delivered in 2009 to the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) on Burma signaling her determination to pursue renewed relations with that long-spurned country based on reforms.

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on Engagement with Burma

Early on she clarifies that while the generals preferred the name Myanmar, she, in Hard Choices,  would refer to the country as Burma.  Except where State Department communiqués opted to use Myanmar, I have remained consistent with her choice – not a hard one – of Burma.

Those who contend that she never chose or pursued a signature issue or agenda as secretary of state (and then grudgingly admit that issues confronting women and girls was, OK, sort of a signature issue but a ‘soft’ one) would do well to remember this initiative very early in her tenure.  The Pacific was the region to which the administration had pivoted, and Hillary chose to seek engagement with a country she hoped would eventually be able to lead its neighbors by example.  Not a soft choice at all.  A hard one.  (But have it your way, chauvinistic burgher kings of foreign policy.)

A State Department memo warned traveling staff that three colors were to be avoided in Burma.  One was white. Hillary states that these cultural issues are often addressed in memos prior to travel.  She had a new white jacket that was exactly the right weight for the climate and hesitated, brought it along anyway, and upon landing the entire traveling party discovered that the memo had been inaccurate so she wore it when she first met Aung Sang Suu Kyi.  As it turned out they were dressed exactly alike.  Even the hair was the same.  This first meeting took place at the chief U.S. diplomat’s residence in Rangoon.

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I think this meeting warmed a lot of hearts.

This link has images from her visit to the new capital Nay Pyi Taw where President Thein Sein asked her for guidance in democratic governance and told her they had been watching The West Wing for background.   You can also see her visit to the beautiful Shwedagon Pagoda here.

Pics from Burma: Hillary Meets Aung Sang Suu Kyi … and more!

At this meeting and press availability on December 2, 2011 Hillary visited Suu Kyi’s home which had also been her prison.  She brought gifts – a stack of books and a toy for the doggie.  The woman who calls herself a ‘dog owner’ on Twitter is actually a doggie mom and knew how much the company of Suu Kyi’s dog’s must have meant to her during her long isolation.  It was adorably thoughtful.  Like Hillary and her staff, I, over the past weekend, watched the film The Lady.  There in the movie, sure enough, was a sweet, faithful little dog.

Hillary & Aung San Suu Kyi: Remarks and Pics Day 2


Suu Kyi, finally free to travel came to the U.S. in September 2012 and received the Congressional Gold Medal.

Hillary Clinton at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

That month, Hillary moved on to her final UNGA session as secretary of state and met twice there with President Thein Sein.

Hillary Clinton With Burmese President Thein Sein

Hillary Clinton With Burmese President Thein Sein

In November 2012, Hillary accompanied President Obama on a visit to Burma.

Secretary Clinton and President Obama in Myanmar



… and on the ‘OTR’ visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda!

Hillary ends this chapter with both Suu Kyi’s and her own cautions about being too optimistic too quickly.  That is excellent advice.  One must always remain vigilant.  She does not mention this, but I shall.  As she began, with Burma as a target on her ‘smart power’ agenda, so she ended.  Just a few weeks before leaving the State Department, she issued this.

Hillary Clinton: U.S. – Burma to Exchange Ambassadors

To me, this looks like a success that we should, as she warns, recognize with restraint, but a victory for her State Department nonetheless.  There are bumps in the road ahead, to be sure, but those who say she accomplished little to nothing would do well to assess her diplomatic waltz with Burma. A door has opened.  We have walked in thanks to Hillary and her hard-working staff.

Well done, Mme. Secretary!


Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>





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Hillary introduces this chapter with a good deal of background from her previous visits to China and the influence they had on her first visit there as secretary of state.  She speaks of reunions with old friends that were not public and therefore not covered by press or the State Department.

It is clear that this maiden voyage in her new capacity was freighted, and she explains both her priorities and the degree to which some (political, environmental,  and commercial issues) were given publicity and others (human rights issues) were not but emphasizes that human rights did not take a back seat.

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She mentions discussing religious freedom and the related issues of Tibet and Taiwan in meetings with high officials but does not remind us that she took the trouble to attend church services.  We at the now-defunct Hillary’s Village Forum knew and shared that information, but I never blogged it here.

2009_0224_clinton_wen_meeti_m U.S. Secretary of State Clinton listens to clergy as she walks out after Sunday service in Beijing

She also participated in an online chat and a TV interview on this visit, although she does not specifically mention them.  Part of her outreach to civil society to be sure.

Hillary Clinton’s Online Chat in China

Hillary Clinton’s Dragon TV Interview in China

The highest profile meeting detailed by the State Department at the time was her bilateral with then Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Hillary Clinton with Chinese FM Yang Jiechi

It was during this meeting that she became aware of the upcoming Shanghai Expo about which it appeared no one in the U.S. was doing anything.  So Hillary shouldered the responsibility to get a U.S. pavilion up and running in time for the opening in May 2010.



Video: Secretary Clinton Meeting With Student Ambassadors At The Shanghai Expo

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks At USA Pavilion Gala Dinner

Secretary Clinton Meets and Greets USA Pavilion Student Ambassadors and Employees

Photos: Hillary Clinton at the Shanghai Expo

The most important item on her agenda with China was formulating a way to navigate through the ‘uncharted waters’ of the U.S.-China relationship.   She and other cabinet officials, specifically Timothy Geithner  being a high-profile proponent, were determined to initiate a U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue realized in May 2010.

05-24-10-34U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks at China's President Hu Jintao during the opening ceremony of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue in BeijingChinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan (3rd R)

Secretary Clinton’s Address at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue Opening Session

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue Opening Session

Among all of the issues involving Asia, the most enormous elephant in the room swinging its massive trunk on the sidelines of every official meeting was the issue of ‘dominion,’ if it can be called that, over the waters of the South and East China Seas.   These waters are vital to shipping routes, but also flow over precious mineral resources such as semi-conductors that are indispensable in the hardware that organizes our online lives now from communications through paperless bill-paying.  The Chinese made it clear that their claims to these waters were non-negotiable.  Hillary thought that if enough of China’s smaller neighbors were to coalesce around the issue of access the giant might blink.

She cites the July 2010 ASEAN Ministerial Meetings in Hanoi as the tipping point at which a coalition of south Asian countries became strong  enough to press giant China on these seafaring issues.*  Her instincts and predictions on this were spot-on.

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting

Slideshow: Hillary Clinton ASEAN Hanoi Day Two

She closes out this Asia chapter with her return from the Hanoi ASEAN with only a week left to finalize preparations for Chelsea’s wedding.

MOTB Hillary Clinton in New York

Slideshow: Hillary and Bill @ Beekman Arms

Here Comes the Bride!

And so ends chapter 4 with a lot of hope for the future.



*I still contend that if the Senate, at any point, had ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST – see the sidebar on the right) her job from here through her last Asia trip in 2012 would not have been so demanding.  The island-hopping and bilaterals and trilaterals that took place in summer of 2012 might not have been so intense and crucial.  You might remember her being given access that was not easy to come by to watch WJC address the Democratic National Convention in September of that year.  All of that traveling among those islands was over maritime rights in the South and East China Seas.  A LOST ratification might have obviated much of that shuttle diplomacy.  But that’s just me.  Just sayin’.  Anyway, it’s water under all the bridges.

How the Tea Party Harpooned Hillary Clinton’s Asia Mission



Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>



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Here is a short video synopsis from Reuters of Mme. Secretary’s latest charm offensive in Asia.  No one can do this the way she does!

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Bloomberg News

Clinton Pushes Maritime Code, Trade at APEC Summit in Russia

By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan on September 07, 2012
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will urge cooperation on resolving regional maritime skirmishes that have escalated over the past year during a visit to Russia for an Asia-Pacific summit.

As President Barack Obama’s representative at the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vladivostok, Clinton meets today and tomorrow with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Russia, all of whom have competing territorial claims with China or each other.

The top U.S. diplomat is wrapping up a six-nation, 11-day tour that garnered mixed results in pressing China and Southeast Asia countries to adopt a framework for negotiations on territorial claims in a region rich in oil and gas. The U.S. is seeking to diffuse conflict in the South China Sea, through which half of the world’s commercial cargo moves.

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None, I repeat, NONE of the difficulty Hillary Clinton has encountered on this Asia tour is necessary.  All of the conflicts she is attempting to settle through multilateral negotiations could have been brought to an international convention for fair adjudication.  Instead,  like a busy little bee (a  really cute one) cross-pollinating frantically,  Secretary Clinton is compelled to buzz from one to another bilateral meeting to try to bring disputes to settlement.  She does so at an extreme disadvantage with no muscle whatsoever because the United States is still not a member of the Law of the Sea Convention (L.O.S.T.)

The Law of the Sea Convention is a body of maritime states that agree to certain stipulates, e.g. maritime borders may extend to as far as 200 miles offshore.  The U.S. has four maritime borders.  Members empower the convention to make decisions as to who may do what where.  Drilling and mining for rare minerals beneath the sea,  minerals used in our precious and necessary technology,  our smart phones and iPads,  is governed by rights to areas of the sea.   Not being members, we have no voice regarding who may encroach upon our own maritime borders nor upon those of our friends and partners e.g. some of the countries Mme. Secretary has visited this week.  This hobbles not only Hillary Clinton in her efforts on her latest journey, but our country going forward in this century, which, of course, is her concern.

We are not members of this convention because our opportunity came to a screeching halt just two months ago when the Tea Party essentially killed ratification of  L.O.S.T. in Congress.

Every day I watch Hillary Clinton work her heart out for this country.  Right now, as I am writing this, she is working so hard to try, from a powerless position, to negotiate settlements by shuttling from one to another delegation.  It is unnecessary.  All of this could easily be settled peacefully before an international body we have  snubbed by not ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Thank the Tea Party for that. 

See How the Tea Party Harpooned Hillary Clinton’s Asia Mission

Meanwhile, our precious Hillary, we appreciate all you are trying to do and all you have done.  Come home safe.  You have not failed in any way anywhere.  Your government-held-captive has failed you.

If you understand what is happening here and disagree with how  Congress, by way of the Tea Party,  has stymied our hard-working Secretary of State and worse, the future of our country and its leading role in world affairs,  lobby your reps and vow to vote them out if they do not RESURRECT L.O.S.T.!

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