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Remarks at the Community of Democracies Governing Council

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
July 9, 2012

Thank you very much, Minister. And thank you again for hosting us here in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thank you so much, Mr. President, for being part of this fourth meeting of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies. I’m delighted also to have this opportunity to be here with all of you. Mongolia has done great work in advancing the reforms that we began last year in Vilnius, reshaping the community from a group that highlights democratic ideals to one that provides concrete support to emerging democracies. And let me also congratulate the Community’s first Secretary General, Ambassador Maria Leissner, on her new role. And we look forward to working with you.

As I said earlier at the Women’s Leadership Initiative meeting, I’m very pleased that this is occurring here in Asia and that the ministerial will be in Mongolia next year. Because it is important we dispel the myth that democracy is somehow antithetical to Asian values and Asian experience and Asian history and Asian aspirations. People everywhere want a voice and a vote in the decisions that affect their lives, and they deserve governments that protect their rights and respect their dignity.

Advancing democracy, as all of us who are here at this Governing Council meeting know, is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing as well. Democracies are more stable, more capable partners with vibrant open economies that can foster innovation and new ideas, and the world needs more of that. And although every country’s democratic journey is unique, there are universal principles we share and that’s what I think brings us together – to support each and to help emerging democracies succeed.

I’m particularly proud of the work the Community is doing to defend civil society groups. And in too many places, we see that there is an unfortunate resurgent effort by governments to tighten their grip on civil society. And it’s been quite distressing to see governments introducing laws that would severely restrict the ability of civil societies to act. As I said back in 2009 at our meeting in Krakow, this kind of legislation, these actions, are a grave challenge to democracy.

I was recently in St. Petersburg and met with a group of Russian civil society activists who are quite disturbed by new legislation being passed in the Russian Duma that not only goes after foreign NGOs and funding from foreign NGOs, but goes after local, national NGOs and civil society, which is really a great disturbance to the brilliance and the creativity of the Russian people, who have so much to contribute. That’s one of what could be, unfortunately, numerous examples, and I think the Community of Democracies needs to speak out, because whenever a reporter is silenced or an activist threatened or a civil society organization shut down, it really weakens the social fabric of a nation. So I really commend the steps that are being taken by the Community of Democracies to elevate the role of civil society.

Last summer in Lithuania, we agreed our countries needed to increase support for the Community. And I would like to announce two steps the United States is taking. First, we intend to provide up to a million dollars for the Community of Democracies this year – half in support of Mongolia’s democracy and good governance initiatives and half to fund the activities and programs of the Permanent Secretariat in Warsaw. This support reflects our determination to build a more action-oriented Community that strengthens cooperation among democracies worldwide.

Second, we will send a full-time staff member to the Permanent Secretariat to support the Community’s ongoing activities. I hope other members of the governing council will join us in following through on our commitments to provide the Permanent Secretariat with the resources and personnel to carry out its work. This was a very important step. Now we have to make sure that it can function as we hope.

Last year, we also discussed the need to provide support for emerging democracies. And over the past 12 months, we’ve deployed new democracy support task forces in Moldova and Tunisia. In the future, we hope the Community can help support reform in Burma and Kyrgyzstan as well. And I know that Roza Otunbayeva has great interest in seeing that we do just that.

Earlier today, we launched a new Community of Democracies initiative, the LEND Network for Leaders Engaged in New Democracies. And LEND will use the latest communications technology to give leaders access to a global network of experts to share best practices on building institutions, implementing democratic reform, and strengthening the rule of law. The Community of Democracies is proving that we can take on big challenges, follow through on our commitments, and help strengthen democracy and civil society worldwide. And I think actually now, more than ever, is such the right time for this Community because the world needs what this organization has to offer.

So I’m very pleased to be here with you and once again reaffirm our deep commitment to our shared democratic ideals. I look forward to continuing the cooperation between the United States and the Community of Democracies to advance our agenda. And I once again thank the Government of Mongolia for hosting us. (Applause.)

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While I posted Mme. Secretary’s pictures connected with speaking events in Mongolia today, I did not have a chance to share these depicting her stroll  through Sukhbaatar Square with Mongolian Foreign Minister Gombojav Zandanshatar and Mongolian Ambassador to U.S. Bekhbat Khasbazar on her way to a greeting ceremony at the parliament building.  The huge statue is Chenggis Khan.  We also see her visiting with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj at the President’s Yurt (a traditional Mongolian building).  The democratically elected Elbegdorj is a Harvard grad.

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By the way, for a charming movie about Mongolian culture, see The Weeping Camel about a baby camel whose mother rejects him and will not feed him,  and two little boys who go to the city and convince a music teacher at the conservatory to go play violin music to convince the mom camel to nurse the baby.  It’s lovely.  Every minute!

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Meets with the Staff and Families of Embassy Ulaanbaatar

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
July 9, 2012

Well, it is so wonderful to be here – to be back again in Mongolia – to see all the changes over the last 17 years. And I want to thank the Ambassador and Mrs. Addleton for all of their leadership. They will be well remembered. I had so many nice compliments about your work here, Ambassador, from the Mongolian officials. And I know that you started coming to Mongolia representing the United States almost a dozen years ago. And I imagine that you will be still connected somehow to Mongolia for the years to come.

I certainly remember being here 17 years ago as First Lady. Soviet aid had been withdrawn, the economy was imploding, Mongolia was isolated. It was a very challenging time, but I was impressed by the young people and by the officials with whom I met. I saw that there was a real resilience and a dedication to the country. And now, 17 years later, I can see it in action. I also remember visiting what was then the Embassy, which was a house and a garage. (Laughter.) And I have with me Ambassador Victoria Nuland – come on up here, Toria – who opened our mission in 1989 at the – (applause) – Ulaanbaatar Hotel. So she’s marveling at all of the changes as well.

And I want to thank you for everything you’re doing to support Mongolian democracy, the Mongolian economy, Mongolian civil society. In just the past year, you’ve helped to monitor elections, to really strengthen civil society organizations, broker a deal with Boeing to supply three new airplanes. You get to travel to the most remote parts of the country – I’m very jealous, because I would love to do that as well – you’re helping to improve vocational training, to protect the environment, and your work is producing real results. U.S. exports increased from just 40 million in 2009 to more than 300 million last year. Seventy thousand families living on the edge of the city now have fuel-efficient cookstoves, which saves lives, prevents disease, and fights climate change.

And I know you sometimes face some pretty daunting odds in doing your work. You travel with Arctic-tested sleeping bags just in case the temperature dips below 40 degrees. One group of employees crossed the Gobi Desert. They had to fix a flat on their tire five times, but they persevered just like the Mongolian people. You volunteer at vet clinics, hammer nails for Habitat for Humanity, participate in runs for the environment, help the people with disabilities find jobs.

And I particularly want to thank our locally-engaged staff. You could not be a better representative of the friendship between our two countries. We really rely on you. We’re grateful to you. I also want to thank the families of all our employees. You’ve made real sacrifices for which we are very grateful. You’ve demonstrated such a commitment. I’m really excited about the future for Mongolia and to broaden and strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

Over the last 25 years, we’ve seen a lot of progress. I think we can see even more. I think you’ll have a chance in just a few days to enjoy the upcoming Naadam festivities. I wish I could stay; I’m quite disappointed. But I’ve told the President I intend to come back and to bring my husband, who keeps – he keeps saying the only thing that he’s envious of is that I’ve been Mongolia twice – (laughter) – and he hasn’t been here yet. So we will remedy that, I am sure. But I will take with me even new and fond memories, and they would not be possible without the hard work that each and every one of you do.

So thank you again very much, and I would love to shake some hands. (Applause.)

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Remarks to the Launch of Leaders Engaged in New Democracies Network

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Government House
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
July 9, 2012

Thank you. Thank you, President Elbegdorj, and it’s wonderful to be back here in Mongolia and see this young, vibrant democracy in action. And it’s a pleasure to be here with all of you this afternoon to help launch the LEND Network, a new tool that will help countries navigate the transition to sustainable democracy.

When my colleague Minister Urmas Paet and I first announced this initiative back in March, we had three principles in mind: First, new democracies can and should learn from those that have already made the transition, overcome some of the obstacles, and have matured. Over the past two decades, more than 40 countries became democracies, and that represents a wealth of hard-won knowledge that we need to capture and share. Second, the pace of political change is accelerating and we have to try to keep up. That’s why we think leaders in emerging democracies can benefit from having access to immediate, on-demand information. And third, this task is too big for governments alone. We believe we should tap into the expertise and resources of the private sector and civil society.

I want to thank my colleague from the State Department, Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, for his work as our Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, and also to thank Maria Leissner, the new Secretary General of the Community of Democracies.

Now you will see the principles that I outlined at work in the LEND Network. It employs the latest communications technology, including tablet computers and video conferencing, to create an online forum where leaders can exchange information on building their own democracies and answering questions. I was just walking and talking to the President, who was telling me that he had just been in Kyrgyzstan. And the former President of Kyrgyzstan is here talking about democracy and she was saying how important it was to have a president from a neighboring country come and validate what they are trying to do, and frankly also encourage leaders to make some of the hard decisions to keep going.

So the LEND Network is designed to give people the information they need when they need it. And in a minute, we’ll get to see the network in action when the Foreign Minister of Moldova conducts a live video chat with his former counterpart from Slovakia.

Now let me thank all of the partners who came together to launch this project, starting with the Community of Democracies. We have said that we want the Community of Democracies to be a forum for action, not just words, and this is exactly the kind of effort we have in mind. I also want to thank Estonia for co-chairing the LEND Working Group and particularly the Foreign Minister, also Sweden and Chile, for their invaluable support. And I applaud the emerging democracies that are joining the network and the volunteer advisors from over 20 countries. And I thank our private sector partners Google, OpenText, and Dialcom, as well as the Club of Madrid for their contributions. As you can see, it takes a lot of partners to launch a project as ambitious as this one, and I encourage other countries – emerging and established democracies alike – to join the LEND Network.

Now we are very much aware that no single project can solve every problem that emerging democracies encounter, but we truly believe that if we keep working together and sharing the lessons we learn, we can help more countries make a successful transition to democracy. And that in turn, we believe, makes the world safer and more prosperous for all of us. So I’m very excited about this initiative, and it’s now my great pleasure to introduce my friend and my colleague, the Foreign Minister of Estonia.

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Remarks to the International Women’s Leadership Forum

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Government House
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
July 9, 2012

Well, good afternoon, everyone, and it’s a great honor for me to be here once again in Mongolia, and to have a chance to speak to the democratic progress that Mongolia has made and the example that has been set. Mr. President, I believe as strongly today as I did then that Mongolia is an inspiration and a model, and I thank you for your leadership and vision. Foreign Minister, thank you for your partnership as we have worked together not only between the United States and Mongolia, but also as Mongolia has chaired the Community of Democracies.

And I can – I am delighted to commend Mongolia for convening this International Women’s Leadership Forum, and it’s a great honor for me to be here on the stage along with Kim Campbell and along with Ms. Kang, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Deputy from the United Nations. I see in the audience a wonderful friend, someone who was the first woman president of Kyrgyzstan. Roza, it’s wonderful to see you and please, let’s give you a round of applause. (Applause.) And Ambassador Leissner, who will be leading the efforts of the Community of Democracies, and to all the officials here in Mongolia, particularly to the newly elected women members of the parliament, congratulations. (Applause.)

If there is one characteristic that every strong democracy in the world shares, it is that they are fully open to all of their citizens – men and women – and a democracy without the participation of women is a contradiction in terms. So whenever we talk about how to support democracy, we must be sure that women are not just a part of the discussion, but at the table to help lead that discussion, and to remain committed to helping more women worldwide gain roles in their governments, their economies, and their civil societies.

I’m delighted that here in Mongolia, supporting the rise of women leaders is a national priority. The number of women in parliament tripled after the recent elections, as the President said and as you just saw. And these women are blazing a path for all Mongolians who have the drive and desire to serve, to follow. And Mr. President, I love the way you ended your remarks, that you hope someday there will be a woman president of Mongolia. So I think the United States and Mongolia should be in a race to see who gets there first. (Applause.)

Seventeen years ago, when I was the First Lady of my nation, I made an unforgettable trip to Ulaanbaatar. And like many who came here, I was enchanted certainly by the nation’s beauty, but by its hospitality and particularly the energy and determination of its people. And I was especially inspired by the Mongolian people’s commitment to democracy. Against long odds, surrounded by powerful neighbors who had their own ideas about Mongolia’s future, the Mongolian people came together with great courage to transform a one-party Communist dictatorship into a pluralistic, democratic political system.

During my trip 17 years ago, I was delighted to give a speech at the Mongolian National University, and there I offered a challenge to anyone who would suggest that freedom and democracy are exclusively Western concepts. The answer was simple. I said, “Let them come to Mongolia. Let them see people willing to hold demonstrations in subzero temperatures and travel long distances to cast their ballots in elections.” So great was their commitment to making Mongolia’s democracy strong.

And since that time, Mongolia has held six successful rounds of parliamentary elections. You recently passed a long-awaited freedom of information law giving your citizens a clearer view into the workings of their government. On Mongolian TV, people from across the political spectrum openly and vigorously debate ideas. And Mongolians deserve our support today as you work to improve freedom of the press, hold the symbol of fair elections to an even higher standard, and root out corruptions of all kinds wherever it may be found in order to build a durable democracy. Now here we are. We have all come to Mongolia to reaffirm our support from democracy in the region and the world, and in particular, to highlight the role and opportunities for women in democracies.

Now I have come here as part of an extended trip across Asia. Yesterday, I attended a conference in Japan, one of our most important democratic allies, to help support a fledgling democracy, Afghanistan. Tomorrow, I will travel to Vietnam and then on to Laos, where I will be the first Secretary of State to visit that country in 57 years. And then later, I will join leaders from across the region in Cambodia for the ASEAN Regional Forum. My trip reflects a strategic priority of American foreign policy today. After 10 years in which we had to focus a great deal of attention on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is making substantially increased investments – diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise – in this part of the world. It’s what is called our pivot toward Asia.

As President Obama and I have described, we want to help build an open, stable, and just regional order in the Asia Pacific based on norms and institutions that benefit all nations and all peoples. And therefore, our strategy incorporates three broad dimensions of America’s engagement – security, economic, and common values. The first, security, has of course gotten a lot of attention recently. And while it is very important, it is only one part of our strategic engagement. We view our economic outreach in Asia as equally vital, and I will be speaking about that throughout this trip.

But I have to say that in many ways, the heart of our strategy, the piece that binds all the rest of it together, is our support for democracy and human rights. Those are not only my nation’s most cherished values; they are the birthright of every person born in the world. They are the values that speak to the dignity of every human being. They are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making clear that these are not to be given by a government to any individual, because every individual already owns them. And together, the elements of security, economics, and common values undergird our vision of a region that is peaceful, prosperous, and free.

This is the right time to be reminding ourselves about the importance of democracy in Asia as many countries grapple with the question of which model of governance best suits their societies and circumstances, because the path they choose will shape the lives of billions of people of the region and beyond. And what we want for the people of this region, as we do for the entire world, is that you be free to make these choices for yourselves, because people who are free to choose overwhelmingly choose democracy.

Why? Well, because it offers people the chance to live with dignity and to create better lives for their children; it offers societies the best way to resolve disputes peacefully and to share a common vision for one’s society and nation; and by every measure, democracies make better neighbors and partners to other nations. They are more innovative, they tap into the free expression and intellectual capital of the people of their democracy. They inspire people to try to solve problems themselves, not just relying on their government. They give people a way to devote energy to productive political and civic engagement which reduces the allure of extremism. And open societies offer more opportunities for economic, educational, cultural, and people-to-people exchanges which are part of the foundation for peace. So working to expand the global Community of Democracies is not just the right thing to do; it is also the strategically smart thing to do. And as we have seen here in Mongolia, everyone has a stake in the growth of democracy.

Now I know there are some who will say that while democracy can work well elsewhere in the world, it isn’t perfectly at home in Asia. They suggest that it is unsuited to this region’s history, maybe even antithetical to Asian values. Well, I think all we have to do is look at what is happening across Asia today, in countries large and small, to rebut these notions. During the past five years, Asia has been the only region in the world to achieve steady gains in political rights and civil liberties, according to the nongovernmental organization Freedom House.

Consider Thailand, which has overcome sharp political differences and military rule to restore democratic governance. The people of Taiwan recently held vigorous but peaceful presidential elections. And Timor-Leste, Asia’s youngest democracy, held parliamentary elections just this weekend. The Philippines held elections that were widely praised as a significant improvement over previous ones, and also they launched a concerted effort to fight corruption and increase transparency in government. In India, the world’s largest democracy, more than 1 million women have served in local elected offices in villages and cities across the country, working every day, and producing results that improve the lives of citizens. It’s as the President said; they’ve improved the lives for children, improved the lives for people with disabilities, improved the lives for the elderly, improved the lives for other women.

And consider all that has been achieved in Burma. After decades of military rule, the government there released political prisoners, passed laws allowing the formation and operation of political parties, taken steps to protect the freedom of expression, and has begun to make efforts to heal bitter ethnic divisions. And Aung San Suu Kyi, who for decades was the imprisoned conscience of her nation, is now able to speak freely and take her rightful place serving in parliament.

These and other achievements across the region show what is possible. And they stand in stark contrast to those governments that continue to resist reforms, that work around the clock to restrict people’s access to ideas and information, to imprison them for expressing their views, to usurp the rights of citizens to choose their leaders, to govern without accountability, to corrupt the economic progress of the country and take the riches onto themselves. At this decisive moment, as governments across Asia are weighing the future and courageous people everywhere are working for change, the United States and likeminded nations and organizations are called upon to make the case for democracy loudly and clearly. Those who oppose democracy rely on a few arguments, which we must counter at every turn.

Their first argument is that democracy threatens stability. But in fact, democracy fosters stability. It is true that clamping down on political expression or maintaining a tight grip on what people read or say or see can create the illusion of security, but illusions fade because people’s yearning for liberty do not. By contrast, democracy provides a critical safety valve for society. It allows people to select their leaders, it gives those leaders legitimacy to make difficult but necessary decisions for the national good, and it lets those in the minority express their views peacefully, and that helps ensure stability and continuity through political transitions.

Another argument we sometimes hear is that democracy is a privilege belonging to wealthy countries, that developing economies need to put economic growth first and worry about democracy later. Now Asia does have several examples of countries that have achieved initial economic successes without meaningful political reform, but that too is a shortsighted and ultimately unsustainable bargain. You cannot over the long run have economic liberalization without political liberalization. Countries that want to be open for business but closed to free expression will find the approach comes with a cost. It kills innovation, discourages entrepreneurship which are vital for sustainable growth. Without the rule of law, people with a good business idea or money to invest cannot trust that contracts will be respected and corruption punished, or that regulations will be transparent and disputes resolved fairly, and many will end up looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Countries that deny their workers their universal rights, including the right to unionize, pay a cost in lost productivity and greater labor unrest. And furthermore, it’s a losing battle because when economic empowerment finally takes root, when a middle class is formed, popular demands grow for a say in politics and governance. Anyone who doubts that political openness and prosperity go hand-in-hand only have to look to South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan – democratic societies that have delivered tremendous economic benefits. Or look right here in Mongolia, where gross domestic product is growing by double digits. And we’ve seen very clearly that parliamentary elections go hand-in-hand with greater economic opportunity.

Now of course, successful democracies are not created over night. Ours wasn’t. We’ve been at this for a very long time, as you know. And it took quite a number of years to work out many of our challenges. And several of the places I’ve mentioned have only started their journey toward democracy within the last 20 or so years. It takes time to build a strong democracy. And it doesn’t only begin and end with the first free election. In fact, too many places try to pretend they’re democracies because they held one election one time. But we know that is not democracy at all; it is authoritarianism by just a different guise.

As we look at the unique strengths, challenges, and histories of individual nations, we know everyone has to find their own path. But we can learn from each other, we can encourage each other, we can hold each other accountable. We can find the best ways to strengthen the rule of law, to tackle corruption, how to support civil society. And the Community of Democracies helps us do all of these things.

The Community’s new task forces in Tunisia and Moldova are delivering concrete support to countries undergoing promising transitions. It is also playing a key role in defending civil society. And later this afternoon, I will help launch a new Community of Democracies initiative, The LEND Network, that will use 21st century technologies to support leaders in emerging democracies.

The United States wants to be a strong partner to all those who are dedicated to human rights and fundamental freedoms. And it is one of the reasons why we so highly value the role of women, because for us it is just a given that unless we have women involved at every stage, we cannot achieve the promise of democracy.

When I was here 17 years ago, I had just come from the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, which had been held in Beijing. There, I said that women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights. Well, that is as true today as it was then. I’m very pleased that we’ve seen progress since then. Not enough, and not everywhere, but we can see what can be accomplished by staying focused on the role and rights of women. And as we elect more women to more high-level positions, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We also think it’s important that women themselves network to support each other, which is why this conference is essential, because there are some specific challenges that women in leadership positions face. And we need to be sure that we share information, share experiences, and support each other. And it’s often women coming from civil society, from NGOs, that assume a role in democratic politics. That’s why protecting civil society is especially important for women.

So we speak out against repressive laws and harassment of civil society. We’ve created an emergency fund for NGOs and individuals who come under threat. We have strongly supported a Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly at the UN Human Rights Council. We have created a new global forum, the Open Government Partnership, to promote transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. And we speak out on behalf of marginalized people – racial, religious, ethnic minorities, LGBT people, and yes, still women.

I’ve said before that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia, and it may turn out to be a century in which economies grow, conflicts are avoided, security is strengthened, and those would be good outcomes and we are working hard to achieve them.

But they will not be sustainable unless we are also working to reinforce an architecture of rights-based rule of law in every nation in every region of the world. We need to make the 21st century a time in which people across Asia don’t only become wealthy; they also must become more free. And each of us can help make that happen through our policies, our programs and our actions. And if we do, the benefit is not only will people be more free, but they will be more secure and more prosperous. If we don’t, we will limit the human and economic potential of this great region.

So as members of this vibrant Community of Democracies, let us rededicate ourselves to the shared mission of protecting the rights of people everywhere. And here in Asia, let’s rededicate ourselves to building a freer region. And as we do that, I can say with the same level of certainty that I felt at 17 years ago, if you want to see democracy in action, if you want to see progress being shaped by leaders who are more concerned about lifting up their people than fattening their bank accounts, come to Mongolia. If you want to see women assuming more and more positions of responsibility rather than being marginalized and left behind, come to Mongolia.

So for me – (applause) – there could not be a better place, Mr. President, to talk about the necessity of our working together to ensure that more nations in Asia look like Mongolia, provide opportunities to their people as you are working to do here, hold up women and their rights and opportunities as part of the national treasure of their country. So yes, let them come to Mongolia. They will not be disappointed. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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Well finally the State Department has released details about Mme. Secretary’s current travel itinerary.  Here goes – it is extensive – just under two weeks.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Travel to France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 5, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel departing Washington, D.C. on July 5.

In Paris on July 6, Secretary Clinton will attend the third meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People. At that meeting, the Secretary will consult with her colleagues on steps to increase pressure on the Assad regime and to support UN-Arab League Special Envoy Annan’s efforts to end the violence and facilitate a political transition to a post-Assad Syria. Secretary Clinton will consult with French leaders regarding next steps on Syria as well as on a number of other key areas of global concern. As part of her ongoing consultations with senior Palestinian and Israeli leaders, the Secretary will also meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss both parties’ efforts to pursue a dialogue and build on President Abbas’ exchange of letters with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Secretary will then travel to Tokyo to attend the July 8 Conference on Afghanistan, where she will reaffirm our enduring commitment to the Afghan people and join the international community in supporting Afghanistan’s development needs for the “transformation decade” to begin in 2015. As part of the mutual commitments made by the international community and Afghanistan at the Bonn conference last December, the Afghan Government in turn will lay out its plan for economic reform and continued steps toward good governance. She will also have discussions with Japanese Government counterparts on bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual concern.

In Ulaanbaatar on July 9, Secretary Clinton will meet with President Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Batbold and address the meeting of the Governing Board of the Community of Democracies, as well as an international women’s conference.

In Hanoi on July 10, the Secretary will meet with senior Vietnamese leaders. She will witness the signing of several agreements covering education exchanges and commercial contracts and meet with representatives of U.S. and Vietnamese business communities.

Secretary Clinton will arrive in Vientiane on July 11. This groundbreaking visit to Laos marks the first by a Secretary of State in 57 years. The Secretary will meet with Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and other senior government officials to discuss a variety of bilateral and regional issues, including the Lower Mekong Initiative and ASEAN integration efforts.

Secretary Clinton will arrive in Phnom Penh on July 11 to participate in regional conferences, to both chair and attend ministerial events and to participate in bilateral meetings with Cambodian officials. Regional conferences include the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting, and the U.S.-ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference. Secretary Clinton will co-chair the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Ministerial as well as chair the Friends of the Lower Mekong Ministerial Meeting. Secretary Clinton will also participate in bilateral meetings with senior Cambodian leadership. After Phnom Penh, Secretary Clinton will travel to Siem Reap to lead the largest delegation of U.S. business representatives to Cambodia for an ASEAN event at the ‘Commitment to Connectivity – U.S.-ASEAN Business Forum.’ While in Siem Reap, Secretary Clinton will deliver the keynote address at the Lower Mekong Initiative Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Dialogue on July 13.

On July 14, Secretary Clinton will travel to Egypt to express the United States’ support for Egypt’s democratic transition and economic development. From July 15-16, she will meet with senior government officials, civil society, and business leaders, and inaugurate the U.S. Consulate General in Alexandria.

This will be followed by a stop in Israel on July 16-17, where she will be meeting with the Israeli leadership to discuss peace efforts and a range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual concern.

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America’s Pacific Century

Op-Ed

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Foreign Policy Magazine
October 11, 2011

 


The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.

As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans — the Pacific and the Indian — that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, U.S. commitment there is essential. It will help build that architecture and pay dividends for continued American leadership well into this century, just as our post-World War II commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions and relationships has paid off many times over — and continues to do so. The time has come for the United States to make similar investments as a Pacific power, a strategic course set by President Barack Obama from the outset of his administration and one that is already yielding benefits.

With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward — we cannot afford not to. From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work abroad holds the key to our prosperity and security at home. For more than six decades, the United States has resisted the gravitational pull of these “come home” debates and the implicit zero-sum logic of these arguments. We must do so again.

Beyond our borders, people are also wondering about America’s intentions — our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make — and keep — credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action. The answer is: We can, and we will.

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players.

Just as Asia is critical to America’s future, an engaged America is vital to Asia’s future. The region is eager for our leadership and our business — perhaps more so than at any time in modern history. We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good. Along with our allies, we have underwritten regional security for decades — patrolling Asia’s sea lanes and preserving stability — and that in turn has helped create the conditions for growth. We have helped integrate billions of people across the region into the global economy by spurring economic productivity, social empowerment, and greater people-to-people links. We are a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits workers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific, a host to 350,000 Asian students every year, a champion of open markets, and an advocate for universal human rights.

President Obama has led a multifaceted and persistent effort to embrace fully our irreplaceable role in the Pacific, spanning the entire U.S. Government. It has often been a quiet effort. A lot of our work has not been on the front pages, both because of its nature — long-term investment is less exciting than immediate crises — and because of competing headlines in other parts of the world.

As Secretary of State, I broke with tradition and embarked on my first official overseas trip to Asia. In my seven trips since, I have had the privilege to see firsthand the rapid transformations taking place in the region, underscoring how much the future of the United States is intimately intertwined with the future of the Asia-Pacific. A strategic turn to the region fits logically into our overall global effort to secure and sustain America’s global leadership. The success of this turn requires maintaining and advancing a bipartisan consensus on the importance of the Asia-Pacific to our national interests; we seek to build upon a strong tradition of engagement by presidents and secretaries of state of both parties across many decades. It also requires smart execution of a coherent regional strategy that accounts for the global implications of our choices.

What does that regional strategy look like? For starters, it calls for a sustained commitment to what I have called “forward-deployed” diplomacy. That means continuing to dispatch the full range of our diplomatic assets — including our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets — to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.

By virtue of our unique geography, the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. We are proud of our European partnerships and all that they deliver. Our challenge now is to build a web of partnerships and institutions across the Pacific that is as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic. That is the touchstone of our efforts in all these areas.

Our treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand are the fulcrum for our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific. They have underwritten regional peace and security for more than half a century, shaping the environment for the region’s remarkable economic ascent. They leverage our regional presence and enhance our regional leadership at a time of evolving security challenges.

As successful as these alliances have been, we can’t afford simply to sustain them — we need to update them for a changing world. In this effort, the Obama Administration is guided by three core principles. First, we have to maintain political consensus on the core objectives of our alliances. Second, we have to ensure that our alliances are nimble and adaptive so that they can successfully address new challenges and seize new opportunities. Third, we have to guarantee that the defense capabilities and communications infrastructure of our alliances are operationally and materially capable of deterring provocation from the full spectrum of state and nonstate actors.

The alliance with Japan, the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region, demonstrates how the Obama Administration is giving these principles life. We share a common vision of a stable regional order with clear rules of the road — from freedom of navigation to open markets and fair competition. We have agreed to a new arrangement, including a contribution from the Japanese Government of more than $5 billion, to ensure the continued enduring presence of American forces in Japan, while expanding joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities to deter and react quickly to regional security challenges, as well as information sharing to address cyberthreats. We have concluded an Open Skies Agreement that will enhance access for businesses and people-to-people ties, launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific, and been working hand in hand as the two largest donor countries in Afghanistan.

Similarly, our alliance with South Korea has become stronger and more operationally integrated, and we continue to develop our combined capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean provocations. We have agreed on a plan to ensure successful transition of operational control during wartime and anticipate successful passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. And our alliance has gone global, through our work together in the G-20 and the Nuclear Security Summit and through our common efforts in Haiti and Afghanistan.

We are also expanding our alliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one, and indeed a global partnership. From cybersecurity to Afghanistan to the Arab Awakening to strengthening regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific, Australia’s counsel and commitment have been indispensable. And in Southeast Asia, we are renewing and strengthening our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand, increasing, for example, the number of ship visits to the Philippines and working to ensure the successful training of Filipino counterterrorism forces through our Joint Special Operations Task Force in Mindanao. In Thailand — our oldest treaty partner in Asia — we are working to establish a hub of regional humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in the region.

As we update our alliances for new demands, we are also building new partnerships to help solve shared problems. Our outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries is all part of a broader effort to ensure a more comprehensive approach to American strategy and engagement in the region. We are asking these emerging partners to join us in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order.

One of the most prominent of these emerging partners is, of course, China. Like so many other countries before it, China has prospered as part of the open and rules-based system that the United States helped to build and works to sustain. And today, China represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage. This calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship, an approach to China on our part that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests.

We all know that fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. But you cannot build a relationship on aspirations alone. It is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation — and, crucially, to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations. These are the things that will determine whether our relationship delivers on its potential in the years to come. We also have to be honest about our differences. We will address them firmly and decisively as we pursue the urgent work we have to do together. And we have to avoid unrealistic expectations.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, one of my top priorities has been to identify and expand areas of common interest, to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China’s active efforts in global problem-solving. This is why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and I launched the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the most intensive and expansive talks ever between our governments, bringing together dozens of agencies from both sides to discuss our most pressing bilateral issues, from security to energy to human rights.

We are also working to increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation or miscues between our militaries. The United States and the international community have watched China’s efforts to modernize and expand its military, and we have sought clarity as to its intentions. Both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency. So we look to Beijing to overcome its reluctance at times and join us in forging a durable military-to-military dialogue. And we need to work together to strengthen the Strategic Security Dialogue, which brings together military and civilian leaders to discuss sensitive issues like maritime security and cybersecurity.

As we build trust together, we are committed to working with China to address critical regional and global security issues. This is why I have met so frequently — often in informal settings — with my Chinese counterparts, State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, for candid discussions about important challenges like North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and developments in the South China Sea.

On the economic front, the United States and China need to work together to ensure strong, sustained, and balanced future global growth. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the United States and China worked effectively through the G-20 to help pull the global economy back from the brink. We have to build on that cooperation. U.S. firms want fair opportunities to export to China’s growing markets, which can be important sources of jobs here in the United States, as well as assurances that the $50 billion of American capital invested in China will create a strong foundation for new market and investment opportunities that will support global competitiveness. At the same time, Chinese firms want to be able to buy more high-tech products from the United States, make more investments here, and be accorded the same terms of access that market economies enjoy. We can work together on these objectives, but China still needs to take important steps toward reform. In particular, we are working with China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. and other foreign companies or against their innovative technologies, remove preferences for domestic firms, and end measures that disadvantage or appropriate foreign intellectual property. And we look to China to take steps to allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly, both against the dollar and against the currencies of its other major trading partners. Such reforms, we believe, would not only benefit both our countries (indeed, they would support the goals of China’s own five-year plan, which calls for more domestic-led growth), but also contribute to global economic balance, predictability, and broader prosperity.

Of course, we have made very clear, publicly and privately, our serious concerns about human rights. And when we see reports of public-interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others who are detained or disappeared, the United States speaks up, both publicly and privately, with our concerns about human rights. We make the case to our Chinese colleagues that a deep respect for international law and a more open political system would provide China with a foundation for far greater stability and growth — and increase the confidence of China’s partners. Without them, China is placing unnecessary limitations on its own development.

At the end of the day, there is no handbook for the evolving U.S.-China relationship. But the stakes are much too high for us to fail. As we proceed, we will continue to embed our relationship with China in a broader regional framework of security alliances, economic networks, and social connections.

Among key emerging powers with which we will work closely are India and Indonesia, two of the most dynamic and significant democratic powers of Asia, and both countries with which the Obama administration has pursued broader, deeper, and more purposeful relationships. The stretch of sea from the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to the Pacific contains the world’s most vibrant trade and energy routes. Together, India and Indonesia already account for almost a quarter of the world’s population. They are key drivers of the global economy, important partners for the United States, and increasingly central contributors to peace and security in the region. And their importance is likely to grow in the years ahead.

President Obama told the Indian parliament last year that the relationship between India and America will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, rooted in common values and interests. There are still obstacles to overcome and questions to answer on both sides, but the United States is making a strategic bet on India’s future — that India’s greater role on the world stage will enhance peace and security, that opening India’s markets to the world will pave the way to greater regional and global prosperity, that Indian advances in science and technology will improve lives and advance human knowledge everywhere, and that India’s vibrant, pluralistic democracy will produce measurable results and improvements for its citizens and inspire others to follow a similar path of openness and tolerance. So the Obama administration has expanded our bilateral partnership; actively supported India’s Look East efforts, including through a new trilateral dialogue with India and Japan; and outlined a new vision for a more economically integrated and politically stable South and Central Asia, with India as a linchpin.

We are also forging a new partnership with Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and a member of the G-20. We have resumed joint training of Indonesian special forces units and signed a number of agreements on health, educational exchanges, science and technology, and defense. And this year, at the invitation of the Indonesian government, President Obama will inaugurate American participation in the East Asia Summit. But there is still some distance to travel — we have to work together to overcome bureaucratic impediments, lingering historical suspicions, and some gaps in understanding each other’s perspectives and interests.

Even as we strengthen these bilateral relationships, we have emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation, for we believe that addressing complex transnational challenges of the sort now faced by Asia requires a set of institutions capable of mustering collective action. And a more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia would reinforce the system of rules and responsibilities, from protecting intellectual property to ensuring freedom of navigation, that form the basis of an effective international order. In multilateral settings, responsible behavior is rewarded with legitimacy and respect, and we can work together to hold accountable those who undermine peace, stability, and prosperity.

So the United States has moved to fully engage the region’s multilateral institutions, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, mindful that our work with regional institutions supplements and does not supplant our bilateral ties. There is a demand from the region that America play an active role in the agenda-setting of these institutions — and it is in our interests as well that they be effective and responsive.

That is why President Obama will participate in the East Asia Summit for the first time in November. To pave the way, the United States has opened a new U.S. Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. Our focus on developing a more results-oriented agenda has been instrumental in efforts to address disputes in the South China Sea. In 2010, at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, the United States helped shape a regionwide effort to protect unfettered access to and passage through the South China Sea, and to uphold the key international rules for defining territorial claims in the South China Sea’s waters. Given that half the world’s merchant tonnage flows through this body of water, this was a consequential undertaking. And over the past year, we have made strides in protecting our vital interests in stability and freedom of navigation and have paved the way for sustained multilateral diplomacy among the many parties with claims in the South China Sea, seeking to ensure disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with established principles of international law.

We have also worked to strengthen APEC as a serious leaders-level institution focused on advancing economic integration and trade linkages across the Pacific. After last year’s bold call by the group for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, President Obama will host the 2011 APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii this November. We are committed to cementing APEC as the Asia-Pacific’s premier regional economic institution, setting the economic agenda in a way that brings together advanced and emerging economies to promote open trade and investment, as well as to build capacity and enhance regulatory regimes. APEC and its work help expand U.S. exports and create and support high-quality jobs in the United States, while fostering growth throughout the region. APEC also provides a key vehicle to drive a broad agenda to unlock the economic growth potential that women represent. In this regard, the United States is committed to working with our partners on ambitious steps to accelerate the arrival of the Participation Age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.

In addition to our commitment to these broader multilateral institutions, we have worked hard to create and launch a number of “minilateral” meetings, small groupings of interested states to tackle specific challenges, such as the Lower Mekong Initiative we launched to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands Forum, where we are working to support its members as they confront challenges from climate change to overfishing to freedom of navigation. We are also starting to pursue new trilateral opportunities with countries as diverse as Mongolia, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, and South Korea. And we are setting our sights as well on enhancing coordination and engagement among the three giants of the Asia-Pacific: China, India, and the United States.

In all these different ways, we are seeking to shape and participate in a responsive, flexible, and effective regional architecture — and ensure it connects to a broader global architecture that not only protects international stability and commerce but also advances our values.

Our emphasis on the economic work of APEC is in keeping with our broader commitment to elevate economic statecraft as a pillar of American foreign policy. Increasingly, economic progress depends on strong diplomatic ties, and diplomatic progress depends on strong economic ties. And naturally, a focus on promoting American prosperity means a greater focus on trade and economic openness in the Asia-Pacific. The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia. Last year, American exports to the Pacific Rim totaled $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs. So there is much that favors us as we think through this repositioning.

When I talk to my Asian counterparts, one theme consistently stands out: They still want America to be an engaged and creative partner in the region’s flourishing trade and financial interactions. And as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.

Last March in APEC meetings in Washington, and again in Hong Kong in July, I laid out four attributes that I believe characterize healthy economic competition: open, free, transparent, and fair. Through our engagement in the Asia-Pacific, we are helping to give shape to these principles and showing the world their value.

We are pursuing new cutting-edge trade deals that raise the standards for fair competition even as they open new markets. For instance, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports within five years and support an estimated 70,000 American jobs. Its tariff reductions alone could increase exports of American goods by more than $10 billion and help South Korea’s economy grow by 6 percent. It will level the playing field for U.S. auto companies and workers. So, whether you are an American manufacturer of machinery or a South Korean chemicals exporter, this deal lowers the barriers that keep you from reaching new customers.

We are also making progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will bring together economies from across the Pacific — developed and developing alike — into a single trading community. Our goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe trade agreements need to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. They should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. Ultimately, our progress will be measured by the quality of people’s lives — whether men and women can work in dignity, earn a decent wage, raise healthy families, educate their children, and take hold of the opportunities to improve their own and the next generation’s fortunes. Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements — and grow to serve as a platform for broader regional interaction and eventually a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

Achieving balance in our trade relationships requires a two-way commitment. That’s the nature of balance — it can’t be unilaterally imposed. So we are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness. American businesses and workers need to have confidence that they are operating on a level playing field, with predictable rules on everything from intellectual property to indigenous innovation.

Asia’s remarkable economic growth over the past decade and its potential for continued growth in the future depend on the security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military, including more than 50,000 American servicemen and servicewomen serving in Japan and South Korea. The challenges of today’s rapidly changing region — from territorial and maritime disputes to new threats to freedom of navigation to the heightened impact of natural disasters — require that the United States pursue a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture.

We are modernizing our basing arrangements with traditional allies in Northeast Asia — and our commitment on this is rock solid — while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean. For example, the United States will be deploying littoral combat ships to Singapore, and we are examining other ways to increase opportunities for our two militaries to train and operate together. And the United States and Australia agreed this year to explore a greater American military presence in Australia to enhance opportunities for more joint training and exercises. We are also looking at how we can increase our operational access in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region and deepen our contacts with allies and partners.

How we translate the growing connection between the Indian and Pacific oceans into an operational concept is a question that we need to answer if we are to adapt to new challenges in the region. Against this backdrop, a more broadly distributed military presence across the region will provide vital advantages. The United States will be better positioned to support humanitarian missions; equally important, working with more allies and partners will provide a more robust bulwark against threats or efforts to undermine regional peace and stability.

But even more than our military might or the size of our economy, our most potent asset as a nation is the power of our values — in particular, our steadfast support for democracy and human rights. This speaks to our deepest national character and is at the heart of our foreign policy, including our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific region.

As we deepen our engagement with partners with whom we disagree on these issues, we will continue to urge them to embrace reforms that would improve governance, protect human rights, and advance political freedoms. We have made it clear, for example, to Vietnam that our ambition to develop a strategic partnership requires that it take steps to further protect human rights and advance political freedoms. Or consider Burma, where we are determined to seek accountability for human rights violations. We are closely following developments in Nay Pyi Taw and the increasing interactions between Aung San Suu Kyi and the government leadership. We have underscored to the government that it must release political prisoners, advance political freedoms and human rights, and break from the policies of the past. As for North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang has shown persistent disregard for the rights of its people, and we continue to speak out forcefully against the threats it poses to the region and beyond.

We cannot and do not aspire to impose our system on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal — that people in every nation in the world, including in Asia, cherish them — and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Asia to pursue their own rights and aspirations, just as we have seen people do all over the world.

In the last decade, our foreign policy has transitioned from dealing with the post-Cold War peace dividend to demanding commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As those wars wind down, we will need to accelerate efforts to pivot to new global realities.

We know that these new realities require us to innovate, to compete, and to lead in new ways. Rather than pull back from the world, we need to press forward and renew our leadership. In a time of scarce resources, there’s no question that we need to invest them wisely where they will yield the biggest returns, which is why the Asia-Pacific represents such a real 21st-century opportunity for us.

Other regions remain vitally important, of course. Europe, home to most of our traditional allies, is still a partner of first resort, working alongside the United States on nearly every urgent global challenge, and we are investing in updating the structures of our alliance. The people of the Middle East and North Africa are charting a new path that is already having profound global consequences, and the United States is committed to active and sustained partnerships as the region transforms. Africa holds enormous untapped potential for economic and political development in the years ahead. And our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere are not just our biggest export partners; they are also playing a growing role in global political and economic affairs. Each of these regions demands American engagement and leadership.

And we are prepared to lead. Now, I’m well aware that there are those who question our staying power around the world. We’ve heard this talk before. At the end of the Vietnam War, there was a thriving industry of global commentators promoting the idea that America was in retreat, and it is a theme that repeats itself every few decades. But whenever the United States has experienced setbacks, we’ve overcome them through reinvention and innovation. Our capacity to come back stronger is unmatched in modern history. It flows from our model of free democracy and free enterprise, a model that remains the most powerful source of prosperity and progress known to humankind. I hear everywhere I go that the world still looks to the United States for leadership. Our military is by far the strongest, and our economy is by far the largest in the world. Our workers are the most productive. Our universities are renowned the world over. So there should be no doubt that America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership in this century as we did in the last.

As we move forward to set the stage for engagement in the Asia-Pacific over the next 60 years, we are mindful of the bipartisan legacy that has shaped our engagement for the past 60. And we are focused on the steps we have to take at home — increasing our savings, reforming our financial systems, relying less on borrowing, overcoming partisan division — to secure and sustain our leadership abroad.

This kind of pivot is not easy, but we have paved the way for it over the past two-and-a-half years, and we are committed to seeing it through as among the most important diplomatic efforts of our time.

 

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