Special Briefing
Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
New York City
September 27, 2010


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Secretary Clinton’s meeting with the Pacific Island leaders went a little long, so I’m happy to be with you.

MR. TRAN: Just on a quick little formatting issue here, what we’re first going to do is, we have people both here in the briefing room as well as on the conference call through our conference line. Assistant Secretary Campbell is going to say a few words to kind of talk a little bit about some of the meetings he’s had here in New York. And then after that, we’re going to open it up for a couple of questions here in New York, and then we’ll flip to the operator there in D.C. and then we’ll get a couple of questions from the operator there.

So I know everyone’s on tight schedules, so I’m going to go ahead and let Assistant Secretary Campbell start with some remarks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Good. And again, I just apologize to friends for being late here today.

There’s already been a substantial amount of reporting about what’s already transpired, and so my job really is to add some texture to the meetings that took place last week and today. I think as you all know, this week has been very heavy on U.S. engagement in the Asian Pacific region, and I want to say just a word about that.

I just came from the Secretary’s summit with Pacific Island leaders. When we say Asia Pacific, sometimes there’s too much focus on the A and not very much focus on the P, and the truth is that we have enormous strategic, moral, and political imperatives for stronger engagement in the Pacific. Many of these nations are longstanding American allies, support us in the United Nations, and we work closely with them on a range of important issues like climate change.

I, along with Secretary Clinton, were in the bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Kan and Premier Wen Jiabao. We also had a chance to participate in the historic, first ever U.S.-ASEAN summit held in the United States last week. During that session, we talked about a range of issues, including how to institutionalize this relationship between the United States and ASEAN, critical issues of mutual interest including the upcoming American engagement in the East Asia summit. Secretary Clinton will represent the United States in Vietnam later in October.

And then President Obama has committed to full presidential participation as part of the East Asia summit in Indonesia next year. After the East Asia summit, the President also had a very good session with President Aquino, congratulating him on his victory and also talking about the important areas of bilateral cooperation, including the recently signed Millennium Challenge Corporation grant to them.

I think what the week underscores is that the United States deeply appreciates and understands the strategic significance of what’s playing out in the Asian Pacific region, and we are attempting to step up our game, not simply in terms of strategic and political issues, but also in economic and other matters as well.

I think that’s probably a good segue. I’m happy to take any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

QUESTION: I have a couple. First of all, on the China-Japan issue and friction, I’m just wondering, there’s been some talk about observing treaty obligations, but at the same time not taking a position on the islands. And can you just talk about that delicate balance between obviously not wanting to antagonize China and needing to support China on so many important issues, but at the same time needing to state (inaudible) for Japan over your (inaudible) operations, and then I was also wondering if you could talk about Kim Jong-, I was just wondering if you can talk about Kim Jong-un as the kind of rank of general in the – in North Korea, and whether you think that this leads the way for an eventual transition.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think on the second question, the United States is watching developments in North Korea carefully, and we will be engaged with all of our partners in the Asian Pacific region as we try to assess the meaning of what’s transpiring there. But frankly, it’s still too early to tell in terms of next steps, or in fact, what’s going on inside the country’s leadership.

On the first question, I really don’t have much more to add beyond what Secretary Clinton said last week. We stand very strongly behind our treaty obligations, and at the same time, we do not take a position on the territorial issues associated with the islands. This is a longstanding American position and was reaffirmed quite clearly by the Obama Administration last week. I must say I think Prime Minister Kan has dealt with this issue – it’s a difficult issue – in a very statesman-like fashion. And it, I think, shows vision and an appreciation of how important it is for a peaceful diplomatic process to be conducted on issues like this.

QUESTION: And just one kind of related but aside on the South China Sea. The communiqué didn’t necessarily – the ASEAN communiqué didn’t necessarily mention the South China Sea per se, but the fact that all of these Asian leaders came in – ASEAN leaders came to meet with President Obama, do you think that signaled some kind of recognition that necessarily didn’t get on the communiqué, that ASEAN does need U.S. leadership on this issue and others?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Well, first of all, let me say in the discussion among the leaders, there was an extensive discussion of the South China Sea and the importance of maintaining peace and stability there and freedom of navigation. And in the statement issued by the White House, a very clear reference to these central tenets, you also saw in the joint statement a clear reference to maritime security, which really applies not just to the South China Sea, but throughout the region, and also respect for international law and the key issues of freedom of navigation, which again have been underlying features not only of the American position, but other key countries in the Asian Pacific for decades.

QUESTION: And on the other hand, I’ve spoken to ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin after that ASEAN-U.S. summit, and he told me that it was only the foreign minister of Burma who mentioned about the upcoming election in passing, and President Obama didn’t say anything, or it wasn’t talked about in that meeting. Can you confirm that? And does that indicate somehow the election in Burma is not so much a priority for the U.S.?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: First of all, we had very deep discussions on a range of issues, and I’m not going to characterize every detail of the discussions that took place between the leaders. But the U.S. position has been very clear over the course of the last several weeks that we are disappointed by the steps that the government has taken in advance of the upcoming election, and we see no signs that there will be legitimacy associated with this process. And recent reports that balloting will be deeply restricted in ethnic areas is worrisome.

All that being said, we also recognize that after the elections, there may be a different correlation of players, different relationships, different actors that may emerge that could create the opportunity for some sort of engagement that would advance not only American interests, but the interests of others in the region and the dispossessed inside the country as a whole.

QUESTION: Can I – can – just to follow up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes.

QUESTION: Because you have visited the country since the last (inaudible) year when America turned their policy from not talking to engagement. What sort of achievements that has resulted so far, you think?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think we’ve tried to be very honest and very clear in our assessments of our engagement strategy to date, and I think the benefits have been quite limited. And we have tried to underscore that this will be a longstanding process. It will not be an easy road, but that previous efforts at total isolation have failed as has frankly the efforts of complete open-arms engagement. We think the mixture of tactics and our overall approach are the right way to proceed, but we also understand that this overall effort is going to require substantial patience.

I will say that we think one of the benefits has been it has allowed us to have a different kind of dialogue with ASEAN. And I think in the past, our policy on Burma, on Myanmar, has made it difficult for certain kinds of engagement. I think the truth is that there is an overriding strategic priority on the part of the United States for a stronger engagement with ASEAN. We’ve attempted to undertake such a dialogue, such an engagement strategy. But at the same time, we’ve tried to stay true to our principles in being very clear about what our expectations are in terms of inside the country as a whole.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question for Japan-China region. So Japan come to China with compensation demands for coast guard ship damages, so even after the release of the captain, there still remain (inaudible). But do you also agree that Burma has been already (inaudible)? How do you see that situation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I’m not going to characterize the subsequent back and forth on these issues. I would simply say that I think that the Japanese decision to release the captain – it’s a difficult decision – but I think does show statesmanship on the part of the Kan administration and also the – of new Foreign Minister Maehara.

Yes.

QUESTION: China seems to (inaudible) exports of (inaudible) to Japan really (inaudible). Are you feeling (inaudible) and are you thinking to take any measure to prevent that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: On the specifics, I think the truth is that the United States, Japan, and China are deeply engaged in the global economy and that we all have a stake in the smooth functioning of the international economic situation and in terms of industrial capacity and the like. And I think any such moves would raise tensions and be profoundly – profoundly not in the interests of any of the member states. And so I don’t believe that such actions lead to increases in confidence; quite the contrary, they are worrisome. I must also say that there have been quite a lot of uncertainty associated with these reports.

So I would just simply suggest to you that in an environment where the level of integration among all of the nations of the Asian Pacific is very high, that that smooth functioning is in the best interest of all the key players.

MR. TRAN: Can we take one more question, if there’s one here in New York and then check the phone lines and see if there are any other questions out there? Do we have any other questions here in New York?

QUESTION: Well, if no one else is going –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: You’ll jump in.

QUESTION: But just back on North Korea, I understand what you’re saying about the discussion issue. In your discussions this week was there any – is there any movement that you’re assessing in terms of getting another round – you know, the (inaudible) region? I’m just wondering where things are headed towards a possible resumption.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: I think what we’ve tried to do is to be very clear in our deliberations with all of the key players that we expect, as a first step, that there needs to be a degree of reengagement between North and South Korea and that the North must take some steps to underscore their seriousness in terms of wanting a – not only a better relationship with South Korea, but also their commitment to fulfill the commitments that they made in 2005 associated with denuclearization and the like. And I think it would be fair to say that it’s still too early to tell in terms of next steps.

MR. TRAN: Okay, Lori, this is Michael up in New York. Do we have any calls on the line?

OPERATOR: Yes, we do, sir.

MR. TRAN: Okay. We’ll go ahead and take a couple from the phone line.

OPERATOR: Our first question comes from Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. You may ask your question.

QUESTION: My questions have both been asked and answered, so I will pass. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Thank you, Arshad.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Kate Prengel with Sankei Shimbun.

QUESTION: Oh, hi. It’s back on Myanmar or Burma. A couple of Security Council members, including (inaudible) the U.S. has called for a UN panel of inquiry into war crimes committed in Burma, and a lot of people have said that it can’t happen until after the election. Is that a possibility the U.S. is considering when you talk about new relationship (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yeah. I don’t think I’ll have very much to say on that issue at this time. I think what we have tried to indicate is that we have not ruled anything out either on this issue or others, including sanctions on the way forward. We are looking at what transpires in November in terms of the way forward. And we reserve the right to take steps either to respond to positive steps or negative ones.

MR. TRAN: Lori, if there’s another call on the line from D.C. Maybe we’ll take one more from there.

OPERATOR: Sir, at this time, I’m showing no more questions.

MR. TRAN: No more questions, okay. Any other questions from New York?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Anyone else? Yeah, there’s someone’s hand up. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Even if Kim Jong-un is named the (inaudible) for the North Koreans, it’s going to take some time for them to actually change the position. Do you expect there to be Six-Party Talks advancements this before there’s change in that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: The answer is: We just don’t know.

MR. TRAN: Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Okay. Thank you. Thank you all very much. And again, I’m sorry to keep you waiting.

MR. TRAN: We’re going to have Assistant Secretary Blake briefing at 4:30 now – 4:30 briefing with Secretary Blake. Thank you.

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PRN: 2010/1354