Press Availability Following the APEC Ministerial Meetings
Secretary of State
As you know, President Obama will be arriving back home shortly, and we will then embark on an extensive engagement with our partners in the Asia Pacific. I gave a speech about this yesterday at the East-West Center. We obviously believe that the world’s strategic and economic center of gravity will be the Asia Pacific for the 21st century, and it will be up to American statecraft over the next decade to lock in a substantially increased investment – diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise.
Here at APEC, as hosts of the 2011 Leaders’ Meeting, we will continue to drive a positive rules-based economic agenda for the region. And then when the President and I travel to Indonesia to participate in the East Asia Summit, we will continue with these efforts to advance a comprehensive regional agenda to promote security, economic growth, and universal values.
U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk and I have welcomed foreign and trade and economic ministers from across the region. Today, I chaired two high-level policy dialogues on critical issues, disaster resilience and open governance, as well as holding bilateral meetings with senior officials from several countries, including China, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. We discussed a full range of issues from our economic partnerships to our security challenges to our shared humanitarian concerns. In particular, I expressed solidarity with our ally and friend, Thailand, as it contends with the worst flooding in the nation’s history.
We also consulted on a range of other pressing issues. Regarding Iran, we discussed the recent report raising serious concerns about the weapons-related work the Iranian Government has undertaken. Iran has a long history of deception and denial regarding its nuclear program, and in the coming days we expect Iran to answer the serious questions raised by this report. And the United States will continue to consult closely with partners and allies on the next steps we can take to increase pressure on Iran.
Regarding Syria, we discussed the ongoing and escalating violence perpetrated by the Asad government against its own people. Our position is clear. We are supporting peaceful transition. Asad has lost his legitimacy to rule, and he should step down.
And regarding North Korea, I updated our partners on the exploratory talks the United States had with North Korea two weeks ago in Geneva. We made clear what we expect North Korea to do in order to get back to talks, including concrete steps toward denuclearization. North Korea must comply with its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks, relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and the armistice agreement. And we are awaiting North Korea’s reply.
So it has already been a productive few days here in Hawaii, and I know there will be a lot more work to do when the President arrives and begins meeting with the leaders. And then that will continue, as I’ve said, as both the President and I leave Hawaii, he to go to Australia and then Indonesia; I to go to the Philippines, Thailand, and then Indonesia.
So with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
MODERATOR: We have time for two questions today. The first one goes to AFP, Shaun Tandon.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, Shaun.
QUESTION: Hi. You mentioned yesterday in your speech that in Burma, you’re seeing the first stirrings of change in decades. From your talks here and talks elsewhere, how serious are these stirrings? Do you feel that the current government is committed on such things as releasing of prisoners and easing the violence in ethnic minority areas? And what is the United States prepared to do to try to encourage those changes?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Shaun, as you know, Special Representative Derek Mitchell and Assistant Secretary of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Mike Posner visited Naypyidaw and Rangoon last week. They met with a wide range of senior government officials, opposition leaders, representatives of civil society, and they reported back what we are seeing, not only from our own interactions but based on reports from other officials from other countries, that there is a substantive dialogue under way with Aung San Suu Kyi, important legislative initiatives including a new labor law and changes to political party registration law. It appears that there are real changes taking place on the ground, and we support these early efforts at reform. We want to see the people of Burma able to participate fully in the political life of their own country.
But we know there must be much more done. We are concerned about the human rights situation, the political prisoners who are still in long-term detention. We continue to call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and an end to the violence in ethnic minority areas. We urge the government to be more transparent in its relationship and dealings with North Korea. So we are encouraging Naypyidaw to take steps toward political reform, to bring more openness and transparency. We believe that the Burmese people share the same universal values that all people are entitled to, and therefore we want to see the encouraging signs continue and strengthen a transition to a broader political dialogue and eventually the kind of democratic and open society that we think would benefit the people of Burma.
MODERATOR: Last question, Daniel Ryntjes, Feature Story News.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. I wanted to ask a kind of strategic question. And the theory is that your situation is, in terms of the negotiations here at APEC, is somewhat constrained by the fact that, in the next year or so, there are going to be a lot of political transitions of power, a lot of elections – the United States, of course – and that is a constraining factor, and that’s why we can’t go towards the sort of ambitious targets that maybe were envisaged, say, six to 12 months ago. Could you speak to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think I would take issue with that characterization. Our discussions focused on three key issues: growth and jobs, regulatory reform and competitiveness, energy efficiency and energy security, along with disaster resilience, open accountable government. We think these are evergreen issues. They are not issues that are here today and gone tomorrow. They are issues that require consistent, persistent, patient work. So we are exploring new ways to enhance trade. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we’ve been working on very diligently, is, we think, moving quite well in the right direction. We are looking to encourage the lowering and elimination of barriers to trade and investment, both at the borders and behind borders, and we are continuing to make progress there. We’re improving regulatory quality and transparency. And we think that if you look at the steady progress that has been made on these issues, there’s a great story to tell.
At the same time, we’re trying to promote environmentally sustainable growth, green industries, new opportunities to secure energy efficiency and energy security. And that, too, is an ongoing commitment.
So I think that – I made a comparison yesterday which I really believe is apt. And that is, if you look at how much time and effort was required to first create and then institutionalize the transatlantic alliance, all of the institutions that really make up the strong bonds between North America and Europe, we are promoting the same kind of long-term project here. That’s what I mean about a pivot to the Asia Pacific. And when you look back and think about the countless meetings, the endless discussion, the never-ending kinds of negotiations that took place over many years to establish the transatlantic architecture, we expect the same on the trans-Pacific architecture. So I think we’re making progress, and it is a long-term commitment that will certainly last far beyond any of our times in office.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.