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The Pacific: Ocean of the Future ?

The Pacific: Ocean of the Future ?

U.S.-Japan Parliamentary League Breakfast .Remarks as Delivered by U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Hotel Okura, Tokyo, Japan, Friday, September 22, 2000.

Dr. [Taro] Nakayama [League Chairman], thank you for your very kind and generous comments about my contribution to our relationship over the years. You are well known, as a distinguished Foreign Minister during the Gulf War, and for your important leadership of the U.S.-Japan Parliamentarian’s League.

I must say that I am especially delighted to be here and see so many Diet members attending this breakfast. After having served 24 years in our Congress, I can’t recall ever attending a breakfast with this many members. So it is obvious that my popularity with you is higher than it ever was with colleagues back home. I know how busy a legislator’s life can be, especially as this new Diet session begins. So the fact that so many of you are here, I believe, is a tribute to the strength of our relationship and it shows your support for our role in the alliance and how much it really plays in the security of the Asia Pacific region.

I’d also like to take this occasion to pay tribute to Ambassador [Thomas] Foley. Ambassador Foley and I served together in the Congress, going back to when I arrived in 1972. By that time I was just a freshman congressman and he was already a distinguished leader in the House of Representatives, eventually going on to become Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was always regarded as being very wise, informed, and enlightened on issues affecting international affairs, as well as domestic matters. So I want to pay a particular tribute to Tom Foley for the outstanding job that he has done here on behalf of our country and working closely together with you.

Members of the Parliamentarians’ League, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, as was just mentioned, this is my tenth visit to the Asia Pacific region while serving as Secretary of Defense. I recall a former Secretary of State at the turn of the century who said that "the Mediterranean is the sea of the past, the Atlantic is the ocean of the present and the Pacific is the ocean of the future."

I think it is very clear how prophetic those words were, spoken more than one hundred years ago. But the conjecture of haze is no longer conjecture. The future is unmistakably here. The future is now and the Asia Pacific is the most vibrant, pivotal region in the world. I think it is fitting that the end of my journey should take place right here in Japan, the nation that has been, and will continue to be, the cornerstone of America’s Asia strategy. The success of this alliance and our policies has contributed to greater regional security.

I’ve had occasion to travel throughout the entire region during the past eight days, and I’ve heard a clear and very consistent message. There is a strong desire for stability, economic growth, fair trade, social development, and regional cooperation. The tenor of that political debate and the willingness to work together, I find, are greatly improved during the past four years. But this is still a time of great dynamic change in the security environment. So I would like to take just a few moments of your time this morning to talk about how the United States intends to continue to play a stabilizing role in this new environment.

Throughout the region our goal is the steady strengthening of the security component and of what I call the virtuous circle. The United States military presence creates an environment of security, which in turn leads to stability, which leads to investment, which leads to growth and prosperity, which leads to democracy, which in turn builds even more stability. That is the virtuous circle that we seek to complete by our security policy.

The U.S. military presence, and the stability that it promotes, begins in Japan. We look to Japan not only because of our friendship and our strong economic ties, but because of Japan’s leadership role. That is why we are committed to ensuring that our alliance with Japan remains the most important component of our regional strategy.

Four years ago we began stepping up efforts to make this relationship more responsive to Asia’s dynamic security environment. For example, we revised the Defense Guidelines for Security Cooperation. Those new guidelines help us to work together for humanitarian missions, on peacekeeping, and other contingencies that affect Japan’s security. We have increased cooperation in critical areas such as theater missile defense. Just last week we were in New York, and the United States and Japan signed the Special Measures Agreement, a five-year agreement that addresses the funding that supports the American military presence here in Japan. Of course, the Diet must approve that Special Measures Agreement, and I hope that there will be broad support across party lines because it is not just a bilateral concern; it is an important contribution to Japan’s regional stability.

At that meeting in New York our two countries also issued a Statement of Environmental Principles. That statement affirms our commitment to operate bases in Japan in accordance with agreed environmental standards and lays out the procedures that we will use in cooperating with your government to address potential problems.

More importantly, I want to assure this audience that the U.S. servicemen and women are proud to be serving here. They want to work with their colleagues in Japan and the Self Defense Forces in defending Japan and expanding regional stability. We understand this. We understand that our operations and our training schedules can be a burden on your citizens. We are doing our best to minimize the problems, but we also need your support and understanding.

Now, whether it involves live-fire training or night-landing practice, the training of our forces is critical to the credibility of our alliance. Some of you have heard me discuss this in the past, but you may recall that [last year’s air campaign over] Kosovo was one of the most successful—not one of, [but] the most successful -- air campaign in the history of warfare. We flew 38,000 sorties in that campaign and we lost only two aircraft and we lost no pilots. That’s because of the level of training that we insist our pilots engage in.

So that when the time comes—when there is a crisis, when security is at stake—those pilots and the personnel who support them have to be ready to carry out their mission. So yes, it can be burdensome. It can impose some restrictions upon our neighbors, but without that training, it would be irresponsible for any of us, Japanese forces, American forces, to put our sons and daughters in harm’s way unless they have the best possible training. So, I know that from time to time these issues arise and they create local problems for your constituents. Hopefully we can continue to resolve them in a way that still preserves our sensitivity to your needs and your understanding of the security requirements that we also have in maintaining this alliance.

The strength of the U.S.-Japanese partnership builds a foundation for broader U.S. engagement in Asia. I am well aware of the [ancient Greek] admonition that "whom the gods would destroy they first make prophetic." But, I don’t think there’s much risk in me being a prophet. In this case, in terms of the assumptions and the fundamental rationale of the U.S. engagement in the region, there are basically three factors: political engagement, military engagement and economic engagement. These will remain steadfast for the foreseeable future.

With respect to the political engagement, the simple fact is that the United States is a Pacific nation. Our national interest in the region is great, and it is growing. One practical implication of our interest is clear, peaceful and constructive engagement with China. It is necessary for China to become a responsible member of the international community. I think you all saw that the United States Senate recently passed permanent trading relations with China. That was a long time in coming. It passed by an overwhelming margin, and I believe this will serve us well in the coming years as far as reducing tensions with China and contributing to the long term stability and prosperity of the region.

I should also tell you that our military to military relations with China are back on track. We had a long hard year as a result of the accidental bombing of their embassy in Belgrade a year ago. No doubt, each of you saw the kind of recrimination that was taking place for the past year. Well, just this past July I traveled to Beijing to meet with President Jiang Zemin, to meet with my counterpart, and to meet with all of the leadership in China. It's clear that they want our relationship to get back on track, and [they] made every effort to make my visit as warm and generous as possible. I visited Beijing and Shanghai. I invited Minister of Defense Chi [Haotian] to come to the United States early next year. [On my previous visit to China in 1998] we signed a Military Maritime Consultative Agreement to prevent incidents at sea. A month ago we had U.S. naval vessels travel to China. We now have Chinese vessels visiting the United States.

While discussing China, I think it’s important to dispel two fundamental misperceptions. It has been suggested that the United States, by working with all of the other nations in the region, is somehow trying to contain China. You know, and I know, and I think every one should understand, that China can not be contained. That is not our policy. Our goal is to engage China as it grows, as it becomes more open, and to encourage it to play a constructive role in regional stability.

I can’t emphasize enough that the basis for engagement with China is a sound relationship with Japan based on our shared values of democracy and common security interests. And I want to make this point as clear as I can. I have made it to a number of audiences in China, to the Chinese Academy of [Military] Sciences, to the [People’s Liberation Army] leadership. Our security relationship is anchored with Japan. And even as we seek better relationships with China, that in no way will result in the reduction or diminution of the strength of our relationship with Japan. This is not a zero sum game. This is not something where we strengthen our relationship with China but we reduce our relationship with you. It is just the opposite. We need to have a strong U.S.-Japan relationship that also gives us leverage in establishing a strong relationship with China. It is to everyone's benefit.

Now there’s another current challenge in our political engagement in the region and that is Indonesia. Indonesia is a strategically important country. It has the fourth largest population in the world. It is the largest Muslim country. It sits astride the sea lanes that are vital to the northeast Asian economy. It’s a nation that has taken huge steps during the past two years to democratize but it still faces major political, economic, and security problems.

You’ve been reading about my role in Indonesia because we’ve had two fine journalists from Japan who have been traveling with me. But I met with the leadership in Jakarta and expressed my support for President [Abdurrahman] Wahid’s determination to manage the transition to democratic rule in Indonesia. We support his effort to bring about change, reformation and economic prosperity to his country, and yet, there are still problems that he has to face.

Of most concern to us was what is taking place in East Timor, where the militia coming out of West Timor—and we believe supported by elements [of] either the active or retired military—have been waging conflict against those in East Timor. This cannot be allowed to continue, particularly after Indonesia had given a security guarantee to the UN staff workers going in and giving humanitarian aid to the East Timorese that they would be safe. Then, of course, we had three workers who were murdered, hacked up, and then their bodies set on fire. That is the reason why the UN Security Council passed the resolution condemning the action, and calling for the Indonesian government to disarm [and] disband the militias and bring them to justice.

I carried that message to the Indonesian government, that unless they were to take this kind of action, that if they were to allow the militia to continue to go uncontrolled and unrestrained, then there were very likely to be repercussions; not only in cessation of the military-to-military contact that the United States has with them, but as you saw from statements coming out of the World Bank, they very well might not be the recipients of international financial aid. So it’s important for Indonesia to maintain and build upon the international goodwill that followed its steps toward democracy. And that’s going to require strong leadership coming from the Indonesian government.

Let me touch quickly upon our military posture. The core assumption and intention is that we will continue to be a stabilizing force in the region and that several nations with large militaries and a history of regional conflict and rivalry mandate that we have such a presence. And that’s why our continued presence is vital not only in Japan but also on the Korean Peninsula.

I just came from a visit in Seoul, and I met with President Kim Dae Jung. I commended him for what he is seeking to do in bringing about reconciliation between North and South. He deserves a lot of credit for his courage and vision. He also wants to proceed with caution. He is fully aware that the United States must maintain a presence on the Korean Peninsula even if there is some reconciliation, even if there were a reunification. He said that Kim Jong Il in North Korea also agreed that would be the case because if we were to reduce our presence and to remove our presence, someone would want to fill the vacuum. Who would that be? Suddenly you could have various nations vying to become the new power source in the region, which would probably mean that there would be an arms race, more tension and, in fact, the prospect of conflict.

So as much as Kim Dae Jung is seeking a peaceful reunification with the North, he also understands that we need to be militarily strong. That is the reason why he has spoken out on several occasions reminding the South Korean people that it is critically important that the United States stay even if and after there is unification on the Peninsula.

Let me turn to other areas. I was in Australia a couple of months ago. I fortunately got there before the Olympics started, so it wasn’t quite as crowded as it is today. [Earlier this week, I traveled to] Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, which happened to be an eventful trip for me because I was there talking with the Philippine government about the need to exercise caution in going after the [foreign] hostages [being held on Jolo Island]. Of course, that night they announced they were going after the hostages, so it became an interesting evening.

But all of the countries that I have visited want the United States to maintain a presence. Singapore is building a huge pier in Changi Naval Base that is going to accommodate U.S. aircraft carriers. Lee Kuan Yew, the Senior Minister, would like those carriers to come as often as they can because our presence sends the signal to all of the other nations in the region that we are not withdrawing [and] that we are committed to a forward deployment posture to the extent that our host countries want.

The United States is here at your sufferance. We don’t go anywhere we are not wanted. But fortunately the leadership of the countries throughout the region understand that we are not seeking territory and that we are not trying to conquer anyone. Rather, we are trying to create that environment of stability. I come back to the virtuous circle: where there is stability and security, investment flows. When you have investment flowing in, you have the chance to produce prosperity. Prosperity in turn promotes more security and more democracy. The moment there is an area of instability, investment flows out. Then you have all the social problems that are attendant to that, namely a depressed economy, competition for diminishing resources, and various political groups promising relief.

Now there are a number of institutions that can help promote greater stability. I’ll just touch upon a couple. The ASEAN Regional Forum facilitates the kind of activities I’ve been talking about. And so I have also tried to stress during this trip that as we strengthen our bilateral relationships with Japan, with the Philippines, with Singapore, with Thailand, and with Korea, that we think it is important to try, whenever we can, to have multilateral exercises.

We may be forced in the future to deal with situations like East Timor, where we had the Philippines taking an active role working with Australians and others, such as the Singaporeans, working together to carry out a UN mission. If there is a humanitarian disaster that affects someone’s country, you may be called upon to help. In those instances, I think it will be beneficial if we have some sort of planning and perhaps even training together on those kind of peaceful operations. It’s not going to happen tomorrow but it’s going to happen. At some point we’ll have to have greater cooperation because the world is getting smaller.

In fact, you’re making it smaller. Technology being developed here in Japan is making the world smaller. Technology is miniaturizing the globe. We don’t think in terms of oceans anymore. They’re mere ponds. We don’t think of [distant] countries, they become almost like adjoining counties. Everything is being compressed by technology. So the world is getting smaller and faster and faster and faster. You’re part of this and so as this proceeds, and in this age of [what Alvin Toffler called] Future Shock, I think there are going to be more and more requirements and demands that we cooperate on a multilateral basis as well as a bilateral basis.

Let me conclude. I think that I have exceeded my allotted time. I simply want express to you that I have come here in good times and bad. I have always wanted to come consistently, whether the times were bad economically or good, to remind you that we value this relationship. This is important to us. I hope that you still feel that it is very important to you. With continued leadership in the dawn of this new Pacific Century, we will remain a Pacific power with a Pacific partner ready to play a part in generating a new century of peace and prosperity. Thank you.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).