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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott
Intervention at ASEAN Regional Forum, Bangkok, Thailand, July 27, 2000
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Distinguished Foreign Ministers and colleagues: I am pleased to represent the United States at this seventh meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and Secretary Albright sends her regrets that she will not be able to join all of you until Friday. I want to begin by thanking Foreign Minister Surin for the superb job he has done as ARF Chair and to express my appreciation to the Government and people of Thailand for their hospitality this week.

I also congratulate Japan and Singapore for their successful leadership of the Intersessional Support Group on Confidence -Building Measures. And I join with you in welcoming Foreign Minister Paek, of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, to this Forum.

We have faced many challenges in the last several years: a financial crisis, troubling weapons developments, incidents of political instability, environmental problems, and moments of high diplomatic tension. And yet we meet today in the midst of general economic recovery, broader democracy, stability in most parts of the region, and a professed desire to work together from Alaska and Siberia to the Bay of Bengal.

I do not believe we could have weathered the storms of the past few years without the foundation of regional cooperation provided by ASEAN and by this still young but already indispensable Regional Forum.

Looking ahead, we have ample grounds for optimism, but we also need to expect that further storms will inevitably arise. I hope that in our discussions today we will lay the groundwork for further cooperation in anticipating and countering potential threats to the security of our region. And that we will leave here with an even greater sense of mutual confidence and an even stronger determination to build together a future of peace and prosperity that will benefit all our people.

Economic Cooperation and Regional Security

We assemble here in Bangkok, united in our desire not to repeat the recent past. We want to complete recovery from the financial crisis in a manner that is widespread and sustained. We have seen the human hardships and potential risks to security that economic disruptions can cause.

So I hope we will work together, steadily, persistently, and democratically to improve management, increase transparency, and enhance supervision of the region's financial institutions. This is not a job that can be left only partly done or attended to on a sporadic basis. It requires a full-time, long-term commitment. The United States will do all it can to help, while strongly encouraging assistance from international financial institutions and other donors.

We also need to pool our efforts to ensure that the beneficial impacts of globalization are shared as widely as possible. The recent G-8 meeting in Okinawa reflected this imperative by stressing the importance of cooperation in the development and use of new information technologies. But there will be no single guarantee of prosperity in the 21st century. A combination of elements, including good governance, personal freedom, investments in education and health, and access to modern technologies will be required.

Security Cooperation Across the Region

During the past 7 years, President Clinton has worked hard with leaders throughout the region to enhance mutual security through frequent consultation, cooperation, and concrete actions. In this effort, we have had strong allies and partners. We have encouraged an active and constructive role by the United Nations and other international organizations. And we have strongly supported regional and subregional dialogues aimed at resolving old grievances and preventing new ones.

The future security of the Asia-Pacific depends in large measure on the character of relations among the major powers. Fortunately, as we enter the new century, these relations are as close as they have ever been.

As President Clinton and Prime Minister Mori affirmed last week, the U.S.-Japan Alliance remains a linchpin of regional stability. This is reflected in our Joint Declaration on Security, our revised guidelines for defense cooperation, our Common Agenda for action on global issues, and the establishment in March of the U.S.-Japan Commission on Arms Control, Disarmament, Nonproliferation, and Verification.

The United States and Japan have a common and fundamental commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and around the world. Our joint efforts on behalf of these goals are a source of strength to the members of ASEAN and to every nation in the region.

Also important is that, despite some difficult periods, the United States and China remain committed to enhanced security cooperation. We share an interest in the region's stability and consult frequently on matters ranging from nonproliferation and terrorism to law enforcement and the environment. The United States looks forward to China's entry into the World Trade Organization, and to working with Beijing to narrow differences and establish common ground on an ever-lengthening list of issues.

The United States and Russia are also working together well in the Asia-Pacific, as in other parts of the world. At the Summit in Moscow last June, we signed agreements on a ballistic missile warning center, fissile material stockpile reductions, and climate change. We jointly acknowledged the existence of a new ballistic missile threat and are striving to develop a common approach on how to address it.

In his first year in office, President Putin has shown a strong interest in reaffirming Russia's role in the Asia-Pacific. The United States welcomes this, and we look forward to coordinating our actions and policies wherever possible.

More generally, the United States is supportive of the efforts regional leaders have made to improve their bilateral ties. We have been encouraged by Republic of Korea President Kim Dae-jung's successful visits to Tokyo, Moscow and Pyongyang, and by the reciprocal visits either made or planned. And we are hopeful that continued progress will be made in strengthening relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

The Security Environment and Challenges in Northeast Asia

Nowhere is the need for regional cooperation more needed or more evident than on the Korean Peninsula. President Kim Dae-jung is implementing a bold strategy aimed at engagement and gradual movement toward reconciliation with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In June, President Kim Jong-il graciously welcomed his counterpart at a historic summit in Pyongyang and agreed to family unification and other measures that could signal a move by the North away from the isolation of the past.

As President Clinton has made clear, the United States fully supports President Kim Dae-jung's policy and the process begun in Pyongyang. We hope for a continuous dialogue between the two capitals resulting in measures that address the aspirations and needs of Koreans on both sides of the DMZ. Obviously, this process will take time, but it has the potential to produce a fundamental reduction in tensions and make possible a new era of prosperity and peace for all who live on the Korean Peninsula.

The United States, and others in the region, can assist the process in Korea by backing it diplomatically, contributing to KEDO, and opposing destabilizing weapons development, testing, and transfers.

An example is the support that Japan has given through the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group to progress toward a more stable Korean Peninsula. China has also been helpful through its participation in the Four Party Talks. And President Putin recently visited Pyongyang to discuss, among other issues, the question of ballistic missile development.

For our part, the United States will continue to be guided by the principles outlined by our former Secretary of Defense, William Perry. These envision a series of mutual steps which, if taken, would lead to normal relations between the United States and North Korea.

To this end, we had several rounds of meetings with the D.P.R.K. this past year, including discussions focused on missiles and implementation of the Agreed Framework. We welcome North Korea's reaffirmation, in June, of its moratorium on launches of long-range missiles of any kind for the duration of bilateral discussions to improve relations.

The United States is encouraged by North Korea's growing engagement with its neighbors and the international community, both bilaterally and in this Forum. We regard its decision to join the ARF as evidence that Pyongyang will commit itself to support and respect the purposes of this regional gathering. And I know the Secretary is very much looking forward to meeting with Foreign Minister Paek to initiate a dialogue on topics of mutual interest.

The Security Environment and Challenges in Southeast Asia

South China Sea: The security challenges in Southeast Asia also demand a high degree of regional cooperation. For example, there remains a potential for trouble in the South China Sea due to the competing claims there and the unilateral actions that some claimants have taken. Until the territorial issues are satisfactorily resolved, there will be a compelling need for measures to reduce the risk of conflict.

That is why we welcome the current effort by ASEAN and China to develop a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. The more specific and concrete the commitments made by those who agree to this Code, the more effective it will be.

Because we all have a stake in the stability of the area, the South China Sea is a legitimate and necessary topic for discussion by this Forum. The Code of Conduct negotiations are a positive step, but we should continue to ask ourselves whether there are other diplomatic approaches or confidence building measures that might be useful, as well.

Indonesia: One area that has experienced extraordinary change and turbulence in recent times is Indonesia. The United States welcomed warmly the democratic progress there, including the peaceful and fair election of a new government and the start of economic and military reform. The U.S. Government has provided substantial assistance to Indonesia in support of its efforts to reduce poverty, create opportunity, and build democracy.

Unfortunately, civil conflicts in key regions are among the factors delaying Indonesia's democratic development. In the Malukus, terrible violence has broken out between Muslims and Christians. In Aceh, the ceasefire between the government and the Free Aceh Movement remains fragile. Tensions in Papua are also high.

The United States fully supports the territorial integrity of Indonesia. We strongly endorse efforts to address grievances and resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiation. All sides should refrain from violence. And the Indonesian military must meet its responsibility to maintain order while also respecting human rights.

East Timor. In East Timor, the UN Transitional Administration is working hard amidst difficult conditions to address humanitarian needs, foster economic recovery, maintain order, and help the local population prepare for independent and democratic self-government. A number of participants in this Forum have played key roles in support of the international effort. And I am proud that the United States has been a major bilateral donor.

Many of the problems now faced by the people of East Timor are internal, but there remains a threat posed by uncontrolled militias in West Timor. As the local authorities have pledged, these militias must be disarmed and disbanded, and incursions into East Timor should cease.

Burma: While many countries in the Asia-Pacific have moved in the direction of political and economic reform, Burma has not. The unwillingness of the regime to open a dialogue with the democratic opposition, address urgent social needs, or curb trafficking in illegal drugs has hurt the entire region and created enormous, unnecessary hardships for the Burmese people.

Earlier in July, UN Special Envoy Razali bin Ismail visited Rangoon. The United States urges participants in this Forum, including Burma, to support the Special Envoy's call for the release of elderly political prisoners and for movement toward a serious democratic dialogue. We urge support, as well, for the International Labor Organization's demand that Burma comply with global norms on forced labor.

South Pacific: Perhaps the most disturbing developments in our region this past year have been in the South Pacific. Political unrest and hostage taking in Fiji have harmed its economy and left that tiny nation deeply divided. We urge those with authority there to return quickly to lawful, constitutional government and to ensure that the rights of all Islanders are protected. The conflict in the Solomon Islands is also of great concern. We call upon all the parties to respect the ceasefire, lay down their arms, and negotiate a peaceful settlement of their differences.

The Security Implications of Transnational Issues: Nonproliferation, Terrorism, and Transnational Crime

Nonproliferation/Arms Control: One threat that has not diminished since this Forum was established 7 years ago is also the most serious, and that is the danger posed by the spread of nuclear weapons. The United States is firmly committed to an effective global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

To this end, we strongly support universal adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), stronger IAEA safeguards, timely entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, as agreed to during the recent NPT Review Conference. We are also continuing our discussions with Russia on how best to reduce further our stockpiles of strategic weapons.

South Asia: The 1998 nuclear tests in South Asia posed a significant threat to the nuclear nonproliferation regime, which we must work with the parties to minimize. This is particularly important because of subsequent missile tests and because of the differences that exist between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and the Line of Control.

Every country represented here has an interest in nonproliferation and in preventing instability in South Asia. I hope we will unite in urging India and Pakistan to address their differences peacefully, to avoid provocative acts, to sign and observe the CTBT, to respect the Line of Control, and to resume the promising dialogue begun at Lahore last year.

Terrorism: I also hope members of this Forum will stand together in taking concrete actions to deter, prevent, prosecute and punish terrorist acts. Ideology, religion, or politics cannot justify the killing of innocent civilians. Every region, including the Asia-Pacific, has been victimized by terror. Every country in this region should be firm in opposing it.

The United States urges every country to sign all twelve counter-terrorism conventions; to avoid making concessions to terrorists; to do everything possible to disrupt terrorist networks; and to oppose those who finance or harbor the criminals who plan or commit terrorist acts.

Transnational Crime: Another danger to the region is posed by transnational crime, which lowers the quality of life for us all, and has become a significant and growing international security threat. The United States supports the proposal to convene an ARF Experts Group this autumn in conjunction with the inter-sessional meeting, and to look at such as issues as small arms trafficking, piracy, armed robbery at sea, and illegal migration. We would welcome a recommendation on other subjects for ARF consideration, possibly including computer crimes, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

Track I Intersessional Activities

Before closing, I would like again to congratulate Singapore and Japan for their leadership of the Intersessional Support Group on Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) this past year. Among the notable activities we supported were sessions of the Professional Development Program and a study for an Internet-based communications system for ARF participants.

The Intersessional Group also made significant progress in the "overlap" area between CBMs and Preventive Diplomacy (PD). We are pleased that steps were taken to enhance the role of the Chair in maintaining contact with other regional organizations and in offering to provide information to members between meetings.

We support the ARF's plan to compile a Register of Experts and Eminent Persons and look forward to discussing the terms of reference for using this new resource. We applaud Thailand for compiling the first ARF Annual Security Outlook. And we believe the ARF is right to continue deliberations, based on Singapore's excellent draft paper, of the "Concepts and Principles of Preventive Diplomacy" as we consider how the ARF might undertake specific preventive diplomacy initiatives.

Finally, I want also to recognize the work of Russia and Vietnam as Co-Chairs of our Intersessional Meeting on Disaster Relief. The United States looks forward to supporting and participating in many of the activities proposed by this group.

The Future Direction of the ARF

The ARF plays a vital role by providing the nations of the Asia-Pacific with opportunities to come together, build mutual confidence, and explore new ideas for cooperating to the benefit of our mutual security. Accordingly, we want to work with all of you to make this Forum as effective and useful as possible.

We believe this can best be done through an evolutionary approach, as we continue with confidence-building measures and consider opportunities for preventive diplomacy.

Membership: Following the entry of North Korea, we support a period of consolidation for the ARF. The current group of 23 members is considerable in size, and the meetings risk becoming unwieldy. In addition, none of the other current applicants meet the geographic criterion.

Institutionalization: As the ARF's agenda expands and issues become more complex, our group needs to consider ways to collect and distribute materials more quickly. In time, it seems likely that some form of structural support for the Forum will become necessary, and we may want to begin thinking about how we could provide that in a way that meets the interests of all ARF members.


The United States appreciates all of the hard work that has gone into making this year's ARF activities so productive. Once again, we congratulate and thank Foreign Minister Surin for his strong leadership. We look forward to the coming year's activities under the overall Chairmanship of Vietnam and with Malaysia and the Republic of Korea as the Intersessional Co-Chairs.

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