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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Intervention at Sixth ASEAN Regional Forum
Singapore, July 26, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

Fellow ministers and distinguished colleagues, I am honored to represent the United States at this sixth meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). It is also a pleasure to renew or make acquaintance with each of you.

I want to begin by thanking Foreign Minister Jayakumar and his government for their hospitality and by congratulating them for their leadership of the Forum this past year. Singapore has worked hard to advance the goal of Asia Pacific security cooperation, and shown a real determination to make this conference a success by encouraging frank and substantive discussions. That determination is reflected in the strength of our agenda and provides a firm platform for a productive exchange of views.

I also want to thank Foreign Minister Surin and our Thai colleagues for the superb job they have done as co-chairs, with the United States, of the Intersessional Group on Confidence Building Measures (ISG/CBMs). I look forward to working with them even more closely in the year ahead, as Thailand serves as Forum chair. I look forward, as well, to cooperating with Japan and Singapore in their capacity as ISG co-chairs.

The United States is a strong supporter of the ASEAN Regional Forum. In this period of advanced technology and rapid change, it is essential that nations consult and cooperate wherever possible on matters of shared security concern. This Forum provides us with an indispensable means for doing just that.

As we scan the horizon in the Asia Pacific today, we see potential dangers and real opportunities for progress. This poses a test of leadership and vision for us all. Together, we must strive to build on shared interests, increase mutual confidence, resolve differences and create the basis for lasting stability, prosperity and peace.

The Security Implications of the Asian Financial Crisis

Last year, when we met in Manila, large parts of the Asia Pacific were experiencing or threatened by economic and financial crisis. There was real concern that the crisis would spread and produce instability that would undermine security and political relationships in the region.

The crisis has caused very substantial hardships and suffering. And as a matter of economic and social policy, we have much left to do to restore growth and help those most affected get back on their feet.

But in the realm of security, we can be thankful that our fears have not been realized. In fact, one effect of the crisis has actually been constructive. The changes in government that may be traced, at least in part, to economic disruptions have been generally positive. As a rule, the new governments in our region have shown a deeper understanding and commitment to financial transparency, political openness and democratic principles than their predecessors.

This bodes well for the stability of these governments and for our ability, as a group, to work together effectively on security concerns.

The Strategic Relationship of the Major Powers and Its Impact on the Region

In the Asia Pacific region, as elsewhere, mutual security depends on mutual cooperation and effort. To these ends, the United States continues to play an important and constructive role.

This is reflected in our treaty alliances with five major countries in the region. It is shown by our effort to develop strong and multifaceted bilateral relationships with key nations, including fellow members of the UN Security Council. It is illustrated by our forward-deployed military presence. And it is evidenced by our strong support for regional and subregional dialogues aimed at resolving hard problems and preventing conflicts.

The cornerstone of our support for stability is our alliance with Japan; an alliance our two governments have taken steps to modernize during the past few years.

As we have previously made clear, the new U.S.-Japan Joint Security Guidelines we have developed are situational, not geographical. They are not directed against any particular country, nor were they devised with any particular contingency in mind. Rather, they are needed to update our alliance in a manner that reflects the realities and complexities of the new era. Japanís fundamental defense policy is unchanged.

Together, the United States and Japan have contributed much to regional stability by supporting the Agreed Framework on Korea and other nonproliferation measures, by encouraging democratic development, and by working along with the IMF and World Bank to facilitate economic recovery.

Americaís relationship with China is also a key to the Asia Pacificís future. My government is strongly committed to its policy of purposeful and principled engagement with China. This approach serves the interests of both our countries and of the region, as a whole. In recent years, it has yielded important dividends towards controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction and promoting stability on the Korean Peninsula.

During the past few months, several events have complicated Sino-U.S. relations. We believe these matters should be dealt with in accordance with the fundamental logic underlying our strategic dialogue. That logic provides no guarantee of agreement, but it does envision diligent and good faith efforts to avoid misunderstandings and narrow differences where possible.

The United States also seeks to cooperate with Russia, not only on European security, but on matters affecting the Asia Pacific, as well. For example, we are determined to intensify our discussions with Moscow on how to jump-start the process of strategic arms reductions and to deal with new missile threats without abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Success in these efforts would make Asia and the entire world more secure.

More generally, we welcome initiatives by nations within the region to strengthen bilateral relationships. Last Mayís successful visit by Korean President Kim Dae-jung to Moscow has the potential to contribute significantly to security cooperation in the future. The same is true of the important steps that have been taken by national leaders in Japan, China and the Republic of Korea to promote closer ties and deeper mutual understanding.

The Security Environment and Challenges in Southeast Asia

South China Sea: Along with many other countries, the United States is increasingly concerned about rising tensions in the South China Sea.

Several nations have sought recently to bolster their claims in the area by building or upgrading outposts. Incidents at sea have multiplied. Tensions have risen. And we have all been reminded that unresolved territorial disputes can spark violence that leaves no one better off.

The stakes are too high to permit a cycle to emerge in which each incident leads to another with potentially greater risks and graver consequences. We cannot simply sit on the sidelines and watch. Nor can there be any doubt that this is an appropriate Forum for discussion of this issue. All members of the ARF have an interest in peace and stability in the South China Sea.

So we must ask ourselves whether we are doing all we can to find diplomatic approaches, identify confidence building measures, and take other concrete steps to stabilize the situation and make a peaceful resolution in the area more likely.

Indonesian Democratization: The United States congratulates the people of Indonesia for the successful and nonviolent conduct of their historic June 7 national elections. All segments of Indonesian society deserve credit for this major stride towards meaningful multiparty democracy.

As Indonesians are the first to recognize, however, additional hurdles must be surmounted before their journey will be complete. Foremost is the need for the Peopleís Consultative Assembly to act with transparency and integrity in selecting the next President.

East Timor: The deployment of the UN Mission in East Timor is a positive development. With others, we encourage both pro-independence and pro-integration East Timorese to work together to build a future better than the past.

We are deeply concerned, however, by continuing violence that could create an atmosphere of intimidation and preclude a fair referendum. We look to the Indonesian Government to meet its obligation to create a secure and credible environment for the August vote.

Burma: Burma continues to pose a threat to regional stability because of the governmentís failure to prevent wide-scale narcotics production and trafficking activities, and because its repressive policies have created strife and caused the outflow of refugees.

The United States urges Burma to shift direction and begin a dialogue with the democratic opposition, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and other representative groups. We support the UN role in encouraging this, and are disappointed that Special Envoy DeSoto has not yet been able to return to Burma, despite several requests over the past six months. We call upon the Burmese authorities to allow such a visit as soon as possible.

The Security Environment and Challenges in Northeast Asia

The central security challenge in Northeast Asia is to preserve stability on the Korean Peninsula. We urge all participants in this Forum to support efforts to that end.

We cite, specifically, President Kim Dae-jung's policy of engagement with the Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK); the Four Party Talks; and the policy review led by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry. These initiatives have in common a desire to reduce the isolation of the DPRK, address humanitarian needs, and prevent potentially destabilizing military developments.

Leaders in the DPRK should be in no doubt about the willingness of the ROK, the United States, Japan and others in the region to respond positively and substantively to constructive actions and concrete indications of restraint on their part. They should also know that such steps would be profoundly in the interests of their people who suffer greatly from North Koreaís dismal economic situation.

The United States encourages the DPRK to take advantage of the opportunity that now exists to improve relations and to begin to participate more fully in the economic and political life of the region. We also encourage all nations to continue to support implementation of the Agreed Framework in recognition of its contribution to regional stability.

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

Nonproliferation: There is no more important global or regional security challenge than strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime. To this end, the United States is: (1) working for timely entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; (2) promoting negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and in the interim seeking a moratorium on fissile material production; (3) striving to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty through the NPT review process; (4) urging support for strengthened IAEA safeguards; and (5) discussing with Russia how best to continue reducing our stockpiles of strategic weapons.

Other advanced weapons technologies concern us as well. Thus, we are working to strengthen controls on ballistic missiles and other sensitive technologies; striving to give teeth to the Biological Weapons Convention; and moving to implement the treaty that seeks to banish poison gas worldwide.

The dangers posed by these categories of weapons and technologies are clear. It is in the interests of every country represented here to contribute in every way it can to international nonproliferation efforts.

South Asia: Last yearís nuclear and missile tests have intensified the spotlight on proliferation issues in South Asia. We urge both India and Pakistan to avoid steps that would lead to an arms race, and hope that both will sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and support negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty in Geneva.

Terrorism: Governments participating in this Forum are united in their opposition to international terror, which has claimed victims in every part of every continent on Earth. The United States urges the ARF to serve as a regional rallying point for effective international action to deter and disrupt terrorist networks and to oppose those who finance, harbor and support them. By making life more complicated and less secure for terrorists, we will make it better and safer for our citizens.

Transnational Crime: Whether directly or indirectly, transnational crime harms us all. Left unchecked, it can fray the fabric of our societies and threaten the security of our nations. We believe this Forum has a distinctive contribution to make in this regionís fight against transnational crime. We support the proposal to convene an experts group to consider how best to deal with such issues as small arms trafficking and piracy and armed robbery at sea.

Track I Activities

The Intersessional Support Group on Confidence Building Measures made significant progress this year by implementing or proposing measures that include the U.S.-Brunei hosted Professional Development Program and Australiaís planned seminar on the Law of Armed Conflict. We also urge all ARF members to support and implement the new maritime CBMs.

Our ISG Co-Chair, Thailand, deserves much credit for its work on the "overlap" between CBMs and Preventive Diplomacy. The four proposals outlined in the Thai working paper would assist parties to a dispute, with their consent, to resolve differences before they affect other ARF members.

We see particular value in a willingness on the part of member states to reduce tensions and build trust by voluntarily briefing other members on issues affecting regional security. We hope this approach can become a regular element of the ARF process.

The United States also supports the idea of establishing a "good offices" role for the ARF Chair, so that ARF members to a dispute could call on the Chair for assistance. This would be done on a strictly voluntary basis, and would be similar to the role played by the ASEAN Troika in Cambodia.

We recognize that this Forumís evolution must proceed at a pace with which its members are comfortable. We acknowledge that we are likely to progress in increments, not giant leaps. It is important, however, that we continue to move in the direction of concrete and effective security cooperation. It is in that spirit that we look forward to further examination of preventive diplomacy by the ISG in the year ahead.

The Future Direction of the ARF

Membership: We believe that when North Korea is ready to do so, it should reapply for admission -- on the same terms as any other qualifying country. Otherwise, the United States supports a period of consolidation. At 22, the ARFís membership already risks becoming unwieldy. And aside from North Korea, no other appropriate applicants exist within the East Asia/Oceania region.

Institutionalization: As this Forum matures, it will need to communicate and distribute materials more quickly. We hope the ISG study of an Internet-based, dedicated system will help.

Some form of institutional structure will also likely be needed, which should take into account the interests of all ARF members. No specific decisions are yet necessary -- but it may be wise to begin discussing general approaches soon.


I want to again thank Singapore for hosting this Conference and for its praiseworthy effort to ensure a focused discussion of the security challenges that confront our region.

[End of Document]

Blue Line

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