Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at length about the U.S. military commitment in Asia on Tuesday, highlighting the need for continued American leadership in the Pacific in the face of mounting regional tension.
Speaking at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland Tuesday evening, America's top diplomat emphasized such issues as North Korea's impending weather satellite launch, China's military build-up and Burma's nascent steps toward a true democracy.
"While the geometry of global power may have changed, American leadership is as essential as ever," she began, initially touching on the issue of the North Korean launch, which the U.S. and its allies say is a veiled attempt to test ballistic missile technology.
"As we meet here tonight, North Korea is readying a long-range missile launch that will violate UN Security Council resolutions and put its neighbors and region at risk...This launch will give credence to the view that North Korean leaders see improved relations with the outside world as a threat to the existence of their system."
She added that the U.S. is working round-the-clock with fellow Six Party Talks members South Korea and Japan to discuss solutions to North Korean provocations, building on remarks she made Tuesday afternoon with the Japanese Foreign Minister.
"There should be close cooperation between Japan and the United States - Japan, the U.S., and ROK - and further with the other concerned countries, including China and Russia. Efforts need to be made until the last moment so that North Korea are restrained from the launch," FM Gemba said during remarks with the Secretary at the State Department Tuesday.
The impending launch, which North Korea said would take place between April 12 and 16, is the number one Asian foreign policy issue for the Obama administration at this time.
Diplomats and national security personnel have been working around the clock on the issue, even going so far as to seemingly discourage the media from lending unneeded importance to the launch by overly-covering it.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know this is a propaganda exercise...Reporters have to be careful not to get co-opted," National Security Spokesman Tommy Vietor told
Politico on Monday.
Softening his remarks Tuesday, Vietor said the North Koreans would get better weather information by just going to weather.com - a biting joke considering the Internet is not accessible in the hermit kingdom.
In a surprise move in her speech Tuesday, Secretary Clinton also compared the North's provocations with positive steps toward democracy recently made by Burma, or Myanmar. Again making the case for U.S. presence in Asia, Clinton said, "a quick glance at Burma and North Korea shows that we have a deep stake in how that history plays out."
Half-way into her speech, the Secretary discussed China, saying, "Today's China is not the Soviet Union...In less than 35 years, we've gone from being two nations with hardly any ties to speak of to being thoroughly, inescapably interdependent."
Tacitly referring to China, she added, "But some of today's emerging powers in Asia and elsewhere act as selective stakeholders [in international institutions], picking and choosing when to participate constructively and when to stand apart from the international system."
Clinton and the Obama administration have long pushed China to be a more responsible stakeholder on the global stage. Stopping short of the name and blame game, they have chosen the 'softly-softly' approach of trying "more of a quiet conversation than a public demand," former State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told RTTNews.
"It is moving slowly [on issues such as human rights], but clearly has a long way to go," Crowley added. "That's obviously a reflection of not only our emphasis on human rights...but it's also a result of bringing China within the global system, investing in China not only a role in setting up the rules but also by abiding by those rules."
The administration often refers to the South China Sea and its multiple territorial claims when it references international norms. In her speech, Clinton remarked that it is international norms that will enable Pacific powers to get through issues concerning overlapping claims in the future.
"When President Obama joined his fellow leaders at the East Asia Summit, they were able to support a region-wide effort to protect unfettered access to the South China Sea, work toward developing a code of conduct, and respect the legitimate interests of all claimants to ensure that disputes were settled through a consensual process based on established principles of international law."
Looking ahead, the North Korean launch and China's reaction to the event - if it takes place - will further shape U.S. policy in the Pacific region and strengthen the Secretary's case for increase American presence there.
by RTT Staff Writer
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