BY LES CARPENTER – Secretary Clinton’s policy address before heading to Hanoi for the East Asia Summit and the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations was a bit brief, but she did make some points.
Charles Morrison, President of the East West Center in Hawaii says the one statement she made he had not heard before was that whenever a regional institution involves economic and security issues of consequence for U.S. interests, the United States would seek a seat at the table.
Secretary Clinton made only a brief mention of India. Was that significant?
It was significant that she discussed India at all this time. Usually, a speech on East Asia policy follows the U.S. dividing lines in our Department of State in which East Asia ends with Burma. So, for the Secretary of State to be making a fairly significant statement about India in the context of an East Asian statement I thought was in itself significant. What she said was that the United States saw India as an East Asian partner. She added that when the President Barack Obama visits India in a short period of time he will be strengthening that partnership in a way that makes it more important than ever before. So, I thought the India statement was fairly significant.
Secretary Clinton also was very pointed when discussing China. Was there something significant in that?
I didn’t think there was any new ground covered. I think it was positions that were very effectively stated and in some cases a little more toughly stated than some of the rhetoric in the past. But, the message was, in part, very positive. She said that the U.S. is committed to getting the China relationship right, she mentioned having more American students in China, deepening the dialogue, that is military-to-military dialogue, dialogue on human rights issues. But, she also talked about China needing to step up to the plate more on sanctions with North Korea and Iran. She also mentioned the Nobel Peace Prize winners that China is not too happy about.
Over all, what would you take away from this barely 20 minute policy statement speech?
I think it was a very strong statement of U.S. interest in and a desire for leadership of the Asia-Pacific region. It was also comprehensive on a number of different dimensions in the political security, the economic, and the social and human rights dimensions.