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U.S. Department of State
96/07/23 Statement: ASEAN Regional Forum
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
WRITTEN STATEMENT BY
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AT THE ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM
July 23, 1996
It is an honor to lead the U.S. delegation to the third meeting of the
ASEAN Regional Forum. On behalf of the United States, I want to thank
Foreign Minister Alatas of Indonesia for his hard work over the last
year to ensure our success today.
The presence of 21 nations around this table attests to the great
changes brought to the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the Cold War.
A decade ago, the idea that we would all gather to address security
issues would have seemed perhaps as far-fetched as someone predicting in
1945 that Asia would lead the world in economic growth.
Although our nations have never had a greater chance to work together on
behalf of peace and stability, important challenges remain. Economic
growth is spurring cooperation and integration, but competition for
resources and markets is creating new tensions. Many Asian nations are
in the process of transition. And all of us must contend with complex
new threats such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
the spread of terrorism, crime and drug trafficking, and the far-
reaching consequences of damage to the global environment.
The United States shares the belief of almost every Asian nation that
American engagement remains essential to the security and prosperity of
the Asia-Pacific region in this new era. Indeed, President Clinton has
recognized that with the end of the Cold War, this region ione. Our
goal is to help build a Pacific community based on shared interests,
shared goals, and the pursuit of mutually beneficial cooperation.
The foundation of our engagement in the region remains our five treaty
alliances, beginning with our partnership with Japan. The Joint
Declaration signed by President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto
last April will strengthen our alliance's ability to promote security
and stability for all the nations in the region. Through our joint
efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis and reach a lasting peace on the
Korean Peninsula, the United States and South Korea have reinforced our
ties and expanded our cooperation. We have reaffirmed our strong links
with Thailand, the Philippines and Australia, where I will travel two
days from now to explore ways to deepen U.S.-Australia cooperation. And
we have expanded our security arrangements with our other ASEAN
We have also deepened our engagement with other nations, opening a new
chapter in our ties to Vietnam, continuing our support for reform in
Russia, and expanding our cooperation with India.
Of course, no nation will play a greater role than China in shaping the
future of Asia. Its continuing modernization and development are
essential to the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and
the world. We have worked hard to advance an array of shared interests,
recently achieving several important understandings that strengthen our
joint commitment to nonproliferation and expanded trade and investment.
We recognize that we continue to face areas of difference, which we must
seek to manage constructively. The United States strongly believes in
the need to ensure a stable environment for the peaceful resolution of
issues between the PRC and Taiwan. We encourage both sides to continue
taking steps to reduce recent tensions in the Taiwan Strait, including a
resumption of cross-Strait dialogue. I look forward to furthering our
progress in my meeting here with Vice Premier Qian Qichen -- our 14th
since I became Secretary of State.
The United States believes that our participation in the ASEAN Regional
Forum, the Northeast Asia Security Dialogue, and other mechanisms
complements our bilateral efforts to promote stability. Last year,
there were more than 130 multilateral meetings on security issues in the
Asia-Pacific region -- proof that Harold Macmillan was not the only one
to believe that "jaw, jaw is better than war, war." This new web of
contacts is helping to reduce tensions, ease suspicions, and foster
habits of consultation. The ARF -- the only region-wide, governmental
level security dialogue -- has led the way by promoting dialogue,
encouraging transparency, and expanding cooperation.
We welcome the progress that the ARF has made over the past year. In
particular, the ARF's work in areas such as confidence building,
peacekeeping operations, and search and rescue will enhance security and
stability. U.S. engagement in the ARF will deepen as we make further
concrete progress in our inter-sessional meetings, especially as the ARF
evolves into a forum for preventive diplomacy. We will seek to ensure
the ARF's ability to discuss important regional security issues in a
The United States believes that the ARF can continue to play a
constructive role in defusing tensions surrounding territorial claims in
the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands. Ensuring freedom of
navigation in sea lanes that carry 25 percent of the world's ocean
freight is vital to the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific
region. The United States stands by the principles of our May 10, 1995
statement: While we take no position on individual territorial claims,
we will not accept any that are inconsistent with international law,
including the 1992 UN Law of the Sea. We oppose the use or threat of
force, call on all parties to intensify their diplomatic efforts, and we
are willing to assist in any way the claimants deem helpful.
We also welcome the ARF's continued support for efforts to reach a
lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Achieved with the help of our
allies and partners, the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework has put on the road
to elimination an ominous threat to regional security. The freeze on
North Korea's nuclear program is intact under international supervision.
Implementation of the Framework's terms has dramatically reduced the
risk of conflict and helped pave the way for progress with North Korea
on issues such as missile nonproliferation and MIA's. Cooperation among
the United States, South Korea and Japan is stronger than it has ever
been. And we continue to urge North Korea to respond positively to the
proposal made by President Kim and President Clinton for four-party
talks among the United States, South Korea, North Korea and China.
Each of us has a strong interest in furthering these positive
developments on the peninsula. Let me assure you that President Clinton
is committed to ensuring strong U.S. support for the Framework. But
while the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization established
to implement the Framework is moving forward, it faces a significant
funding shortfall. Many of the nations represented here are already
assisting KEDO. I urge those that have not done so to provide
significant and sustained support. Measured against the costs of
heightened tensions -- let alone armed conflict -- such support is a
responsible investment in the security and prosperity of the Asia-
Pacific region. All our nations also have an interest in encouraging
resumption of the North-South dialogue that is essential to ending the
peninsula's cruel division.
Since its inception, the ARF has recognized the threat posed to regional
and global security by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Now our nations have an opportunity to build on the indefinite extension
of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty last year by supporting the
completion of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that will ban nuclear
explosions for all time. The text of the treaty as it now stands
represents a concrete and essential step toward further nuclear
disarmament, and we urge all nations participating in the Commission on
Disarmament to support it.
We call on ARF participants to buttress their support for global
nonproliferation regimes with strong export control policies that
prevent destabilizing transfers of sensitive items and technology.
Since modern weaponry has the potential to give old regional rivalries a
new edge, encouraging transparency and restraint in arms transfers also
remains important to maintaining security and stability. We should
continue to focus on the possibility of enhancing our participation in
the UN Register of Conventional Arms Transfers and developing a regional
register over the next year.
As an organization committed to "consultative dialogue and consultation
on political and security interests of common interest and concern," the
ARF should also consider the impact of current conditions in Burma on
the region. The SLORC's refusal to heed the desire of a majority of the
Burmese people for a transition to democratic rule and its increased
harassment of the democratic opposition not only violates basic,
universal human rights but raises the chance of instability, bloodshed
and migration within Burma and across its borders. The steady
deterioration of the rule of law has increased the threat that Burma's
burgeoning drug trade poses to citizens from Bangkok to Berlin, and
Shanghai to San Francisco.
The approaches to Burma our nations follow may differ, but we have a
shared interest and a shared goal: a meaningful political dialogue that
leads to greater stability and openness. President Clinton recently
dispatched two special envoys to consult closely with friends and allies
in the region. It is important that we use our engagement with Burma to
promote concrete results, especially after these meetings in Jakarta.
Burma's participation in the ARF and its closer relationship with ASEAN
make it especially important that the process of reconciliation move
forward, not backward.
Cambodia's continued progress toward reconciliation and reconstruction
also remains essential to regional security. The United States welcomes
Cambodia's admission as a full member of ASEAN in 1997. We are
committed to assisting its continued democratization and development,
and believe that strong international support for local elections in
1997 and national elections in 1998 is essential to advancing those
There is one other issue that I would like to bring to your attention:
the threat that terrorism poses to all our nations. From Tokyo to
Manila, the Asia-Pacific region has borne grim witness to the threat
posed by these lawless killers. We urge all nations to ratify the 11
existing international anti-terrorism agreements and adopt the practical
measures to combat terrorism endorsed by the P-8 last month in Lyon.
We look forward to working together to fulfill the ambitious goals of
next year's working groups. Our seven intersessional meetings will give
us the chance to expand our cooperation into important new areas, from
disaster relief coordination to joint efforts on demining. We are
particularly pleased that China has agreed to co-host with the
Philippines meetings on confidence-building measures. To ensure
tangible results from next year's ARF activities, we should encourage
greater participation by military and defense officials -- a step
crucial to the ARF's goal of confidence-building and practical
In the past three years, the ARF's commitment to consultation and
consensus has borne great fruit. The ability of ARF members to discuss
sensitive issues with candor and mutual respect will be crucial to this
forum's continued success. Now we face the responsibility of making the
substance of our meetings the symbol of our success.
Thank you very much.
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