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Press Release

Keynote Address by AIT Director Douglas Paal to the International Conference on "Political & Economic Security in Asia-Pacific" September 30, 2003

PR0349E | Date: 2003-09-30

I would like to begin by thanking Dr. Zhang Jing-yu for inviting me here today and for assembling some of the greatest minds in international affairs to discuss the critical issues facing Asia today. It is a pleasure to see old friends like John Hamre. John has been a bedrock of American security policy from his days with the great Senator Sam Nunn to his leadership at the Pentagon to his current role as head of CSIS. I was impressed, as always, with the remarks yesterday by my good friend Vincent Siew, a statesman in every sense of the word. I know I speak for many on both sides of the Pacific when I say that Vincent's appointment to head the President's Economic Advisory Commission can only mean good things for Taiwan's economic future. I am also pleased to see Ambassador Okawara Yoshio, whose steady hand has helped guide the critical U.S.-Japan relationship for so many years. The development of closer Japan-Taiwan relations is something the United States welcomes and encourages. I look forward to all of the presentation papers.

In my remarks, I would like to address developments in American foreign policy since 9/11 and how they influence our approach to the Asia Pacific region. Just three weeks ago, we honored those killed in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. That sad anniversary reminded us of what is at stake in the work we do. It provided us an opportunity to take stock of what we've accomplished thus far in the War on Terror and what more we can do to ensure that this sort of crime never happens again.

The attacks in New York and Washington demonstrated unequivocally that global political and economic instability poses the greatest long-term threat to the security of the United States and its friends. Getting to the root of this problem will require more than just military and law enforcement actions against terrorists and their supporters. The enemies of peace are not just Al Qaeda and its associates, but the poverty, tyranny, and fear that allowed such groups to thrive. Only by actively expanding opportunity, stability, and progress can we secure the future for our children.

One year ago this month, President Bush released the National Security Strategy of the United States of America. News media trumpeted its endorsement of pre-emptive strikes against groups or nations which pose an immediate threat to U.S. security. However, a more careful reading of that document will show that this concept of pre-emption is much more than just a military doctrine. It is a guiding principle behind our post 9/11 diplomatic, economic, and security policies around the globe. We can no longer ignore problems like the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the spread of political instability. We will not simply wait for the next catastrophic act of terror to remind us of the dangers of complacency.

The United States' vision is ambitious, but it is not unattainable. Put simply, our goal is to ensure that no part of the world is left without access to the benefits of stability, free trade, rule of law, and democracy. This effort involves both directly addressing turmoil in places like the Middle East and Central Asia as well as bringing former adversaries into the international fold. In Asia, we must strengthen our ties with traditional friends and allies, and enhance economic and diplomatic engagement with China on issues of mutual concern. We will pursue all of these goals without sacrificing our long-standing values, national interests, or international commitments.

While the direction is clear, we have to be realistic about the challenges we face. In the two years since terrorists attacked New York and Washington we have been trying to reverse 20 years of neglect. Before 9/11, America was passive in the face of tyranny and terror. We withdrew from Lebanon after our Marine barracks there were bombed, we disengaged from Somalia in the wake of Al Qaeda-assisted attacks on our forces there; and we responded weakly to the bombings of our embassies in Africa. As a result, our enemies were emboldened. We had sent a message that America was not willing to confront terror and instability. We cowered behind ever-heavier security, crouching defensively rather than taking the offense. In his address to the American people on September 7, President Bush stated that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength, they are invited by the perception of weakness.

Our military's superb performance in ousting the bankrupt regimes in Baghdad and Kabul has left no doubt about America's strength. But now that the wars have been won, the diplomats and experts, statesmen and scholars must work to secure the peace. No one combines all of these talents better than my good friend Jerry Bremer. As Staff Director of the National Commission on Terrorism in 1999, Jerry identified with chilling prescience the threat that catastrophic terrorist attacks posed to the United States and what steps America and its allies should take to counter it.

Today Jerry, at great personal risk, is turning those words to action on the ground in Iraq. And he is doing so in a way that takes into account the comprehensive nature of the challenge. As we are reminded almost daily, security remains a serious challenge in Iraq, and this challenge will remain until allied military and intelligence forces can root out those terrorists and Saddam loyalists bent on sabotaging the future of the Iraqi people. The security threat has not stopped Jerry and his team, however, from getting on with the business of rebuilding Iraq. Today, electricity output in Iraq is approaching pre-war levels. All of Iraq's universities and major hospitals are fully operational, as are almost all of the secondary schools and clinics in the country. 300 of Iraq's 400 courts are now open, and 46,000 Iraqi policemen have been hired with another 28,000 to be trained in the next 18 months. The oil industry is also back on line, despite attempts by saboteurs to disrupt it, and it produces between 1.4 and 1.7 million barrels a day.

Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is vital to our broader efforts to combat instability in the Middle East and Central Asia. Terrorist organizations exploit conditions of tyranny, repression, and impoverishment. Committed terrorists thrive on our freedoms and abundance. By investing in social and physical infrastructure and building democratic institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can show the people of the region there is an alternative. We can begin to reduce the social tinder that years of inattention have produced. This is the philosophy that underlies our Middle East Partnership Initiative, which provides assistance for educational, economic, and political reform throughout the Arab world. There is no reason the people of the Middle East should be deprived of the opportunities enjoyed by citizens in other parts of the globe.

Our efforts in the Middle East are just one part of a broader post-9/11 strategy to broaden the community of nations who share our vision of a world at peace, open to free trade and democratic values. Our long-time friends and allies in Asia, Europe, and other regions are at the core of this community. Our formal alliances with NATO, Japan, Korea, and Australia will remain the cornerstone of our security policy. The historic decision by NATO to play a role in Afghanistan, alongside our allies from Asia and the Pacific, shows that the Cold War hub-and-spoke system centered in Washington is giving way to a global network of democracies. This is a positive development. America cannot tackle the world's challenges alone. Since 9/11, allies and friends from Spain to South Korea, Turkey to Taiwan, have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorism. We must strengthen this coalition to further our common interests. President Bush has made this point clear -- our National Security Strategy is a strategy of partnerships.

As the walls of power politics and ideological conflict come down, we also seek closer relations with non-traditional partners such as Russia, India, and China. Despite the legacy of Cold War rivalries, 9/11 demonstrated to both Russia and China that we are all on the same side in the struggle against terrorism and global violent threats to international order. In recent months, we have expanded our cooperation in combating terrorism to containing the proliferation threat posed by North Korea. Just as we will not crouch and wait for Al Qaeda to mount its next act of mass terror, America and its friends cannot allow North Korea to produce and sell weapons of mass destruction to other rogue nations and terrorist groups. Our diplomatic efforts to tackle this problem are making progress. The recent six-party talks in Beijing demonstrated to North Korea that continuing down that road will only bring it continued isolation and economic stagnation, and that a diplomatic solution can be had.

While we welcome the chance to work with Russia and China on North Korea, terrorism, and other global challenges, we do so in full recognition that we may not always agree on every issue. We will not trade our core values and interests for cooperation on issues of global concern. North Korea is not an exception. Many in Taiwan and elsewhere express concern that the United States might sacrifice its commitment to Taiwan to obtain Chinese assistance in confronting North Korea. Aside from the solid legal, moral, and historic foundations of America' relationship with Taiwan, this assumption ignores the reality that the threat of proliferation and instability on the Korean peninsula is first and foremost a threat to China's interests. We will not violate our commitments to Taiwan over North Korea or any other issue.

That said, our relationship with China goes beyond cooperation on North Korea and terrorism. America's assistance in facilitating China's entry into the WTO, together with Taiwan, marked a milestone in bilateral relations. This breakthrough also serves the interest of Taiwan and regional stability. China is undergoing tremendous social and economic changes. It is our firm belief that its integration into the international system promises to moderate its approach toward Taiwan and other Asian neighbors.

China's economic opening has the potential to have the greatest impact on the global economy since the emergence of the United States economy in the mid-19th century. In the long-run, the integration of 1.3 billion industrious people into the world trading system can mean higher standards of living, greater wealth, and prospects for sustained peace in Asia. In the short-term, however, China's seemingly endless pool of low-cost labor, its ambitious export-oriented trade policies, and attractiveness as a destination for foreign investment dollars mean that all of its trading partners will need to redouble their efforts to remain competitive. Taiwan, and China's other neighbors, feel this pressure most acutely. In today's integrated trading and financial structure, however, no one can afford to ignore this challenge - or the opportunities it presents. Taiwan is fortunate to be endowed with far-sighted leaders like Vincent Siew and with one of the most flexible and entrepreneurial workforces on the planet. For these and other reasons, I firmly believe Taiwan is the best placed economy in Asia to take advantage of the new environment.

Of course, the rapid expansion of China's economy has also allowed it to upgrade its military forces and has given rise to a growing nationalism that could manifest itself in unpredictable ways. For this reason, neither Taiwan nor the United States can ignore the threat posed by an emerging Cross-Strait military imbalance. President Chen Shui-bian has demonstrated that he understands this danger, and we salute his recent initiatives to enhance Taiwan's self-defense capabilities. We remain ready to assist Taiwan in this endeavor.

We are hopeful that China will not slide back to a stance of confrontation. But until Beijing abandons its authoritarian political structure and forswears the use of force in the Taiwan Strait, it would be irresponsible for either Taipei or Washington to let down our guard. The Taiwan Strait remains one of the world's most dangerous flash points and preventing a conflict there remains a vital U.S. national security concern.

Before concluding, let me just say that there is no region of the world that better represents the sorts of partnerships we seek to confront the post 9/11 challenges than Asia. Around the region, we are simultaneously working to strengthen friendships, cooperate with old adversaries, and pursue multilateral solutions to pressing problems.

Let me close by reiterating my thanks to Dr. Zhang and all the other organizers of this important conference. I wish you all the best in your discussions.