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24 October 2003

Condoleezza Rice on U.S. Asia Strategy

Op-ed column by National Security Advisor to the President

(This column by Condoleezza Rice, who is national security advisor to the president, was published in the Wall Street Journal October 24 and is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

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Our Asia Strategy
By Condoleezza Rice

There was a time in the 1990s when our friends in Asia began to doubt America's commitment to the region. Today, President Bush returns home from his six-nation visit having sent a clear signal: Not only are we in Asia to stay, we are working with our allies and partners across the region to advance alliances, promote open trade and investment, and bolster the forces of democratic change and tolerance in ways that seemed unachievable only a few years ago. And from historic collaboration to halt North Korea's nuclear weapons program, to successful regional cooperation on the war on terror, to the deployment of Australian, South Korean, Thai and Philippine forces in Iraq -- U.S.-Asia partnerships are paying security dividends the world over.

The centerpiece of the president's strategy is our strong forward presence and our commitment to our allies. While U.S. alliances with Japan, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand were formed in response to a common threat 50 years ago, they have always also been about common values and aspirations that bond free nations. Our allies know that we are committed to their defense and to these values, and that is why they have chosen, each in their own way, to give broader regional and global scope to our security cooperation.

The clarity of our commitment to our allies, and to a peaceful solution of the differences between China and Taiwan, in turn paved the way for a much more predictable and productive relationship with Beijing. Not long ago, many would have argued that the U.S. could not energize its alliance with Japan and expect a constructive and cooperative relationship with China at the same time -- let alone a crucial Chinese role in confronting the North Korean nuclear threat. Yet that is exactly what President Bush has done. China's longer-term future is yet to be written and that future must include full protection of the human rights of the Chinese people. Nevertheless, the patterns of cooperation we are building today on North Korea, counterterrorism and combating proliferation will stand us in good stead as we work with other partners in the Asia-Pacific region to help China play the constructive and central role in world affairs that its people deserve.

While traditions of tolerant Islam and the promise of prolonged economic prosperity and democratic transition were interrupted by financial crisis and terrorism in recent years, the U.S. is actively engaged to help our friends continue their impressive march forward. In Indonesia this week, President Bush announced a new, unprecedented, six-year initiative designed to improve education at all levels. We will also support democratization by providing assistance for Indonesia's first direct presidential elections next year. In the Philippines, we are partners in a number of programs to improve governance and bring prosperity to areas of conflict in the south.

Asia has never had a strong history of multilateral collaboration, but the momentum behind U.S. bilateral engagement in the Pacific is changing that too. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum this year, 20 other leaders joined with President Bush to commit to dismantling terrorist organizations and eliminating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the spread of shoulder-fired missiles. Just eight years ago, the U.S. tentatively proposed that APEC some day take on more of a security role and was roundly criticized for trying to move the forum beyond its traditional economic focus. Today, there is a clear consensus that prosperity requires security, and behind that principle lies evidence of pragmatic cooperation among states to get the job done.

Underpinning all these security initiatives is a commitment to advancing our prosperity through greater trade, investment and economic cooperation across the region. At APEC, we worked with our partners to pick up the pieces from the missed opportunity of the Cancun WTO ministerial and chart a way to reinvigorate the WTO negotiations. We are enhancing economic opportunity for American workers, farmers and businesses with bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and other trade arrangements. We have a FTA with Singapore, are negotiating one with Australia, and looking at Thailand and others in the region. We are also engaging the major economies in a cooperative way to undertake important structural changes -- steadily addressing nonperforming loans in Japan, helping China implement its WTO commitments, and encouraging continuous economic reform.

In Asia more broadly, President Bush is strengthening our relations with both India and Pakistan -- a development that will help bring stability to South Asia and help that region build the economic dynamism and cooperation that now characterizes East Asia. Similarly, our strong global partnership with Russia advances our strategic goals in South and Northeast Asia.

Together, this pattern of recent achievements and future promise confirms the success of our robust engagement with Asia -- success built with relationships formed by dozens of Oval Office meetings the president has had with leaders from the region. Today, there is no doubt about America's commitment to Asia and surveys show that the region overwhelmingly sees that this commitment is good for all of us. Asia is not just about "being there" -- our presence and our partnerships are the starting point for building a lasting framework for economic growth and cooperation -- a fellowship of free nations fully committed to a prosperous and secure Asia.

(Ms. Rice is National Security Advisor to President Bush.)

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