What Are the Most Pressing Issues as the U.S. Enhances its Pacific Engagement?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
October 22, 2010
A Ship in a Harbor at Pago Pago

Next week, Secretary Clinton travels to Hawaii, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and Australia. On October 28, she will deliver a major policy speech on the United States' role as a Pacific nation.

As the United States enhances its engagement in the Pacific, what regional issues should top the agenda, and why?



United States
October 24, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

Massive corruption. Charging the government to pave a road 3x. Promoting drug dealers into local politics. Hiring corrupt policemen who traffic young girls. Knowing the illicit things a local economy does for an economy and allowing it to continue.

October 24, 2010

Gagak in Malaysia writes:

Dear sir,
It is a war using CAMERA as an arsenal. Point Of View

New Mexico, USA
October 24, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

I keep suggesting that "Pacific Partnership" be put on steroids as a full-time humanitairian flotilla going from natural disaster to another...and mother nature just keeps reinforcing the reasons for this suggestion as valid.

So here's the Secretary's golden opportunity to lay out the foundations for the comprehensive international partnership that would be involved with it.

(hint, hint)

Burma just got hit with a typhoon stronger than Nargis if she needs put example to her words on the subject.

United States
October 25, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

A second excellent idea from Eric. The first being a diplomatic grass carpet instead of a red one. Letting Hawaii take the lead since they need the work and employment. Pacific partnerships to lower food costs for the average islander. Do you know that the Big Island has only one dairy? More local food production and inexpensive food banks and farmer's markets. Global teaching 2-6 month to one year internships to improve island education. More student mainland or Europe study programs for island high school students so they have more study choices. More business opportunities like a low cost senior care industry that would put a lot of women to work so that they don't get stuck in abusive situations. More opportunities would also reduce child abuse. Strengthening the police force by having mainland partnerships and a constant flow of new recruits through 3-6 month or one year internships for police and FBI. Corruption happens when you stick to the status quo. You need to mix it up a bit.

United States
October 26, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

Revoking travel rights to known criminals and organized criminal networks to Pacific island nations where policing is substandard.

New Zealand
October 26, 2010

Linda in New Zealand writes:

This is probably the most appropriate place to say that we appreciate the Secretary's visit to Christchurch at this time. We are I think justifiably proud of how everyone pulled together in our own natural disaster - from the students who liaised on Facebook and came out and cleared the liquefaction, the neighbours checking on one another and in some cases I know pulling the elderly out of destroyed homes, the quick mobilising of governmental and charity assistance, the tremendous community spirit that I think almost always develops in times of adversity. I believe we would wholeheartedly support Eric's suggestion of pan-Pacific aid, although I believe that happens already, possibly informally, but formalising such an international partnership would in many cases be highly beneficial.

October 26, 2010

Roger in Australia writes:

Access to long term finance for Australia's financial institutions from the USA to reduce the cost of capital.

Terms for current lending are "restricted" to 3 to 5 years for Australian publicly listed companies and financed by US investment banks.

How can Australia access 30 year US Treasury Notes to finance a small open economy?

USA GDP $15 trillion v Aus GDP $1 trillion.

North Carolina, USA
October 27, 2010

Carlos in North Carolina writes:

International child abduction to Japan.

Matthew K.
Indiana, USA
October 28, 2010

Matthew K. in Indiana writes:

Fair trade initiatives centered on human rights & worker rights. Competitive advantage of labor costs cannot be based on poor conditions or be excused as fulfilling import demands

American Samoa
October 29, 2010

John in American Samoa writes:

Personal health among our neighbors including Indonesia and Malaysia and public health of villages and towns are critical issues where the United States has strong resource to share available in American Samoa.

New Mexico, USA
October 29, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Thank you Linda,

At this point, disaster relief efforts are cobbled together by nations as the resources and will are present to address them, along with the UN's role.

It's not an institution as a methodology, thus a scramble ensues to coordinate efforts and delivery of aid.

Plus the fact that when millions are effected, there's no international agreements to offer temp shelter in neigboring countries which if some kind of humanitarian visa were available would help to relocate folks out of harm's way at the same time relief goes into location, thereby allowing pressure to be eased in logistical support for localized disasters.

Voluntarily of course by those who've lost everything and would otherwise remain homeless under plastic sheeting for months or even years.

If such were in place, we wouldn't be having a cholera outbreak in Haiti right now.

Asa for the fleet needed, militaries globally routinely scrap perfectly good seaworthy ships that are obsolete for war fighting purposes, but may very well serve as platforms for aid delivery and other essential functions in times of crisis.

I'm not just talking about this in terms of the Pacific region, but on a global cooperative level among nations to bring all avalable resources to bear on these problems as the happen in "threes" and aid at this point gets real thinned out when a massive effort to save lives is need to appear withing hours and days...not weeks.

America seems to be the "go-to country" when things get wiggy in mother nature's backyard.

What is needed is a new international definition of what defense authorization and fiscal commitment actually entails in protecting populations.

We get together to combat piracy on the high seas, and so there's at least the shed of hope that folks can take this idea and make it happen to save lives in a manner befiting humanity's capacity to do right by itself.

We do the best we can with what we've got, but it it just isn't proving adequate in a lot of cases.

People are dying because of that, needlessly.

It should be a nation need not even make request for aid, before it arrives.

This isn't a soverign issue, but a human one.

If nations can spend billions anually keeping navies afloat for military contingincy and patrol, then they should be capable of pulling double duty 100% of the time.

There's no excuse not to at this point in time, mother nature is telling all of us this loud and clear.

And what answer will the world give her, eh?

That populations remain at her mercy?

Because we can't get it together to address this together, because great powers have dysfunctional political rivalries?

Or depressed economies?

No, that's no excuse to give to people in dire straits when the money is already being spent in preparations for potential wars.

Whether that's my country or any other.

Glad to hear things worked out for the best in your neck of the woods, it was an amazing stroke of luck that it was just infrastructure that was destroyed without terrible loss of life.



Val J.
California, USA
October 30, 2010

Val L.J. in California writes:

The US can resolve to do more for disappearing island nations in the fight against climate change.

Strengthen ties between Pacific ethnic diaspora communities in the US with their respective island nations. e.g., fund college or professional exchange programs through existing federally sponsored outreach programs such as SSSP. An ethnic community connected intimately to it's original home country increase the goodwill of the US towards immigrants and produces organic ambassadors.

Those are my top 2.

Connecticut, USA
October 31, 2010

Bill in Connecticut writes:

ASEAN ("http://www.aseansec.org/") member states, as well as China and India should join with the U.S. in calling for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate reports of systematic and widespread crimes against humanity perpetrated by the ruling military junta in Burma. This Commission is pursuant to the following reports of egregious abuses against the Burmese people:

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

Human Rights Watch - "http://www.hrw.org/asia/burma"

International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School report, Crimes in Burma

Human rights abuses in Burma were further highlighted by Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and Harvard University professor, in his keynote address at a conference entitled, "A Return to Civilian Rule? The Prospects for Democracy and Rights in Burma After the Election" on October 20, 2010 at Johns Hopkins University - "http://www.sais-jhu.edu/news-and-events/index.htm#sen"

Second, ASEAN member states, as well as China and India should join with the U.S. in denouncing the planned elections in Burma as a sham being perpetrated by a military junta that refused to honor the national election that took place in 1990 – an election which designated Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi as the legitimate leader of Burma by a huge margin. Instead of honoring the election results, the military junta kept her under house arrest for most of the last 20 years and imprisoned the rest of the junta’s political opponents (over 2,100 still in prison).

Until the above issues are rectified, ASEAN member states, as well as China and India should join with the U.S. in refusing to provide any direct or indirect military assistance to Burma, including the shipment of arms and armaments (the last thing Burma needs right now is more arms).

Finally, the current ruling military junta in Burma should read and adhere to the “UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights” - which Burma voted FOR on December 10, 1948 - at "http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/Introduction.aspx" The document is available in Burmese at "http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/bms.pdf." It should be widely disseminated in Burma and taught in Burma’s schools.

November 7, 2010

Daryl in Australia writes:

I tip my hat to the important points for U.S. Pacific policy which previous comments have raised. However, I would argue that the number one U.S. foreign policy priority in the Asia-Pacific should be to throw a lot of resources into ensuring that the regional diplomatic architecture can resist the century's coming strategic shocks. In other words, the penultimate American interest in the Pacific should be the absence of large-scale war.

A great power conflict in the Asia-Pacific region would jeopardise any chance of the previously-mentioned priorities (disaster relief, humanitarian aid, governance reform, human rights, etc.)coming to the fore of the U.S. Pacific agenda. In times of war, non-allied nations would not cooperate as easily (even if imperfectly) as they currently do. U.S. interests would surely be touched by any inter-state conflict in contested Asia-Pacific hotspots, either in the Yellow Sea, on the Sino-Russian border, in the Straits of Malacca, or even in the South Pacific.

What does this mean in practice? The U.S. should not only lobby to be included in regional security/diplomatic structures (as was formalised with the signing of ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation)but should pursue an open and representative regional security order. One clear red line which the U.S. should signal to friends and potential competitors alike, is that Washington will not be drawn into a Nineteenth-Century Concert of Powers, which most history books suggest ends on a bad note.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reiterated this year that the U.S. was and would remain a Pacific power (quite convincingly from an Australian perspective, as we currently have the honour of hosting Clinton as well as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates). Now the Department of State should support this reassuring rhetoric with a comprehensive policy offensive. How does the U.S. envision a peaceful and integrated Asia-Pacific order by the 2040s? Can Washington offer its own regional proposal (à la Kevin Rudd) rather than simply reacting to changes in the Asian balance of power? Should India (and perhaps Pakistan and Afghanistan) be integrated into a broader Indo-Pacific regional community? How could NATO's potential cooperation with the SCO be harnessed to provide a lasting peace to the Pacific Rim's enormous and growing population? In sum, how can the United States wield its soft (or smart) power to fight tooth and nail for the perpetuation of peace in the Asia-Pacific? I do not have answers. But these questions should top the Obama administration's debates on its Asia-Pacific agenda. Perhaps they already do?

Kevin E.
November 15, 2010

Kevin E. in Germany writes:

The most pressing issues?,everything is worrisome,a woman laburing for 9 months with such pain as we all know only for her child to be abducted from her b/c of pooverty or what?.it looks very ugly to even talk about issue like this and many other cases of such involving children. this children will be asking a quastions like***WHAT HAVE WE DONE?to be treated in this way.but my thanks to seccetary Klinton &co; for standing up on this very issues. One Love from Kevin.

United States
December 15, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

Hawaiian corruption and weak, ineffective policing that can be a potential breeding ground for an insurgency. Many organized criminals end up in Hawaii because no one is looking for them and its easy to hide out in rural areas and plantations. All the Federal money sent to improve Hawaii seems to make it into people's pockets.


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