Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a policy address on American leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, in Honolulu, Hawaii on October 28. The speech was sponsored by the East-West Center, in cooperation with Pacific Forum CSIS, the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, the Japan-America Society of Hawaii, the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the APEC 2011 Hawaii Host Committee, and the University of Hawaii.
Secretary Clinton said, "I've been looking forward to this trip for some time. From Hawaii it will be onto Guam and then Vietnam and Cambodia, then Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia, and American Samoa. It is an itinerary that reflects Asia's diversity and dynamism. And it complements the route that President Obama will take in just a few weeks when he visits India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea. Together, the President and I will cover a significant portion of this vital region at a pivotal moment, after nearly two years of intensive engagement. And everywhere we go, we will advance one overarching set of goals: to sustain and strengthen America's leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and to improve security, heighten prosperity, and promote our values.
"...Now, there are some who say that this long legacy of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific is coming to a close. That we are not here to stay. And I say, look at our record. It tells a very different story.
"For the past 21 months, the Obama Administration has been intent on strengthening our leadership, increasing our engagement, and putting into practice new ways of projecting our ideas and influence throughout this changing region. We've done all this with a great deal of support from leaders on both sides of the political aisle who share our vision for America's role in Asia. Together, we are focused on a distant time horizon, one that stretches out for decades to come. And I know how hard it is in today's political climate to think beyond tomorrow. But one of my hopes is that in Asia and elsewhere we can begin doing that again. Because it took decades for us to build our infrastructure of leadership in the world, and it will take decades for us to continue and implement the policies going forward.
"So now, at the start of my sixth trip to Asia as Secretary of State, I am optimistic and confident about Asia's future. And I am optimistic and confident about America's future. And I am optimistic and confident about what all of these countries can do together with American leadership in the years ahead."
After describing goals and accomplishments in the United States' bilateral relationships with Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines, as well as new partnerships with Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, India, and China, Secretary Clinton said, "Now, our relationship with our allies and our partners are two of the three key elements of our engagement in the Asia Pacific region. The third is our participation in the region's multilateral institutions. When I was here in Hawaii 10 months ago, I spoke about the importance of strong institutions for Asia's future. And let me simply state the principle that will guide America's role in Asian institutions. If consequential security, political, and economic issues are being discussed, and if they involve our interests, then we will seek a seat at the table. That's why we view ASEAN as a fulcrum for the region's emerging regional architecture. And we see it as indispensible on a host of political, economic, and strategic matters.
"...The United States is also leading through what we call 'mini-laterals,' as opposed to multilaterals, like the Lower Mekong Initiative we launched last year to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. And we are working through the Pacific Island Forum to support the Pacific Island nations as they strive to really confront and solve the challenges they face, from climate change to freedom of navigation. And to that end, I am pleased to announce that USAID will return to the Pacific next year, opening an office in Fiji, with a fund of $21 million to support climate change mitigation.
"...So these are the primary tools of our engagement -- our alliances, our partnerships, and multilateral institutions.
"And as we put these relationships to work, we do so in recognition that the United States is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the Asia Pacific -- because of our history, our capabilities, and our credibility. People look to us, as they have for decades. The most common thing that Asian leaders have said to me in my travels over this last 20 months is thank you, we're so glad that you're playing an active role in Asia again. Because they look to us to help create the conditions for broad, sustained economic growth and to ensure security by effectively deploying our own military and to defend human rights and dignity by supporting strong democratic institutions.
"So we intend to project American leadership in these three areas -- economic growth, regional security, and enduring values. These arenas formed the foundation of American leadership in the 20th century, and they are just as relevant in the 21st century. But the way we operate in these arenas has to change -- because the world has changed and it will keep changing.
"The first is economic growth. One theme consistently stands out: Asia still wants America to be an optimistic, engaged, open, and creative partner in the region's flourishing trade and financial interactions. And as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in the dynamic markets of Asia. These are essential features of the rebalancing agenda of our administration.
"Now, for our part, we are getting our house in order -- increasing our savings, reforming our financial systems, relying less on borrowing. And President Obama has set a goal of doubling our exports, in order to create jobs and bring much-needed balance to our trade relationships.
"But achieving balance in those relationships requires a two-way commitment. That's the nature of balance -- it can't be unilaterally imposed. So we are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness. American businesses and workers need to have confidence that they are operating on a level playing field, with predictable rules on everything from intellectual property to indigenous innovation.
"...Sustained economic progress relies on durable investments in stability and security -- investments the United States will continue to make. Our military presence in Asia has deterred conflict and provided security for 60 years, and will continue to support economic growth and political integration.
"But our military presence must evolve to reflect an evolving world. The Pentagon is now engaged in a comprehensive Global Posture Review, which will lay out a plan for the continued forward presence of U.S. forces in the region. That plan will reflect three principles: Our defense posture will become more politically sustainable, operationally resilient, and geographically dispersed.
"...Now, some might ask: Why is a Secretary of State is talking about defense posture? But this is where the three D's of our foreign policy -- defense, diplomacy, and development -- come together. Our military activities in Asia are a key part of our comprehensive engagement. By balancing and integrating them with a forward-deployed approach to diplomacy and development, we put ourselves in the best position to secure our own interests and the promote the common interest.
"...More than our military might, and more than the size of our economy, our most precious asset as a nation is the persuasive power of our values -- in particular, our steadfast belief in democracy and human rights.
"Our commitment to uphold and project these values is an indispensable aspect of our national character. And it is one of the best and most important contributions we offer the world. So of course, it is an essential element of everything we do in U.S. foreign policy.
"Like many nations, we are troubled by the abuses we see in some places in the region. We join billions of people worldwide in calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi; her imprisonment must come to an end. And we are saddened that Asia remains the only place in the world where three iconic Nobel laureates -- Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, and Liu Xiaobo -- are either under house arrest, in prison, or in exile.
"...And I would like to underscore the American commitment to seek accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred in Burma by working to establish an international Commission of Inquiry through close consultations with our friends, allies, and other partners at the United Nations. Burma will soon hold a deeply flawed election, and one thing we have learned over the last few years is that democracy is more than elections. And we will make clear to Burma's new leaders, old and new alike, that they must break from the policies of the past.
"Now, we know we cannot impose our values on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal -- that they are cherished by people in every nation in the world, including in Asia -- and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. In short, human rights are in everyone's interest. This is a message that the United States delivers every day, in every region.
"Now, we also know that we have to work with these countries on many issues simultaneously, so we never quit from promoting all of our concerns. We may make progress on the economy or on security or on human rights and not on the other one or two, but we have to have a comprehensive approach. And what I have described today is a mix of old commitments and new steps that we are taking. And through these steps, we will listen, we will cooperate, and we will lead.
"Of course, it is the people of Asia who must make the tough choices and it is their leaders who must make an absolutely fundamental choice to improve not just the standard of living of their people but their political freedom and their human rights as well. Asia can count on us to stand with leaders and people who take actions that will build that better future, that will improve the lives of everyday citizens, and by doing so not just grow an economy but transform a country. We make this commitment not just because of what's at stake in Asia, we make this commitment because of what is at stake for the United States. This is about our future. This is about the opportunities our children and grandchildren will have. And we look to the Asia Pacific region as we have for many decades as an area where the United States is uniquely positioned to play a major role in helping to shape that future...."
You can read the full transcript here.