2011 was a momentous year for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP) as the culmination of much hard work that reflects the vision articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an editorial for the November 2011 issue of Foreign Policy. This strategy guided the Bureau's activities from reinvigorating already strong relations with treaty partners, building new partnerships with emerging powers in the region, such as China, engaging with multilateral institutions, expanding trade and investment, forging a broad based military presence, and advancing democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Our long-standing treaty allies continue to serve as the bedrock of our strategy. Cataclysmic events proved the strength of our alliance with Japan as we embarked on the massive relief effort Operation Tomodachi following the “triple disaster” of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in March. Secretary Clinton visited Japan in April to pledge U.S. steadfast support for Japan and its recovery. In June, building on the 50th anniversary year of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 2010, Secretary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Japanese Foreign Minister and Defense Minister to revalidate and update the Alliance's Common Strategic Objectives. Vice President Biden visited Japan in August, followed by Defense Secretary Panetta in October. Foreign Minister Gemba, during a December visit to Washington, announced the Kizuna Project, a youth exchange program that will build on the already strong people-to-people ties between our two countries.
Our bilateral relationship with the Republic of Korea (ROK) is closer than it has ever been. This past year saw the legislative passage of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, a State Visit by President Lee Myung Bak, and the U.S. announcement of participation in Expo 2012 Yeosu, Korea. In addition, Secretary Clinton visited Busan in November to participate in the Fourth High Level Forum on Development Aid Effectiveness, demonstrating our increasing cooperation with the ROK on global issues. We also continue to coordinate closely in an effort to preserve peace and stability on Korean Peninsula.
In 2011, we marked the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS alliance with Australia and of the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines. Secretary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met with the Australian Foreign Minister and Defense Minister for this year's Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in San Francisco in September, and President Obama traveled to Australia in November. Also in November, Secretary Clinton visited Thailand to underscore our strong alliance and to offer support for Thailand's recovery efforts following severe flooding. The Secretary also visited the Philippines, where she and her counterpart commemorated the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty and reaffirmed our historic alliance by signing the “Manila Declaration” on board the USS Fitzgerald.
In addition to strengthening ties with treaty allies, we deepened our partnerships throughout the region. For example, we are implementing the new strategic partnership with New Zealand envisioned in the 2010 Wellington Declaration. In February this past year, a devastating earthquake struck the Canterbury region. Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell and a U.S. delegation were attending the U.S.-New Zealand Partnership Forum in Christchurch at the time of the quake. In response, the United States sent an Urban Search and Rescue Team in the immediate aftermath and continues to stand with our friends in New Zealand as they rebuild.
In August, Vice President Biden visited Mongolia, underscoring our support for Mongolia's two decades of democratic development and our growing economic ties. In July, Secretary Clinton co-chaired the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership Joint Commission on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum and in November, President Obama visited Indonesia for a second time to participate in the East Asian Summit (EAS). Also in November, Secretary Clinton signed a five-year, $600 million compact with Indonesia designed to help boost household income through increased productivity, reduced energy costs and expanded renewable energy; improve childhood nutrition; and enhance the provision of public sector goods and services. The U.S. Department of Education also hosted the first-ever U.S.-Indonesia Higher Education Summit in Washington, D.C. in October.
Illustrating our whole-of-government approach, in June, Assistant Secretary Campbell traveled to seven Pacific Islands with U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator Nisha Biswal, and Marine Brigadier General Richard Simcock. In addition, in September, Deputy Secretary Nides led the largest and most high-level United States delegation ever to attend the Pacific Island Forum, this year hosted by New Zealand. In December, Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman visited Taiwan, the most senior U.S. official to visit the island in nearly a decade, building on our longstanding unofficial relationship with the people of Taiwan to advance bilateral cooperation in science and energy technologies.
As Secretary Clinton noted in Foreign Policy, the United States is working closely with India and supports India's desire to play a prominent role in the Asia-Pacific region going forward. In December, the United States hosted Japan and India for our first ever trilateral dialogue. The group agreed to meet again in Tokyo in 2012 to continue their deliberations.
Developing a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China is central to our Asia-Pacific policy. President Hu Jintao made a State Visit to Washington in January, and at the invitation of Vice President Xi Jinping, Vice President Biden traveled to Beijing and Chengdu in August. In May, Secretary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner hosted the third round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), the most intensive and comprehensive talks ever held between the two governments covering a wide range of topics from trade, investment, and currency to security, energy, and human rights. We work together with China to tackle global challenges, such as the international community's serious concerns about Iran's nuclear program and our common goal of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. To keep our relationship on a positive trajectory, we have been honest about our differences and areas where significant challenges remain, such as the need to level the playing field for U.S. businesses in China and to live up to international human rights standards. As part of our long term commitment to improved dialogue with China through mutual understanding, in April Secretary Clinton and State Councilor Liu Yandong co-chaired the Consultation on People-to-People Exchanges (CPE) which promoted exchanges in various fields. The 100,000 Strong Initiative, a public-private effort that seeks to increase the number of Americans studying in China, gained significant traction, including a December concert in Beijing headlined by will.i.am, apl.de.ap, John Legend and several Chinese pop stars.
As part of our commitment to engaging the region's multilateral institutions, President Obama and Secretary Clinton traveled in Bali in November to officially begin U.S. membership in the East Asia Summit (EAS). During the EAS, President Obama encouraged an open discussion and tangible multilateral progress on the region's consequential political and strategic issues, including maritime security, nonproliferation, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Also in Bali, President Obama met with the leaders of the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the 3rd ASEAN-U.S. Leaders Meeting. The leaders agreed to launch the $25 million ASEAN-United States Partnership on English Education in ASEAN, funded generously by the government of Brunei. The partnership will help unify the diverse members of ASEAN, improve English language capacity, and advance educational and teaching opportunities in the region. In July, Secretary Clinton participated for the third time in the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) where she led the U.S. delegation to the 18th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the EAS Ministerial. At the ARF, Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States' principles-based approach to South China Sea disputes, advocated for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and discussed developments in Burma. Secretary Clinton also hosted the fourth Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Ministerial Meeting with the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the first "Friends of the Lower Mekong" (FLM) meeting.
Harnessing the economic growth potential within the Asia-Pacific is critical to our foreign policy in the region. As hosts for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) throughout 2011, the United States focused on building enduring economic architecture in the Asia-Pacific that is open, free, transparent, and fair. We reached the broad outlines of an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, at the November APEC leaders' meeting in Hawaii. In late 2011, the landmark U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) passed in both the U.S. Congress and Korean National Assembly. KORUS is currently in the implementation process and is expected to enter into force early this year.
The United States' security presence in the Asia Pacific focuses on supporting our allies, ensuring the stability of a vital region, and advancing U.S. interest in non-proliferation, maritime security, fisheries and relief from disasters like tsunamis. In November, President Obama announced in Canberra that U.S. Marines would be seasonally stationed in Darwin, Australia, enhancing our ability to train, exercise, and operate with allies and partners across the region, and to cooperatively respond more quickly to a wide range of challenges, including humanitarian crises and disaster relief.
As we work to deepen our engagement around the region, we remain firmly committed to urging countries to embrace reforms to improve human rights and democracy. As part of our dual-tracked “principled engagement” policy of pressure and engagement with the Burmese government, Secretary Clinton made an historic visit to Burma November 30-December 2. She met with officials in Nay Pyi Taw and with Aung San Suu Kyi and civil society leaders in Rangoon. During her visit, the Secretary noted that if the Government of Burma keeps moving in the right direction, the United States will be prepared to take further steps. On January 13, 2012, Secretary Clinton announced that based on recent progress we've seen taken by the government of Burma, we will now begin, in consultation with members of Congress and at the direction of President Obama -- the process of exchanging ambassadors with Burma. However, there is more work to be done, and we will continue to work with the government on their reform and reconciliation efforts, including taking further steps to address the concerns of ethnic minority groups, making sure that there is a free and fair by-election, and making all the releases from prison unconditional, and making sure that all remaining political detainees are also released. We also continue to urge the Burmese to sever all illicit military ties with North Korea.
EAP's dedicated staff of more than 200 Foreign Service Officers and Civil Service employees in Washington, D.C. and nearly 9,000 State Department employees at overseas posts work daily in ways large and small to forge the partnerships in the region. In the Secretary's Foreign Policy article, she posed the question: “Beyond our borders, people are also wondering about America's intentions -- our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make -- and keep -- credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action.” Under the leadership of Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Campbell, the talented professionals of the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Bureau every day of the year answer with a resounding, “We can, and we will.”
Editor's Note: Secretary Clinton delivered remarks on "America's Pacific Century" at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 10, 2011. You can watch her remarks in the video player above the text of this blog entry, or read the transcript of her remarks here.
Tom Hamm serves as a Press Officer in the Office of Public Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.