Bloomberg News

Clinton Says Asia Needs U.S. Leadership

April 11, 2012

Hillary Clinton, U.S. secretary of state. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton, U.S. secretary of state. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there is no alternative to U.S. leadership in the Asia- Pacific region, recognizing concerns that the U.S. is moving to deny rising Asian nations “their fair share of influence.”

“When it comes to ensuring stability and security in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, there simply is no substitute for American power,” Clinton, the top U.S. diplomat, said in a speech last night at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Clinton acknowledged tensions with China, citing “cyber intrusions” that include the online theft of American intellectual property, and called for setting clear Internet governance policies with Beijing. She dismissed regional misgivings that talk of American leadership is code for protecting Western prerogatives.

“That is not the case,” she said. “China is not the Soviet Union, and we are not on the brink of a new Cold War in Asia.”

President Barack Obama has made Asia a central focus of his foreign policy, and the interconnected nature of U.S.-Asia ties underscores the importance of the administration’s “pivot” toward the region, Clinton said.

Exports to Asia are crucial to the U.S. economic recovery and reaching consumers in the region’s growing middle class is central to growth, Clinton said.

“The shape of the global economy, the advance of democracy and human rights, and our hopes for a 21st century less bloody than the 20th all hinge to a large degree on what happens in the Asia-Pacific,” Clinton said.

North Korea Concerns

North Korea and other security issues will continue to drive U.S. involvement in the region, Clinton said. North Korean threats to launch a long-range missile, if carried out, would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions and put its neighbors at risk, she said.

Coming just weeks after North Korea agreed to a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing, “the speed of the turnaround” raises questions about the country’s seriousness in saying that it wants to improve relations with the U.S. and its neighbors, Clinton said. “Recent history strongly suggests that additional provocations may follow,” she said.

The U.S. will continue to be “very candid” about areas of tension, such as cyber attacks that threaten economic and national security, Clinton said.

“Because the United States and China are two of the largest global cyber actors, establishing clear and acceptable practices in cyberspace is critical,” she said.

Regional Network

Clinton also touted the need for a strong regional network of organizations, such as the East Asia Summit, to enforce rules and settle disputes including competing claims over the oil-rich South China Sea.

Agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a bloc of nine countries, also create a level economic playing field that allow for an “integrated Pacific economy that is open, free, transparent, fair,” she said.

The international economic system is based on “universal” and “fundamental freedoms” that emerging powers such as India and China will have to protect as they gain greater stature, Clinton said.

“They have benefited from the security it provides, the markets it opens and the trust it fosters,” she said. “As a consequence, they have a real stake in the success of that system. And as their power grows, and their ability to contribute increases, the world’s expectations of them naturally rise as well.”

Disagreement on Syria

While the U.S. and China have worked closely on some international challenges, including coping with North Korea and Iran’s alleged nuclear program, they haven’t agreed on an approach to the regime generated violence in Syria.

China has worked with Russia to veto attempts at the UN to sanction the Syrian government for a crackdown that has left as many as 9,000 dead, according to UN estimates. In Annapolis, Clinton acknowledged China’s support for Syria.

“Some of today’s emerging powers act as ‘selective stakeholders,’” she said, “picking and choosing when to participate constructively and when to stand apart from the international system.”

“While that may suit their interests in the short-term, it will ultimately render the system unworkable,” Clinton said. “And that would end up impoverishing everyone.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Annapolis, Maryland at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

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