LOOKING TO THE EAST
NOVEMBER 21, 1996
The President is in Asia this week touring countries of this booming economic region prior to attending the APEC economic summit in Manila. With 100,000 U.S. troops in Asia and increasing trade, this region is becoming an increasing area of focus for the administration. Following a background report, Margaret Warner talks with a panel of Asian experts.
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Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta discusses his attempts to get independence for East Timor from Asian economic tiger Indonesia.
Oct. 21, 1996:
After three years out of power, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party wins in the general election.
May 21, 1996:
Facing the real threat of famine, the North Korean government has allowed aid organizations into its usually closed borders.
May 17, 1996:
Secretary of State Warren Christopher discusses U.S./China relations.
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MARGARET WARNER: Asia is changing. Economically, it's the fastest growing, most dynamic region in the world. Many economists predict that the year 2000 will usher in the Asian century. But there are new tensions too. The end of the Cold War has prompted many countries throughout the region to re-think their political and security relationships with each other and with the United States. Since many fast-growing Asian economies continue to maintain trade barriers to imports from their neighbors and from the United States. Human rights is yet another source of tension, as many countries in Asia, even its fledgling democracies, insist they cannot be held to western concepts of human and individual rights. For the United States, all this means a reassessment of its relationship with the region as a whole and with individual countries as diverse as China, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. So it's not surprising that President Clinton, who was criticized for not paying enough attention to Asia in his first term, chose this region for his first foreign trip after the election.
SANDY BERGER, Deputy National Security Advisor: For this President, elevating our engagement with an Asia that is emerging in importance has been a priority in his first term, and it will be, I believe, of even greater importance in his second term.
MARGARET WARNER: The President's first stop this week was Australia. From there, he heads for the so-called APEC summit in Manila on Saturday and to Thailand early next week. APEC stands for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. It was created in 1989 for the stated purpose of sparking dialogue, not making policy, a vague formulation that prompted one Australian foreign minister to describe APEC as an organization known by four adjectives in search of a noun. APEC now counts 18 nations as members, with several others clamoring for admittance. Current members include Australia, New Zealand, and Papua, New Guinea, on the southern end of the Pacific; Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. From North America, the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and from South America, Chile. President Clinton helped boost the organization's credibility in 1993 by hosting the first meeting of APEC heads of state in Seattle.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: What has happened in Asia in the past half century is amazing and unprecedented. Just three decades ago, Asia had only 8 percent of the world's GDP. Today, it exceeds 25 percent. These economies are growing at three times the rate of the established industrial nations. In a short time, many of these economies have gone from being dominoes to dynamos, from minor powers racked by turmoil. Now, you can clap for them. It's true. (applause)
MARGARET WARNER: Central to each APEC meeting before and since then have been discussions on trade. One third of all Asian exports go to the United States and likewise, one third of American exports are sold to Asia. Partially in response to American demands for even greater openness, APEC members agreed in 1994 to create the world's largest free trade zone by the year 2020. Political and security issues are discussed too, not at the formal APEC sessions but at meetings among the region's leaders around those sessions. The United States has used APEC summits particularly to meet with the Chinese. President Clinton met Chinese President Jiang for the first time at an APEC meeting in 1993. The two leaders will meet for the fourth time at this APEC meeting in Manila. China is the largest nation in Asia and the region's most dynamic economy, and U.S.-China trade has been growing, but U.S.-China relations have been badly strained in recent years by trade disputes, a brief military flare-up in the Taiwan Strait earlier this year, and continuing disagreements over human rights. President Clinton alluded to all this yesterday in his speech in Australia.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The United States and China will continue to have important differences, especially in the area of human rights. And we will continue to discuss them candidly. But by working together, where possible, and dealing with our differences openly and respectfully, where necessary, we can deepen our dialogue and add to Asia's stability.
MARGARET WARNER: Heading the docket for the upcoming APEC meeting is a U.S. proposal to eliminate tariffs on information technology items like computers and telecommunications equipment by the year 2000.
WINSTON LORD, Assistant Secretary of State: The single biggest concrete goal we have will be to try to get APEC to endorse an information technology agreement which would eliminate all tariffs in this critical sector by the year 2000. This is a $1/2 trillion sector in terms of worldwide trade. It's a trillion dollars with respect to production.
MARGARET WARNER: Other items on the agenda, making it easier for foreigners to invest and do business in APEC countries and promoting cooperation on pollution problems that plague the region's growing economies, but APEC is not a formal trade organization like NAFTA or the European Union. Even if its members agree, in principle, to reduce trade barriers, APEC has no mechanism to force them to comply.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, a discussion of some of the issues raised by the changing U.S.-Asia relationship. Fred Bergsten is director of the Institute for International Economics in Washington and a former U.S. trade official. Pek Heng-Blackburn is a Malaysian, now teaching at the Center for Asian Studies at American University in Washington. Chalmers Johnson is an economist and political scientist who heads the Japan Policy Research Institute in Cardiff, California. And Tetsuya Kataoka is a Japanese political scientist and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institute in California. Welcome, all of you. Mr. Bergsten, what are America's most vital interests in Asia now that need to be addressed in the short-term?
FRED BERGSTEN, Institute for International Economics: There are really two. On the security side, Asia is still the cockpit for the most likely conflicts in the world. The Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, China's possible expansionism--all those are major sources of security concern. We've got to be worried about them. Secondly is economics. As indicated already, Asia is the biggest, most rapidly growing part of the world economy. That's where export markets are available for us. We now depend heavily on experts for our own economic success. Export jobs pay 20 percent more than the average wage in this country, so the more we can take advantage of those markets, the more we raise our incomes, deal with our fundamental economic problem of wage stagnation and getting our standard of living up.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Johnson, would you agree with that diagnosis of America's interest in Asia?
CHALMERS JOHNSON, Japan Policy Research Institute: No. I think the problem is that trade and security remain separated as they were for convenience purposes, for strategic purposes during the Cold War, that the truth of the matter is we have a $100 billion structural deficit with the area, while we continued to defend some people that in the case of the Japanese are almost twice as rich as we are in terms of per capita income. It seems to be what, instead, we see is the pretense of policy in East Asia right now, while in fact, we are perpetuating the old Cold War relationships. As for there being military problems in East Asia, it's much more a matter of we have military deployments looking for a strategy, rather than any realistic military commitment in the area. What we need there is probably the Navy, only the Navy. We also need to start charging for it.
MARGARET WARNER: So a lot less engagement, in your view, is what's called for?
CHALMERS JOHNSON: I certainly don't see any continued need for American ground forces. We've had just continuous incidents, from the rape of the 12-year-old girl in Okinawa a year ago to continuous incidents elsewhere in Japan and in Korea. These are actually damaging the relationship, rather than contributing to what we would like to achieve in the area.
MARGARET WARNER: Ms. Heng-Blackburn, how do you--and I don't want to put all Asians together--but give us a sense of the range of opinion in Asia in terms of what would be the ideal relationship with the United States.
PEK HENG-BLACKBURN, American University: Well, the ideal relationship which the Asians try to see that America plays is that of a balancer. We do still need--I disagree with Dr. Johnson that, you know, that the region is in a Cold War mode; it isn't. It is no longer in a Cold War Mode, and you know, there is no longer a clear threat in the sense that existed before. But American involvement and engagement is needed, and the Asians do welcome, you know, a moderating, a balancing role from the Americans, you know, to extend the security umbrella under which Asian economies have benefitted so obviously in the last 20 years.
MARGARET WARNER: Balancing against whom?
PEK HENG-BLACKBURN: Well, there are perceived, you know, threats in the region, and I think most Asians would agree that China is seen to be the new actor. And there's, you know, a certain caution about what will happen to the balance of power with China coming in, with its new--being a comprehensive power, unlike Japan, which is only an economic superpower. China is a military--will be a military, as well as an economic, power probably in about twenty, thirty years time. So there is some concern that we need the Americans there still, you know, to balance the equation, if one of the indigenous actors should flex its muscles in an unwelcome way.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Kataoka, what is your assessment of, from the Asian perspective, what would be the ideal relationship with the United States in the coming years?
TETSUYA KATAOKA, Hoover Institute: Well, I certainly do not rule out the kind of thinking that Professor Johnson has been entertaining, but for the near-term future, I do not see an alternative to a U.S. military presence, and even if we were to entertain some change in arrangement in Asia, I believe the--the U.S.-Japan cooperation will have to be the cornerstone. Certainly, we don't want to contemplate a world in which the United States and Japan are at odds with each other because in that case, Japan will be drifting toward China. I'd like to see the present order continued, but with--if you are seriously thinking about adjusting it--that's for the midterm to the long-term future, we can begin a dialogue, but for the time being, I would stand by what Mr. Bergsten had said, namely, there's no--you know--substitution for like U.S. presence and Asia is a major engine of development, and the United States ought to remain engaged and connected with it.
MARGARET WARNER: So you agree with Professor Heng-Blackburn that most Asian countries at least see the U.S. as an important counterweight to their own powerful regional--their own regional powers?
TETSUYA KATAOKA: Yes. The United States, for better or worse, has been playing this role, and to suddenly pull out of it would create a chaos in the region. So willy nilly, the American presence is a necessity. It--I hate to use the word “policeman,” and it's been reluctant to play that role anymore since Vietnam, but just think of the weight of two aircraft carriers in calming things down this much when there was a crisis in Taiwan Strait, that is not such a major burden on the American people. And if that is sufficient to keep the peace, I would support it.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Johnson, since our last two speakers disagreed most with you, let me give you first crack at responding to that, what they both side.
CHALMERS JOHNSON: The fundamental issue is to adjust to the emergence of China as a genuine superpower. As the Hong Kong joke has it, China has just had a couple of bad centuries, and it's back. We're drifting toward containment of China, which is a disaster. If we attempt to contain China, we will bankrupt this country, we will divide Japan, we will militarize the Chinese leadership, and if it leads to war, we will lose it. And this is the issue that really needs to be addressed. It is, moreover, the question of why we in the United States should take on this role when, as I say, very rich countries that profited enormously from the relationship that we created during the Cold War, when our interest was to check Communism, that--that these countries are not carrying their weight, that we're, in fact, spending thirty/forty billion dollars a year maintaining a hundred thousand American ground forces in Northeast Asia. These are the sorts of things that appear to me as desperately in need of change, and if they're not changed soon, they will probably be changed by some crisis.
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying that it's not up to the U.S. to protect all the other nations of Asia from China or the perceived threat, that Japan should do it?
CHALMERS JOHNSON: No. It should be a quid pro quo; to the extent that we are going to contribute in this area militarily, we insist on having a much larger participation in what, as Fred Bergsten said, is, indeed, the world's center for manufacturing today. Our essential role in East Asia is as a market for the high quality, low cost products in Asia, not particularly--East Asia is not that important a market for us.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. What about that, Fred Berg sten, is that a good trade?
FRED BERGSTEN: I think Professor Johnson has it backward in one sense. Certainly the United States is not trying to contain China. To the contrary, the United States is trying to engage China as best it can.
MARGARET WARNER: That's what President Clinton said to President Jiang two or three years ago.
FRED BERGSTEN: That's what he has said in previous years. I'm sure he'll say it again when they meet in the next couple of days in Manila. The United States finds that difficult because of China's ambivalence toward how it joins the world, what kind of global role it plays as it becomes the next major superpower, but certainly the United States would be making a huge mistake if it tried to contain China, and it's not trying to do that. I think Professor Blackburn had it right. The U.S. is involved in Asia at the behest of all the other Asian countries to provide a balancing and stabilizing role. The example of the ships going into the Taiwan Straits a few months ago was a very good one. The Korean Peninsula, which is certainly a flashpoint--Professor Johnson talks about no more Cold War--well, the Cold War has not ended in the Korean Peninsula, and is a nuclear threat that we have to worry about, and only the U.S. is able to play that role. So I think we have to continue. Secondly, the U.S. cost of the military establishment in East Asia is not quite so bad as Professor Johnson puts it. In Japan, the Japanese pay all of our local costs. They pick up almost the entire local cost that we spend in the region. They've done that increasingly. They do it because they want us to be there. Now, at the same time, we're defending ourselves, not just them, so it's a good thing for the United States. But the final question is the one you put: Is there a kind of high level tradeoff, whereby the U.S. continues to be active militarily and politically in Asia in return for which the Asians give us access to their market's participation in the rapidly growing economy there, that all of us, even Professor Johnson agree? And the answer, in broad terms is yes. President Clinton will be going to the APEC summit in Subic on Monday. APEC is the first institutional manifestation of this relationship. APEC doesn't talk about security issues, but it is rooted in the security relationship, because all of the countries in Asia want to keep the United States deeply engaged. They know that the way to assure that is by including--by maintaining and expanding U.S. economic access in the region. That means that domestic political support in our own country for Asian involvement will continue, and that's the deal that makes APEC such an important part of this equation.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. But, Professor Heng-Blackburn, how receptive do you think most Asian countries are to this tradeoff, to opening markets further in return for this security protection?
PEK HENG-BLACKBURN: First of all, I'd like to just counter something that Professor Johnson brought up. I will go back to your point. The Asians want to see America involved in Japan primarily because they think that if America were to leave Japan, Japan might re-militarize. And that is really going to be a very, very destabilizing factor, and we're just going to open up a whole Pandora's box. And the memories of World War II are still very strong in the region, and the specter of a re-militarized Japan is just not acceptable. And they see the insurance, the greatest insurance against the Japanese re-militarization is the American presence there. Now to go back to Professor Bergsten's point about the tradeoff, yes, the Asians are aware that the tradeoff is necessary, that America is--the Asian region being the fastest growing economic region in the world that America has a lot of vested interest in that area now, but the institutionalization of APEC that Professor Bergsten has a major role in playing is coming too fast, too quickly, and it's being done in a way that is, you know, not completely acceptable to all the Asian members. There's some division of opinion about how quickly this institutionalization process should proceed.
MARGARET WARNER: And by institutionalization, you mean the American desire to have specific goals and timetables for opening certain markets and so on.
PEK HENG-BLACKBURN: That's right, precisely. The blueprint, in fact, that Dr. Bergsten chaired in the eminent persons' group, the EPG blueprint which suggested a timetable for liberalization of the area by the year 2020 for the less-developed countries and at 2010 for the developed countries, and some of these other Asian countries, especially Malaysia, feel that this timetable is not realistic, especially the timetable for the less-developed countries.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Kataoka, let me ask you about another American concern which has to do with human rights and political rights and that whole broad spectrum and the desire to have a certain quid pro quo there as well. Do you think the United States should continue to try to push its view of human and political rights in broad terms upon Asia, Asian countries?
TETSUYA KATAOKA: Ms. Warner, you know, you have to realize that there are certain peculiarities and foibles of the American people which you don't find anywhere else. This is the only country in the world that I know among the advanced industrialized nations where people fight tooth and nail over questions of abortion. This is one of the rare places where the Christian movement is very strong in politics. Certainly, William Bennett writes a book of virtue and becomes an instant bestseller. There is certain fundamentalist inclinations among the American people, and it's fine for them to be that way, but when they try to impose it on other peoples, and try to make this, their compliance with American moral standard a condition for trade, that's where one begins to get into an enormous and unnecessary friction. Now of course if Chinese army tanks are overrunning student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, let's all stand on our hind legs and protest, but when you're dealing with minor issues, the Asian countries get an impression that the United States is out to make trouble and to find something--economic concessions to--to exchange for it. And here I'm glad that the Clinton administration, as it looks toward a second term, seems to be taking a more mature attitude, in contrast to the first term. I hope--I wish Mr. Clinton great success.
MARGARET WARNER: In the brief time we have left, do you think that the kind of linkage between human rights concerns and trade that President Clinton came into office talking about but has backed away from--let me ask Mr. Bergsten this--do you think that is dead?
FRED BERGSTEN: I think it's largely dead because it was ineffectual. It's not whether you like it or not. It just didn't work. By contrast, human rights in China, though they have an enormous way to go, have improved considerably over the last 20 years as China has reformed its economy, joined the world, begun to participate in international exchange. There will be another half century till things are the way we like to see them, but the best way to proceed is to engage, continue to expand trade in other relationships, and to realize that over time, that's going to wean China like any country toward global norms, not just those of the United States.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you all four very much.