Obama Outlines Asia Policy

In Tokyo this morning, US President Barack Obama outlined his Asia policy. The transcript of his address may be found here.


7 Responses to “Obama Outlines Asia Policy”

  1. 1 sophie pigot 17/11/2009 at 10:38 pm

    Barack Obama stated in his address at Suntory Hall, Japan discussed many topics. One that I finf most interesting is his strategy towards North Korea. It is of course true that the DPRK has huge human rights violations and a failing state however Obama paints an even more extreme picture than is factually correct which fuels further animosity and reaffirms distrust from the North Koreans. “For decades, North Korea has chosen a path of confrontation and provocation”. Obama demanded the DPRK to ‘return to the six-party talks; upholding previous commitments, including a return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and the full and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’ before the US will talk with them even though the Norht Koreans wish to speak directly with the US in bilateral talks. For the North Koreans they are still at war with the US and Obama’s tactics do not give due acknowledgement of the failures of the previous administration.
    The Bush administration made three critical errors in its dealings with Asia. It focused on excessive Military force at the expense of diplomacy, was guilty of economic mismanagement and most importantly the US distanced itself from rising Asian Regionalism by undertaking a unilateral approach to achieve its goals.

    In January 2002 at the State of the Union Address Bush announced that Iran, Iraq and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of North Korea (DPRK) were the ‘Axis of Evil’. The fact that none of these countries had nuclear weapons at this time was of little relevance. Under the Clinton Administration the DPRK had closed its plutonium enrichment plant at Yongbyon and signed the 1994 Agreed Framework which subjected all other plutonium facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring. It also put a freeze on all nuclear activity. Even Clinton’s Secretary of State Madame Albright visited Pyongyang as a precedent for the possibility of a Presidential visit. Early in the Bush Administration’s first term Secretary of Defence Colin Powell was forced to retract his statement that Bush would start where Clinton had left off in efforts to normalise relations with the DPRK. The Bush administration said they were taking a full review of the US government attitude towards the DPRK. On the 2nd of October 2001 Assistant Secretary of State J. Kelly visited Pyongyang and made an official accusation of an alleged covert North Korean highly enriched uranium program. This gave the US an acceptable pretext for a final break from the 1994 Agreed Framework. Following this the DPRK withdrew from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and prohibited the IAEA from monitoring any plutonium enrichment facilities.

    The Bush Administration’s legacy with the DPRK has left much instability in the region. The DPRK knows that its only bargaining chip is its nuclear weapons so for Obama to demand they be destroyed without any promise of bilateral talks is really just a way of maintaining status quo and saving face at the same time.
    Obama could try to follow in Clinton’s footsteps with a more positive rapprochement strategy however it appears that the US is frankly not too concerned with the North Koreans who are just trying to make noise to keep media attention on their plight. The tactic of painting the DPRK as an actual threat is a great cover for US indifference to the human rights violations and the split nation of Korea. As long as the DPRK remains isolated the area will remain stable enough. The only other thinkable outcome of an emergent North Korea is one that is closer allied to China and thus the situation as it stands is more favourable.

  2. 2 Ma On Ki 20/11/2009 at 12:28 am

    This is so happy to see that USA is working hand in hand with China. Though some people believe that while USA is in decline, China should take the opportunity to replace it to be the world leader, it is not the right time yet. China still has a lot to learn. Like, yes, economically, it is a leading power in the international arena. The other aspects are underdeveloped especially the social one, e.g. inadequate medical service provisions in many poor regions. China should take its time to reform in those aspects before claiming itself the world power.

    Besides, China, even wants to replace USA, cannot make any big move to harm the interest of USA. Apart from the fact that the world is interdependence as soon in the consequences brought about by the financial tsunami 2009 all over the world, the relationship between USA and China is particularly close. China is the biggest debtor of USA. If USA’s economy can be recovered well, China cannot get back the debt probably which would pose adverse impact to China’s economy as well.

    Therefore, for the sake of the world and their own interest, it is extremely desirable for them to work hand in hand to get advance in economic area and also other areas too of course.

  3. 3 James H.T. Lam 21/11/2009 at 12:33 am

    It is indeed encouraging to look at Obama’s remarks in Tokyo on his view on the US-Asia relationship, inter-regional relationships and the future of Asia. Throughout the speech, I find out that words like, cooperation, partnership, mutual understanding, dialogue have appeared a number of times. This, to a certain extent shed some light to the attitude of Obama and his administration’s view on a multi-lateral world and mutual cooperation. Obama described himself that his view of world was shaped by the Pacific Rim and that the fortunes of AMerica and Asia has become closely linked than ever before. The US can be said as no longer only a guardian of western ideology, but more to facilitate a world of different ideologies and values peacefully co-exist. In this speech, a closer attention of US towards Asia, a continuous pursuit of cooperation, should be foreseeable.

    The speech focuses on China as well. This is no doubt necessary as China will soon (or even now) the most important player in Asia. Obama said: “And it’s precisely for this reason that it is important to pursue pragmatic cooperation with China on issues of mutual concern, because no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century alone, and the United States and China will both be better off when we are able to meet them together.” This indeed is a positive note on Sino US relations and it seems that China’s worry on US’ unilateralism can be dropped to a certain extent, while the tone of Obama is that US would no longer be an “international police”, but try to cooperate with China, seeking dialouges, and treat China as a partner rather than a competitor. As a Chinese, it is encouraging to see Obama welcomes the rise of China, and is willing to form a partnership with CHina, as well as acknowledging China’s effort in promoting regional security, the example employed by Obama was Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    It is of course worth to note Obama’s dialogue with Shanghai University students not long after his remarks in Tokyo. OBama, when asked about woman rights and other universal values, claimed that US will continue and it’s important for the US to speak out the universal values. However, different than past stance of the US administrations, Obama acknowledged that US herself was not perfect and progress have to be made (in US as well). I think this attitude will be more welcomed by the Chinese leadership, since US no longer regards herself as a preacher of human rights and universal values, but to a certain extent admitting that problems exist in local US as well. The usual “double-standard” view, which irritated the Chinese administration most, has been altered. Of course, it is delighted to learn that US will continue to speak out and advocate fundamental values but herself being adhered to them, and I think China would be more integrated with the international community if she adopts an “open minded” stance and discuss these issues with not only US, but also the rest of the world.

    Finally, when asked about cross-strait relations and arms sale to Taiwan, it is encouraging that OBama first reinstated the need to observe and his administration fully supporting the One China Policy. He insisted dialogue and negotiation between the Strait, and that he hoped that commercial and economic ties might mitigate the historical tension among the two. He has not directly given a definite answer on US administration’s view on whether arms sale to Taiwan will be continued, as it is diplomatically wise to do so, I think. Yet, with the continuous improving cross strait relationship, I see a peaceful solution between Chinese across the strait would be in place some day.

    The Obama dialogue with Shanghai University students could be found following this link:


  4. 4 Cheung Yan Victoria 26/11/2009 at 11:29 pm

    The idea of forging a stronger US-Asia Pacific partnership runs across Obama’s speech – ‘pursue a new era of engagement with the world based on mutual interests and mutual respect’, ‘strengthening the global nonproliferation regime is not about singling out any individual nations’, ‘all nations must accept their responsibility’, ‘there can be no solution to our energy security and our climate change without the rising powers and developing nations of the Asia Pacific’. He recognized that different global issues like climate change, terrorism, modern-day slavery and the spread of infectious diseases transcend physical borders and so their resolution calls for stronger concerted efforts on the global stage.

    What about Hong Kong? Commentaries in local newspapers argued that Obama’s visit to Asia reflected a diminishing role for HK to play in the global arena as ‘Hong Kong’ was not mentioned in his speeches and was not chosen as his destination in China unlike Shanghai and Beijing.

    However, given that HK is so small a city, and that US-HK relationship has been stabilized over the years, I think it is understandable that HK did not gain the spotlight in his visit; but this does not necessarily mean that HK has not cultivated cooperation with the US in combating those global issues. For instance, HK has been an active supporter of Washington’s counterterrorism efforts; it helped track down funding for terrorist networks, and was one of the first to join the Container Security Initiative to prevent the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction to the US. Economically, HK has consistently ranked in the top 15 of US’s trading partners. HK may even play a role in making China shoulder more international responsibility – a change that the US surely welcomes.

    While we should not exaggerate the importance of HK internationally, these global roles played by HK should not be overlooked as well.

  5. 5 Chong Tak Shing 04/12/2009 at 4:07 pm

    It seems that President Obama is trying to adopt a new strategy towards Asian countries, including both US allies and US ‘enemies’. Apparently the new vision recognizes the rising of Asian countries particularly China. In economic aspects, the United States is likely to shift the balance onto China. Of course, trade conflicts will not end between China and US. Instead, the conflicts will become a concrete tool for bargaining interests in Sino-US relationship.

    In reality, America’s values still are searching for opportunities to enter Asian countries. In his talk in Shanghai, Obama mentioned values like freedom and democracy should be come to China. Perhaps US identities stress on democracy and human rights, US will not easily give up her important mission in urging these countries for democratization. Nonetheless, the path becomes more difficult to walk. With the rising of Asian countries, Asian’s values like guardianship and paying respect for leaders and rulers will become dominant in these countries. Democratization will undoubtedly encounter these values. It is necessary for US diplomats and officials to generate different strategies that able to be adapted into different places for democratization. The United States is expected to dialogue with these countries more frequently in the future and hence improving the relationships among these countries no matter of friends and enemies.

  6. 6 Cheung Wai, Irene 07/12/2009 at 6:14 pm

    For these few years, the world has been talking about the rise of China, the upsurge of Asia. It’s indeed encouraging for me to see finally the US become less “arrogant” , thinking itself as the saviour of the world, fixing problems for the well-being of the whole world. It is something personal, anyway.

    Undoubtedly, the global economy is now downturning, facing really serious problem such as the financial tsunami last year and the recent Dubai crisis. Something’s gotta be wrong. The US actually is left with no choice but to ally and gain cooperation with Asia, especailly China, if it has to save itself from its wrongdoing for many years which has led to the current plight. It’s a matter of power in the end. Whoever got the power, who ever got the say and “friends”.

    But, it is also beneficial to China by increasing cooperation with the US. On international ground, China still is climbing its way up to the top. So, such a move will be welcome. And more cooperation would also mean a more harmonious world at least. Regional cooperation and global cooperation, afterall , is the key to addressing such global problems human beings are facing now.

  7. 7 Taylor Rens 09/12/2009 at 8:01 pm

    It seems as thought one of the challenges in getting governments to cooperate on the issues of climate change is the lack of effect global warming has on the day to day lives of average people around the world. While there is a general consensus amongst scientists that the very real effects of global warming are beginning to change the world in which we live, thus far the pace of this change has been in excruciatingly slow and its significance minimal. The panic about global warming is centered more on how dangerous it is for the future rather than how devastating it to the present. It is difficult to convince people to drive less, drink more tap water, or to save energy by keeping their homes cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer because the benefits of these sacrifice are not overtly noticeable. This is one of the main obstacles to climate change reform in the United States, and I suspect that it will be a problem for China as the world starts to call on Hong Kong and other developed areas for more environmental responsibility. One people have achieved a high level of affluence, it is hard to convince them to give it up.
    Furthermore, even if it were possible to convince people that direct benefits, would result from environmentally friendly actions, the problem of collective action and free riding would arise. It is perfectly rational for an individual actor to not make sacrifices under the logic that if everybody else is acting environmentally friendly, then its actions are not significant enough to make a difference either way. If only a small minority employs this logic, then they are able to gain all the benefits from the actions of the majority without having to do anything. This is the problem of free riding. However, if a majority of people decides that they will just let everyone else change, then the problem of collective action arises and not positive progress is made. Economic growth and individual affluence still override environmental protection for people, businesses, and governments everywhere. Until these people, governments and business begin to directly feel the negative effects of global warming on their respective economic interests, the hope for a sufficient level of environmental friendliness seems far-fetched.

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