President Obama Speaks on the Future of U.S. Leadership in Asia Pacific Region

President Obama Speaks on the Future of U.S. Leadership in Asia Pacific Region


President Obama:
Good morning. Audience:
Good morning. (laughter) President Obama:
It is a great honor to be in
Tokyo – the first stop on my first visit to Asia as
President of the United States. (applause) Thank you. (applause) It is good to be among so many
of you – Japanese and I see a few Americans here — (applause) — who work every day to
strengthen the bonds between our two countries, including my
longtime friend and our new ambassador to Japan, John Roos. (applause) It is wonderful to
be back in Japan. Some of you may be aware
that when I was a young boy, my mother brought
me to Kamakura, where I looked up at that
centuries-old symbol of peace and tranquility — the
great bronze Amida Buddha. And as a child, I was more
focused on the matcha ice cream. (laughter) And I want to thank Prime
Minister Hatoyama for sharing some of those memories with more
ice cream last night at dinner. (laughter and applause) Thank you very much. But I have never forgotten the
warmth and the hospitality that the Japanese people showed a
young American far from home. And I feel that same spirit on
this visit: In the gracious welcome of Prime
Minister Hatoyama. In the extraordinary honor of
the meeting with Their Imperial Majesties, the
Emperor and Empress, on the 20th anniversary of his
ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne. In the hospitality shown
by the Japanese people. And of course, I could not
come here without sending my greetings and gratitude to
the citizens of Obama, Japan. (applause) Now, I am beginning my journey
here for a simple reason. Since taking office, I have
worked to renew American leadership and pursue a new era
of engagement with the world based on mutual interests
and mutual respect. And our efforts in the Asia
Pacific will be rooted, in no small measure, through
an enduring and revitalized alliance between the
United States and Japan. From my very first
days in office, we have worked to strengthen
the ties that bind our nations. The first foreign leader that I
welcomed to the White House was the Prime Minister of Japan, and
for the first time in nearly 50 years, the first foreign trip by
an American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was to
Asia, starting in Japan. (applause) In two months, our alliance will
mark its 50th anniversary — a day when President Dwight
Eisenhower stood next to Japan’s Prime Minister and said that our
two nations were creating “an indestructible partnership”
based on “equality and mutual understanding.” In the half-century since,
that alliance has endured as a foundation for our
security and prosperity. It has helped us become the
world’s two largest economies, with Japan emerging as America’s
second-largest trading partner outside of North America. It has evolved as Japan has
played a larger role on the world stage, and made important
contributions to stability around the world — from
reconstruction in Iraq, to combating piracy
off the Horn of Africa, to assistance for the people of
Afghanistan and Pakistan — most recently through its remarkable
leadership in providing additional commitments to
international development efforts there. Above all, our alliance has
endured because it reflects our common values — a belief in the
democratic right of free people to choose their own leaders
and realize their own dreams; a belief that made possible the
election of both Prime Minister Hatoyama and myself on
the promise of change. And together, we are committed
to providing a new generation of leadership for our
people and our alliance. That is why, at this
critical moment in history, the two of us have not only
reaffirmed our alliance — we’ve agreed to deepen it. We’ve agreed to move
expeditiously through a joint working group to implement
the agreement that our two governments reached
on restructuring U.S. forces in Okinawa. And as our alliance evolves
and adapts for the future, we will always strive to uphold
the spirit that President Eisenhower described long ago
— a partnership of equality and mutual respect. (applause) But while our commitment to
this region begins in Japan, it doesn’t end here. The United States of America
may have started as a series of ports and cities along
the Atlantic Ocean, but for generations we have also
been a nation of the Pacific. Asia and the United States are
not separated by this great ocean; we are bound by it. We are bound by our past — by
the Asian immigrants who helped build America, and the
generations of Americans in uniform who served and
sacrificed to keep this region secure and free. We are bound by our shared
prosperity — by the trade and commerce upon which millions
of jobs and families depend. And we are bound by our people
— by the Asian Americans who enrich every segment
of American life, and all the people whose
lives, like our countries, are interwoven. My own life is a
part of that story. I am an American President who
was born in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia as a boy. My sister Maya was
born in Jakarta, and later married a
Chinese-Canadian. My mother spent nearly a decade
working in the villages of Southeast Asia, helping women
buy a sewing machine or an education that might give them a
foothold in the world economy. So the Pacific Rim has helped
shape my view of the world. And since that time, perhaps no
region has changed as swiftly or dramatically. Controlled economies have
given way to open markets. Dictatorships have
become democracies. Living standards have risen
while poverty has plummeted. And through all these changes,
the fortunes of America and the Asia Pacific have become more
closely linked than ever before. So I want everyone to know, and
I want everybody in America to know, that we have a stake in
the future of this region, because what happens here has a
direct effect on our lives at home. This is where we engage
in much of our commerce and buy many of our goods. And this is where we can export
more of our own products and create jobs back
home in the process. This is a place where the risk
of a nuclear arms race threatens the security of the wider world,
and where extremists who defile a great religion plan attacks
on both our continents. And there can be no solution
to our energy security and our climate challenge without the
rising powers and developing nations of the Asia Pacific. To meet these common challenges,
the United States looks to strengthen old alliances and
build new partnerships with the nations of this region. To do this, we look to America’s
treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand
and the Philippines — alliances that are not historical
documents from a bygone era, but abiding commitments to each
other that are fundamental to our shared security. These alliances continue to
provide the bedrock of security and stability that has allowed
the nations and peoples of this region to pursue opportunity and
prosperity that was unimaginable at the time of my first
childhood visit to Japan. And even as American troops are
engaged in two wars around the world, our commitment
to Japan’s security and to Asia’s security
is unshakeable — (applause) — and it can be seen in our
deployments throughout the region — above all, through our
young men and women in uniform, of whom I am so proud. Now, we look to emerging nations
that are poised as well to play a larger role — both in the
Asia Pacific region and the wider world; places like
Indonesia and Malaysia that have adopted democracy,
developed their economies, and tapped the great potential
of their own people. We look to rising powers with
the view that in the 21st century, the national security
and economic growth of one country need not come at
the expense of another. I know there are many who
question how the United States perceives China’s emergence. But as I have said, in
an interconnected world, power does not need
to be a zero-sum game, and nations need not fear
the success of another. Cultivating spheres of
cooperation — not competing spheres of influence — will
lead to progress in the Asia Pacific. (applause) Now, as with any nation, America
will approach China with a focus on our interests. 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. That’s why we welcome China’s
effort to play a greater role on the world stage — a role in
which their growing economy is joined by growing
responsibility. China’s partnership has proved
critical in our effort to jumpstart economic recovery. China has promoted security and
stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And it is now committed to the
global nonproliferation regime, and supporting the pursuit of
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. So the United States does
not seek to contain China, nor does a deeper relationship
with China mean a weakening of our bilateral alliances. On the contrary,
the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source
of strength for the community of nations. And so in Beijing and beyond,
we will work to deepen our strategic and economic dialogue,
and improve communication between our militaries. Of course, we will not
agree on every issue, and the United States will never
waver in speaking up for the fundamental values that we
hold dear — and that includes respect for the religion and
cultures of all people — because support for human
rights and human dignity is ingrained in America. But we can move these
discussions forward in a spirit of partnership
rather than rancor. In addition to our
bilateral relations, we also believe that the growth
of multilateral organizations can advance the security and
prosperity of this region. I know that the United States
has been disengaged from many of these organizations
in recent years. So let me be clear:
Those days have passed. As a Asia Pacific nation, the
United States expects to be involved in the discussions that
shape the future of this region, and to participate fully in
appropriate organizations as they are established and evolve. (applause) That is the work that I
will begin on this trip. The Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation forum will continue to promote regional
commerce and prosperity, and I look forward to
participating in that forum this evening. ASEAN will remain a catalyst
for Southeast Asian dialogue, cooperation and security, and
I look forward to becoming the first American President to
meet with all 10 ASEAN leaders. (applause) And the United States looks
forward to engaging with the East Asia Summit more formally
as it plays a role in addressing the challenges of our time. We seek this deeper and broader
engagement because we know our collective future depends on it. And I’d like to speak for a bit
about what that future might look like, and what we must
do to advance our prosperity, our security, and our universal
values and aspirations. First, we must strengthen
our economic recovery, and pursue growth that is
both balanced and sustained. The quick, unprecedented and
coordinated action taken by Asia Pacific nations and others has
averted economic catastrophe, and helped us to begin to emerge
from the worst recession in generations. And we have taken the historic
step of reforming our international economic
architecture, so that the G20 is now the
premier forum for international economic cooperation. Now, this shift to the G20,
along with the greater voice that is being given to Asian
nations in international financial institutions, clearly
demonstrates the broader, more inclusive engagement that
America seeks in the 21st century. And as a key member of the G8,
Japan has and will continue to play a leading and vital role
in shaping the future of the international financial
architecture. (applause) Now that we are on the
brink of economic recovery, we must also ensure that
it can be sustained. We simply cannot return to the
same cycles of boom and bust that led to a global recession. We can’t follow the same
policies that led to such imbalanced growth. One of the important lessons
this recession has taught us is the limits of depending
primarily on American consumers and Asian exports to drive
growth — because when Americans found themselves too heavily in
debt or lost their jobs and were out of work, demand for
Asian goods plummeted. When demand fell sharply,
exports from this region fell sharply. Since the economies of this
region are so dependent on exports, they stopped growing. And the global
recession only deepened. So we have now reached one of
those rare inflection points in history where we have the
opportunity to take a different path. And that must begin with the
G20 pledge that we made in Pittsburgh to pursue a new
strategy for balanced economic growth. I’ll be saying more
about this in Singapore, but in the United States, this
new strategy will mean that we save more and spend less,
reform our financial systems, reduce our long-term
deficit and borrowing. It will also mean a greater
emphasis on exports that we can build, produce, and
sell all over the world. For America, this
is a jobs strategy. Right now, our exports support
millions upon millions of well-paying American jobs. Increasing those exports by just
a small amount has the potential to create millions more. These are jobs making everything
from wind turbines and solar panels to the technology
that you use every day. For Asia, striking this better
balance will provide an opportunity for workers and
consumers to enjoy higher standards of living that
their remarkable increases in productivity have made possible. It will allow for greater
investments in housing and infrastructure and
the service sector. And a more balanced global
economy will lead to prosperity that reaches further and deeper. For decades, the United States
has had one of the most open markets in the world, and that
openness has helped to fuel the success of so many countries
in this region and others over the last century. In this new era, opening other
markets around the globe will be critical not just to
America’s prosperity, but to the world’s, as well. An integral part of this new
strategy is working towards an ambitious and balanced Doha
agreement — not any agreement, but an agreement that will open
up markets and increase exports around the world. We are ready to work with our
Asian partners to see if we can achieve that objective in a
timely fashion — and we invite our regional trading partners
to join us at the table. We also believe that continued
integration of the economies of this region will benefit
workers, consumers, and businesses in
all our nations. Together, with our
South Korean friends, we will work through the issues
necessary to move forward on a trade agreement with them. The United States will also be
engaging with the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries with the
goal of shaping a regional agreement that will have
broad-based membership and the high standards worthy of a
21st century trade agreement. Working in partnership, this is
how we can sustain this recovery and advance our
common prosperity. But it’s not enough to pursue
growth that is balanced. We also need growth that is
sustainable — for our planet and the future generations
that will live here. Already, the United States has
taken more steps to combat climate change in 10 months than
we have in our recent history – (applause) — by embracing
the latest science, by investing in new energy, by
raising efficiency standards, forging new partnerships, and
engaging in international climate negotiations. In short, America knows there is
more work to do — but we are meeting our responsibility,
and will continue to do so. And that includes striving
for success in Copenhagen. I have no illusions
that this will be easy, but the contours of a
way forward are clear. All nations must accept
their responsibility. Those nations, like my own, who
have been the leading emitters, must have clear
reduction targets. Developing countries will need
to take substantial actions to curb their emissions, aided
by finance and technology. And there must be transparency
and accountability for domestic actions. Each of us must do what we can
to grow our economies without endangering our planet —
and we must do it together. But the good news is that if
we put the right rules and incentives in place, it will
unleash the creative power of our best scientists,
engineers, and entrepreneurs. It will lead to new
jobs, new businesses, and entire new industries. And Japan has been at the
forefront on this issue. We are looking forward to being
a important partner with you as we achieve this
critical global goal. (applause) Yet, even as we confront this
challenge of the 21st century, we must also redouble our
efforts to meet a threat to our security that is the legacy of
the 20th century — the danger posed by nuclear weapons. In Prague, I affirmed America’s
commitment to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and laid
out a comprehensive agenda to pursue this goal. (applause) I am pleased that Japan has
joined us in this effort, for no two nations on Earth know
better what these weapons can do, and together we must
seek a future without them. This is fundamental to
our common security, and this is a great test
of our common humanity. Our very future
hangs in the balance. Now, let me be clear: So
long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain
a strong and effective nuclear deterrent that guarantees
the defense of our allies — including South Korea and Japan. (applause) But we must recognize that an
escalating nuclear arms race in this region would undermine
decades of growth and prosperity. So we are called upon to uphold
the basic bargain of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — that
all nations have a right to peaceful nuclear energy; that
nations with nuclear weapons have a responsibility to move
toward nuclear disarmament; and those without nuclear
weapons have a responsibility to forsake them. Indeed, Japan serves as an
example to the world that true peace and power can be
achieved by taking this path. (applause) For decades, Japan has enjoyed
the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy, while rejecting nuclear
arms development — and by any measure, this has
increased Japan’s security and
enhanced its position. To meet our responsibilities and
to move forward with the agenda I laid out in Prague,
we have passed, with the help of Japan,
a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution embracing
this international effort. We are pursuing a new
agreement with Russia to reduce our
nuclear stockpiles. We will work to ratify and bring
into force the test ban treaty. (applause) And next year at our
Nuclear Security Summit, we will advance our goal of
securing all the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials
within four years. Now, as I’ve said before,
strengthening the global nonproliferation regime is
not about singling out any individual nations. It’s about all nations living
up to their responsibilities. That includes the Islamic
Republic of Iran. And it includes North Korea. For decades, North Korea has
chosen a path of confrontation and provocation, including the
pursuit of nuclear weapons. It should be clear
where this path leads. We have tightened
sanctions on Pyongyang. We have passed the
most sweeping U.N. Security Council resolution to
date to restrict their weapons of mass destruction activities. We will not be cowed by threats,
and we will continue to send a clear message
through our actions, and not just our words: North
Korea’s refusal to meet its international obligations
will lead only to less security — not more. Yet there is another
path that can be taken. Working in tandem with our
partners — supported by direct diplomacy — the United States
is prepared to offer North Korea a different future. Instead of an isolation that
has compounded the horrific repression of its own people,
North Korea could have a future of international integration. Instead of gripping poverty, it
could have a future of economic opportunity — where trade and
investment and tourism can offer the North Korean people the
chance at a better life. And instead of
increasing insecurity, it could have a future of
greater security and respect. This respect cannot be
earned through belligerence. It must be reached by a nation
that takes its place in the international community by fully
living up to its international obligations. So the path for North Korea to
realize this future is clear: a 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. And full normalization with its
neighbors can also only come if Japanese families receive
a full accounting of those who have been abducted. (applause) These are all steps that can
be taken by the North Korean government if they are
interested in improving the lives of their people and
joining the community of nations. And as we are vigilant in
confronting this challenge, we will stand with all of our
Asian partners in combating the transnational threats of the
21st century: by rooting out the extremists who
slaughter the innocent, and stopping the piracy that
threatens our sea lanes; by enhancing our efforts
to stop infectious disease, and working to end extreme
poverty in our time; and by shutting down the
traffickers who exploit women, children and migrants, and
putting a stop to this scourge of modern-day slavery
once and for all. Indeed, the final area in which
we must work together is in upholding the fundamental rights
and dignity of all human beings. The Asia Pacific region is
rich with many cultures. It is marked by extraordinary
traditions and strong national histories. And time and again, we have seen
the remarkable talent and drive of the peoples of this region
in advancing human progress. Yet this much is also clear —
indigenous cultures and economic growth have not been stymied
by respect for human rights; they have been
strengthened by it. Supporting human rights provides
lasting security that cannot be purchased in any other way —
that is the story that can be seen in Japan’s democracy,
just as it can be seen in America’s democracy. The longing for liberty and
dignity is a part of the story of all peoples. For there are certain
aspirations that human beings hold in common: the
freedom to speak your mind, and choose your leaders; the
ability to access information, and worship how you please;
confidence in the rule of law, and the equal
administration of justice. These are not
impediments to stability; they are the cornerstones
of stability. And we will always stand on the
side of those who seek these rights. That truth, for example, guides
our new approach to Burma. Despite years of
good intentions, neither sanctions by the United
States nor engagement by others succeeded in improving the
lives of the Burmese people. So we are now communicating
directly with the leadership to make it clear that existing
sanctions will remain until there are concrete steps
toward democratic reform. We support a Burma
that is unified, peaceful, prosperous, and democratic. And as Burma moves
in that direction, a better relationship with the
United States is possible. There are clear steps that must
be taken — the unconditional release of all
political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; an
end to conflicts with minority groups; and a genuine dialogue
between the government, the democratic opposition and
minority groups on a shared vision for the future. That is how a government in
Burma will be able to respond to the needs of its people. That is the path that
will bring Burma true security and prosperity. (applause) These are steps that the United
States will take to improve prosperity, security, and human
dignity in the Asia Pacific. We will do so through our close
friendship with Japan — which will always be a centerpiece
of our efforts in the region. We will do so as a partner —
through the broader engagement that I’ve discussed today. We will do so as a Pacific
nation — with a President who was shaped in part by
this piece of the globe. And we will do so with the same
sense of purpose that has guided our ties with the Japanese
people for nearly 50 years. The story of how these ties were
forged dates back to the middle of the last century, sometime
after the guns of war had quieted in the Pacific. It was then that America’s
commitment to the security and stability of Japan, along with
the Japanese peoples’ spirit of resilience and industriousness,
led to what’s been called “the Japanese miracle” — a period of
economic growth that was faster and more robust than anything
the world had seen for some time. In the coming years and decades,
this miracle would spread throughout the region and in a
single generation the lives and fortunes of millions were
forever changed for the better. It is progress that has been
supported by a hard-earned peace and strengthened by new bridges
of mutual understanding that have bound together the nations
of this vast and sprawling space. But we know that there’s still
work to be done — so that new breakthroughs in science and
technology can lead to jobs on both sides of the Pacific, and
security from a warming planet; so that we can reverse the
spread of deadly weapons, and — on a divided peninsula —
the people of South can be freed from fear, and those in the
North can live free from want; so that a young girl can be
valued not for her body but for her mind; and so that young
people everywhere can go as far as their talent and their drive
and their choices will take them. None of this will come easy, nor
without setback or struggle. But at this moment of renewal
— in this land of miracles — history tells us it is possible. This is the –America’s agenda. This is the purpose of our
partnership with Japan, and with the nations and
peoples of this region. And there must be no doubt:
As America’s first Pacific President, I promise you that
this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our
leadership in this vitally important part of the world. Thank you very much. (applause)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *