U.S. Urges "Robust Dialogue" on Northeast Asian Security

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - U.S. officials are urging Northeast Asian nations to consider "security structures" for their region.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the 13th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting - told reporters July 28 that there is a need for a "robust dialogue on Northeast Asian security."

Acknowledging the generally peaceful conditions in Northeast Asia, Rice cautioned that there is a need "to deal with security problems that are currently bedeviling the region, most especially concerns about the nuclear programs of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name for North Korea]."  (See related article.)

She denounced North Korea's July 4-5 launching of seven ballistic missiles as a violation of North Korea's self-imposed missile moratorium and "a dangerous act." (See related article.)

Rice called for "a new regional dialogue" that could help overcome historical tensions, increase security, and lay "a better basis for enhanced prosperity throughout the region."

The ARF meeting is intended to encourage dialogue and consultation on political and security issues of common interest and concern in the Asia-Pacific region.  It brings together the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma - with representatives from Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, East Timor and the United States.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, also in Malaysia for the ASEAN discussions, told reporters July 27:  "If you look at Southeast Asia, you see ASEAN is working very hard to develop various security structures; [in] Northeast Asia, there's very little."

He expressed the hope for "a first effort" to have a general discussion at the ASEAN Regional Forum about "what can be done to develop security structures in Northeast Asia."

Neither U.S. official elaborated on the scope or form these "security structures" might take. "[W]e're not setting up a mechanism here, we're not setting up anything that will replace anything else," Hill said.

"[W[hat we're trying to do is have a broad discussion about security issues….  [I]t's really an effort to get Northeast Asia to have a little more fullness of discussion and we'll sort of assess what the discussion was like and we'll figure out where to go from there," Hill said.


Both Rice and Hill reiterated the United States' willingness to talk with the North Korean regime about its programs for weapons of mass destruction - but only in a multilateral context.

"[T]he United States remains ready at any time, at any place and without any conditions to engage in those discussions in the Six-Party Talks," Rice said.

But Hill emphasized that the United States has no intention of engaging Pyongyang bilaterally until it returns to the Six-Party process that includes South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

"And when they are back in the diplomatic game, if they are prepared to be a member of the Six-Party Talks, we're prepared to have as many bilateral meetings as they can stand," Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator for the Six-Party Talks, said.

North Korea, both U.S. officials said, has been boycotting any further participation in the Six-Party Talks in protest of U.S. regulatory actions against a bank in Macau believed to have laundered money for Pyongyang's narcotics trafficking, currency counterfeiting and financing of terrorist groups. (See related article.)

For more information on U.S. policies, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.

The transcripts of Hill's July 27 remarks and Rice's July 28 remarks on regional security are available on the State Department Web site.