"Unprecedented Cooperation" Growing in Northeast Asia, Rice Says

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – North Korea’s long history of intransigence, crowned by its ballistic missile tests in July and the test of a nuclear device October 9 - has sparked a “quick and remarkable” reaction from the Asia-Pacific region and the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.

Just days after the nuclear test, Rice said in an address to the Heritage Foundation’s annual B.C. Lee Lecture October 25, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1718, which requires member states to take action to prevent North Korea from getting the technology, materials and finances to continue its nuclear ambitions.  (See related article.)

According to Rice, the Bush administration’s commitment to a multilateral approach to threats in the region is bearing fruit.

“[W]hen we launched our current policy toward North Korea three years ago,” Rice told her audience, “the prospect of joint efforts for lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia may have seemed quite distant. Today, however, the patterns of cooperation that we and our partners have begun to establish over the past three years are creating a new opportunity not just to envision a future of greater security in Northeast Asia, but to realize it together.”

During a press briefing October 25, President Bush reiterated this message.

“[O]ur goal, he said, “is to continue to remind our partners that when we work together, we're more likely to be able to achieve the objective, which is to solve this problem diplomatically. And so I would report to you the coalition remains firm, and we will continue to work to see to it that it does remain firm.”

“This cooperation,” Rice said, “is the outcome of a deliberate strategy that President Bush adopted to encourage all of the nations in the region to share the burdens as well as the benefits of our common security.”

“[T]he unprecedented cooperation that is emerging among the countries of Northeast Asia and the leverage that that cooperation provides would have been far, far less likely to emerge had the United States adopted a bilateral approach to North Korea," the secretary emphasized.  "The cooperation provides our best chance to get North Korea to make the right choice and dismantle its nuclear programs.”

Rice recently returned from a trip that took her to Seoul (South Korea), Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow to discuss ways to implement Resolution 1718.  During the trip, she said, she emphasized the United States’ firm commitment to its defense and security treaties with Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The United States has played a leading role to help stabilize Northeast Asia since the end of World War II and now is helping to foster new and better security relationships among the key states engaged in the region, she said.  Rice cited the “historic visits” in October by Japanese Prime Minister Abe to Beijing and Seoul, where he eased anxieties that Japan might seek its own nuclear deterrent and began to define expectations about the region's future.

“We applaud overtures like this, and we stand ready to do whatever we can to support them,” Rice said.  “Habits of cooperation are growing.  They can evolve.  And they can help Northeast Asia rise above old animosities and thereby form the foundation of a new and better future.”


The same day Rice was addressing the Heritage Foundation, U.N. human rights rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn reported that “egregious human rights abuses” continue through North Korea, especially regarding the right to food, humane treatment, freedom of movement, and political rights such as self-determination, freedom of expression and freedom of association. (See related article.)

In his report to the General Assembly's Third Committee (the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee), Muntarbhorn said there is a huge gap between the formal recognition of human rights treaties by the government and the substantive implementation of human rights in the country.  The regime also has refused to allow the rapporteur to visit the country.

"Rather than using humanitarian assistance as an addition to domestic production and commercial sources of supply, the government has used aid largely as balance-of-payments support, allowing it to allocate the savings in commercial imports to other priorities, including military ones and luxury imports for the elite," Muntarbhorn said.

Pyongyang should shift the "serious waster of money on arms" into more productive development uses, especially agriculture, he said at a press conference October 23.

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