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Acting Assistant Secretary Yun's Testimony on the Rebalance to Asia

Speaker: Joseph Yun
Published April 25, 2013

Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Joseph Yun, testified on February 26, 2013, and on April 25, 2013, about the Obama Administration's rebalance to Asia, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

Excerpt from Part I on February 26, 2013, "Why South Asia Matters":

"On the original question of how South Asia fits into the rebalance, we need to remember that the cultures of the Indian subcontinent have influenced Southeast Asia for millennia and are visible across the region. South Asian traders and merchants have long been sailing to what they called the Suvarnadwipa, or "Golden lands." Similarly, China's maritime presence at its height once extended to the coast of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, when one looks at the Asia-Pacific and the wider Indian Ocean region, it becomes readily apparent that there are imprints from historical East and South Asian civilizations.

The rapid economic growth that has taken place in East and South Asia is a catalyst that is reenergizing these patterns of engagement. The increasing economic integration of South and East Asia has strengthened the strategic significance of the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a continuous throughway for global commerce and energy. Approximately 90 percent of globally traded merchandise travels by sea. China, Japan, RoK, and others in East and Southeast Asia depend upon the secure access of energy imports from the Persian Gulf and natural resources and other materials from Africa to fuel their economies and ship their exports to important markets in the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. As much as 50 percent of the world's container traffic and 70 percent of global energy trade now transits the Indian Ocean. Similarly, as India's trade with East Asia and North America grows, India has a growing stake in the security of the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, through which half of the world's tonnage flows.

As these trends continue into the future, it becomes clear that any significant disruption of trade in the Indian and Pacific Oceans would have serious global repercussions, repercussions that would also be felt here at home by American businesses and workers. As our economic and strategic interests continue to span the breadth of the Indo-Pacific, we have an important stake in ensuring freedom of navigation, promoting respect for international law, and fostering greater cooperation and dialogue with and among the countries of both regions on maritime security.

Enhanced economic integration, while yielding immense benefits to the region, also means that regional instability in South and Southeast Asia – brought on by interstate conflict, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and non-traditional security threats, such as pandemic diseases, climate change, and environmental degradation – can pose a threat to the entire global economy.

No country can address these challenges singlehandedly; multilateral cooperation is vital. This interdependence is why we have placed so much importance on strengthening our relations with the region's burgeoning multilateral architecture. The Administration has taken important steps in building stronger ties with regional institutions such as ASEAN, the EAS, the security-oriented ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+).

As Southeast Asia connects both sides of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, we see a strong and integrated ASEAN as an important component in bolstering the security of the entire Asia-Pacific."

Excerpt from Part II on April 25, 2013, "Security and Defense: Cooperation and Challenges":

"Our Asia-Pacific policy is multifaceted. Security takes a number of forms and should not be defined or characterized solely by our military engagement. Here are the key areas of our focus:

Asia's future stability and security are linked to its prosperity and economic development. We are boosting U.S. trade in the region, increasing investment flows, and deepening economic integration, all of which will benefit U.S. businesses and help create jobs here at home, while also creating improved and more inclusive development outcomes in the region itself. Inward investment accounts for over two million American manufacturing jobs, a number we are working to increase. Similarly, exports generate over 10 million jobs for American workers. Asia's prosperity is America's prosperity, and we will continue our work to secure markets for U.S. goods and services and welcome tourists, students, and investors to our shores. Establishment of the he Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement with 11 partners will be one of the cornerstones of our "rebalance" toward the Asia-Pacific. Our promotion, through the TPP, APEC and elsewhere, of a regional economic architecture in which the rules are open, transparent, free, and fair helps U.S. businesses gain access to this dynamic region and further integrate the regional economy under a set of high-standard trade and investment rules. Meanwhile, State Department missions in the field are stepping up their commercial promotion efforts to supplement the Commerce Department's mission to promote exports, tourism, education, and investment opportunities within the United States.

We are also engaging with an emerging and growing regional architecture of robust regional institutions and multilateral agreements that result in a more positive political and economic environment for the United States and strengthen regional stability, security, and economic growth. Multilateral institutions are positioning themselves to better handle territorial and maritime disputes such as in the South China Sea. Through engagement with multilateral structures such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), we are able to encourage a peaceful resolution of contentious transnational issues and discourage escalation of tensions.

By developing our relationships with partners and emerging leaders, and deepening cooperation across the region, we are strengthening U.S. national security, promoting economic growth and trade, and creating a better platform from which to tackle transnational challenges such as terrorism, organized crime, and trafficking.

This kind of cooperation very much includes China. We want China and the countries of the region to partner not only with us, but with each other and multilaterally so that we can deal with shared challenges like cyber security, climate change, and North Korea, which were significant points of discussion with the Chinese on Secretary Kerry's most recent trip.

At the heart of our efforts to contribute to a peaceful, prosperous, secure, and stable region is a desire to expand democratic development and human rights. Our commitment to advancing freedom, democracy, and the rule of law has manifested itself in our steadfast support for reform and opening in Burma, where positive developments on a range of concerns of the international community have allowed us to open a new chapter in bilateral relations. However, there is still a great deal to be done, for example in terms of the widespread abuses targeting Muslims, including ethnic Rohingya. We will continue to press for improvements with governments that fall short on human rights and democracy issues while supporting those promoting the values we share. We work closely with key allies and partners to find ways to support the return of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights standards to Fiji.

So, as we deepen our traditional security ties and build on our alliances to deter and defend against military and non-military threats to the United States and the region, we will continue to seek peaceful resolution of disputes and confront emerging challenges that could harm U.S. national security interests. We will do so in a way that engages our partners, helps build multilateral cooperation and solutions, encourages economic growth and prosperity, and promotes democratic development and human rights. Each element of our engagement strategy is mutually reinforcing. And thus far, Asian states have warmly welcomed our efforts."

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