Today, the United States is easing restrictions to allow U.S. companies to responsibly do business in Burma. President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma continue to make significant progress along the path to democracy, and the government has continued to make important economic and political reforms. Easing sanctions is a strong signal of our support for reform, and will provide immediate incentives for reformers and significant benefits to the people of Burma.
Burma’s political and economic reforms remain unfinished. The United States Government remains deeply concerned about the lack of transparency in Burma’s investment environment and the military’s role in the economy. As we indicated in May, the armed forces and Ministry of Defense-owned entities will not be covered by these General Licenses. In addition, U.S. companies will be asked to report on their activities in line with international corporate governance standards. I have also signed a new Executive Order that expands the Secretary of the Treasury’s existing sanctions authorities to those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict, or participate in military trade with North Korea. This Order is a clear message to Burmese government and military officials: those individuals who continue to engage in abusive, corrupt, or destabilizing behavior going forward will not reap the rewards of reform.
Americans for decades have stood with the Burmese people in their struggle to realize the full promise of their extraordinary country. Responsible investment will help facilitate broad-based economic development, and help bring Burma out of isolation and in to the international community. My Administration will continue to support the Government of Burma in its efforts to work toward international standards for economic growth, responsible governance, and human rights. And in all that we do, we are committed to working with the people of Burma as they shape a future of greater freedom and prosperity future, and continue their national reconciliation and democratic transition.
See original article at the White House Press Office site.
MS. FULTON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Department of State. Today we have a special guest with us, our special representative and policy coordinator for Burma, Derek Mitchell, who was recently appointed to this position and he has recently traveled to the region. So we are very happy to have an opportunity for him to provide us with an update on our diplomacy with Burma.
Without further ado, Derek Mitchell.
MR. MICHELL: Thank you. Well, thank you all. It’s a pleasure to finally see you. I took my first trip early September and I meant to come do a brief up here for some time, but it’s been rather busy of late and I’m moving around, so I’m glad I have the opportunity.
As suggested, I am the first in this position of special representative and policy coordinator for Burma. It’s a position that is mandated by Congress under the JADE Act. And I took over in mid August. My first trip was early September, and we’ve been very active in engagement every since.
It’s a position that essentially was intended to continue the policy that we have, that the Obama Administration has pursued, of a dual-track approach, which talks about both engagement and sanctions, pressure, on the regime, on the government in Burma. But it is meant also to provide a sort of senior-level face focusing on the issue 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as I do. So it is, in that sense, a new beginning. And I was able, I think, in my trip to Burma back in September, able to establish a good baseline for the relationship. I had very, very productive and candid meetings, and we have proceeded to have a number of interactions since then that I think have been equally productive.
I was very, as I said, candid there. And if you all were able to see the press statement I put out leaving Rangoon at that time, I laid out, in essence, the gestures that we saw from the government that were welcome. And we’ve seen, I think since then, even more gestures and more moves by the government that seems to be a trend towards greater openness, as well as some of the views from ourselves and others of skepticism, of questioning about whether, in fact, we are seeing something fundamentally different in the country. Are we seeing a real path to reform as they laid out their goals of democracy, human rights, national reconciliation, and development, national development for the country?
Those who have followed Burma for many years, as I have, have seen stops and starts. I’m not sure we’ve seen anything necessarily exactly like we’ve seen over the past several months. And in talking to people inside the country, they themselves say that they are seeing something that is a bit different than they’ve seen before. But there are still questions about how far they’re going to go and where this is going to lead.
And we laid out – I laid out in my statement and in the dialogues that we have privately, that if, in fact, we do see change, reform along those lines of democracy, human rights, national reconciliation, and development, they will have a partner in the United States; that we will be with them as a partner in that reform effort because, in fact, that is what we have sought to pursue for many years now.
So we have seen encouraging signs over time, and – but of course, there are some things that haven’t changed, and we should be noting those. As much as we’ve seen some changing of dynamics in – between Naypyidaw and Rangoon with some of the democratic opposition, we, of course, have not seen similar progress in the relationship between the government and the ethnic minorities, the ethnic nationalities in the north and the east and elsewhere. Violence continues. Credible reports of human rights abuses, including against women and children, continue. And this remains an issue of great concern to the United States and to others in the region and around the world. And in fact, we made it very clear that we could not have a transformed relationship as long as these abuses and credible reports of abuses occur and as long as there is not dialogue with these groups and with the opposition. If violence remains, then that will be a constraint on the relationship.
We also talked a bit about accounting for past abuses that have occurred as a step towards reconciliation, that something that could be done to represent a credible commitment to national reconciliation to give voice to some of what’s occurred in the past. And we also talked a bit about – with them about transparency in their relationship with other nations. And particularly with North Korea, there have been reports that we’ve seen of concern about that relationship, and we continue to follow that very, very closely.
So even as we see some progress in some areas, there are other areas that we remain concerned about. And the dialogue continues, and I think we’ve set a very good – as I say, a good baseline for a very candid relationship between the two sides that we really haven’t seen, I would say, in many, many years.
So with that, maybe I’ll open it up for some questions, if people have particular issues.
QUESTION: Was the release of the political prisoners as part of the general amnesty last week of a sufficient magnitude to incline the Administration to take any kinds of reciprocal gestures toward Burma? I’m not talking about peeling off all the sanctions, but perhaps smaller steps, waivers, other kinds of gestures.
MR. MITCHELL: Well, first of all, we have taken steps and made gestures in return. We have lifted travel restrictions for those who have traveled to New York to UNGA to come to Washington. And at that time, we met with the foreign minister here in the State Department, the first time in some time. I couldn’t even tell you the last time there was a foreign minister meeting here. And that was a good opportunity to have the direct dialogue on the issues that I raised here, but also to build the relationship and build the trust and build the confidence between the two sides.
We’ve invited a Burmese delegation to be an observer at the Friends of the Lower Mekong Initiative. So we’re bringing them into some of the international dialogues that occur and looking at other gestures in turn. So it’s not as if we’re standing still and we’re not sending signals. Of course, rhetorically, we’re saying we welcome what’s going on. They really value that rhetorical appreciation of what we’ve seen to date. So we continue to do that. All these are steps.
But our position is pretty clear and it’s reflective of what we hear from inside the country as well, which is political prisoners – any political prisoners – there are too many political prisoners – and that what we’re looking for is a release of all political prisoners without condition to really send the signal of genuine commitment to democracy in the country.
The people that are of probably most concern to them, the people that have been in the streets and maybe led some of the movements and such, some of the names I think are known to folks here, Ko Ko Gyi, Min Ko Naing, Gambiri, and others. I said directly to the leadership that these are the people that if you’re serious about democratic reform you would see as allies, because they actually are seeking the same goals you are. They are seeking for a credible democratic Burma.
So we’ve heard reports, we’ve seen reports, suggesting that they say be patient with us, that more is to come. And we will watch for whether they, in fact, follow up with action on the release of political prisoners just in total.
QUESTION: Just to be clear, none of the steps that you mentioned as gestures took place post October the 12th, correct? I mean, the foreign minister was here well before that, the invitation to be an observer at the Lower Mekong Delta. So is it then fair for us to conclude, or will you say, that what they did in terms of a prisoner release last week is not, in and of itself, sufficient to yield any actions on the U.S. part?
MR. MITCHELL: Well, we’re constantly – we don’t – we’re thinking in terms of how do we develop the relationship and build the confidence between the two sides. It’s not linked to any specific action at any point like that. We obviously welcome the release of some political prisoners and of other prisoners as part of an amnesty. We certainly welcome that. But we’re thinking more broadly what other – what are the steps that we can take, whether they’re linked to a particular action or not, but that we see them take that suggests they’re on the path to reform.
And that means provide certain types of advice and assistance in that regard. And we continue the dialogue. So there are things that we discuss in private that also can be productive in terms of the relationship over time instead of simply the public gestures.
MS. FULTON: Okay, next question.
QUESTION: What’s your understanding of how many political prisoners were released during this previous amnesty? And also, what further sort of reciprocal steps could the U.S. take? What would you see as the other things that you could do looking forward that could sort of reward Myanmar, reward Burma for the steps it takes?
MR. MITCHELL: Well, on the second I don’t want to – I don’t think it’s appropriate here to start going through hypotheticals; if they do this, then do that. Suffice to say that if we see that kind of movement on the political prisoners released fully and unconditionally, among other things that have been discussed as well about potentially there’s now in parliament a discussion of amending the political party registration law that could open up the opposition, particularly the NLD, to take part in the political process. Those are obviously very, very important moves that would lead to American gestures, steps in return. But I’m not going to get into what for what.
In terms of the numbers, we’re not – we’re still working on that. It’s still being looked at. It’s – some are saying it’s in the low 200s or 220s, some are saying 250, in terms of political prisoners. But we’re still trying to figure out exact numbers, and I think inside they’re also trying to figure out exactly what the number is. But I can’t give you a perfect number today.
MS. FULTON: Next question, Goyal.
QUESTION: Sir, thank you. Three points. One, in the past, Burma’s military was being supported by the Chinese to keep in power. Second – I mean, what role China is playing now or will play?
And second, what role will be playing Aung San Suu Kyi, her Democratic Party which won elections 20 years ago and she’s still on and off under house arrest or in jail and all that?
And finally, do we see now real democracy in Burma?
MR. MITCHELL: I’ll make sure I get these all down so I don’t forget.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MITCHELL: On the issue of China, Burma has an extensive border with China. I think they make it clear that they – that all those nations in Asia want to have a good relationship with China, and they should have a good relationship with – or a productive, constructive relationship with China. And that’s between the Burmese and the Chinese. That’s not an issue for the United States to be engaged in or to comment on. So that’s all I would say, I think, about that.
On the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, they still are relevant. As I said when I was there, they are very relevant to the future of the country. They still represent a substantial segment of the Burmese population. She still is looked on as a unifying figure and as an important political figure. And they will decide themselves how they play within the new system – or that the system that is evolving. Whether I say it’s new, I would say it’s an evolving system there. And I would leave that to them to determine how best to engage in that regard. But they clearly see themselves having a future and an important part of the future in Burma.
Real democracy; I think it’s too soon to tell what we’re seeing. I think what we’re seeing are – is a positive trend line, encouraging signs. I think it’s raising expectations both inside and outside the country. And therefore, it’s incumbent on the government, therefore, to follow up and to meet those expectations. And if so, I think it’ll be a win-win. I think they will benefit from that, I think the region will benefit from that, I think the United States will benefit from that, and the people of Burma will benefit from that in terms of their overall development and their – come out of the shadows. I think as of, what – right now, I think there are a lot of restrictions that make them into a pariah state; and Burma is a proud country with a tremendous history, and they deserve to come out of the shadows and be – and take their prideful place in the region.
MS. FULTON: Okay. Next question, Lauren.
QUESTION: You said that you talked to them about how to be more transparent in their relations with other countries, including North Korea. Did they give any indication that they would be willing to do that, to do any information sharing? Or if they haven’t, do you think they will in the future?
MR. MITCHELL: It’s an ongoing dialogue. They are – they say that there is nothing untoward going on between them and North Korea. And we’ll continue to have the dialogue as we go. So I would say everything is on the table in terms of dialogue. I think that they’d be willing to engage. Whenever I raised anything when I was in Naypyidaw, they were willing to address that subject and talk about it. And hopefully, we can establish the kind of trust that will allow us to continue that dialogue in a productive fashion. So I’m very hopeful in that regard, and we’ll see simply as we go whether we can get the kinds of reactions and responses that we’re looking for.
MS. FULTON: I think we have time for just one more question. Bob.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. see signs that there is resistance to this liberalizing trend within the power structure of the country? Are there some hardliners who are pushing back?
MR. MITCHELL: It’s – I can’t say that we’re seeing them actively, but we hear about – I think it’s probably predictable that there are going to be those who think we are moving too quickly or maybe this is not the path to go. The dynamics right now are difficult to read entirely. We don’t have a perfect sense of how it’s working internally. There is a sense that probably some believe that at least it may be going too fast in some regard, but we don’t know.
What we’re going to follow though, what we’re going to respond to, are actions and what they do. And they will work out themselves what is the best for the future of their country. What we want to do is provide incentives and to give them a sense of what the possibilities are if they move in a positive direction. If they move in a reformist direction, it’s going to be good for the people of Burma, good for their country; and that to go in a different direction will not be good, will not be – it’ll mean some more of the same in terms of their position in the world and the region and in the relationship with the United States.
So I don’t think you can – I wouldn’t classify people as purely hardline, purely reformist. I think it’s probably more complex than that. But what we’re trying to do is understand better how things work and then encourage the reform as they move forward.
So, thank you very much. Appreciate the time.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thanks very much for doing this.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m happy to do it – glad this worked out.
QUESTION: We should have tea more often. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right. Exactly. Well, when I invited you, I wanted to talk about these two speeches that I’m giving this week. And obviously, there are a lot of other things going on in the world. But just so that I fulfill my obligation here, tomorrow I’ll be at CAP, the Center for American Progress, talking about American leadership and sort of linking it to the work we have to do at home, and obviously, the challenges we face around the world, because I know that there is this kind of maybe unspoken theme that, oh, we’re – we have all these problems at home with our economy, with political gridlock, et cetera. And we’ve seen this movie before, and the United States has enduring values and strengths that I just want to remind all of us of.
And then on Friday, I’ll be in New York at the New York Economic Club talking about economic statecraft because I want to also explain why what the work we do here at the State Department is part of our overall effort to increase economic opportunity for Americans. And I’ve been working with the Jobs Council. I think you were – somebody was at the Jobs Council meeting.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) last week, yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because if we do better on exports, if we do better on foreign direct investment, we put Americans to work. And it’s not a connection that a lot of people make. They probably don’t think of the State Department as being part of the economic agenda. So I want to be very explicit about that and kind of make the case for it. So with that –
QUESTION: Good. Well, thank you. We’ll now turn – (laughter) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Inaudible) Pull up, Toria. Yes, don’t try to balance your tea –
QUESTION: To go to one news of the day –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, was there some news today? Oh, what do you know?
QUESTION: You knew it was coming –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: – for three or four months now, but Attorney General Holder said that the State Department would be taking actions to hold Iran responsible for this. What are you going to do? What actions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say the obvious, that this was a terrific achievement of our law enforcement and intel communities. Disrupting, preventing this plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador here in Washington took really creative, smart work. And obviously, the Attorney General and the FBI director and the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, along with the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York laid out a lot of what has been done, and the complaint has more detail. And then I believe that Treasury should have issued its additional designations of sanctions against named individuals that I think you’ll find of interest this afternoon.
So we’re doing several things, and have been integrated into this effort, as you say, for many months now. What the Iranians were plotting violates the convention, the international convention, on the prevention and punishment of crime against internationally protected persons, of whom, obviously, an ambassador is one. It violates international norms in a way that cannot be denied by the Iranians, despite their best efforts. And we believe that through concerted outreach, which we are undertaking and have begun, both in New York at the UN and in capitals around the world, we will create a chorus of states that are condemning this kind of behavior, looking at their own countries to determine whether the Iranians are engaging in potentially threatening or disruptive activities within their countries. In addition to our sanctions that were designated by the Treasury today, we will be seeking other countries to do the same against named individuals and against entities within Iran.
We think the facts of this case, which include the outreach by the Iranian authorities to a Mexican drug cartel seeking a murder-for-hire assassin, will be quite disturbing to officials in countries that have even in the past given Iran a pass. So I think, Arshad, that this will be an opportunity to further isolate Iran. And if you believe, as I do, that their internal debates and power struggles that are going on in plain sight, combined with the impact of the sanctions, combined with the suspicion that they have already created in many countries in the region and beyond, with this very strong case that we have presented today, it will give us extra leverage in dealing with Iran. And I think that you may not see skywriting in the sky announcing it, but you’ll see a more reluctant stance by many countries toward dealing with Iran, toward doing Iran’s bidding, and I think that is all to our interests.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, if I could follow up on that, obviously for the Saudis in particular, this is a worrisome development.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Indeed.
QUESTION: And we know that the Saudis themselves have no love lost for Iran. Are you worried that this is going to really fuel tensions that already exist in the Gulf in a dangerous way? And do you have any counsel that you might make public that you would give to the Saudis about how they should respond to this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andy, you’re right. I mean, I talked with the Saudi foreign minister earlier today. They’ve obviously been brought in because of the target for quite some time and have been a great partner with us as we have tried to track down and unravel this very deadly plot. I think that it will certainly confirm the worst fears by the Saudis, but it will also perhaps strengthen their hand in dealing with the region about the threats posed by the Iranians.
Everybody knows that there is no love lost; that’s obvious. But this is such a blatant violation of the international norms that countries which have tried to hedge to some extent are going to find more pressure on them. We’ve spoken for some time about increasing our security cooperation not just with individual states in the Gulf but between and among them, which I think this will probably hasten. So I think there’s a lot of moving parts.
Now, you’ve probably noticed in the last week, even before this plot was revealed, Iran really vociferously attacking Turkey. Attacking Turkey because of the NATO missile radar that Turkey agreed with us to position to protect NATO from missile attacks. Attacking Turkey for advocating secular states that recognized and appreciated Islam but were more in line with what Turkey has achieved over the last many years. Really a full frontal assault on Turkey.
And I thought it was incredibly important because Turkey has tried to be a good neighbor. They share a long border, they’ve tried to get along with the Iranians, and what everyone is learning is that nobody is safe from the Iranians. They have their own logic, their own way of thinking about the world and their place in it. And they’re vying with everybody for influence. They’re vying with the Saudis, they’re vying with the Turks, they’re just in a constant state of agitation about their position. And this case will, I think, reinforce the well-grounded suspicions of many countries about what they’re up to.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s going to make it easier for you whenever you should seek additional UN Security Council sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program? Do you think this is going to make it easier? Does that accelerate the timetable?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know, because I think that the likelihood of our seeking additional sanctions – I mean, they’re pretty well sanctioned. I mean, we’re now going after individuals, we’re going after entities. We’ve got a few more arrows in our quiver, but they’re pretty well sanctioned. But will it give us extra arguments when we go to a country and we said we told you these were bad guys, so don’t let that shipment go through like you have turned blind eyes to before. Enforcing the sanctions, I think, becomes more likely because of this.
QUESTION: Who are you thinking of? I mean, Turkey was the first country that I thought of in terms of hedging.
QUESTION: Malaysia’s been a problem in terms of (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: A number of countries, Warren, they’ve been cooperative, and I think we surprised Iran and the world at how effectively we’ve enforced these sanctions, because one of the things that I said after we got them through the UN was, okay, fine, we got them through, but now we need a designated group that will go after the Iranians every single day, will track down every single lead we have no matter where it goes about financing, shipment, whatever. So I think we’ve done a better job than people expected, but I want to do even more – close every loophole, make every country go the extra mile to enforce these sanctions. And I think this helps us on that.
QUESTION: Let me turn to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Toria today told us that the Department is very hopeful that the Israelis and the Palestinians will agree to this preliminary meeting in Jordan on the 23rd.
MS. NULAND: Did I say very hopeful? I don’t think I said very hopeful.
QUESTION: Indeed. Two tape recorders and a transcript. (Laughter.) Why are you very hopeful?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well –
QUESTION: (Inaudible) signals or –
SECRETARY CLINTON: – let me put it in context. When we got the Quartet statement finalized at the UN, one of the most important reasons why I wanted to get it out is because of the suggested timetable. Now, some people say, well, so what does that mean? Well, already we’ve had the meeting of the Quartet envoys over the weekend. We have a really intensive effort going on by nearly anybody you can imagine on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to get them back into negotiations. And we had said, coming out of the Quartet meeting, that we hope to have a meeting, or we hope to have a preparatory meeting between the parties by the end of this month. Some have said one date, some have said other dates, but the important thing is that the meeting happened, because part of the problem with the schedule was that we had some – we lost a number of days to the Jewish holidays, which – you couldn’t deal with the Israeli Government because, for obvious reasons, they were not available.
So I think that we are hopeful. We are always hopeful, Arshad. Hope springs eternal. It must, for any of us who deal with the Middle East. Otherwise, it’s too depressing to contemplate. So what I see happening is the Israelis have accepted without preconditions a return to negotiations. The Palestinians, as you know well, are reluctant because of the settlement freeze issue. But there are many people now who are interacting with and talking to the Palestinians who are making what I think is the right case, which is, look, you’ve lodged your letter of request for consideration at the Security Council. It’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. And even if it were, you’re not going to get a state through the UN. It’s not going to happen. So you’ve done what you needed to do to signal your seriousness of purpose. Now get back into negotiations where you can actually start talking about borders. What’s the best way to end the dispute about settlements? Start talking about borders. You know as well as we, some areas that the Israelis have built in are going to be in a new Israel and some areas are not. The sooner you start really negotiating over what’s in and what’s out, the better off you will be.
So that argument is now being made intensely by people other than us. I mean, one of my goals with the Quartet statement was to get international buy-in to get everybody back to negotiations. Nobody standing on the sidelines crossing their arms and saying one thing to one party and another thing to another party, which is just human nature, but to get everybody on the same page. The spotlight that is being put on these negotiations has a lot of additional actors under it, which I think is all to the good.
So, for example, last night I spoke to President Santos of Colombia. President Abbas is in Colombia. President Santos is going to see him. President Santos knows that part of the reason President Abbas is coming to see him is Colombia’s on the Security Council. Colombia has said they’re not going to support statehood in the Security Council, but they would strongly support and stand up for the Palestinians’ right to have a full, open negotiation. So President Santos wanted to convey that that’s what he was going to tell President Abbas.
So now, this is not – I’m not saying that there’s going to be some immediate positive response, but hearing this from so many different places really makes a difference. So I’m hoping that by the end of the month we will see a meeting between them.
QUESTION: Can I ask you two really short ones on this topic? Have you figured out – have the lawyers made a determination yet on whether you’re going to have to cut off funding to UNESCO if they, as it seems likely, accept the Palestinians as a member? And then secondly, what do you – do you think you’re going to be able to maintain the flow of American economic assistance to the PA, given the stance taken by — generally Granger? I mean, it just seems like, on the Hill, you really have a very hard case to make.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’re right, we do. And with respect to the first question about UNESCO, we are legally prohibited from continuing to fund organizations that accept the Palestinians as members or observers or in any way participants in the organization in a formal respect. We have made that clear to UNESCO. They know that our funding, which constitutes 22 percent of UNESCO’s funding, is in jeopardy. And it’s regrettable. I wish that it were not happening. I don’t really understand exactly why there’s a big push on in these ancillary organizations when the UN hasn’t acted, but there’s obviously pent-up desire to do something, and it’s being done.
Now, there are those on the Hill and elsewhere who say, well, UNESCO deals with cultural stuff; what’s the difference? Well, I think there are some significant problems if this begins to cascade. What happens with the International Atomic Energy Agency? What happens with the World Health Organization? What happens with the Food and Agriculture Organization? Not only do we provide 20 to 25 percent of all the funding that these organizations get, but our membership in them is in our self interest. I mean, it’s not anything to do with supporting the Palestinians or supporting the Israelis; it’s supporting the health of Americans, stopping pandemics, getting food into the Horn of Africa, holding Iran’s nuclear program accountable. So I am strongly making the case to Members of Congress that at some point we need some flexibility because pretty soon, if we don’t pay into these organizations, we lose our right to participate and influence their actions. So this is a difficult problem.
Now, with respect to the Palestinian Authority, so far, we and the Israelis have made the case that continuing to fund the Palestinians, particularly during this period of uncertainty around their statehood and the state of negotiations, makes sense. A couple of weeks ago, you might remember I was able to get freed up the remaining $50 million from the – it was the last tranche of funding. And I made the case to the Palestinians, to the Israelis, to the Congress, to everybody that this was in everyone’s interest. Certainly it was in the Palestinians’, but it was also in Israel’s interest to make sure that the Palestinians could keep their state running, pay their public officials, their security forces, et cetera. We have other funding that is up on the Hill that is being discussed right now, some of which goes directly to the security forces, and I strongly am advocating that that money be released. Now, the Israelis have been releasing the funds that they collect for the Palestinians. So they also see this as something in their interest. So again, we’re kind of taking it on a case-by-case basis.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. We’ve got to keep on jumping.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s okay.
QUESTION: There’s so much we now have to talk to you about. Just next door, quickly, on Egypt, obviously, events over the weekend were very disturbing and –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: – we saw the statements out of this building and also out of the White House condemning the clashes. But I’d be curious to know if you get a sense now about the Egyptian military leadership; are they beginning to lose control? You have the Israeli Embassy situation, you have their handling of this problem. Do you get a sense that things are getting out of hand for them and want to bring it back into line if we want to go forward with this plan for elections?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, here’s how I see it. I spoke with the foreign minister, Foreign Minister Amr, earlier today, and I asked him what was happening. And he’s been a very reliable interlocutor for me. I got him up and out at, like, 2 o’clock in the morning when the mob was attacking the Israeli Embassy. And he’s been very straightforward. He said, “Look, we are investigating it. We really don’t know what happened exactly.” And I said, “Well, I hope it’s going to be a thorough investigation, but in any event, you have to do more to protect all the people of Egypt, most particularly minorities – ” although the Copts are a pretty big minority, what, I guess 10 million or so – “and they have to be – they have to – the right to assemble peacefully needs to be protected, their right to worship needs to be protected, the two piece of legislation you have on – pending on building mosques and churches, ending discrimination against Copts, I mean, that would send a real positive signal I hope you’ll consider.”
And the problem is that the police force was disbanded, as you know. And the army doesn’t want to be a police force, so it’s always trying to balance what it’s supposed to be doing and what it’s not supposed to be doing, and they just have to figure out how to create a police force again that will restore law and order while protecting people’s rights. And that’s a big piece of business. So they are working on it, but it’s new territory for them.
So they are proceeding with the schedule that they have set out. We are strongly supporting that they do so. But it’s a fragile situation. I mean, it’s not at all clear to me how they balance all of these conflicting considerations, but we’re doing the best we can. Our Ambassador is very active. We’re all reaching out. We’re trying to send support, messages that kind of help them move through this. But it’s going to be a complicated process for the foreseeable future.
QUESTION: Well, one just quick follow-up, and then we’ll (inaudible). When you met the Egyptian foreign minister here a couple weeks ago, I mean, (inaudible) – I mean, emergency law –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: – and that still seems to be a hang-up.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: Does that concern you, I mean, that this seems to be a key demand that they’re just not willing to move on?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, it does concern me, and I’ve made that very clear to them. But I mean, look – and this is not in any way to make any rationalization – but I just try to think through in my own head, everybody in a position of authority in the military came up with the emergency law. They don’t have a police force, and they’re trying to figure out how to keep just everyday criminals off the street, because it’s not just these terrible instances like we saw over the weekend, but they don’t have law and order. They don’t have control over a lot of their neighborhoods and cities. They have a real problem. So they’re trying to figure out how to do that. But in effect, they’re kind of being asked to do something which nobody has ever done before. And so the emergency law, which they were going to take off, they then decided not to take off yet because they don’t know how to do this.
QUESTION: Go about it, yeah.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Go about it. So we keep saying, “You’ve got to do several things all at once. You got to move on the reconstitution of the police force, but they have to be trained so that they respect people’s rights. You’ve got to get the emergency law lifted, but you got to pass other laws so that you’re able to do it in an appropriate way.” Lots of moving pieces here.
QUESTION: You want to go to Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah. Maybe just another quick one since we’re going to have to sort of – on the question of Iraq, Reuters had an exclusive interview, we can say, on Sunday with al-Maliki in which he was talking about the possibility of U.S. trainers staying in Iraq beyond the 2011 drawdown. And he was mentioning that this could happen, he could see it, that they could stay without an explicit grant of immunity from the Iraqi parliament, but somehow they’d be attached to NATO or the existing U.S. mission there, and that would be sufficient.
Is that an idea that would fly here, do you think? Or do you think that we – they’d still need – if this were to happen, you would still need to have a parliamentary bill pass that would grant them a specific immunity?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is something that we’re very focused on because we are meeting the terms of the agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration for our troops to leave. President Obama is very committed to that. We obviously have been willing to hear from the Iraqis what they might need, what kind of missions they would want our help from.
But we’ve made it clear from the beginning that we can’t leave any military forces in Iraq or even rotating through Iraq without protection for them. And if we can’t get a SOFA that is endorsed by the core, we would have to be absolutely convinced – and this is more of a DOD question – that what was being discussed would have the same effect. And this is something that – our Ambassador, our commander on the ground are in intense negotiations with the Maliki government, but – we’ll wait and see how that develops, but we’re leaving. If they want us to stay, we have relationships with many countries in the region – Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE. So certainly we would entertain it, but we would have to get the same kinds of protections that we get elsewhere.
QUESTION: I’d like to switch gears a little bit. Secretary Clinton, we are entering a U.S. election year, and we’re hearing voters voicing concerns about an apparent decline in the U.S. influence in the world. And we see as the U.S. struggles with a weak economy, there’s defense cuts, foreign assistance cuts, that there are nations stepping forward, like China, and people out in the heartland see that. I wanted to know, are you concerned that if present trends continue, the U.S. could lose some of its preeminence in global politics and economics, and what could be done to forestall that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s exactly why I’m giving these two speeches this week, because I hear the same things, I read it in what you all write, and it concerns me because I don’t think it squares with the reality that I see. I think America’s leadership is not only still paramount, but it is desired and respected everywhere in the world, and that people may choose to criticize us, but when times get tough, they expect us to kind of step forward and solve problems and manage difficult situations. And I think Americans, understandably because of our own economic pressures and very difficult problems for so many Americans when it comes to jobs and income and security and their homes and all of the terrible dilemmas that people are facing across our country, are very focused on that because, first and foremost, how do you put food on the table, send your kids to school, save for your retirement, all the things that everybody has to answer. But I do believe that our leadership is critical to our economic revival and to our security and safety in the world. So it’s something that I’m going to try to explain and connect to what people are going through right now.
If you, for example, look at China, which has developed economically, they’re still, by any standard, a poor country. And yes, there are great pockets of wealth and success, but that isn’t reflected in the overall standard of living, and our national wealth is so much greater, many times over, than China’s. So let’s put this into some perspective about what’s actually real and what is feared or a source of anxiety. Yet that doesn’t mean that we can just slap ourselves on the back and say, “Aren’t we the greatest?” and not do anything to maintain our leadership. I mean, leadership has to be earned. It has to be earned over and over again.
I mean, as an aside, it’s one of the reasons why I went to Asia first on my first trip and why I’ve just had published this long article in Foreign Policy, because it appeared to Asians – both our allies, like Japan and the Philippines or Australia and others – that we were ceding the Asia Pacific region because we were so preoccupied in the Middle East and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I wanted to send a very clear signal, no, we are a global power. We are an Atlantic power and a Pacific power, and we are a power to be reckoned with in the Asia Pacific. And you almost could see countries in the region going, oh, okay, yeah, okay. So when we say, “Hey, come on. We have to keep the South China Sea open and free for navigation and maritime activities,” everybody else is going, “Yeah, that’s right. We do.”
And so we are –we stand up for international norms, we stand up for universal human rights, we stand up for a free and open economic system, and we are the guarantor, in many respects, of all of those critically important global values. So I want to make that case, and I’m going to make that case in these two speeches, and I hope that people will understand that while we have to fix our problems at home, we cannot abdicate our leadership without it eventually boomeranging on us.
QUESTION: While we’re in Asia and talking about Asian power politics, obviously, that brings us to China, and there is the Senate version of the currency bill that’s likely to pass today. Is that something that you think the Administration would veto because it’s so potentially destabilizing to U.S.-China relations? And looking ahead, in your contacts with the Chinese and ahead of President Obama’s meeting with President Hu, how is – how are you going to convey to the Chinese the real sense of frustration, particularly in Congress, over this issue and that this isn’t something that can just be kicked down the road sort of for a –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have certainly conveyed that. We’ve conveyed it in a very clear, unequivocal manner to our Chinese counterparts. I don’t know whether this bill that, in the form that is passing the Senate, will ever end up as a piece of legislation coming from the Congress. I’m not going to speculate on that. But it does reflect a great deal of frustration on the part of the American people. And there are many reasons for that frustration, and I have already outlined some. I will be speaking to more on Friday in the – before the New York Economic Club. We believe in free and open economic structures. We believe that there ought to be reciprocity, not on a case-by-case basis but as a universal principle. And there is a lot of concern on the part of Americans and American businesses that we don’t see that coming from our counterparts in China.
So everybody needs to take a hard look at how we rebalance the economy, and the Chinese have more to do to stimulate internal demand, not to be artificially inflating their exports by depreciating their currency, and all anybody’s asking for is a fair field for competition. And if we can’t win on a fair field, that’s fine. But when you’re fighting with two hands tied behind your back because of all kinds of advantages for state-owned enterprises, for currency pegging, for not protecting intellectual property rights, I mean, there’s a long list of concerns that Americans have brought to me and that I have shared with the Chinese.
So we don’t want to spark any kind of retaliatory trade war that will disadvantage the global economy, the U.S. economy. We want to move toward a framework of rules that will be followed by everybody. And artificially deflating your currency is not a rule that is really in the best interest of the global economic system.
PARTICIPANT: No more questions? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: We’re trying to decide which ones (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m just admiring these books that you two have.
QUESTION: I can get you one.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my gosh. Those are good looking. Really? They are nice. Wow.
QUESTION: They are nice.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And you’ve got a different kind.
QUESTION: Do I have a different kind?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I mean, you can –
QUESTION: She’s got the big boss kind. I’ve got the –
QUESTION: I’ve got the Reuters stamp at the top.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, fancy dance. Okay.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I have a number of questions on, I guess, what you’d call the counterterrorism file. You and the Administration have labeled the Haqqani Network or fingered them as being behind a number of plots, including the plot to attack the U.S. – your Embassy in Kabul. Yet at the same time, officials over the years – U.S. officials have met with members of the Haqqani Network, representatives, and if the report’s correct, quite recently. And I’m wondering, do you see at least elements of the Haqqani Network as reconcilable? And as a follow-up, is that debate sort of part of the whole debate of whether or not to list them as an FTO, a foreign terrorist organization?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Warren, we have laid out what we view as the guidelines for reconciliation with those who are fighting in Afghanistan. And we’ve made it clear that it has to be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. And after the Rabbani assassination, there was certainly a great deal of anguish in the Afghan Government and people about whether it was worth pursuing any kind of reconciliation or peace negotiations with any of these groups. But having thought about it for a while, the Afghans have said, “Look, we have to continue to try to find a way to resolve the ongoing conflict.” And we support that, and we want to work with them.
Now, it is also true that we’re still trying to kill and capture and neutralize them, and they’re still trying to kill as many Americans, Afghans, and coalition members as they possibly can. So as in many instances where there is an ongoing conflict, you’re fighting and looking to talk, and then eventually maybe you’re fighting and talking, and then maybe you’ve got a ceasefire, and then maybe you’re just talking. But where we are right now is that we view the Haqqanis and other of their ilk as being adversaries and being very dangerous to Americans, Afghans, and coalition members inside Afghanistan. But we’re not shutting the door on trying to determine whether there is some path forward. It’s too soon to tell whether any of these groups or any individuals within them are serious. I mean, the Afghans don’t know that. They were very shocked by the Rabbani assassination. In fact, President Karzai urged Rabbani to meet with this guy, thought he was a bona fide representative of the Taliban. But there’s – it’s always difficult in this stage of a conflict, as you think through what is the resolution you’re seeking and how do you best obtain it, to really know where you’ll be in two months, four months, six months. But we’re going to support the Afghans and they want to continue to see whether there’s any way forward or whether you can see some of the groups or their leaders willing to break with others. We don’t know that either, so that’s kind of the state of play.
QUESTION: Stranger things have happened, I guess, in terms of –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Stranger things have happened, exactly. And the old saying, “You don’t make peace with your friends,” these people have a long history of real antipathy toward each other; strangely enough, not so much for us. It’s like you go to Vietnam now, it’s like was never about you – (laughter) – yeah, I mean, tens of thousands of deaths later.
It really is – I mean, I know it sounds odd to say and it kind of goes to the question about American leadership, but I cannot tell you how many people say things to me like, “Well, we don’t always agree with what the Americans do, but we don’t think you have ill motives or ill intent. We think sometimes you don’t do the right thing.” And it’s funny because there’s that overarching impression that we’re not out to build an empire, we’re not out to take over these countries, we’re not out to enslave them, we’re not out to do X, Y, and Z to them. So I think we’ll find out as we move forward here whether the Afghans themselves can reach a resolution between them, and we’ve made it clear that we’re going to support that.
QUESTION: And a real quick one on Awlaki?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: I don’t want to – we could spend all afternoon debating the legalities and so forth of his killing, but what I wanted to ask you was whether there’s been any diplomatic blowback, whether you’ve gotten any angry or concerned calls from foreign ministers, letters from the European Human Rights Council, any of that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not that’s been brought to my attention.
QUESTION: I’m sure it would have been.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, I think so. I don’t know. Mike, have you seen anything?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the U.S. press, I would say.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, yeah. No, not at all.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Do you want to ask about –
QUESTION: We’re going to get in trouble if we don’t ask about Myanmar.
QUESTION: Well, let’s ask about Keystone too, so –
QUESTION: Okay. So, Keystone XL pipeline. So given the environmental impact report in August that Keystone XL would not do significant damage to the environment, are you leaning toward approval of the pipeline? And when do you expect to make a decision?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not leaning any way, I’m – because I don’t have any recommendation at all from the professionals and experts who have carried out the requirements that we’re mandated to follow. So I’m not going to comment. I’m going to wait and see what recommendation comes forth.
QUESTION: So you have until the end of the year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We have said we’d like to make a decision by the end of the year, yeah. If you look at it, I mean, it has certainly engendered strong emotions, both for and against. People are very, very intent upon expressing their opinion, and we have heard from thousands of people by this point expressing diametrically opposed opinions, but that’s all part of the process. We solicited that. We had six public meetings in order to try to make sure that people had a chance to be heard in addition to every other way we’ve tried to reach out. And at the end of the day, we’ll make a recommendation.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one about Burma? I mean, as you know, there are these reports that the authorities are on the verge of releasing a bunch of prisoners. I’m well aware that they do this periodically and that it’s unclear how many political prisoners will actually be in any group that they may release, but the question I have is: What is it going to take from the regime for the Administration to consider, if not removing sanctions, but sort of smaller steps? And there are things you could do. You could seek waivers, for example, that would allow assistance for things like training midwives. I mean, there are sort of useful things that you could do, (inaudible) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a good idea, training midwives. Write that down. I like that, Arshad. I’m big on training midwives.
QUESTION: Yeah. I think you’re – somewhere, somebody is actually (inaudible) about that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I tried to convince the Bush Administration to train midwives in Afghanistan, so –
QUESTION: Yeah, it’s a hard sell. Anyway, here’s – so are you thinking about smaller steps that you could do? And what’s it going to take for you to take some of those steps?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say we’re encouraged by the steps we see the government taking. As you know, we have the first-ever appointed Special Representative to Burma, Ambassador Derek Mitchell. He made a fact-finding trip there just last month and came back with a very comprehensive report of what he had heard from meeting across the political spectrum. We’ve had a very active diplomatic effort underway led by Kurt Campbell for several years now to try to encourage the democratic process there. And we’re going to take it – we’re going to take them at their word, but we want to see actions. And if they are going to release political prisoners, that would be a very positive sign.
So I think it’s a little premature for us to announce what we might or might not do, but I will say we’re encouraged by what we believe to be their efforts to try to do some internal reforms, continue the dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, listen to the voice of their own people as they recently did regarding the dam. So there are some promising signals.
QUESTION: Do you think that they’ve made a strategic decision or do you think these are just sort of tactical moves?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know the answer to that, but that’s why we want to watch and evaluate what they actually do.
QUESTION: I’ve got to ask you about North Korea. We’re – it’s almost two years since Ambassador Bosworth’s trip to Pyongyang. The North Koreans, as far as I can tell, have shown no interest in meeting the American preconditions – freezing Yongbyon, letting international or some inspectors back in.
So, two questions: Do you see any signs that the North Korean – that I’m missing that the North Koreans might be willing to do some of the things that the Administration has been very clear it wants them to do before resuming denuclearization talks? If you don’t, are you open to, are you considering, the possibility of entering into a more serious dialogue with them even absent – or continuing a dialogue with them since you’ve already had a couple – some meetings – absent those preconditions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, we have the Korean state visit starting tomorrow and Thursday and Friday. And we have been closely consulting with and coordinating with the South Koreans to an unprecedented degree. I think that the relationship is very strong. And we will remain quite committed to moving forward together. So we will be, during this visit, discussing what next steps might occur. We have been willing to remain engaged with the North Koreans on a range of issues that they are following up on.
But again, I may know more in the next few weeks about what is possible, but it’s very important that we stay closely allied with the South Koreans, because it is not just about us and the North Koreans; it’s very much about our treaty ally, the South, and therefore, we want to be sure that we are working on the – as we have been, working on the same process moving forward.
QUESTION: From the way I see it, the South is more open to dialogue. I mean, there’s been a series of –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but there’s been – but they have also asked some hard questions, explored some options. And I don’t want to jump the gun, I don’t want to preempt what they are willing to do, but I think we are in a very strong position to consider what our next steps – if any – what our next steps might be.
QUESTION: And do you think Bosworth is likely to go, or to have a meeting later this month with the North, or is that something –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s something that, if that is confirmed, we will certainly announce.
QUESTION: So anything else? Are we –
QUESTION: Can I ask one personal question?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, I think this may be the last one.
QUESTION: So you’ve said that you’ll be a one-term Secretary of State, and 15 months doesn’t sound – for someone who’s in their job five and a half weeks –
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: – 15 months doesn’t sound like a whole heck of a lot of time. What would – what are going to be your priorities between now and January 2013? And what have you not accomplished that you’d really like to?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this could really be part of an exit interview which we should do in January 2013, but –
QUESTION: We accept. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. But I am assuming and believe that President Obama is going to be reelected, and therefore, a lot of what I’m doing now will continue into the next term. And it’s both the headlines that we’ve been talking about – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Middle East, China, the economy, et cetera – it’s all through the trend lines; I mean, our continuing work on everything from nonproliferation to women’s empowerment, which we see as a key national security goal, to ensuring that we have a safe and secure energy supply.
And that’s why out of the process that I initiated, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the so-called QDDR, we set forth a number of priorities that we wanted to pursue. And we’re steadily achieving them. So we’re standing up our energy bureau, and to me, that’s a major step forward in how we think of ourselves here in the State Department. We are rationalizing and streamlining procedures between State Department and USAID so that we have a – we save money, we save taxpayer dollars, but we deliver more for what we spend. We are engaged in a very challenging budget discussion with the Congress, which will, to some extent, determine where our priorities are in what we do.
We are responding to the Arab Spring. We have a designated team led by Ambassador Bill Taylor to push the economic and political reform agenda across the region while we, of course, deal on a national basis with our embassies. We are looking at strengthening our strategic dialogues with key countries like Brazil, like Colombia, like Mexico, like Nigeria, South Africa, each of whom has specific benefits. We’re investing a lot of time in Nigeria. That’s not going to get in the headlines unless something really bad happens. A major oil provider of ours; we worked closely with them so that they would have free, fair elections, so that they had a leadership that had legitimacy; now we’re supporting what they’re trying to do. We obviously are deeply engaged in India and continuing to build that relationship. The reset in Russia; I mean, there’s just – there’s so much that we are working on.
And I don’t know any way that we can say, okay, we’re only going to work on this set of issues and we’re not going to work on that, because the way the world works today, there are so many emerging actors who can influence events in ways that either advantage or disadvantage us nationally, or promote or undermine the values that we stand for. And so we really have to have a broad, comprehensive, global presence at the very time when we’re having the money cut.
And it’s especially difficult given this Arab awakening because we look at the individual countries; they each pose specific challenges. Take Tunisia; they’re really doing a lot of what they need to do right, they’re very anxious to have economic help from us, we’re cobbling together what we can to help them start businesses, have an enterprise fund, inspire entrepreneurship, provide technical assistance on their election. And you multiply that many times over – Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, the other Gulf countries. So we have to be a lot more creative with the dollars that we have in order to get the impact that we’re seeking.
And I know that in the Congress, there are some who – they think foreign aid is 20 percent of the budget, and so if we just cut it out, we’d be able to balance the budget. And so we’ve been doing a lot of educating with our colleagues on the Hill to make the case: Look, this is a historic moment with so much that is happening. And we’re – we have to be present, whether it’s helping Central America with their security against drug cartels. I mean, hello, today, if people didn’t know why we were worried about that, maybe they do now. We have to be opening markets, creating more investment. There’s just a big agenda out there.
So I see the headlines and the trend lines, and I try to kind of keep an eye on both of them, so –
QUESTION: The budget thing must be somewhat frustrating to you. I mean, you’ve – if nothing else, you have a made a case for foreign assistance over the years –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: – and Congress seems to be cutting some of it anyway.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’re right, Warren. I mean, part of our – part of what we’re trying to do – and I worked very closely with Bob Gates on this for two and a half years – was to make the case that the State Department, USAID were part of national security, that we weren’t some afterthought stuck out over in the corner here. So that implied several courses of action. One was to argue for an overseas contingency account, which the Defense Department always had. They would separate out sort of the war-fighting money from their base budget.
And when we started getting into this budget discussion, I realized that if we didn’t move quickly on that front, it was going to be very difficult because the Congress was basically saying, “Okay, we want you to do what you have to do in Iraq and we want you to do what you have to do in Afghanistan and, oh, yeah, take care of what you need to do in Yemen or Somalia or somewhere else, and we’ll just cut your budget.” And so we made the case, “Look, you treat the Defense Department this way. We’re part of national security; you should give us an OCO account – overseas contingency operations account – for what we do in these conflict zones.”
And you know what? They agreed. So now, we’ve got the money that we have to have to fund what we’re doing, this enormous undertaking in Iraq and elsewhere, which the State Department has never done before, and it’s incredibly challenging. And we are not having a total tradeoff with are we going to keep issuing visas for Chinese business leaders to come to United States, or are we going to be so far behind in our Consular Affairs budget that people are going to have to wait a year or two?
So we’re trying to make the case. The Senate has been quite understanding, and we’re making, I think, some progress in the House. But now, we are in this bucket – national security bucket – with DHS, with DOD. I don’t know – remember who else is in there, maybe VA.
QUESTION: DOE maybe?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Is – I think maybe some of the nuclear stuff is. I think; I don’t know. I don’t remember right now. So yeah, I mean, a lot of people say, “Oh my gosh, there’s so many members who are going to stand up for the Defense Department, so you’re going to be really disadvantaged,” but we just have to keep making the case, so –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Always good to see you.
FOREIGN MINISTER NATALEGAWA: A very good afternoon, dear colleagues from the media. (In Indonesian.) I would like to begin once again by welcoming and expressing our appreciation to Secretary Clinton, as well as her delegation, for having attended and participated actively in this second Joint Commission meeting between the United States and Indonesia.
I had begun our discussion this morning by expressing one key thought. First, that during the past few days, as you are aware, Secretary Clinton has given Bali to attend the ASEAN-U.S. meeting, the East Asia Summit meeting at the ministerial level, as well as the ASEAN Regional Forum. And during the course of those sets of meetings, Indonesia and the United States worked very closely, all for the purpose of promoting peace, stability, and prosperity for our region.
But I have also suggested the idea that all those endeavors would not be possible without being anchored by strong bilateral relations, as Indonesia and the United States today enjoy. And that is why today’s second JMC is extremely strategic and extremely important. As colleagues will be aware, the JMC process was launched last September 2010 for the purpose of injecting momentum and ensuring concrete (inaudible) to the vision of a comprehensive partnership between Indonesia and the United States.
And during the course of that period, since September 2010 until today, we have seen, based on the report that we have just now received from the six working groups — namely the working groups on democracy and civil society, working group on climate and environment, working group on education, on trade and investment, on security issues, and on energy — based on the submission from the six working groups, I think both Secretary Clinton and I feel ever more confident that the comprehensive partnership between our two countries are in a good state, and that we are actually further deepening and strengthening our collaboration and partnership.
And more specifically, each of the working groups were able to share with the Secretary and myself the kind of progress they have made in their own respective domain, and lay out the concrete work plan for their year ahead, in order to ensure that the momentum is maintained.
More specifically, as you are aware, come next November, in 2011, we are to have the East Asia Summit here in Bali. And on that occasion, we are anticipating, of course, the first participation by the United States, by President Obama, to that summit. And, at the same time, there will be, no doubt, a bilateral meeting between the two presidents: of Indonesia and President Obama. In other words, the work that we are doing now, today, of the JCM, becomes a useful (inaudible) for us to be able to take stock where we are and where we wish to become next November.
So, all in all, I would say, Secretary, it has been — and I am sure you would agree with me — a most productive meeting, and encouraging, as well, because not only have the working groups been extremely diligent and energetic in their work over the past few months, but they continue to be driven by a sense of wanting to achieve better achievement and identifying more potentials for the future.
Of course, besides the issue of bilateral relations, the Secretary and I had the advantage on this occasion to compare notes on various regional and international issues, following on from the discussions that we have been having at the ASEAN Regional Forum, as well as the East Asia Summit at the ministers level.
That is by way of introduction for myself. I should now like to give the floor to Secretary Clinton to also deliver her remarks. Please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. I want to express my appreciation to the Foreign Minister and the delegation from Indonesia for not only welcoming us today, but preparing the opportunity for such a productive second meeting of our joint commission. As the foreign minister said, we covered a lot of ground. I want to just touch on a few of the highlights.
First, we discussed how to increase trade and investment between our countries. Because while Indonesia is the largest economy in ASEAN, trade between our two countries still lags between others in the region. For example, our trade this year with Indonesia was $20 billion, but our trade with Malaysia was $40 billion. So we want to look at what are the impediments and the potential barriers. How do we reduce tariffs? How do we create more dynamic trade and investment between Indonesia and the United States?
Secondly, we discussed how we can work together more closely to protect the environment and to address the challenge of climate change. I know that is something that the Government of Indonesia and President Yudhoyono has been particularly focused on. I emphasize that, as we enter the final stage of negotiations on a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact that aims to promote low carbon development, we look forward to the quick creation of an accountable national trust fund to implement the compact, and to spur sustainable growth here in Indonesia.
Third, we discussed our shared goal of expanding educational exchanges. And I was so pleased to hear the report from the two chairs of the education working group. We are well on the way to doubling the number of Indonesians who study in the United States, and increasing the number of American students who come to study in Indonesia. We have expanded study abroad initiatives, such as our Fulbright Program, and we are eager to continue to build on that, as we will at a higher education summit to be held in Washington on October 31st.
Finally, we discussed Indonesia’s growing role as a regional and global leader, and the important leadership that Indonesia is providing in ASEAN, in the ASEAN Regional Forum, in the East Asia Summit, in APEC, in the G-20, in all the major multilateral fora where the hard problems facing us in the world today are addressed.
This is an exciting time, and I was very impressed by the work that has been done by the working groups. And I think that this comprehensive partnership is, indeed, producing results for both of our people. Because, after all, we have to report to the people of Indonesia, and the people of the United States. And I think they can be reassured that we are not meeting for the sake of meeting; we are meeting to build relationships, to explore potential, and to deliver results for both of our people.
So, again, let me thank the Foreign Minister for his hospitality and his friendship, and to commend you, Marty, on the excellent job done in hosting these important gatherings in the last week.
FOREIGN MINISTER NATALEGAWA: Thank you very much, Hillary. Before opening the floor for questions, may I express a sentiment which I am sure Hillary would want to associate herself to, as well? Once again, to reaffirm and communicate our (inaudible) with regard to the attacks that took place in Norway just recently, the loss of life, of innocent lives lost, and our condemnation for that event, yet, at the same time, our confidence in the strength of the Norwegian nation, of its government, to be able to overcome this particular challenge, and that we, as members of the international community, stand by them in expressing our solidarity and support.
QUESTION: Thank you very much (inaudible). I have a question for you, ma’am, and one question to you, Mr. Marty.
First question, I would like to know what is your opinion on how ASEAN works on problems such as the border disputes (inaudible), issues of human rights (inaudible), and especially South China Seas issue. And do you think that we should always be (inaudible)?
My second question. There has been (inaudible) on the human (inaudible) Indonesia following the statement of Human Rights Watch. How (inaudible) participation of human rights in Indonesia, especially (inaudible).
And to Mr. Marty, (inaudible).
FOREIGN MINISTER NATALEGAWA: Ah, right. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me begin with responding. I want to commend Indonesian leadership of ASEAN this past year. Because of its active role in promoting a resolution to the border disputes between Cambodia and Thailand. Indonesia played that role very effectively, to the point that both countries have asked Indonesia to continue playing such a role, even after its chairmanship of ASEAN expires.
And I think the international court of justice’s decision about the disputed territory between two ASEAN members itself highlighted the importance of ASEAN continuing to seek a permanent resolution.
Secondly, with respect to human rights in Burma, we discussed that in our meetings, in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and in the U.S.-ASEAN dialogue. And I think it is very important that we continue to press the new Government of Burma to take action that will demonstrate a break with the past. And again, here I commend Indonesia’s leadership, both as chair of ASEAN, in reaching out to the new government, but also, based on your own experience, I think there is much for Indonesia to share, as to how you make a successful peaceful transition to a democracy as vibrant and successful as the one here in Indonesia.
And with respect to the South China Sea, as you know, that took up a great deal of our time in discussions, both prior to and during the meetings. I have to comment Indonesia’s leadership again. Because, as chair of ASEAN, Indonesia led the way to the adoption of the declaration of conduct. I think that it is important for all of us to realize what is at stake here. Because, clearly, the South China Sea is absolutely essential to global trade. At least 50 percent of all global trade goes through the South China Sea every single year. And it is important for us to support freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, so there is no question as to the rights of every nation for its ships, its goods to pass through the South China Sea. But it is especially important for the region.
And the United States takes no position on any claim made by any party to any disputed area. What we want to see is a resolution process that will be aided by the code of conduct that ASEAN is working toward, based on the Declaration of Conduct, and that the principles of international law will govern, so that there can be peaceful resolution of all the claims. In order to achieve that, every claimant must make their claim publicly and specifically known, so that we know where there is any dispute. And secondly, all claims must be related to territorial characteristics.
So, we think that it was an important first step, but only a first step in adopting the Declaration of Conduct. And we commend, again, Indonesia’s leadership in achieving that, and urge that ASEAN move quickly — I would even add urgently — to achieve a code of conduct that will avoid any problems in the vital sea lanes and territorial waters of the South China Sea.
With respect to — you had two questions in there — with respect to human rights, we have a working group in our Commission on democracy on human rights. We had a very positive discussion about those important issues during the reporting from that working group, and we look forward to continuing to support Indonesia in its important leadership on democracy and human rights, not only in the region, but globally. And, therefore, we look forward to continuing to make progress.
FOREIGN MINISTER NATALEGAWA: If I may just also add to the point that Secretary Clinton has made on the South China Sea, Indonesia is acutely aware of the need to maintain momentum. Of course, the conclusion of the guidelines just now — a couple of days ago now — is a very important development. I would not wish to underestimate its importance. But, at the same time, it reminds us of the further work that needs to be done maintaining momentum, maintaining a sense of urgency. And we have a road map at the back of our minds of what needs to happen between now and then, whenever the “then” is. But you can be assured that we have a clear outline and expectations of what needs to happen. And not least, of course, the identifications of elements for Code of Conduct within the process of its eventual conclusion, as well.
On the specific question asked — addressed to myself, namely Indonesia and the United States with regard to the East Asia Summit, as you are very much aware, of course, the process, the very process of United States participation and addition to the East Asia Summit was, among others, a product of a process that Indonesia and the United States bilaterally (inaudible) about.
I remember my first conversation with you, Hillary, in Singapore, if I am not mistaken, at the sideline of a conference. This was an issue that you raised then. And, therefore, even from the beginning, the United States and Indonesia have been engaged in a very thorough way to discuss, to compare notes of our strategic vision of what the East Asia Summit is all about. And now that the United States is part of the East Asia Summit, it is our task, together with the other members of the EAS to give flesh to this — to give value to this forum. And I think that the discussion that we had yesterday was extremely instructive — a couple of days ago now — among others, to ensure that the East Asia Summit, besides discussing the five priority issues that we have been discussing, also deepen and broaden its engagement or discussion on so-called broad strategic issues.
The East Asia Summit must provide solutions to many of the region’s challenges, and opportunities, as well. And I am glad that, with the United States being part of the equation, being part of the architecture, then the chances of having this summit providing that answer is suitably enhanced. Thank you.
QUESTION: I am going to follow up on a couple of human rights issues. Foreign Minister, do you believe that the change that occurred in Myanmar, Burma, this year is sufficient for Burma to take its place, for instance, as head of ASEAN? I don’t believe the United States thinks so. I mean you both can comment on that.
And in advance of the Secretary’s visit, a number of media groups, a human rights group, issued statements critical of Indonesia’s handling of the situation in Kampar, saying that aid groups and journalists were being barred, and that there were reports that — of a crackdown on the indigenous people. And I was just wondering if you both can comment on those specifics.
FOREIGN MINISTER NATALEGAWA: Thank you. In a way, the questions are somewhat related, as relates to human rights and democratization.
One thing that we have learned in the course of our decade-long now — nearly — democratization is that it is a process. It is impossible to have a snapshot of one moment in time and sort of decide, “Are we there yet, or are we not there yet?” And this is most definitely the case with respect to Myanmar. Myanmar is obviously a work in process, in terms of democratization. To put it more — in a more — I guess — yes, I don’t want to use — describe it as a work in progress.
But it is very much related to the issue of chairmanship. As you know, at the moment, the decision has not been made by ASEAN. When we last met as foreign ministers, the decision has been left — not quite done yet. But we have to see and have a sense of — comfort level whether Myanmar is actually prepared and ready to assume chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014. I am aware — we are aware — of the responsibilities and the expectations that is inherent in a particular country chairing ASEAN, especially on the eve of 2015. So we are well aware of that, and we are going to have plenty more discussions among ASEAN member states to ensure that there is a real comfort level about the issue.
On the issue of human rights situation in Indonesia, the kind of concerns that we have expressed, many — we hear such comments and expectations on a regular basis. But the only thing is nowadays it is also a concern that is shared by all Indonesians alike. So it doesn’t take an external party to suggest to us we need to do this and that, because it is being — efforts are being made to ensure that our own democratic and human rights expectations are fulfilled, as we expect them to be.
But, you know, as Secretary Clinton has said, we have this working group within this forum on human rights and civil society that has been working not only in promoting bilateral cooperation on human rights issue, but also increasingly now, of cooperation of a multilateral character, as well, a lot of experience sharing that we are disseminating to some other countries in transition, including in the Middle East and North Africa, which shows the potential demonstrative effect that countries like Indonesia, working together with United States, can impact — impart upon our partners, as well. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we greatly appreciate Indonesia’s leadership in promoting progress toward political reconciliation and democracy in Burma. And, as the foreign minister said, Indonesia’s own recent history provides an example for transition to civilian rule and building strong democratic institutions.
And we have, in many different settings, expressed our deep concern about the oppressive political environment in Burma. We have called on the newly-elected government to release political prisoners, open a meaningful dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi by utilizing decision-makers who can respond to her legitimate suggestions and concerns, and we will continue to press for the kind of changes that we see benefiting the people of Burma in the future.
With respect to Papua, the United States supports the territorial integrity of Indonesia, which includes the Papua and West Papua provinces. We, of course, believe in open dialogue between Papuan representatives and the Indonesian Government to address grievances and support development. But, as the Foreign Minister said, this is a matter for the Indonesian Government, and they are addressing it. And we hope to see full implementation of the special autonomy law for Papua, which is a commitment on the part of the Indonesian Government to address many of the concerns that have been expressed.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary and Mr. Foreign Minister. I want to ask about how far this relation has progressed since you (inaudible), especially about the (inaudible) and security sector.
And then, what will U.S. President Barack Obama of United States bring to the East Asia Summit next November? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there has been a discernable amount of progress in the relationship between the United States and Indonesia under the Obama Administration. President Obama came to office very committed to deepen, broaden, and strengthen the bilateral relationship between our two countries. And, based on the work that I have overseen, and that I have been able to analyze, given the work of the Commission, I am very pleased by the progress that our bilateral relationship is making.
We, on both sides, have more to do. And so, this is a continuing process that we will be focused on. I know President Obama is looking forward both to attending the East Asian Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, and his bilateral meetings with President Yudhoyono and others. But this is a very important relationship, one that the United States highly values, and that we are deeply invested in. And I think, based on the progress we have made in a very short period of time, there is a tremendous potential for future cooperation.
QUESTION: Hi. I am Anthony Kuhn with NPR, National Public Radio of the U.S., and I would like to hear both from Secretary Clinton and Minister Marty on this.
To go back to the South China Sea, Secretary Clinton, you have asked claimants to back up their claims in international law. This is probably the most — as China would put it — core interest, or core matter, the thorniest issue you could raise. It has taken the better part of a decade just to come up with a non-binding resolution that says very little about what to do when there are spats. What about the medium term? What about the short term?
What do you propose to address — to prevent incidents which you say threaten security? Might you — although you are both not claimants in this — for example, engage in diplomacy in, say, to claimants, at least try to get to your different domestic departments in line, reading from the same page on this issue? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Anthony. I think that the progress that we saw this year stands in marked contrast to our meeting last year. The achievement of a declaration, as you point out, had been a long time coming, thanks to the hard work and leadership of the foreign minister and the Indonesian Government as chair of the ASEAN meeting, as well as the ARF. There has been progress on the dialogue between China and ASEAN.
The Declaration is a first step. Nobody claims it is more than that. It is a first step. It needs to be quickly followed up on by the code of conduct. There needs to be a lot of dialogue between ASEAN and China in their already-existing mechanism. And the rest of the world needs to weigh in, because all of us have a stake in ensuring that these disputes don’t get out of control. And in fact, the numbers have been increasing. The intimidation actions of (inaudible), of cutting of cables, the kinds of things which will raise the cost of doing business for everyone who travels through the South China Sea, which, as I said earlier, is half of all global commerce.
So, we support a collaborative, diplomatic process by all claimants to resolve all of their disputes. What we do not support, and are strongly against, is the use or threat of force by any nation to advance its claims. Therefore, we think simultaneously there needs to be a very concerted effort to realize a code of conduct, and there needs to be a call by the international community for all parties to clarify their claims, both land and maritime, and to conform them to international law, including as reflected in the UN Convention on Law of the Seas.
This is the way the world is supposed to work. And in the 21st century, this is the way it must work. Because no nation can, on its own, manage everything that needs to happen. And those days are and must be over. And, therefore, we have to have the kind of cooperative, collaborative effort that Indonesia has led.
FOREIGN MINISTER NATALEGAWA: Well, thank you very much for that question. Collaborative and cooperative mindset is an effort — is certainly exactly the kind of spirit and outcome we are promoting as Indonesia, as ASEAN chair, for our region. Of course, the obvious recent manifestation among others has been on South China Sea, as well as on the Thai-Cambodia situation.
In other words, we are keen to avoid for our region the kind of fault lines and schisms and divisions that may not be — that would not be to the interest of any countries in this part of the world. And the South China Sea, the guideline itself, the Declaration and its guidelines, when you look at it, it may not seem to suggest much. It may not. However, if you look at the broader picture of what it represents, the fact that after about eight years, finally, this year, after much strong effort, and in contrast to — like Secretary Clinton said, in contrast to last year’s ambience and conditions, we were able to get this done. I think that is a good start. And it is an asset for us to develop on.
The key point here is that we must make sure that this is not the end of the line. This is but the beginning. And I can assure you that Indonesia, as chair of ASEAN, we have a road map — as I said before in my earlier remarks, we have a clear road map of what needs to happen between now and, say, November. That is the next junction, when we will be having the summit of ASEAN, the East Asia Summit, to ensure a constant sense of progress and momentum. Because we do sincerely and genuinely feel letting things not going anywhere, letting things be state of status quo can be possibly destabilizing, and creating uncertainty and opening up the potentials for miscalculation. And this is what we wish to avoid. Transparency, in terms of intent, in terms of claims, is extremely important.
But all this must be done within the diplomatic process. And I don’t mind having very difficult debate — frank and candid, as we say it in diplomatic parlance — as long as it is all done in the construct of a conference room, rather than out there at sea. And there has certainly been, as Secretary Clinton said, recent incidents at sea. I am afraid it is a general trend, not only in the South China Sea; the other seas of all parts of the world also have been marked by tensions. The militarization of fishing vessels, for example, that — how fishing vessels have been protected by the navies of different countries and creating incidences at sea, and these are very serious developments.
That is why, among our initiatives just now, was to have a maritime forum for our region, an East Asia or Asia Pacific ASEAN maritime forum, where all the different assets of maritime ocean issues can be discussed in a cohesive way. Indonesia, you recall, is an archipelago. It is a country that is not small, made up of some 17,000 islands. We used to think of the oceans as a factor that divides us. But, thanks to the foresight of our founding fathers, the oceans, the seas between the islands, becomes an issue that binds us in accordance with this archipelagic outlook.
Now, we would like to think that East Asia and the Asia Pacific, a great deal of which is made up of the seas, can also have a similar integrative outlook, to look at the seas as a potential for cooperation, rather than a source for conflict and tensions. That is certainly the kind of outlook we would like to promote. Thank you very much.
The United States is concerned by on-going violence in Burma’s northern Kachin State and other regions of the country and calls for a halt to hostilities. The Burmese Army and the Kachin Independence Army began fighting on June 9 and have continued over the past three weeks. We are particularly concerned by the reports of human rights abuses in the area, including reports of casualties, rape, and displacement of thousands of local residents. There have also been reports of clashes in Karen and Shan states.
We urge all appropriate authorities to ensure, in line with international standards, adequate support, safety, and protection for those persons fleeing conflict along Burma’s borders. This recent violence underscores the need for an inclusive dialogue between the Government of Burma and opposition and ethnic minority groups to begin a process of genuine national reconciliation.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Yun’s testimony on the Block Burmese JADE Act and Recent Policy Developments
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Mr. Berman, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the central aspects of our Burma policy, including elements of our two-track approach that comprises pressure coupled with principled engagement. In light of my recent visits to Burma in December 2010 and again two weeks ago, I would also like to provide an overview on the Administration’s efforts to promote democracy and human rights in Burma and on key recent developments in Burma including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the 2010 elections, and the formation of a government headed by former top regime general and now President Thein Sein.
After a comprehensive policy review, which Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell outlined for your Committee in October 2009, the United States launched a dual-track Burma policy, combining pressure with direct dialogue with the regime. We are currently pursuing these parallel and complementary tracks in a full-scale effort to advance progress on core concerns of the United States and the international community, including the unconditional release of all political prisoners, respect for human rights, and an inclusive dialogue with the political opposition and ethnic groups that would lead to national reconciliation. We also urge the Government of Burma to respect its international obligations, including adherence to all UN Security Council resolutions on nonproliferation. We have made these representations repeatedly in the context of Burma’s nontransparent relationship with North Korea. Although meaningful progress remains elusive, I believe we must continue to bring the full range of diplomatic tools to bear and use both dialogue and pressure to promote positive change in Burma.
First, let me start with the pressure side of our policy. We play a leading role in the international community in shining a light on the regime’s dismal human rights record and signaling to Burmese authorities that the world is watching. We support an annual resolution at the UN General Assembly on Burma that draws attention to human rights abuses and calls for cooperation with the international community to achieve concrete progress with regard to human rights, fundamental freedoms and political processes. In 2010, this resolution passed by a higher vote margin than in any previous year. More recently, in March of this year, we supported the annual resolution on Burma at the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana. We continue to call upon the Burmese government to fully cooperate with Mr. Quintana, including by allowing him to visit the country again, which authorities are refusing. Secretary of State Clinton has also expressed our commitment to pursuing accountability for human rights abuses through establishing a commission of inquiry for Burma in close consultation with our friends, allies, and partners at the United Nations.
Coupled with this international pressure, we maintain extensive, targeted sanctions against senior leaders of the Burmese government and military, their immediate family members, their key supporters, and others who abuse human rights. We work closely with our key allies such as the European Union (EU) and its member states, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asian nations and others to encourage them to impose sanctions and to press the regime to make meaningful changes. We were pleased that in April 2011, the EU renewed its Common Position on Burma, which authorizes EU sanctions on key regime officials. U.S. sanctions are based on a series of executive orders and key legislation passed over the past 20 years, including the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 and the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008. Successive Administrations have cooperated closely with Congress to ensure that these restrictions, whether economic, financial or travel related, have the same purpose: that the United States will not allow the use of its resources to perpetuate abusive, authoritarian rule.
The Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008 is the most recent piece of Burma-specific legislation and it constitutes an important component of the U.S. sanctions regime. There are several key aspects of the JADE Act, which is more than a ban on Burmese jade: it focuses on stopping anti-democratic activities in addition to preventing the regime from profiting from trade in precious gems.
The JADE Act includes provisions for financial sanctions and bans the issuance of visas for travel to the United States by former and present leaders of the regime, officials involved in the repression of human rights, other key supporters of the regime, and their immediate family members. These provisions complement already existing economic sanctions and travel restrictions.
The JADE Act also required the appointment of a Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma to ensure high-level, dedicated focus on improving the situation in Burma and promoting genuine democratic reform. I am very pleased to highlight that on April 14, the President nominated Derek Mitchell for that position. He is the right candidate for this tough job. He brings a formidable blend of Asia expertise and senior government and civil society experience to the table. If confirmed, we have every confidence that Mr. Mitchell will fully carry out his mandate to advance all aspects of our Burma policy, pursuing both pressure on and engagement with Burmese authorities as warranted by their actions. If confirmed, he will further strengthen ties with key Burmese stakeholders in civil society, including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic groups, and coordinate our efforts with Congress, allies, and the NGO community for the benefit of the Burmese people. We look forward to his leadership and hope that his Senate hearing and confirmation will take place as soon as possible.
Finally, the JADE Act bans the import of Burmese jadeite, rubies, and related jewelry into the United States. The first line of defense is our Customs and Border Patrol certification requirements, issued through a joint DHS/Treasury final rule. We have been very successful in enforcing this prohibition through the final rule, which requires every importer to have written certification at the time of import from the exporter affirming that none of the imported jewelry contains jadeite or rubies mined or extracted from Burma. Our prohibition has been most effective for Burmese rubies and jewelry, as the demand for jadeite in the United States is virtually nonexistent. The second line of defense is the jewelry industry itself; industry sources note that the most valuable rubies from Burma are high quality and very distinctive and that no one in the United States is importing rubies or related jewelry from Burma. The Jewelers Vigilance Committee has conveyed to us its confidence that no rubies imported into the United States were mined or extracted from Burma and that no importer in the U.S. would want to risk losing their goods or reputation by violating what they refer to as a well-known ban.
Burma’s regime continues to reap significant revenues from its tightly controlled gemstone industry, and the JADE Act does not cut off all international trade in Burma’s gemstones. Burma’s export of rubies and jadeite is doing well, in particular because China’s domestic market for jadeite and related jewelry is on the rise. We will continue to call on China and India and other neighboring countries to cooperate with us on this issue.
Before I turn to the engagement track, I would like to note that we regularly hear claims from neighboring countries and a variety of other partners that our sanctions negatively affect the Burmese economy and help to impoverish the Burmese people. Following Burma’s elections, some Southeast Asian nations as well as some political parties in Burma called on the United States to ease or remove sanctions. The Administration firmly believes that easing sanctions at this time is premature, absent fundamental reform or other regime actions to address core international concerns, and that Burma’s poor economic performance is primarily due to the regime’s gross economic mismanagement and pervasive corruption.
While sustaining pressure on the Burmese regime, we have initiated efforts to engage in direct dialogue with senior leaders in the Burmese government over the past 18 months. Assistant Secretary of State Campbell traveled to Nay Pyi Taw, Burma’s capital, in October 2009 and May 2010 to meet with senior officials and demonstrate our willingness to embark on this new path of principled engagement. He also met with Burma officials on the margins of UN General Assembly sessions in 2009 and 2010 and in several forums held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). During every visit to Burma, we always consult Aung San Suu Kyi, leaders of the NLD, and other civil society leaders.
Building on the dialogue Assistant Secretary Campbell began, I have also made two visits to Burma: one in December 2010 and one more recently, in May 2011. In those meetings, Burmese authorities continue to express a desire for improved relations with the United States and identified several confidence-building measures that they would like from the United States, including our use of “Myanmar” instead of Burma as the official name of the country and our direct assistance toward achieving the country’s Millennium Development Goals. The Government of Burma, however, has been opposed to taking any of the steps we, the UN, and others have raised to address core human rights concerns and to begin an inclusive dialogue leading to national reconciliation and real democratic reform. The regime continues to insist that all of these issues are “internal issues.”
We are disappointed by the lack of any results from our repeated efforts at dialogue. When we embarked on our dual-track policy, we went in with our eyes wide open and we expected that efforts on engagement and real reform would be a long, slow process. We will continue to try, while also seeking concrete ways to ramp up pressure on the Burmese government both in private and in public, to undertake genuine reform. We expect that the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma will play an essential role in furthering all aspects of our policy and determining if there is a viable way forward.
Against this policy backdrop, I will briefly provide an update and assessment on the political dynamics in Burma, highlighting the government’s election process and its results, the future role of former regime leader Senior General Than Shwe, and the release of leading opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi.
Burma’s 2010 elections were its first in 20 years. These elections were based on a deeply and fundamentally flawed process with highly restrictive regulations that excluded Burma’s largest pro-democracy party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). They took place while Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD’s key leader, remained under house arrest, and many other NLD leaders were in prison. The regime cancelled voting in several ethnic minority areas and heavily skewed the playing field in favor of the regime’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The few pro-democracy and ethnic political parties that did compete won only a small number of parliamentary seats and mostly at the regional level. Amid widespread media and well-substantiated claims of vote rigging and manipulation, the regime’s USDP won the majority of contested Parliamentary seats, while 25 percent of all seats were reserved for military appointees. The United States clearly and consistently condemned the elections as neither free nor fair.
Not surprisingly, the elections resulted in a government comprised almost entirely of either active or former military members of the regime. Together with military appointees, regime-affiliated members occupy 89 percent of all seats in the legislative bodies. This legislature convened in Nay Pyi Taw to rubber stamp approval of Burma’s President, two Vice Presidents, and key Presidential appointees. With few exceptions, all of those positions were filled by former military leaders and members of the government’s proxy party. The formal regime State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) dissolved and President Thein Sein,
the former Prime Minister within the SPDC structure and a top regime military leader, assumed power on April 1, 2011.
The convening of Parliament and the formation of a so-called “civilian” government marked the completion of what the regime refers to as its seven-step roadmap to a “disciplined and flourishing democracy.” We strongly disagree with this assessment and believe that many questions remain. Specifically, the extent of Senior General Than Shwe’s influence is still an important question. He previously held simultaneous titles as Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and Minister of Defense. In the government announced on April 1, he no longer holds any official title. Some observers believe he will still control the political sphere from behind the scenes while others claim that he has truly retired. Therefore, a significant degree of uncertainty exists regarding Than Shwe’s role and the respective power of the various institutions that emerged such as the Presidency and cabinet, the Parliament, the United Solidarity and Development Party and the military.
With former regime officials occupying most key positions in all branches of government, the United States is not optimistic that we will see any immediate change in policies or progress on our core concerns. There has been some positive rhetoric but it has not translated into concrete action or changes by the regime. In his inaugural address, President Thein Sein used terms such as good governance, transparency, and economic development, a departure from the regime’s typical focus on stability and security and threats posed by opposition figures and entities. President Thein Sein’s statements have addressed the need for economic reforms and his economic advisors recently organized a National Poverty Alleviation Seminar. Whether any of this seemingly positive rhetoric will eventually transform into concrete action toward poverty reduction and a free, open society is deeply uncertain.
There is also the noteworthy development of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s release on November 13 from seven-and-one-half years of house arrest. Though welcome, her release came only at the end of a sentence that we always maintained was unjustified. She has spent 15 of the past 23 years in detention or under house arrest. We have pressed the Government of Burma to ensure it provides adequately for Aung San Suu Kyi’s safety and security as well as for all residents of Burma. Members of the international community, when allowed to visit Burma, are now able to consult with her on a regular basis, as is our Embassy
in Rangoon. I have had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with her during my own visits to Rangoon.
Burmese authorities have dissolved Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, for refusing to re-register as a political party under Burma’s restrictive electoral laws. Although officially disbanded, NLD headquarters remains open and activities continue. Recently, the NLD has become more involved in social welfare activities such as HIV/AIDS support and care, education, and provision of clean water to address humanitarian needs. We are committed to fully supporting Aung San Suu Kyi’s efforts to seek reinstatement of the NLD as a legal, political party and to hold a direct, meaningful dialogue with senior government authorities.
I would also like to highlight the range of humanitarian assistance activities that we are undertaking inside Burma, which have been authorized consistent with or are exempted from JADE Act sanctions. Managed by USAID and the State Department, we support health and education projects targeting Burma’s most vulnerable populations and initiatives to strengthen civil society and promote democracy. Assistance includes livelihoods, water and sanitation projects, a teacher training program and activities to combat infectious diseases and grave public health threats, such as avian influenza, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
It is important to mention the effects of the ongoing civil conflict in Burma between government forces and ethnic armies that are fighting for greater autonomy. In the conduct of these wars, the military has destroyed thousands of villages and subjected civilians in these areas to pillage, forced labor, killing and rape. This ongoing internal conflict and the regime’s repression have created significant refugee flows and serious burdens on neighboring countries that are hosting Burmese refugees.
While regime-created humanitarian crises, large-scale displacement and human suffering will only come to end through political change that promotes genuine democracy and respect for human rights, we must do what we can in the meantime to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to those who have had to flee their country of origin. For more than 20 years, we have provided crucial support to UNHCR and NGOs for humanitarian assistance and protection to Burmese refugees who have fled from persecution and violence to neighboring countries. Since 2005, the United States has resettled approximately 70,000 Burmese from Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and India, almost 50,000 of whom were from the Thai-Burma border region. Later this month, the Department of State’s Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration will be in Bangladesh to address serious issues of Burma’s ethnic Rohingya refugee population in that country. We also support the International Committee of the Red Cross, which facilitates family member visits to political prisoners and provides orthopedic and prosthetic services to landmine victims. These initiatives enable us to tackle immediate humanitarian issues that affect some of the most vulnerable people in Burma.
Our challenges in Burma remain daunting and the human rights situation deplorable. Though Aung San Suu Kyi is free, over 2,000 political prisoners languish in detention, the conflicts and the attacks against civilians continue in the ethnic minority areas, and millions of Burmese citizens are denied basic rights including freedom of speech, assembly, and association. The United States alone cannot achieve progress in Burma, and as I noted at the outset of my testimony, we are tirelessly working with our European allies and our ASEAN and regional partners to urge the Burmese government to constructively engage with the international community and address these long-standing issues. India and China remain important to this issue and we regularly discuss our concerns with them about the Burmese regime. We are in complete agreement with the JADE Act’s call for a unified and comprehensive approach to promote long-overdue change for the Burmese people aspiring for genuine and meaningful progress.
Thank you for inviting me to testify before you today. I welcome the opportunity to answer your questions.
Notice from the President regarding the annual renewal of the national emergency with respect to Burma
CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO BURMA
On May 20, 1997, the President issued Executive Order 13047, certifying to the Congress under section 570(b) of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1997 (Public Law 104-208), that the Government of Burma had committed large-scale repression of the democratic opposition in Burma after September 30, 1996, thereby invoking the prohibition on new investment in Burma by United States persons contained in that section. The President also declared a national emergency to deal with the threat posed to the national security and foreign policy of the United States by the actions and policies of the Government of Burma, invoking the authority, inter alia, of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. 1701-1706.
Because the actions and policies of the Government of Burma continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, the national emergency declared on May 20, 1997, and the measures adopted to deal with that emergency in Executive Orders 13047 of May 20, 1997, 13310 of July 28, 2003, 13348 of October 18, 2007, and 13464 of April 30, 2008, must continue in effect beyond May 20, 2011.
Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Burma. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
Message from the President regarding the annual renewal of the national emergency with respect to Burma
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to Burma that was declared on May 20, 1997, is to continue in effect beyond May 20, 2011.
The crisis between the United States and Burma arising from the actions and policies of the Government of Burma, including its engaging in large‑scale repression of the democratic opposition in Burma, that led to the declaration and modification of this national emergency has not been resolved. These actions and policies are hostile to U.S. interests and pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to Burma and maintain in force the sanctions against Burma to respond to this threat.
The Obama Administration, in its first two years in office, has dramatically changed America’s course at the United Nations to advance our interests and values and help create a world of greater security and prosperity. We have repaired frayed relations with countries around the world. We’ve ended needless American isolation on a range of issues. And as a consequence, we’ve gotten strong cooperation on things that matter most to our national security interest.
What the President calls a “new era of engagement” has led to concrete results at the UN that advance U.S. foreign policy objectives and American security. The dividends of U.S. leadership at the UN are tangible – the stiffest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea, renewed momentum to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, strong sanctions and an unprecedented mandate to intervene and saves lives in Libya , support for the historic and peaceful referendum for independence in Southern Sudan, vital UN assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, and initial progress on reform of the flawed UN Human Rights Council. In a world of 21st-century threats that pay no heed to borders, rebuilding a strong basis for international cooperation has allowed the U.S. to work together with others to solve common problems at the United Nations, making the American people more secure.
The President’s vision for a world without nuclear weapons includes a realistic path to get there. Several significant milestones on this important Administration priority have taken place at the UN.
UN Security Council Resolution 1887: In September 2009, the U.S. held the presidency of the UN Security Council, and President Obama chaired an historic Council Summit on nonproliferation and disarmament, culminating in the unanimous passage of Security Council Resolution 1887. This U.S.-drafted resolution reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the global nonproliferation regime based on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, supported better security for nuclear weapons materials to prevent terrorists from acquiring materials essential to make a bomb, and made clear that all countries need to comply with their international nuclear obligations.
- Iran: In June 2010, the United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly to put in place the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government for its continued failure to live up to its obligations, sending an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. The new sanctions in Resolution 1929 impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and, for the first time, its conventional military. They put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling and crack down on Iranian banks and financial transactions. They target individuals, entities, and institutions -– including those associated with the Revolutionary Guard –- that have supported Iran’s nuclear program and prospered from illicit activities at the expense of the Iranian people. The U.S. will ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced, just as we continue to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran alongside those of our friends and allies.
This strong resolution benefited from wide international support. In voting for it, the U.S. was joined by nations from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America -– including Russia and China. And these sanctions show the united view of the international community that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is in nobody’s interest and that nations must be held accountable for defying the global nonproliferation regime.
- North Korea: In response to North Korea’s 2009 nuclear weapons test, the U.S. secured the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1874, which put in place a tough array of sanctions, including asset freezes, financial sanctions, a complete embargo on arms exports, and an unprecedented framework for the inspection of suspect vessels. Since the adoption of Resolution 1874, countries have intercepted and seized tons of contraband cargo, including a massive arms shipment uncovered by Thailand in December. These interdictions show that countries are taking seriously their obligations to enforce these tough new measures. The United States will continue to press on sanctions implementation until there is concrete, verifiable progress on denuclearization.
- NPT Review Conference: In May 2010, NPT parties adopted by consensus a Final Document that advances a realistic path towards a world without nuclear weapons. This document includes calls for strengthened verification and compliance, recognizes the New START agreement and the need for deeper reductions of nuclear weapons, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the immediate start of talks on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. It supports efforts to pursue international fuel banks and related mechanisms to broaden access to peaceful nuclear energy without creating new proliferation risks.
This major achievement is a vindication of the broad thrust of U.S. efforts to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons. Everyone recognizes that the new approach the United States has brought to the table on nonproliferation energized this Conference and the effort to reach a consensus final document. The contrast between the atmospherics of this Conference and the one held five years ago is dramatic.
Bolstering Progress in Afghanistan and Iraq
- Afghanistan: Since 2009, the United States has pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan that, in addition to increased military efforts, placed much greater emphasis on the role of international civilian assistance. The U.S. has worked to ensure that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had the resources and political support to carry out its vital mission. The U.S. has also worked to strengthen all aspects of the UN presence in the country so that UNAMA can best complement efforts to support the Government of Afghanistan by the United States and the International Security Assistance Force and better coordinate donor support. The UN also played a key role in providing Afghan electoral institutions with technical and logistical support so that the people of Afghanistan could elect a new parliament to represent them.
- Iraq: As the U.S. continues to reduce its footprint in Iraq, the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) continues to play a critical role. The U.S. strongly supports the work of the UN Mission in Iraq as it continues to provide important technical assistance to the Government of Iraq, mediates longstanding internal boundary disputes, and assists displaced Iraqi citizens. Additionally, the U.S. played a key role in the passage of three recent resolutions that mark an important milestone in normalizing Iraqi ties to the international community that were significantly limited when Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein. The Security Council, in a special session chaired by Vice President Biden, passed three resolutions to help return Iraq to the legal and international standing it held prior to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The United States and the international community are keeping their commitments to the Government and the people of Iraq.
Protecting Civilians in Libya
- Preventing Mass Atrocities: On March 17, the Security Council passed Resolution 1973, which authorizes states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone. Due to its scope, and the speed with which it was passed, countless lives have been saved as a result of action taken following the adoption of the resolution. The U.S. has welcomed the decision of the UN Secretary General to appoint a special envoy for the crisis in Libya, Mr. Abdul Ilah Khatib, a former Foreign Minister of Jordan. He has traveled to Libya and is supporting the international community’s efforts to stop the killing and end the suffering of the civilian population.
- Effective Sanctions: The Security Council has imposed on Libya one of the most sweeping sanctions regimes in place against any country. Resolutions 1970 and 1973 together provided for an arms embargo, a ban on flights by Libyan-operated aircraft and imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Qadhafi and his inner circle. Resolution 1973 also authorized states to use force to enforce the arms embargo and also froze the assets of major state-owned companies, including the National Oil Corporation and the Libyan Central Bank. These sanctions will make it harder for Qadhafi to acquire funds and arms to wage war on his people.
Accountability: The Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court – the first time it has done a referral unanimously. This will help ensure Qadhafi and regime leaders face accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- Humanitarian Assistance and Human Rights: The U.S. government is providing $47 million to UN agencies, international organizations and NGOs to address humanitarian needs generated by the crisis in Libya. The U.S. recognizes the central role of the United Nations in relief efforts and is directing resources to UN agencies as follows:
- $10 million contribution toward the U.N. World Food Program’s emergency food operations;
- $7 million to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which is working in both Tunisia and Egypt, including managing the transit center in Tunisia near the Tunisia-Libya border that is currently providing basic services to thousands of migrants.
The U.S. also welcomed the appointment of Mr. Rashid Khalikov as the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya. Mr. Khalikov has traveled to Libya to assess the humanitarian conditions on the ground and press for better access for humanitarian workers. The U.S. is committed to working with the U.N., numerous donor countries responding to the crises, regional partners, and Egypt and Tunisia to respond to humanitarian needs.
Strengthening UN Peacekeeping and Conflict Prevention Efforts
- Improving Peacekeeping Effectiveness: In September 2009, President Obama hosted the first-ever meeting with the leaders of the top troop-contributing nations to UN peacekeeping operations, underscoring America’s commitment to this vital tool, which allows countries around the world to share the burden for protecting civilians and fragile peace processes in societies emerging from war. The U.S. continues to advance initiatives to strengthen UN peacekeeping capabilities, including by seeking to expand the number, capacity, and effectiveness of troop and police contributors, helping secure General Assembly approval for vital peacekeeping reforms, and working with fellow Security Council members to craft more credible and achievable mandates for operations in Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and several other current operations.
- Haiti: After the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which claimed the lives of over 100 UN personnel and the UN Mission’s leadership, the U.S. worked extremely closely with the UN to help the Government of Haiti ensure security and deliver vital humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were able to withdraw from Haiti within a few months, as countries from Latin America and around the world moved quickly to share the burden and augment the UN peacekeeping presence. Since the earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. government has spent $1.1 billion in humanitarian relief assistance and an additional $406 million in recovery assistance. At the New York donors’ conference held at UN Headquarters on March 31, 2010, the U.S. government pledged an additional $1.15 billion for reconstruction and has spent $332 million of that assistance in the last year. In total, this is $2.656 billion in U.S. assistance towards relief, recovery and reconstruction after the tragic earthquake.
- Sudan: In 2010, the United States intensified its diplomatic efforts in the lead up to the historic, peaceful referendum in Southern Sudan. At the United Nations, President Obama spoke at a high-level meeting organized during the opening of the General Assembly to help galvanize international action to ensure a credible and timely referendum. The U.S. continues to work closely with the UN and other international partners to support implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.
We continue to work with international partners to assist the parties’ post-referendum negotiations. The U.S. remains committed to the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and we will continue to work closely with senior UN officials to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground. The U.S. also continues to work to end genocide and conflict in Darfur, including by supporting the joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) and by working to improve humanitarian access and conditions.
- Liberia: The U.S. built an international consensus to maintain a robust peacekeeping operation in Liberia through the 2011 elections by leading a Security Council delegation to Liberia and working to ensure unbroken support for the implementation of the peace process.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The U.S. continues to champion improved protection of civilians, especially by demanding an end to the epidemic of rape and gender-based violence. The U.S. has worked successfully to secure new Security Council sanctions against key leaders of armed groups operating in the DRC, including one individual linked to crimes involving sexual and gender based violence and child soldier recruiting. Additionally, the U.S. lead the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution that supported, for the first time, due diligence guidelines for individuals and companies operating in the mineral trade in Eastern Congo and agreed to take into account the practice of due diligence when considering targeted sanctions.
- Cote d’Ivoire: U.S. leadership helped produce a strong Security Council statement that made clear that all parties needed to respect the results of the November 2010 election, with President-elect Alassane Outtara as the victor. In March 2011, the U.S. pushed for the adoption of a strong resolution calling on former President Gbagbo to leave office and imposing targeted sanctions on him and his associates. The U.S. continues to support the work of the UN Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) working with partners to renew the mission’s mandate and increase its ranks by 2,000 troops. The UN’s full implementation of Resolution 1975 is critical to ongoing efforts to resolve the crisis.
- Women, Peace and Security: The U.S., with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presiding, led the Security Council in unanimously adopting Resolution 1888 on Women, Peace, and Security, which condemns conflict-related sexual violence and calls on all parties to immediately end acts of rape and sexual violence during armed conflict. This initiative strengthens the international response to sexual violence in conflict by establishing a dedicated UN Special Representative, creating of a team of experts to investigate crimes and assist victims, and tracking data on sexual violence in UN reports.
- Somalia: The U.S. helped garner international support for the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including by supporting UN funding to keep international peacekeepers in the country. The U.S. has been a strong supporter of recent efforts to augment the number of troops deployed in AMISOM, which now has a force of nearly 12,000. Since AMISOM’s deployment in 2007, the United States has obligated more than $450 million to provide logistical support, equipment, and pre-deployment training to its forces. The United States has been the largest single country donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, providing more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance in Fiscal Year 2009. Additionally, the U.S. spearheaded efforts to secure renewed UN authority for international forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. These authorities allow countries to continue to pursue pirates on Somali soil as well as in Somali territorial waters.
- Eritrea: The U.S. supported the African Union’s call for sanctions on Eritrea, resulting in the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1907, which established an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea for its continued role in destabilizing Somalia and the region and failure to comply with resolution 1862 on Djibouti.
- Sri Lanka: The U.S. focused international attention to the plight of civilians in the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka and pressed for their release from the internally displaced persons camps after the conflict ended.
Promoting a New Era of Engagement and Reform
- Human Rights Council: The United States is working to reform the flawed Human Rights Council by speaking up for those suffering under the world’s cruelest regimes, fighting the Council’s excessive focus on Israel, and shining the spotlight on major human rights abuses worldwide.
Over the past two years, the United States has used its membership to draw attention to serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. With active U.S. leadership, the Council authorized international mandates to closely monitor and address the human rights situations in Burma, North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan. The U.S. was also instrumental in pushing for the creation of a group of independent experts to promote ending discrimination against women and girls.
In 2011, the U.S. succeeded in pressing for the Council to take assertive action to highlight Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation by establishing a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran. The rapporteur will investigate and report on abuses in Iran and call out the failure of the Iranian government to meet its human rights obligations. This is the first new country mandate established since the Human Rights Council was formed in 2006.
U.S. leadership was also responsible for a Special Session on the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, which established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights abuses in the country and reinforced the international community’s unequivocal message that President Ouattara must be allowed to serve as the elected head of state.
In response to the crisis in Libya, the United States played a pivotal role in convening the Council’s Special Session in February 2011 to condemn the recent human rights violations and other acts of violence committed by the Government of Libya, and establish an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate those violations. In March 2011, the General Assembly unanimously suspended Libya’s membership on the Human Rights Council – marking the first time ever a member state has been suspended from the Council or its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, for gross violations of human rights.
Also in March 2011, the Council took an important step away from the deeply problematic concept of defamation of religion by adopting a constructive new resolution that promotes tolerance for all religious beliefs, and is consistent with U.S. laws and universal values. Previous resolutions adopted under the concept of defamation of religion have been used to rationalize laws criminalizing blasphemy, and challenging widely held freedoms of expression and the press, rather than protecting religious freedom and human rights.
U.S. leadership and engagement is making a critical difference towards improving the work of the Council. The U.S. will run for re-election to the Council in 2012 to continue this significant work.
Human Rights: On behalf of the President, Ambassador Rice signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century. In another important reversal of the previous Administration’s policy, President Obama announced U.S. support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples . The U.S. also provided leadership, working with our allies, to win victories by the largest vote margin ever on General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights violations in North Korea, Burma, and Iran.
In a reversal of the previous Administration’s policies on LGBT rights at the UN, the U.S. supported a landmark General Assembly declaration condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation. The U.S. also spearheaded an effort that led to a decisive victory in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which voted to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC), a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that does invaluable work around the globe to protect basic human rights, combat discrimination, and fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Following the removal of a reference to sexual orientation in a resolution condemning extrajudicial killings, the United States led a successful campaign to reinstate it in the final General Assembly resolution. And in December 2010, the United States joined other member states in a meeting of the LGBT core group in New York. And at the Human Rights Council in March 2011, a historic statement was signed by a record 85 nations, reaffirming the rights of all people – regardless of who they are and whom they love.
- UN Women: The U.S. was instrumental in the establishment of a new UN agency called UN Women. This vital new organization combines four separate UN offices into one stronger, streamlined and more efficient entity for women around the world. UN Women will work to elevate women’s issues within the UN system and on the international stage. The U.S. is working very closely with Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, as the first head of UN Women. In addition, when elections were held for the 41-member Executive Board, the U.S. secured a seat and supported other countries with strong records on women’s rights, while successfully leading efforts to block Iran’s bid for membership.
- Development: The U.S. Mission to the UN played a pivotal role in the UN Summit this past fall that reaffirmed and revitalized the internationally community’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The United States also used the summit as an occasion for President Obama to launch the Administration’s Global Development Strategy.
- Youth: The U.S. has led efforts to ensure that youth, representing nearly half the world’s population, have a voice in the work of the Security Council. During its December 2010 Security Council Presidency, the U.S. designed an unprecedented and innovative event to bring the views of youth directly to the Council. Nearly a 1,000 youth from more than 90 countries responded to an appeal to participate by sending in their suggestions to the Council, and Council members responded to their ideas during the event, which provides a model for future direct engagement with young people.
- UN Arrears: Working with the U.S. Congress, the Administration was able to clear hundreds of millions in arrears to the United Nations, which accumulated between 2005 and 2008, and is now working to stay current with payments to the Organization.
- UN Reform: As the largest financial contributor to the UN, ensuring that U.S. funds are spent wisely and not wasted is vital. The U.S. has worked to contain the growth of the UN budget and consistently pressed the issue of efficiency and accountability in our discussions with the UN, pushing for a focus on results. In 2009, the Administration successfully negotiated an agreement that held constant the share of U.S. assessed contributions to the United Nations.
The U.S. advocated and supported adoption of key elements of an accountability framework for the UN and for the first time this year defined what accountability means for the UN Secretariat. The U.S. has held back attempts to curb the authority and operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and succeeded in March 2010 in preserving OIOS’ existing mandate and authority. The U.S. supports transparency and holding the UN accountable and thus will continue to make public OIOS audit reports.
The United States has consistently and aggressively supported OIOS to be a strong and independent watchdog so that U.S. taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and UN programs are managed effectively. And while OIOS has provided valuable recommendations to improve the UN’s effectiveness and served as a deterrent in the area of waste, fraud, and sexual exploitation and abuse, it has had shortcomings, especially in the area of investigations. The U.S. has pushed hard for improvements in that function so that OIOS can more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct. In that vein, the U.S. successfully pushed for the quick nomination of a new head of OIOS, who we will work with to improve oversight.
The U.S. supported the appointment of Joan Dubinsky, an American, to head the UN ethics office. And the United States has worked closely with the UN Secretariat and Member States in the General Assembly to approve an agenda for sweeping reform of how the UN undertakes administrative and logistics support for UN field operations (the Global Field Support Strategy) to capture efficiencies within peacekeeping operations and improve the UN’s capacity to support complex field missions.