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Colin Powell - Remarks at Asia Society Annual Dinner 2002

Colin L. Powell, U.S. Secretary of State

Colin L. Powell, U.S. Secretary of State

New York, NY
June 10, 2002

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, Dick, for that most kind and gentle introduction. I expected far worse from you, but that was very nice of you. (Laughter.)

And it's a great pleasure to especially be here this evening so I can congratulate you as you assume the duties later this year of Chairman of the Asia Society. I think the board has chosen wisely, and I know that you will occupy the position and bring to it great distinction, energy and dedication, as well as a love for Asia and a love for making sure that our interests are represented well in that part of the world.

It's a great pleasure to be here with all of you this evening, and especially with my friend John Whitehead, one of the great Americans whom it's been my privilege to serve with over the years. I am also pleased to be here with Nick Platt, your very distinguished President, who I have done many things with over the years. And I thank Hank Greenberg for his very kind remarks, as well as the leadership for this dinner this evening shown by Hank and Fred Smith and Nick Scheele and John Wren and some of the others who have made this a very, very successful evening for the Asia Society.

I want to thank Nick Platt and the Trustees of The Society for this chance for me to talk about Asia, and specifically East Asia and the Pacific -- a region whose destiny is linked to our own by geography and geneology, history and high-tech, trade and treaties, vital interests and enduring values.

For nearly half a century, The Asia Society has been an invaluable asset to both America and to Asia. You have helped to acquaint the American people and their leaders with the changing face of Asia, and Asians with us. In particular, I want to applaud your national campaign to improve teaching about Asia in our schools. The rising generation of young people here and in Asia need to learn much more about each other because they will be building and sharing the same future. As Americans and Asians work together to meet the challenges of a 21st century world, we will need the Asia Society more than ever.

Before beginning my remarks, let me say a few words, not about East Asia and Pacific, but about another part of Asia, South Asia, that has captured so much of our attention in recent weeks. And that of course is the situation, the crisis that has existed, between India and Pakistan.

I am very pleased that in the last two or three days we have seen an improvement in the situation. For months we watched as both sides went up an escalatory ladder that looked like it might be leading to a conflict, a conflict that neither side wanted and would not be good obviously for the region or for the world.

And I am pleased that as a result of intensive diplomatic efforts on the part of a number of people, we have begun to see some relaxation in the tension. The Bush Administration has been hard at work on this for a number of months -- phone calls, emissaries, consultations with other world leaders, I think started to produce some results.

One lesson in all of this is how the international community can come together and recognize a danger and work together to avert the consequences of that danger. The United States has worked closely with the European Union, with the United Nations, specifically with Russia, with China, and especially with the United Kingdom, to say to both leaders that a way must be found to solve this crisis politically and without conflict. We have had a number of emissaries go to the region from the United Kingdom, from the United States. I was there earlier. My European colleagues have been there. And this past weekend my Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, well known to many of you, was also in the region.

Two weeks ago, we got assurances from President Musharraf that he would cease infiltration activity across the line of control. We passed those assurances on to the Indian side. And then Deputy Secretary Armitage over this past weekend got further assurances that that cessation of activity would be visible and would be permanent and would be followed by other activities that had to do with the dismantling of the camps that led to the capacity to conduct these kinds of operations.

I am very pleased that the Indians received this assurance from President Musharraf, and Prime Minister Vajpayee and other Indian leaders in recent days have used this assurance to start to take additional moves that relieve the tension that exists in the region. The announcement that India was opening up air traffic corridors again with Pakistan is a welcome one. We have also received indications that the Indian fleet is moving away from potential confrontation with Pakistan. I am pleased to note that the Indians have named their new High Commissioner to Pakistan, who of course will be accredited in due course.

In response, Pakistan has welcomed these moves, and I expect tomorrow that President Musharraf will give us further indications of how welcome these moves are.

This is a step down the ladder. There is more to do. We are still in a period of crisis. The situation is still very tense. We will remain engaged. That's why Secretary Don Rumsfeld, finishing a trip to NATO and the Persian Gulf, will head tomorrow into the region to continue our consultations with both India and Pakistan in order to bring this situation down to a point where serious de-escalation can start, where the mobilization of the Indian forces can now go in the other direction, as well as the mobilization of Pakistani forces.

And as we have said to both the Indian and the Pakistani leaders, the United States will remain engaged, working with the international coalition, to find a way forward, to find a way to begin discussions between the two sides, to begin dialogue.

I am pleased that all sides now see that infiltration across the line of control, attacks across the line of control, have changed in terms of intensity. And I've also noted today that the shelling, the rate of shelling across the line of control, has also abated somewhat.

And so we're pleased at this progress, but there is still a long way to go, and I can just assure you tonight that the United States will remain engaged. President Bush has given us a top priority and instructed us to do everything we can to find a way forward that will lead to stability and peace, and not to war.

(Applause.)

As part of those de-escalatory steps, we have suggested other moves that we hope both sides will be making in the days ahead.

A few weeks ago, in a gilded hall in the Kremlin, President Bush and President Putin signed the Treaty of Moscow, an historic strategic arms reduction treaty, reducing by two-thirds the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads that would be kept by either side. They also signed a political declaration that will deepen cooperation between our two countries. And then in Rome a few days later, the President joined our allies and President Putin in forming a NATO-Russia Council that will bring Russia closer to the Euro-Atlantic community and will bring the West closer to Russia. The new Council will enable all of us to work together from North America all the way across Europe and into Russia -- also an Asian nation, as we know -- to work on terrorism and other issues of mutual concern.

When I see events like this, when I participate in events like this -- a treaty signing in the Kremlin or welcoming Russia into a relationship with NATO -- I have a rush of memories. You've got to remember, I didn't come out of the academic community. All of my adult life was spent as a soldier preparing for a war with the Soviet Union, a war that, thank God, never came. From the time I was a Second Lieutenant until becoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I worried about the danger totalitarian states such as the Soviet Union posed to the rest of the world.

But my real war, my real war, is not in Europe. It was not getting ready to fight the Soviet Union or fighting the Soviet Union. My real war was Communist aggression in Asia. I arrived in Vietnam even before Dick Holbrooke. I arrived in Vietnam on Christmas Day, 1962, a young Captain sent to fight in what was to become America’s longest and only lost war. So my personal experience of Asia goes back to the days when everybody was talking about Communist take-overs, not economic take-offs.

I had another rush of memories last fall returning to Vietnam for the first time in 32 years. I was in a 757 this time, my own plane, the Secretary of State, flying into the capital of my former enemy. I was in the cockpit looking out the window, watching as the green vegetation got closer and closer as the pilot descended, watching as he went over the little hills, slowly, slowly, until finally we landed in Hanoi. It was a moving moment for me after 32 years. It was a very emotional moment for me to land in this place that I had spent two years of my life.

And I found in today’s Vietnam a nation that had set itself on a course of fundamental market reform. I saw shopping malls and office complexes rising up, Internet cafes on streetcorners, cell phones in everyone’s hands, and roads clogged with motorbikes and cars. My hosts wanted to talk about a bilateral trade agreement; they didn't want to swap old war stories with some old general who suddenly showed up as the Secretary of State. So maybe we didn’t lose the war after all. Maybe we are now winning it. And so are the Vietnamese.

I see in Europe and in Asia the same worldwide phenomenon: a growing awareness that the 21st century holds extraordinary opportunities. Opportunities to work with allies, friends and former adversaries to resolve longstanding conflicts, as we are doing with Russia and China in the Middle East and South Asia. Opportunities to form coalitions against new global challenges, as in the worldwide campaign against terrorism. And opportunities to advance global well-being on an unprecedented scale by freeing ordinary people to pursue their hopes and their dreams.

It's just as President Bush put it in his recent commencement speech at West Point: "Today," he said, "the great powers are … increasingly united by common values, instead of divided by conflicting ideologies. The United States, Japan and our Pacific friends, and now all of Europe, share a deep commitment to human freedom… Even in China," he said, "leaders are discovering that economic reform is the only lasting source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only true source of national greatness."

Slowly, inexorably, nations one after another all over the world are learning freedom works like nothing else. Some nations are still afraid of it. Others are determined to control its progress. Some backslide. But the trend is real and it is in our interest to nurture it at every turn and in every region.

Therefore, our first goal and highest priority for Asia must be to help create the secure conditions under which freedom can flourish -- economic freedom and political freedom.

And security, first and foremost, is essential to economic growth and political freedom. For fifty years, over 50 years, the United States has been the balance wheel of security in Asia. To this day, Asia’s stability depends on our forward-deployed presence and our key alliances with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Australia.

Our alliances convey strength, purpose, and confidence but not aggression, not hostility. Our allies have thrived on our stabilizing presence. Others in the region have also benefited, though they are sometimes reluctant to admit it.

For five decades, our presence on the Korean peninsula has provided the security that South Korea needed to grow its economy and democracy. Our 37,000 military men and women in Korea today have exactly same mission I had when I commanded an infantry battalion 30 years ago facing the DMZ: stop an attack from North Korea at all costs.

Our alliance with the Republic of Korea is strong and resilient and has withstood many difficult challenges. So strong and so resilient that it can even withstand the strain from the heart-stopping World Cup tie earlier this morning.

(Applause.)

There can also be no doubt, my friends, that postwar Japan was able to recover and prosper by relying, by seeing, American military power. For that same past half century, our strength has made it possible for Japan to limit its defense expenditures and concentrate its enormous energy on economic growth, on democracy-building. And in recent years, our alliance with Japan has provided a framework within which Japan can contribute more to its own defense as well as to peace and security worldwide.

Last September, I participated in a moving ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the United States-Japan alliance. It was held at the Presidio in San Francisco, overlooking a Pacific that was truly at peace. We hailed our living alliance and declared it capable of adapting to the 21st century environment.

Little did we know that three days later on September 11 our words would be put to the test.

We could not have asked for a more resolute response from Japan. Japan went out of its way to help, by first passing legislation that for the first time ever permits its Maritime Self Defense ships to participate far from Japan’s shores in anti-terrorism efforts. Today, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Japanese vessels provide fuel and logistical support to American ships plying the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. And Japan has renewed this naval support for another six months.

Japan’s superb leadership as co-sponsor of the Afghan Reconstruction Conference last January resulted in $4.5 billion in pledges from sixty countries, $296 million from the United States in this fiscal year alone. Japan itself pledged over half a billion dollars to Afghan reconstruction over the next several years.

At the Tokyo Conference, I will never forget Hamid Karzai, the head of Afghanistan’s Interim Authority, as he listened with quiet dignity as nation after nation pledged to help his people build a future, a future built on freedom and hope. As nation after nation pledged that they would never again abandon Afghanistan back to chaos and terror. And I guarantee you tonight that we will not. We will be there for Afghanistan.

(Applause.)

In Afghanistan today, Australians fight shoulder-to-shoulder and wing-to-wing with us in the war against terrorism, just as the Australians have done in every war of the last century. Indeed, the first non-American serviceman to die in Operation Enduring Freedom was a sergeant in Australia’s Special Air Service.

Troops from New Zealand also serve alongside us in Operation Enduring Freedom and in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. A South Korean medical unit cares for the ill and the injured. Thailand is now preparing to send peacekeepers, a military commitment that I hope others in Asia will make.

Beyond their efforts in Afghanistan, Asian nations are contributing to the global anti-terrorism campaign by tightening law enforcement, border controls and intelligence cooperation to make it harder for terrorists to move about, to communicate and to plot their evil deeds against us. We also deeply appreciate the efforts of a number of Asian countries to deny funds to terrorist groups that operate under the guise of legitimate businesses or charities.

In their own backyards, the governments of Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are cracking terrorist cells, arresting terrorism suspects and uncovering new leads, cooperating fully with us in the campaign against terrorism.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines fight courageously against indigenous terrorist organizations that clearly have international ties. I am proud, so proud, that American forces are helping to train and equip their Philippine Army counterparts to combat groups such as Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist organization which regularly kidnaps, as you know too well, civilians for ransom.

Just last week, Philippine forces encountered the Abu Sayyaf holding two American missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, and a Filipina nurse Ediborah Yap. The Burnhams had been hostages for over a year. Tragically, despite the best efforts of the Government of the Philippines to secure a safe release of the hostages, Martin Burnham and Ms. Yap died in the firefight that followed and Gracia Burnham was wounded. Seven Philippine servicemen also were wounded. Mrs. Burnham is now back in her home in Kansas. And wonderful, gracious lady that she is, despite the loss of her husband, and despite what she must have gone through over the past year, she was gracious enough in her grief to express her appreciation and admiration for what the Philippine Government had done.

Vicious groups like Abu Sayyaf stop at nothing. They fear no one. The murderous example of Abu Sayyaf shows how right President Bush has been to lead a global campaign against all terrorists, all forms of terrorism, and not just against al-Qaida.

We recognize the domestic concerns that exist that make some Asian states with large Muslim populations oft times reluctant to confront terrorism. They fear that taking action against terrorists will create martyrs. This fear stems from a popular misconception, fed by extremists, that the global campaign against terrorism is a war against Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not we who threaten Islam. It is the terrorists who murder, who murder men, women and children and violate Islam’s fundamental precepts of tolerance and peace. They threaten Islam. They do a disservice to a proud and noble religion.

Far, far greater dangers come from ignoring the problem of terrorism and letting radical minorities drive domestic politics, rather than taking strong action against terrorists and their sympathizers.

Among the 3000 innocent souls murdered in the September 11 attacks were people from South Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. They were not the first Asians to die at the hands of terrorists, and, tragically, we know they won’t be the last. We have only to remember the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995.

Terrorism, without doubt, is a worldwide problem that will continue to require a resolute response from nations of every continent and creed, every region and religion.

If the complexities of combating terrorism and other 21st century scourges make you pine for the simpler, Cold War days, the black-and-white days, North Korea will snap you to your senses. North Korea’s dangerously deluded policies drag its people further and further into a hell of deprivation and oppression.

North Korea’s rulers have strangled its economic development and squandered what few resources the country has left on maintaining a massive offensive military capacity. They grow missiles and weapons of mass destruction instead of food for their starving and destitute people.

Another generation of North Koreans should not have to live in fear, in hunger and in cold. A warming light can now shine where darkness quite literally prevails every day and night. We want the people of North Korea to be exposed to a whole wide world of ideas and we want them to join the growing community of free peoples. That is why we wholeheartedly support South Korea's sunshine policy.

And to move this process forward we believe that Pyongyang should quickly live up to the promises it made to Seoul. It should establish industrial zones. It should implement military confidence-building measures. It should reunite more separated families. Extend the rail link to the South. Earlier this year, President Bush stood at a gleaming new railroad station built by the South Koreans at Dorasan near the 38th parallel. The railroad track ends abruptly at the DMZ at this beautiful station. It ends up abruptly, waiting, waiting, waiting to be met by a rail line from the North. I hope that day comes soon.

Working with South Korea and Japan, the United States is prepared to take important steps to help North Korea move its relations with the US toward normalcy. We expect soon to have meetings with the North Koreans to explore these steps. However, progress between us will depend on Pyongyang’s behavior on a number of key issues.

First, the North must get out of the proliferation business and eliminate long-range missiles that threaten other countries. It must take itself off the preferred-supplier list of rogue states.

Secondly, it must make a much more serious effort to provide for its suffering citizens. America continues to be the world’s biggest donor of humanitarian assistance to North Korea. Just last week President Bush authorized a further donation of 102 thousand metric tons of food aid for North Korea. We will continue generously to support the World Food Program's operations there, but we want to see greatly improved monitoring and access so we can be sure the food actually gets into hungry mouths.

Third, the North needs to move toward a less threatening conventional military posture. We are watching closely to see if Pyongyang will live up to its past pledges to implement basic confidence-building measures with the South.

And finally, North Korea must come into full compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards that it agreed to when it signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The United States remains committed to the Agreed Framework which freezes and ultimately dismantles North Korea's dangerous old nuclear reactors in exchange for safer light water reactors.

As President Bush made clear in Seoul this February, we hope for a peaceful transformation on the Korean peninsula. But no matter what the future holds, American forces remain prepared to defend with their lives the people and the democracy of South Korea. This is not just rhetoric to me, I have lived the experience and have seen the sacrifices that people make to keep South Korea free.

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that America's commitment to Asia’s security and stability is an enduring one, for Asia's sake and for our own. We are a Pacific power. We will not yield our strategic position in Asia. Though we will constantly review our posture and consider sensible adjustments, we will maintain our forward-deployed forces in the Asia-Pacific for the foreseeable future. We will continue to meet the security obligations that geography and history have thrust upon us.

We will also work to strengthen the various regional forums in which we participate. Though they are less numerous and cohesive than Europe’s, Asia’s regional organizations contribute to stability and we strongly support their continued institutional development. The ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia’s only venue for regional security discussions, is tackling new threats ranging from terrorism and narcotics trafficking to human trafficking and HIV/AIDS. And I look forward to participating in the next ASEAN Forum in Brunei next month.

The American people have invested more than taxpayer money and military hardware in a stable, prosperous Asia. Our sons and daughters – many of them Asian-American -- have shed blood for it. We will continue to provide the essential security that not only promotes growth in Asia but also the global growth upon which our own prosperity depends.

Under the protection of America's security umbrella, two-way trade between the United States and East Asia and the Pacific has risen to $700 billion annually, larger than our trade with Europe. Between 1990 and 2000, exports of American products to Asia grew by over 80% and imports to the United States from Asia went up 150%. United States direct investment in Asia nearly tripled during the past decade to over $200 billion, roughly equal to the amount Asians have invested in the United States.

Today, American teens buy Malaysian-made skirts at The Gap, drink coffee brewed from East Timor beans and email their friends with computers loaded with chips from Taiwan. Asian teens buy cookbooks from Amazon.com, see the latest Hollywood blockbuster on the same day it premiers in the United States and take vacations to Hawaii on American-built planes.

Asian consumers support American jobs. Asian competitors keep our firms efficient and healthy. Asian savers provide capital to American businesses. Asian companies generate employment for over a million American workers. Asian innovators contribute significantly to technological advances to the world. Without doubt, America has earned dramatic returns on its investment in the security and the prosperity of Asia.

The Asian financial crisis taught all of us, however, that balancing the books can be as important for regional stability as the balance of power. For this reason, we are working with our Asian trading partners and within regional and international institutions to promote financial restructuring and lay the foundation for a sustained recovery. The benefits of reform are clear. Korea carried out the most extensive financial reforms and has achieved the greatest progress: an average GDP growth of almost 9% in the past three years.

We also recognize the role of trade and investment in promoting growth. To this end, the United States is working globally, regionally and bilaterally to achieve greater liberalization of Asian economies. Globally, through the new World Trade Organization round. Regionally, through APEC. And bilaterally through efforts such as our free trade agreement negotiations with Singapore.

But there are still, notwithstanding all of this progress, some economic trouble spots. Japan in particular has been suffering through difficult economic times. We see high levels of government and private debt. There is a large burden of non-performing corporate and financial sector assets. Rates of bankruptcy and unemployment remain at near record levels. Deflation has been protracted. If this economic deterioration continues, Japan’s important leadership role could be undermined.

Our distinguished ambassador to Japan, our dear friend Senator Howard Baker, works these issues every single day. The Japanese government has declared that the recession finally has bottomed-out. We hope that is the case and that Prime Minister Koizumi can now accelerate implementation of the reforms that he has outlined to his people and that he has outlined to President Bush. That means letting markets function. Clearing bad loans from the banks. Restructuring corporations to make them more profitable. And deregulating the economy to create new business opportunities.

I am confident that the Japanese people will overcome these difficulties as they have so many others. As President Bush observed during his February speech to the Japanese Diet, Japan transformed itself into a modern economy during the Meiji Restoration at the end of the 19th century. In the post-war period of the last century it produced an economic miracle. And Japan will transform its economy again to ensure success in this new century.

In China, market dynamism clearly has replaced dogmatism. China is no longer in the throes of Cultural Revolution. It is no longer exporting Communism. It is no longer an enemy of capitalism.

Though China still has huge economic problems and other problems, it has become the world's fourth largest trading power, after the European Union, the United States and Japan. It is now a member of the World Trade Organization, accountable to a law-based international order.

Our bilateral relationship with China has come a long way in just a year. Last Spring, we were in the midst of the EP-3 crisis, the reconnaissance plane crisis. And some wondered if the Chinese had brought down not just the plane, but had brought down the hope of a productive relationship. This Spring, rather than our relationship being sunk by that incident, we are exploring new and promising new areas of cooperation with the Chinese, from counterterrorism to trade liberalization and stability in South Asia.

In the past year, I traveled to China three times, twice with President Bush. We saw how China’s skylines have been transformed by the entrepreneurial drive of its citizens and a flood of foreign investment, much of it American.

Expectations have risen with the skylines. People aspire to cars, not bicycles. American banks and insurance companies are rushing to provide Chinese consumers with everything from financial services to convenience stores. In turn, China's growing economy benefits American shoppers, workers, farmers and business owners.

I have no doubt, at the same time, that the Chinese military intends to use part of China’s new wealth to modernize itself. As China trades with other countries and updates its military forces and equipment, it needs to work with us. It needs to work with us to show us and its neighbors transparency, to show us what they are doing, thereby building trust and reducing tensions.

We remain deeply concerned about continued Chinese involvement in the proliferation of missile technology and equipment. And there is a gap between China’s promises and its fulfillment of those promises. President Bush made clear at the Beijing summit that China’s fulfillment of its nonproliferation commitments would be crucial to determining the quality of the United States-China relationship.

An arms build-up, like those new missiles opposite Taiwan, only deepen tensions, deepen suspicion. Whether China chooses peace or coercion to resolve its differences with Taiwan will tell us a great deal about the kind of relationship China seeks not only with its neighbors, but with us.

The differences between China and Taiwan are fundamentally political. They cannot be solved by military means.

On the subject of Taiwan, America’s position is clear and it will not change. We will uphold our "One China" policy and we continue to insist that the mainland solve its differences with Taiwan peacefully. Indeed a peaceful resolution is the foundation on which the breakthrough Sino-American communiques were built, and the United States takes our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act very, very seriously.

People tend to refer to Taiwan as “The Taiwan Problem”. I call Taiwan not a problem, but a success story. Taiwan has become a resilient economy, a vibrant democracy and a generous contributor to the international community.

The People's Republic of China and Taiwan are both evolving rapidly. The constant in their cross-strait relationship is a common, long-term interest in the bloodless resolution of their differences. We wish them well as they work directly with one another to narrow those differences. They're doing pretty well. Taiwan has invested $80-100 billion in the mainland. Several hundred thousand Taiwanese businesspeople and their families live and work in the greater Shanghai area. Over 500,000 telephone calls cross the Strait every day. The two sides are building a foundation for a peaceful, shared future, and we applaud that.

Ultimately, how China uses its increasing wealth at home and growing influence abroad are matters for China to decide.

The United States wants to work with China to make decisions and take actions befitting a global leader. We ask China to collaborate with us and with our allies and friends to promote stability and well-being worldwide. To pressure governments that sponsor or harbor terrorists. To bring peace to regions in crisis. To become a global partner against poverty and disease, environmental degradation and proliferation.

The experience of many other Asian countries suggests that as China continues to prosper and integrate itself into the international community, its citizens will demand ever-increasing personal and political freedom.

Some think China is different -- that its culture, history and size mean that ordinary Chinese people do not care about human rights and that democracy cannot develop there. I disagree.

The desire for freedom is hard-wired into human beings. Freedom is not an optional piece of software, compatible with some cultures but not with others. No “Great Firewall of China” can separate the Chinese people from their God-given rights or keep them from joining an ever-growing community of democracies. The Chinese people want what all people want: respect for their fundamental human rights. A better life for themselves and their children. A real say in the future of their country.

Again and again in Asia, the development of large middle classes has generated growing demands for more accountability, pluralistic governance. This pattern has been repeated in places with very different cultural and religious make-ups -- Confucian, Christian and Muslim.

Again and again we have seen authoritarian regimes give way to tides of democratic reform: the Philippines in 1986, Taiwan in 1987, South Korea in 1988, Thailand in 1990, Mongolia in 1992. In 1998, Indonesia embarked on a democratic path. And just this month, as Dick Holbrooke noted, East Timor celebrated its independence and swore in its first democratically-elected government.

What we have seen in East Asia and the Pacific over the past half century, then, is a region undergoing historic transformations, all of them interrelated.

A vast and varied region engulfed in hot and cold wars and rife with internecine conflict being transformed into one of new and unprecedented stability.

To be sure, peace has not come to the Korean peninsula. Many other disputes within the region have yet to find political settlement. And how China will choose to exercise its growing power remains an open question. Still and yet, the East Asia-Pacific is more pacific now than ever.

The change on the economic front has been just as dramatic. Some Asian economies got their start earlier, some later. But in just a few generations, Asian countries that have embraced the market have gone from near universal poverty to unprecedented new levels of prosperity. Indeed, Asia’s economic transformation from dominoes to dynamos has become cliché.

However, the transformation is not complete. Asian countries must undertake the reforms needed to spur their recovery from the 1997 crisis and to ensure their sustained success.

Asia's transformation toward greater political freedom can be traced from Thailand to Taiwan, from Indonesia to South Korea.

This transformation, too, is incomplete. We see new cause for hope in Burma as Aung San Suu Kyi re-enters the political process. Cambodia is strengthening a fragile democracy through more free and fair elections and the consolidation of democratic institutions. China, Laos and Vietnam have opened their economies but have yet to open their political systems. North Korea remains the chronic outlier.

But I have no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, that Asia's great transformation from dominoes to dynamos, and from dynamos to democracies will only accelerate in this new century. There will be setbacks and dangers ahead for sure. I am equally sure that they will be surmounted by the determination and ingenuity of the peoples of Asia.

And as they build a future of peace, a future of prosperity, a future of freedom for themselves and their children, the men and women can count on the essential and enduring support of the United States. We are a Pacific nation. We are an Asian nation. And we will remain so. And under the leadership of President Bush, I guarantee that to you tonight.

Thank you very much.