Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished government officials past,
present, and I suspect future, good evening. It is a pleasure to be
with you. I have read the articles and testimony of so many of the
Asian specialists here this evening that I hasten to thank you all
for your valuable contributions.
Ed Feulner, I salute you and The Heritage Foundation for your 25
years of commitment to building an America where "freedom,
opportunity, and civil society flourish." Yours is an enormous
accomplishment-one which anyone would and should be proud of.
And I thank you for your invitation to deliver this fourth B. C.
Lee Lecture on U.S. relations with East Asia. That relationship is
crucial to the world's future, and I commend you for focusing our
attention on it.
The U.S.-East Asian relationship requires two qualities not
always in evidence, but both of which are staples of the Heritage
Foundation: far-sighted American leadership and good common
Hans Morgenthau is said to have remarked that, in general, good
foreign policy makes good common sense, and good common sense makes
good foreign policy. My 20 plus years in government have persuaded
me of that truth.
Recently, I ran across a document that sums up surprisingly well
the application of both common sense and leadership to our
relations with Asia-even though it was written a quarter century
ago. It reads, in part: "America, a nation of the Pacific, has a
vital stake in Asia, and a responsibility to take a leading part in
lessening tensions, preventing hostilities and preserving peace.
World stability and our own security depend on our Asian
commitment." It goes on to make six points:
First, that "American strength is basic to any stable
balance of power in the Pacific."
Second, that "Partnership with Japan is a pillar of our
Third, that "a major premise of a new Pacific doctrine is
the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China,
the strengthening of our new ties…." (I would update that to
read "re-normalization," considering the hit those ties have taken
since the Tiananmen massacre.)
Fourth, that a "principle of our Pacific policy is our
continuing stake in the stability and security of Southeast
Fifth, that "We remain committed to peace and security on
the Korean peninsula."
And last, that "Peace in Asia requires a structure of
Those were goals set forth by then-President Ford and included
in my annual Secretary of Defense Posture Statement at that time.
They were valid then, and they're valid today.
In the grand sweep of history, great leadership has always been
strategic. The essence of strategic leadership is the process of
examining events in their many dimensions; testing immediate issues
in the context of broader long-term goals; establishing priorities
based on a balance among importance, urgency, and achievability-and
then pursuing policies in the nearer term aimed at securing the
long-range objectives. Leadership is random when each issue in the
President's in-box is dealt with in isolation, apart from any
broader context or strategic direction. The first responsibility of
foreign policy is that there be one.
A serious foreign policy cannot be simply a grab bag of ideas,
reactions, and hopes. Our conduct must represent a direction that
is clear and an approach that is coherent-that is, one that is both
understandable and understood by our friends and our adversaries
At home, uncertainty leads to confusion, and with it a lack of
resolve. To our allies, it represents unreliability; to our
enemies, weakness. It invites miscalculation. And in this era, when
weapons of mass destruction are spreading so insidiously,
miscalculation invites disaster.
Just as military weakness provocatively tempts others into
adventures they would otherwise avoid, uncertainty and
unpredictability in foreign policy are provocative in the same way
and for the same reason.
East Asia is too vast, too varied, and much too significant to
be dealt with comprehensively in the short time we have here.
Southeast Asia in particular has made stunning advances in recent
years. Despite its present troubles, it has extraordinary prospects
for renewed economic growth in the coming decades. Rapid expansion
does bring problems that have to be dealt with, but that would
require an evening in itself. Tonight, therefore, I will narrow my
focus to China, Japan, and the two Koreas, North and South. I do so
because of the way in which, in strategic terms, the challenges and
opportunities they present are central to the future of every
nation in the region.
While I will not dwell on Asia's current economic turmoil, its
lessons are as important as they are obvious. The turmoil will
pass, though perhaps not quickly. Meanwhile, we must not let the
shorter-term economic aspects blind us to those broader strategic
issues of which they are a part, but only a part.
Americans should not respond smugly to the turmoil, suggesting
that "they asked for it"-that closed markets, cronyism, widespread
corruption, lax regulation, manipulation of the banking system, and
hubris all simply made it inevitable.
Those were factors. But other countries, including our own, have
at one time or another had to deal with all of them. Overcoming
them is part of a nation's, and in this case a region's,
So it might be useful for us-for Asians, for the IMF if it is to
survive, and leaders of still-emerging nations elsewhere-to treat
this as a learning experience. Without a reasonable degree of
transparency, openness, fairness, and the rule of law, modern
economies are not likely to sustain themselves. In the short run,
governments can get away with trying to manipulate markets. But in
the longer run, in today's interconnected world, a nation's market
system has to be free to work-rewarding success and, importantly,
penalizing failure without government management or manipulation
and without favoritism. Over time, governments that try to pick
winners risk becoming losers.
The great challenge for the next century is China. It is vital
that we carefully define our strategic objectives with regard to
the People's Republic of China.
We of course hope for a democratic, free-market China, stable
and prosperous. But while we prefer that China evolve in that
direction, the strategic key is how China behaves in the region and
the world. We need to work toward an external environment that
encourages China to act internationally as an increasingly
responsible member of the world community, recognizing that how it
evolves internally will affect its behavior in the world.
China today is not the China of the 1950s and 1960s. Ever since
Deng Xiaoping won control, China's leadership has increasingly bet
its future on being a part of the global economy.
Since 1979 China's real gross domestic product (GDP) has
quadrupled. Life is more free. It is now in the process of
unprecedented economic and social transformation. Its leaders talk
the language of market capitalism, although one must wonder whether
the meanings are as yet fully appreciated. Last September's 15th
Communist Party Congress reaffirmed the collective leadership's
commitment to economic reform, with emphasis on privatizing many of
the massive, money-losing, and often corrupt state enterprises and
developing a more dependable rule of law. This last is important to
the world's capital markets. Absent a level playing field, wise
foreign investors will continue to tread cautiously.
Thus far, China has been relatively insulated from the Asian
crisis. Indeed, it may even benefit in some ways from its
But even positive changes can bring near-term problems. Housing
is short. Unemployment is rising. Strikes are increasing. The
government has had to reinforce its internal security forces in
areas where large state enterprises face layoffs. With energy
consumption increasing, the need for oil could well affect China's
behavior with regard to its neighbors, the sea lanes, and nations
such as Iran.
As a military power, China is rapidly strengthening. Its
interests will sometimes coincide with ours, sometimes conflict. It
may cooperate with us on one regional issue or another but still
work to weaken the U.S.-Japan alliance, threaten Taiwan, or help
arm Iran and other rogue states. Like other ambitious powers, it
will try to bend international institutions and rules to its own
advantage. It is not likely to subordinate what it sees to be in
its interests to the interests of multinational organizations.
We cannot and must not ignore Taiwan.
When I was at General Instrument Corporation we had some 5,000
employees in Taiwan, so I visited there over the years. And I have
never ceased to be amazed at what the handful of people on that
relatively small island have succeeded in doing. Taiwan's
accomplishments are indeed breathtaking.
Taiwan's still-evolving democracy is thriving. Despite its high
domestic borrowing, thus far at least its vigorous free-market
economy has been an island of relative stability in a sea of Asian
financial turmoil. It has an impressive history as a constructive
member of the world community. The hope for China's future is that
Taiwan becomes more the model for the mainland than the other way
around. The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 has contributed
significantly to peace and stability in the region, and the world
has and will continue to have a large stake in maintaining respect
for Taiwan's rights.
Unfortunately, the Administration's rhetoric has simplistically
portrayed our choices on China as either "containment" or
"engagement." It seems to prefer imprecise, even amorphous language
rather than well-defined objectives. It has not yet set forth a
Containment is not realistic. "Engagement," per se, is
meaningless. With China, in the early 1950s, we were "engaged" in a
brutal war on the Korean peninsula. Later we were "engaged" in a
loosely structured partnership against Soviet aggression. We will
continue to be "engaged" with China. The real question is not
whether, but how, and to what ends.
First defining and then pursuing that engagement is a primary
responsibility of whoever sits in the Oval Office. This requires
telling the American public what is and is not realistic. Setting
clear goals and explaining them to Congress and the country-these
are key leadership duties. This means making clear that there is no
magic wand, no set of demands, that will transform China into what
it is not-and that we would be foolhardy to think we can force
China to adopt our chosen model for its own development.
We must recognize the limits of what our policies can achieve,
and proceed with small but meaningful steps that address the
concerns of both sides. Incremental progress is real progress, and
most real progress is incremental. But we must also keep our eyes
on our larger objectives.
Last fall's Washington summit made some modest progress.
Agreements to open a Drug Enforcement Agency office in Beijing, to
expand military-to-military contacts, and to set up a
Washington-Beijing hot line were small steps forward. So was
China's decision to join the International Telecommunications
Agreement and open its telecom market. As the Chinese might put it,
these were efforts "to cross the river by feeling for stones."
Yet the summit's centerpiece-President Clinton's decision to
certify China as in compliance with U.S. non-proliferation laws-was
premature. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a
serious world problem, in which China has been notably unhelpful.
The Administration's boast that the summit marked the start of a
"strategic partnership" only underscores a preference for spin over
The first responsibility of a U.S. President is national
security. With China, that includes three crucial items:
cooperation on the Korean peninsula, peace in the Taiwan Straits,
and non-proliferation of destabilizing weapons and
China's military modernization program is moving steadily and
rapidly forward. It has acquired a number of advanced weapons
systems and is seeking more. By the testimony of senior Chinese
military commanders, China is focusing on information and
counter-information technologies as primary systems for the 21st
century. On the conventional side, many of its new capabilities are
aimed at enhancing China's power with respect to Taiwan and other
neighbors. At the same time, it is increasing the size and
survivability of its nuclear missile forces.
All this has clear implications for our own long-term security
interests. The greater the uncertainty about what China's future
intentions might be, the more urgent those implications become.
This is made more crucial by President Clinton's roller-coaster
ride through China policy. His changes of direction invite
misunderstanding and miscalculation, particularly with regard to
such matters as the relationship between China and
Taiwan-unquestionably the most sensitive issue for both sides.
To some extent, how China behaves internationally may be a
function of how its leaders view the world's reaction to their aim
of becoming the preeminent power in Asia. The danger is that this
may make them more aggressive, especially toward Taiwan. The hope
is that over its 4,000 years, China has learned to be patient. It
was, after all, Zhou Enlai who replied, when asked to interpret the
French Revolution, "It's too soon to tell."
Both strategically and economically, China is the potential
Asian colossus of the future. The economic colossus of the present,
however, is Japan-even in recession, the world's second largest
economy and a global leader in technology.
No two major nations have interests so congruent, and assets so
complementary, as the U.S. and Japan.
I have been an interested party since the 1960s, when as a young
Congressman I helped found the U.S.-Japan Parliamentary Forum. Back
then we were concerned about such since-solved problems as the
Security Treaty, Okinawa, and nuclear ship visits.
Today, ours is a unique and sturdy relationship, but one that
does have problems. Many of these have centered on our efforts to
pry open Japanese markets, and Japan's resistance to those efforts.
From my days as a corporate chief executive officer, I remember
only too well that those efforts have been hard, slogging trench
warfare. In my two companies, it was first medical equipment and
pharmaceuticals and then later electronics; and for others, beef,
citrus, semiconductors, automobiles, glass, and, most recently,
film. We have won some and lost some. But by slow, reluctant steps,
Japan has been changing.
Japan is coming to recognize that having a 21st century economy
requires opening its markets to competition and reforming its banks
and financial institutions. In 1995, Japan's own Economic Planning
Agency called for an opening and restructuring. Asia's present
troubles have reinforced that summons.
A few examples of progress: I am told that Amway Japan's
million-plus-person sales force now grosses some $2 billion in
sales. In less than a month, Japan will begin its own Big Bang in
financial deregulation. This should do more to open, restructure,
and reshape the Japanese economy than a dozen trade agreements
combined. And it will be more effective than external pressure
because it will be driven by spirited internal competition on a
more level playing field.
If trade conflicts diminish, our shared strategic interests will
stand out more sharply. Japan is the anchor of freedom and
stability in East Asia, the key to the U.S. position in Asia, and
an important pillar of our global strategy.
Japan's own security options are limited. Unarmed neutrality is
not an option. Given Japan's history, neither is a nuclear-armed
Japan desirable. And given Japan's commitment to its post-war
constitution, even steps toward a conventionally armed, independent
Japan would invite both a wrenching internal debate and a
potentially destabilizing arms race across Asia. Japan's neighbors
do remember World War II, and when it comes to Japan's military
they still cast a wary eye.
In providing for Japan's security, the U.S.-Japan alliance
reassures those wary neighbors by visibly discouraging any
resurgence of the kind of conduct that brought Japan to near ruin
in 1945. It is central to the stability of Asia, and the critical
constant in the security calculus of governments across the
It is also a central element in U.S. global strategy. Our
ability to deploy from Japan enables us to operate effectively in
strength across Asia to the Persian Gulf. We need to be able to
work with Japan in meeting the security needs of Northeast Asia. We
need Japan as an active and helpful player, however constrained by
history its actions might be.
In strategic terms, China and Japan epitomize both the challenge
and promise of Asia's future. In different ways, so does the Korean
South Korea is far more than a key U.S. ally. Our ties have been
forged in war and sustained by joint response to a common danger.
The two Koreas present the world's most dramatic single example of
why, in the clash of ideologies between communism and freedom,
communism simply cannot compete.
Last December's presidential election was a milestone in Korea's
democratic development. Kim Dae Jung, long a prime leader of the
democracy movement, brings to his post great moral authority.
It is an interesting coincidence that during the transition from
the Carter to the Reagan Administrations, that same Kim Dae Jung,
then a freedom-fighting dissident facing a death sentence, was
aided by my friend of some 35 years, The Heritage Foundation's own
Dick Allen. Fortunately, Dick was then foreign policy advisor to
President-elect Ronald Reagan. He was thus in a position to put in
the right words, at the right time, in the right places, with the
right results. Had he not done so, history might well have been
Since his election, Kim Dae Jung has moved boldly on the tough
reforms a freely functioning market economy needs. South Korea's
economy is already the world's 11th largest. Though badly bruised,
it now gives promise of rebounding to new heights.
By contrast, North Korea remains self-exiled from the rest of
the world: a closed, Stalinist holdout, with starving millions but
with modern munitions, including, perhaps, nuclear weapons; a
constant threat to South Korea, to Japan, and to the region. A
prime strategic objective must remain the peaceful reunification of
the divided Korean peninsula-and as soon as possible, for several
First, the interests of the North's brutal regime are so
diametrically opposed to the interests of its people that it would
be fatuous to expect it to change-risking its own survival. As long
as it holds on to power, it remains a threat to 37,000 American
troops and millions of South Koreans.
Second, the regime is not only illegitimate. It is
immoral, or amoral, or both. It starves its own people to build and
maintain its military machine. The famine in North Korea mirrors
Stalin's infamous terror famine in the Soviet Union. For Kim Jong
Il, as for Stalin, it is a matter of addition by subtraction-adding
to his own strength by brutally subtracting those who don't
contribute to it.
Third, our present nuclear agreement with North Korea
unfortunately does not end its nuclear menace. It merely postpones
the reckoning, with no assurance that we will know how much
bomb-capable material North Korea has. As long as such a regime
maintains such capabilities, there is danger.
In the Reagan Administration, the guiding principle of our
Korean diplomacy was to move the North toward dealing directly with
the South. This was rooted in a conviction that only through direct
North-South talks could the peninsula be peacefully unified.
It's hard to tell what the present Administration's long-term
objective is. My view is that the Four-Party Talks, which put the
U.S., China, South Korea, and North Korea together in the same
room, could invite the North to drive wedges between Washington and
Meanwhile, food aid to North Korea has become the foreign policy
equivalent of PBS's annual fund-raising weeks. With PBS, the
contributors at least get news and entertainment. With North Korea,
we get only more requests for food coupled with adamant refusals to
deal with the source of the shortages-its own unworkable economic
The result is a paradox: North Korea-with which we have no
diplomatic relations, against which we maintain a trade embargo,
and which presents the greatest threat to peace in the region-is
the region's largest recipient of aid. There's something wrong with
this picture. Common sense argues that any aid should at least be
This post-Cold War era presents us with a new set of
For most of our lifetimes, from World War II onward, we had
relatively clearly defined friends and enemies, good guys and bad
guys, along with compelling priorities that often made the present
loom larger than the future even in strategic terms. Today's world
lacks that defining clarity. So we have to be wiser. We have to
deal with shifting ambiguities in ways that advance our own
national interests while also meeting our unique leadership
responsibilities in the world.
There is not likely to be any single, simple "doctrine" to guide
us. It is going to take judgment, common sense, and the wisdom to
set the right priorities-and the courage and perseverance to
As the sole world power, we have an opportunity to contribute to
peace and stability in our still dangerous and untidy world. But we
can do so only if our diplomacy is backed by military capabilities
appropriate to the next century.
The U.S. now spends only about 3 percent of gross national
product (GNP) on national defense, a level below even that of the
pre-World War II period. This is not enough to keep us ahead of
other countries in exploiting the revolution in military affairs,
in seizing the growing opportunities and meeting the mounting
requirements in information warfare, and in gathering the necessary
intelligence in our modern world. As with terrorism, the new
technologies are force multipliers. They thus place defenders at a
But while closely connected to my remarks this evening, that
subject requires its own elaboration on a separate occasion.
Over the years, I have compiled a few reflections on politics
and policy that have come to be called Rumsfeld's Rules. One of
these rules holds that "Simply because a problem can be shown to
exist, it doesn't necessarily follow that there is a solution." Or,
as Shimon Peres once put it to me, "If a problem has no solution it
is not a problem, but a fact, not to be `solved' but to be coped
with over time."
In a sense, we now have to "cope" with the world. This requires
It means that the world requires our attention. This does not
mean committing our resources everywhere. It does mean keeping our
eyes out everywhere. It means understanding that what we do or fail
to do one place makes a difference elsewhere. Neither our acts of
commission nor those of omission go unnoticed.
It requires foresight.
It requires setting priorities.
One thing incandescently clear is that, for the foreseeable
future, Asia must be in the top tier of those priorities.
Asia is no longer the mysterious East. It's the dynamic, vital,
often troubled, but enormously promising center of changes that are
dramatically re-shaping the world.
As a nation, we can see great risks and great promises, and Asia
could well hold the most of each.
As the world's leader, working with the nations of Asia toward
capturing the hope of that future is both our challenge and our
opportunity: our challenge because of its transcendent importance
to our 21st century world; our opportunity because Asia's success
will mean so much to America's own security and prosperity in that
About the Speaker
The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld is an advisor to several
companies; non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of
Gilead Sciences, Inc.; and a member of the board of directors of
ABB AB, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., Kellogg, and Tribune Company.
He also is Chairman of the U.S. Commission to Assess the Ballistic
Missile Threat to the United States.
Mr. Rumsfeld has served as CEO of G. D. Searle, a worldwide
pharmaceutical company, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of
General Instrument Corporation, a leader in broadband and digital
high definition television technology. He is a member of the boards
of trustees of the Chicago Historical Society, the Eisenhower
Exchange Fellowship, Freedom House, the Hoover Institution at
Stanford University, the National Park Foundation, the RAND
Corporation, and the RAND-sponsored U.S.-Russia Business Forum.
Elected to Congress in 1962, he resigned in 1969 to join the
President's Cabinet, serving first as Director of the Office of
Economic Opportunity and Assistant to the President, and then as
Director of the Economic Stabilization Program and Counselor to the
President. In January 1973, he became U.S. Ambassador to NATO. In
1974, Mr. Rumsfeld was Chairman of the transition to the presidency
of Gerald Ford. He was White House Chief of Staff and a member of
the President's Cabinet from 1974-1975, and Secretary of Defense
from 1975-1977. More recently, he has served as President Reagan's
Special Envoy for the Middle East and as a member of the
President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and the
National Economic Commission.
In 1977, Mr. Rumsfeld received the nation's highest civilian
award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.