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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Event at the Asia Society in New York – “The US and Asia in 2013: Challenges and Opportunities”

by Irith Jawetz at the Asia Society House on Park Avenue, New York City, Monday March 11, 2013.
Talk by Thomas Donilon, U.S. National Security Advisor on “The U.S. and Asia in 2013:  Challenges and Opportunities.”

Introductory remarks were by Ms. Henrietta Fore, Co-Chair of Asia Society and Chairman and CEO of Holsman International, a manufacturing, consulting and investment company.

She stressed the importance of the Series of talks at the Asia Society – “Beyond the Headlines” –  and said that the Asia Society shares views of cooperation, alliances, and links between the United States and Asia. There are many challenges in the relationship between the US and Asia, she said – especially when it comes to North Korea –  but the opportunities for cooperation outweigh the challenges, she sad. Her approach to foreign policy was a business woman line – the issue being that challenges and opportunities were understood in business terms.

Ms. Fore continued by introducing the speaker – Mr. Thomas Donilon.

Thomas Donilon is the new National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama. 
From 2009 to 2010, he served as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor.  He chaired the State Department’s transition effort in 2008.  Prior to this, he was a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and served as a member of the firm’s global governing committee.  He has worked closely with and advised three U.S. Presidents since his first position at the White House working with President Carter. 

He served in the Clinton Administration as Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of Staff of the Department. In this capacity he was responsible for the development and implementation of the Department’s major policy initiatives, including NATO expansion, the Dayton Peace Accords, and the Middle East Peace process. He was awarded  the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award in November 1996. His interest in policy does not mean business first. What was he doing at Asia Society during this lunch-time break?

Mr. Donilon started his presentation by acknowledging his good friend Richard Holbrook who was a real “Asia hand” and credited him for dedicating all his efforts to peace and cooperation everywhere. Now – that was the answer to the question in my head. Mr. Danilon came to honor the departed Mr. Holbrook and not because of those present there.

Donilon gave a general review of the Obama Administration’s goals in Asia for his second term.

The world’s economic, political, and strategic center of gravity is shifting toward the Asia-Pacific.  Since its first days in office, the Obama administration has therefore pursued a rebalancing of foreign, economic and defense policy priorities toward the Asia Pacific. This reballance, according to National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, is working to “sustain a stable security environment and a regional order rooted in economic openness, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic governance, and political freedom.” 

The United States has been over weighted in some area, i.,e. the Middle East and under weighted in other area, i.e. Asia – and the Obama Administration will make sure to strengthen the ties between the US and the Asia Pacific region.

He mentioned the friendship and cooperation with Japan’s new leadership, with China’s leadership, the friendship with India, and a solid commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea, and announced that the new woman President of the Republic of Korea, Ms. Park will visit the White House this coming May.

The challenges are mainly with North Korea. For 60 years the United States has protected the Republic of Korea and will not accept any nuclear programs in North Korea. There will be consequences if North Korea continues to pursue its nuclear goals. However, there will always be a window open for talks if North Korea changes its course. He brought as example the country of Myanmar with whom the US has now a good relationship. North Korea could take an example from Myanmar.

Mr. Donilon touched upon the good relationship between the US and India, Indonesia, a country that is personally close to Mr. Obama, and China. In relations to China he mentioned that a military dialogue is necessary, economic relations are opening up, however there are problems regarding the cyber security. The Internet has to be open, secure and reliable and there are still concerns in that field.

He further mentioned the TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership, – an organization which now has 11 members, but could be a podium for many countries to join and cooperate for free and open trade between the countries.

In conclusion, he again stressed that the ties between the United States and Asia are a very important subject in the Obama Administration.

Ms. Suzanne DiMaggio, Vice President of Global Policy Programs at Asia Society read a few questions, one relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As for Afghanistan Mr. Donilon stressed that the plan is still to have the Afghan forces take over the security of their country
with the US forces in an advisory capacity as of May 2013, and the full withdrawal of US troops from that country by September 31, 2014. The main goal is to defeat Al Qaeda and to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a future haven for terrorists.

As for Pakistan there have always been problems between the US and Pakistan especially after a crisis, i.e. the capture of Osama Bin Laden, but the US is committed to work through those problems and to ensure a stable Pakistan.

Mr. Tom Nagorski closed the session with a concluding remarks thanking Mr. Donilon for his excellent speech and also thanking him for his kind remarks regarding Richard Holbrook.

Tom Nagorski is Executive Vice President of the Asia Society since October 2012 following a three-decade career in journalism – having served most recently as Managing Editor for International Coverage of ABC News. Before that he was Foreign Editor for World News Tonight and a reporter and producer based in Russia, Germany and Thailand. He is the recipient of eight Emmy awards and the Dupont Award for excellence in International coverage as well as a fellowship from the Henry Luce Foundation.
He looked like he understood why Mr. Donilon spent his time here and the fact that the business community ought to understand better the motives of an umbrella approach to foreign policy that comes with a reset away from the oil region.

 

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