The Indo-Pacific: Opportunities and Challenges for Liberal Democracies and the Future

Date: 17:00-18:00, 13th September 2017

Location: Committee Room 16, House of Commons, Palace of Westminster, SW1A 0AA

Speakers: HE the Hon. Alexander Downer AC, High Commissioner, The Australian High Commission & HE Koji Tsuruoka, Ambassador, the Embassy of Japan

Event Chair: Mark Field MP, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Dr. Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society

Mark Field MP

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the House of Commons for what I hope will be a very interesting discussion on the opportunities and challenges for democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. I would like to thank The Henry Jackson Society for helping to organise this event today and for inviting you. My own part, as many of you know, I am the Minister of State in the Foreign Office for Asia and the Pacific. I have just returned from a visit to China, Hong Kong, Seoul and Singapore, where I saw for myself some of the opportunities that we will no doubt discuss this evening. The region is as dynamic as it is diverse. From the highly developed economies such as Australia and Japan, to exciting, emerging economies such as those in Indonesia and Vietnam as well as smaller more fragile, albeit important nation states who make up the numbers in the UN. All have something substantial to offer the world, and there are also challenges in this region too, one of the most immediate of course being that of the DPRK (North Korea). I’m sure we shall consider this and other matters in some details during the course of our discussion.

Now to ensure that we properly reflect the views of the region I am delighted to be joined by their excellences Alexander Downer from Australia and Koji Tsuruoka from Japan. They will provide perspectives from both of their countries. Alexander has been the Australian High Commissioner in London since March 2014 and given his country’s famously competitive spirit, particularly when it comes anything sporting with the home country here in the UK, I think it is also worth noting that he holds the record of the longest serving Foreign Minister for anyone in his country. Alexander has also served as the UN Special Advisor on Cyprus.

Koji Tsuruoka was appointed Japan’s ambassador to the UK in April 2016 and has been a very good friend of mine not least in my former role of Vice Chairman for the International Affairs of the Conservative Party. It was during his tenure that I first visited his country leading a delegation to Tokyo and Kyoto but before that, Koji spent three years as a chief negotiator on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. If we are looking for an expert in identifying the real opportunities in the Indo-Pacific, I think we have one right here. They’re each going to speak for around 5 minutes on the challenges and opportunities for the region from their perspective, then I’m going to provide the British perspective and after that we will take some questions from the audience. I thought to chair this in The Henry Jackson Society’s style, we would have Timothy Stafford with a close eye on the clock going forward. It is he and Alan Mendoza who are our hosts tonight, thank you.

Alexander Downer AC

I’ve tried to get the Japanese Ambassador to start off so I could work out what to say whilst listening. First of all Minister thank you very much for hosting this meeting with the Henry Jackson Society which does excellent work here in London and puts on many an interesting discussion. I’ve argued since I’ve been here in London that the most significant geopolitical event in the world at the moment is not the EU or Brexit, but the rise of China and the way the Asia-pacific or what we sometimes call the Indo-Pacific region manages that rise of China. I think that’s a good starting point. You don’t need much data thrusted at you About the growth of the Chinese economy but it’s worth remembering that it is projected (and whether projection will lead to reality is debatable but it’s projected) that it will overtake the US economy, even in exchange rate terms during the next few years, in overall size, but not of course in per capita terms.

Adjacent to China is India, whose economy is growing at around 7% per annum and then there’s Indonesia with an economy growing at around 6% per year and then there’s Japan which is now considered the third biggest economy in the world. It is a huge, simply huge economy, the Japanese economy. And keeping the ring since 1945 in this region of high economic growth has been the United States and the US is a central player in the security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region and its very important to understand that.

So whilst here in Europe, you think about the NATO alliance, article five and balancing off the power of Russia and the role of the United States in its leadership of NATO, it is important to understand that for those of us who live in the Indo-Pacific region, it is also a critically important player, anchored into the region via its alliances and in particular its alliance with Japan, its alliance with [South] Korea and its alliance with Australia. These alliances are all as profound as the NATO alliances. So in this, this is an environment which since 1975 has worked pretty well. You have seen the most dramatic reduction in poverty anywhere in the world, take place in the Indo-Pacific region.   A huge humanitarian triumph to see so many people escape absolute and relative poverty, but this environment has made possible this peaceful, high growth productive environment because there are rules. Because there is a rules based international system which applies to the Indo-Pacific region as much as it does to Europe and elsewhere. And for the region to continue to prosper, that rules based system must continue to be maintained and upheld. It is not a system that does not face challenges. In Europe the challenges have been laid down by Russia and Ukraine. In our system as I said earlier, the most important single geo-political issue is the rise of China. Our basic view of the rise of China is that it is a good thing. We are in favour of strong Chinese economic growth and the reduction of poverty there. We understand that they are going to be spending some of that money on giving their defence forces greater capability and to that extent we are quite happy. To another extent we appreciate that China, given its emerging size must be given space, but also embraced, not only in international security and political and economic architecture, but also the UN processes and so on, and also the Asia-Pacific architecture as well and embracing China through APEC and East Asia Summit and various other formulations that exist in the region – as long as it operates within the rules. So where there have been challenges, there have been challenges, two of which I will mention; one in the South China Sea and the Japanese Ambassador will no doubt elaborate more on this, but it is a concern for us that any country should try to resolve differeces, particularly territorial disputes through the use of force. So any attempt to militarise reefs in the South China Sea is inevitably going to cause tensions, is going to cause resistance and is going to raise questions about the extent to which that is being done consistent with the conventional rules based system.

The second great challenge (we have other great challenges of course in Myanmar and so on), is the nuclear programme of North Korea (DPRK). China has a critical role to play in bringing North Korea back into the mainstream of the international community because it provides 80% of North Korea’s energy, about 50% of its trade and food, and so China has huge leverage. Our expectation is that China will act in a decisive way, as the international community is endeavouring as well to bring a halt to the nuclear ambitions of the North Korean (DPRK) regime; we can talk about that all afternoon. I just want to mention those two things because they get to the heart of the need to uphold the rules based international system.

So we have a world view as a robust liberal democracy that we have got to stick up for this system that has evolved so successfully since 1945. We have worked with Japan which is an extremely like-minded country which shares our commitment to the rules based system and our liberal democratic values. Japan has been a wonderful partner for us, and I mentioned earlier we work with the United States. We want to keep the US heavily engaged both economically but above all, in security terms, engaged in the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region and that is a great priority for us.

The last point I want to make is that it is very important not to forget the ASEAN countries, the ten countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations, because this organisation has been a driving force in regional consolidation. It has not only established itself in the 1960s but it has also established institutions like the East Asia Summit. It has been very much at the heart of that process. These countries like Indonesia, Thailand and so on are countries that we have worked very closely – also on some of the issues I have mentioned before.

I think minister that may be my five minutes. I hope that gives you a flavor of where we are coming from on these multifarious issues. Thank you.

Timothy Stafford

Thank you very much for that introduction. I had a meeting today where the issue of the TPP came up so it will be interesting to hear your thoughts on that in the questions. I will now like to hand over to the Ambassador for the Japanese perspective so now I will hand over to you and then we can continue.

HE Koji Tsuruoka

Well thank you very much and thank you Mark as always it’s a pleasure having you lead this discussion and chair this very important subject for us. Alexander as always, eloquent – a very senior leading politician, not just for Australia but also the whole region in the Pacific, if not the globe. We are very lucky to have his wisdom with us to discuss this very important subject.  I will not repeat what he said because most of the points made I agree with. The point I would make is very simple – looking at the Indo-Pacific or the Asian front from Europe, there are similarities and differences. The mention was made from NATO which is the collective security system in Europe and across the Atalantic and it is a collective system that allows states to collectively engage and form an alliance. The US after the war was trying to have some collective form of security in the Asian Pacific region but realised that would be very difficult for two reasons. One, the difference of the countries level of development and second, historical and political reasons that makes it difficult for a collective decision making. So, US went for a bilateral arrangement – at one time they have New Zealand that decided to then go its own way, so Australia, Japan of course as the lynchpin for US presidents in the Asia-Pacific, we host American forces in Japan. The 7th fleet, the largest US fleet is in Japan. They operate from Japanese ports into the Pacific, sometimes even extending their activities to the Middle East. [South] Korea continue on the front line. They are of course opposed by North Korea on the other side. So these are the key partners on security with the US that are bilaterally bound. Now, this has been a well operating system for a very long time and thus how Japan was successful in bringing back its economy and becoming a global player during the 1970s, 80s and into the 21st century because the basis for stability was presented by the US military presence that secured stability which is the basis for predictability which can produce prosperity for all.

Now, the bilateral system has now developed into a gathering of like-minded countries. Where are we like-minded? Commitment to democracy, this is first and foremost the most important value the countries that are now becoming more aligned in many strategic positions have a common base. Second of course is having a respect for human rights and third and maybe most importantly a respect for rule of law. The rule based international organisations and structure has enabled the Indo-Pacific region to prosper. That now faces a challenge and we must recognise the challenges that face us. The challenge comes from countries that are not totally happy about what they see today. Alexander mentioned china and I would also, not that they are a threat because they are opportunities and have done very well economically and I was also part of the negotiations for their admission to WTO (World Trade Organisation) and Japan was one of the first countries that welcomed them in to WTO because it meant that they would be playing by the rules. They will be given a treatment that will not discriminate their products in the global market but the return commitment that they would be making and they have made is to be faithful to the rules of WTO and if there is any violation there would be an enforceable legally binding arbitration or panel as they call it at the WTO to be certain that the violations would be addressed. So it is a full enforecement mechanism based on the rule of law that enable China to become economically prosperous. Now, look at the military political side. Unfortunately we don’t have WTO. We have the UN security council that adopt a number of resolutions, sometimes tacidly under resolution 7 that is a mandatory, compulsory chapter under the Human charter. The situation we see with North Korea continues to persist, if not aggravation or excacerbating our people in Japan. You have seen their shooting over Japanese territory of a long-range missile as well as a sixth nuclear test and they are very proud of it and they (inaudible) know that they will pay for those criticisms and once the unanimous decision in the security council was adopted, they are now blackmailing those that have supported that. Now this is now a real danger challenging the existing rules that have been the basis for global prosperity all along. So in the immediate term this is the threat that we need to address. Now in the longer term the issue that we need to keep minding is whether we can continue to uphold the rule based international structure. If the rules are ignored and there’s no one that can correct that then it will be ruled by might. Alexander mentioned the military side of it and I can mention the economical side of it. If you have a market that is indispensable to one country’s economic survival what do you do if you are not happy with the behavior of another country? You can use that market access in exchange for obidiant, submissive action by the other country. Now of course the WTO doesn’t allow these arbituary discriminate means of informing new market because it is a (inaudible) free market economy. But countries put up a lot of excuses. Your bananas are rotten so it is very bad for the health and we will therefore no longer import them. Now you can make an issue of that and then start debating it – it will take five to ten years to find a resolution. In the meantime no exports of bananas for five or ten years can really be damaging to the exporting country. There may be two (inaudible) no two risks because that country is being hostile to us. Well there’s no rule controlling the flow of people in international law and in most cases with countries like ours, people choose where they go unless it is prohibited by the government, it is up the host to welcome them or not, and my people travel around. But in some countries that are having the strictest system governed by state control, they can even control the destination the tourists choose.   These are all resulting in the foreign currency income these countries can gain. They are told unless you do A you can no longer do B, what is the effect? And the other country in most cases are much smaller and have no leverage of any sort. So, what’s the option? If they want to survive, they have to comply. You have scenes of this happening lately and this is endangering the rule based international society. In order to address these what we have to do is have solidarity amongst the countries that can stand up and that can see well into the future that endangering this rule based structure is going to hurt all of us including the country that is promoting such bilateral pressure upon others. They will be hurting themselves and I think they are hurting themselves right now. It is to the detriment of their interest but they may be pushed to do it for other reasons. So let’s go back and see whether these WTO rules can also be expanded in the Indo-Pacific region and by the way the word Indo-Pacific was formulated by the Australian government, which is why I asked Alexander to go first as I didn’t want to be the first one to have mentioned this.

We do have this coalition of the like-minded. US is in for Japan and for Australia a treaty binding security power. But the policies, the objective we all share, therefore Japan… US… Australia, these three countries regardless of what party is in government, are in very solid coordinated relationship. To this we are inviting India which is the largest democracy and one of the countries Great Britain has brought into presence and then democracy being nurtured, they also share the same commitment to democracy and everything else I have mentioned.

Now, Prime Minister May was in Japan a few weeks ago, and had very good discussions with the Japanese Prime Minister and we are looking forward to having Great Britian join these four countries; US, Japan, Australia and India and Great Britian. Why not? You have always had historical ties with the region. ASEAN is one, but ASEAN as a group of course will be a very important partner for us to talk to and then you need a solid core when you are trying to coordinate important policies and we would very much appreciate the UK becoming part of that Indo-Pacific region and we believe that the Prime Minister and the British leadership is willing to if not eager to become an active player because this is an issue that is of global nature. We are not talking about a small region. By the way the South China Sea for example… the size of the sea is about the same size of the Mediterranean. Count the number of countries surrounding the Mediterranean. The South China Sea is also faced with many countries and it is only one country that is currently dominating it without having any blessing from any international rule or court. They are just unilaterally and as Alexander said, militarizing by putting military bases in their port. These are threats. There is going to be danger for maintaining and sustaining the rule based international structure that has allowed the world to prosper this far. That’s why we need to start bringing people together to understand what are the issues we need to address and how can we cope with it.  Not in a confrontational manner because as we have seen with China’s participation with WTO, they came, they benefitted from it and they won, and so did we. The market is open – we benefit a great deal by having huge trade relations with China. Can we do the same on the military and on the political front? This is the question that I think we need to ask. Thankyou.

Timothy Stafford

Thank you very much indeed. Well to consider how the UK can contribute its new presence we are delighted to have (inaudible) those responsibilities to say a few words representing the British position. Hopefully last is not least.

Mark Field MP

Thank you Tim, and thank you very much Koji and Alexander. Thanks for your very fascinating insights and I wish we could have heard you for a lot longer. It is interesting looking at the whole issue around the Indo-Pacific weren’t quite the elephant in the room but the whole issue of China and the USA, two countries outside that region but nevertheless have played an important part and will continue to do so. I wanted to just briefly give the UK perceptive on the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the context of our own departure from the EU and then obviously we will all be happy to take some questions.

Many of course interpreted our decision to leave the EU as a decision to step away from Europe and perhaps even the world but I think nothing could be further from the truth. In many ways the message is loud and clear, the world isn’t just 28 members of the European Union, it is the 195 members of the United Nations as a whole and we see this and indeed the only way that Brexit is going to work is if we see it in a positive, optimistic, outward looking Global Britain scope.

Asia and the Indo-Pacific is of course as you’ve rightly said Tim, my area of responsibility in the Foreign Office and I want to make it absolutely clear how much it matters personally to me. If anything, of course it is more true to the UK than it was before the 23rd June last year because we will be working even more closely with our global partners to defend peace and security and to promote prosperity throughout the world. The importance of the region is abundantly clear and this has been alluded to already by both of our speakers. Most of the world’s trade flows through vital arteries that make up the Indo-Pacific region. You only need to go to Singapore to realise how important that particular area is. Most of the world’s population resides in the region as a whole and of course it is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. In other words the opportunities that are offered to the UK in engaging even more firmly, not that we haven’t engaged already but obviously we will focus or refocus our energies (inaudible).

But I also accept that there are challenges that will impact upon us, both the countries in the region have the ability to take those challenges forward. I think the most immediate and visible challenge of course, as both speakers have touched on, is the very grave and reckless threat posed by North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile programme. That was very clear in my recent visit, although I should perhaps also say that having gone to Seoul, South Korea, you only need to travel by road for 40 minutes to get to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) at the 38th parallel. One of the things I would say about the mentality in Seoul is that it is business as usual. Of course there is a focus on what’s happening in North Korea but in a way they have been used to that threat for 60 years. Most of my counterparts in political and business terms in South Korea wanted to talk to me about a whole range of other issues (including Brexit it has to be said) but also much more importantly about trade and cooperation in cultural terms rather than just focusing on the issue directly to their North. In many ways it was a view I think from many in Seoul that this was no longer a localised problem but a highly global problem and that the other players are going to have their part to play.

But there are of course a number of less visible challenges to the continued prosperity, security and stability of the region. There’s obviously the threat from terrorism including the ever-growing danger posed by cyber-crime and terrorist use of the internet. There are a range of racial and religious tensions and long-running border disputes, whether between India and Pakistan or in the South China Sea. We have actually no interest in taking either side but we want to see them resolved through proper international processes and through the rule of law. There’s also the competition for scarce resources and the threat of climate change. For the low-lying nations of the Pacific, climate change is clearly a major threat and the risk of this to other is probably less well-known but should be understood and that’s why we play our part in building resilience. But a single large-scale security incident or other (weather) event could set back a country’s economic progress by decades and again I agree with both of our previous speakers when they talk about the idea of the importance of having a rules-based international system which has kept the world safe and prosperous for the last 70 years.

Alexander one thing I’d like to touch on (…I get rather depressed when we have disrespectful talk about the United States) one thing is abundantly clear, in little over 7 years time, maybe considerably sooner, Donald J. Trump will not be president of the United States and regardless of what everyone thinks of the Trump Administration, the US is, and will remain, the biggest ally of our country [UK], your country [Australia] and of your country [Japan] for many, many years to come. (Inaudible) …politicians in Europe have ill in the way in which they try to virtue-signal and make disrespectful comments about elements of the US administration and certainly I feel as a bastion of an organisation in a country that is going to hold onto democratic and free values, the United States will still be an important part of that process and I have to say, irrespective of who may be the president today, the US’s importance in this region and the global area is going to be there and the rise of China has been discussed… the rise in economic terms in many other very populous countries has been discussed. One thing I am pretty sure about is that the US will still be the biggest single-nation player in our lifetime as much as our children and grandchildren’s lifetime. The importance of that relationship is one that should not be underestimated.

You (both Alexander and Koji) also touched upon ASEAN and I again would entirely agree that from the strength of Singapore, the increasing strength of Indonesia, of Thailand and of all the states such as Vietnam and Malaysia in that region, these are all going to be significant players, all having a range of their own difficulties that they face at the moment but nonetheless will be important bilateral partners and partners within the ASEAN model going forward. I therefore do believe that we need to ensure the UN and other international bodies the just and fair amount that we all wish to see.

Now on the tradition I hope of finishing on a very positive note and I hope I haven’t been too negative with what I have already said, let me turn, if I may, to some of the opportunities in the region. The first is its people – we should not underestimate that. Watching the energy, enthusiasm and the passion for education that is there in many, many of those countries and the sense of wanting to engage with each other and learn from each other and of course where we have been incredibly lucky in this country, not least because we spend so little time learning other people’s languages, there is a realisation that English has become the [language of choice]. I have to say I said to the Japanese Ambassador that the one slight disappointment I had in going to Tokyo last year was that I thought it was going to be a sort of amazing culture shock. I’d watched the Lost in Translation film which is of course now 20 years old thinking that going to Tokyo would be a real culture shock but suddenly as a English speaker you realise that the predominance of the English language and with a World Cup [2002] having been hosted there and of course with the Olympics coming up it’s a lot easier to get around although I suspect going out of the major cities in Japan would be a major culture shock and I plan on any future visits to get out of the big cities but you do realise the benefit that we have with the English language now regarded as of critical importance for the young professionals across the globe.

Again, one of the other benefits I think of the Indo-Pacific region is the sense of elevation and I don’t just mean the obvious candidates again like Japan, China and [South] Korea. I see the [inaudible] we learn from other countries the tremendous passion as I say for innovation in all of its facets. From the UK’s perspective I think we have the strongest of the historical, cultural and commercial links with so many of the countries in that region so as we prepare to leave the EU, we are strengthening our existing relationships and reaching out to build new ones. We want, above all, these to be partnerships of equals that I think could help us confront some of the common challenges and maximize the shared opportunities that have been referred to by both the other speakers.

Timothy Stafford

Thank you very much. Well definitely a positive note to end the presentations and my thanks to the Minister, High Commissioner and the Ambassador. We do have time for some questions so perhaps we will take them in batches of three.

Question One

The three of you at the top table have more in common than sitting there. All of you (inaudible) have got semi-stable governments. Australia’s (inaudible) very thin, yours (Japan’s) is a minority government and (inaudible) what I haven’t heard from any of you is how you address the Trump pronouncements of ‘America First’. How does that affect you? And I want to say this to the chairman here, later tonight you have a vote on the question of university tuition fees that may be overturned by the minority partner with the coalition may side with the opposition and this is why I made the point about minority governance. As you’ve only got one seat in Australia to govern, you may not be here for much longer.

Question Two

How should we realistically deal with the DPRK (North Korea)? We are sitting under a portrait of Neville Chamberlain and I’m not suggesting appeasement but it seems to me quite clear that the dictatorship is not going to give up its nuclear ambitions easily and if you look at of what’s happened to dictators who have given up their weapons of mass destruction, look at Iraq and Libya, and they haven’t survived so I think the regime in North Korea sees their nuclear capabilities as a form of survival for them. So bearing that in mind and the thought that we do not want a massive war with mass casualties, is it not surely the most realistic policy, a policy of containment towards North Korea and an acceptance of their nuclear capability?

Question Three

You mentioned upon the Indo-Pacific region being a humanitarian triumph (inaudible) the respect of human rights. Is it right to assume that the rise of the threat that North Korea has, has overshadowed the human rights abuses in regards to the alleged ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and the way that the Indonesian government has been treating the suspects for drug offenses.

Timothy Stafford

Thank you very much. So we have ‘America First’, ‘North Korea’ and ‘human rights in the region’. (Alexander) would you like to answer first?

Response: Alexander Downer AC

Most if not all leaders talk about putting their country first, that’s just the rhetoric of elections and such as it is. Our basic view of America is not to judge American policy necessarily on the latest tweet or the latest speech as we don’t other countries. We judge them by what they do. A lot of people said that with the ascension of President Trump, the United States would become isolationist – that is clearly not true. They are not becoming isolationist and that would be a huge problem if the United States were to in the Indo-Pacific region. So our basic approach is to encourage the United States and work with the United States to remain fully engaged in the security architecture of the region. We would also have liked them to have remained fully engaged in the economic architecture of the region – it would have been in the United State’s interest as well as all of our interests if they had remained in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).

Do I think that’s a Trump issue? That’s an American issue because Hillary Clinton campaigned to leave the TPP and so did Donald Trump. One of them won and they left. So that another issue, the TPP. And whether our government has an overall majority or not, it’s lasted for a fair while with an overall majority of one and there’s no reason to believe that will change so it doesn’t mean that our political system is unstable. It means the government doesn’t have a big majority, it could lose votes in parliament (but) it also never has but we have a perfectly hung parliament in that the government has nothing like a majority in the senate (in the upper house) so we can’t get legislation through parliament at all unless we negotiate with minor parties (inaudible).

Just very quickly on the DPRK, well I think the proposition is as simple as this – it is intolerable, including for the United States, for a rogue regime like North Korea’s to have an intercontinental nuclear capability that can threaten the United States and other countries in the region, of course much more near-by Japan and South Korea. So the strategy at the moment is to say to the North Koreans ‘abandon this programme’. We or the Americans don’t rule out any options here and you never want to rule out options. If you start to rule out options then you will be played at a break by your adversary so the Americans leave the possibility of some kind of military intervention on the table so the North Koreans can only guess whether that will be used or whether it won’t and if it were to be used, how it would be used. The strategy is essentially to say to China, ‘you are propping up this regime – this regime can’t exist without your support so fix it’. We are not saying to change the regime, we are not saying the Korean peninsula should re-unify. We are saying you work (China) work out how to fix it and the Chinese need to understand the gravity of dealing with this issue. Now there have been a lot of resolutions passed through the Security Council, I’m sure there’ll be more… sanctions have been imposed and when sanctions are imposed they need to be [robust] and with all of that we hope that success will gradually be achieved.

One of the things China needs to reflect on is this – it’s easy to say a policy of containment but the only way you could militarily contain North Korea is with a buildup of military forces in the neighborhood; in particular missile defence forces. Already the Chinese are protesting vehemently to America installing these THAAD missile systems in South Korea, it’s been quite an issue between the Chinese and the South Koreans. Do they want more of these types of systems spread around the region? Do they want a buildup of United States’ naval presence near their own shores? Or do they want to fix this problem of North Korea themselves?

Finally, we certainly haven’t overlooked Myanmar. There’s a difference between what governments are doing and what the media are reporting. The media will just report a sexy story for this week and they lose interest very fast so Newsnight has been running stories on the Rohingya people a little bit but in a couple of weeks they will just lose interest. We don’t. We will be there talking to the Myanmar government trying to persuade norms of human rights to reestablish them in (inaudible) province. I think it will be important to do that with the Philippines as well. It is the Philippines where there have been these extrajudicial killings of drug traffickers and we of course do not want to see that sort of extrajudicial executions happening – in fact we are not in favour of capital punishment in any circumstances and above all extrajudicial activity. The region does have its problems.

Timmothy Stafford

Mr Ambassador if we could have your comments regarding ‘America First’ and ‘North Korea’ as I think they are the two biggest concerns for the region.

HE Koji Tsuruoka Response:

‘America First’, as my colleague Alexander said, to us, being in foreign service for more than 40 years is nothing new. I have dealt with the US for more than half of my career on many trade issues. Of course it has consistently been ‘America First’ but now it is pronounced and the difference is that it is (inaudible) the slogan that the US President proclaims and this is bothering if it has no regards to the global order which benefits the US and the rest of us. So if it is a zero sum, ‘America First’ and the world last, then I don’t think it works. As Alexander said this was a domestic campaign slogan which only resulted in their withdrawal from TPP. They are renegotiating NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), they are not withdrawing from the WTO, much less from UN – many of the things are just continuing to go on but the rhetoric of course continues to be there but the actual action that they took was withdrawal from TPP. Why? One reason of course – the new President will never continue what his predecessor did and again Trump is not the first one to reject what has been done by his predecessor. One more reason is because has not entered into force. It was subject to US approval that would put TPP in force and therefore his withdrawal was just stopping the process of having TPP enter into force. In other words, TPP benefit was yet to be given or achieved. So you could withdraw something that hasn’t yet happened and it was much easier for people who maybe do not appreciate the full value of having a workable trade agreement to say ‘I withdraw’ and no damage. If you withdraw, in the minds of the most reasonable people you need to have an alternative, ok? We have worked very hard to do this (so) if this is not functioning or this is something that I do not like then this is the other alternative. So the other alternative is very, very vague. Vis-à-vis Japan, we are told they want to do Japan/US trade FTA. Personally speaking, and this is not an official statement, I have always been in favour of Japan/US integrated economies. We could even have one single currency. Why don’t we have all the regulations adjusted? Why not? Because the 50 states of the United States will not be united to do that with Japan. In Japan, the population is 130 million, it is about half of that of the US and if we have an influence of the US legislation, it’s not acceptable. So they don’t do the cherry-picking of what’s favourable to them, but this cherry-picking (inaudible) an agreement. TPP was very difficult but we were successful in having at the end of the day, a compromise that allowed everybody to be onboard and if you leave it, it is very difficult to have another one going bilaterally, although you may be economically very strong. So that is not a solution or an alternative to the TPP, but as (inaudible) the White House, the team might not have fully realised that. But the most important point that they have not appreciated fully was the vacuum that they have unintentionally created by not having TPP entering into force. The 11 countries, of course we are now trying to have 11 countries enter TPP into force and of course as always Australia and Japan working very closely together to try to make it happen sooner than later – it depends on the other countries agreement so this is not something that I can assure you will happen anytime soon but this vacuum that has been created because of the lack of perspective for TPP coming into force is inviting China with presenting a proposal that is not going to be a very high standard, liberalized market-economy orientated system of trade. Of that, the Trump administration were not fully aware and this is a sad reality that I think we need to try to correct. Realistically speaking, since he has spoken so decisively on the TPP, I think it is an illusion to think that the great Alexander (Alexander Downer AC) will not try to convince Donald Trump to come back. So we have to look at realities and how we can do it and that is why we are trying to do the 11 first and at the same time we are negotiating with China on the (inaudible), the larger, multilateral forum where the US is not present to have that raised to a higher standard that will become a mechanism for a more prosperous framework in Asia-Pacific.

North Korea is very serious. It is a grave threat. It’s been a qualitative change in the nature of the threat that they pose not just to the region but globally and I don’t need to again emphasize how much of a threat this is. The question is how much do we do about it? There are all options on the table and this is what Donald Trump repeatedly made clear. This is very important, it has never been said in the past. On the contrary, we said we would help North Korea develop its energy resources by providing finances to North Korea’s nuclear development programme for the peaceful use of nuclear reactors. In the meantime the agreement was that they will abrogate and abolish all nuclear weapons programmes. Of course they just took their time to just develop it even further by receiving all the assistance and finances from Japan, US and South Korea and others. So we already had that experience that we need to take lessons from. We need to be extremely vigilant and we need to team up with countries that can make a difference and of course no question, this is China and that’s now what we are trying to do and China is not saying ‘no’ categorically. They have to admit that almost all trade is done through China. Anything North Korea uses to survive with the outside world, including hard currency, political credibility… stopping the UN from going further than what they can deal with depends on China working on their behalf. That means there is something that China should be able to do but would they do it voluntarily? Had they been able to do it voluntarily, they would have done it years ago. Fact is, they haven’t, and this is now the global issue and this is where the UK and the other permanent members come in. It is a UN global issue and we need to ask to the Chinese, let’s deal with this issue before it’s too late.

Mark Field MP

The reality is, in reference to the UK system, the election may have had an indeterminate result, but lest we forget we actually have 55 more seats than the Labour Party which historically is actually quite a big gap. I would have thought many people in this room would have been happy at the prospect of a hung parliament, I certainly am as it means far less legislation, fewer laws so let’s get on and do some governing for the next five years rather than having more stuff on the statute book that tends to be repealed in double-quick time having been drafted.

On North Korea, you have raised something that I actually mentioned in the 2003 debate on the Iraq war. One of the worries I had then was immediately after 9/11 when we talked about the war on terror, the fact that North Korea wasn’t included in (inaudible) very clear sign that having nuclear weapons will make you immune from attack and the reality of it as you rightly say, particularly in relation to Libya, is the message that dictators across the world will have in their mind very firmly for decades to come. So the moment in 2003 when Gaddafi handed over his weapons of mass destruction, he very much signed his death warrant. The truth of the matter is, I very much hope that we will work and continue to work through the United Nations in getting the sanctions into place. We’ve had two (2371 and 2375) Security Council resolutions in recent weeks and we do have to work together to get sanctions into place. I suppose the one thing I would say (inaudible) is that it is intolerable that North Korea get a nuclear weapon but until such point we have to tolerate it but there is only so much time before we have to do (inaudible). I hope it won’t come to that, not least because as Alexander rightly points out, there will then be a demand from South Korea and Japan because they will want nuclear weapons as well as they are peaceful, democratic societies and they don’t like [North Korea] being their neighbour. The truth about containment and deterrent theory is that 40 years ago, people said the same about China having a nuclear weapon and they were contained within the international community. I think one thing that you (question 2) alluded to, but didn’t quite say, one element of commentary on the entire thing of North Korean aspect, the one thing that Kim Jong-Un isn’t, is a lunatic. He is not a madman and actually he is a rational figure and much of what he has done has been very rational for the reason that you set out. The truth is he wants to come out of his father and grandfather’s shadow and say he is the guy that has delivered us to the top table as a nuclear nation. Repeatedly he, and of course his father before him, used the threat (inaudible) to get more aid through. He is a young man, he is in his early thirties. He wants the regime to survive for his lifetime and to do so, he does think that getting to the nuclear top table (inaudible). One thing that is already going on is a huge economic forum in North Korea. Behind the scenes there is a quite thriving economy which the authorities are turning a blind eye to and that I’m afraid is where its strategy lies. If it comes to containment then that’s what we will have to do. I sincerely hope we can (inaudible).

On the issue of Burma (Myanmar), we continue to call for the end of all violence. We have been taking a leading role in the immediate aftermath of the escalation on the 24th August when the Rohingya groups attacked security forces knowing that there was going to be a backlash but they did that nonetheless. We have been at the UN trying to get discussion in place. The one thing that I am struck by, I think one has to recognise the limitations placed on Aung San Suu Kyi room for maneuver and I think it would be a calamity if the small steps towards democracy, and one has to remember that this country has been under military rule since 1962, the small steps towards democracy were then undermined. This is what democracy, this is what diplomacy I’m afraid is all about. It is very easy to put out press releases in condemnatory tones. What we have to try to do I think is to advise all governments in the area to try to work to get a peaceful solution. I recognise the humanitarian issues and I had a half an hour conversation yesterday with my counterpart in Bangladesh in Dhakkar. The huge burden that is on the Bangladeshi government has actually been there for many, many years. The Royingya issue has not just emerged in the last couple of weeks as Alexander rightly points out the press may get its flavor of the month today and then the bandwagon will move on. It’s been a fundamental issue for minorities including Christian minorities in Burma going back to more or less the moment that Burma was formed at the end of the Indian empire in 1947. So we have to work to do as much as we can on the humanitarian side. The message that came through from my counterpart was that the numbers, and of course there have already been hundreds of thousands even before the recent incidents and recent atrocities, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya had already crossed that border. It is now assumed that roughly over 2 to 3 hundred thousand Rohingya (inaudible) are still in the (inaudible) territory in refugee camps. There’s a huge humanitarian issue that when again, when the trendy NGOs and the media attention has moved on that will be a major problem for Bangladesh and I think one of the issues with the huge bilateral, differing relationships or the single biggest relationship between the UK and Bangladesh, we will have to contribute a huge amount of money to ensure that the lives of these poor, poor people are made as good as possible. That takes a lot of diplomacy, a lot of working closely, perhaps in a rather unglamorous way behind the scenes, but I think that’s the way the Foreign Office better get involved in the short-term grandstand. It is a terrible issue that is going on but I think -specifically in relation to Burma, I would not want to see the first and early signs of democracy being snuffed out and I think it’s a big risk that it could happen.

Timothy Stafford

I would love to take another round of questions but I’m afraid time is against us now and our speakers do need to depart. I’d like to very much thank on behalf of the Henry Jackson Society you for chairing our debate and our heavy-weight diplomats for being here and we hope to have you back again at a future Henry Jackson Society event and thank you very much to all of you for coming. Thank you very much indeed.


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