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Asian Policy

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, this past weekend President Obama met with President Xi of China in California for a summit meeting between the two leaders. It was an opportunity for a personal relationship between the leader of China and the leader of the United States in order to improve the trust between the two countries.

China is important to the United States. China, as we know, is a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations--a key player in developing international policies that are important to the United States and global security. China is very influential in the policies concerning North Korea and Iran. China is a key trading partner of the United States. We know the amount of products that go back and forth between China and the United States.

President Obama has correctly identified Asia as a region of particular interest. He has rebalanced Asian policy because of the importance of Asia to the United States. We are a Pacific power, and Asia is critically important for regional security as well as for global security.

I have the opportunity of chairing the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In that capacity, 2 weeks ago I visited China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan.

In China, I was able to observe firsthand the progress that is being made in that country and to meet with key leaders of the Chinese Government. I did see much progress. I saw economic change in China as to how they are becoming a more open society from the point of view of entrepreneurship. I saw rights that have been advanced. People do have more freedom than they had several decades ago.

I saw an opportunity where the United States and China could build a stronger relationship between our two countries. It starts with building trust. There is a lot of mistrust out there. That is why I was particularly pleased about the summit meeting this past weekend. We have common interests. China is critically important to the United States on making sure the Korean Peninsula remains a nonnuclear peninsula. China has tremendous impact over North Korea and does not want to see North Korea continue its ambition to become a nuclear weapon power. They can help us in resolving that issue, hopefully in a way that will help us in a peaceful manner.

I could not help but observe when I was in Beijing that China has a huge environmental challenge. The entire time I was there, I never saw the Sun, and that was not because of clouds, it was because of pollution, which is common in Beijing. It is not only a problem that China needs to deal with, it is a political necessity. The people of China know that their air is dirty. Here is an opportunity for the United States, working with China--the two large emitters of greenhouse gases--for them to come together and show international leadership by what we can do in our own countries to encourage progress but also international progress on this issue.

While I was in China, I had a chance to advance areas of concern. I want to talk about that. Our security interests with China go toward their military, yes, but also go toward their economic conditions and their respect for human rights. I raised throughout my visit to China my concern, and I think America's concern--the international concern--about China recognizing universally accepted human rights. The right to dissent is not there in China.

On June 4 we celebrated another anniversary of Tiananmen Square, where the student protest turned very deadly. It is still dangerous to dissent in China. Civil rights lawyers can lose their right to practice law and can be physically intimidated if they are too aggressive in representing those who disagree with government policies.

China has a policy to this day of detaining people, putting them in prison for their ``reeducation.'' That could be for up to 4 years without trial and without being questioned as to why they are being detained, solely because
they disagree with the government's policy.

If you are born in a community, you are registered in that community. There may not be economic opportunity there for you. You might want to move to a big city in order to explore additional economic opportunities for yourself and your family. In China that is not possible for the great majority of the people. They are registered in their community, they are expected to live in their community, and they are expected to work in that community. So you have the haves and the have nots. There are many people in China who are doing very well. The vast majority are not.

Then there is the issue of religious freedom. I think we all know about Tibet and the Buddhists in Tibet and how they have been harassed. We know about the Uighers and the Muslim community. What really shocked me was talking to the Protestants who have their house churches. They explained to me that if their churches get too big--maybe over 25 or 30 members--they lose their right to meet. The government is worried about too many people getting together to celebrate their religion. Well, that certainly is unacceptable. It violates internationally recognized human rights standards.

And then they block access, full access, to the Internet. Sites such as the New York Times or Bloomberg are considered to be too difficult for the Chinese people to accept, and the government blocks those sources.

Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges China has today is that it does not trust its own people to innovate and create. Instead, they use cyber to try to steal our rights, our innovation, not just in America but throughout the world. We are very concerned about the proper use of protecting intellectual property, and I raised that during my visit to China.

We are also concerned about the cyber security issues, and I know that was on the agenda of President Obama and President Xi. We would urge progress to be made on acceptable standards on the use of cyber.

Then there is the issue of corruption. Because so much is determined by where you live and your local government, corruption is widespread. That needs to be changed.

So these are important subjects that we raised in a country that is critically important to the United States, but these issues must be debated.

When President Park was here, the President of the Republic of Korea, she mentioned on the House floor to a joint session of Congress that she wants a security dialog in Northeast Asia. When I met with her when I was in Seoul, we had a chance to talk more about it. The more she talked about the security dialog, the more it reminded me of the Helsinki Commission, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was established in 1975 as a security dialog between all the counties of Europe, now Central Asia, the United States, and Canada.

That security dialog deals with all three baskets of concern. Yes, we are concerned about military actions. We have serious military issues that we need to take up in the northeast. Maritime security issues are very much of concern to all the countries of Northeast Asia. But we also need to deal with economic freedom and opportunity, and we need to deal with human rights.

This type of a dialog would allow us in the north to participate with the major countries in Northeast Asia to work out and know the concerns of each of the countries. It would include not just China and the Republic of Korea but Japan, North Korea, the United States, and Russia.

I would urge the region to either adopt a security dialog similar to the Helsinki process or look at becoming a part of the Helsinki process. We do have regional forums. There is a regional forum for Asia. So it is a possibility that they could actually work under the Helsinki framework.

In my visits to Japan and the Republic of Korea, I know we have two close allies. Japan, of course, is a treaty ally. We have U.S. troops both in Korea and Japan. We are working out ways to make our troop presence more effective, consistent with the political realities of both of those countries.

Both Japan and the Republic of Korea strongly support our policies in Iran and Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula. The relationship between these two countries must improve. There are serious issues. Of course the comfort woman issue during World War II is a matter of major concern to the Korean population. I certainly support and understand that. But it is important for those two allies of the United States to become closer allies and to move forward in areas of mutual interest. I urge them to do that.

In Japan, I had meetings on the economic issues, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, which clearly are areas where we can make advancements. I saw an opportunity to advance U.S. interests in the rebalance to Asia. It is not a pivot to Asia. We used that term originally. It is not. We have been active in Asia for centuries. It is a rebalance because we recognize the importance of Asia. I think we can do that by enhancing our relationship with all the countries in Asia. It is an opportunity to advance U.S. security interests through military cooperation.

I did talk about the military in China. I also talked, particularly in Japan, about more of their students coming here to the United States to advance good governance and economic relationships, and to have a responsible environmental program.

The subcommittee I chair has already held two hearings on the rebalance to Asia, including good governance and military issues. We are going to hold future hearings dealing with the environmental issues and economic issues.

Clearly, working with the President, I see a major opportunity to advance U.S. interests through our rebalance to Asia policies.

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