EU-US Strategic Dialogue on East Asia

25 May 2005

The European Policy Centre, in collaboration with the United States Mission to the European Union, held a policy dialogue on the “EU-US Strategic Dialogue on East Asia.” The panel was composed of Christopher R. Hill, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Denis Wilder, the China Director of the National Security Council of the White House. John Palmer, Political Director of the European Policy Centre, chaired and participated in the dialogue. This is not an official record of the event and specific remarks are not necessarily attributable.


 US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Christopher R. Hill addressed the transatlantic Strategic Dialogue on East Asia as part of an EPC Dialogue. He outlined a number of key issues in the East Asian region affecting Europe and the US: North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, the rise of China, its relationship with Taiwan and the issue of governance in the region. A US-EU strategic dialogue on the region was “long overdue,” he said. Panellists agreed that it was in the interests of both the US and the EU to cooperate more intensely on development in the region.

 Event Report

 In his introductory remarks, Christopher R. Hill said that a strategic dialogue between the US and the EU on East Asia was long overdue. While the issue du jour was certainly the six-party talks with North Korea to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapon intentions, another dominating issue was the rise of China. China was the first ‘superpower’ to have arisen for some time and the US welcomed China’s development success. He underlined the US’ role as a Pacific power and while Europe could not play that same kind of role in the region it did have an important economic role to play, along with promoting universal values alongside the US. “We want to keep the dialogue going,” he said. He referred to Indonesia where governance had improved, as had capacity building. Indonesia was now the third largest democracy in the world. Mr. Hill hoped that this success story could be transferred to other parts of East Asia.

 As for the six-party talks, North Korea continued to boycott the negotiating process aimed at encouraging the country to do away with its WMD capabilities. North Korea should give up its weapons in return for ‘a ticket to join the international community,’ he said. North Korea was proudly producing plutonium and had the will to convert it into devices.

 Regarding cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan, the US wanted to solve this problem through dialogue. China must engage the government of Taiwan. He commented however, that the US would not support Taiwan independence. The United States policy was the one-China policy, but the Taiwan Relations Act had to accompany this policy.

 He concluded his remarks by saying that he would like to see more direct interest in East Asia from European counterparts.

 John Palmer, Political Director of the EPC, thanked the Assistant Secretary of State for his opening remarks and stressed the importance of European and Asian relations and mentioned how this relationship had primarily been defined by trade in the past. He said that East Asia was likely to become the epicentre of the world economy in 15-20 years time. The EU had belatedly started to focus on this region.

 Referencing transatlantic cooperation with respect to East Asia, he said “our common interests were more apparent that our common values.” Regarding US, EU and East Asian approaches, there appeared to be different degrees of emphasis placed on multilateralism, global governance and the rule of law. These varying approaches may complicate a coherent joint strategy towards Asia. He highlighted how there were also differing views regarding the arms embargo against China. It was questionable how interested the US would be in a bilateral relationship with North Korea. On regional integration, Mr. Palmer pointed to a new sense of emerging regional identity in South East and South Asia and to some extent between ASEAN and a wider East Asian region including China, Japan and South Korea.  Did the US view the developments with enthusiasm or reserve? On the economic and trade front, to what extent was there a danger of both the US and the EU falling into protectionist responses to China’s rapidly developing competitive challenge?

 Mr. Hill responded to Mr. Palmer’s comments, noting that the US was keen to support multilateral structures, but that such structures were not so numerous in East Asia. He cited the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) as an example of a multilateral round-table where countries could work together on issues such as security, etc. He affirmed that the US was trying to create a greater sense of community in East Asia. Some aspects of European institutional structures could serve as a model for Asian integration.

 The US was prepared to meet North Korea on a bilateral basis but noted that everyone – not merely the US - should be concerned about WMD proliferation. North Korea was intent on ‘weaponising plutonium’ and if it were to do so, this would cause a great change in the whole strategic equation in North East Asia. He affirmed that the US was committed to multilateral processes and a bilateral relationship with North Korea.

 Denis Wilder agreed with his fellow panellists that the US, Europe and East Asia had shared interests and values. He touched on the existing textile agreements with China, particularly a specific WTO accession provision China had signed up to, stipulating that if a surge in textile exports were to occur, the US and Europe could use safeguards to keep the markets balanced. On multilateralism, Mr. Wilder echoed Mr. Hill’s assessments, pointing out that this present discussion was an example of US enthusiasm for multilateral negotiations.

 Chairman John Palmer thanked the panellists for a very interesting discussion and noted that further work on EU-Asian relations would be carried out as part of the EPC’s EU-Asia Work Programme.