A senior U.S. official for east Asia and Pacific says the United States wants to build a strong and enduring presence in the region.
Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told an audience in Washington Tuesday that the U.S. government will work with Asian countries to improve education, health, and the well being of their people.
He noted that southeast Asia has made significant progress in the past decade, and that the 10-nation ASEAN group has developed into a strong institution. He praised ASEAN's role in tackling arms proliferation, Burma's human rights record and regional maritime security.
Campbell said the United States has forged good relations with the new Philippine government and that it has made what he called "important progress" in strategic bilateral relations with Vietnam. However, he said Vietnam's domestic issues remain an obstacle to building closer ties. He did not elaborate, but in the past, U.S. officials have often criticized the communist authorities for harassing dissidents and religious figures.
Campbell said the United States wants a more "consequential" engagement with Thailand ahead of the country's important general elections, set for July 3. He also expressed hope that Thailand and Cambodia will keep peace on their shared border.
The U.S. official stressed that Washington is not in competition for regional dominance with China, but rather seeks its cooperation toward solving shared problems.
Campbell also said Washington is prepared for a dialogue with Burma's new government, providing it gets "appropriate" signs form Burma. But he said until the new Burmese government makes progress toward building a democratic society, the U.S. sanctions against Burma and a policy of pressure on its government will remain in place.
Campbell said, meanwhile, the United States is engaged in talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of ethnic and other groups in Burma.