Thailand, a key U.S. security partner in the region, also faces serious economic difficulties. The U.S. government continues to work with Thailand to ease the strain of the financial crisis. We are taking concrete steps to lessen the financial burden of military programs, including decreasing the scope of military contacts such as visits and exercises, and looking for ways to reduce the impact of the crisis on security assistance programs. The Royal Thai armed forces have earned high marks for their stabilizing influence.
Some have argued that democracy is unsuited for Asia or at least for some Asian nations—that human rights are relative and that Western support for international human rights standards simply mask a form of cultural imperialism. The democratic aspirations and achievements of the Asian peoples prove these arguments incorrect. We will continue to support those aspirations and to promote respect for human rights in all nations. Each nation must find its own form of democracy, and we respect the variety of democratic institutions that have emerged in Asia. But there is no cultural justification for tyranny, torture or denial of fundamental freedoms. Our strategy includes efforts to:
• pursue a constructive, goal-oriented approach to achieving progress on human rights and rule of law issues with China;
• foster a meaningful political dialogue between the ruling authorities in Burma and the democratic opposition;
• work with the new government of Indonesia to promote improved respect for human rights, strengthened democratic processes and an internationally acceptable political solution in East Timor;
• work with ASEAN to restore democracy to Cambodia and encourage greater respect for human rights; and
• achieve the fullest possible accounting of missing U.S. service members, promote greater respect for human rights in Vietnam, and press for full Vietnamese implementation of the Resettlement Opportunity for Vietnamese Returnees (ROVR) program.
The Western Hemisphere
Our hemisphere enters the twenty-first century with an unprecedented opportunity to secure a future of stability and prosperity—building on the fact that every nation in the hemisphere except Cuba is democratic and committed to free market economies. The end of armed conflict in Central America and other improvements in regional security have coincided with remarkable political and economic progress throughout the Americas. The people of the Americas are already taking advantage of the vast opportunities being created as emerging markets are connected through electronic commerce and as robust democracies allow individuals to more fully express their preferences. Sub-regional political, economic and security cooperation in North America, the Caribbean, Central America, the Andean region and the Southern Cone have contributed positively to peace and prosperity throughout the hemisphere. Equally important, the people of the Americas have reaffirmed their commitment to combat together the difficult new threats of narcotics and corruption. U.S. strategy is to secure the benefits of the new climate in the hemisphere while safeguarding the United States and our friends against these threats.
The 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami produced hemispheric agreement to negotiate the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and agreements on measures that included continued economic reform and enhanced cooperation on issues such as the environment, counternarcotics, money laundering and corruption. Celebrating the region’s embrace of democracy and free markets, that historic meeting committed the United States to a more cooperative relationship with the hemisphere. U.S. agencies have used the Miami Summit Action Plan to establish productive relationships and strengthen cooperation with their Latin American and Caribbean counterparts in a host of areas.
Our engagement with the hemisphere reached unprecedented levels in 1997 and 1998. In May 1997, President Clinton traveled to Mexico for a summit meeting with President Zedillo, then held summits with Central American leaders in Costa Rica and Caribbean leaders in Barbados, highlighting the importance of working with our neighbors to solve problems of great concern to Americans such as drugs, immigration and transnational crime. In October 1997, in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, the President underscored opportunities for cooperation with vibrant democracies and their fast growing markets.
This substantial engagement with the hemisphere at the beginning of the President’s second term continued at the Second Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile in April 1998. At the Summit, the leaders of the hemisphere focused on the areas needed to prepare our citizens for the 21st century: education, democracy, economic integration and poverty relief.
The principal security concerns in the hemisphere are transnational in nature, such as drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering, illegal immigration, and terrorism. In addition, our hemisphere is leading the way in recognizing the dangers to democracy produced by corruption and rule of law issues. These threats, especially narcotics, produce adverse social effects that undermine the sovereignty, democracy and national security of nations in the hemisphere.
We are striving to eliminate the scourge of drug trafficking in our hemisphere. At the Santiago Summit, the assembled leaders launched a Multilateral Counterdrug Alliance to better organize and coordinate efforts in the hemisphere to stem the production and distribution of drugs. The centerpiece of this alliance will be a mechanism to evaluate each member country’s progress in