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Webb Recommends State Department Strengthen Engagement in Asia

By US Senator Jim Webb  •  June 8, 2010

Calls for passage of US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, increased East Asia Bureau funding, immediate appointment of Special Envoy to Burma

Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, today sent the following letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton regarding his recent trip to Asia and his recommendations for strengthening U.S. policies in the region:

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3.    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874:

In May 2010, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell raised allegations that Burma has violated its commitment to UN Resolution 1874 regarding acceptance of shipments of military items from North Korea.  Although not explained in his statement, and not validated by subsequent information, news reports alleged that Burma received a shipment of arms from North Korea. This allegation, which from my understanding has yet to be publicly clarified and substantiated by the State Department, has frozen any prospect of further engagement with the Burmese government.

Prior to my recent Asia trip, I and my staff worked for weeks to seek public clarification of this allegation, but the State Department provided none.  At the time I left for my trip to Asia, no other countries had joined the United States in this allegation, although it had been discussed with several other countries.  The State Department still has not publicly clarified this matter.  My staff was told by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel that no other nation has joined the United States in publicly denouncing Burma on this matter.

As you know, only hours before I was scheduled to enter Burma, reports surfaced in the international media regarding new allegations that the military regime was cooperating with North Korea to develop a nuclear program.  These allegations were raised by the Democratic Voice of Burma, which is a U.S.-funded media organization.

As a consequence of these two allegations, I postponed my visit to Burma until such time as both of them can be examined objectively and factually.  I am now calling on you to do so, in a timely manner, so that our future relations with this country can proceed forward in a responsible way.

4.    Special Envoy to Burma:

You will recall that the 2008 Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act requires the President to appoint a Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.   Among other responsibilities, this position should “promote a comprehensive international effort, including multilateral sanctions, direct dialogue with the SPDC and democracy advocates, and support for nongovernmental organizations operating in Burma and neighboring countries, designed to restore civilian democratic rule to Burma and address the urgent humanitarian needs of the Burmese people.”  Since this act has been in effect, the position has not been filled.

I hope you will ask the President to appoint a Special Envoy to Burma without delay.  In that regard, I would like to strongly recommend Ambassador Eric John, who currently serves in Thailand, for this position.  Ambassador John has spent many years in East Asia, and has long experience in dealing with the North Korean regime on issues that might be similar to those we will be facing in Burma.

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This post is in: Press Release

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