Senator Webb's Background and Position on Burma and Diplomatic Approach in Region
On Sunday, August 9, Senator Jim Webb will travel to Asia where he will visit five countries, includingThailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Webb serves as chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The following briefing provides additional information about the Senator’s experience in the region, past statements on Burma and his thoughts on the United States’ approach in the region.
Senator Webb’s long experience in the region
Senator Webb has enjoyed a continuous personal involvement in East Asian affairs that long predates his time in the Senate. In addition to his more recent visits as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Webb has worked and traveled throughout the vast region, from Micronesia to Burma, for nearly four decades, as a Marine Corps officer, a defense planner, a journalist, a novelist, a department of defense executive, and as a business consultant.
In the summer of 2001, Webb visited Burma to meet with business leaders, workers and leaders of the military junta, discussing his desire to bring Burma more productively into the world community.
[To read more in his recent book, visit: http://books.google.com/books?id=eMilIOyn71sC&pg=PA142&lpg=PA142&dq=webb+burma+2001&source=bl&ots=BBogv0E2Zc&sig=RS-Mkl9gNj52nYM9x5tQspRujZU&hl=en&ei=MD57SsH8BcWwtgfw--XyAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#v=onepage&q=&f=false]
Senator Webb as Chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of SFRC
As chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, Webb oversees U.S. relations with countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Oceana. The subcommittee also oversees regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
Webb chaired a subcommittee hearing on July 15 to examine China’s role in maritime territorial disputes in Asia and the degree to which sovereignty issues are impacting the region and U.S. interests. He has also chaired two full Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings to consider nominees for Ambassadorships to Asia and thePacific Islands.
February 2009, upon being selected as Chairman:
“I am looking forward to doing all that I can to strengthen the relations between our country and the peoples of East and Southeast Asia, and to encourage Americans to more fully appreciate our connection to this vital part of the world.”
Senator Webb on U.S. support of Democratic elections in Burma and a more inclusive diplomatic approach in the region
The following are Senator Webb’s remarks from Ambassador (to China) John Huntsman’s confirmation hearing on July 23, 2009:
“This hearing also demonstrates the geographical reach of U.S.Japan and China, east to the Marshall Islands, west to Tajikistan, and south to Papua New Guinea. With the numerous cultures and languages in this region, it is important for the United States to demonstrate consistency in its policy. I have argued that from Burma toMongolia the United States should support free and fair elections and democratization. It is in our interest to do so, just as it is in the interest of those countries seeking meaningful reforms.” diplomacy in broader Asia—north to
Senator Webb on sanctions in Burma
“I spent some time in Burma in ‘01 where it seemed clear that the sanctions that the U.S. was invoking were counter-productive in terms of our ability to affect the difficulties faced by the Burmese people. The sanctions policy against Burma will never be effective as long as a major power on its border (China) declines to participate and in fact take advantage of those sanctions in order to entrench its positions in that same country.
“I have said for several years that it is to the benefit of all involved that we speak directly with Burma’s leadership and work toward resolving our differences.”
Senator Webb on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi
“As long as Burmese authorities continue the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi it will be very difficult to pursue a meaningful change in relations with Burma. Once that matter is fairly resolved, there are numerous confidence-building measures that could be pursued between our two countries in a way that is beneficial to both.”
The following are Senator Webb’s remarks from Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s confirmation hearing on June 10, 2009:
“Aung San Suu Kyi’s ongoing trial is the latest incident in a cycle that’s been virtually unchanged for 60 years, and in that time, particularly over the past 10 years, the United States’ ability to influence events in Burma has steadily waned. Businesses, NGOs, government groups have been ousted. Meanwhile, other countries, not onlyChina but most notably China, are more engaged than ever with infrastructure projects, mineral resources. Chinajust signed a large oil deal.
“And on the one hand, and I’d like to say very clearly as someone who has advocated a different approach, the situation presently with Aung San Suu Kyi is unacceptable to any of us who have advocated varying approaches with respect to Burma. But on the other, we need to look at a different way of doing things.”