Secretary Clinton Acknowledges that China Questions US Motives in the Pacific

VIDEO: Jake Tapper asks the secretary of state about a surprise moment at a photo-op.

Kevin LamarqueAFP/Getty Images

President Obama’s Pacific swing has been dedicated towards ramping up the US presence in the Pacific Ocean, at least partly to contain China. Through a trade deal that excludes China, a new permanent US military presence in Australia, and other diplomatic efforts, the Obama administration is pushing to assert itself in the region.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday told ABC News that the moves are “not about countering anybody else’s power, it’s about asserting our own position as a Pacific power.” But when Chinese reservations to some of the moves were pointed out, Clinton acknowledged that the two superpowers have differences.

“We’re not going to agree on everything,” she said. “We have disagreements about their political system. They have questions about our motives.”

TAPPER: So much of this trip is about China and making sure the U.S. is asserting itself in the Pacific. Is it too late for us to counter the power that China has already asserted in this region?

CLINTON: Jake, it’s not about countering anybody else’s power, it’s about asserting our own position as a Pacific power. We always have been, we were dominate for many years, but I think it is fair to say that over the last, you know, 8 or 10 years our attention was elsewhere. Now that we are winding down the war in Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan, we have the chance to turn back and look at the opportunities that the Asia Pacific offers us economically, in terms of our security and strategic interests to promote democracy, human rights, freedom, things that we stand for. So I think it’s, uh, I think it’s just time. And I felt that from the very beginning of my tenure as Secretary of State that there was a sense in the Asia Pacific that the United States was absent, understandably, maybe. But I just thought we needed to reverse that.

TAPPER: China feels a little bit put on the defensive, obviously, from remarks they’ve made about wanting to join this trade treaty. About the fact that the U.S. is putting Marines in Australia, even if it’s not meant as a counter, they seem to be taking it that way.

CLINTON: Well we’ve worked very hard to have a positive, cooperative relationship with China. And I think we have been successful. I think the president’s visit last January, President Hu coming to Washington was a really good signal that the United States and China are working hard to make sure where we can cooperate, we will.

But as between any two nations, of whatever size, we’re not going to agree on everything. We have disagreements about their political system. They have questions about our motives. We understand that’s all part of the give and take. But for us, what’s most important is that we act in a way that promotes our interests and our values.

So take the Marines in Australia. We’ve had Marines and other military forces in and out of Australia for many, many decades. We have some very particular needs. At the top of the list is rapid response to disasters. You know, the United States is a generous nation. We have treaty alliances with countries like Australia, Japan, Thailand – they’ve had some terrible natural disasters – we want to be in a position to respond. To train with them. If we’re not there it takes a lot longer and costs a lot more. So there’s a lot of reasons why we are making it clear that we’re back and we’re back to stay.

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