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Message-ID: <199801140906.EAA04631@access5.digex.net>
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 04:06:54 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
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From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: US calls for unrestricted presence (StraitsTimes)
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>

X-URL: http://straitstimes.asia1.com/pages/stmal1.html

US calls for unrestricted presence

By Brendan Pereira in Kuala Lumpur, in Staits Times,
13 January 1998

US DEFENCE Secretary William Cohen yesterday called for a flexible and unrestricted American military presence in the region.

He also said that the superpower needed access to ports, logistical support and training facilities here.

Speaking at the Fourth Pacific Dialogue, he said: "We look to our friends to contribute to regional security by helping to further solidify our presence by keeping us anchored in the region."

In his speech, which touched on security arrangements, he rejected a proposal floated by certain Asean countries that there be advance notice of US troop movements.

He said that would put an operational constraint on the 100,000-strong US member force in the region. What was important was to put in place a policy which was flexible and unrestricted.

Mr Cohen told participants that the US was looking at revitalising its military ties with Australia and stepping up military contacts with China.

"As China's influence grows, the US objective is not to deny China's rightful place as an Asian power," he said.

Later, at a joint press conference with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, he re-asserted the US commitment to the region.

On his part, the DPM said that there was a consensus that the presence of the superpower in the region was good.

The Secretary of Defence also commented on concerns that IMF austerity programmes imposed on several countries in the region in the wake of the currency crisis would create an anti-US sentiment here.

Noting that while a backlash was always possible, he said he did not foresee it happening. Discussions with people in the region showed that there was still strong support for maintaining a relationship with the US.

Mr Cohen said that he was aware that some concern had been raised over whether stiff conditions imposed on countries which sought help from the IMF would result in anti-US feelings.

What was clear was that these countries had to "repair their systems". The IMF programmes had the ability of stabilising the situation in the region, he noted.

He also made it clear that US assistance to countries here will come under the IMF umbrella.

"I don't anticipate the US doing direct funding," he added.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a growing chorus of academia and politicians questioning the effectiveness of IMF recovery programmes.

A few, such as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, have warned that an anti-American backlash could sweep Asia because of tough measures imposed by the IMF.

At the press conference, Datuk Seri Anwar said that cost-cutting measures and the deferment of major projects announced on Dec 5 were made after talks with the monetary body.

And these consultations would continue, he said. But Malaysia still had no intention of seeking financial assistance from the IMF.

The DPM was at pains to express his gratitude to the US over its show of support for the Pacific Dialogue, an annual meeting of politicians, academia and businessmen from Asia and the US.

He said that the presence of a 28-strong delegation was very reassuring and was a clear signal that friendship counted.

Mr Cohen and Datuk Seri Anwar were among the prime movers behind the birth of the dialogue, now into its fourth year.

The two-day meeting ends today.

Copyright 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

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