I was invited by the Department of State to speak to a variety of audiences in Malaysia in early June (and Brunei next week) about nuclear weapons issues.
It was an opportunity to speak favorably about the new United States nuclear weapons policies as well as to engage in some travel to far off places.
The primary purpose was to speak at a conference on The United States and the New Asia: Towards Partnership and Multilateral Engagement in the 21st Century. The conference was hosted by the Center for American Studies in Kuala Lumpur and the Malaysian Association for American Studies.
While I focused on nuclear weapons issues, others at the conference spoke on emerging multilateralism in Asia, ASEAN’s (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) role in Asia, the North Korean nuclear crisis, the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis on American power and influence in Asia, rising China and India, cultural relationships between the US and Asia and non-traditional security issues.
While I was there, the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur set up a briefing for journalists, an Al Jazeera interview on Burma’s nuclear intentions, and talks at the International Studies Center, the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations and the National Defense University…
My pitch in short:
=65 years after the dawn of the atomic age, the nuclear threat remains to the planet thanks to 23,000 nuclear weapons, most larger than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945;
=Terrorists around the globe — including places like Mumbai and Bali in Asia — have inflicted thousands of casualties with conventional explosives, aircraft, and guns, but could kill the tens or hundreds of thousands if could explode a nuclear weapon in a city;
=the new Obama Administration recognizes the threat and has taken a series of steps, particularly in the last two busy and exciting months with the New START Treaty, the Nuclear Posture Review, the Nuclear Security Summit and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference;
=the solution to the worldwide threat is not in the hands of the U.S. and Russia alone but requires worldwide cooperation including that of Malaysia a theme I repeated many times.
The full text of my remarks can be found here.
During my week in Kuala Lumpur, there was news about Burma’s aspirations to build nuclear weapons, a subject about which I became an instant expert. I was also asked, out of my normal purview, about Malaysia’s intention to build a nuclear power plant by around 2021.
There seemed to be a good reception to my talk, although a few wondered why Malaysia should care about the issue that seems far distant. Another hot topic was Israel’s killing of nine civilians trying to break the blockade of Gaza. I met a lot of interesting people and had a great variety of food. I only wish I had more time to explore Kuala Lumpur but my wife Amy joined me for the trip and did the touristing that I could not. The city is utterly modern with many skyscrapers and horrendous traffic to match. And there were a few tropical downpours to remind us where we were.
On to Brunei this week.
Best article from the trip thus far: Blast from the future