Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) stressed the importance of making our allies in Asia know that the United States has not turned its back on them in the face of the Chinese in a foreign policy speech in South Korea on Friday.
Rubio’s speech at the Asan Institute comes after a week of travel throughout the region.
Rubio said that China’s failure to move toward democratic reform has been a disappointment in the region.
"Many believed that, over time, the Chinese government would realize that the true path to prosperity, including real opportunity for its citizens, would occur only in tandem with meaningful democratic reforms," said Rubio. "Now, decades later, we are still waiting for liberty in both China and its ally, North Korea, even as those two countries have taken different paths economically."
Rubio argued that the United States has a stake in ensuring that China reverses its course.
"We need China to become a responsible stakeholder in the international system," said Rubio. "We therefore do not seek to ‘contain’ China, but rather to ensure that as it gains in military and economic power, its rise will be peaceful."
"Some ask why it matters how China develops or how it treats its people or neighbors, as long as our trade and our commerce isn’t impacted. … When liberty is denied and economic desperation take root, it ultimately affects us at home as well. It causes instability, which leads to economic threats, human rights abuses, and security concerns that directly concern the interests of the American people."
Rubio used Taiwan as an example that traditional Chinese culture and democracy can thrive together.
"In sharp contrast to China’s system is Taiwan, which continues to show that traditional Chinese culture and democracy are not incompatible and can in fact thrive together," said Rubio.
Rubio also said that the United States will not shy away from supporting Taiwan on account of the Chinese.
"We will not abandon our allies, including Taiwan, in order to improve or preserve our relationship with China," said Rubio. "And we will not stand by quietly as the Chinese government seeks to exacerbate and exploit differences and disagreements between our partners in the region."
An unacceptable example cited by Rubio was the Chinese implementation of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over disputed international territory without consulting the United States.
"China’s recent unilateral announcement of an air defense identification zone over disputed territory, with no international consultation or prior notification, is emblematic of the concerns the United States and many in the region have about China’s future trajectory," said Rubio.
Rubio contrasted this with the way South Korea consulted its allies and followed internationally recognized procedures when it recently declared an ADIZ weeks after the Chinese incident.
"Your example in this region leaves me convinced that we as democratic allies need to stand together to advance our interests and expand our network of likeminded democracies."