Secretary of State George P. Shultz departs today on a five-nation, 14-day Asian tour designed to reinforce relations with a number of key United States allies in the Pacific Basin region. State Department officials say the primary purpose of the visit is to attend a meeting in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, of foreign ministers from the six countries of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and their five ``dialogue partners,'' including the US, Japan, and Canada.
Secretary Shultz is expected to assure continued US support for an ASEAN-led effort to bring an end to the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea. Vietnam invaded Kampuchea in December 1978 and ousted the communist Khmer Rouge government headed by Pol Pot in January 1979.
In Kuala Lampur, the secretary is expected to reiterate continued US opposition to protectionist trade policies. ASEAN is currently the United States' 50th largest trading partner.
Secretary Shultz will also give assurances of firm US support when he meets with Thai officials in Bangkok on July 8. Currently, the US provides $102 million in military and economic assistance to Thailand to meet the threat posed by Vietnamese incursions along the Thai-Kampuchean border.
While in Thailand, Shultz will visit the border areas to assess the effects of US aid, to visit reprocessing camps for Kampuchean refugees who are bound for the US, and to meet with leaders of the noncommunist, Thai-based Cambodian resistance.
In meetings with two resistance leaders in Washington last spring, Reagan administration officials said they would not rule out future military aid to the resistance.
But Wednesday, a senior State Department official reiterated the US position that the countries in the region, led by ASEAN, should take the lead in providing support to the anti-Vietnamese forces. Two measures pending in Congress would provide up to $5 million in military aid to the resistance groups.
The other major stop on Shultz's itinerary will be Australia. The secretary's visit with Prime Minister Robert Hawke and other Australian officials will replace a meeting of foreign ministers of the ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-United States) alliance, which was originally scheduled for this time.
The meeting was canceled because of New Zealand's refusal last February to allow a US warship on ANZUS military exercises to dock at a New Zealand port. New Zealand has banned visits by nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships, reflecting the strong antinuclear preferences of New Zealand's year-old Labour Party government.
The senior State Department official says the meetings in Canberra are intended to reinforce US relations with Australia because, ``in a sense, it's just the two of us now.'' Australia regularly participates in joint military maneuvers with the US and provides joint US-Australian ``listening posts'' to help verify Soviet compliance with arms control agreements. The official describes New Zealand as a ``pretty weak leg'' in the three-nation alliance, saying ``there's no ally in the world that denies access to US ships.''
Other administration sources say the US is open to restoring good relations with New Zealand. But they warn it won't be possible so long as New Zealand pursues its antinuclear policy. In May, New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, who doubles as foreign minister, said he would not participate in the ASEAN meetings, since relations with the US were not susceptible to improvement.
After his trip to Australia, Shultz will travel to Fiji. He'll be the first US secretary of state to visit the island nation. Chart: Secretary Shultz's schedule Leaves Washington July 5 Hong Kong: July 6-8 Thailand: July 8-9 Malaysia: July 10-12 Australia: July 13-16 Fiji Islands: July 16 Honolulu: July 16-18 Returns to Washington July 18