THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT BIPARTISAN LEADERSHIP MEETING The Cabinet Room
10:22 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say I'm very pleased to have this opportunity for another meeting with the bipartisan leadership. We will be discussing a number of issues today, but let me mention one in particular -- North Korea.
Ambassador Albright will be beginning her discussions today at the United Nations about a sanctions resolution which we proposed which would include phased sanctions designed to deal not only with the actions of the North Koreans to date, but as a deterrent to future destructive conduct with regard to the IAEA and the NPT. So we're going to be very deliberate, very firm. I feel that we are pursuing the proper course at this time.
In addition to that, of course, we'll be discussing health care, the crime bill, welfare reform, campaign financing, a number of other issues. But I did want to make that statement about Korea.
Q Mr. President, what do you hope former President Carter tells the North Koreans in these meetings there?
THE PRESIDENT: I think he will reaffirm our position. What I'm more hopeful of is that he will get a better sense from them about where they are, and they will understand that we are very firm in our position, but that there is an alternative path, and a very good one for North Korea to take -- that they don't have to become more isolated, they could become more engaged in the world in ways that would be much better for their own people.
Q Do you think they're misreading your resolve in this case?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that. I think that apparently they're pursuing a course of their own interests, which at least to the rest of us seems self-defeating. I believe that if you look at what -- if you imagine where the people of North Korea might be 10 or 20 years from now, they would be far better off and more prosperous, engaged in the world, rather than isolated from it, being rewarded for their work rather than for some --
Q But you've softened your stand, haven't you, on sanctions? I mean, you're going much easier.
THE PRESIDENT: No. We're proceeding ahead. We're consulting with our allies, we're working with -- we think that we're doing the right thing.
Q Are the Chinese on board?
Q Are you willing to accept some kind of a trigger or fast track mechanism to impose universal coverage down the road on health care?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not convinced it would achieve universal coverage, but let me say that when I put my ideas out, I made clear that I was very flexible on how to get there, how to solve this problem, which is a system that costs too much and does too little, and that we ought to find a way to cover the American people just the way every other advanced country has covered all their people. We're the only ones who can't figure out how to do it. Everybody else has already done it, and for a lot less money. And -- but that I've been very open on how to do it, and very open to anybody else's ideas. I just thought that the rest of the American people ought to be taken care of, just the way the President is, the way that members of Congress are, the way we all are. And that's still where I am, and I still think that's what we ought to be shooting for. And when I mentioned it in my speech on health care, members of both parties stood up and applauded it and said they were for covering all Americans.
So I think that we will proceed in good faith on that, we'll get that done.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:27 A.M. EDT