THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
INTERVIEW OF SECRETARY OF STATE CHRISTOPHER ON "MEET THE PRESS"
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: They have a very good reputation in the United States, and I know that -- (inaudible.)
I talked with our allies, I talked with the Foreign Minister of Japan, Mr. Kono, this morning and I talked by telephoned to Foreign Minister Han of South Korea. This is a time to collect information and get the very best judgments we can.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We know relatively little about him, frankly. We've not had contact with him, and he's been largely out of the press and out of public appearances in recent years. There is some indication that he has been involved in the important decisions of the country. We think he may have been involved in a decision to start the talks in Geneva, as well as the North-South talks. But we'll have to be in a watchful, waiting situation with respect to him.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, there have been rumors to that effect, but I think that we ought to take a position here of waiting to see what judgment is made by the North Koreans as to their future leader, and then proceeding very cautiously to see if we can determine what there plans are for the future.
It will be very important, for example, whether they're prepared to continue the talks in Geneva. It will be significant whether they continue the North-South talks. The indications that I've had from Ambassador Gallucci in Geneva is that the first day of talks went reasonably well. The head of the North Korean delegation asked him on a personal basis to remain available to continue the talks. And I think that's the way we need to proceed during this period -- not overconfident, watchful, consulting with our allies.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, that will be part of the discussion -- and I don't want to try to foreshadow exactly how that discussion will go, but it's very important to us that they carry out their commitment to continue a freeze; that is, no reprocessing and no reloading of the nuclear reactor. And we want to find some way to determine what the history of that nuclear plant was.
I would not want to foreshadow the results and I'm not certain we will not have a surprisingly good result.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think you have to expect a good deal of posturing as they go into this kind of a negotiation, Tim. It's really too early to tell. We've had one day of negotiations, and I would not want to rule out various outcomes here. We're into those negotiations because we think they've got the promise of providing greater security for South Korea and, indeed, for the world as a whole.
There was a significant change in North Korean policy that brought us to the discussions in Geneva and brought them to agree to North-South talks. We hope those talks will continue under the new leadership of North Korea. But until that situation is clarified in North Korea, all we can do, as I say, be very vigilant, make sure that we're in a very strong military position and be open to continue the talks.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tim, as you know from prior experience with me, I simply do not talk about intelligence reports on television or in public. It's much too delicate to do that. I think Secretary Perry was stating the administration's position when he testified, or when he commented on your program, and I think that's where I want to leave it.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, on the latter point, Tim, we have inspectors on the scene. We have a commitment from the North Koreans as to how they will act during this period of time, and we have a way of verifying that. That's what is very important. I want to remind what our longer-term goals are here: a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula -- I think those goals are common to South Korea, to China and to Japan. We're working to achieve that end. We think these talks have the highest promise of achieving that end.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think the inspectors give us good reassurance of that. We have various other devises that can give us some backup assurance on that subject. And so we would not be going forward with the talks unless we had some confidence on that subject. But we'll be watching, watching very carefully.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I talked twice yesterday, Tim, with Secretary of Defense Perry. I certainly would not be talking about military deployments on this program or in public. But let me say I feel we are in a very prudent position there. Any other comments will have to come from the Department of Defense. But I feel that they are taking the right steps.
Of course, Secretary Perry, as he told me yesterday, has been consulting closely with General Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Luck who is in charge of our forces in South Korea. We're proceeding carefully, prudently, and with vigilance on this subject. And I think that's the best place for me to leave that answer.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, what I would say on that is we need to remember where the real problem is. The real problem is with the illegal government of Haiti and their repressive policies. We've seen an increase in the repression just over the last several weeks and months. Many people killed by the illegal regime; tremendous number of violent acts by that regime; rapes of wives of Aristide supporters. It's really a horrible situation.
Now, we need to remember that that is the problem we're dealing with. The Clinton administration is handling the migration problem in a humane way. It's a very inhumane administration and we're trying to respond in the most humane way that we know.
There are obviously some serious problems in the processing of the refugees. We're proceeding in a way to build a network of places so there will be safe havens for anyone in Haiti who fears that regime. We've stepped up the processing of people within Haiti who want to come to the United States. I think the administration has a humane, sound policy here which we're executing in an effective way.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'd say that's not true because we're proceeding with a sanctions program which has the aim of causing the removal or withdrawal of Francois, the head of the police, and Cedras, the head of the army, who are part of this illegal government. We are proceeding with a program relating to the refugees which provides a safe haven for those who want to leave. It provides an opportunity to be screened for possible coming to the United States within Haiti for those who have a fear of prosecution.
This is a coherent policy in which we're doing the best we can under circumstances of a very repressive regime which is illegally in power. And I want to emphasize that that kind of a regime within our own hemisphere, in our backyard, is a very destabilizing factor. We're finding as we consult with other countries in the region, in the Caribbean, that they are extremely concerned about this problem, and that's whey they're cooperating with us to try to seek safe havens.
There will be critics of a policy, of course. But I think our job here is to proceed steadily to try to get out the underlying problem which is the removal of that illegal regime and the restoration of democracy.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Invasion is one of the things on the table. The President has not ruled out any option, but the course we're following now is to press the leaders there to leave through the use of sanctions and through other mechanisms that we can find to be effective. But the President has deliberately not taken anything off the table.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Former Congressman Gray, who's the President's special representative and mine on this subject, is in regular contact with former President Aristide. It's part of our program to restore democracy and to return him to the office to which he was rightfully elected.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think I have to leave that to President Aristide. He has made some statements in the last few days that need to be compared with each other, but I think I'd leave that to him.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's a problem that we're dealing with on a regular basis. That can be part of the discussions in Geneva. And I'm not going to foreshadow what we will do, but we're very aware of that situation and we're aware of the time sequence that you mentioned.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes, I can think there'd be some pressure from sanctions without China, but I think the cooperation of China is very important. China has the same interests that we do here. And I certainly do not preclude the cooperation of China as long as we approach the matter carefully, sequentially, being careful to consult with them all along the way which we are certainly doing.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Let me say, those are all part of the negotiations that will go on in Geneva. But not to evade the question at all, we certainly offer them the prospect down the road of a more normal relationship with the United States. We want to get them back into the world community so that they are subject to some of the same norms, international norms that other countries are. The problem with that country has been isolation and conduct that really has been inconsistent with international norms.
In return for that we certainly will be willing to provide them various incentives. For example, one of the things they talked a great deal about is a lightwater reactor, the desirability of having a lightwater reactor to replace the more dangerous kind of reactor that they have there now. That's something that's certainly within contemplation.
As far as guarantees, there are various kinds of guarantees that can be contemplated. But the sine qua non of that, the starting place has to be an end to the nuclear program in a reliable and verifiable way.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: With respect to the payment for the lightwater reactor, I think that the main thing that the North Koreans want to have is assurance that they will receive one. There might be various countries that would participate in making that technology available to them. And with respect to particular pledges and negotiation, I'm just not going to get into what kind of pledges might be available or desirable. We have various pledges with respect to the use of nuclear weapons that have been made to countries for good and sufficient reason. So we have some precedents to work on, but I'm not going to try to foreshadow all the negotiating positions that Ambassador Gallucci might have in Geneva.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It is certainly our goal to have a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. That could come in bilateral negotiations or that could come more likely in the negotiation -- bilateral negotiation with the United States, that could come more likely in the summit meeting or the negotiations between North and South Korea. That certainly is our goal. At the present time, we want to make sure that we freeze the present program so that there is no way that they enhance their capability in this regard. But we'll be trying to achieve the goal that President Clinton mentioned on this program at an earlier time. That is our long-term goal.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't want to try to guess at that question. I think that that's a very hypothetical question and that the circumstances might be quite different if we came to the point of an invasion. And I really don't want to try to take national poll take on either the Congress or the national mood on that subject. I do think the people of the country understand the conduct of this illegal regime. I do think the people of the country recognize the importance of what the United States is doing to try to approach it on a humane basis. But we'll have to take things from there as this tragic situation unfolds.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, you know, no president and no secretary of state would be looking for an opportunity to commit American lives or to risk American lives. That's the furthest thing from our thought. If that time might come, I think the President is prepared to use force -- and I am, too -- if the circumstances justify it. But we're certainly not looking for an excuse to do it.
As far as a -- on a bipartisan commission, the President has his national security advisors, he has plenty of options before him. The President is devoting a great deal of time to this problem. I think this is a problem where the executive ought to reach its best recommendations. We'll consult with Congress, naturally, as we always do in this kind of a matter. But I don't see a useful role at the present time for a bipartisan commission.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's one reporter's opinion. It looks a lot different to me from being in the meeting with the President and the other leaders of the G-7 countries. I think he's highly respected, and the best proof of that is what he's been able to accomplish here.
It was President Clinton's leadership that caused the G-7 countries to commit to $4 billion for the Ukrainian economy, provide that they had introduced reforms and carried them out there. It was President Clinton's leadership that got a $300 million commitment from the international community to end the Chernobyl nuclear plants -- a very important step forward.
It was President Clinton's very distinctive leadership that caused the G-7 countries to agree to review all of the world's structural entities between now and the Halifax meeting, and to devote the Halifax meeting in considerable part to re-examination of the architecture of the world's international bodies. That's a major step forward.
So as I look at it from here, he's providing sound leadership on foreign policy issues. Just as I speak they'll be releasing a chairman's statement, which is basically the political communique here. And in point after point it's an endorsement of the United States' foreign policy, whether you're talking about Bosnia or Haiti or the many other areas where we have strong national interests, the G-7 countries have endorsed, basically, American foreign policy.
When you read the communique, you'll see that. If I could just go back to Haiti for a minute, Time -- and one of the advantages of your program is there is opportunity to go back sometimes -- we're working with the international community on the Haitian problem. You'll find when you look at that communique that there is a strong endorsement of the United States' position with respect to Haiti and the removal of the illegal regime.
So we're not only working with the countries in the Caribbean and Latin American, but with whole international community that sees what's happening in Haiti as a real outrage. So I would say the President Clinton's leadership has been strong and effective here at the G-7 summit and his summit colleagues will tell you the same thing.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, it's, no doubt, in part a communications problem. We need to let the people of the country know the effective things that we're doing in their interest on the big issues. we need to make it clear to them how important it is that the President has managed the Russian relationship in the way he has, that he has provided a renewal of NATO, that he has moved on the major issues such as nonproliferation and the global issues, effectively.
I think the perception, no doubt, is influenced somewhat by the problems that were left over and still are our problems, on our plate, we're responsible for them. But the problems of Haiti, the problems of Bosnia are very tough problems and we'll continue to work on them, hoping to find an early solution to it.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think the American people should be disappointed, as we are, but we ought to also move on and look at the many other countries in the region who have come forward to volunteer to take some of the Haitian refugees. You know, for a small country or a small island, being willing to take a thousand or two refugees as a safe haven is a very, very important -- it's a major step for them and we're working closely with a number of them to build a network.
So I look at the people who are supporting us in our Haitian policies, the G-7 countries, countries in the hemisphere like Argentina and Jamaica -- that's what ought to be regarded as important.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm working with the President on some very long-term problems; situations like the Middle East, where I've been personally involved in negotiations a good deal of the time. Problems such as restructuring the various world bodies for the twenty-first century. Those are not short-term problems that I continue to work -- I plan to continue to work on them.
I've been closely working with the President all during the course of this last week and I think that's the best indication of my relationship with him.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you very much.
Q Mr. Secretary, what's your latest information about the succession in North Korea? Is Jung going to succeed his father?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We don't have any reliable information on that. One thing we do know is that he's been named to head the funeral planning committee. But we're going to be watching that situation very carefully, because with a country of the history of North Korea and this sudden death of a leader, I think it's time for a real -- But it seems to be pointing in the direction, at the moment, of Kim Jung Il.
Q What's your understanding of his role in planning for the U.S. talks and for the North-South summit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Carol, we know very little about that, and he has not appeared in public for some time. Our information is that he has been involved in major decisions of the country. But nevertheless, his father clearly was a strong leader. We'll learn much more about that as things unfold over the next several weeks and months.
Q Does the United States have an interest in meeting with Jung, or whoever else is the successor?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes, one of the problems we've had in the past has been isolation. I think the first meeting between a successor and others might well be in the North-South talks in Korea because those have already been scheduled. But we would welcome the opportunity over time, and when they take the appropriate steps to get to know Kim Jung a little better. But there would have to be a sequential series of steps before we felt justified in having our President meet with him. I'd just say they'd have to give up their nuclear intentions. But over time, one of the things that we're holding out is the prospect of more normal relationship with the United States.
Q Mr. Secretary, the summit leaders are calling for a freeze, for North Korea to continue to live up to its commitment to a nuclear freeze -- freezing its program, and also explaining its past use. How likely is that now with North Korea in the midst of the succession?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It depends upon whether they have a continuity in their policies. We can't tell that at the present time, but our hope would be that they'll continue the meetings in Geneva after an appropriate gap, perhaps; and also they'll go forward with the North-South talks. Those talks are in our interest very strongly. We think that the North Koreans decided to go forward with their talks and felt it a governmental decision. And we think it's entirely possible, but we don't know whether it's probable or not.
Q Do you think that Kim Jung Il is in charge, or is he relying on a circle of advisors? What do you think the political structure is?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Quite frankly, we don't know what the structure is. We do know that he's been named to head the funeral planning committee, which, in that society, is an important role. But he has been a rather mysterious figure over the last several years. And I think we will see that evolve, for example, at the North-South talks, if he attends, obviously that will place him in a very strong position. If somebody else attends, that will be a signal, too, won't it?
Q And what would Korea have to do in order to get a meeting with Bo Cutter?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: What does North Korea have to do? Well, they have to participate in these talks in Geneva in a way that gives us confidence that they've joined the community of nations, that they justify having a normalized relationship with the United States.
I think we'll see a number of things unfold in this next period. But I do want to stress, Andrea, that this is a very important moment for the United States. We need to be vigilant; we need to watch the situation very carefully. We shouldn't take anything for granted because of the past history of the regime.
Q We have no intelligence. We have so little information. How can we watch it carefully?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, we have no intelligence. It's very hard to get intelligence on people who are totally out of public sight. I think either Kim Jung Il will continue to be out of sight, and that will send a signal itself; or he will be a much more visible figure and we'll know more about him.
Q So the President withdrew his Marketplace 2000 initiative because of the protest by the French. Is that a setback for our trade policy?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Not at all. I think what the President was able to achieve at the summit is a very strong endorsement of his overall policy. The summit communique endorses the idea of an early GATT ratification. It also looks forward to the President's idea that all the international structures should be examined between now and the Halifax meeting.
If you look at the political communique overall, you will see endorsement point after point of American foreign policy, and I think that's key in evaluating President Clinton's leadership.
Q But the French have a parliamentary system, and they're saying that they would have political trouble trying to get any new initiative on GATT through because there is no initiative. How does a parliamentary system, where it's all one government, basically, not have a political problem getting something passed?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Let me step back from that a little bit. As you know, the summit endorsed the GATT treaty and urged all the nations to go forward and ratify it. The French apparently, because of their unique set of problems -- that is, they have a President from one party and a Prime Minister from another party -- may have some internal problems that make ratification difficult. Now, that's a very unusual system there with a President who has foreign policy responsibility is of one party and the Prime Minister is from another party.
Q Was that the explanation they verbalized to you, sir?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, they simply told us they thought if we meant forward with analysis of the future trade restrictions, or restraints at the present time that might in some way complicate their confirmation process.
But I'm just giving it to you from my own speculation of what the situation with -- the divided territory of their government may have been a factor. They were the only one of the summit countries who were going to make us examine right now what the trade barriers are in the future. They felt they needed some more time. We want to see GATT ratified by all the nations and go into effect at the end of this year. Well, that turned out to be an appealing argument. I'm simply trying to offer a reason why France was singular among all the countries and unwilling to examine the trade restraints at the present time. Those trade restraints are important to remove as soon as we can.
Q Is the United States looking for an excuse to invade Haiti?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We certainly aren't looking for an excuse the invade Haiti. Neither the President, nor I has ever engage in that kind of effort. We will be prepared to use force if it's necessary to protect U.S. interests. But it's the furthest thing from our intention to --
Q Are we closer to doing it?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you.