THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Jakarta, Indonesia) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 17, 1994
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT OF INDONESIA
November 16, 1994
Hilton Hotel Jakarta, Indonesia
12:40 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just first of all give you a readout on the bilateral meeting this morning between the two Presidents, and then just a few words on all of the -- well, the whole trip so far together and what has struck me. And then we can do a few questions, until they get tough, and then I'll move on and get some lunch.
The two Presidents met this morning, I would guess, for something over an hour in the smaller meeting. President Clinton was accompanied by Secretary Christopher and Stanley Roth of the NSC staff and myself -- a senior administration official. They, as I said, met for, I'd say, something over an hour and then met in the expanded bilateral meeting.
The meeting covered essentially five issues. The first was a discussion of the partnership -- growing partnership -- between the United States and Indonesia on international issues. The President spoke at some length about how struck he was by the leadership role that President Soeharto played in putting together the APEC meeting and bringing it to a successful conclusion.
Indonesia is the fourth largest nation in the world, the largest Muslim nation, the leader of the nonaligned movement; and the President emphasized how the United States and Indonesia working together can make a very powerful difference on various international issues, as has been seen in the last couple of days.
In that context, then, there was a discussion of North Korea. President Soeharto was very supportive of the agreement negotiated in Geneva. They discussed the importance both of implementation of that agreement and the importance of getting the North-South dialogue reestablished between the two Koreas.
There was then a rather lengthy discussion of human rights and the situation in East Timor. The President spoke of the issue both in its own terms and its importance to Indonesia's international leadership position. There was a brief discussion of the Nonproliferation Treaty and the review conference next year, and the two were in agreement on the importance of an indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty. And then there was also a discussion of Third World debt and the importance of addressing that issue both in individual debts held by individual governments and also with regard to the international financial institutions.
If I could just say a word about the whole trip -- obviously, as you have seen from our expressions, we -- the President and the rest of us -- are very, very happy with the way it has gone -- most importantly, of course, in the achievement of the date certain for free and open trade in the APEC region, but also through the bilaterals.
There were a number of other issues that we found very encouraging. First of all was the universal support for the North Korean nuclear agreement, and again, the importance of getting the North-South dialogue going as well as proceeding with implementation of it. Secondly, in a number of the conversations, but not in all of them, the foreign leaders welcomed continuity in American foreign policy in the wake of our elections.
Third -- and this is especially important in the meeting with Korea -- this was an opportunity to reaffirm the American security commitments in the region. It struck me that this is something that we don't think -- that it almost does not need repeating because it is so obvious to us that our commitments in the area, and especially to the security of South Korea are absolutely unshakable. But it is important constantly to reaffirm it, and the President did so in vigorous terms, especially, as I said, in his meeting with President Kim of the Republic of Korea.
And, perhaps most important, just about every leader, if not every leader the President met with emphasized the importance of GATT and its approval. And a number of them said that their ability to get the GATT agreement through their own legislatures would be influenced strongly by what happens in the vote in our Congress.
Q What was President Soeharto's response on the subject of East Timor?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question was what was President Soeharto's response on East Timor.
He stated that he believes that the Indonesian government is dealing with the issue fairly. The President welcomed the facts that the Indonesian government has entered in in recent weeks, has entered into a stronger dialogue with the leaders in East Timor about their being given more influence over their own local affairs, which is, of course, the American position of some longstanding, and also, that there has been a drawdown in Indonesian troops in East Timor.
They had discussed for a few minutes, I guess, the situation at the embassy. And the President said to President Soeharto, as he said publicly, that we welcomed the assurances of the Indonesian government that there would be no recriminations against the people from East Timor at the embassy if they leave peacefully. And I understand the talks are still going on between our embassy and those people.
Q On the demonstrators at the embassy, are there any developments in the efforts to get them to leave peacefully? And what would be -- how important would you view it if Indonesia did not keep its commitment that there would be no recrimations? Is this something that could threaten our relationship with Indonesia if they were subject to arrest or other steps?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not aware as of an hour or two ago of any new developments, but the last I heard was an hour or two ago. And, as I said, the President reiterated to President Soeharto that we did welcome their assurances that there would not be such recriminations. So he has stated that now both publicly and privately.
Q Is it our assumption that as soon as we leave, they're going to leave? As soon as we leave the country, they're going to leave the embassy?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We just don't know, and I can't speak for them.
Q On labor rights, did Soeharto bring up the American review under GSP and ask when it's going to be finished --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, he did not.
Q Did the President or anybody bring up the suppression of publications in Indonesia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, the President did refer to, in his discussion of human rights, the question of the magazines as one of the issues that he raised.
Q What was Soeharto's response?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think he addressed that issues specifically in his general remarks on human rights, which were along the lines that have been previously expressed by the Indonesian government.
Q Did the President ask Soeharto to speed up the withdrawal of military troops from East Timor, and to move more swiftly in a more determinate fashion toward autonomy?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think in welcoming the actions they have taken so far, the President was implicitly encouraging that process to continue as rapidly as possible.
Q He didn't ask specifically, the way Evans did the other night?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it was implicit rather than explicit.
Q Secretary Christopher has said that the relationship between the United States and Indonesia could not reach -- what leverage do we have over Indonesia to raise human rights offenses?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Did you hear the question? Secretary Christopher, you said, said -- when was this? This morning -- that our relationship could only -- what was the word?
Q Could not reach its full potential --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Could not reach its full potential without continued progress on human rights. I agree with Secretary Christopher.
Q In real terms, what leverage do we have --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What leverage do we have in real terms? The President emphasized this morning what I think -- I mean, obviously, we have a very wide-ranging bilateral relationship that, in general terms, prospers best as they make progress on human rights without specific linkages, rather as with China.
But the President emphasize this morning what I think is an important point, and that is that Indonesia has a tremendous potential in international leadership and that it's making progress on human rights will reenforce that international leadership as well.
I don't think I have to run through with you the various bilateral things that we've been doing on human rights, including the fact that now the President has raised it twice at each of his meetings with President Soeharto. We raised it in almost every bilateral meeting we have had. We sponsored last year for the first time a resolution on human rights in the International Human Rights Commission. We don't sell weapons to Indonesia that could be used for repression.
Secretary Christopher met this morning with the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, which I don't have a readout on yet. It just took place. I think my colleague will have a readout on that -- are you going to do that now? Do you want to come now and do it?
Q When did the meeting with the NGOs get elevated from the DCM lunch to a joint --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yesterday or the day before. But let me -- I think yesterday or the day before. My colleague could tell you.
Q And what was the thought process --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When did the meeting with the NGOs get elevated to Win's level? I think it was yesterday. I think yesterday. Do you want to come and --
Q Could I ask another question? Did the President raise specific individuals, like the recent conviction of the Labor Unionist, Pakpahan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He raised labor rights generally, but not the specific case. But we have spoken -- as you know the State Department issued a statement on it. We've spoken about that many times.
Q So human rights was the dominant issue at this bilateral?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd say that it -- I'm not sure that it was the dominant issue. In terms of the amount of time in the meeting, I'd say that the discussion of APEC and the potential for the United States and Indonesia to work together on various international issues like North Korea and human rights had about equal time.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay, let me just do so -- I'll be on background as a senior State Department official. I'll run through very quickly the hour and fifteen minute meeting that Secretary Christopher just held with -- Secretary Christopher and Secretary Brown just held with the Indonesian Human Rights Commission.
Just a little bit of background to start. This is a commission that was established in June of 1993 by the government of Indonesia and is made up of people who come from academic walks of life, some who are NGO activists, some who are business leaders. It is sort of a broad membership selected by the Indonesian government to address formally questions of human rights. This is the group by which the United States government has a formal bilateral dialogue of human rights issues with the Indonesian government.
Both Secretary Christopher and Secretary Brown had some comments on the record at a photo opportunity at the beginning, and there was pool coverage of that, so you might want to pick up some of the quotes on that.
But the Secretary opened the discussion by reviewing sort of five key human rights issues that we have been concerned about. Some of them have already come up in the background briefing you have just had. The three -- sure, my colleague is going to interview.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sorry, I just realized what time it is and I have to go off to do something else. If there are specific questions that you think I am in a peculiar position to help you with, please call -- or Tom Ross -- and I'll try to get back to you. My colleague is here also who can help you with yesterday's events and any details on the APEC agreement, okay?
Q Any one-on-one questions -- was that the close of the human rights discussion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, in my experience, one-on-one meetings almost always go much longer than they were intended to, and this was no exception. But it was --
Q The President was very grim-faced when he came out of the meeting. Did that reflect anything that took place in the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, absolutely not.
Q You had mentioned that all of the leaders talked about the importance of GATT. Yesterday, apparently, Senator Helms suggested that the vote on GATT be put off until January, indicating it might be easier to get is passed. I wondered if you had a response on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our position is very clear, that it is deeply in our national interest and in the interest of individual Americans that the agreement be passed as quickly as possible, both because a delay into the new Congress, which could mean a delay, then, of a number of months, would cost us probably tens of billions of dollars in lost growth in our economy, and because, as I said, a lot of other nations are watching this both in real terms because our passage of the GATT will assist them in their passage of the GATT.
And this is, thus, of tremendous importance to the international economy in which so many of our jobs depend; but also in symbolic terms -- this will be the first vote since the elections, and it will be a very important demonstration of bipartisanship behind a strong American role on economic and other issues in the world. Thanks.
Q Do you have the votes now? Do you have the votes?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We think it will be passed.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Let me pick up. Secretary Christopher outlined sort of five issues that have been occurring in our human rights discussion with the government of Indonesia, some of which, as you've heard from your previous briefer came up in the President's meeting with President Soeharto. The Secretary discussed with the Commission members the closing of the three magazines in June, what the prospects were for reopening, several of the Commission members indicated that they had been stressing to government officials within Indonesia that the magazines should be opened.
He addressed labor leaders that continue to be arrested and imprisoned and raised specifically the case of SBSI leader Pakpahan. Third, they talked at some great length about a decree that is under consideration by the government of Indonesia that would effectively thwart some of the activities of nongovernmental organizations that are active -- a decree that is under consideration by the government of Indonesia that would effectively thwart some of the activity of human rights nongovernmental organizations that are active here in Indonesia that would press human rights issues.
There is a great deal of concern within the human rights community here in Indonesia about the effect that that decree might have on their operational activity. The Secretary -- both Secretaries asked a lot of questions about how this Commission was reviewing that decree, whether they're having an opportunity to make contributions to the legislative discussions within the Indonesian government about the decree. One Commission member indicated that they apparently are going much slower now on the promulgation of this decree, and he believed it was because the Commission and others had been raising criticisms about this decree.
Fourth, they discussed Operation Cleanup, as it's called, which has been a recent effort by the government of Indonesia to round up dissidents and detain them; and, last, they discussed at some length East Timor, similar to the way it was discussed -- as your previous briefer indicated.
In general, this commission -- there were about nine members of the 15-member commission present. The meeting on their side was conducted by the deputy chair of the commission, itself. We've got some of the names, I think, on a list back there. But this was Dr. Miriam Budiardjo, who is the deputy chairman. The chairman of the commission happens to be out of the country.
The members of the commission reflected views that I would say ranged from being very aggressively activist, human rights oriented, affiliated with the nongovernmental community, to those who had represented views that I think were very familiar and very well rehearsed, because they sounded a lot like the responses that we frequently receive from the government of Indonesia when we raise these human rights issues.
Secretary Christopher also had with him Congressman Norm Manetta, and at an interesting point in the meeting, he called on Congressman Manetta to present a view from the American Congress. And Congressman Manetta was very forceful in saying that within the United States Congress there is very great concern about human rights issues in Indonesia, and that help from the United States Congress is much more difficult to achieve if the people of the United States do not see that human rights issues are being dealt with effectively in Indonesia.
Secretary Christopher, at that point, said maybe that will provide some good ammunition to the members of this commission as they raise human rights concerns in the internal deliberations of their own government.
In general, the conversation was about things like, do you have staff; how do you report within your own government to higher authorities; do you issue written reports -- which, as it turns out, that they do; do you make recommendations on human rights concerns to your own government, which they do; how much do you think these recommendations are taken seriously within the government? There was various opinions on that. Some suggested that they did have weight; others saying that they were not quite so sure.
And I guess to wrap up, I would say that Secretary Christopher, as a result of the meeting, felt encouraged by several things. One that they are making written recommendations and a written report within the government of Indonesia; that they do have staffing; that they appear to have an ongoing structure that is capable of raising human rights issues; and that the members of the commission who were there realized that they themselves cannot just be window dressing for discussions of human rights issues within the Indonesian government -- that they need to be in a position to be true advocates on human rights issues.
But as a caveat, I would say that the Secretary also felt that it was not clear what real influence this commission could have as they address human rights concerns. And he noted to the members in concluding that the American people, if they see that this commission really can lead to real changes in the human rights climate in Indonesia, we'll have some greater confidence that this commission is an avenue by which the Indonesian government is getting more serious about human rights concerns. If things don't change, if there's no real change in the reality of the conditions that many face, then the commission itself will not prove to be effective.
That's a pretty good rundown. I would say -- the Secretary, as you'll see in the remarks he made at the beginning of the meeting, has also instructed Assistant Secretary Winston Lord and representatives of the National Security Council and the National Economic Council to meet with representatives of a much wider range of nongovernmental organization activists. And that meeting, I believe, is going on now. It's an opportunity for us to hear more directly from those who are sort of on the front lines of the fight for greater human rights in Indonesia. And both Secretary Brown and Secretary Christopher will be getting a report on that meeting later on this afternoon.
Q Do the human rights activists seem to think President Clinton was doing a knock on the issue of human rights during his visit here?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think -- within this group, these members of this commission, of which I would say one was clearly a person who is a nongovernmental organization activist, by and large the other members are academicians, there are some businesspeople, people who are within the human rights community in Indonesia, not all of them are what I would describe as being activists. That's really the meeting that's taking place now. But those who are clearly appreciated the Clinton administration's work on these issues. They were interested in many of the questions you're interested in -- what type of linkages are there between commercial activity and our pressing of human rights. And I believe that the presence of Secretary Brown at this meeting, who was very persuasive in saying that we advance our commercial economic interests hand in hand with our human rights concerns because we believe that the reinforce each other, I think that was a persuasive argument; and there seems to be great interest in that point.
Q Did they have any specific requests of Christopher or Brown or the U.S. government, and did either make any specific commitments to this commission?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, they weren't -- this is a group that was more -- I describe them as briefing the two secretaries on their work. We had, frankly, more questions for them than they asked of us. They were interested in the administration's overall philosophy on human rights, but they did not make specific requests of us. They were very keen on knowing how much we were going to press these issues, and they listened very carefully at the beginning during the photo opportunity when both Secretary Brown and Secretary Christopher indicated that human rights issues had been a vigorous part of the discussion that President Clinton had with President Soeharto today.
Q Did Soeharto request suggestion on how the U.S. might be more helpful on the human rights issue?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They really didn't raise that kind of concern. This, to me, didn't seem to be the type of crowd that would do that. My suspicion is that we'll hear a lot more of that from some of the NGO groups that Assistant Secretary Lord is meeting with now.
Q Did the Deputy Chairman lend to discussions, is that correct?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes --
Q Where was the Chairman?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He's out of the country apparently --
Q Is the United States at all uncomfortable with both the President and the Secretary of State leaving Indonesia while this demonstration continues at the Embassy?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, we believe that the Ambassador who's directed his embassy staff to be in close contact with this group has done a very good job. We will certainly be letting the demonstrators know that the subject of most concern to them -- East Timor -- was raised extensively in a variety of these meetings today, and we hope they will be satisfied that the United States government has pressed their concern at the highest level with the Indonesian government.
Q That was my question.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That sounded like State Department talk, didn't it?
Q You mentioned the questions about the effectiveness of the commission itself. Are the commission's activities transparent enough here that the press here is free to cover? For example, will their report be released to the public?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. They have a written report, they have a staff; although they expressed some concern themselves about a desire for more staff so they could do more reporting, and they do have a written report. They have access to the media here, but as you know from the issue that we raised concerning the magazines, that the ability to have a full and open dialogue on these issues within the context of the press here is somewhat problematic.
Q Were you given a sense from the commission members -- they actually acknowledge and felt that this was a real serious problem that they had to deal with, or did they kind of gloss it over?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, there were those who clearly have a perspective that's much more in tune with the government's thinking who are members of this commission, and there are those who sounded like they were much more vigorous advocates of the concerns of a lot of the nongovernmental groups that work on human rights here. It was a range of opinion, but they seemed genuinely committed to the notion that they are responsible for pressing these issues within the formal structure of the Indonesian government. They take that role seriously, and they understand that in a sense, they are on the line. If there's no improvement in the human rights conditions within Indonesia and they know that they will suffer some lack of prestige, then that's a point, frankly, that we made to them.
Q Don't you think it would undermine the group's effectiveness that the President has a relative on it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The question was, does it undermine the effectiveness of the commission that the group has a relative of the President, and there was an individual named Soeharto on the commission that -- that person is no relation to President Soeharto.
Q Did the commission give Christopher any idea whether the human rights situation in Indonesia is getting better or worse, or about the same?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, they reviewed, as I mentioned, five very specific concerns that we had, which is an indicator that things are not satisfactory. In fact, there had been relatively more openness, more discussion of human rights concerns earlier in 1993, and there has been some troubling events that were reviewed by our side in our discussions, particularly during this period preceding the APEC conference here.
But as a general assessment, the general assessment is one that they offered up in the report that they issued.
Q Could you just fold together your assessment, all these activities that we've been hearing about today and over the last couple of days in meetings with China against the charge by Asia Watch that the administration has capitulated to commercial diplomacy. Could you just tell us what all of this -- what the message behind all this is?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, it's clear from the briefing that you just had on President Clinton's meetings today and from what you've heard from those of us who have been reviewing a lot of the additional bilateral discussions that have occurred within the context of APEC, the human rights is a very serious substantive element of our foreign policy, and that it works in tandem with our effort to promote and identify the economic interests of Americans abroad.
One reason why we place these human rights and democracy issues so high on our foreign policy agenda is because they reinforce our effort to expand our own economic opportunities abroad. We believe that societies that are liberalizing their economies will do so more successfully if they take into account the individual liberty, human rights, freedom of choice of their citizens.
In fact, they reinforce one another, as I said earlier. So it would be as highly incorrect to say that we opt for a commercial diplomacy strategy versus raising human rights because, frankly, the two of them cannot work without each other.
END1:10 P.M. (L)