THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DAVID JOHNSON, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY AND SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
The Briefing Room
12:46 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, Secretary Riley and company. The White House earlier today, as you know, announced that National Security Adviser Tony Lake will be going to the Asia-Pacific region July 5th through 15th, for a series of meetings bilaterally with a number of governments in the region. Accompanying him will be Deputy White House Press Secretary David Johnson, who also is the Senior Director of Public Affairs for the National Security Council. And given that we are saying bon voyage to him, I thought I would have him walk through a little bit about Tony's trips and some of the different stops he'll make along the way.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you, Michael. He will provide simultaneous translation where necessary for those of you -- if I lapse into dweeb-speak here. (Laughter.)
Q That's a given.
MR. JOHNSON: When I lapse into dweeb-speak. Thank you, Mr. Miklaszewski.
I just wanted to take a few minutes and take you through the schedule that Tony is going to have for those of you who might be interested, both of you -- (laughter) -- and let you know all of the countries he's visiting and the issues that we're going to be pursuing.
He will depart on Friday, arriving in Beijing over the weekend, with meetings with Chinese officials beginning on Monday morning. The overall purpose of this visit to China is to continue the strategic dialogue that he began with his counterpart Liu Huaqiu, who visited Washington in March. Some of you may recall that Tony spent about a day at the Harrington estate out in Middleburg engaged in informal dialogue where we had a longer period of time than one normally has in an international meeting to go over a full range of interests.
That sprung from the fact that the President decided earlier this year that the United States needed to place its relationship with China on a firmer, more strategic footing and one which was based on articulated interests. And he did that knowing that the first half of the year would provide a number of challenges in the relationship just by virtue of the calendar. A lot of those are -- the first half of the year is behind us and many of those things are as well. The success that we believe we had on intellectual property rights; the vote in the House of Representatives, the first time since Tiananmen Square, which was positive on the MFN question; the way we managed the issues surrounding the election on Taiwan; and the U.N. Human Rights Commission vote.
What Tony was doing then and what this continued dialogue seeks to do is to let the Chinese know and to articulate ourselves what our expectations are on both sides of this discussion so that we can introduce a greater degree of stability and predictability and cohesion in our policy toward China. We believe that the results to date have been quite positive.
He's going to, on Monday, have another full day in a rather relaxed setting to continue this discussion with his counterpart. The first half of that day is going to be devoted to issues of strategic issues to both the United States and China -- issues such as stability and peace on the Korean peninsula, our relationships with Russia, with South Asia, with Taiwan, and also make clear that the United States has a continuing interest and a continuing presence in the Asia-Pacific region and that we're not going anywhere. Also, we're going to take an opportunity there to describe, in some detail, the United States-Japanese partnership and make clear just what our intentions are and what the Japanese intentions are there.
The second half of that day is going to be devoted to a good discussion, we hope, of our bilateral interests -- issues related to our economic interests, to non-proliferation, human rights and other topics.
On the second day, he's got a series of meetings with senior officials in the Chinese government. He's going to meet with Li Peng, principally to discuss the economic aspects of our relationship; with the Minister of Defense to talk about how we can build a stronger military relationship so that we can continue to pursue our interests in Asia with things related to discussions of military doctrine, with ship visits, items of that nature --
Q That's Tuesday evening?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes, it is. Also have an opportunity to meet with the Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen to talk principally about regional interests such as ASEAN, Burma, Cambodia. And finally also, to have a meeting on Tuesday with the Chinese Head of State Jiang Zemin. He's the President's counterpart, of course. He's going to have a discussion there which centers on how to manage the overall relationship so that the high-level visits that we both desire become the proper way to reinforce and advance our overall interest.
On Wednesday, Tony and his group are going to travel to Shanghai. And that will give us an opportunity -- give Tony an opportunity -- to see the new China that's reflected there in a growing and dynamic and economically prosperous region. He will be hosted by the mayor there.
He'll also have an opportunity to talk to the chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, whose principal responsibility, of course, for China -- that managing that relationship with Taiwan. We will be doing what we can there to advance the resumption and to promote the resumption of across-straits dialogue and to reinforce our position that the differences between Taiwan and China need to be resolved peacefully.
On Thursday, he'll go to Bangkok and have an opportunity to have a discussion with the Prime Minister. As many of you know, we have a very close and healthy economic, political and military relationship with the Thai, and we want to reinforce it. That's one of the five core security relationships we have in Asia. For those of you who are keeping score -- that's Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand.
And following those meetings the following morning before he departs, he's going to have a meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce there principally to hear their views and also to reinforce our strong and enduring relationship with Asia and underscore to one of primary Southeast Asian partners that we're there for the long haul.
On Friday, Tony and his party will go to Vietnam. The heart of that program is going to take place on Saturday. As Michael has already mentioned, he will go to visit two of the excavation sites where the U.S. team is working along with the Vietnamese to try to recover remains of U.S. servicemen who were lost in the Vietnam conflict, and to underscore in a very demonstrative way that the first priority in our relationship is and will remain the fullest possible accounting for the POWs and MIAs that remain missing.
He will underscore that the excavations and the seeking of remains is part of our effort, but we will also need to continue to have access to documents and to witnesses in order to continue our search for that fullest possible accounting.
On Friday, the day before that, he is going to have several meetings in Hanoi with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Interior Minister. He will again underscore with all of them that our first priority in the relationship remains the fullest possible accounting, but he is also going to discuss other interests with them, including issues related to consular access, to detained American citizens, our regional security interests in the area, and our economic interests.
On Sunday, this Sunday week now, he will travel to Seoul and meet with Foreign Minister Kong and his counterpart, National Security Advisor Yoo. There is really a single subject for that visit and for those discussions, and that's how we can work together to advance our four-party proposal to address the permanent North-South reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
Sunday in the evening, he will travel on to Tokyo, and the following morning will meet with the Foreign Minister. There are two topics on the agenda there. One is to talk about our mutual security interests and to talk to the Japanese about the trip and the stops that have taken place. I want to underscore that that is not just a discussion of the individual visits and the individual discussions, but we look at this much like we do a stop in Brussels on the way home from a European trip. It's an opportunity to talk to our ally and the one with whom we have the very important relationship in Asia, which is the linchpin of our security interests and our security relationship in Asia. And so it is the appropriate place to stop and to have a discussion at the end of this trip.
He is also going to reinforce the need for continued progress on economic issues as the requirement that we see to keep our overall relationship on the firm track that it was placed on at the summit earlier in the spring, and as the President reinforced during his bilateral meeting in Lyon.
And that same afternoon we will arrive back.
Q David, when was Tony last in Vietnam?
MR. JOHNSON: Tony was last in Vietnam, I believe sometime in the mid-eighties. He has been as a private citizen, but I believe only -- he has been since the war, and as many of you know, he was Vice Consul in Hue during the war.
Q Is Tony in Beijing going to be laying the ground work for a presidential visit later this year or next year?
MR. JOHNSON: We will be discussing what we believe is a mutual goal to have high-level visits, but we don't anticipate discussing specific times.
Q You said that there were positive results as a result of -- as, you know, a consequence of the dialogue that has been going on?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes, I pointed out some of those: our success in the intellectual property rights area; the discussions that we have had on human rights since then; the success we believe we had in the MFN vote here; the success that we believe we had in managing the election in Taiwan and the reactions to it and the aftermath of it.
Q However, Amnesty International has announced that Beijing appears ready to break its own record this year for carrying out the world's largest number of executions, a thousand in the last two months. Is that encouraging?
MR. JOHNSON: I wouldn't state that it was encouraging. We have a continuing human rights difficulty with China. We have a continuing human rights discussion with China. That's certainly going to be on the agenda.
Q David, what are the criteria the White House would use before deciding it's appropriate for the President to either visit China or Vietnam?
MR. JOHNSON: I don't know that we have a set of criteria that we're checking off to do this. We have got continuing discussions with the Chinese. High-level visits, as the President stated in his address to the Pacific Basin Economic Council, as Secretary Christopher has said, can be a way to advance the relationship and to keep it on a firmer footing. And we want to do that when it's appropriate. But we don't have a specific checklist we're trying to see that certain items are met before we move on to a next step.
Q Can you clarify that? I mean, the improvement has been in the discussions and the dialogue, or has it actually been any improvement the administration sees in China's human rights performance? I mean, it's not where you want it to be, but do you actually see any improvement over time?
MR. JOHNSON: No, the items that I pointed to, in terms of our improvement and our expectations based on this dialogue, I did not point to human rights.
Q I thought you just did in answer to Helen's question, when you talked about the discussions and dialogue regarding human rights as one area you find encouraging.
MR. JOHNSON: I don't believe that I did.
Q Yes, you did.
MR. JOHNSON: Okay.
MR. MCCURRY: Take it back. (Laughter.)
Q You take that back.
MR. JOHNSON: Well, I laid out the things where we had had discussion. I thought I cited progress in terms of the IPR agreement, in terms of the way that the issues in the aftermath of the election and the inauguration in Taiwan took place.
Q David, a while back there was some controversy when President Jiang wanted to have an official state visit here on the South Lawn. It was deemed that conditions were not -- bilateral relationship was not in the sort of condition that would allow that kind of pomp and circumstance. Would you say that a state visit at this point would be something that could be taken into consideration?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, I think that we want to discuss what role high-level visits might have and how they might be able to advance the relationship. But as I said before, we're not going to talking about specific dates or specific times for such a visit.
Q Dave, what is he going to be saying about Hong Kong on this visit?
MR. JOHNSON: The same thing we have always said on Hong Kong. I don't know that it's a specific item on the agenda, but I wouldn't exclude us from having a discussion of it. We continue to believe that there is -- the system there needs to be maintained and that the agreement between the Chinese and the U.K. needs to be honored.
Q One more please, David.
MR. JOHNSON: Excuse me.
Q I'm sorry. May I ask one more question, please? With regard to the four-way talks on the Korean peninsula, in the talks in China do you expect any kind of announcement, substantial progress with China on their position over the four-way talks and in their dialogue with the North?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm not pointing to any specific announcements which might be made on the trip. We'll have a good discussion of where we hope to go with those four-party talks, but I'm not anticipating making any specific announcements with respect to them during the trip.
Mike pointed out something that, when the President goes to APEC in late November, he will, of course, have an opportunity to meet with the Chinese president there.
Q In Tokyo, is he going to meet only the Foreign Minister or any other ministers?
MR. JOHNSON: My understanding is that he will meet the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Foreign Minister.
MR. JOHNSON: That's my understanding.
Q So he will talk about economic issues with the Foreign Minister?
MR. JOHNSON: He will underscore to the Foreign Minister that we need continued progress on those economic issues if we are to keep our relationship on a proper track.
Q Do you have any plans to bring some messages to Tokyo -- Presidential message?
MR. JOHNSON: Presidential messages -- specific message -- I'm unaware of one at this point. I wouldn't exclude anything, though.
Q David, before you step away, can I ask a question about the Russian elections, just on the process of monitoring them and when or if you might have something to say about it tonight or tomorrow?
MR. JOHNSON: It's our understanding that the way the returns are expected to come in that we will not have anything -- expect based on exit polling, on which we will not comment -- through the rest of the day and night. The earliest we would expect to have any sort of results on which we might rely would be about opening of business tomorrow morning. We wouldn't expect to be saying anything until after we've had a chance to see those results and to evaluate them.
Q Do you have any word on Yeltsin's condition?
MR. JOHNSON: Nothing beyond what we've been saying over the last couple of days. The Russian government has been telling us privately basically what it's been telling the public -- what Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told the President in Lyon.
Q Are U.S. officials though actively and regularly checking in on his health?
MR. JOHNSON: We have an active discussion at the ambassadorial level in Moscow on that issue, as others.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:03 EDT