THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Manila, Philippines) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 24, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL The Filing Center The Westin Hotel Manila, Philippines
5:27 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In terms of background, the President will -- the issue that came up a little bit earlier on the ITA and the language in the final declaration, that's the kind of thing that the leaders can actually flesh out and work through in the informal setting they have tonight. I expect the President will be touching base with some of the other members. He raised that question in some of his discussions today and members of the U.S. delegation have been pressing with some of the other delegations to see what kind of flexibility they have in getting as strong a possible an endorsement of -- a WTO endorsement of the ITA measure. So that's something the President will be pursuing.
Anything else that we can help you flesh out in terms of background?
Q On the question of the apology, the potential apology from North Korea and the form it might take, do we gather from what's been said that President Kim and President Clinton today didn't agree exactly on what would constitute an acceptable step?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was not, frankly, a point of contention in their discussions today. And matters related to the Koreas' perceptions and standing and stature are very sensitive matters. And what we are looking for is a formula that allows the proper expressions to be made related to isolated incidents such as incursions, while the important work continues simultaneously of making the Peninsula a more peaceful place through the controls and the freeze on the nuclear program and through the provision of the light water reactor technology.
These things, in our view, have to work first to limit the hostilities and tensions on the Peninsula, and then simultaneously to make sure that there's a proper environment for both sides and better understanding on both sides -- leading ultimately to the type of North-South dialogue we have always favored, which we are attempting to stimulate with the four-party talks.
So they didn't get hung up on that question. It was more important, I think, for President Kim to demonstrate to President Clinton his very strong personal feelings about the incidents around mid-September, and very important for the President to make an equally strong presentation on the need to contain these types of disagreements and to continue to work on those things that have the potential of bringing peace to the Peninsula over the long term.
So that was the nature of the discussion. They didn't spend a lot of time -- in fact, the word "apology," as far as I know, as far as I remember, didn't come up at all.
Q What is President Clinton's understanding now? Does South Korea still want an apology, still expect an apology?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a sensitive enough matter even on background that I'm not going to get into what people want. What they want are exactly those things that they identified in the statement we gave you.
Q Is President Clinton going to have a news conference tomorrow to wrap up this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think so. I think what we're thinking, just given the timing and everything, we will see if there's any commentary to make beyond what is in the leaders declaration tomorrow. He might have an opportunity to say some things to the pool. We'll see how that develops during the day tomorrow.
Q I'll bring up a logistical problem.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q We're having difficulties apparently with logistics in Subic Bay. Any help that you can give on that would be appreciated.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, Subic Bay is almost impossible to cover. In fact, that's why most -- and it's impossible for even the delegations. That's why most of us are not even going. I'm not going. I think most of the U.S. delegation is not going out there tomorrow -- like Blake Island, like the previous meetings, they are, you know, almost exclusively for the leaders and very restricted. There are holding rooms out there and not much access by either press staff or delegation members. So most of us are staying back here.
Q Ambassador Lord kind of hemmed and hawed a little bit about whether or not the Chinese had even, in body language or tone, given any sort of optimism about human rights. Can you on background give us -- is there any reason to think that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's not much I want to say on background. Those of you who follow carefully what your State Department colleagues have reported know that there was a fairly extensive discussion and some ideas that were developed in Secretary Christopher's bilateral meetings in Beijing.
We hope that this discussion the Secretary had leads to some further progress on that issue, and the President sought to underscore that today. I think I'll just leave it at that.
Q When they raise Taiwan as apparently, as Ambassador Lord said they do, what is the U.S. response when they raise the arms sales to Taiwan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have a fairly standard formula when they raise the question of arms sales and we reiterate our obligation under the Taiwan Relations Act that is consistent with the communiques, consistent with the One China Policy and it goes from there.
It's generally when -- the question of Taiwan arms sales is generally referenced by the Chinese side when we cite some concerns we have in the nonproliferation area. They have tended in our bilateral dialogue to link those issues. We deny that there is a specific linkage there because of the difference in nonproliferation questions generally and in weapons of mass destruction technology. But that's been a standard feature of our dialogue on that issue. It was noticeably -- I think as one of our briefers said earlier today, he wasn't minimizing the concern they have on that issue, but it was confined in this case to the expression of a fairly well rehearsed concern about arms sales and we gave a fairly well rehearsed answer to it. It was not an extensive part of the dialogue today.
Q Without going into details, how would you characterize the suggestions, proposals, ideas, whatever you want to call them, that the Chinese had in regards to human rights?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't characterize whatsoever or say that they were Chinese proposals.
I would suggest that you go back and look carefully at what your colleagues have reported.
Q One of the briefers said that there had been some suggestions or proposals from the Chinese that at least --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. I told you that the Secretary had a good dialogue. We're hoping that that dialogue can be built upon.
Q Is it correct to say that in weeks prior President Kim and members of his cabinet have suggested that the whole KEDO process and the agreed framework should be held up until there's an apology, and you guys have now nudged them away from that position a little bit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's, on background, it's safe to say that there has been enormous concern within the government of the Republic of Korea about that incident in September and the impact it has and the enormous concern on the part of our government that we keep things moving forward that can bring peace to the Peninsula. And the result of the expression of concern is the statement that both sides agreed to today and issued.
Q Can you elaborate a little more on the discussions about China's accession to the WTO? Was there any indication of an inflexibility on the part of either country? Did the Chinese suggest another offer?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll kind of repeat what Winston said earlier. We obviously -- the President reiterated that the United States looks toward the Chinese accession to the WTO on a commercially meaningful basis.
The President did agree with the notion that both sides need to be pragmatic in dealing with the issue, but I think he also made it clear to the Chinese side that they would have to improve what they put in their accession package to date. You know, specifically he cited market access provisions and WTO rules provisions.
On flexibility, the President reiterated something I think we've said often, that where appropriate and in certain situations we would consider the way in which you could structure flexibility, but there would have to be a clear demonstration on the Chinese side that they were moving in the direction of something that would meet some of the tests that we put before them. We have not been -- we have been -- they have a fairly specific idea because of the road map we've given them for accession, of the things that we're looking for. And we're obviously looking for progress in the areas that we have identified.
Q Was the North Korean famine mentioned at all during the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was -- the humanitarian situation and some of the concerns about the situation in the North was referenced. I wouldn't say that they spent an extensive amount of time on it. They dealt principally with security issues.
Q Are you saying that the United States and South Korea should remain ambiguous on what should be done by North Korea to lower tensions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it's not ambiguous. We believe that they should take acceptable steps and we hope -- and there are a variety of ways through the diplomacy we have -- through the diplomacy we have conducted today, we hope that "acceptable steps" is a meaningful term to the DPRK.
Q There has been a lot of concern in China that the U.S. is trying to contain China in some sense military. Was that anything that President Clinton mentioned?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the thrust of the presentations, the speech that the Secretary gave when he was in China, the reaffirmation that the President gave to President Jiang Zemin today about the importance of this relationship and the importance of working together in an engaging partnership, or a cooperative engagement, or whatever they are calling it these days at the State Department -- whatever it is, it is important for us to keep a very intensive dialogue that builds on the areas of cooperation and strategic alignment that we have, that also deals candidly with the differences we have in the relationship.
So it was clear from the President's presentation today that the Chinese side knew they were engaged with a leader that has enormous respect for China and wants to see China take its place in the world of democratic, peace-loving nations as the great power that China is destined to be. There couldn't be any doubt about that, I think, from the Chinese side. And that has been reiterated now in a variety of ways and it is reflected in the importance we attach to the high-level meetings that we have now structured.
Q -- on the B-24, the background, where that came from and all that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I mean, we told you just about -- this obviously popped up very quickly. It was initially asked that we keep it confidential, and then in the meeting today, President Jiang Zemin said that he would be happy if the United States made it public. We don't know many of the details yet, which is why they will send a U.S. military team to work with Chinese authorities to figure out what they actually have.
Q Have they been cooperative in the past on this? I mean, in situations like this in the past, are they generally cooperative on MIAs and that kind of thing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They have been cooperative when we have had occasions to work together on MIA-related issues, but obviously something like this is a sign of what we can do when we work together.
Q But you take it on faith that they are in fact giving us sort of real-time notification of this and it's not something they've held up their sleeve for years and years?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't have any reason to dispute the account they gave us of when they discovered the site and when they were able to produce the documentary record that they delivered today.
Q Can you give us any information on what the terrain is in that part of China, what kind of place this is?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't. I would be only guessing if I did.
Q Is it possible to have somebody at least just to flesh it out just a little bit to look -- to give us maybe a description of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just asked these guys to see if they can't contact like a World War II historian that can find more about B-24 missions in that region and what they might have been doing in that region; see if we can get something like that.
Q Even without going into details --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Given that it's 5:00 in the morning back home, if there's anything we can develop in the next couple hours, we will.
Q But presumably, if the President has seen these photos and the videotape, if there's some way we could even give just a very rough description of what this shows, it would be helpful.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. I'll see if we can do that. I think we've given you the roughest description we have. If we can get anything more on it, we will.
Q Is it jungle? Is it rice paddy? Is it in a mountain? Is it in a --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Will do. Anything else?
Q The province you're saying is Guangxi?
Q It's probably not spelled the way it sounds. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not sure how we transliterate "Guangxi."
Q The Koreans have talked about not coming through with some of the funds for KEDO. Is there any timeline on when that might become important?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, there is a hoped-for timeline that we stressed today. I mean, we have stressed it with a number of the governments that we saw today and will see tomorrow. The importance of making good on some of the financial structures that will make KEDO a reality, and obviously the Republic of Korea is a very important player with that respect. So moving forward along the -- you know, meeting the obligations contained in the agreed framework, which is a reference made in the statement that the two governments issued today, is a significant one.
Q How did President Jiang reply to President Clinton's urging that we must work to remove the irritants in our relationship, that we need to be as honest and candid as can be?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He responded -- I mean, I'll leave it to their government to describe the response. He gave a response that is a familiar one to U.S. officials that have raised those concerns in the past: that they believe the human rights also encompasses the economic rights of individuals and that the work that they are doing at this time to build a strong economy that will allow the Chinese people to prosper is in itself a human right. It is a standard formula that they have used in responding to some of our human rights concerns in the past.
Q Did President Jiang smile or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Say again.
Q Did he smile at all?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry. I don't understand.
Q Did he smile?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, this is not a matter upon which the United States government has a smiling relationship with the Chinese side. It is a matter we take seriously and pursue seriously.
Q Was there any discussion of how the handling of the Hong Kong transfer would affect the sequence of who goes first and/or any discussion of how President Jiang's party conference of next fall would play into all this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No direct discussion, Todd, but those are all factors in the equation. There is an October party congress. There is the Hong Kong issue. We will have some contingencies on our side that will affect scheduling and the sequencing of who would -- whether Jiang Zemin would come to the United States first in late 1997 and then the President would go there in 1998, or whether that might be reversed, or whether Jiang Zemin's trip here might not be until early 1998 are all part of the things that will be explored and developed.
Q Is the working thinking, though -- it had been described in China during Secretary Christopher's visit that the working thinking would be President Jiang coming --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The working thinking, I am told, got a little bit farther out in some news accounts than it in fact is. Maybe the working thinking at lower levels was a little bit more advanced than the real thinking at higher levels.
Q Not uncommon.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's not uncommon, right. And I think at working levels, where some people may have been -- some people may have been getting background information on what people were thinking that didn't take into account some of the realities that might be on the President's schedule that affect the President's schedule, and certainly some of the realities that might go into President Jiang's thinking about his own schedule.
Q But on a sheer your-house-my-house schedule --I mean, President Bush went there last, right, so they would in the normal --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I'm not --
Q I'm just asking. I'm not saying that has any bearing on the future, but we visited there last, right? This would mean two successive --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I guess that's right. I guess that's right, but there are all kinds of things -- I mean, we've got an APEC meeting coming up in Vancouver. There are different types of things that will be coming up in which there will be proximities involved.
Q Has the President had any opportunity on this trip to work on Cabinet issues and White House staffing issues?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, he has done some work on White House staffing issues, on some Cabinet issues. He remains in contact with Washington. He has had some good conversations with Leon, with Erskine, with others. He has talked to some people individually about their plans. So he has been busy on that front as well, but the bulk of the work being done in the transition is the recommendations that his transition team are presenting to him and they're planning to do that upon his return after Thanksgiving, although I wouldn't rule out that he might have some sessions on Wednesday and be given some things to think about over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Q -- closer in terms of the national security team, that puzzle?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He is farther along in the process of a national security team than he is some of the other domestic Cabinet agencies, but it's the team that he's looking at and I don't expect him to make any announcements on that prior to Thanksgiving.
Q Is he going to Camp David for Thanksgiving?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's planning to leave Wednesday afternoon at some point, we're told now, for Camp David, but I'm not sure when that will be during the day.
Q When would he come back?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hopefully not until Saturday or Sunday. But I think it depends -- Chelsea may have some things that affect their return.
Q Is the President still holding out hope he'll get some sort of deadline language in the final ITA endorsement out here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As mentioned earlier, he's going to raise with the -- we feel very good about the language that's in the ministerial now. We will do some poking around tonight, or he plans to do some poking around with individual people to assess what kind of commitment they will get. We're looking for the type of -- the strongest possible endorsement here that would propel that discussion when the WTO ministers meet next month in -- where do they meet -- Singapore.
Q To what is extent is the President's agenda tomorrow, the priorities, any different from the ministerial conference priorities of the U.S.? I mean, is part of it set aside for schmooze time?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: His briefing book, which is quite thick, contains contingency points for all the other 17 leaders of the other member economies that here are at APEC. And I expect during the day he will encounter all the other members and have at least some type of one-on-one discussion with them. That's one of the things common at these meetings, is during break time they get brief moments to chat with each other. And the President has thought through specifically some of the things he wants to pursue with other people.
For example, we've got a number of issues with President Zedillo that we might want to pursue. He has other conversations that will likely happen.
In terms of his priorities, broadly speaking, the Information Technology Agreement, the language about that in the declaration is of keen interest to the President. And then how to advance the WTO and move forward on some of the specific trade liberalization arguments that we have put before them in the ministerial settings will be the President's second group of objectives.
Q Would the United States like to see the date 2000 mentioned in the declaration tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Well I think the date 2000 in APEC terms has some resonance, as do the dates 2010 and 2020. If you mean with respect to ITA, I think that's one of the things he will assess in his discussions tonight. We would -- we think anytime you're in these areas, more specificity is better.
But we're satisfied that we already will see tomorrow some type of strong endorsement in the information technology area that will give a real boost to the consideration of the issue by the WTO. That's the main thing we want. We want to see the WTO to conclude a worldwide agreement and we believe we will get impetus for that from this meeting of APEC.
Now, the more specificity, the better. But that's -- people should remember that one of the reasons why President Clinton elevated APEC as a forum into a leader's level meeting is so that leaders could lead. And leaders get to call audibles and though a lot of these things have been hashed through publicly, there may be some flexibility in how leaders want to address this issue. And the President will take a read of that situation beginning tonight.
Q Before you go, any reaction to these reports that the FBI may be asked to investigate the Democratic Party fundraising activities?
MR. MCCURRY: No particular reaction. They need to pursue whatever is suggested by proper law enforcement authorities looking into these matters.
Q Do you think it's justified at this point, given what you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what they're looking at and wouldn't want to comment on what they're looking at without knowing.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 5:55 P.M. (L)