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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 29, 1997
                       BACKGROUND PRESS BRIEFING

The Briefing Room

1:24 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: You all know that in a short while President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin will have a formal press conference, make a series of announcements about the successful meetings that they have had here today. And after that press conference, at approximately 4:15 p.m., Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger will be here for an on-the-record, on-camera briefing, where you can glean much more information from the day's action.

But we thought it would be useful to you now to get a sense of how the meetings have been going, to hear from a senior U.S. official on background -- senior U.S. official on background -- who can tell you both about the nearly two hours of meetings that the Presidents had last night in the Residence, and the approximately one hour and forty-five minutes worth of meetings that they've just concluded here at the White House this morning. It was roughly one hour in the Oval Office together, and then another 45 minutes in the Cabinet Room, where the two delegations met face to face, following the meetings of the two Presidents face to face in the Oval Office.

And with that prelude, it's a delight to introduce to you a senior U.S. official, with whom you are somewhat familiar. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First of all, let me confirm that Mike has been absolutely brilliant in these discussions; throughout all of the key interventions, he has been the man.

What I thought I might do is spend a little time going back through last night. I know you got somewhat of a read-out rather late at night. But since last night was the occasion on which I'd say, of the hour and forty-five minutes, probably an hour was spent discussing human rights, that I would spend more time on that.

President Jiang arrived at the Residence at about 9:00 p.m. or so. The President took him on a tour of the second floor with some, I think, fairly pointed stops along the way -- the Emancipation Proclamation, where that was signed; the Gettysburg Address, which President Jiang began to recite the first several words of in English, and all the way, the President kind of giving Jiang a commentary on not just the White House but the history of the White House and the United States, with I think a very heavy emphasis on the democratic aspect.

They talked a good deal in general terms. President Jiang extended a formal invitation to the President to come to China next year, which the President accepted. To anticipate your question, there is no date set for such a visit. They talked a bit about President Jiang's visit to Hawaii, and to some degree the demonstrations or protests that were there, the President pointing out that that is very much a part of the American system, and that this was a reflection of feelings of the American people, although many Americans are -- most Americans, I think, from what I've seen, believe that this relationship should move forward.

They talked a bit about the President's speech last Friday, which President Jiang had read. He said that while we do not see eye to eye on all issues, I generally valued your strategic vision. They talked about the need for more direct communication between the two of them, so that misunderstandings can be more readily dealt with. And that will be embodied in a direct hotline which will be installed between the White House and Beijing and President Jiang -- a secure communications link which we have been talking about.

They then had a rather long and I think quite probing discussion of human rights. And of the four previous meetings that I have been at -- I think I've been at all of them -- this was certainly the most searching discussion, I think. The President talked a good deal about our national experience and the extent to which the United States was born with a suspicion of the state and of arbitrary power, and the extent to which our system was reflected -- limitations on government power, separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, girding the individual against the government.

But they also had a discussion of the distinction between the Chinese history and the American history -- the Chinese history obviously marred much more often by disintegration, by chaos, cultural revolution, which President Jiang spoke about.

But the President again emphasized that freedom here has given our country 200 years of growth, its power, and its sense of self-renewal, and that our discussion of human rights is not an effort to suppress China, it's not an effort to keep China down, it's not an effort to make China weak. In fact and indeed, it is our conviction that it could help make China strong.

President Jiang obviously expanded on a somewhat different view of history, of Chinese history, certainly -- again, the greater focus on stability, greater focus on disintegration. But it was a very good discussion and there were specifics, as well as a general discussion. And I think that while, you know, I'm not sure that -- I don't think -- I wouldn't assert that there were any instant conversions, I think this kind of dialogue is very useful, and I think it was a serious one. It was not polemical. It was conducted with respect.

There was a discussion of Tibet, specifically, and religious freedom, and the importance we place on that, the desire that we have for a renewed dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Again, President Jiang reviewed that history from his perspective or from the Chinese perspective, and what they assert they have done in Tibet over the last 20 years in terms of freeing slaves and improving the standard of living. That was obviously a point of disagreement. So again, I think that both agreed that it was important to continue this dialogue on human rights, and I suspect that it will.

The meetings today were, I think, very good and serious. They began in the Oval Office with a discussion of strategic issues, starting with Korea, in which they both agreed to try to give new impetus to the four-party talks. They both talked about their mutual concern about the stability -- about the situation in North Korea. The Chinese have provided 100,000 tons of food a year for the past few years to the North Koreans. We have also provided food aid. The President pointed out that the food problem was not simply a crop failure problem, it's a mismanagement problem that has to be dealt with in a larger context.

There then was a fairly lengthy conversation about generally securing -- security in Asia, and in particular the relationship between China, Japan and the United States. The President made clear to President Jiang that the Chinese ought not to see the new defense guidelines between the United States and Japan and our strategic relationship as directed against China. It is a way of strengthening our relationship with Japan and actually is a stabilizing influence in the region, rather than a destabilizing influence.

President Jiang basically said, essentially, that we must -- he recited a bit of the history between China and Japan, keying off of his visit to Pearl Harbor and the occupation of China, and said that we must both look to the future but maintain without forgetting the lessons of the past.

There then was some discussion of Hong Kong. Both the Presidents desire that -- or expressing the President's view that we hope to continue to see the preservation of the political identity, the freedoms and the economic integrity of Hong Kong. And there was some discussion of the financial situation in Asia and agreement that Secretary Rubin and Vice Premier, soon to be Premier Zhu Rongji should work together, come together to develop a closer working relationship on those issues of economic stability in Asia.

The President will have more to say I think at the press conference about nonproliferation and the nuclear issue, but I think we have reached a point where we're satisfied that we have the assurances that we need to have that China is not engaging, will not engage in assistance to states developing nuclear weapons, which would enable the President to go forward with the Peaceful Nuclear Energy Agreement of 1985.

On trade, the Chinese indicated to us that they plan to sign the International Technology Agreement. That is, as you know, a huge multinational agreement that basically brings tariffs down to zero in information technology areas. It's a huge area. It's a $14 billion sector in China, of which we have 10 percent. So it's a $1.4 billion sector where tariffs are going to go from I think 13 percent to zero.

With respect to the WTO, a commitment to continue to work for Chinese accession on commercial terms, but no -- I would say no substantial progress in that area.

Then there was a quite-long discussion of energy and the environment, and later this afternoon there will be signed an agreement between the United States and China to launch an energy and evaluation initiative, which will enable us to work more closely together in trying to help China develop an energy future that is more environmentally sound than perhaps the developed countries have done.

There was a lengthy conversation about climate change and Kyoto, and the President reiterated his view that while the developing countries need to take the lead -- the developed countries need to take the lead, the developing countries need to be part of the solution. And the President indicated that this problem probably presents the biggest gap between the magnitude of a problem and the marshalling of the international community so far to deal with it.

They talked about cooperation in the United Nations. The President and Secretary Albright made a very strong argument to President Jiang to support our effort to realign the assessment rate in the United Nations so that we can unleash the $900 million of money that's been appropriated on the Hill. And President Jiang said, or perhaps it was Foreign Minimum Qian, that they will participate in the discussion of the assessment scale in the U.N.

And then finally there was a discussion of Taiwan raised by President Jiang, asserting their views, the importance of us maintaining a one China policy. The President made clear that we would; would not support Taiwan independence, which we have not. But of course, on the other hand, we will act consistent with U.S. law in dealing with Taiwan. And the President pushed and urged President Jiang to try to resume a cross-strait dialogue, which President Jiang indicated that he would like to do.

Q What kind of dialogue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Cross-strait. A couple of other things and then I will open this -- that sounds almost like an oxymoron, actually, doesn't it.

Q It sounded like something else to me.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are I think a few other things that we'll talk about when we come back in here, on the record -- military-to-military agreement that we have reached, which will provide for maritime safety and seek to avoid accidents or misunderstanding between our naval forces at sea, a decision by the Chinese to enable DEA officers to come into the Embassy and to be stationed in Beijing, which is something we've been working for for a long time. And tomorrow at the Commerce Department the Chinese will be signing a contract with Boeing for 50 Boeing aircraft valued at approximately $3 billion, which, as I understand, is the largest aircraft purchase in the history of China.

Let me end there and try to answer some questions.

Q It sounds as though the discussions, the philosophical discussions last night were truly a two-way street. And my question is, did Jiang say anything that got through to the President with all of his historical discourse that in any way amended the President's views on human rights. Did he give him a more subtle and nuanced picture of the situation?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say, first of all, when I say it was philosophical, I want to be clear: It was a very probing conversation, and it was not only general, it was also specific. So it was not just sort of up in the clouds. It was both kind of the underlying rationale on our side and why we think this is important, why Americans feel so strongly, why there are people who are protesting, and why we think it's in China's interest.

And on the China side, a recitation of what the Chinese often say about this subject, which is that we are growing at 10 percent a year, we've reduced poverty from 250 million to 50 million people, which is not a bad deal. We have to be concerned more with stability. We're in different stages of development. So I don't think the President heard anything last night that --

Q Hearing it from the horse's mouth didn't get through to him?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. But I think it is useful for these two men -- I think it was -- hopefully useful for President Jiang, to hear from the President in a non-polemical way, in a very heartfelt and forceful way, why this is important to Americans, and why it is important, in our judgment, to China's future.

And President Jiang, in turn, sought to explain -- obviously, first of all, they don't accept the premise that all of the people who we consider to be political dissidents are in jail because of political activity. From their perspective, some of these people are in jail for criminal activity. That is simply not true, as far as we're concerned.

But arguing in not unfamiliar terms the importance -- how much this country has blown apart in the past -- he talked about the cultural revolution, he talked about other moments -- and so there is a preoccupation with stability. The President indicated that that can't, going into the future, be -- is going to be inconsistent with China's evolution.

Q Did the conversation on human rights continue today in the Oval Office or the Cabinet Room? And also, did the President in any of these conversations raise specific cases of political prisoners and ask President Jiang about any specific cases -- ask him to release anybody?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was a brief kind of -- after last night, I think in that setting, which was basically two of them -- plus two on our side, two on their side, I think there was a greater ability to be candid, so there really was not a need, I think, to repeat that conversation today. There was some brief reference to it by the President.

And if I can have a chance to answer Mr. Hunt's second question --

Q Thank you, which was, sir --

Q What names --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to talk about specific names, but specific cases were raised.

Q Specific names -- did he mention specific names at all?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, but it is not, I think, productive, as I've said, I think, from this podium before, to discuss that publicly.

Q Did he ask specifically that those individuals be released?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We've made it clear on many, many occasions --

Q No, no, I'm talking about yesterday.

Q The President.


Q And what response did he get?

Q What response?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's as far as I'm going to go. It came up, specific names came up, and that's it.

Q Did President Jiang specifically ask the United States to stop selling advanced weapons to Taiwan, and if so, what was the response?


Q Didn't raise it?

Q You mentioned they don't accept the premise about the people they have in jail.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we call a political dissident, they would characterize as someone who is engaged in criminal activity and violated the criminal law.

Q Is that an honest difference over what -- accepting the premise or, in the U.S. view, is that official mendacity on the part of the Chinese government?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't use that phrase. (Laughter.) I would not accept their characterization of it.

Q You said that the exchange last night could be more candid than they would be in -- but isn't it really kind of letting them off the hook to really handle human rights in an informal living room situation as opposed to around a table where he has his --


Q Why not?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because I think that this is a difficult subject, and you probably deal with difficult subjects more comfortably in a small group of people than in front of the entire press corps. And I think -- just think about the logic of it -- it is easier to have a straightforward exchange and a candid exchange when you're surrounded by a relatively small group of people than when you're surrounded by a relatively large group of people.

Q Why would it be difficult for the President of the United States to say in front of all of the Chinese, you're wrong on this and you're doing the wrong thing? I don't understand the premise that it's difficult for us to assert --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Read the speech on Friday, David. The President spent 40 percent of that speech on Friday -- let me finish David's question. The President spent 40 percent of that speech on Friday talking about why they're wrong on this. And so I don't think there's any hesitation on our part all along to say, we think human rights is important, we think that political dissidents ought to be released, we think there ought to be a greater degree of religious freedom.

And what did we do in Geneva? When half the world was diving for the drapes, we continued to sponsor a resolution that was condemning China for its human rights practices. We've had no question about it.

Q Did Jiang bring up Geneva and ask us not to sponsor any more of those resolutions?


Q You used the word "recitation" to describe his response when the President raised human rights? In a general sense, in the two meetings they've had so far, has the President been getting back speech chunks from President Jiang? Has it been sort of push a button, get a recitation? Or can you give us some sense for how much give-and-take there has really been and whether he has --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's a good question. Let me say, first of all, a couple of things have happened. I would not describe them as entirely satisfactory, but a couple of things have happened as a result of this trip. The Chinese have invited three prominent American religious leaders to come to China. They've resumed cooperation with John Kam (phonetic), who is doing remarkable work in China in terms of identifying prisoners and human rights activists. They've agreed to an NGO forum, a dialogue of our NGOs and the Chinese. They've indicated they would sign the economic and social covenant in the United Nations, which has significant human rights implications -- although we would also like them to sign the political covenant and social covenant.

So there have been some things that have happened I would not describe -- you know, we're going to continue to press on this issue. Let me just back up here one step and say, this is a very important part of our relationship, but it is a part of our relationship. Jiang is here because we have a fundamental interest in how China evolves and whether we can expand areas of cooperation and deal directly with areas of difference. And I know that the human rights issue is extremely important, but so is whether war breaks out in Korea and so is whether or not we can slow down nonproliferation and so is whether we can get some greater degree of environmental cooperation so that our children don't choke to death. There is a range of issues that we have with China that are important, that I think need to be taken into account in the overall meeting.

Q Did the campaign fundraising under investigation here in the United States come up and, if so, in what context?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President raised it last night, indicated that he -- President Jiang repeated what he has said on a number of occasions to various people, that they were not engaged, but indicated that he would be cooperative with U.S. officials in that investigation.

Q You mentioned briefly that Secretary Rubin would be talking to his Chinese counterpart on financial cooperation. In light of the stock market gyration, can you just expand on this?


Q What did the President say on campaign finance? How did he raise it? Did he --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was a general discussion of the troubles of the week, as they say in Northern Ireland -- (laughter) -- and the need to cooperate more closely, generally on Asia, economic issues. And a mechanism was then established with Zhu Rongji and Bob Rubin to do that.

Q What about security? Have security issues come up, U.S.-Japan defense guidelines --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I spent about five or 10 minutes on that in the beginning. I'd be happy to repeat it.

Q No, thank you.

Q How will that hotline work?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think essentially it will be, as I understand it, a kind of a drop line, secure phone that we have with some other leaders.

Q Is this voice communications?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe so. Let me be a little clearer on this when I come back later, because I'm not --

Q The United States still imposes sanctions on China for Tiananmen Square -- the Ex-Im Bank, for example. Is that going to go away in this summit, or are we going to keep those sanctions in place?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would not imagine fundamental changes in the Tiananmen sanctions. As part of a moving forward on a peaceful nuclear energy agreement there are some programs that we may go forward with. But on a wholesale basis I would not imagine that to happen.

Q Have you helped gird him for this press conference at least by telling him sort of what to expect?


Q The President of China. Have you warned him?


Q Do these guys like each other? Has there been any progress on that front?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll be back after the press conference.

END 1:51 P.M. EST