THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Auckland, New Zealand) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 12,1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART Sky City Hotel Auckland, New Zealand
7:04 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everybody. Let me give you -- briefly bring you up to date on a couple of things that have happened since the last extensive readout we gave you. The opening session of the APEC Conference commenced this afternoon. As Mr. Sperling ably recounted to me, much of the early discussion centered on a philosophical discussion among the leaders on when you should celebrate the millennium -- in 2000, or 2001. (Laughter.)
Prime Minister Shipley did indicate that it would be celebrated first here and she'd be glad to report. And after some discussion I think the leaders came to the conclusion that since their public, of which they all like to be attuned to, will begin celebrating in 2000, they will start celebrating in 2000. And that was the conclusion of that philosophical debate.
Q Did the President dissent from that or what --
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President was in a category shared by some others that thought that 2000 was the right because they'd still be in office -- (laughter) -- although the President will be in office in 2001. I do understand that.
The President, for his part in speaking this afternoon, did praise Prime Minister Shipley for the excellent work she's done on the preparation of the declaration that will be released tomorrow. Prime Minister Shipley reported on the meetings that she's had, which is I think a first for APEC, with Asian CEOs and Asian trade unions. And the leaders -- that report was well received by the leaders.
In the business group meetings, APEC went on -- there was a series of questions. The President was -- a question was posed to the President about the role of APEC in the context of the WTO and other trading organizations; how APEC would evolve in the future and whether APEC would remain relevant. The President spoke very strongly about the important role of APEC, about how APEC has been at the center of many of the trade liberalization work that's been done in the last years. And there was a very complimentary relationship between APEC and the WTO as we move forward on trade liberalization.
The President had one pull-aside of note this afternoon. He spent about 15 or 20 minutes talking with Prime Minister Howard of Australia. The conversation was about the situation in East Timor. Prime Minister Howard indicated to the President what I think he's indicated publicly, is the Australians continue their work on leading and putting together a force that could serve as peacekeepers.
Prime Minister Howard gave the President a report on the countries in Asia that he had been in discussions with who are willing to participate. They both talked about the anticipation of hearing from the U.N. in the aftermath of their meeting with Habibie.
They also talked about ongoing discussions between the Australian military and the U.S. military about the supporting role the U.S. would play in such an effort.
That's about it. I've also -- if you want, I can give you a little bit on tomorrow.
Q Can you just first describe the supporting role the United States is prepared to --
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President did and Mr. Berger both last night and this morning did a good job. I don't have any more details to offer beyond there are certainly some things that -- capabilities that are unique to the United States that we can do as far as airlift logistics, communications and others. We have, as Mr. Berger and the President have indicated, made no final decisions, but we continue in our conversations with the Australians.
Q Did he suggest to Prime Minister Howard that there were certain things the U.S. could do? Is that the genesis of the Prime Minister's apparent remarks that were interpreted as saying the U.S. would supply approximately 600 troops?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know what the genesis of that remark is except for someone who has an active imagination, because the President didn't suggest anything having to do with numbers. They talked generally about things that the U.S. could do, things that the U.S. is uniquely qualified to do, and our willingness to participate in that way.
Q Are you ruling out ground troops for the U.S.? Is that what's being ruled out?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, Mr. Berger said quite clearly that there's nothing ruled out here. We're working through this process here. You know, we can get into a long, philosophical debate of what a ground troop is, but, obviously, if you're helping in an airlift, planes have to land someplace and people are all going to a certain place, so that shouldn't be a mystery.
We will continue our conversations. We'll continue -- the President will continue consultation with Congress and we'll work through what the appropriate role we can play is.
Q The President said he had talked to some members of Congress and others in Washington had, too. What's the early reaction and is there opposition to the idea of U.S. participation?
MR. LOCKHART: I would put it this way -- I think these conversations are about the situation on the ground, the potential for us playing a role. I don't think we've gotten to the point where we're specifying the particular functions we may or may not serve. There has been no opposition that has been reported to me, but I don't want to indicate that someone has put a specific plan on the table and said, are you for it or are you against it?
Q Joe, at what point does this become so late as to not be useful in terms of helping people on the ground?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there's important work that's going on right now with the U.N. Mission. They will meet with the Indonesian leaders. They have been meeting with them. They are making their point clearly and forcefully. Obviously, the situation on the ground is serious and it's not improving. But we continue for our part, in addition to working within the context of the U.N., to ratchet up the pressure on Indonesia to make clear what the consequences for failing to bring this situation into control. And it's, I think as you've seen over the last 24 hours, it's not just the United States. The United Kingdom has made some announcements. The EU will be meeting within the next day or so to look at what kind of pressure they can bring to bear.
Q Joe, do you have any reason to believe that there will be a positive statement on the issue of ground troops with President Habibie going to a press conference at midnight at our time?
MR. LOCKHART: Just before I came out here, I heard that there was some announcement scheduled. I have no way of knowing what will be announced there or any reason to believe anything one way or the other.
Q Have your people on the ground given you any reason for optimism?
MR. LOCKHART: Not in the context of any announcement tonight. I don't want to tell you that they've given me reason for pessimism either. I don't know what the announcement is.
Q Well, if not in the context of the announcement tonight, what have they given you?
MR. LOCKHART: I think as the President said and Mr. Berger said, there have been conflicting statements. Some of them have indicated a willingness or a softening on the concept of allowing an international peacekeeping force. There have also been statements quite to the contrary -- at the U.N. there was a strong statement saying that they would not. So I think there has been conflicting -- I think as Sandy said last night, what's most important is what's going on on the ground, and we haven't seen any improvement there.
Q Joe, do you have any information that there may be some sort of mass attack underway against refugees? And, also, is it an absolute that Indonesia must invite the international force into East Timor?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no independent information on the first question. And it's hard to see how a force could be put together and could effectively go into an environment that was not under the circumstances of an invitation.
Q If there were a quick decision to allow U.N. troops into East Timor, how long would it take to get a force there?
MR. LOCKHART: That's a question that I'm not qualified to answer. I think the best place to put that would be at the U.N. and with the Australians, who I think are taking the lead in putting a force together.
Q Did Prime Minister Howard say how many Asian countries are willing to participate and how large a force might be needed?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know specifically. I think he briefed the President on a number of countries, but I don't know what the final or the current tally is.
Q As the violence has continued there despite international urging on Indonesia, has there been an evolution in the President's thinking about what the right U.S. role is to play?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there has certainly been an escalation in the steps we've taken to make our view known to the Indonesian government. I think over the last few days you've seen a series of concrete steps as far as our relationship with their military and our sales, and our willingness to look at taking further steps as far as our economic relationship with Indonesia.
So I think as it became clear that, in the President's words, the military was aiding and abetting the militias, we have in turn made very clear with concrete steps to the Indonesians how serious we view the situation.
Q The President asked Japan to step up their influence on Indonesia, yet the Japanese have said they will not cut off aid and do not support cutting off IMF aid and other types of economic aid.
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President -- I think in the conversation between the three leaders today they all agreed on how serious the situation is, and I think the President urged the Japanese government to use the influence they have with Indonesia and to put as much pressure as they could on the Indonesians to try to bring a change in the attitude of the government.
Q Joe, have the leaders added to the agenda to have a special session on East Timor?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that there's going to be a special session. If that comes about we'll certainly let you know. I expect that given the agenda for the morning and the afternoon, which is primarily focused on economics and trade, that the discussion would most likely turn to East Timor and the situation in Indonesia during the lunch, which is traditionally a more free-wheeling session for the leaders to talk about whatever issue is on their mind, or an issue that is occupying their attention. So I think at this point, it certainly is something that the leaders are discussing among themselves, but in the context of this meeting, I'd expect the discussion to -- my guess is, stay within the context of the lunch now.
Q Do you have any readout on Charlene's meeting with Shi?
MR. LOCKHART: I think as Gene indicated last night, we're not going to try to handicap this as we go along. This is a negotiation and negotiations are best done between the parties and not in the press.
I can tell you that Charlene Barshefsky, the U.S. Trade Representative, and her counterpart from China met for about 90 minutes this morning at the Chinese hotel, the Sheraton Hotel. They took a break. The negotiators minus Charlene Barshefsky and I believe her counterpart, went back in early this afternoon and are still talking.
Q Can you give us some kind of idea of the process to get the peacekeepers in, how you slip the noose around Indonesia without strangling a fledgling democracy that you're trying to bring along?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as we've indicated, the government of Indonesia needs to come to the realization that the rest of the international community has, that they need to restore security and bring in the peacekeeping force. So I don't see those things as working against each other.
I think what will serve to put a noose around a fledgling democracy, as you say, is the lack of realization on the Indonesian government about the severity of the situation and the international community's resolve to see security restored and safety restored in East Timor.
Q Joe, the Indonesians seem to be particularly hostile to the idea of Australia leading this force. Were there any discussions between the President and Prime Minister Howard for an alternate situation whereby an Asian nation or a coalition of Asian nations to be in charge?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think primarily -- I'm not aware that they looked at alternatives. I know that they did discuss the idea that Australia would take the lead, as well as inviting other countries in the Asian region, and I think that's the -- I mean, that is the best thinking as it exists now. I'm not aware that there's an alternative view or looking to another country to lead this effort.
Q Joe, a couple of things. The Indonesian -- apparently has talked relatively favorably of the ASEAN nations taking the brunt of it. Do you take that as a positive development, or do you think that's a way to sort of take a stand or make a distinction between Australia --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not going to get into an extended discussion about what the makeup of a force will be in an environment where there has not yet been an invitation. I think those discussions -- I think the Australians are talking with the Indonesians; the U.N. is talking with the Indonesians. Those conversations will continue. But I can't anticipate any changes in what we believe the makeup of the force will be.
Q Joe, another thing --
Q -- on the bilateral --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me finish with Bob and then we'll come back --
Q Just one other thing on the economic question. Is a trade embargo one of the options on the table?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to go down the hypothetical route of what we might do beyond repeating that -- what the President said is, we're reviewing everything, everything that's available to us. And we will continue that review.
Q Joe, has any other country of APEC suggested it would join the U.S. in sanctions against Indonesia?
MR. LOCKHART: I think if you watched, the British government announced -- I get my days mixed up here -- within the last 24 hours, that they joined in cutting off military sales and are now leading the effort within the European Union. So I think there is growing international support.
Q Within this organization -- within APEC?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, is there anybody saying, no, this is an internal matter and we don't want to get involved, we should keep our hands off?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q And you were going to -- you started to say something about you were going to preview tomorrow.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I think tomorrow obviously will be the day that we release the declaration from the APEC Conference. I think when it's released you'll find that it meets the U.S. objective that we laid out before we went, which is a strong statement about the importance of trade liberalization and free trade around the world and is an excellent jumping-off point for moving now toward the Seattle ministerial meeting.
I think the discussion tomorrow will focus in the morning first on the lessons learned from the financial crisis and the ground we've covered in the last year. I think there will be extensive conversation on financial architecture, the restructuring that we've talked about so much over the last year. I think they'll then go to a conversation about APEC and the wider world, a general conversation of free trade. And then the afternoon will be very much in line with what the President has talked about in his many speeches on trade, about putting a human face on globalization.
Prime Minister Shipley is leading an effort to think of new ways to build support within APEC and around the world for free trade by reaching out to different communities who have not yet been engaged in this global conversation. So I think that's what the bulk of tomorrow will be with, as I mentioned earlier, the lunch, where I think there will be some focus on East Timor.
Q Are we looking to have, then, a separate statement on East Timor from the APEC leaders after that luncheon?
MR. LOCKHART: I do not anticipate one as of now, but if that changes we'll let you know.
Q You mentioned that the U.S.-Chinese trade negotiators have been meeting for hours now. Do you get any sense that they're on the verge of a breakthrough that could be announced tonight or tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: If I answered that, it would violate my previously articulated rule on this, so --
Q It's okay.
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, okay. Waive the rules?
Q Yes. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, did Dr. Perry submit his official report to the President yet? And if that's the case, was there any major change made to the proposal he made in Pyongyang?
MR. LOCKHART: The President received the report a couple days ago. He will be reviewing it now, and he looks forward to a chance to talk to Dr. Perry. We will also be engaging in some consultation with Congress on the report, so I think in advance of that process I'm not going to get into specifics that are contained within the report.
Q Has there been a pull-aside with the Indonesian representative here? Are there any plans for the President to meet with him here?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Why is that?
MR. LOCKHART: He's their Finance Minister. I think we've made our views known clearly and repeatedly with those in Jakarta and in Indonesia about what our view is and what the world community's view is.
Q Could he not perhaps get some information from his as to -- there seems to be some confusion on our side as to exactly what's going on.
MR. LOCKHART: I think if we judge that it would be in our interests to do that, we'll do that. And if we do, we'll let you know.
Q Joe, were you able to secure Chinese support for what you're discussing regarding East Timor? Or are they indicating that they'll be stepping into line?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know that there's been, on the presidential level any further discussions since what we talked about yesterday. So I'll leave it to the Chinese representatives to detail their view. I think the focus of yesterday's meeting was more on issues that are of bilateral concern between the United States and China.
Q Joe, can you brief us on Madeleine Albright's meeting with Tang Jiaxuan?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I can't because I did not get a briefing myself on that.
Q Joe, can you tell us about the President's meeting tomorrow with the Timorese leader --
MR. LOCKHART: He'll meet with him tomorrow. He wants to hear the perspective of someone who is a leader, who has been at the forefront of the independence movement in East Timor. And I think the President will articulate clearly in that meeting what he's done publicly, that the U.S. finds this situation and, in fact, the world community finds this situation unacceptable. And we will continue to pressure the Indonesian government until they understand the consequences of allowing the kind of killing and terror that's taking place now in East Timor.
Q Joe, Ramos-Horta told me recently that if the situation doesn't break in favor of the peacekeepers in the next two or three days, the United Nations has to act unilaterally. Is there any circumstances under which the President would entertain that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that we're going to continue on the path that we're on, which is putting pressure on, making our views known clearly both as far as in the rhetoric and in the concrete economic and military measures we've taken, and continuing to make the point to the Indonesian government that it is in their interest both short-term and long-term to invite in a peacekeeping force and restore order in East Timor.
Q Anything about the trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan?
MR. LOCKHART: There is an excellent, excellent readout from Mr. Sandy Berger that goes about six pages on that subject. And I'll leave it at that. Thank you.
END 7:24 P.M. (L)