THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON PRESIDENT'S TRIP TO JAPAN Presidential Hall
1:35 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President leaves tomorrow morning and flies for approximately 13 hours, landing in Tokyo late morning, around 10:40 a.m. Tokyo time. He will proceed directly to the State Guest House, will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mori. Following that, he'll have the opportunity to come back to the Okura Hotel and freshen up before the memorial service.
Following the memorial service, he will proceed to Ambassador Foley's residence, where he will have the opportunity to make a statement really to convey to the people of Japan our sincerest sympathy at the passing of former Prime Minister Obuchi. And then following that, he'll have a meeting with President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea, and then attend a reception being hosted by Prime Minister Mori for the various dignitaries that are in Tokyo for the day. And then, at that point, he'll come back to the United States.
So that briefly is kind of the shell of the visit. But this was basically a personal decision by the President to attend this memorial service. And with that opportunity -- I can just use the opportunity to walk through the specific events, but to the extent that you've got questions about the President's relationship with former Prime Minister Obuchi and some of the other business that he'll be doing during the course of the morning, I'll turn it over to my colleague.
Q The statement to the Japanese people, how is he going to do that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He'll just have the opportunity while at the Ambassador's residence, I think in the gardens behind the residence, to briefly make a statement, primarily directed to the people of Japan.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I apologize for being late. I can take any questions about the trip.
Q -- about the substance of the meeting with the South Korean President, topics on the agenda?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This meeting comes very shortly before the historic North-South Summit that will take place on June 12-14 with Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Chong-il. We have consulted closely with the South Koreans and with the Japanese on an ongoing basis about the developments in the Korean Peninsula, and I think this meeting should be seen in that context.
They will be discussing the upcoming summit. We have a high level of confidence in the way Kim Dae-Jung has been approaching the North, and this will be an opportunity to reemphasize that and to touch base shortly before this meeting.
Q Are there any sort of offers of assistance that the U.S. is going to extend to the parties in those talks?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. We have our own set of discussions with North Korea. Again, we coordinate closely with the South and also with the Japanese. But we are not extending anything to the North through Kim Dae-Jung in this North-South Summit, no.
Q Any business discussion with Mr. Mori, any bilateral --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the major purpose of that meeting is a condolence call to express the President's sentiments about the passing of Prime Minister Obuchi -- let me say, for whom the President had very fond feelings. They really got to know each other quite well, and I think that's one reason why the President has insisted on making this trip, even though it comes at the tail end of a six-day foreign trip and with a very brief break.
There will be some time to discuss other issues in the meeting. I'm not prepared to get into what they'll discuss; I think that's up to them when they actually sit down together.
Q Are there any former U.S. heads of state accompanying the President?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there aren't.
Q About how long is the bilateral with Mori scheduled?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It should be about 30 minutes.
Q Can you tell us anything about the trip in July to Japan, what's been scheduled around that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, actually, the trip in July is primarily for the G-8 Summit. There will also be a state visit to Japan associated with that trip. No other activities have been firmed up yet, so there's nothing else to say about that trip at this point.
Q In his message to the Japanese people at the Ambassador's residence, is he also going to deal in any way with Okinawa?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I don't believe so. Certainly not in his prepared remarks.
Q But any specific references or overtures on Okinawa during the time --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. Let me say, the purpose of this trip is to express the President's sorrow at the passing of a friend and colleague, Prime Minister Obuchi. We don't want to, in a sense, confuse things by raising a series of bilateral or multilateral issues for the Japanese public to think about as they watch the President on this trip. He really is representing the U.S. government and representing himself in going over to participate in the memorial ceremony and to do the other things that my colleague mentioned -- seeing Prime Minister Mori, attending a reception, in addition to the memorial service. They're all part of that process of saying farewell to Prime Minister Obuchi.
So he will not have significant things to say about Okinawa, the G-8, and so forth in his statement to the press.
Q At the South Korea-U.S. meeting, is the President asking -- there have been some issues on missiles --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that we are very close together with the Japanese government -- I'm sorry, I misspoke -- with the South Korea government about how to approach this summit. And I think they'll have an opportunity to briefly review that. This is only a very short meeting. I think they'll have an opportunity to briefly make some comments each about what we have agreed on will be the approach.
This is fundamentally Kim Dae-Jung's approach, but it's one with which we will closely associate ourselves. And this meeting simply, I think, highlights our continuing coordination in this process.
Q How long is that discussion expected to be?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I expect 15, 20 minutes, something like that.
Q Is he spending about 24 hours in Japan?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. He arrives at about 10:40 a.m. in the morning and leaves about 6:40 p.m. in the evening. So this whole trip, door to door, is about 36 hours. Let me say, I think again, that highlights what the President is willing to do in order to personally be there for this commemorative event.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we have a couple of minutes before we have to get you back over for the presidential statement, at roughly 2:00 p.m. What we'll try to do -- I think the meeting between the President and King Abdullah should be wrapping up about now, and what we'll try to do is give you a brief readout, probably at the tail end of the -- after the President's statement to any of you who are interested.
But if you have any other questions, I'll be happy to take them now. Otherwise we'll adjourn and we'll see the pool once the President finishes his statement.
Q Can you give us an update on the Middle East process, how it's looking?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Secretary Albright had an opportunity today to talk to Chairman Arafat and he accepted our offer to come to Washington on June 14. The Secretary also had the opportunity last evening to confer with Prime Minister Barak. So that, I think, is the next major step. Also we expect to have negotiators back in Washington at the start of the week to resume negotiations here in Washington. So that clearly signals the intent at the leadership level, at the expert level, as the Secretary said today, that we're all interested in rolling up our sleeves and attacking the very difficult issues that they confront.
Obviously, this is a very aggressive timetable that the parties have set for themselves, and with this kind of high-level engagement, now comes the opportunity to really make progress in narrowing the gaps that still exist between the parties.
Q And you say the rest of the timetable -- what is the possible timetable after this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think as the President indicated last week, we hope to see in these next couple of weeks a real intensified effort to establish a foundation, perhaps, for a leadership meeting in the next few weeks, but then continuing to move ahead, because we're all mindful of the September 13 deadline that the parties have set for themselves for reaching an agreement.
Q -- the bilateral with the South Koreans, any chance for a briefing or a readout?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll do what we can. I think we're going to have what primarily is a large pool hold at the Okura Hotel. We'll be able to accommodate as many organizations that are interested in knowing what's going on as we can. But by and large, our readouts will primarily be to the pool that will be accompanying us. But we'll do what we can for those news organizations that might have traveled separately or will be on hand in Tokyo. But it will be very much kind of catching us on the fly. But we will have a couple of periods of time back at the Okura; we will keep you updated.
Q Do you expect any departure statement tomorrow?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not that I've been told, no.
Q After the President returns from Japan he's going to be meeting with President Zedillo of Mexico. Do you have the main topics that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the President and President Zedillo have worked very effectively together during their respective tenures, and they have tried to touch base with each other periodically, every six months or so, in various ways -- in person or on the telephone. So I think this is just an opportunity for the two Presidents to get together and see each other here in Washington one last time before each leaves office, and they'll have the opportunity while here to kind of review the full range of issues in our important relationship with our southern neighbor.
I'm not sure if there will be anything particular, but I think it's primarily just having the two leaders just keeping themselves updated on key issues in the relationship.
Q -- position in Mexico saying that if anything was going to take place only three weeks before the elections in Mexico, and they are saying the time of the meeting was changed because the President of Mexico --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we have an interest in ensuring that the people of Mexico have the opportunity to, through a democratic process, elect their government. This is a matter for the people of Mexico; it is not something that we have a direct interest in. But the time of this meeting has been changed a couple of times and has also been affected by the President's recent travel schedule. So I wouldn't read anything into those changes.
Okay. Thanks very much.
END 1:48 P.M.