THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY LAEL BRAINARD, DEPUTY NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISOR AND JIM STEINBERG, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EDT
MR. STOCKWELL: Good afternoon. Today's press briefing is on President Clinton's upcoming trip to Japan. The briefers are Jim Steinberg, Deputy National Security Advisor; and Lael Brainard, Deputy National Economic Advisor. First up is Lael.
MS. BRAINARD: The President is departing Wednesday for his 8th G-7/G-8 meeting. And before I go into the schedule I'll give you a brief overview of how the G-8 has evolved during the President's tenure, and a description of our overall agenda for Okinawa.
During the time that the President has been attending the G-7/G-8 meetings, the G-7 has expanded to formally include Russia, with the first official summit of the 8 hosted actually by President Clinton in Denver in 1997. And the agenda has expanded beyond issues of macroeconomic coordination to include the full range of issues critical to world prosperity and world stability.
Jim will comment on the regional security aspects of the Okinawa agenda in a moment, and will also preview the bilaterals.
Events have come full circle. The President attended his first summit in Japan in 1993, and will be attending this, his last summit, again in Japan. In 1993, the President was the new guy on the block with a weak U.S. economy and growing deficits. This year he returns as the senior statesman in the group, with a positive world economic outlook, the longest expansion in U.S. history, and an established record on turning deficits into surpluses.
It's worth noting that since between 1980 and 1993, every G-7 communique noted concerns about the U.S. budget deficit. In 1993, for the first time the deficit reduction plan was commended. And this year, of course, our deficit, which was projected to be $455 billion in 2000, is now, in fact, projected to be a surplus of $211 billion.
The other thing that's worth noting on the economic front is the information technology revolution that has helped drive economic growth in the United States has drawn attention throughout the world and will, in fact, be chief theme of the summit.
But at the same time there is heightened prosperity in parts of the world, there is growing disparity with the poorest nations. One point two billion of the world's roughly 6 billion people live on less than $1 per day. Another 1.6 billion live on less than $2 a day. So a second chief theme of the Okinawa Summit is to address the health divide, the education divide and the digital divide with a renewed sense of urgency and purpose.
For the first time ever, on the eve of the Summit, G-8 leaders will meet with leaders of developing nations, representatives of the private sector and key multilateral development organizations to develop a deeper partnership on global poverty.
The G-8 will signal their intent to work with these actors on a coordinated response to support strong efforts by leaders of the developing world who want to move forward on these critical challenges. This builds on one of the Cologne summit's primary achievements, which was a plan to triple the scale of debt relief for the world's poorest. Together, Cologne and Okinawa are critical steps in the President's personal agenda of putting a human face on the global economy.
Trade investment and technology are potential powerful engines of growth and development for poor countries, but they are necessary, not sufficient. That is why Okinawa is going to look at some of the complementary policies that are so important. For instance, lack of human capacity associated with disease, malnutrition and illiteracy make it impossible for some of the developing countries to take advantage of these opportunities. Sick and malnourished people have less access to education, find it harder to learn; illiterate people are harder to reach through public health campaigns -- targeted HIV-AIDS -- and it's harder for them to implement complicated treatment regimes.
Let me give you a few of the statistics on HIV-AIDS and infectious diseases more generally. HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria threaten an entire generation of the developing world. They're taking a devastating human and economic toll. And because they're disproportionately afflicting those with the least ability to afford immunizations and treatments, the private sector does not have an incentive to invest in these critical areas that's consistent with the social value of doing so.
That's why a coordinated response is necessary. In Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, over 20 percent of the population is infected, and half of all 15-year-olds are projected to die of AIDS. The population of each of these countries will actually decline in the coming years. And 44 million children will be orphaned worldwide in the next decade as a result of HIV-AIDS.
Tuberculosis accounts for more than 2.3 million deaths each year, and malaria kills more than 1 million, mostly in Africa. And finally, at least 3 million children die needlessly each year for lack of access to existing vaccines.
The G-8 will come up with a response on some of these challenges. Secondly, Okinawa will seek to address the education divide. Universal basic education is a critical goal, both in its own right and because it is a critical tool for fighting disease and for taking advantage of economic opportunity. Extensive research suggests this is one of the highest returning investments in the world.
Let me give you another statistic in this area. About 60-70 percent of the estimated over 100 million children who are not in school are girls; 40 percent of African children are out of school; 26 percent of South and West Asian children are out of school. At the G-8 the leaders will be talking about the principles and commitments that were made at Dakar to achieve universal education -- universal primary education -- by 2015, and also the Dakar principle that no country that comes forward with a strong education for all plan should not be able to implement it for lack of resources.
Finally, let me talk briefly about the digital divide. The G-8 leaders will be discussing with the developing country heads of state and members of the private sector how to create digital opportunity for the people of the developing world.
Information technology holds great promise, not only for economic opportunity, but also for improving access to health care and to education in poor and remote areas. It's worth noting that of the estimated 332 million people on line, less than 1 percent live in Africa. That's about 2.7, 2.8 out of 700 million people. Less than 5 percent of the computers connected to the Internet are in developing countries.
This is something where the President's experience in the domestic context, on closing the domestic digital divide will be helpful as we think about how to address the even more challenging problem of the global digital divide. He also will be harking back to his experiences in India, where he observed a new mother getting information about how to care for her baby on the Internet in a local community access site, where he observed people getting their drivers licenses off the Internet in Hyderabad, and also some of the world's leading entrepreneurs functioning in India in a developing economy.
This is an area where the administration has a long history. In fact, the Vice President called for a global information infrastructure in a speech that he gave in Buenos Aires as far back as 1994. The G-8 leaders will be releasing an Okinawa Charter on the global information society, which we hope will commit to mobilize and coordinate both public and private sector efforts to bridge the divide. And we have been working with private sectors and foundations to support it.
That is the economic part of the agenda and, again, Jim will go over the security and regional issues. Let me speak briefly about the schedule, before handing over to him.
We arrive into Tokyo early in the afternoon on Thursday, where the President will proceed to the Akasaka State Guest House for a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mori. From there, they will go into the first-ever meeting with developing nations, in particular, with leaders from -- Mbeki, from South Africa; Obasango, from Nigeria; Chuan, from Thailand; and Bouteflika, from Algeria -- representing organizations such as the G-7/E-7, NAM, OAU and the ASEANs.
From that meeting they will they go into an expanded session to talk about the development partnership for the 21st century, including representatives of several multilateral institutions, as well as private sector representatives. I don't have a complete list at the moment of the participants, but we do know that Gro Brundtland of the WHO will be there, Mark Malloch Brown of UNDP, Jim Wolfensohn of the World Bank; and several members of the private sector, including John Chambers of CISCO, here in the United States, Vernon Ellis of Andersen International, Idei of Sony and several others.
From there the President travels on to Okinawa. In the morning he will tour and give remarks at the Cornerstone of Peace Park, which is a memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and, in particular, the Battle of Okinawa. It's situated on the cliffs above the island's southernmost shore and is the location of the last fighting of a very fierce battle, which I think Jim will give you some more detail on. The names of all of those who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa, including those from Japan, Okinawa and the United States are engraved on the granite walls in the park.
He will go from there to the beginning of the G-7, G-8 with a G-7 session at the Conference Hall of the Bankoku Shinryokan Conference Center. That is a new conference center that was constructed precisely for this purpose. I believe the name of the convention center means "bridging the nations." And it includes, I believe, a bronze bell cast in 1458 by the Ryukyku King which says that the Ryukyku Kingdom -- which is Okinawa -- shall become the bridge between nations. As you know, Prime Minister Obuchi wanted the summit held here because of the importance of Okinawa.
Then, from there, he'll go into a bilateral meeting with President Putin of Russia. And from there to the G-8, the first formal session of the G-8, the working dinner, which, again, will be held at the Conference Center.
On Saturday there is basically a working session of the G-8 all day, at the Conference Center. And then in the evening dinner will be held, a social dinner will be held at Shuri Castle. Shuri Castle is the previous political and administrative center of the Ryukyku Kingdom. It was destroyed during the war and has subsequently been rebuilt and has an example of traditional Okinawan architecture.
We conclude on Sunday with a G-8 session in the morning and the adoption of the communique. I believe there is a bilateral with Prime Minister Blair of the UK. There is a farewell ceremony; I think it will be a cultural dance that includes 150 Okinawan children. And then the President will visit Camp Foster, which is a Marine base on Okinawa. And, again, Jim will give you greater detail on that.
MR. STEINBERG: Thank you, Lael. I think this is a first in briefing room experience, of the sherpa and the ex-sherpa briefing on the upcoming events.
Let me say a word about the security and foreign policy part of the agenda for the G-8 meeting, and then I'll talk a little bit about both the Okinawa/Japan bilaterals and the other meetings that the President will have during the trip.
As veteran G-8 watchers know, the first dinner Friday night is dedicated to the foreign policy issues. And as often happened in the past, the sort of event of the day is the normal fare on the menu. We've had issues in the past involving Bosnia and the Indian nuclear test and such.
This year there is no one single issue that I think is going to dominate the agenda, unless we have some dramatic events between now and Friday. But it does give the leaders an opportunity to discuss a broader range of national security related issues. In particular, I think this year there will continue to be a focus on nonproliferation and particularly an effort to get G-8 support for the recently concluded bilateral agreement between the United States and Russia on plutonium disposition.
That agreement, which was reached when the President was in Moscow, is backed up by Congress having already $200 million here in the United States and we're seeking a similar amount in the year to come. But we need support from the other G-8 countries -- Japan, in particular, has been supportive in the past and we look forward to support from others.
Similarly, in the area of Russia's WMD stocks, we would like to see some further progress in the G-8 countries helping Russia deal with the problem and the expenses associated with Russia's destruction of its chemical weapons stocks. And this is another opportunity for the G-8 to work together towards that end.
A second feature on the national security side which will be a subject of discussion is in the area of conflict prevention. Under the efforts of the foreign ministers over the last year, there has been an effort to deal with some of the kind of more persistent problems that fuel conflicts around the world -- including small arms sales that fuel conflicts, the need to develop a framework to allow the international financial institutions to be effective and work in post-conflict situations, focus particularly in the last six months to a year on the problem of conflict diamonds, and the need to develop an effective regime to prevent these from being a source of funding for rebel forces.
And finally, a growing interest in the need to enhance the international community's capacity to provide civilian police in post-conflict situations. It's a problem we've seen in many of the peacekeeping operations that the United States has been involved in, from Haiti to Bosnia to Kosovo, and the difficulty of getting counterparts to our military peacekeepers to deal with the problem of creating stability and security in these post-conflict environments.
Finally, on the security agenda there will be a discussion on terrorism, particularly strengthening the U.N. conventions on terrorism and on funding and financial support for terrorists.
In addition to these sort of functional issues, the leaders will touch on a number of most important regional security problems, including a broad-ranging discussion on the Balkans, the conflicts now underway and the U.N. efforts to cope with them in Africa. I'm sure the President will be in a position to give them an update on his efforts over the last week in Camp David on the Middle East peace process; further discussions on the efforts to bring stability to South Asia and to move down the path away from nuclear and missile spread there; and, undoubtedly, some discussion of recent developments in North Korea, which a number of the countries in the G-8 have considerable interest.
Turning now to the bilateral piece of the President's trip, this will be the President's third opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Mori in a relatively short space of time. In addition to the meeting here, the President had a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister when he went to Japan for the memorial service in honor of the late Prime Minister Obuchi, and it's a real reflection of the continued importance that the United States attaches to the U.S.-Japan relationship and the efforts that both countries have made over the last eight years to transform the relationship to reflect the new realities and the new possibilities of the post-Cold War in East Asia.
This is a relationship that is multifaceted, and in addition to discussing security issues, they will -- security issues like Korea and the Middle East peace process, where Japan has been a very important financial contributor to efforts in that region -- we will discuss broad-ranging global issues under the framework of our common agenda, and a number of outstanding economic and trade issues.
As Lael mentioned, one of the distinctive features of the summit from the Japanese point of view was the decision to hold this summit in Okinawa, and this provides President Clinton and the whole delegation an opportunity to really reflect on the value that we attach to both Japan generally, and the people of Okinawa to supporting our presence there. And the visit of the President to the Peace Park, where he will talk before a group of community leaders and representatives of the community, will be an opportunity for him to address directly to the Okinawan people the importance that we attach to the relationship and the importance that we attach to developing strong human ties as possible -- the goal of trying to have a good neighborly relationship with the people in Okinawa.
As Lael also said, the President will have two bilateral meetings in the time that he is in Okinawa. The first will be with Prime Minister Putin. This will build on the meetings that the President had while he was in Moscow just a few months ago. This, again, will be a wide-ranging opportunity for the President to -- and the new President of Russia, President Putin, to discuss the full range of their issues, not only on issues of arms control, strategic stability and threat reduction, but also the economic issues, regional security issues. And the President, I'm confident, will have an opportunity to raise some of the concerns that he has on issues such as press freedom, the rule of law, and Chechnya.
The second bilateral will be with Prime Minister Blair. This, again, will be a wide-ranging agenda where I expect that they will touch on Russia, the Balkans, the Middle East peace process, the progress that we've made in Northern Ireland and our joint efforts in particular to try to bring stability and peace to Sierra Leone.
So with that, let me stop and bring Lael back up and take your questions.
Q Jim, how significant do you expect national missile defense to be an issue with the Prime Minister in view of the failure of the test? And the foreign ministers last week said that they stress the importance of maintaining the ABM treaty. Do you read that as a criticism of NMD?
MR. STEINBERG: On the second, definitely not. I think one of the hallmarks of our approach to the whole question of national missile defense is precisely that we are convinced that it is important to maintain the ABM treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability. But the treaty, by its own terms, always contemplated the need to update it to deal with changes in the strategic environment.
And our argument, to the Russians and others, is to look at the emerging threats, threats which the Russians themselves have acknowledged in the joint statement that President Putin and President Clinton issued in Moscow, and see that by making modest changes in the ABM treaty we can address those emerging threats, at the same time preserve the core importance of the ABM treaty -- in contrast to other proposals for NMD, which would put the ABM treaty very much in jeopardy. So we welcome that call by the foreign ministers.
I think that -- I'm sure there will be discussion of NMD. It's an important topic. The President, I'm sure, will want to take advantage of having the leaders there to discuss the issues that are facing him and the decision that he will be making in the coming weeks. I think that he will indicate that he is going to take into account the concerns that have been addressed and all of the factors that we've previously identified, the four basic variables of cost, threat, technical feasibility and the impact on overall security, and continue an important dialogue that he has had both individually and collectively with the leaders over the last year or so.
Q Will he still say that he intends to make that decision? Some Democratic leaders are urging him not -- to let that go to his successor.
MR. STEINBERG: Well, there is a little bit of a semantic thing. He will make a decision whether to begin deployment next year. Whether he decides to do that or not is obviously of the options that available to him. But he will make a decision as to whether to go forward at this time or not.
Q How do you think the President is going to -- alleged crime by the serviceman stationed in Okinawa? Is he going to talk about it in the bilateral meeting with the President, or is he going to talk directly to the people at Okinawa when he makes remarks?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as I think you know, both our Ambassador to Japan and the senior military commander have directly addressed that case. And I think that, more generally, the President is going to talk about the importance that we attach to good neighborly relations with the people of Okinawa, the responsibility that we feel to make sure that we do everything possible to make that a positive arrangement. And to do what we need to do to make sure that the safety of the people, of the Okinawans are assured.
So I think in general terms he will address precisely his sense of responsibility and gratitude to the people of Okinawa for doing what they've done as part of our shared interest in providing stability for the region. Because our presence in Japan is not simply for the benefit of the United States, but as I think the Japanese Government understands very clearly, and has expressed very clearly, that this is something that benefits all the people of the region. So we want to find a way together to address the concerns that the community has; to have a good dialogue with the community about those things, but to understand that we need to have a good strong shared basis for our continued presence there.
Q What do you think is the impact of those incidents over the President's visit to Japan this time around, especially in Okinawa?
MR. STEINBERG: Without commenting on any specifics, let me just say that any time an incident arises it's regrettable and we do everything that we can to try to remove the causes of that. We want to have a relationship where there are never any incidents of that type. But the most important thing is to have a good dialogue, to have an understanding with the community leaders so that if there are other steps that they feel are useful to take that we can have those kinds of discussions. And I think that part of the exercise that all of the services in Okinawa are now undergoing is precisely to review our practices -- Secretary Cohen has asked for a review to see whether there are other steps that need to be taken. And we take this very seriously.
Q Will the President support efforts by some europeans -- and Germany, in particular -- to get a clause in the final communique warning Milosovic to -- hands off Montenegro? And is this something of a test for Putin, where he stands on this? How he comes down on the whole question of the Balkans?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as I think you know, this was a subject of discussion by the foreign ministers at their meeting in anticipation of the leaders' meeting. And I think that many of the G-8 countries, particularly our NATO allies and ourselves are concerned about efforts by Milosovic to destabilize the region, not only in Montenegro, but more broadly. And so, as I said, I expect both in the dinner meeting and in the bilateral with President Putin that the issue of stability in the Balkans will come up and the President will stress the importance that we attach to maintaining the democratic government under Mr. Djukanovic.
How that will be handled in the communique I think is always a little bit unpredictable. One of the lessons that I've learned from my experience being there is that the discussions, particularly at the evening dinner, are ones in which the leaders themselves like to kind of take charge of and decide how they want to handle it in terms of their public expression. So it's a little hard for me to anticipate that. But I'm quite sure that the issue specifically of the risks of actions in Montenegro, and more generally about the concerns that we have about Milosevic's continued destabilizing presence and the need to move on to a real democratic government in Serbia is going to be a matter of discussion.
Q And what about the read on Putin's position on this? Is this going to be considered a test of his "are you with us or against us" sort of thing?
MR. STEINBERG: I think the argument that the President has made to President Putin -- and they discussed this when the President was in Moscow -- is that it is in our common interest to have a stable Balkans, and that as long as Milosevic is there we will have instability. And so I think that what we will continue to impress on the Russians is the fact that we have a common interest in seeing that kind of change there. You look at the changes that are taking place throughout the region -- the installation of a truly democratic government in Croatia, the positive impact that that's having, some of the changes that are taking place in the political landscape in Bosnia -- and that Serbia remains the most important source of instability.
So it's not simply a test for Putin, but it's the Russians' understanding that it really is in their interest, as it is for all the countries of Europe, to solve this problem and to have a solution which brings greater stability.
Q The President said in his interview with the New York Daily News about going to Japan -- he said that he hopes he will be able to go and that he will give it his best shot. This doesn't seem like a real strong determination that he will go or that he has all intention of going. Do you get a growing sense that the President may miss a day or the entire G-8 summit because of the Middle East peace talks?
MR. STEINBERG: I think Joe spoke to that earlier this morning, and I think that I can't really improve on what he's had to say, so I'll leave it there.
Q Do you expect the President to speak to the other countries present about their financial support for U.N. peacekeeping missions, and possibly for financial support towards any settlement that might come out of the Mideast peace talks?
MR. STEINBERG: We certainly -- the issue of funding for the U.N. and for peacekeeping missions has been a common topic. As you can tell from the agenda that I've described, they're going to -- it's going to be hard to get all of these things in. But I think, particularly in the context of African peacekeeping, that there may well be some discussion about how to mobilize the resources that we need to have. It's certainly something that we feel very strongly about and are very concerned by some of the appropriations bills now pending before Congress, which do not fully fund our obligations under peacekeeping. And I think the President will make clear that we take that very seriously and are going to judge those appropriations bills in part by how they do on that.
I think that, more broadly on the peace process, it's just premature to say where we'll be at that process. But I would simply note that both the EU and Japan have in the past been generous contributors to aspects of the peace process in the Middle East and we would certainly very much hope and expect that they would continue to be.
Q Jim, is it difficult for the President to participate in discussions on debt relief when Congress hasn't fully funded our responsibilities under that?
MS. BRAINARD: The President, I believe, will actually want very much to talk about debt relief because this is a very high personal priority for him. In particular, I think they'll want to review progress that's been made over the course of the year. Nine countries have qualified over the course of this year. They're expected to receive about $16 billion in debt reduction and will be saving about $90 million per year on debt service payments, and as many as 20 countries may actually qualify by the end of this year.
I want to give you an example or two on how this money is being used, because I think it is exactly how we were hoping it would be used. In Mozambique, even after the floods, expenditures on education and health care are going to increase from 31 percent of current expenditures to over 35 percent, an increase of $45 million. And the debt to service export ratio is going to be about 2.5 percent, a very large decline over the previous 20 percent. Similarly -- I'll give you another example -- Honduras is going to save about $130 million a year and is going to use the debt relief monies to hire a thousand new teachers, buy medicines and hospital equipment, and provide low-income housing.
On the funding front, as you may recall from last year, this was a top priority for the President. It came down to a real appropriations fight at the very end of the year and we were able to fund the bilateral portion. The House vote last week suggests that we may be making headway, and we will continue to push very, very hard to fund the multilateral portion of HIPC.
Q Do you expect any recriminations from the other leaders over the fact that, despite your efforts, the full funding has not been forthcoming?
MS. BRAINARD: I think the leaders all recognize that the President is a leader on the debt relief issue. He led with the announcement of 100-percent bilateral debt relief, for instance. The rest of the G-8 is now on board for that, so I actually expect those discussions to be very positive and a lot of agreement in the room about what needs to be done to move forward on that.
Q Are you expecting the two countries will be able to resolve the trade dispute over the NTT interconnection rates before the bilateral talks in Tokyo? If not, will the two leaders negotiate -- will there be talks in Tokyo? And how would that affect a G-8 discussion on digital divide, IT and so on? Now that the President is busy brokering Middle East peace at Camp David, how much attention is he paying to this particular issue? Is he briefed on a daily basis on the ongoing talks in Tokyo?
MS. BRAINARD: Well, it's not possible at this moment to predict whether the negotiations will be finished. The negotiations are ongoing. It's worth noting that the issue of NTT interconnection rates, the rates that are charged to other telecommunications providers, is going to be a very high visibility issue going into the summit. I think all of the G-7 have a similar view on this. And it is very important for Japan's bid to take the lead in the new economy, to have a new economy summit. This will be a very important signal.
Just to give you some numbers so that you know what the discrepancies are like, the rates now offered by NTT are between two to five times higher than rates available elsewhere in the G-7. The UK and the U.S. are actually the lowest -- we've got these numbers in yen, but let me just give you an example. The UK is 1.74 versus 5.57, and the gap is actually widening. They're coming down further in Europe and in the U.S. So this
is critical for Japan's competitiveness, and I think that the Japanese leadership understands that this is a big part of entering the new economy.
Q Is the President paying attention to this issue now?
MS. BRAINARD: This is an issue that the President has raised with Prime Minister Mori and with Prime Minister Obuchi before that. So, yes, this is an issue that's very much on his radar screen.
Q I was just wondering, you had mentioned that this is going to be a very important issue and a good signal whether an agreement is reached or not. Do you think Japan can legitimately call this an IT summit if they go into the summit without an agreement and without having their own population able to connect into the Internet, you know, economically?
MS. BRAINARD: Well, I think the agenda that Japan has set for the summit, with our strong support, will be very strong in the area of the information economy, both on the kinds of policies that the G-7 countries themselves must take to ensure that information technology is widely disseminated and widely accessible in their own economies; and also, as we were discussing earlier, to close the global digital divide.
So I think that the summit will be a strong IT summit. And I also think that is very important for Japan as it moves forward on this new technology to address the issue of the inter-connection rates.
Q Will the President be supporting the initiative that Prime Minister Mori made on Saturday to pledge exact dollar figures to bridge the global digital divide while he's there?
MS. BRAINARD: There will be, I believe, a number of outcomes that will be supportive of the efforts to address the digital divide, as well as the education and health divides. And we're very much welcome initiatives by members of -- other members of the G-7, such as Japan, on each of these things, as well as initiatives, efforts on the part of the private sector and on the part of the multilateral organizations. This is really a summit at which the G-8 leaders will be talking about how to coordinate a response from all the many actors that have a role to play.
Q Just a follow-up. You had mentioned earlier that the White House had been working with some private organizations about putting forth some deliverables on that. Could you just be a little bit more specific? What exactly are you guys --
MS. BRAINARD: In this area we have had a private sector group very engaged in looking at what the key obstacles many developing countries face in making full use of information technology to advance their development objectives. And the private sector has been looking at initiatives that individual companies can make and that they can make cooperatively. We're not ready to talk yet about those initiatives. I think the private sector participants are still working on how they can be supportive of this effort.
But their participation is absolutely critical. The private sector has led on the information revolution and we see them as a really key -- perhaps the key element in closing the digital divide.
Q Are you aware, has there been any conversations with the Japanese or any of the other leaders about the possibility that the President might miss, might be delayed -- any contingency plans made for his arriving late or maybe not coming at all?
MR. STEINBERG: Let me just say, Terry, and I will reiterate. I really can't improve on what Joe said. But I'm unaware of any specific conversations with any other governments.
Q Do you expect any improvement, progress, or even an conclusion of the negotiations over host nation support deal with Japan, over this --
MR. STEINBERG: I have a parallel answer to Lael's answer on NTT interconnection, which is that we are having ongoing discussions. Under Secretary Slocumb, I believe, is in Japan as we speak. And this is an important issue to both countries. And we are very hopeful that we can get a good resolution of that.
Q Jim, the First Lady is not going to Okinawa, we all know why/ But is it unusual for the First Lady not to go to a G-7/G-8 summit?
MR. STEINBERG: My understanding is that a number of the spouses will not be present, so I don't think it's unusual. And it's certainly -- my experience in past ones is that some have come and some have not. So I think it's a mixed bag.
Q President Putin is meeting President Clinton after meeting Jiang Zemin and Kim Chong-il. Is there anything about what President Clinton will do with the Korean issues with President Putin?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, I think both of these meetings are welcome. I think that we welcome Russia taking an interest in the issues of regional security. We very much hope and expect that when President Putin meets with Kim Chong-il that he will reiterate the message that the rest of the international community is giving, which is, one, to welcome the steps towards reconciliation between North and South, and to encourage North Korea to take steps to deal particularly with its missile program, both its export of missile technology and its indigenous missile program. And I think that if President Putin wants to make a positive contribution, this is a real opportunity to use this meeting, and similarly, in his discussions with President Jiang, to support efforts to reduce tensions in the region, particularly on the Korean Peninsula.
Q He will surely raise the issue of NMD, national missile defense system. What can the E-7 do with that?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, again, I think that the most constructive thing that President Putin can do on the issue of NMD is to encourage the government of North Korea to engage with us in the missile talks, to reach some resolution on the two aspects of North Korea's missile program that we're concerned about, because our interest in and the potential need for NMD is very much driven by missile developments. We welcome the fact that North Korea has a moratorium on missile testing, but its program still continues. And if the Russians, as I think, share our view that this is potentially a matter of concern, we very much hope that they'll transmit that message.
Q Jim, on NMD, since the President's meeting with President Putin, have you seen any hint whatsoever of softening in the Russian position or the Russian objection on adapting ABM? And, secondly, do you expect any significant progress on the rest of the arms control agenda in this meeting?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, I expect that the two Presidents are going to discuss the full range of issues, which include defenses, offensive reductions, and cooperation between our two countries. I think it's a very important part of the agenda that they set out in Moscow, and we will be continuing to look for ways to make further progress and cooperation. I'm not in the predictions business, so I don't know whether we'll have anything specific coming out of this. But as I said earlier, I noted that just recently President Putin once again acknowledged that there is some basis for our concerns. And we hope that that will translate into some common understanding.
Q Is it the intention to announce the E.U. carousel trade sanctions before the President leaves for the summit?
MS. BRAINARD: We're continuing to review the comments from the private sector, and I don't actually have information for you on specifically when the list will be finalized for public release.
Q Thank you.
END 1:30 P.M. EDT