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Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Governor Chris Patten of Hong Kong

May 03, 1993


Q. Mr. President, do you expect the Serbs to keep their word—

The President. The what?

Q. —the Bosnian Serbs? Do you trust the Serbs at this point?

The President. Well, I want to reiterate what we've already said. I want to evaluate them by their actions. We'll see what they do. I hope the Serbian Assembly will support the decision to sign onto Vance-Owen, and we'll just see. We'll just have to measure it as we go along.

Q. Mr. President, are you still committed, as you said, to sending in ground troops to help enforce the peace if it does hold? Would there be American participation in a peacekeeping mission?

The President. We said several weeks ago that the United States would be prepared to support a United Nations effort, heavily engaged in by the Europeans, to help to enforce a peace if a peace was made that we would have no interest in. We were not interested in sending soldiers in there into combat, into a fighting situation but that we thought there would have to be a peacekeeping force there and that we would be prepared to participate.

Q. Well, if this peace holds, then, if Vance-Owen holds, you've got 10 provinces, wouldn't that be a very difficult and dangerous mission for American and United Nations forces?

The President. No, it depends entirely on what happens between now and then. And before I agree to put one American soldier there, we're going to watch events, and I will obviously speak not only to you but directly to the American people about it.

Q. How many do you contemplate sending in?

The President. I think it's very important now to point out—let me just restate what's at stake here—there has been enormous loss of life tinder especially brutal conditions there. And it is a very politically unstable part of the world, which has significant potential for a wider war.

So the United States has tried to work with our allies—Secretary Christopher, as you know, is on this mission now—in an attempt to get the parties together so that we can present a united front and so that we can keep the pressure up to end the killing but also to stop the prospect of a much wider war, which could cause much more trouble, much more instability. But there has been at this point no decision made on any of that, and I would not make any such decisions without further consultation with the Congress and discussing it directly with the American people.

Q. Why don't the allies agree with you?

Q. Are you getting cooperation from the allies—

The President. So far, the meetings are going great.

Q. Have you talked to Christopher?

The President. I have. I talked to him twice yesterday, talked to him twice.

Q. You mean, they have signed on your policy?

The President. I talked to Christopher, Prime Minister Major, President Mitterrand, the Prime Minister-designate of Italy, to President Yeltsin, and to Chancellor Kohl. I've talked to a lot of people—

Q. And they all agree—

The President. —Prime Minister Mulroney. We have agreed that we're going to keep the pressure up and have a united front and move forward, and we're developing a policy now.


Q. Mr. President, can we ask you a question about—

The President. Sure.

Q. —we're just trying find out—the Governor will be here to ask you not to renew MFN with conditions. You have said that you will have some conditions. Can you have any kind of a compromise here? And the other question was, if you do support the Governor's proposals, do you think that will upset the Chinese?

The President. Well, let me answer the first question first. We obviously hope that we can maintain the maximum good relationship with the Chinese. I have no interest in trying to isolate them. I'm encouraged by the successes of their economic reforms. And that's got to be in the interest of the whole world if it is accompanied with responsible behavior and respect for human rights and movement toward a more democratic society. There has been some encouraging news in China on a number of fronts in the last few weeks. I still think that more needs to be done. And I'm hopeful that it will be. But we're not in the position to say finally what the condition of our relations will be—and next month when the time runs out because it's an evolving situation.

And secondly, I just have to say that I think that the democracy initiative in Hong Kong is a good thing. And I'm encouraged that the parties have agreed to talk about it. And it's one of the world's most vibrant, thriving important cities. It is an incredible center of commerce and haven of opportunity for millions of people who literally have—many of them have not a thing but the clothes on their back when they came there. And I think the idea of trying to keep it an open and free society after 1997 is in the best interest of the Chinese. I think it's clearly in the best interest of the Chinese. So I think this initiative is well-founded, and I support it. I hope it doesn't offend anybody, but how can the United States be against democracy? That's our job; get out there and promote it.

NOTE: The exchange began at 10:31 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Governor Chris Patten of Hong Kong Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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