Bill Clinton photo

Interview on CNN's "Global Forum With President Clinton"

May 03, 1994

The President. Thank you. Thank you very much. Mr. Johnson, Mr. Turner, and ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I want to welcome those of you who are here at the CNN conference and the millions more who are watching all across the world tonight. I also want to thank the Carter Center for hosting us for this pathbreaking discussion of world events.

Throughout the history of the United States and particularly after major conflicts, America has had to reexamine how we define our security and what kind of world we hope to live in and to leave our children and what our responsibilities for that world are. With the cold war over we have clearly come to another such moment, a time of great change and possibility. The specter of nuclear annihilation is clearly receding. A score of new democracies has replaced the former Soviet empire. A global economy has collapsed distances and expanded opportunity, because of a communications revolution symbolized most clearly by CNN and what all of us are doing this evening all around the world.

We are front-row history witnesses. We see things as they occur. I remember when I was a young man watching the news on television at night. There was only a small amount of coverage allotted to the world scene, and very often the footage I would see as a boy would be a whole day old. Now we're impatient if we learn about things an hour after they occur instead of seeing them in the moment.

The Berlin Wall has been toppled. A handshake of hope has started the series of peace news that will be necessary at long last to bring peace to the troubled Middle East. And this week we saw these glorious and unforgettable scenes of millions of South Africans of all races lining up with joy and courage to give birth to their new multiracial democracy.

But all of us know that this era poses dangers as well. Russia and the other former Communist states are going through wrenching transitions. The end of the superpower standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union lifted the lid off a cauldron of smoldering ethnic hatreds. And there is now so much aggression within the national borders of countries all around the world. Indeed, all of us feel our humanity threatened as much by fights going on within the borders of nations as by the dangers of fighting across national borders.

There are regimes, such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, who persist in working to develop weapons of mass destruction. We see brutal human rights abuses from Haiti to Rwanda and dire humanitarian and environmental problems from the sweeping AIDS epidemic and desertification in Africa to deforestation in Latin America and Asia.

In the face of so much promise and trouble, we have a chance, a chance to create conditions of greater peace and prosperity and hopefully more lasting peace and prosperity, but only if the world's leading nations stay actively engaged in the effort.

With the cold war over, there are pressures here in America and in other nations around the world to turn inward, to focus on needs at home. Here at home for us that means things like job creation and reducing crime and providing health care to all our citizens. It is right, and indeed imperative, for us to address these needs. But the United States cannot turn our back on the world, nor can other nations. I know our engagement costs money, and sometimes it costs lives. I know well that we cannot solve every problem, nor should we try. But in an era of change and opportunity and peril, America must be willing to assume the obligations and the risks of leadership. And I am determined to see that we do that.

It is important that we have a clear road map in a new era based on our national interests and our clearly stated values, a road map that charts where we're trying to go. Tonight let me briefly sketch it out before taking questions.

Our highest priority and my highest priority as President must continue to be simply and clearly to protect our land, our people, and our way of life. That is the core of our national interest. We also must seize opportunities that will enhance our safety and our prosperity, acting alone when necessary, acting with others whenever possible.

We have an interest in continuing to serve as a beacon of strength and freedom and hope. For we are, after all, a unique nation. We are the world's most powerful arsenal, its oldest democracy, its most daring experiment in forging different races, religions, and cultures into a single people.

Since taking office, my strategy to advance those interests has been based on three priorities: first, developing policies to meet the security challenges of this new era and then shaping our defense forces necessary to carry out those policies; second, making our Nation's global economic interests an integral and essential part of our foreign policies; and third, promoting the spread of democracy abroad.

Let me discuss each of these briefly. First, ensuring that we have strong policies and ready defenses for a new security environment. Thankfully, we no longer face the prospect of Soviet troops marching into Western Europe. But the world is still a dangerous place, and the skill and the power and the readiness of our men and women in uniform remains a bulwark of our freedom and freedom in many places abroad.

Last year, we completed a sweeping assessment of what military forces we now need in order to meet this era's threats. We concluded that we must have forces that can fight and win two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously. These forces will cost less than what was needed during the cold war, but we must not cut too far. And I have fought against deeper cuts in our defenses that would weaken our ability to be ready to defend our interests.

We're taking other steps to meet the threats of this new era. At the NATO summit convened in January, we and our NATO allies adopted the concept of the Partnership For Peace to help draw former Communist states and other states in Europe not presently aligned with NATO into closer security cooperation with Western Europe. We're working to increase regional security in areas like the Middle East, where we hope tomorrow Israel and the PLO will sign an important accord that builds on the promise of their breakthrough last September.

We're continuing to reduce the world's nuclear dangers, working to end North Korea's dangerous nuclear program. We started negotiations on a comprehensive test ban. When I took office, four former Soviet republics had nuclear weapons. We succeeded with three of them in nailing down commitments to eliminate their entire nuclear arsenals. And we are proceeding in that important work. And now, for the very first time, our nuclear missiles are no longer targeted at Russia, nor theirs at us.

The second part of our strategy is to place economic progress at the center of our policies abroad. For too many years there was a dangerous dislocation here in America between our international policies and our economic policies. We were strong militarily when we became economically weak because of our dangerously high deficits and low productivity, things which contributed to the weakening of nations all around the world and dried up much of the capital needed in less developed countries for development and growth. We advocated free trade, but often we practiced just the reverse when under the pressure of poor economic performance. And even when we pushed free trade, we often here in our own country lacked the policies we needed to make sure that it benefited ordinary American citizens.

My goal has been to reduce our deficit, increase our investment, increase our competitiveness, improve the education and training of our people, and keep pushing for agreements to open world markets for no special treatment for the United States but more open markets so that all of us may grow and compete together.

This past year, there was important progress. We enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and secured the biggest market opening agreement in history with the GATT world trade talks, agreements that will create American jobs for us here in the United States while spurring significant global economic growth. We hosted a summit of leaders from the Asian-Pacific region, the fastest growing region on Earth. This year we will seek enactment of the GATT round in the Congress and convene the first summit in a generation of our hemispheric neighbors.

We work to promote environmentally sound forms of economic development both here and abroad. We have to remember that many of the civil wars we have seen and are seeing today, tearing apart societies across Africa and elsewhere, are caused not only by historic conflicts but also by the abject and utterly terrifying deterioration of not only the economy but the environment in which those people live.

The third key to our policy is fostering democracy. The new progress of democracy all around the world resonates with our values and our interests. It makes us safer here in the United States. We know democracies are less likely to wage war, to violate human rights, to break treaties. That's why we fought two world wars, to protect Europe's democracies, and why we stood firm for a half a century to contain communism.

Now the greatest opportunity for our security is to help enlarge the world's communities of market democracies and to move toward a world in which all the great powers govern by a democratic plan. If we do, we'll have more valuable partners in trade and better partners in diplomacy and security. That's why I have given a lot of attention to promoting democratic and market reformers in Russia, in Ukraine, the Baltics, and other former Communist states. We saw that strategy pay off again just last week as Russia and Latvia reached an historic accord to withdraw Russia's military from Latvian territory by the end of August.

Our goal is to foster the success of new democracies like those in Latin America and now in South Africa and to apply pressure to restore democracy where it has been overthrown, as in Haiti.

Security, prosperity, democracy: These are the pillars of our strategy in the new world. These building blocks do not answer every question we confront. In particular, this era has seen an epidemic of humanitarian catastrophes, many caused by ethnic conflicts or the collapse of governments. Some, such as Bosnia, clearly affect our interests. Others, such as Rwanda, less directly affect our own security interests but still warrant our concern and our assistance.

America cannot solve every problem and must not become the world's policeman. But we do have an obligation to join with others to do what we can to relieve suffering and to restore peace.

The means we use will and must vary from circumstance to circumstance. When our most important interests are at stake, we will not hesitate to act alone if necessary. Where we share an interest in action with the international community, we work perhaps through the United Nations. This week we will unveil a set of policies to reform U.N. peacekeeping to help make those operations both less expensive and more effective.

In other cases we will work in partnership with other nations. In Bosnia, for example, we have stepped up our diplomatic involvement, along with Russia and others. We supported NATO enforcement measures and committed to provide United States forces as a part of a NATO enforcement mission if and when the parties can reach a workable peace agreement.

Although that conflict continues, we should never forget that there are tonight people in Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Mostar who are alive because of the actions taken with NATO working with the United Nations. The safe areas, the no-fly zone, the longest humanitarian airlift in history, all these efforts and others are contributing to a resolution of a very difficult problem.

This is a pivotal moment in the affairs of our world, a moment when we can expand the frontiers of freedom, create a more prosperous global economy, give millions in war-torn lands a chance to enjoy a normal life, when we can make the people in each of our lands safer from the world's deadliest weapons.

On each of these, I believe the leadership of the United States is indispensable. My commitment is to exercise that leadership so that we can pass onto our children a world that is safer, freer, and more livable for their future.

Thank you very much.


[At this point, Judy Woodruff described the format for the forum and introduced a participant from Trinidad, who asked about U.S. policy toward the Caribbean and Latin America.]

The President. Well, our policy has not changed. I believe in the Good Neighbor Policy, and we've tried to be a good neighbor. We have worked with our friends in Mexico on trade and democracy. We have worked with many other countries. The Vice President has been to South America a couple of times to work on developing the information superhighway and many other things. We're trying to bring democracies into closer trade relationships with us in the Caribbean, as well as in Central and South America. And I have made it very clear that the United States wishes to be a partner, not a dictator, about the internal events of other countries.

On the other hand, every country in the region is governed by a democratically elected government but two. One is Cuba; the other is Haiti, which voted two-thirds for President Aristide, and he was then thrown out. We had an agreement, the Governors Island Agreement, made by the military, the Aristide faction, in cooperation with the United States and the United Nations. It was abrogated by the military rulers of Haiti. We went back to the drawing board. We have worked for months since Governors Island was abrogated to try to find other solutions. Meanwhile, innocent civilians are being killed and mutilated.

We are doing our best to avoid dealing with the military option. We are now pursuing—we put on the table at the United Nations today— stiffer sanctions. We're working for tougher enforcement of the existing sanctions. But given how many people are being killed and the abject misery of the Haitian people and the fact that democracy was implanted by the people and then uprooted by the military rulers there, I think that we cannot afford to discount the prospect of a military option.

I want to work with our friends and neighbors in the Caribbean and in all of Latin America. And I hope that whatever we do from here on out will have their support. The United States never will interfere in the affairs of another country to try to seek to thwart the popular will there. This is a different case.

Ms. Woodruff. If I may follow up, Mr. President, when you say you wouldn't rule out a use of military force, you're saying U.S. troops on the ground. What would be their mission if they were to go there?

The President. Well, let me say what our policy is. Our policy—and we have not decided to use force; all I've said is we can't rule it out any longer. Our policy is to restore democracy to Haiti and then to work to develop Haiti with a functioning government and a growing economy. The people who are now in control in Haiti have thwarted democracy; they have brought down the economy; they have visited abject misery on their people. And they are now once again killing and mutilating not just sympathizers of Aristide but other innocent civilians. And it is wrong, and we've got to do what we can to try to stop it. That is our policy, and we are going to pursue that policy as vigorously as we can.

I want to make it clear: This is the responsibility not of the United States but of the people who are running things in Haiti tonight. They abrogated the Governors Island Agreement. They have started killing, first the allies of President Aristide and now innocent civilians. They have brought this reign of terror and poverty on their people. They can change it tomorrow if they will. And I hope they will.

Ms. Woodruff. But you wouldn't say at this point what the mission would be if we were to go in?

The President. The mission of the United States, whatever means we choose to pursue that mission, is to restore democracy, to start a multinational effort to help Haiti function and to grow again and to crawl out of this enormous hole that the present rulers of Haiti have illegally driven the people into.

North Korea

[A participant from Seoul, South Korea, asked about the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.]

The President. Well, I think it is a very serious situation. And let me say, first of all, it is a very serious situation because North Korea has agreed to be a nonnuclear state, to follow nonproliferation policies. Because it has nuclear resources, it has agreed in the past to submit to the international inspections of the IAEA. There has been a lot of trouble about that, as you know, as well as about how to resume a dialog between North Korea and South Korea. I would say to you, sir, that the options we have are largely again in the hands of the North Koreans themselves. North Korea can choose, and I hope they will.

And I would say this to the North Koreans— I believe we have North Koreans watching us tonight—I would say to you: The United States wishes to have friendly and open relationships with you. We wish to have a constructive relationship. We want you to have a constructive relationship with South Korea. You in North Korea have pledged yourselves to a nonnuclear Korean Peninsula. That's what we want. If there is a policy of isolation pursued by us, it will only be because you decide not to follow through on the commitments you have already made to honor international inspections and to be a nonnuclear state.

The options are, I think, clear. But they are not easy. No one wishes this confrontation. But neither does one wish to have a state not only with nuclear power but with a capacity to proliferate nuclear weapons to other nations. It is a very serious potential situation. We intend to stand firm and to keep working with our allies, South Koreans, the Japanese, working with the Chinese and others, to reach a good solution to this.

Our hand is still out to the people of North Korea and to the leaders of North Korea. But we expect the commitment that North Korea made to be a nonnuclear state to be honored.

Ms. Woodruff. Mr. President, if I may just quickly follow up here. With all due respect to what you said, if North Korea wants to go ahead and develop a nuclear weapon, what is to stop them from doing so? You're not saying that the United States is prepared to go to war if they continue with this program that they've begun.

The President. At a minimum, North Korea will be much more isolated, in a much more tenuous position. And the relationships between the North Koreans and South Korea will be strained, I think, irrevocably in many ways. And the problems that North Korea will then have with their neighbors in Japan as well as with their friends in China will be very significant. The least that would happen is that they would be much, much more severely isolated and they would run a risk of having more difficult things happen. And their rhetoric has recognized that.

I think this is another one of those issues— it's in the hands of the North Koreans. But we have reached out the hand of friendship and cooperation, and we know the South Koreans wish to do the same. It does not really make sense for the North Koreans to pursue this path of isolation. They can have more prosperity, more security, and more prestige by abandoning this nuclear program that they have already promised to abandon than by going forward with it, and I hope they will.


[Following a commercial break, a journalist in Belgrade asked if it would be more productive to treat all factions in the Bosnia conflict equally, without sanctions against the Serbs.]

The President. I guess the short answer is no, but not entirely no. Let me explain what I mean by that.

The United States does not believe that we can or should, alone or through NATO, enter into your war on the side of the Government of Bosnia and its new partnership with the Croats. When we supported creating the safe zone around Sarajevo, we made it absolutely clear that anyone caught violating the safe zone would be subject to the NATO air strikes, including weaponry of the government. We also have made it clear to the government that they should not look to us to change the military balance on the ground, and that there has to be a negotiated settlement. We have said that to the government, just as the Russians have said that to the Bosnian Serbs. And we intend to undertake a very intense effort to restore diplomatic negotiations.

Now, having said that, I do not favor lifting the sanctions while that is going on for the very simple reason that the United States supported and recognized Serbia when it became an independent country, Croatia, and Bosnia. The United Nations decided to keep the arms embargo on all of the former Yugoslavia. But the arms embargo was a mockery in Bosnia because Serbia was next to the area occupied by the Bosnian Serbs. And as you know, Yugoslavia was a great manufacturer, even an exporter, of arms before it broke up. So the necessary effect of the arms embargo was to give an enormous strategic advantage to the Serbs in heavy weaponry, to facilitate ethnic cleansing when we were trying to support a peaceful solution that would enable all the people of Bosnia, the Serbs, the Croats, and the Muslims, to live together.

So I could not support lifting the embargo. But I agree with you to the extent that there cannot be a military victory here. There must be a negotiated settlement. That is why I thought it was a mistake for the Serbs to press their advantage around Gorazde. We only seek to use NATO air power to protect safe areas, to keep the Brcko area stable, to stop this fighting on the ground. Let's go back to the negotiations. Let's make a peace so that we can all return to normal peaceful relations. I want that, and I want that with Serbia as well. But we have to do it in the right and moral way.

[Christiane Amanpour, CNN correspondent in Sarajevo, asked if delay in articulating a policy on Bosnia had aided the Bosnian Serbs and if the policy flip-flops would encourage North Korea, for example, to take the United States less seriously.]

The President. No, but speeches like that may make them take me less seriously than I'd like to be taken. There have been no constant flipflops, madam. I ran for President saying that I would do my best to limit ethnic cleansing and to see the United States play a more active role in resolving the problem in Bosnia. And we have been much more active than my predecessor was in every way from the beginning. I also said very clearly that I did not believe we should inject American ground forces on the ground in Bosnia to try to affect the strategic outcome, to take part in the civil war.

When I became President, I argued to our European allies that we ought to lift the arms embargo, or at least be caught trying, in the United Nations because of the unfairness of the situation on the ground. They argued back to me that they were on the ground as part of the U.N. peacekeeping force and that if we lifted the arms embargo, we would lengthen the war, make it more bloody, and subject their people to being shot or taken as hostages. So, we could not prevail.

I then worked to get NATO, for the first time in its history, to agree to an out-of-area operation, which we did in August. We have enforced a no-fly zone. We have had the longest humanitarian air lift in history. We have succeeded, because of the NATO air power, I believe, in getting a lot of the lines of communications for humanitarian aid open again there, and of course, the safe zone around Sarajevo and elsewhere. I wish it could have been done overnight, but fundamentally, Bosnia is in the—it's in the American interest to limit the conflict to Bosnia, to try to restore humanitarian conditions, to see that a bad example is not set, and to limit the refugee outflow. Those are the things we are trying to do.

We have troops in Macedonia. We have used our air power. We have pushed NATO. And we have pushed the United Nations. But I don't think you can say that the world community could have intervened and changed the course of this war or should have intervened on one side or the other. What we need to do is to stop the conflict from spreading, which I think has been done, try to stop the military escalation within Bosnia, which I think has been done, and then get the parties back to negotiate a decent peace.

I believe that was, as a practical matter, the only option open to me after I became President, and I have worked very hard on it for a year. I do not believe I should have injected American ground forces there into the conflict. We, after all, had at the time I became President several thousand forces in Somalia. We have obligations in Korea and in other places in Asia. We have obligations potentially in the Middle East because of the work we are doing there. And the United States has done the best it could.

I think we have done a very great deal. Do I wish we could have done more earlier? Do I wish the Europeans and our other allies had totally agreed with me? Of course I do. But I also respect their differences and their long experience in this area. I did the best I could. I moved as quickly as I could. I think we have shown a good deal of resolve. And I think what this Bosnian situation shows is that if you can get NATO agreed to act with resolve, NATO can have an impact.

I will still say in the end we have to resolve this through negotiations. Air power cannot change the course of the civil war either. They're going to have to negotiate a peace. What we're going to try to do is to make it less bloody and less productive to pursue aggression, so that the parties will want to go back to the peace table.

Ms. Woodruff. Mr. President, just a quick followup. Would you not acknowledge that given what you said during the campaign about it being time to end Serb aggression, that it is much easier to make these statements in a campaign than actually to carry them out as President?

The President. Well, what I will acknowledge is that I underestimated the difficulty of putting a coalition together, all agreeing on one policy. Her question to me was right if she were to ask me, do I think it took too long for all of us to get together? Yes, I do. But we worked at it very hard from the beginning. I don't think it's fair to say we've gone back and forth. We tried one area; it didn't work; we try another.

There were people who said to me, "Don't get involved in Bosnia. Leave it alone. Let it go. It's a sinkhole. You can have no influence. Walk away from it. If you try to do something, you can't dominate it; you'll just be attacked for that." I thought that was bad advice. The United States sometimes has to try to make a difference where it cannot control events but can influence them. That is the situation with Bosnia. We are not in control; we have some influence, we're doing our best to exercise it, and I think we're better off.

I think during the campaign, when I made it clear that I didn't think we could or should send ground forces in unless there was an agreement, I underestimated the difficulty of getting broad agreement through NATO and then getting the U.N. to use the NATO force. I did underestimate that. It took longer than I wish it had. But if you think about what an unprecedented action NATO has taken, the first time we have ever acted together out of the NATO area, I think still it's something that's remarkable and very much worth doing.

Poland and NATO

[A participant from Poland asked about the denial of NATO membership to Poland.]

The President. First of all, I fully expect NATO to be expanded eastward. At the time we formed the Partnership For Peace and asked Poland to participate, which it agreed to do, along with Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, all the former Warsaw Pact countries, Ukraine, all the former republics of the Soviet Union, there was at that time no consensus within NATO about which countries to take in, in what order, and what the obligations of NATO membership would be for a new country coming in. So it wasn't, with all respect, in response to Russian pressure that no membership was offered to Poland or any other country last summer.

What I argued for in the Partnership For Peace was the beginning of joint planning, joint maneuvers, joint operations with military cooperation with any country that wanted to join the Partnership For Peace—including, I acknowledge, Russia if they wished to join—because I thought at the end of the cold war we had a chance which we ought to take, a chance to see Europe united for the first time since nation states began to dot the European Continent, a chance. And it seemed to me that the Partnership For Peace offered us the best of both worlds. That is, if everyone would agree to observe and respect their neighbors territorially and to see their neighbors' territory as integral to their own security, then we might succeed.

If, in fact, imperialist tensions in Russia reasserted themselves, then we could always, by planning for NATO, take in other countries into NATO membership at an appropriate time without any risk to their security whatever. That is my hope and goal.

If you're asking me, the big question is, does the United States have an interest in the security of the people of Poland and Hungary and Central Europe and Eastern Europe? The answer to that is yes. But don't assume that NATO has walked away from Poland. NATO is walking toward Poland, not away.

Middle East

[An Israeli journalist asked what evidence the President had of a strategic change on the part of President Hafiz al-Asad of Syria regarding peace with Israel and regarding terrorism.]

The President. The evidence I find is that he has welcomed a very frank and candid and explicit exchange of views and ideas about how to make a lasting peace and achieve normal and peaceful relationships with Israel.

Secretary Christopher has been asked by President Asad, and approved by Prime Minister Rabin, to serve as an intermediary at this point in having what I believe are the most serious conversations ever held since the creation of this terrible divide between Israel and Syria, between a leader of Syria and a leader of Israel.

I have had several conversations with President Asad and of course with Prime Minister Rabin, with whom I talked just this afternoon about the ongoing progress of Middle East peace negotiations. And all I can tell you is that all of us believe that we have a greater chance to achieve a breakthrough agreement than ever before. And obviously, that breakthrough agreement ultimately would have to include an agreement with Lebanon recognizing the territorial integrity of Lebanon and excising terrorism from Lebanon. And I believe we are on that road, and we have a real chance to make progress this year.

Obviously, since their conversations are private, I can't say more. But all I can tell you is I honestly believe that, and I think the other major actors in this drama believe it as well.

Ms. Woodruff. Mr. President, I've just been told that just in the first few minutes that a Palestinian delegate, PLO delegate, has announced in the Middle East that the Israelis and the PLO have wound up their talks, and they have reached an agreement on Palestinian autonomy, which was something you referred to just a few moments ago.

We want to go—continue in our Jerusalem location now with a question from a Palestinian journalist.

Go ahead.

[A Palestinian journalist in Jerusalem asked about loans and loan guarantees for Palestinians.]

The President. Well, first let me say, I agree it will take more than $2 billion to totally construct a successful economy on the West Bank and around Jericho and in other places—in Gaza and Jericho, excuse me. But I think the $2 billion is a very good start. That's what we might call real money. I mean, it's a pretty good beginning.

And let me say that in anticipation of—I've not checked this today, but I asked if we could have in Cairo, when the agreement is signed between the PLO and Israel, a delegation of American business people, American Jews and Arab-American business people who have pledged themselves to work together to bring private capital and private investment in to support the other commitments that the governments have made at the donors conference.

So, I believe you can look forward to a significant increase in private investment from the United States from both Arab-Americans and Jewish-American business people in these areas because of their common determination to work together to see that you are able to work and live together.


[A television correspondent from Japan asked about U.S. requirements for continuation of trade negotiations with Japan.]

The President. Well, let me answer the first question first, the "what." If you go back to the agreement I made on my trip to Japan as part of the G-7 conference last summer with the then-Prime Minister Miyazawa and the conversations I had with Prime Minister Hosokawa and with your new Prime Minister, Mr. Hata, when he was in his previous position, what we wish to do is to simply continue to make progress within the framework of the agreement that Japan and the United States both made last summer.

The big hangup is over the question of the use of numerical targets, and does this amount to managed trade, does this amount to quotas. I want to emphasize, if I might, two things: Number one, I have never asked for any access to the Japanese market for the United States that I have not sought for every other country. It would be wrong. I have not asked for that. Number two, I have pledged my efforts to ensure that the use of numerical quotas would not be used—or numerical targets would not be used to establish trade quotas or managed trade for the Japanese people. I know that we cannot require your people to buy products they do not wish to buy. We cannot overcome price or quality problems our products or services might have.

On the other hand, the Japanese Government, both when Prime Minister Miyazawa was in office and when Prime Minister Hosokawa was in office, always agreed that Japan needed a more open trading policy, that your consumers were paying 37 percent more for consumer goods than they would pay in a more open economy, that it was in your long-term interest not to have a permanent trade surplus, not just with us but with the world, of over $100 billion a year.

So we have to know, are we making progress or not? The only reason we wanted to use numbers was because that will show some aggregate worldwide trend. I do not want you to promise the United States any specific part of your markets. And I think if we can overcome that misunderstanding, we can begin again.

As to when it happens, I think that depends in part on how things go with your attempt to develop a new government and new policies. You have a new Prime Minister now. I hope he can work out arrangements so that we can resume this dialog. I must say I have a very high regard for all three of the Japanese Prime Ministers with whom I have worked. And I believe we can work this out.

I also think I should say—I don't mean to abuse your time, sir—but for the benefit of the whole rest of the world who look to the United States and to Japan for leadership, I think sometimes people are worried about our relationship because they think we're fighting over trade too much. We are basically not only partners but friends. We share common strategic interests, we share common political values, and we share common economic interests. We will not allow, we must not allow these differences which reflect a mature discussion and debate to spoil the relationship that I think is so important for the whole world.


[Following a commercial break, a journalist from China asked about U.S. relations and trade with China.]

The President. Let me answer the second question first, and then I'll answer the first question. Yes, I believe if we were to withdraw mostfavored-nation status from China it would undermine what I hope to see in terms of our relationship, and it would be detrimental to the economic progress in China and to the standard of living which has come to so many millions, indeed, hundreds of millions of Chinese people. So I do not wish that to happen.

As you know, relationships between our two countries became very strong again, after a period of difficulty, starting in 1972 with President Nixon's trip and then in 1979 with President Carter's actions to recognize China and all the things which have come forward after that. Then there was a great strain on our relationship after the difficulties in 1989 in China at Tiananmen Square.

What I have sought to do is to find a balanced way for our two countries not simply to be partners but to restore our genuine friendship, which is very much in the interest of the whole world as well as our two peoples, by trying to establish conditions that would permit that partnership and that friendship to go forward. Those are the criterion I set forward in order to continue the most-favored-nation status next month.

I do not seek nor would it be proper for the United States or for any other nation to tell a great nation like China how to conduct all its internal affairs or to treat all its citizens or what laws it should have. That would be wrong.

The criteria in the Executive order I issued are those things recognized in all universal declarations by all countries as essential to human rights. I will say we have made real progress in our relations with China on the immigration issue, on getting a prison labor agreement, in many other areas. As you know, Wang Jontao was released last week. There has been some progress there, too, in the area of political dissidents and human rights.

We still have a way to go. And I told Vice Premier Zou that I would work personally very hard and that our Government would work very hard in the next month to try to work out our differences so that we could go forward together. I think that is in your interest and ours and in the world's interest. But human rights is very important to the United States. And there are some issues that I believe the United States has perhaps an extra responsibility to stand up for, human rights, nonproliferation, other things that if we didn't do it, it would be even more difficult for other countries to do.

So I'm doing what I think we must do, but I am doing it in the spirit of genuine reconciliation and hope that in the next month our two great nations can work this out.

Thank you.

Ms. Woodruff. Mr. President, excuse me, is most-favored-nation trading status, just to be clear about this, is it seriously in jeopardy of being withdrawn from the Chinese?

The President. Well, under the present— under the present facts, China has made significant overall progress in several of the areas outlined in my Executive order of last year, but not in all of them. There are still areas in which we are different. And that is obviously clearly an option on the table. Yes, it is a possibility. But he asked me the question, would it be a bad thing for China and would it be consistent with the relationship I hope we have with them. And the answer is, yes, it would be a bad thing; and, no, it's not consistent with the relationship I hope we have. But we have to keep working to get over these last humps. And I hope and pray that we will in the next month.


[A journalist from Uganda asked about lessons learned in Somalia and their applicability elsewhere.]

The President. That, sir, is a brilliant question. I mean, it is the question of the day in Africa and in some other places.

Let me say, first of all, thank you for acknowledging the work of the Americans and the others there. While we are gone, there are still several thousand United Nations forces in Somalia from all around the world working to continue to save lives.

What lessons did we learn? First of all, I think we learned that it is very difficult to have the forces of the United Nations and certainly the forces of the United States go in for any prolonged period of time and say that this is only a humanitarian crisis. In other words, the people of Somalia were starving and dying not because they couldn't grow food but because of the political and military conflicts within the country, not because no one would send them food but because it was hard to deliver before we went there.

So I think we learned lesson number one is, don't go into one of these things and say, as the United States said when we started in Somalia, "Maybe we'll be done in a month, because it's a humanitarian crisis," because there are almost always political problems and sometimes military conflicts which bring abut these crises.

Lesson number two is that when the United States handed over its mission to the United Nations, it was quite appropriate for there to be someone who would take action, military action if necessary, to protect the lives of the United States and the United Nations troops there. But the United States in its role as a superpower cannot be caught in the position of being a policing officer in a conflict like that when there is not political process going on, because what happened was the police operation—which was a legitimate one, that is, to protect the lives of the soldiers who were there trying to save the lives of the Somalis—became viewed as a way of choosing sides in the internal conflict of the country because there was no political dialog going on.

So I think those are the two great lessons. We must not be naive. If we're going to go in and try to save lives, we must know that in the beginning, everyone will be glad to see the U.S. or the U.N. or anybody because they're starving and dying. But after a certain amount of time, it will be obvious that it wasn't just a natural disaster. It was a political problem, a military problem.

And secondly, we must never give up the political dialog, then, so that everyone in the country know that we are there, all of us, to make peace and be peacemakers. Yes, we will fight to protect the lives of our people, but not to try to solve your problems for you. Those are the two lessons, I think.


Q. Can these lessons be used to save lives in a similar situation now in Rwanda?

The President. Well, perhaps. We're looking at that with the states that border Rwanda. We released another $15 billion today for aid. And we have to provide more aid; we have to try to deal with the refugee problem; we have to try to get a political process going again; and we have to try to marshal the resources, it seems to me, of nations all around the world who care very deeply about this. I think the conscience of the world has grieved for the slaughter in Rwanda and just a few months ago in Burundi in almost the same proportions.

But we also know from not only the Somali experience but from what we read of the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis that there is a political and military element to this. So I think we can take the lessons we learned and perhaps do a better job there over a longer period of time and perhaps head off the starvation and do those things which need to be done. I hope so.

Aid to Africa

[A Nigerian television correspondent in Johannesburg, South Africa, asked why aid to Africa had declined.]

The President. The search for clients rather than friends? No, it is true that there has been a reduction in our foreign aid assistance to Africa, going back before I became President but continuing. But the reason for that, sir, is that in the aftermath of the cold war, our Government's deficit was so high we have been cutting almost all kinds of spending.

And foreign assistance has not had a great level of support in our country. It's not that we're looking for clients or we'd rather give the money to someplace else. It is that one of the things that I still have to do as President is to do a better job of persuading the American people that we have an interest, long-term interest in the success of South Africa and in the success of Nigeria and all points in between, that we have a long-term interest that requires us to invest modest amounts of our great treasure in foreign assistance so that we can be in a more secure world, a more peaceful world, and that the American people actually benefit from it.

In our country, many of our people think we spend much more money than we do on foreign assistance, and they say we have problems at home we should deal with. But that's what caused the decline in assistance. There has been no discrimination against Africa in my judgment, although I think we don't emphasize Africa enough and we should do more.

[CNN correspondent Bernard Shaw in Johannesburg asked if other nations would feel slighted if aid to South Africa was increased.]

The President. I think other nations may feel slighted. But I think if you look at the potential of the government of national unity, Mr. Mandela, after all, has committed himself to a government of national unity for 5 years involving Mr. de Klerk and his supporters and presumably Mr. Buthelezi and the Inkatha supporters. We haven't gotten the final numbers yet, but I think that will be the case.

And if we can help to restore South Africa's economy in a multiracial environment—after all, we had a billion dollars in trade this year; just 10 years ago we had $3 billion in trade with South Africa in the U.S. alone. And South Africa can be a beacon of economic development and prosperity for all of southern Africa, can help to build interest in American and other business people in investing in all of southern Africa and can help to build a constituency for expanded assistance throughout Africa.

So I think that this is an opportunity which in the short run benefits South Africa, but has the capacity in the near term to be of immense benefit to Africa. And it's not as if we could double aid to someplace else if we didn't do this. There is no possibility. So I think this is an enormous opportunity. We should seize it and use it to build a broader and deeper relationship with the rest of Africa.

Latin America

[A journalist from Brazil asked about leftist Presidential candidates in Brazil and Mexico.]

The President. Well, we are ready to do business with the democratically chosen leaders of any nations who are willing to deal with us on honorable terms consistent with international law. And we are certainly ready to do business there. Let me say that—you may know that my Secretary of Commerce has identified 10 nations which he estimates will be growing rapidly and will provide great economic opportunities for the United States in the years ahead. Both Brazil and Mexico are on that list.

And we know that if people govern with an eye toward the interest of their people, they can govern well coming from a wide range of democratic parties. If you look next door in Argentina, when President Menem was elected, coming out of the Peronist legacy, people said, "Oh, my goodness, what will this Menem do?" Well, he got the economy straightened out, he opened up the economy to trade, he maintained a strict adherence and support to democratic principles, and he's largely been quite successful by bringing the sort of left and center together, if you will.

So whatever decision the people of Brazil make is fine with me as long as we can have that kind of working relationship when the election is over.

Q. Do you believe that if that happens, these two countries will be on that list?

The President. It depends entirely, sir, on what policies are pursued. They still have to be committed to growing the economy, to participating in a market economy, and to giving their people a chance to compete and win in the global economy. If they do that, they can be. It depends on what you do with power once you get it, not so much what the name is, what your label is when you come to power but what do you do after you assume office.


[A Cuban television correspondent questioned U.S. policy toward Cuba, saying that its purpose could not be only to win Florida votes.]

The President. Well, but I didn't win in Florida, so you can't hold me—[laughter]

Q. I know. I know.

The President. I mean, I like them very much, but I didn't win there. [Laughter]

I do support, however, the Cuban Democracy Act, which reinforces the blockade but also calls for greater communications contact and greater humanitarian aid to Cuba.

I think, in much the way I answered some of the previous questions, that the isolation of Cuba is largely the result of the policies of Cuba and the history of 30 years. I mean, just recently, just in the last few days, someone in Cuba was sentenced to several years in prison for simply talking to a foreign journalist.

And maybe we do have higher standards for Cuba because we have a large Cuban-American population and because Cuba is close to our borders, even though there's no longer any prospect of Russian missiles there, but that is our policy. And Cuba continues to stand in isolation to the democratic wind which has swept through every country in the Caribbean and South and Central America and even through Haiti. Even though the Haitian President was ousted, he was at least elected.

And I think that Mr. Castro has it within his own power to change the nature of the relationships between our two countries by moving toward a more open and democratic system. And that is up to him to do. And our country, meanwhile, has simply reaffirmed its policy in 1992 with the passage of the Cuban Democracy Act. And I don't expect that policy to change anytime soon.

Antidrug Policy

[A journalist from Colombia asked about antidrug policy in the United States and Colombia.]

The President. Well, let me answer the question slightly differently. It is true that we believe, more strongly than we have in the past, that the drug problem in America is a problem of demand as well as supply. That is, we have about 5 percent of the world's population—actually, a little less. We consume about half the world's illegal drugs. Now, part of that is because we have a good deal of money, but we have only 22 percent of the world's wealth, and we consume half the world's drugs. So, obviously, we want drugs more than some other places.

There are things unique to the United States, that we cannot blame on Colombia or Mexico or anyplace else, that we have to deal with. So we have invested a lot more money in this budget in drug education and drug prevention and drug treatment—in dealing with the problem—and in enforcement here on our own streets.

There are two other things that we should focus on. One is, can you stop the drugs in transit? That has been a big emphasis of the U.S. Government in the past, getting drugs coming into the air into our country or at the borders. The other is, can we help countries deal with drugs at the source, moving farmers into other products, helping deal with the drug cartels in their own countries.

It is true that we have reduced the former, that is, we have reduced emphasis on stopping drugs in transit. But we want to increase our efforts to work with you in Colombia and other countries to stop drugs at the source. We want to do more with you if you are willing to take the steps necessary to deal with it. And of course, I have seen your country's legitimately elected judges and prosecutors and political leaders who have taken on the drug problem, have done it at terrible risks. Many of them have been murdered; all of them have put their lives at risk.

And I understand that when the United States says to Colombia, we're not satisfied with the efforts you're making, it's a little hard to take sometimes because of the terrible risks that are associated with taking it on. All I can tell you is that we will do more to help stop the drug problem in the countries where the drugs are produced or processed if the governments are willing to work with us. That is our commitment, and we will do more.

It seems to us we can be more efficient by emphasizing the source countries and reducing demand in our country, even if we have to spend a little less in trying to stop the drugs in transit.

Foreign Policy

[A participant from Finland said that although the President was elected for his domestic policy, he has received more criticism on foreign policy issues.]

The President. I'm used to it—[laughter].

Q. Do you feel you have received unfair criticism on your foreign policy?

The President. Oh, I don't know. I wouldn't say that, in the sense that in our country, at least, there's a great tradition of freedom of the press. And part of the job of the press is to criticize whoever's in power. [Laughter] I mean, that's part of the job, to pick out the things that are going wrong.

I think what I would say is that we have had a lot of successes that perhaps have not been as noticed as they should have been, some of which I mentioned earlier tonight, and secondly, that the problems that we have had are a result of very difficult issues which do not have an easy solution. I just would mention two, very briefly, we've already talked about.

The first is Haiti. Two-thirds of the people voted for Aristide. Enormous numbers of people participated in democracy. He's kicked out. The military leaders promised to leave; they don't. But we want to be good neighbors. We don't want to be the big bully going around using our power in a destructive way. How do you solve that?

The other is Bosnia, where I do not believe we should have intervened in the war on one side or the other, but I do believe we have an interest in trying to work with Europe. And working with Europe meant in this case working both with the U.N. and with NATO in areas sort of unfamiliar to each, and certainly working together was unfamiliar. So it took longer and it was more ragged and more frustrating than I wish it had been. But that is part of the reality of the post-cold-war world, when we're all searching for new arrangements that work.

I don't mind being criticized, but I do think it's not fair to say that we have been unprincipled or vacillating. That's just not true. We have been quite clear, and we've tried to work through these problems, but not all problems have easy solutions.

Ms. Woodruff. Do you think you underestimated, Mr. President, the complexity of some of these issues?

The President. I saw an interview the other day with President Kennedy, about a year before he was assassinated, and they asked him what he had learned as President. And he said, "The problems were more difficult than I imagined them to be." [Laughter] And at least on the international front, I would say, the problems are more difficult than I imagined them to be.

Ms. Woodruff. Do you think you've had the right foreign policy team to help you tackle them?

The President. Yes, I think they're quite up to the job, it's just that they're plowing new ground. We could have gotten less criticism in a way if we had just said, "This problem and this problem, this problem, don't involve our vital interests; therefore we will not commit our prestige or our efforts." But President Roosevelt once said he'd rather be part of a government that made a few mistakes in the cause of activism than be part of one that was frozen in the ice of its own indifference. I do not believe we can afford to be indifferent. But as we venture out in these new areas, we have to risk error. And so I have been willing to risk error. And when you do that, you get more criticism.

Ms. Woodruff. And when you're accused of vacillating, it doesn't bother you, right?

The President. Oh, sometimes it really bothers me. [Laughter] But I think, first of all, all leaders sometimes have had to back and fill and alter their course throughout history. But there is no vacillation in the principles of the policies here. It's just that we don't know what will work within the limits of our ability to deal with some of these problems.

Not every issue is one that you can put the entire wealth, the entire military might, the entire prestige of the United States on the line for. But many issues are things that are worthy of our best efforts within the limits of our ability to proceed. And that is where all these gray areas are, the areas of frustration, particularly for the people who are on the receiving end of the problems. I didn't—I was waiting for my lecture from Sarajevo tonight, and I rather enjoyed it, because that poor woman has seen the horrors of this war and she has had to report on them.

Ms. Woodruff. Christiane Amanpour.

The President. Yes, she's been fabulous. She's done a great service for the whole world on that. I do not blame her for being mad at me, but I'm doing the best I can with this problem from my perspective.

I didn't know, you see, I would have to look at her—now I'll blush—[laughter]—anyway, go ahead.

Ms. Woodruff. That's a good note to end on. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you very much, all of you. Thank you.

NOTE: The interview began at 7 p.m. in the Cecil B. Day Chapel at the Carter Center. In his remarks, the President referred to Tom Johnson, president, and Ted Turner, owner and founder, Cable News Network.

William J. Clinton, Interview on CNN's "Global Forum With President Clinton" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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