Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, on the APEC Meeting
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:22 P.M. EDT
DR. RICE: Good afternoon. I'm here to do my traditional pre-brief of the President's trip. He is, as you know, headed to Shanghai for a meeting of APEC. And this provides a unique opportunity for President Bush to meet personally with 20 Pacific Rim leaders, including key allies.
Despite the press of the urgent business that we have in the war against terrorism, the President feels that this is an extremely important trip and an extremely important time to take this trip. His objectives are very important for it. Obviously, he will continue to build the coalition in the war on terrorism in listing Pacific Rim leaders in his counterterrorism efforts.
We've had excellent cooperation from the leaders that he will meet there, and so this will give him an opportunity to review where we are and to continue those efforts.
The President also feels strongly -- as you know, it's been a slowing global economy, and so this is an opportunity to spur, through discussions with key leaders there, strong economic global recovery and what can be done to do that. And obviously a part of that is the very important trade agenda that these leaders share. And, finally, he will have a chance for the long run to strengthen some of our most important alliances.
He regrets that he will not be able to go on to Beijing, to Tokyo and to Seoul as had been planned, but he will have bilateral meetings in Shanghai with those three leaders and with a number of other leaders, as well -- with Singapore, Malaysia, Peru and Brunai, and also with President Putin of Russia.
Of course, we're going to see our other friends while we're there, as well -- Australia, Philippines, Thailand and the others.
So let me open it up for questions. John.
Q:Condi, you said the President wants to go. But is it appropriate for the President to be leaving on such a long-distance trip at this particular point? And was there any discussion among his advisors as to whether or not it was prudent for him to go at this time?
DR. RICE: Well, John, of course, it was discussed. But the President feels very strongly, as he said to the American people, that we have to go about the business of doing what makes America strong. And he believes that one of his most important tasks as President is to work on strengthening our alliances, as I said, to work on the global economic issues here, to continue to build the coalition against terrorism. He believes he can do that best by going to APEC.
He will be in constant touch with his advisors here in Washington; in fact, Secretary Powell, of course, will be with us. And he expects to have frequent contact with people back here. But he feels it's very important to go ahead and make this trip.
Q:Can I follow up on that and tell us how this trip will help you build your coalition on terrorism? How much of the trip will be dominated by what's going on here in the U.S.?
DR. RICE: When the President was first elected, he talked about the importance of strengthening alliances, of building relationships that you could draw on when crises came along; that you couldn't simply have relationships in which you've made the first call when there is a difficult circumstance. And, fortunately, with all of these leaders, he had built those relationships so that when September 11th happened he had almost immediate reaction from all of these leaders.
Now this will give him an opportunity, face-to-face with some of them, to continue to talk about what can be done on the war on terrorism. For instance, with Japan, when Prime Minister Koizumi was here, we talked a lot about the financial issues, talked a lot about relief efforts. I'm sure he'll want to continue to talk about those. The Chinese have been very helpful on the information-sharing side, and we'll want to continue to talk about those efforts. So it's a whole panoply in what is a very, of course, large-scale and broad-scale attack on terrorism. And so he'll talk about those issues.
Q:If I could follow up, how about with Putin and Chechnya and how that has evolved?
DR. RICE: Well, he has a broad agenda, of course, with President Putin. Again, the President had said that it was time to move beyond the Cold War to a new relationship with Russia. I think September 11th demonstrated the tremendous possibilities of that new relationship. We have been in very close discussions with the Russians; he'll talk with the Russians -- with the Russian President about the broad agenda, but also, of course, about counterterrorism.
And on Chechnya, the President has been clear that our policies continue to be concerned about human rights issues, to be concerned about minority rights issues; but to make certain that we also say to the Chechan leadership that a political solution is important to this. It is important for legitimate Chechan leadership to make sure that there are no international terrorists among them.
Q:You will be granting an interview, we understand, this afternoon to Al Jazeera.
DR. RICE: That's right.
Q:Can you give us some idea how long it will last, when it will it be aired? I understand you're taping it. And is this part of a new public diplomacy by the White House? And will the President do one also?
DR. RICE: Well, I'm going to do Al Jazeera; I believe Secretary Powell did last week, and there are a number of other officials who will. I'm sorry, I don't remember the details of how long this will be -- I assume 20-30 minutes -- or when it will air. But we do think it's important that we get our message out to Arab publics, and we know that this is a network that is very popular with Arab publics.
I hope to be able to talk to the message that the President has been delivering, that this is a war on terrorism, a war on evil, this is not a war of civilizations. The President has enormous respect, and all of us do, for Islam, for a religion that preaches peace, that would never countenance the violent deaths of innocent people. And I hope to get that word across. So that's why we're doing it.
Q:And is the President contemplating?
DR. RICE: We have not discussed this with the President. I'm going to do it; Secretary Powell has done it. We'll see what else happens.
Q:You asked the networks last week to use careful consideration before broadcasting the messages that were coming from al Qaeda and from bin Laden. At the time you said that you had people who were analyzing these for possibly secret-coded messages. What have the analysts found in --
DR. RICE: The analysts continue to look at these messages, Campbell, and they are continuing to see what we can learn from them. The point to the networks -- and let me just say that I think the networks have been very responsible in the way that they have dealt with this -- my message to them was that it's not to me to judge news value of something like this, but it is to say that there's a national security concern about an unedited, 15 or 20-minute spew of anti-American hatred that ends in a call to go out and kill Americans. And I think that that was fully understood.
We are still concerned about whether there might be some signaling in here, but I don't have anything more for you on that yet.
Q:Any specific phrases, or anything that you're concerned about that you think may, in fact, be signaling?
DR. RICE: We're doing the analysis. I can't promise you that we'll be able to talk about what we think may be there, but I can tell you that I don't have anything for you right now on that.
Q:Could you give us the mechanisms here at the White House that you're taking in reference to these letters that are coming with anthrax? And, also, could you update us a little bit more on the situation, since that is under the auspices of national security?
DR. RICE: Well, in fact, it's under the auspices of Tom Ridge and Homeland Security. We're in constant contact together about it. Let me just repeat that there are just, so far still, the two confirmed cases of anthrax; several other strongly suspected cases. I think it's fair to say that we've had unprecedented cooperation between the CDC, the FBI, local and state officials to try to deal with these issues.
There also, of course, is concern about this mail that is coming in, and every case is being taken very seriously, every case is being examined. I'm not going to talk about security precautions that we take in any particular place. I think it really isn't good to broadcast what we do, but just to say that, like everybody else, we're being very cautious about what we open. The American people ought to be cautious about what they open. There is absolutely no reason for panic, but if the American people, anyone is suspicious about a package or letter, then they should get in touch with officials about it.
Q:Does this mean now that the United States will sign the new provisions of a germ warfare-biological warfare treaty, which you have renounced?
DR. RICE: Helen, I think that anyone who really thinks that the biological weapons protocol as it is currently drafted would stop the likes of people that we're worried about right now from getting biological weapons would have to really think twice. We do not believe that the protocol as it currently exists, that this protocol serves the interests of the United States or anyone else that is trying to stop the spread of biological weapons.
We're working with our allies to think about ways that we might strengthen the regime against these weapons, but inspection continues to be a huge problem because these are easy to hide. That really has not changed.
Q:Can I follow up in terms of, do you see any link, any conspiracy in these anthrax letters, per se? And do you think it comes from outside the nation here, or -- and also, we negotiated these provisions that you are now rejecting.
DR. RICE: Helen, there has been concern about this particular protocol for some time. I don't think that the administration made any secret about the fact that we don't think that this protocol will contribute to the fight against biological weapons. It is an issue that we take very seriously and we're working with our allies on measures that might, but the protocol that is currently out there we do not think would help.
Now, on the issue of whether these are linked, we do not know. And we are continuing to investigate and we're continuing to try to put the picture together. I think, as the Vice President said, obviously one has to be suspicious that there might be some links here. But all that we can do is to continue to investigate and continue to try to put the pieces together.
Q:On a couple of issues; first to follow up on Helen. Is it your assessment that an anthrax -- the use of anthrax this way would require state sponsorship of some degree to get to this level? And then, second, the President last week said he was amazed at the level of hatred that's in the Arab world, and you just said it's important to reach the Arab public through this popular means.
DR. RICE: Yes.
Q:Why isn't the President doing Al Jazeera then? And what will he and you do to meet that challenge?
DR. RICE: Let's not go to whether he is or is not. At this point, he is not. There's nothing scheduled at this point. Look, there is a lot of propaganda about America and America's goals that is out there. And we recognize that we have to do a better job of countering that propaganda. I think that if the people in the Arab world were able to see the pictures of these American women, Christians and Jews, carrying women who take the veil to do their shopping so that they wouldn't have to be fearful, I think that if word can get out that the President has asked that American children do something for Afghan children, I think that if the word can get out to remind people that America has gone -- used force to save the lives of Muslims against Serbs in Kosovo, or to save the lives of Muslims in Kuwait or in Bosnia, that these are messages that need to get out.
I would caution who -- the notion that all of the Arab world hates us, though. These demonstrations are still thousands of people in countries where there are millions of people. And I think that there's a deep wellspring of respect and, indeed, Americans are liked. So we need to tap into that. There are clearly extremists who hate America, but we need to tap into, I think, the broad populations of these countries that have reason to admire and to like Americans.
Q:And then on state sponsorship?
DR. RICE: We don't know enough, I think, about these incidents yet to answer what kind of resources people would have had to have.
Q:The weaponized answer?
DR. RICE: I don't think we know very -- oh, to weaponize anthrax?
Q:Of the samples that have been taken so far, any evidence that they are weaponized forms of anthrax?
DR. RICE: I think we don't have any evidence of that at this point; but we're continuing to investigate.
Q:Condi, on two of the Asian leaders you'll be meeting. First, in the Philippines there was discussion that at some point we might send in trainers, special forces, something like that as sort of the first new front that you would open up here. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
And for China, the Chinese leadership has already been talking, equating terrorists with separatists -- Falun Gong, Tibet, hinted Taiwan. Is the President prepared to address this and what is he going to say?
DR. RICE: It is clearly our job, David, to make certain that we continue to draw a line in all of our discussions between legitimate dissent or legitimate movements for the rights of minorities and the fact that there may be international terrorists in various parts of the world. We've done that in the situation in Chechnya; we would do that in our discussions with the Chinese.
But we really do believe that people understand that there is a global network out there, an international network that has cells in so many countries that we really have to sit down with the leaders of those countries and determine how we can get them out. And that leads me to the Philippines. That story I think does not represent the level of thinking in the administration about any such thing.
But what we do want to do, though, is to work with every government in which there is a substantial al Qaeda presence to figure out a strategy for rooting it out. Because it's like cutting out a cancer now in 60-plus countries. You've got to get to these cells and root them out and disrupt them before they strike again. And we will certainly have that discussion with the Philippine --
Q:But you're not planning to send American personnel to the Philippines --
DR. RICE: I'm not going to comment on what we might do. But we will certainly have this discussion with the Philippine leadership on how we can address the al Qaeda threat, which clearly is there in the Philippines.
Q:On a day when suspicious mail got to the Senate, has there been any suspicious mail here? Any cause for concern at the White House?
DR. RICE: I really can't comment. Not that I know of. Not that I know of.
Q:Your interview with Al Jazeera, last week you asked U.S. broadcast outlets to be cautious, not to broadcast full statements, propaganda by Osama bin Laden. And Al Jazeera does this regularly. And it's seen in the U.S. over satellite networks. Have you made a request of the satellite network, will you make a request to Al Jazeera not to allow, not to disseminate this hate?
DR. RICE: My understanding is that Al Jazeera, of its own accord, has adopted some guidelines on how it might use these tapes. Let me be very clear on what it was that we were discussing. When you have these unedited tapes that are pre-taped, shipped some place, for 15, 20 minutes, with no commentary, you know, I think news organizations would be suspicious or skeptical of doing that with anybody.
And to do it with groups that are known terrorists, known killers who sit and use that tape then to incite people to go out and kill Americans, that was the discussion that we had. It's not an effort to keep information from anybody, it's just the nature of that particular vehicle.
Q:And the satellite channels that rebroadcast Al Jazeera, did you make the request of them --
DR. RICE: We've not talked to the satellite channels, we've felt that we could deal with this principally in the way that we have.
Q:Dr. Rice, given all the focus on coalition-building and the events on September 11th, is there still an appetite in your shop with Gary Edson and with others, is there still an appetite for the economic and trade issues that would normally dominate an APEC conference? Or aren't they just going to disappear?
DR. RICE: No, we're not going to let them disappear. The President feels very strongly that he has a responsibility to -- you know that he's thought a lot about the American economy -- well, the American economy can't be considered in isolation from the global economy. And, certainly, the issues of global economic growth, the kinds of discussions that we might have, for instance with Japan, the importance of trade to global economic growth -- the President is very devoted to that agenda.
He's going to be talking with people today about trade promotion authority. He really feels very strongly that that's an agenda that's got to keep going because, ultimately, stability and the kind of, if you will, quarantine against some of this will come from a stronger, more prosperous world.
Q:If I'm asked about Japan's role in this international coalition, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armacost told the Japanese officials to, "show the flag," meaning the Japanese government should be involved fully in this campaign against terrorism.
Now, Dr. Rice, have you seen the Japanese flag in this coalition, especially when Prime Minister Koizumi decided to send self-defense forces to provide logistical support for the U.S. military? And how important is Japan's action in this campaign in developing long-term strategic relationship between Japan and the United States?
DR. RICE: Yes, we are gratified by the response that we've gotten from Japan on the military side, where we recognize that there are important limitations that Japan imposes on itself, in terms of its constitutional responsibilities, and that's fine. But Japan has found very important ways to help with logistical support, with all kinds of support for the military effort. And we're really gratified by that.
We know that Prime Minister Koizumi has rallied his own nation to support this Japanese role. And we believe that it will have a long-term benefit to stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific.
Q:You see the Japanese flag, don't you?
DR. RICE: Well, the Japanese flag is alive and well in this coalition. I can't say that I know where it's showing, but I can tell you that it's extremely important. We're very pleased with the response.
Q:Dr. Rice, when you talk about the need for communication with the Arab world in terms of American goals and American culture, when the President goes to the APEC meeting, he would have an opportunity to try to recruit some of these leaders from that part of the world into that sort of message campaign. Will he do that? Is that one of his goals?
DR. RICE: It's an excellent point. It's an excellent point, because among the APEC leaders, of course, are leaders of important Muslim countries. And we do think that the President is -- that it's important to enlist Muslim leaders not just in the Middle East, but from around the world, to understand that this is clearly not a war of religions, not a war with the Muslim world.
These leaders understand the threat of terrorism perhaps even better than we Americans do. They know that terrorists are after the stability of their countries as well, these extremists. And so we believe we have common cause with them and that we can work toward a common understanding.
Q:And how --
DR. RICE: I think it will be broad. He'll talk all about this. But as you know, he's already talked with Ms. Megawati, President Megawati of Indonesia, he's been on the phone with Mahathir in Malaysia. He's had a lot of contacts in this regard.
Q:I just wanted to explore -- forgive me if you've already addressed this -- on a potential link to bin Laden and these anthrax cases so far. The President, in a way that was significant, said that there is some possible link, there's no hard evidence, but a possible link. Can you explain what leads him, you, others, to believe that link may exist?
DR. RICE: It's simply at this point to not rule it out. Secondly, just circumstantially one has to worry that there may be some sort of link because of the timing here. There isn't any hard evidence of a link of any kind, but we don't want to be blind to that link; it would be hard to be blind to that link, given what happened on September 11th, but there isn't any hard evidence at this point.
Q:Can I just ask, following when the President was asked in the Rose Garden, if you have anything to say about reports of the Indian army firing against Pakistani positions across the cease-fire line? And then I have another --
DR. RICE: We've just seen the reports of this. As you know, Secretary Powell is actually in Islamabad and he's there with the express purpose, both in Islamabad and in Delhi, to talk with and to counsel with the leaders of Pakistan and India on the importance of stability in the zone of control, importance of not having a flair up in Kashmir.
I can tell you that there were quite a few phone calls over the weekend -- a weekend ago, not this past weekend, but the weekend before -- concerning this issue. As we got ready to get ready for military action, the President talked to Prime Minister Vajpayee. He, of course, talked to President Musharraf. Colin Powell also talked to both. I talked to my counterparts. There's been a lot of back-and-forth. I think we'll have to go and see what's actually happening here; the reports are pretty preliminary. But there is a lot of diplomatic infrastructure in place to try to damp this down.
Q:Can I follow up?
DR. RICE: Sorry, the President is about to speak. I do not want to get in his way. Thanks a lot.
END 1:47 P.M. EDT
George W. Bush, Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, on the APEC Meeting Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/271731