Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Counselor to the President David Gergen
8:55 P.M. (L)
MS. MYERS: We'll get started now. Dave Gergen is going to give a readout of the meetings from earlier today. Then Secretary Christopher will make some comments and will take questions after that.
Without further ado.
MR. GERGEN: All of us have had a long day, so we'll be rather brief with the readout. I just want to say that I feel privileged to share this podium with Secretary Christopher tonight.
The President and Mrs. Clinton have -- they're up in their rooms over in the South Wing where I think they're ordering some dinner. The President said a few moments ago that he was tired but very upbeat at the end of a day. He's very pleased to be here and thinks his sessions have gotten off to a good start.
A few brief comments about his meeting with Prime Minister Miyazawa today: As the President came out of the room he turned to George Stephanopoulos and me and said he had a terrific meeting. He said it was a meeting that -- quote -- "was terrific, covered the waterfront." He was very impressed by how engaged and positive the Prime Minister was.
At the beginning of the meeting the Prime Minister welcomed the President's choice of Asia for his first trip overseas as President; thought he showed in what high regard he held Asia. He also welcomed the nomination of Walter Mondale to be the next Ambassador to Japan and said he appreciated the work of Michael Armacost, who is, of course, the current Ambassador.
Their talks covered a wide range of other issues. The Prime Minister welcomed the President's decisions with regard to both China and Vietnam, called both of them wise. They discussed Cambodia. The President said, overall they had a fascinating talk about Asia.
They also discussed North Korea, agreed that the situation there was serious, requires sustained efforts. The Prime Minister thought that the President's emphasis upon APEC was very wise. He thought the meeting that was going to be held in Seattle would be very helpful.
They also discussed the United Nations Security Council and the membership on that council. And the Prime Minister told the President he appreciated American support and both agreed that the issue itself was complicated.
And the President also, in addition to those issues, the President talked to the Prime Minister about the structural unemployment initiative, which he, of course, announced in San Francisco some hours ago. And the President said that the Prime Minister seemed very agreeable to it.
I know many of you are interested in the question about the framework negotiations, and, of course, the President and the Prime Minister have also discussed those to a degree. Now, unfortunately, we're not in a position to tell you all the details that I'm sure many of you would be interested in learning. It's been a position of this administration, with administrations passed, that there's an effort not to talk about the details of a negotiation, especially negotiations as delicate as these. There's no doubt that if this agreement is reached, it would represent a considerable step beyond anything America and Japan have had in the past in the trading area.
The two sides agreed that they have narrowed their differences, but there are still tough issues ahead. No one can tell at the moment what the outcome of these talks will be. No one yet knows whether they will be completed this week. Both sides expressed a desire in the meeting to complete an agreement this week. They both said they were hopeful. But the President also recognizes that a good agreement is better than a quick agreement.
Now, I might say a word or two about the background of this, the framework talks. As you know, this was an initiative launched by President Clinton this spring, which now is moving along, and he's pleased about that.
There have been various exchanges back and forth between the sides. Back in the week of June 11-12, there was a Japanese delegation that came to D.C. and the week of the 20th a Washington delegation that went to Japan. Just to give you a little bit of detail on that, that Washington delegation got back last Tuesday night. Bo Cutter, who headed up the group on the American side, got home at 1:00 a.m. in the morning Tuesday morning. Then at 3:00 a.m. in the morning that same morning he was receiving a call from the Japanese side saying they would like to get back together and talk again.
Now, this was Friday, July 2nd, that the Prime Minister sent a letter to the President which the President welcomed in part because of the spirit of the letter, in part because, on the substance itself, there was movement toward the American side. And it was on that basis that there were meetings in Washington this past weekend, a decision made to send some Americans back here to resume talks. And then the President sent a letter that came Monday, Japanese time -- in fact, the President was working on the letter in San Francisco just before the NEA speech, was reviewing the language, had some changes in the language. That letter was transmitted to Japan overnight and the Prime Minister had it on his desk first thing this morning, and the talks resumed this morning.
Now, the President has said with regard to those who are on the American side that he would like them to put aside other things they're doing that don't interfere -- as long as they don't interfere with their progress on the G-7 talks and the Uruguay Round; that it was important to put those other things aside and to focus on this question of the framework agreement and see what could be done. But, again, no one is predicting an outcome at this point. I think it will be premature to offer such a prediction.
Now, as you know, after the bilateral the President went on to this meeting over at the Embassy with the other leaders. The President really enjoyed himself there, I must say. He found that a number of people came up to him -- he was particularly appreciative of the comments he had from a number of people about education, so he got a lot of good ideas from it. There were also talks about more exchanges and more opening up the lane so that more Americans and Japanese visit each country -- each other's countries.
He said that he was very impressed by the quality of the people that he met, how genuinely interested some of them seemed in the changes that were taking place. With regard to Mr. Hata, one of the opposition leaders, they had an exchange about what one does to cure a raspy throat during a campaign. The President explained to Mr. Hata that he had found during his campaign that you could use throat spray, but it might be very helpful, but you could only use it two or three times a year. Mr. Hata explained that he had a special potion, that he boils beans and likes to drink the residue. I'm not sure that either is going to take the advice from the other.
But that pretty much ended the evening and they've come back here, as I say, to have dinner. I would really like now to turn this podium over to Secretary Christopher who can talk a bit more about the meetings today, but most importantly, preview the meetings ahead.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, David. Was it yesterday or the day before, I gave an on-the-record briefing at the White House previewing this trip. And I don't want to repeat -- I see a number in the audience who heard me here at that time.
I guess what I would like to do is to give you an update and to tell you trip is pretty much going as we anticipated. It's a multidimensional trip, and I'd want to emphasize tonight the Asian dimension of it. I don't think we should get fixated solely on the G-7 aspect of it, because it was very fortunate that the President's first trip abroad has been to Asia. It's given him an opportunity to do several important things with respect to Asia:
First, to emphasize the priority the United States extends to Asia. After all, Asia buys more from us than any other region in the world. Our trading relationship is the strongest of any region in the world. It gives the President an opportunity to emphasize that we intend to remain a Pacific power; to emphasize that we will maintain our security relationships in the Pacific; and that we feel a responsibility to provide leadership in the Pacific. Our forward basing will continue here in the Pacific.
And I would suggest to you as you view the remainder of the trip, that you see it in an Asian dimension as well as in a G-7 dimension. He has made one speech that I have referred to, and I'm sure you've indicated that you've seen the points he made in that speech. He'll be making two more significant speeches -- one at Waseda University tomorrow, and another at the Korean National Assembly on Saturday -- which gives him an opportunity to spell out the American commitment to Asia, which you will see, I think, displayed and demonstrated and illustrated in various ways as we go through the remainder of this trip.
He has four important bilaterals. Early tomorrow morning he's going to have a bilateral meeting with President Soeharto of Indonesia, which gives him an opportunity to talk with the current chairman of the nonaligned movement; reflect our growing ability to work with the nonaligned movement. Particularly, we're seeing that in the United Nations two relatively new Presidents, vigorous, forward-looking, trying to reform their domestic economies. They 'll have an opportunity to discuss the security relationship, which is on our minds very much because of the threats from North Korea. And I think Korea is a graphic reminder of the importance of the President's thrust for democracy and free markets. Korea is a marvelous example of a country that's moved through various stages and is now a thriving democracy.
And there are so many more here in Asia, some of which are quite surprising -- Mongolia and Cambodia, to take two examples. So, as I say, I would emphasize the Asian aspect of this trip.
Just a word or two about the Japanese discussions today, discussions with Miyazawa. I was having parallel discussions with Foreign Minister Muto. I'm struck by how much this is a three-cornered stool, how significant the security and political aspect of it is, along with the economic relationship that we're emphasizing and which the President said is in need of repair.
In each of the aspects of a security and political relationship that I discussed today and the President discussed today, the President has taken important decisions -- I think sound decisions -- showing leadership on his part. In North Korea, it's clear that Asia looks to the United States to take a lead in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat. This is an international problem. It's not just a United States problem. But it's certainly significant that the world will be looking at the United States and the negotiations that are going to start in Geneva on the 14th of this month.
On Vietnam, I think the United States' move here to permit Vietnam access to the international financial institutions is, once again, a significant move in the direction of normalization of relations.
In the United Nations, the United States is in the leadership position of indicating its support for Japanese membership in the Security Council. Clearly it is time for some reform of the United Nations' structure to bring it up to date. It's 50 years old and I think there should be no surprise that there needs to be some rethinking of the United Nations' structure.
On the comprehensive test ban, that's another area where the President has taken a difficult but sound decision that's getting wide applause throughout the world.
So across the board, I think we see the United States having relationships to talk about with Japan well beyond the economic relationships, showing, as I said, the texture and depth of our relationship, but also emphasizing a need to get the economic relationship back in a better order.
The President will be having meetings tomorrow, and then going on to the G-7 meetings the following day and Friday. And I think I'll simply stop here and allow time for your questions by saying, I think the President's trip is on track with these two important dimensions. And we'll be moving forward from here.
Q: Mr. Secretary, admittedly Bosnia isn't in Asia, but we don't hear anything about Bosnia anymore, which not too long ago was considered a crisis. Has the West about given up on Bosnia? And do you link the impression that the Muslims have been let down with the rise of fundamentalism and the apparent directive to State Department feels for American citizens traveling abroad and living abroad?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Barry, if I had listed the political issues that will be discussed at the summit, I would certainly have listed Bosnia because, unquestionably, it will be discussed. I guess I need some of their voice medicine -- one -- yes, boiled beans. One subject that will certainly come up on the agenda is the need for additional humanitarian assets in Asia in support of a humanitarian relief program in Bosnia. Humanitarian aid is running very low. The United States is committed well more -- far more -- than any other European country. We have supplied more than $345 million in aid since the beginning of the war there. And that doesn't count in our military expenses and making the aid available. So that will certainly come up. I'm sure the President and I will be urging the allies to be forthcoming with additional aid.
We'll be reviewing the status of the negotiations in Geneva to determine whether or not those are viable, feasible negotiations that might produce a result in the situation. Most in this room know the President's position on this, and know my views on it, and so, I won't take time to repeat it. I would want to answer the second part of Barry's question by flatly rejecting the notion that our attitudes toward Bosnia have anything to do with the rise of extremism or fanaticism elsewhere in the Middle East.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is it fair to assume that the Japanese have made concessions that have led to this sudden new hope of a breakthrough since everything -- all bets were off last week? I'm not asking you to give details --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes, it's fair to assume that the Japanese have moved in our direction.
Q: Mr. Secretary, from Prime Minister Miyazawa's comments it didn't seem as though he had. He talked about Japan being a market economy, the inability of governments to control their surpluses, unwillingness to tie surpluses to a percentage of GDP. Where is there any flexibility in his remarks toward what the United States would like to see?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think your very skillful attempt to lure me into what David said we wouldn't do and that is to talk about the specifics -- I really am not able to go beyond saying what I did, and that is that on important aspects they have moved in our direction.
Q: Could you explain where the President differs from the Prime Minister's suggestions? You said he differed and that his differences were well-known. Could you recapitulate those differences?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, for the same reason. I'm sorry, that would take me into the specifics of the negotiation. If you go back and look at the sequence of the comments, I think you may get some idea as to where he differs.
Q: Mr. Secretary, why is it necessary for the U.S. -- for the President to restate so often and so strongly that the U.S. is not retrenching in its security commitments in Asia? He seems almost defensive about it.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We're not defensive about it at all. I think when a new administration comes in there's always the question as to whether there might be some pulling back. We are reducing the number of our troops in Europe so I think the question comes up quite naturally. But as a new administration we simply want to emphasize that we intend to remain a Pacific power and we're going to keep our security commitments in Asia.
Q: Mr. Secretary, at the first meeting when Prime Minister Miyazawa came to Washington, virtually the entire emphasis, at least on the press conference afterwards was on the economic ties. I think you'll remember the key words were, the President said, "let's not paper this over." This time almost all of his emphasis is on the security and political ties. Why the shift?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't really see it as a shift. I think he said that the majority of the time the conversation was spent on economic matters and a substantial amount of my conversations were spent on economic matters. We're discussing the framework, we were discussing how the Japanese might help us or help the G-7 toward an agreement on market access. We're certainly discussing with the Japanese how all of us ought to underscore our commitment to global growth by taking actions within the governments to stimulate the economy.
So there's been no de-emphasis of that, but it would certainly be misleading for anybody to think that we have only one stool to this three-legged stool. It is important for us always to remember that we have security in political relationships with Japan as well as the economic relationships.
What the President has been saying is that one leg of the stool is badly in need of repair. And we're setting out to try to do that.
Q: The President said he was sorry he hadn't been asked the question about the importance of targets in trade policy. Can you give us the answer that he would have given? And can you also help us understand how the Prime Minister doesn't see a way to set a percentage of GNP on -- there's any progress being made.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You're going right to core of the important discussions that are under negotiation. And for the same reason as before, I really regret that I can't get into the specifics of those negotiations. Among other things, I'm not personally doing the negotiating, so I think it's just as well to leave that to the negotiators and see if we can produce a framework that will be useful.
I would say one thing that I said in Washington and not to go beyond what I've said earlier. I would want, once again, I think, want to downplay expectations of some early agreement on this. I think there, as Mr. Gergen said, there are tough issues ahead. And we just have to see whether something can be accomplished this week or thereafter. But we'll certainly keep at it in any event.
Q: David, will you answer some questions?
Q: something to shoot at.
Q: Read the Times piece --
MR. GERGEN: I think we've pretty well cleared the deck, haven't we?
Q: No. We just want you to reiterate what the President's position is -- on where is differences are with --
Q: What's the answer to the question he invited.
MR. GERGEN: A to Z, what is it?
Q: What are his differences with Miyazawa on --
MR. GERGEN: We're not going to get into that.
Q: He invited the question.
MR. GERGEN: I didn't invite the question.
Q: Has there been any movement on the United States' part in closing this gap between japan and the United States? You say the Secretary said Japan --
MR. GERGEN: I don't think we want to get into sort of trying to measure that. But we did find -- I think the President said, and I think we indicated from this podium -- that the Prime Minister's letter, dated July 2nd, was extremely helpful in moving this process forward.
Q: letter back to him equivalently helpful?
MR. GERGEN: I think it stated what the -- the back said, look, here's where we're coming from, here's what we think we ought to want to achieve. And now -- but there are some things here to negotiate. There are some differences here that have to be negotiated out. Those negotiations were not completed during the day today, and there was a feeling in the meeting here tonight, or when he met with the Prime Minister that, rather than trying to negotiate out the differences in a meeting, that they would be best left and put in the hands of those who had been working on them during the day.
Q: to be clear, you're willing to characterize the measure -- the degree to which Japan has caved in, but not the degree to which the United States may have caved in?
MR. GERGEN: You're right. (Laughter.)
Q: But the President hasn't lost any resolve for the need for specific targets, has he?
MR. GERGEN: The President has not lost his resolve with regard to any of the issues that are on the table.
Q: Is the President still interested in targets for certain sectors?
MR. GERGEN: The President's position -- I think the President said tonight that his positions were well-known on those issues. I think that came up in the context of the Prime Minister stating some of his positions, and the President said my positions are well-known. I think what we're -- look, I think what we're trying not to do is to walk through point by point by point, here's where they are, here's where the United States is, here's where the obvious point of disagreement may or may not be. I think that's what we find to be unproductive at this delicate stage.
Q: The Japanese made concessions. Has the U.S. then made counter concessions?
MR. GERGEN: I didn't say that. I did not say that. I said that the United States put some positions forward in a return letter which the President signed off on this morning from San Francisco.
Q: Are they negotiating tonight?
MR. GERGEN: No, it's in negotiations in the morning.
Q: Do you have any expectation that if they reached agreement that any new government in Japan would live by that agreement, live up to it?
MR. GERGEN: It's been the understanding of this government that if an agreement were reached with the Miyazawa government, that whatever government might then -- might be in charge here, that the agreement would be, indeed, honored; just as agreements are honored by American presidents and by their successors.
Q: Is that based on expectations or on some guidance?
MR. GERGEN: No, there have been various conversations which have indicated that. It's been well understood on the American side that any agreement reached with this government would be honored by future governments.
Q: And was that reiterated tonight in the meeting at the embassy?
MR. GERGEN: I don't know the answer to that question. I had the impression that perhaps it was in one or two conversations, but I don't think that is sufficient, and nor do I know from whom that came. And I just don't think it's appropriate for me to say that's a full answer.
Q: Can you characterize the current status of the GATT talks?
MR. GERGEN: The President and the Prime Minister did discuss the GATT talks. Those could then -- I'm not prepared now to outline exactly where they stand, but they had a discussion with the Prime Minister tonight, and of course there are some ongoing discussions. The quad discussions are continuing on GATT. There will be further discussions tomorrow. I think that they could go most of the day. That issue -- it's my understanding that the Uruguay Round and the GATT talks -- I don't have the exact calendar in front of me, but I don't think that that's a major issue tomorrow in the first part of the G-7. I think a lot of that discussion occurs the next day. But I think the representatives who have been involved in the GATT and the Quad talks -- as you know, Mr. Kantor and others are here, and Mr. Kantor told me today he would be continuing his discussions tomorrow.
Q: Why were there no women at the meeting the President had at the Ambassador's Residence tonight? Are there no women leaders in Japan who it was worth his while to meet with?
MR. GERGEN: Obviously, Japan has a number of very strong leaders, including Mrs. Ogata who represents Japan at the United Nations and is head of the refugee commission at the United Nations. There are other leaders of Japan who are women. As you know, one of the major figures -- running the politics of Japan in one of the last elections was a woman. I can't speak to precisely why there were no women in that group. I think that's a question best directed to the American Embassy here, although I'd be happy to take the question if that would be -- as to who composed the list and why. It was -- as you know, it was an assortment of both political and business as well as some journalistic figures. And I was trying -- there were some women in the room, but I'm not -- I have not seen the list. We've posted the list or it should be available to you. Q: I was told there were no women on that list -- MR. GERGEN: You -- I don't doubt what you're
saying. I just don't know why --
Q: Were any women in the American delegation?
MR. GERGEN: There are women on -- certainly women on the trip. There's a number of women here on the trip on the American delegation. I don't know -- with regard to the official party, I can't answer that question. I mean, I don't know who's on the official party. I simply don't know.
I think we're sort of straining the limits here.
Q: get the speech in advance for the University tomorrow?
MR. GERGEN: I'm sorry --
Q: Will we get the speech?
MR. GERGEN: The honest answer is I don't know. The President has not completed his review of the speech. He had a chance to go over it on the airplane. He wanted to make some changes, and he wanted to take a look at another draft. And whether he's going to get that draft tonight or he'll have the opportunity -- I think he's -- as I said, he was tired. I think he'd like to get some sleep fairly soon. So --
Q: Soeharto meeting? Is that before the --
MR. GERGEN: I believe the Soeharto meeting is at 7:30 a.m. and the speech is at 9:00 a.m. Is that not right?
Q: give us the speech would he read it? (Laughter.)
Q: It will be in this building then -- all the bilaterals will be up in his suite?
MR. GERGEN: Dee Dee is best prepared to answer the locations of things. Would the bilaterals -- the Soeharto meeting is here in this building?
MS. MYERS: -- across the street?
MR. GERGEN: It's in his suite? It's across the street? At the embassy and then -- the bilaterals are at the embassy. I stand corrected.
Yes, sir. One last question. Yes, sir.
Q: There's going to be a political statement at the G-7 tomorrow night. What's at the top of the U.S. political agenda at the G-7 meeting --
MR. GERGEN: I would -- you know, I think the Secretary of State would be the best one prepared to answer that question. There's a long list of subjects that stretch around the world and also, of course, the question of nonproliferation is very high on the list of items the President wants to address there.
Now, there will be another briefing tomorrow. I don't know what time -- Dee Dee, are you -- do you have a time? You haven't set a time, but the anticipated -- Dee Dee will be briefing during the day tomorrow and then we'll try to do another readout probably after the G-7 meeting and before the dinner. We'll see if we can do a readout if that will be helpful to you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:20 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Counselor to the President David Gergen Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269153