Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Following Discussions With President Jiang Zemin of China in Seattle
The President. Good afternoon. I have just completed a meeting with President Jiang of China which I believe was very productive. It was an important meeting for the people of China and the people of the United States. China, after all, is home to one of every five people who live on this planet and is the world's fastest growing major economy. We have to work together on a wide range of issues of regional significance and of global significance.
President Jiang said to me in a letter that we need to talk to each other not because we have no differences but because we do have differences and need to resolve them. Today I tried to be as forthright and clear as I could about our common interests and about our clear differences.
We agreed on the need to work on improving our relationship. We know that what we do affects not only our own people but all the people in the world. When we work together we're a powerful force for security and economic progress. As fellow members of the U.N. Security Council, we have worked side by side on many things, including Cambodia and Haiti.
In our meeting I reaffirmed the United States support for the three joint communiques as the bedrock of our one China policy. We agreed on the need to preserve the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and to work together to ensure that North Korea resolves the world's concerns over its nuclear problems.
We also discussed very frankly areas of disagreement. I emphasized to President Jiang the need for early, concrete progress on aspects of China policy and practice that are of deep concern to the American people: human rights, including Tibet; trade practices; and nonproliferation. Over the past few months we have had a number of bilateral meetings in Beijing and Washington to explore the possibilities for progress in these key areas. Our meeting today is a part of that ongoing process. I hope it can lead to substantial advances.
In our meeting today I especially stressed our concerns in the area of human rights. Last May I put forward key human rights conditions that must be met if most-favored-nation status to China is to be renewed next spring. I told President Jiang that I welcome our dialog on human rights. I hope we can make significant progress on these issues very soon. I mentioned in particular the need for prison access by the ICRC, the question of releasing political prisoners, especially those who are sick. I particularly mentioned the case of Wang Jontao. I asked for a dialog on Tibet with the Dalai Lama or his representatives. And I discussed the question of prison labor and the need for our customs officials to visit other facilities as already called for in our memorandum of understanding.
In other words, on the question of human rights, I attempted to be quite specific, not implying that the United States could dictate to China or that China could dictate to the United States the general conditions or institutions of our society, but clearly recognizing that there are human rights issues that are a barrier to the full resolution of normal and complete and constructive relations between our two nations.
I also emphasized the need for progress on our trade imbalance. We discussed the needs for greater market access and for the protection of intellectual property rights. I think our trade relationships alone indicate that the United States has not attempted to isolate China but instead has attempted to assist its movement into the global economy. After all, this year we will purchase about a third of the total Chinese exports, and we must do a better job of selling our products and services into that market.
I also stressed that we look to China to participate fully in international efforts to stem weapons proliferation. We continue to have differences on these issues. But we agreed that we should seek to resolve them through dialog and negotiation. This is clearly in the interest of both nations.
As we approach the 21st century, the relationship between our two countries will be one of the most important in the world. I believe that my meeting today with President Jiang established our determination to build on the positive aspects of our existing relations and to address far more candidly and personally than we have in the past the problems that remain between our two nations. I look forward to continuing that dialog during tomorrow's APEC leaders meeting and in other ways in the coming months.
I believe we have made a good beginning. I always believe the best beginning in a challenging situation is to be as frank and forthright as possible. And I think that I did that, and I believe that he did that.
Let me make just one other comment about a domestic issue; then I'll answer a couple of questions. I'd like to compliment the United States Senate in passing the crime bill today. It is absolutely imperative that we now resolve the differences between the Senate and the House bill, that we move ahead to get 100,000 police on the street as quickly as we can. It will still take several months even after the bill is signed to train the police and put them out there. It is a terribly important issue.
There are other matters in the bills, especially the boot camps, that I think are important. But I am distressed at the Senate filibuster of the Brady bill. I know they're going to vote one more time tonight, and before they leave, I would urge the Senate to pass the Brady bill. It has been delayed far too long. And the attack against it, that it will not solve all the gun violence in the United States, ignores the fact that it will solve some of our problems by actually permitting us to do a weapons check of the criminal and mental health backgrounds of people who want to buy handguns. It will, it will turn up people who should not be able to buy guns, many of whom will have criminal records, some of whom may have outstanding warrants.
This is an important issue for our country. I understand that some people think the politics are still difficult. But clearly, it is the right thing to do. And I hope the Senate will reconsider its filibuster and permit the majority to rule. There's plainly a heavy majority for the Brady bill. That majority should be able to carry the day.
Q. Mr. President, in the photo opportunity prior to your meeting with President Jiang, he sounded reluctant to even discuss in any great detail the questions of human rights and weapons proliferation. What was his response to your concerns about those issues? And since you appear so reluctant to push China into any sort of isolation, just what do you have at your disposal to bring China around? What's your leverage there?
The President. Well, first of all, I think anybody should be reluctant to isolate a country as big as China with the potential China has for good, not only good for the 1.2 billion people of China who are enjoying this unprecedented economic growth but good in the region and good throughout the world. So our reluctance to isolate them is the right reluctance.
On the other hand, I laid down a human rights policy and a policy on trade and nonproliferation that we are going to pursue: the human rights policy in the context of MFN renewal next year and the trade and nonproliferation policies, in the proper context, that we are already pursuing. And I think that the leverage is not insignificant. After all, we are their major purchaser of products and services. We have been their commercial friend, as we should have been. I do not begrudge that. But we have got to have progress on these three fronts.
I would remind you these two countries have been somewhat estranged ever since Tiananmen Square. And the very fact that we talked today I think is a positive sign that both of us are interested in trying to resolve our respective problems. I don't think you ever lose anything by talking with someone as long as you're honest. And I don't think there was any doubt about where the United States stands on these issues today.
Q. And his response, Mr. President?
The President. Well, he did engage and discuss a number of those things. I think, given the nature of the political environment in China and their historic reluctance to discuss these issues in public, the press statement that he made was consistent with their historic pattern. But I thought we began a dialog, and that's all I think I should say today.
Q. Mr. President, in your meeting with Prime Minister Hosokawa and also as you mentioned in your meeting with President Jiang, you discussed the subject of North Korea. What can you tell us about your sense of how that situation is developing, whether we're moving toward a situation in which you're going to be faced with a deadline because of the IAEA's inability to eventually continue to monitor? And what sort of assurances have you gotten from the Chinese on cooperation on that issue?
The President. Well, first of all, that's precisely what we want to avoid. We want to avoid the situation where the IAEA can no longer certify that North Korea is nonnuclear. So you're in the worst of both worlds; you don't know whether it is, but you can't say that it isn't. That is what we're trying to avoid.
Secondly, you should understand that perhaps next only to South Korea, both China and Japan are deeply interested in the same objective. They do not wish to have a nuclear North Korea. And so they support the policy of trying to prevent that from happening. All three of those countries have a great deal of sensitivity about what is most likely to bring about that result. They are worried about whether sanctions would backfire. And we have discussed with them some other options, perhaps taking a more comprehensive approach to all the differences between us in an attempt to demonstrate again to North Korea that they have nothing to be afraid of from an honest dialog with the South and from allowing the inspectors to come back in.
So we are looking at what some other options are now. But this is a very important issue, and the United States, I think, clearly has the responsibility to lead on this issue. And we are doing our best to do it. We are on top of it. And I know there are those who think we should have taken a different course, who think, well, maybe we just haven't been involved in this. But I would remind you that South Korea, Japan, and China are intimately interested and personally affected by those developments. And we have consulted extensively with all three of them all along the way, and we are pursuing the policy we think has the best chance of success.
Q. Mr. President, in advance of this meeting, one journalist described Japan's historic posture toward the United States as one of obsequious arrogance, namely the endless stonewalling of various trade issues. It took us no less than 22 years to get Washington apples into Japanese markets. What is your sense of the posture of the new Japanese Government toward moving things on so we will not have to wait 22 years, for instance, to get American rice into that market?
The President. This is a different government and a different time with different objectives for the internal economy of Japan. I think that the present policy is not sustainable. On the other hand, this government was elected and this Prime Minister was elected to deal with a wide range of issues. They are working on their political reform agenda now, and I think they will conclude it soon.
The United States supports those efforts at political reform and believes that they should be encouraged. It's part of the change that is sweeping the world. After that, I believe that Prime Minister Hosokawa will move seriously on the two great economic issues that we share in common: One is what should be done to make sure that at times like this when there's a global recession, the United States, Japan, and Europe follow policies that will promote higher rates of global growth, because we can't grow unless there's a global economic growth pattern. Secondly is, what can we do to follow up on our framework agreement in which we identified some very specific areas in which we expect mutually to work together to get real results? My vision, as I said to Prime Minister Hosokawa, for Japan is that as we move toward the 21st century, Japan will become like other great powers in terms of its openness to investment and to trade and that together we will help to create a world of far more sustained and sustainable growth and opportunity for our own people and, in the process for the developing nations as well.
Q. Mr. President, you just mentioned three communiques and one China policy. Does that mean somebody raised the issue of Taiwan in the bilateral meeting? And secondly, since you've visited Taiwan four times and most knowledgeable of the Taiwan issue, what you want to do in deal with U.S.-Taiwan relations?
The President. I have been there many times. I've been there five times, actually. And I have been very impressed with the remarkable transformation of the country as it has gotten more prosperous and more democratic and impressed also by the amount of investment from Taiwan into China. So that it seems that the two countries are getting along on a commercial basis, even as the rest of us are confronted with political dilemmas from time to time.
We did not really discuss that today in any detail whatever. The policy of the United States on one China is the right policy for the United States. It does not preclude us from following the Taiwan Relations Act, nor does it preclude us from the strong economic relationship we enjoy with Taiwan. There's a representative, as you know, here at this meeting. So I feel good about where we are on that. But I don't think that will be a major stumbling block in our relationship with China. I think we can work through these other things, that the practical ingenuity of the Chinese people themselves seems to be at least on a course to resolve that in some form or fashion in the years ahead.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:15 p.m. at the Rainier Club.
William J. Clinton, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Following Discussions With President Jiang Zemin of China in Seattle Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217969