Bill Clinton photo

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa of Japan in New York City

September 27, 1993

The President. Good afternoon. This has been an exceptional day, and both the Prime Minister and I had the honor to speak before the 48th General Assembly of the United Nations at the dawn of a new era. I'm especially pleased to have had the opportunity today to have a good conversation with Prime Minister Hosokawa. We've just renewed our acquaintance and discussed many of the issues of great importance to both our nations. I look forward to working with him in the months ahead to make sure that the issues that we're working on together bear fruit.

I want to begin by saying that I feel a great deal of respect and affinity for the Prime Minister. We are both former Governors. We were both elected by our countries with a mandate for change. Our two peoples recognized instinctively that we've entered a watershed period in our history, when both Japan and the United States must make changes that are long overdue.

My meeting with the Prime Minister persuaded me that he is indeed, as he said in his campaign, committed to change for the benefit of his people. And I hope that the changes he brings to Japan can help to redefine the relationships between our two countries in ways that improve the economic difficulties which we have had but strengthen the longstanding security and political relationships which have brought peace and security to the entire Pacific region.

The meeting that we had offered me the opportunity to reiterate my commitment for that relationship and to explore a lot of the issues that we are both concerned about. We pledged to cooperate on a whole range of global issues, especially including the Middle East peace agreement, and I thanked the Prime Minister for the announcement he made in his speech today of aid from Japan to implement that agreement.

We also shared a common sense of urgency to successfully complete the Uruguay round of GATT by December 15th. And I look forward to welcoming the Prime Minister to Seattle later this fall when we will gather to promote Asian economic integration through the APEC meeting that the United States will host.

We discussed in particular the area of U.S.-Japan relations in need of most progress, our economic relationship. We have the largest bilateral economic relationship in the world, with our two nations representing about 40 percent of the world's GDP. It is critical in this new era that we get that relationship right. We must make significant progress regarding our bilateral trade.

At the Tokyo summit last July, the United States and Japan agreed to a framework for negotiation intended to reduce barriers to trade. Those negotiations began last week. The Prime Minister and I today reaffirmed our commitment to reach agreements as provided under the framework, which will open new trading opportunities for both our nations.

I also expressed my support for Japan's recently announced economic stimulus program. I believe it is a beneficial step. And we also discussed other things that we could do to promote greater growth in the global economy.

I was heartened by our meeting. I look forward to working with the Prime Minister in the weeks and months ahead. I'm very grateful by the enormous outpouring of popular support for the reform efforts he was undertaken in Japan. And I hope that both he and the people of Japan will be successful in their efforts at reform, change, and progress.

Mr. Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Hosokawa. Our time was very limited, but I'm very happy we were able to have a very candid meeting. At the very same juncture in history, both of us have taken on the front stage, one as President and one as Prime Minister. I believe this is not a coincidence but a necessity in history.

The President is faced with difficult tasks and exercising leadership. And I said I very much identify with him, in Japan what my Cabinet's trying to do. I explained to him what the historic mission for my cabinet is. Before anything else, we must carry through the structural reform of the systems in Japan. One is political reform, second is economic reform, and third is administrative reform. And I explained the contents of each of these, the contents of political, economic, and administrative reforms. We believe that reform in these areas will benefit not only just the Japanese but will also generate opportunities for the world as a whole. That should be beneficial for the entire world community.

On basic relations between Japan and the United States, we shall steadfastly maintain the Japan-U.S. security relationship and nurture our political as well as economic relationship as well as a global relationship affirmly. We reaffirmed that intent on both sides.

We had discussions on the economic aspects of our relationship. In July we struck that framework agreement, and in accordance with that agreement, I stated that Japan will play its part in doing its best. Also, we expressed our mutual hope, and the Japanese Government will do its best so that favorable results will emerge before the end of the year, as much as possible, for the Uruguay round.

We also discussed Russia, China, the Middle East. We also discussed North Korea. Our discussions were broad-ranging, indeed, and on each of these subjects we were able to delve into pretty much detail.

At risk of repeating myself, for the time being, our economic relationship is most important, and to improve our relations in the benefit of the world economic development is our common task, I believe. What we are trying to do should be indispensable for the development and prosperity of the United States, as well as the world. Both countries should cooperate with each other in order to open up bright prospects for both of us. And if that is done, that is beyond what I would hope for.

Thank you very much.

Bosnia and the War Powers Act

Q. [Inaudible]—what form might that agreement take and would it just be consultation of the leadership or a vote in the Congress? And could you, as a former law professor, say what you think the differences are in your view of the War Powers Act as contrasted with your predecessor, President Bush, and his predecessor, President Reagan?

The President. I feel like I've just been given an exam in law school. Let me say that I think it is clear to everyone that the United States could not fulfill a peacekeeping role in Bosnia unless the Congress supported it. And I will be consulting with all the appropriate congressional leadership in both parties to see what the best manifestation of that is.

With regard to the War Powers Act, I don't want to get into a long constitutional description of it. I had always intended to comply with it based on our best understanding of it, and I think we won't have any problem doing that. I don't believe Congress will feel that they're not being properly consulted.

In the interest of partnership, I'd like to just alternate across the aisle, take one question from a Japanese journalist and then come back to the Americans.

Japanese Government

Q. Mr. President, in the course of a few months you have dealt with two Japanese Prime Ministers representing two governments. What difference between the two Japanese leaders and the two governments in terms of how they respond to your expectations and concern for the outstanding economic issues between the two countries?

The President. How can I answer that question without getting in trouble in Japan? [Laughter] Let me just say that I think the real issue is that Prime Minister Hosokawa's government represents obviously a recent and fresh judgment of the people of Japan about changes in Japanese political and economic life.

I frankly, had a good relationship with the previous government. Given the fact that there was no mandate in that government for the kinds of changes that the Prime Minister and others agreed to in July, I think they thought that Japan had to take a new course.

Now, we have a government headed by a Prime Minister who himself came from a grassroots political job—he was a governor, as I was—with a mandate for change and enormous public support for that. So I think that we will be able to work together in a very constructive way over the long haul because of that mandate.

That's no criticism of the previous government. I enjoyed working with Prime Minister Miyazawa very much, and I admire him greatly. But I think having the people of Japan make a decision in an election that elevates someone who has committed himself to change and then gotten elected on that platform makes a big difference. It gives him more elbow room and a greater sense of commitment, I think.


Q. In light of your comments today, your speech, can you give us a sense of whether you believe the right questions were asked before the United States went into Somalia and what you see as a situation that needs to occur before we can get out?

The President. I still believe—let me reiterate—I still believe President Bush made the right decision to have the United States lead a U.N. mission in Somalia. Keep in mind, well over a quarter of a million people had died there from starvation, from murder, from illness, from famine. And there's no telling how many lives have been saved as a result of that humanitarian mission.

Because Somalia was viewed as a place where the political structure had basically disintegrated and power was broadly shared or fought over among a variety of clans with two dominant figures, I think the focus was very much on whether that could be controlled with a large number of troops, most of which were American in the beginning. And I think perhaps too little thought was given to the long-term need to develop some political alternative.

Although I do want to emphasize, in defense of the United Nations, that a lot of village councils have been developed, that a lot of Somalia is now being, in effect, governed peacefully by grassroots political organizations, that when we see the violence and the anger and the anti-U.N., anti-American expressions on television at night, that reflects a small percentage of the people in the land of Somalia. The mission has largely succeeded in its humanitarian efforts. But I think the political component of it, that is, how we end the humanitarian mission or at least turn over the political responsibility to the people of Somalia, has lagged a bit.

And so the United States wants there to be a clear commitment to the political transformation. And we want to do it in ways that make it absolutely clear we have no intention of abandoning all those people to the fate that gripped them before we got there.

I don't think when a tragedy occurs and people see on television in the United States a few Somalis jumping up and down when an American has been killed, I think it is a misrepresentation to conclude that that reflects the opinion of a majority of the people. Most Somalis are living in peace, are living in harmony, are working at reestablishing a normal life, and are not involved in what you see.

But nonetheless, it is clear that the U.N. must have a political strategy which permits us to withdraw but not to withdraw on terms that revert the people to the condition they were living in beforehand.

Japanese Economy

Q. [Inaudible]—did you discuss with the Prime Minister—[inaudible]

The President. We did. We discussed—well, we discussed the stimulus program Japan has undertaken as well as the review the Prime Minister has ordered of what other options are available over the long run. Perhaps he would like to comment on that.

Do you have anything to say, Prime Minister Hosokawa? He's a very good politician, you see; he's staying out of all these hard questions. That's why his popularity is so high in Japan. [Laughter]

U.N. Peacekeeping Missions

Q. A two-part question, I wonder if you could clarify a couple things. One on Bosnia. There have been a lot of leaks lately from your administration about the conditions under which you would commit American troops to Bosnia, from exit strategies to congressional approval. I wonder if you could state from here today exactly what are the criteria you envisage for an American commitment there to a peacekeeping operation.

Then a second part, following up on your speech today, you implied in that speech that the U.N. is engaged in some peacekeeping operations now that maybe are of marginal significance. I wonder if you could specify exactly what operations are not that important and what should be the criteria for U.N. operations in the future?

The President. I wouldn't say that. I would say that there are—plainly we have gone so far so fast in peacekeeping through the U.N. that there are limits to how many new operations can be undertaken.

For example, there is no question that the United Nations could not directly manage an operation the size of the Bosnian operation, which is why we worked so hard through NATO, and the French have been involved there and others, to try to think through how we would do this.

Most of the criteria which have been discussed in the press are accurate. I would want a clear understanding of what the command and control was. I would want the NATO commander in charge of the operation. I would want a clear timetable for first review and ultimately for the right to terminate American involvement so that we—I would want a clear political strategy along with a military strategy. After all, there will be more than soldiers involved in this. And I would want a clear expression of support from the United States Congress. Now, there are 20 other operational things I would want, but those are the big policy issues.

What was the other question?

Q. [Inaudible]—what criteria regarding funding of the operation.

The President. Well, we would have to know exactly what our financial responsibilities were. And of course, under our budget law, which is very strict now, we have to know how we're going to fund it and then we would have to know that others were going to do their part as well and that at least for the period of the operation that we were responsible for, that we were going to do it properly.

I wouldn't say that any of the peacekeeping operations here are ill-founded. As a matter of fact, I mentioned several that have worked very well. But there are limits to how many things we can do. There are going to be a lot of chaotic situations. We had another development in Georgia today, as you know. And we may or may not be able to see the U.N. go into every one of these circumstances. That's the only point I wanted to make. We have to really go into these things with our eyes wide open.

In Somalia, I think that we did go in with our eyes open. I think we did essentially what we meant to do. I just think that we may have underestimated the difficulty of setting in motion a political transition, which would send a clear signal to all Somalis that the United States in particular and the U.N. in general have no interest in trying to dominate or control their lives. We just want them to be able to live normal lives. We have no interest in trying to tell them how to live or what political course to take.

Security Council Membership

Q. Do you support the idea that Japan will join the additional member, a permanent member of the Security Council? And if you do so, will you give me the reason why you think so.

The President. Yes, I have long supported, even when I was a candidate for President I supported Security Council membership for Japan and for Germany. And I do so because I think that the conditions which existed at the end of the Second World War, which led to the membership of the Security Council as it was established then, have changed. Our primary adversaries in that war, Germany and Japan, have become among the major economic powers in the world. They have become great forces for democracy. They have been very generous in their support of political and humanitarian efforts throughout the world. The rest of the world community depends upon the support and the leadership of both Japan and Germany to get done much of what we will have to do in the years ahead. And so I have always felt in recognition of that that they should be offered permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President's 27th news conference began at 4:53 p.m. at the Waldorf Astoria.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa of Japan in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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