Walter F. Mondale photo

The Vice President's News Conference Regarding Travel to Europe and Japan

February 02, 1977

ALBERT EISELE [Press Secretary to the Vice President]. The Vice President will have a brief opening statement. I would ask that the subject matter of this press conference be limited to the trip, and it will run approximately half an hour.

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I've just completed a meeting with the President, which lasted about an hour and a half, at which I briefed him on the various visits and stops on my trip to Western Europe and to Japan.

I believe the trip is a success because it began a process that we consider crucial to the Carter administration: namely, the closest possible cooperative consultations and partnerships with our traditional friends and allies. And I'm convinced that that process has begun, and on the best possible basis.

We've established beyond doubt our desire to have such a relationship, and we have begun a series of important consultations on matters which concern us, such as developing a consensus on what will be involved at the summit. We've set in motion a process of intensified consultations, which will enable our nations to deal with greater effectiveness and to deal successfully with matters bearing on the security and well-being of each of our peoples, the health of our economies, and our common goal to reduce tensions and to increase the prospects for a more stable international environment.


Q. Mr. Vice President, has it finally been decided that the summit will be devoted entirely to economic issues and not political and, if it has been, is that in deference to France? And what about our other allies and our own objectives which go beyond economic?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. We have received several different suggestions from the various nations about what should be on the agenda. And I have reported on those matters by nation--that is, suggestions offered by each nation--to the President, and now through normal diplomatic channels we will be developing the agenda, undertaking the crucial preparation work that's essential to an effective summit, agreeing through diplomatic channels on the location and the timing. And that will be announced jointly by the nations involved at the time the agreement is reached.

It is our hope that the agenda will include economic matters, to be sure, but other crucial matters of political and security significance. Just what those matters will be has not yet been decided; what the modalities for those discussions might be has not yet been decided.


Q. Mr. Mondale, with Europe now moving, or at least indicating its willingness to dump the dollar and move to a new economic system, in order to avoid the kind of austerity and fascism and war policies that the IMF is now imposing on Egypt, weren't you embarrassed to have to represent--coming from the United States--to have to put forward the most backward energy policies and the most backward economic policies of hyperinflation for Japan and West Germany and deflation for the rest of Europe?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. Due to a breakdown in my briefing, we did not see our positions in quite that light.


Q. Mr. Vice President, do you have any hopes that West Germany and France, post your discussions there, may reconsider the sale of nuclear reprocessing appliances to Brazil and Pakistan?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. What we asked in each case was, first, to be heard on the concern of the Carter administration about the dangers and the risks involved in the distribution of sensitive nuclear technology from which weapons-grade material could be developed. We made that point at each of the capitals. And we asked that consultations commence on that matter and on the broader issues of nuclear proliferation at the earliest possible moment. It was agreed that that should occur. It will occur. Arrangements are already being made to do so. And that was what we sought to accomplish and accomplished in those talks.

Q. Do you have an agreement then, tentatively an agreement that they will hold up on those sales until you have a chance to talk specifically?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. All we discussed was the importance of having intensive, early consultations on the matter. There has been no agreement beyond that point.


Q. Mr. Vice President, did you discuss with the President what sort of foreign missions you might undertake in the future and what sort of role you might play in American foreign policy in the future?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. No, we did not. The meeting today involved a report on the various visits, messages that I brought from foreign leaders, observations that I made about different concerns to the President, and did not involve future possible missions.


Q. Mr. Vice President, did you discuss with President Giscard d'Estaing the release by the French court of the gentleman Abu Daoud?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. Yes. I brought it up briefly and mentioned our President's concern, and then we talked about, in general terms, the need to deal with terrorism.


Q. Do you think that the subject of terrorism follow-up should be a matter for the summit to consider when it meets?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I would just as soon not discuss particular topics at this point, because I think the nations offering the proposals did so in confidence.


Q. Mr. Vice President, before this trip, several of this administration's officials were expressing concern that the Germans and the Japanese were not moving quickly enough to reflate their economies. Did you achieve any agreement from these two governments in this area?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. We made very clear, first of all, our belief that the stronger economies--which you might call the three great engines, the United States, Japan, and Germany--that are now in strong economic positions do so, should stimulate their economies sufficiently to assist other nations that are in difficulty, so that they would have increased export and, thus, employment opportunities as the result of a heightened acceleration of international economic activities, and that our three nations, particularly because we are strong economically, should assume as much of that burden as possible.

We also pointed out that because of OPEC surpluses, that we had responsibility to try to assume part of that resultant world deficit in the planning of our economic programs. We made that point with great care and strength. And then, I also reported in some detail on our own economic stimulation package. The other governments then reported on their plans.

There is complete agreement on the part of their leadership, as well as our own, on the need to stimulate. The size, the proportion, the prudence, the relation to inflation becomes exceedingly complex. And what we've agreed to do is to pursue our policies, to consult closely, to monitor the economic indicators as we proceed, to see if we're achieving our jointly agreed objective on a stimulative policy that will help these other nations and help bring about a higher level of international economic activities, bearing in mind the problem of inflation as well.


Q. Mr. Vice President, before you returned, had the news of Commissioner Dixon's statement about "dirty Arab"1 reached overseas, and do you feel that the Carter administration should apologize to the Arab nations for this?

1 On January 17, Federal Trade Commissioner Dixon, while attending a convention of the Grocery Association of America, referred to Ralph Nader as a "dirty Arab." Mr. Nader, head of Public Citizen, Inc., is of Lebanese descent.

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I would like, if I might, to stay with the ground rules that my news secretary announced. I have just returned from that long trip, and I'm not up to speed on some of those matters.


Q. Mr. Vice President, if both the Germans and, I believe, the French claim that in their deals with the Pakistanis and Brazilians for those nuclear facilities that there are adequate safeguards--if that's so--what's the problem?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. The position that the administration has taken is that these facilities possess the capacity to produce weapons-grade materials. And to the extent possible, and hopefully, to the fullest possible extent we can prohibit the transfer of this technology--which greatly complicates the problem of control--and that it was our hope that alternatives could be found to deal with the nuclear power needs of these nation's, which we accept, which does not include the risk of facilities that can produce weapons grade material; and that we were willing to consider ways in which secure supplies of low grade nuclear fuel could be made available for plants; that we were willing to consider ways in which these alternatives could not conceivably involve commercial advantage as a result of withdrawing the availability of such nuclear technology; and that we also understood the great complexity of this issue, both from a technical standpoint and from a political standpoint; and that what was really needed at this point and what we were asking for was that the new administration be given time to consult very closely with them and with the other nations about the total picture and what might be done to diminish, reduce, if not eliminate the risks that flow from facilities from which weapons-grade material can be produced.

That's the status of our position, and that's what these consultations will involve.


Q. Two questions, two unrelated questions, if I may. You seemed to be saying earlier that it was the hope of the United States to expand the summit meeting to some extent, beyond economic questions. Can you elaborate on that for us to give us whatever additional you can on that hope by the United States?

My second question, which is unrelated, is whether or not you discussed with the various leaders President Carter's proposal for a total test ban, nuclear testing ban. If so, what kind of reaction you got and, particularly, if you can tell me what kind of reaction you got from them, if any, on this aspect of it; that is, the Chinese, how the Chinese, how China might fit into that or what their reaction is? Did they tell you anything about what they thought China's reaction would be on it?

So, I've got two unrelated questions here.

THE VICE PRESIDENT. On the first question of the summit, it is our hope that we simply call it the summit, and that all the matters would be on the table that were of mutual concern, whether they were economic or not. We anticipate that economics will be a central concern and obviously, it was a central concern throughout our trip and must be considered as such.

Such issues as nuclear proliferation, North-South dialog, energy matters, and a whole range of other concerns that are not strictly economic but by definition economics, we would hope could freely be included on the agenda on the agreement of the other parties. That's essentially our approach.

We have asked the other nations for their suggestions. We want to be forthcoming and cooperative, and I think that we will be able to work out an agenda that is mutually satisfactory for all.

Q. If I might ask, that would be then an agenda that is considerably broader than Rambouillet and Puerto Rico?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I will have to stand corrected on that. I guess I'm not prepared to answer that question. But that's the approach we wished to take.

On the nuclear test ban treaty, comprehensive test ban, that was discussed, and it was agreed there would be additional consultations on the matter. It was touched on briefly, and there will be additional consultations on it.

Q. Can you give us the reaction of any of the leaders you talked to, to a total test ban agreement?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I don't believe I can disclose their point of view.

Q. Mr. Vice President, could you itemize, sir, the countries that would be included? For instance, would India be included, because India is getting heavy water from Russia, making atomic weapons?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I mentioned that there were many, many aspects of nuclear proliferation, in addition to those that I've discussed, which really involve what you might call the next generation of concerns about nuclear proliferation; that might involve, for example, as Chancellor Schmidt has suggested, a new follow-on treaty for the nuclear proliferation treaty. It's a very complex, difficult matter that involves consultation. We did not get into all the possible ramifications.

Q. May I ask a follow-up question, because, you see, once they have the atomic energy given to them, they can create-like yogurt--all you need is a tablespoon of yogurt and you can make more. They make the atomic daughters, you see. So, what do you do with those?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. It is very complex, as your yogurt analogy points out. [Laughter]


Q. To follow on Herb's question, did the Germans and the French agree to give the administration this time that you asked for before they take any specific actions to carry out these contracts?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. We agreed to have consultations, and that they would occur immediately on an intensive basis, and that there would be a chance for the free exchange of ideas and alternatives and options. But there has been no agreement beyond that.


Q. One other question: Was the Secretary of State at your meeting, or if not, how do you plan to brief him and other Cabinet members?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. The Secretary of State was invited to the meeting this morning, but he had testimony before the Hill, and I will brief him thoroughly. He had his representative--Mr. Cooper 2 was there. But I will thoroughly, also, brief him, as soon as he's through with his testimony.

2 Richard N. Cooper, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.


Q. Mr. Vice President, did you have any disappointments on this trip? I think for example of the French--they didn't agree to expanding the summit beyond economic matters; the Germans really didn't agree to reflate beyond the package. Were there any disappointments for you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. First of all, in both instances, it was not quite as the question described it. We had a very good talk with President Giscard about the summit, about the issues that should be there. They indicated in private what they've said publicly about the economic summit. And I'm sure that we can work out an arrangement that includes the appropriate items on the agenda, and it is really not a matter of great, serious substance at all. I am convinced it can be worked out.

On the reflation issue, I think it was very helpful. I think there is substantial consensus and agreement now among the stronger economies in the world that it is necessary for our economies to stimulate, to help share the burden of increasing international economic activity--exports and the other--and to help head off protectionism, and to resume progress on the multilateral trade talks, and so on.

I think the talks are very helpful in understanding each other's economic programs. I found some misunderstanding, for example, about just how we intended to proceed. Well, it was helpful to clarify that. And we've begun the process of consulting and monitoring economic progress to make certain that we reach the economic targets that are generally agreed to be necessary.

Now, it's hard to be specific in terms of percentage points, but one of the things we found out when we talked to the other nations was that there was understandable disagreement and doubt as to what certain economic programs would produce in terms of economic stimulation. OECD, for example, has a lower expectation about what our programs will produce than our own Government does. We think we are right. They think they are right.

So that as we go along, we will monitor, carefully calibrate the growth of our economies, based on new information that will come forth on the statistical base that's developed in our nations. So that I think we made a good deal of progress, and it may be a somewhat unbelievable--I came away very, very pleased with the trip, and there were no substantial disappointments.


Q. Mr. Vice President, I don't think the President has set a firm date for a summit. He said some time after the 1st of May. Based on your findings, did you recommend to him anything about timing, as to whether it would be sooner or later? What are your views on that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I want this to be off the record. Mid-year. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Vice President, what can you say on the record? [Laughter]

THE VICE PRESIDENT. Don't dare file it. No international explosions.

We now have to consult. We had two or three different suggestions. We now have to consult through diplomatic channels and agree on a summit, but it will be midyear.


Q. Mr. Vice President, what was President Carter's reaction to your trip? Was there one specific area where he was more excited or enthused about the results you achieved than others?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. No. I would say he was thrilled with all of it. [Laughter] He has some new countries he wants me to go to. But he was disappointed in the press corps that followed me. That was his major-[laughter]--


Q. Mr. Vice President, what impression did you bring back from Italy, not only on the economic situation there but on the short-range prospective of European Communists?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. That was very briefly discussed. Our talks were almost entirely on economic matters and on our plans for economic growth. They were interested in our discussions with the leaders of the German Government and the Japanese Government.

We talked about the multilateral trade negotiations. We talked about their plans to slowly phase out some of the deposits that were developed to try to discourage imports and encourage exports, as a part of their contribution to a more open international trading economy. And while we did discuss it, it was very brief, and we barely touched on the subject.


Q. Mr. Vice President, a number of European governments, I think, have suggested that the present administration's economic package isn't big enough. Based on your findings, is the $31 billion figure flexible? Could it move upwards or is it now fixed?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. The size of our economic package is approximately 1 percent of our gross national product. That's almost identical with the size of the Japanese package. We feel that it will achieve the real economic growth rates that will stimulate our economy, increase employment, increase international economic activity, and will do so short of that, that point that's hard to decide on, where you might reignite inflationary forces.

There was general agreement and satisfaction with that package in other governments. However, OECD, as I mentioned earlier, in their projections doubt--they think that the United States, the German Government, and the Japanese are all being too optimistic in what their stimulative packages will accomplish. And that's why we've agreed to monitor this very closely as we go along, to make certain that our projections are fulfilled.

Q. Mr. Vice President, does your monitoring allow the possibility that this year you might restimulate, when you talk to the Japanese and West Germans more, or will that only be left until next year?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. The nature of the understanding was to simply monitor, based on our own economic indicators, how well we're doing. There was no discussion about what follows, but that we all wanted to reach these targets of growth that we've described officially.


Q. Mr. Vice President, what were you able to learn about the attitude of the Japanese Government toward the President's expressed intention to undertake a phased withdrawal of American ground forces in Korea?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I think we were able to reassure them that in pursuit of our announced policies of withdrawing U.S. ground forces from Korea, that we intended to do so on a phased basis; that we intended to do it only after the closest consultation with the Governments of Japan and Korea; that we intended to pursue that objective in a way which in no way destabilized the credibility of the security interests of all of the nations involved in the Pacific area; and that we intended to help improve the combat effectiveness of the Korean ground forces; that we intended to retain our Air Force presence in the area; and that we intended completely to fulfill our standing treaty commitments to Japan.

It was my impression that the Japanese leaders were reassured by that presentation, and it helped increase understanding on that objective. As you know, I carried an invitation from President Carter to Prime Minister Fukuda, and he will be visiting the United States, and no doubt those matters and others will be on the agenda of that discussion.

Q. If I could ask a brief follow-up, in your talks generally, did you detect a high level of interest in what would be the defense and deterrence policies of the administration and any lack of certainty about that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. No. I think they were quite reassured by my statement which is, of course, identical with the public--in other words, what we said privately to the Japanese was a careful repetition of what the President's position publicly has been. In our talks with them, I emphasized the fact that the administration does not intend to turn its back on Asia; that we should and will remain an Asian-Pacific power; that our alliance with Japan remains central to our policy in that vast and important part of the world; that we will preserve a balanced and flexible military strength in the Pacific and continue our interests in Southeast Asia.

With respect to Korea, I emphasized our concern to maintain a stable situation on the Korean peninsula. I cited that we will phase down our ground forces only in close consultation and cooperation with the Governments of Japan and South Korea. And we will maintain our air capability in Korea and continue to assist in upgrading Korean self-defense capability. And I think they found that formulation satisfactory and reassuring.

Q. Would you amplify increasing the combat effectiveness of Korean ground forces? Are you planning to give South Korea the sort of weapons that it doesn't have now, or more sophisticated equipment? Are you just saying that, or is there some major program for giving, for upgrading Korean ground forces?

THE VICE PRESIDENT. I think it's a continuation of an existing commitment that we would help the ground forces increase their combat effectiveness. I don't have a specific answer to that. But it does not go beyond that statement.
Thank you very much.

Note: The news conference began at 11:10 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.

Walter F. Mondale, The Vice President's News Conference Regarding Travel to Europe and Japan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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