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Written Responses to Questions Submitted by Southeast Asian News Organizations

May 23, 1988


Q. Will you raise the Cambodia question when you meet with General Secretary Gorbachev? Will you be pushing for a solution to this problem at the Moscow summit, as you did for Afghanistan at the recent Washington summit? Do you believe China has a role to play, especially in regards to the Khmer Rouge?

The President. We have been actively discussing Cambodia with the Soviet Union at various levels for a number of years now, and I raised the issue with General Secretary Gorbachev at the last summit. We believe that the Soviet Union can play a positive role in encouraging Vietnam to be responsive to efforts to resolve the Cambodian conflict. We will continue urging the Soviet Union to play such a role. Vietnam should meet directly with Prince Sihanouk and should commit itself to a firm timetable for rapid withdrawal from Cambodia. China supports Prince Sihanouk and the ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] nations in their efforts to end the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia and restore that country's sovereignty and independence. I am sure that China's policy will make a constructive contribution to settling the Cambodian conflict.

Southeast Asia Nuclear Free Zone

Q. The Soviet Union agreed to a nuclear free zone in Southeast Asia, a proposal raised by members of ASEAN. Do you see a possibility of the U.S. agreeing to such a proposal?

The President. Nuclear arms reduction is a vital goal, and one that we will continue to pursue energetically. But there are no shortcuts. Nuclear free zone treaties are at their best when they prevent nuclear proliferation and promote regional stability and global security, as might be the case in Latin America. In general, however, we must look with caution at the proposition that walling off a portion of the world from nuclear weapons will contribute to world peace. It could instead weaken nuclear deterrence and, in so doing, could heighten rather than reduce the risk of war. For this reason, we cannot support the proposal for a nuclear free zone in Southeast Asia.

U.S. Role in the Pacific Region

Q. In the Pentagon's 1988 Review of Soviet Military Power, it is said that Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam is the largest Soviet naval base outside the Soviet Union. What kind of role do you think the United States should play in the Pacific, especially Southeast Asia, in light of the Soviet expansion in the area?

The President. Russian interest in the East Asian and Pacific region has waxed and waned through history. Until recently, Soviet efforts to improve their status in the Pacific area were based almost entirely on military power. After a period of military buildup in Asia, General Secretary Gorbachev has made overtures to become more involved in the region in a nonmilitary way. Unlike our own extensive and longstanding commercial, economic, cultural, political, and military links with the region, however, the Soviet Union lacks a firm basis for greater peaceful involvement in Asia. Though Soviet rhetoric has changed under Mr. Gorbachev, Moscow's military posture in the region remains a major concern to us and our friends in Asia.

The United States and most Asian nations agree about what needs to be done on a large number of real issues, such as ceasing Soviet support for the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia; dealing with the Soviet military buildup, including Cam Ranh Bay; encouraging North Korea to open a dialog with the South Koreans to reduce tensions on the Peninsula; and resolving the Northern Territories dispute with Japan. The Soviet Union already knows it can do a great deal for peace and stability in Asia by resolving these important, tangible problems. We take every opportunity to remind them of that. We are also working closely with our friends and allies in Asia and the Pacific on real-world issues, like economic development, security, the movement for greater democracy, and growth of trade in free-market conditions. We think that real contributions to human welfare beat lofty phrases. We will continue pursuing such contributions.

Soviet-U.S. Summit Meeting in Moscow

Q. Are you optimistic that a START accord can still be signed in Moscow? Do you think that a Moscow summit without a START agreement could maintain the momentum?

The President. Our goal is a good agreement, not a quick agreement. Our negotiators have been working long and hard in Geneva toward an equitable and effectively verifiable agreement to reduce United States and Soviet strategic nuclear arms by 50 percent. Our goal is to reduce the risk of war and strengthen strategic stability through deep cuts in strategic nuclear arsenals and reduced reliance on those weapons systems that are most destabilizing: ballistic missiles, especially heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple warheads.

Despite the considerable progress that we have made, important differences remain, and it looks increasingly unlikely that a START treaty will be ready before my meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev later this month. Nevertheless, I believe that a START treaty can be concluded this year, but only with hard work and constructive negotiating by both sides. We want a treaty that makes the world a safer place for all of us. We will continue to do our part to achieve an equitable and effectively verifiable START treaty.

I am proud of the achievements we have registered in U.S.-Soviet relations in recent months, including the signing of the INF treaty and reaching an agreement that gets Soviet troops out of Afghanistan. My approach to U.S.-Soviet relations has been based on the principles of strength, realism, and dialog. This approach has served us well through three previous summits, and I remain confident it will produce a good, substantive meeting with Mr. Gorbachev later this month. In Moscow, I intend to seek further progress in all four parts of the U.S.-Soviet agenda, covering human rights, regional issues, bilateral relations, and arms control. My goal is to bequeath to my successor next January the firm basis for a stable, sustainable relationship with the Soviet Union.

Regional Conflicts

Q. How useful have your summits been with General Secretary Gorbachev in the search for peace in the Third World?

The President. We have pursued a vigorous dialog with the Soviet Union on regional conflicts in recent years. In addition to my own discussions with General Secretary Gorbachev, Secretary Shultz and our regional experts have recently had intensive exchanges with their Soviet counterparts on such topics as Afghanistan, southern Africa, the Middle East peace process, Cambodia, and the Korean Peninsula. Our goal, as laid out in my 1985 United Nations General Assembly speech, is the achievement of political settlements based on an end to the fighting, prompt withdrawal of outside forces, and facilitation of a process of genuine national reconciliation.

I had serious discussions with Mr. Gorbachev on regional issues last December and expect to follow up on them in Moscow. The Soviet Union leadership has indicated they see the Afghanistan settlement as opening the way to progress on other conflicts. I am all in favor of this and intend to press Mr. Gorbachev for details later this month. For not only do these conflicts, many of them involving Soviet client states or proxies, pose a serious threat to regional security balances, they also hold the danger of triggering superpower confrontations with negative consequences for regional states.

East Asia-U.S. Trade

Q. The United States has yet to resolve its trade problems with Japan and the newly industrialized countries of Asia. What measures would you advocate that the United States and these countries take to narrow the trade imbalances with minimum disruption to the economies of the Asian nations?

The President. We have urged Japan to boost domestic economic growth and to improve access to the Japanese market for foreign products. Japan has made progress in these areas. In 1987 the Japanese Government enacted spending measures to assure good economic growth, which marked over 4 percent last year. Firm growth has continued this year and has benefited all of Japan's trading partners as Japanese imports have increased. We also have worked with Japan to resolve some difficult bilateral economic issues, most recently in construction and science and technology cooperation, by working out agreements that provide valuable benefits for both nations. However, more remains to be done, particularly in market liberalization of the agricultural sector.

The newly industrialized economies-Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan—of Asia have for the most part pursued an export-oriented strategy of development. The economic success they have achieved is to a large degree dependent on the relatively free access their wide range of export products have had to the U.S. market. While Hong Kong and Singapore have virtually open markets, Korea and Taiwan have in place laws and regulations which restrict or even ban U.S. exports of goods and services. Both Korea and Taiwan have taken significant steps to reduce their trade barriers, but much more remains to be done. We also have urged these four trading partners to allow their currencies to reflect the underlying strength of their economies.

If the liberal international trading system that has so benefited the United States and all the economies of East Asia is to survive, it is important that all our major trading partners take immediate action to further reduce tariff and nontariff barriers. They also should join us in making every effort to ensure the success of the Uruguay round of the ongoing multilateral trade negotiations.

Thai Intellectual Property Laws

Q. Will the United States further pressure Thailand to include protection of U.S. intellectual property and computer software in Thai copyright laws? To what extent does the United States want its intellectual property protected in Thailand?

The President. The United States looks forward to continuing to work with the Royal Thai Government in a cooperative effort to improve the protection afforded all intellectual property in Thailand. I am convinced that it is in the best economic, cultural, and social interest of any nation to enhance the intellectual property conditions of its own authors and creators and to offer that enhanced protection to creators from other nations as well.

Vietnamese Refugees in Malaysia

Q. Malaysia has announced that it would be closing Pulau Bidong, a Vietnamese refugee transit camp, and new arrivals would be turned away. Does the United States think that Malaysia is serious or merely making a threat? What action is being taken by the United States to speed up resettlement of these refugees?

The President. The Government of Malaysia has indicated its concern and is reviewing its policy as a result of the increasing flow of refugees to its shores in recent months. We have no information that Malaysia has decided to turn away refugees, however. The Malaysians have confirmed to us that they have plans to close Pulau Bidong refugee camp over the course of the coming years, but not in a precipitous way. Residents of the camp and all new arrivals will be transferred to a camp near Kuala Lumpur. We have been assured that every effort will be made to carry out this decision in a humanitarian way.

I want to remind you that we have repeatedly urged the Vietnamese Government to honor its commitment to the orderly departure program so that people do not have to resort to clandestine flight out of Vietnam. We are currently considering admission of up to 1,000 additional refugees from Malaysia who are harder to resettle because they lack family ties in the United States or elsewhere. This decision demonstrates our continuing commitment to first asylum and was made in response to the dramatic increase in Malaysia's boat arrivals in recent months.

Economic Assistance for the Philippines

Q. Do you support the proposed mini-Marshall plan for the Philippines? Do you see burden-sharing in foreign aid as an answer to the foreign assistance needs of the Philippines?

The President. The United States Government is strongly committed to helping democracy and prosperity flourish in the Philippines. We have also been talking with our friends and allies in Asia and Europe about the possibility of increasing assistance and stimulating trade and investment to sustain economic growth in the Philippines. These discussions are continuing. President Aquino enjoys enormous international support, and I am confident the donor community will continue to respond generously to her government.

Note: The questions were submitted by the Singapore Straits Times; the Nation, of Thailand; Business World, of the Philippines; Kompas, of Indonesia; and the Bernama News Agency, of Malaysia. The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 25.

Ronald Reagan, Written Responses to Questions Submitted by Southeast Asian News Organizations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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