THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Aboard Air Force One)
|For Immediate Release
|June 24, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE COMMUNITY
7:09 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Let me beginby thanking all of you for your service and for giving Hillary and meand our entire delegation -- including Secretaries Albright, Rubinand Daley, and my Chief of Staff, Mr. Bowles, and National SecurityAdvisor, Mr. Berger, all of us -- to feel so welcome and forwelcoming this very distinguished delegation of Senators and membersof the House of Representatives as we embark on this trip to China.
And thank you for your service here and thank youfor bringing all the children. I always look forward to these stopsat Elmendorf. You know, I couldn't go to China without stopping atElmendorf -- literally, of course. (Laughter.) But I don't want toanymore.
Of all the times I've been here -- I've seen somany people, I've had a chance to express personal thanks -- I'venever come here a single time and met with our service families thatI haven't met at least one person -- and usually more than one --whom I knew in my previous life, when I was Governor of Arkansas, orwhom I had met traveling around the country in their previous serviceat another base. So for all of that, I thank you.
I'd like to thank Colonel Gration and you, GeneralMcCloud, for your distinguished remarks here and your service.General Simpson, thank you. I thank the members of the 3rd Wing, themen and women of the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marines, theCoast Guard, and the National Guard, all of whom make up the AlaskaCommand.
Tomorrow, Hillary and I and our party will arrivein Xian for the first state visit to China, as Congressman Hamiltonsaid, by an American President this decade. The American people aretaking a special interest in this trip, just as they did whenPresident Nixon first went to China a quarter century ago. I thoughtit would be important for me to spend a few moments speaking to you,who give so much to the security of our country every day, about whyI am going.
Let's start with some basic facts. China is theworld's most populous nation. It is growing by the size of our totalpopulation every 20 years. It borders more than one dozen countriesin one of the most challenging regions on Earth. Its economy hasgrown an average of10 percent every year for the past 20 years. It has a largemilitary, a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council,sophisticated industrial and technological capabilities.
Soon, it will overtake the United States as theworld's largest emitter of the greenhouse gases that are doing somuch to warm our planet. Clearly, the policies China chooses topursue and the relationship between the United States and China willhave a huge impact on your lives and the lives of your children andyour grandchildren in the 21st century.
Of course, our engagement with China does not meanwe embrace everything that China does; nor does it mean,parenthetically, that they agree with everything we do. We havechosen a course that is both pragmatic and principled: expandingcooperation while dealing directly with our differences, especiallyover human rights. This policy is the best way to advance ournational interests, as results clearly show.
Just consider two areas vital to our security:promoting stabilitly in Asia and stemming the spread of weapons ofmass destruction. Better than anyone, you know how important theAsia Pacific Region is to our country's future. We've fought threewars in Asia in this century. Even in a recession its economy stillare major exports for our products. Five of our states touch thePacific. Millions of Amercians trace their roots to the AsianPacific Region. We are an Asian Pacific nation.
We keep aout 100,000 troops in Asia -- not directedagainst any advesary, but to maintain and enhance stability in aregion that is going through very profound change. Now, I ask you toask yoursleves: how can we better maintain stabililty in Asia -- byworking with China or working without it? On the Korean Peninsula,where nearly 40,000 United States soldiers patrol the Cold War's lastmilitarized fault line, China has worked with us to advance peacetalks and to support our successful effort to freeze North Korea'snuclear program.
When India and Pakistan bucked the tide of historyand tested nuclear explosives recently, China helped to forge acommon strategy, working with us, designed to move India and Pakistanaway from a dangerous arms race. And China's economy today servesas a fire break in the Asian financial crisis -- that's good for WallStreet, but it's good for Main Street America, too.
You all know how important our efforts are to stopthe spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. China willeither be part of the problem or part of the solution. In the past,China has been a major exporter of sophisticated technologies. Butover the last decade, China has joined and complied with most of themajor arms control regimes, incluidng the Nonproliferation Treaty,the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test BanTreaty; and it has agreed to abide by most of the provisions of theMissile Technology Control Regime.
Over the past few years it has also pledged to stopassistance to Iran for its nuclear program; to terminate itsassistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities such as those inPakistan; to sell no more anti-ship missiles to Iran. Each of thesesteps makes the world safer and makes America safer. It was in nosmall measure the product of our engagement.
In many other areas that matter to the Americanpeople working with China is making a difference, too -- fightinginternational crime and drug trafficking, protecting the environment,working on scientific research. And if we keep doing it we canaccomplish a great deal more.
When dealing with our differences, also I believedealing face-to-face is the best way to advance our ideals and ourvalues. Over time, the more we bring China into the world, the morethe world will bring freedom to China. When it comes to human rightswe should deal respectfully, but directly with the Chinese. That'smore effective than trying to push them in a corner. I will pressahead on human rights in China with one goal in mind, and only one:making a difference.
That's what all of you here in the Alaska Commandare doing for America -- making a difference. The reach of thisCommand is truly remarkable, flying missions far and wide in yourF-15s, AWACS, C-130 airlifters, patrolling the skies below the KoreanDMZ, facing threats in the Persian Gulf, helping democracy make a newstart in Haiti, running counternarcotics operations out of Panama,training with Canadian forces in the Arctic, conducting oil spillexercises with Russia and Japan. And, of course, working with theChinese through the military-to-military exchange program you host.I understand another group of Chinese officers will be here just nextmonth.
Wherever your country calls, you are there.Whenever your country needs you, you deliver. So again let me say toall of you, to those of you in uniform and to your families, yourcountry thanks you and I thank you.
Last week, the summer solstice touched Elmendorfand you had 20 hours of daylight. Hillary said she was glad to behere in the middle of the afternoon. We could have come in themiddle of the night and still had daylight at this time of year.(Laughter.) By December you'll be all the way down to six hours oflight a day. But in every season, day and night, thanks to you thebright light of freedom burns here. It illuminates every corner ofour planet. So no matter how cold or dark it gets, never forget thatyour fellow Americans know you are burning freedom's flame and we arevery, very grateful.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)