Auckland, New Zealand
September 12, 1999
3:00 P.M. (L)
MR. BERGER: As you all know, the President had two meetings this afternoon, one trilateral meeting with President Kim and Prime Minister Obuchi; and then a meeting with Prime Minister Putin. Let me do them in turn.
The President began the trilateral by talking about the Perry process -- that is the review of North Korean policy that we have been undertaking, in close cooperation with the South Koreans and the Japanese. He said he thought that that was a good policy, a good approach, the President said, that is basically offering North Korea a choice of either a path that would restrain the nuclear missile program in exchange for a much better relationship with our three countries, or, conversely, if they proceed down the other way, coordinated response from the three countries.
The President said it's very important he believed to keep both Russia and China involved with North Korea and with us so that they could be on the same wavelength with us in North Korea. The President reported that the talks that are going on in Berlin between the United States and the North Koreans are making progress. He said he thought that it was very important to keep the agreed framework intact because that was restraining the North Korean nuclear program.
And the President indicated that if the North Koreans are prepared to foreswear their missile testing program, that we should be prepared to take some positive steps. And of course, the reverse is true as well.
He then talked about East Timor. He said we need to find a way to get Indonesia to stop the violence. He talked about both what he hoped Korea and Japan would do. Japan in particular has very strong relations with Indonesia, a very active economic relationship, and the President asked Prime Minister Obuchi to use their extensive contacts to press the political authorities to either stop the violence or approve an international force -- international peacekeeping presence.
The President then moved to APEC. He said he hoped that while we're here we could agree on a new WTO round that could be launched in Seattle, a three-year round that would focus on market access, but that would also envision interim agreements along the way on such matters as e-commerce and government procurement.
And then, finally, the President said that he was pleased by the economic progress that has been made by South Korea and Japan and we continue to support what he described as reform-oriented growth in both countries.
Prime Minister Obuchi began by talking about North Korea. He said that he appreciated the comprehensive approach that we have taken. It was a very good consultation with Japan and South Korea. He thought also that it would be worthwhile for there to be some relaxation of sanctions if there was a freeze on North Korean missile testing. But he also said we should not reward provocations, we need to reverse any actions we take if the North Koreans proceed to launch a long-range missile.
He complimented the Perry policy process, the Perry report. He thought it was well-balanced and that it had the support of the government of Japan.
President Kim then spoke. He also thanked the President for the close cooperation on formulating a policy on North Korea and then, I think, sounded a theme that really ran through the discussion, which is that we're seeing a new level of cooperation among the three countries, particularly with respect to the Korean Peninsula, so that perhaps to a greater extent than ever before, Japan and the United States and South Korea are approaching the North Korean issue in a concerted fashion.
He said he believed the engagement policy that they have pursued is supported by the international community, including China and Russia, but it obviously, as he said before, is not a policy of appeasement, where there are provocations from two -- I've been asked to speak up, so I'll speak up.
President Kim described the situation in North Korea from his vantage point. He said it was very difficult domestically, with increasing reliance on outside assistance, with the regime there maintaining their position through anti-American and anti-South Korean propaganda, but that it was important to engage with them so that they would discover the outside world and, like East Germany, would not be able to sustain archaic existence.
He also subscribed, agreed with the idea of a carrot and stick approach to North Korea with respect to their missile program and said that if North Korea launches a missile, that they should pay a price, but agreed with the President that it was important even in those circumstances to maintain the agreed framework on their plutonium production facility.
On Timor, he said he'd discussed this with a number of Asian leaders since he's been here in the last day. He thought it was important that the leaders of APEC should address the issue while they're here -- if not in one of the formal sessions, then informally; that it is essential to urge the Indonesian government to put an end to the bloody violence and to cooperate with the United Nations in upholding the mandate of the Timor vote.
Prime Minister Obuchi, on Timor, said the crisis cannot be tolerated, they must restore order in Indonesia, and indicated that they would intensify their efforts with the Indonesians.
I think, parenthetically here, what the President is doing in these conversations is seeking to gain from the other leaders their active engagement with the Indonesians, particularly those like Japan that have strong relations, to urge the Indonesians to change course.
And that basically -- oh, there's a little bit more here. Again, the President said it's very important that countries like Japan use the sweep and depth of their relationship to encourage the Indonesians to stop the violence and welcome U.N. participation. But we must, he said, do this -- we must find a way with Indonesia -- to find a way to deal with this government in transition, a way that can be effective in persuading them to change the direction they're on, which the President felt was quite self-destructive.
That essentially is -- I'll answer questions. Let me go on to the Putin meeting, but that is essentially the substance of the trilateral meeting.
The President met with Prime Minister Putin also for about an hour. The President began by talking about -- he said, I want to talk about what I think are some of the important issues on our agenda over the next year and that I have discussed with President Yeltsin in Cologne and last week on the telephone.
He started with arms control, essentially START II, START III, ABM, NMD -- that cluster of issues. The President made a number of points. He wants to preserve the ABM Treaty, but he does believe there is a new threat from rogue states and from terrorists that are able to obtain missile technology that may require new kinds of defensive systems. He said he wants to work together with the Russians on this and believes that the benefit of a missile defense system could be shared with the Russians, as he has said to President Yeltsin in Cologne.
He also said that he understood that the Russians on the offensive side wanted to cut the numbers of offensive weapons below START II. There was a gap between us in terms of numbers, but that's what the negotiations would seek to address in a START III.
The second issue he raised is non-proliferation. He said he was glad that Russia had in the past few months enacted some very strong new tools to control export seepage, particularly referring to technology to Iran. He said that he hoped that they would use those tools now so that they could see results.
On Dagestan, the President expressed his condolences for the explosion that took place in Moscow. He said that he had spoken out against terrorism and that he would hope that the Russian response would avoid innocent casualties.
On corruption, number four, the President said that he was very pleased that they were sending a Russian team to meet with the FBI. I believe they will be coming to the United States in the next few days. The President said it's very important that we handle this on the merits, not involving politics. He said he was pleased that President Yeltsin had said that he would sign a money laundering law if one came to him that corrected what Yeltsin saw were the constitutional deficiencies in the law he vetoed.
And then the President said he wants to see this problem dealt with -- hopes that Russia will deal with this because it could eat the heart out of Russian society if the problem of corruption is not dealt with.
Q Is that a quote?
MR. BERGER: Yes. He said he wants Russia to be strong and that's why it's important in his mind for this to be dealt with.
He next talked about the economy. He was pleased that the economy in Russia is gaining some strength, production is up, balance of payments are better and the President indicated now there's a need for a strategy for moving forward with the economic growth in a way that can sustain international support.
And, finally, just generally on the U.S.-Russian relationship, he said he would continue to support the direction of democracy and reform in Russia that he has supported for the last six and a half years.
Prime Minister Putin said that the President's support for Russia is appreciated there and recognized. He said that they welcomed a wide scale dialogue with the United States, they were pleased that Secretary Cohen is arriving there, I believe, in the next few days to meet with Defense Minister Sergeyev, and he also welcomed Secretary Richardson coming soon.
On corruption, he said it is a matter of concern. He suggested that there were some political dimensions to it, but he acknowledged that money laundering problems exist in Russia, as in other countries, and that we must develop a cooperative approach dealing with the problem and, again, made reference to the experts who are coming to the United States to deal with our law enforcement people.
On the ABM, he said that there are threats from nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. He understands the concerns that the President expressed. And they must be addressed in a way that takes account of the security concerns of other nations, but these are matters for negotiations, which he hoped would proceed.
On START II and START III, he said that ratification of START II right now would be difficult, but he said that we're trying our best and he thought there was some wavering among the opposition to START II and that we should continue our discussions on START III, which would make it facilitate ratification of START II. He thanked the United States for some of the food support that we have given. He talked about Dagestan and the difficult problems that the Russians face there and the roots of those problems.
He then turned to the issue of technology transfer, nonproliferation, cooperation with Iran. And he said that the armament of Iran does not correspond to the interest of Russia, that in his former capacity -- which was in intelligence service and, before that as, in effect, the national security advisor for Yeltsin -- he had dealt with this issue and that while he recognized there were real problems in Russian export controls and that he wanted to continue to cooperate actively in this area with American exports so that we could gain control of the situation not only from Russia, but he said technology -- other countries as well, weapons technology because this is a threat to Russia as well as to the West.
He briefly talked -- the President raised the question of Kosovo. Putin said, we need each other there and we need to continue to cooperate there.
And that basically is a loud summary. (Laughter.)
Q Sandy, does the President still believe that a development, a positive development is possible in the East Timor situation within the next few days, as he said yesterday?
MR. BERGER: Well, again, I think the only way to judge, to measure results here, what happens on the ground. Either the Indonesian's military asserting control and stopping the violence or inviting in an international force. So the only measurement of progress are those two things.
I think that there have been some statements from General Wiranto and others that have been somewhat positive. I think the President is encouraged by the solidarity here among Asian leaders who generally operate by consensus and don't particularly like confrontation with other Asian countries, but who all feel very strongly.
President Kim was quite passionate and quite eloquent in his statements about this in the meeting. So I think he's encouraged that Indonesia is increasingly isolated and he believes that the pressure needs to be kept up on Indonesia very strongly, until they are prepared to either take control or invite in an international force or both, some combination of both.
Q Did Prime Minister Obuchi give any specific commitments in what he would do regarding Indonesia? You said they have a lot of contacts there. Or is anyone else here, for that matter, any other leaders giving specifics on what their countries might do?
MR. BERGER: Well, Prime Minister Obuchi specifically, in response to the request of the President that Japan weigh in strongly with Indonesia, said that they would approach the Indonesians. They have already made public statements and indicated their opposition to what is happening in Timor; but I got the impression from Prime Minister Obuchi that that effort would increase.
Q Sandy, what numbers are we talking about when the President said, limited number of U.S. participation? What is that range?
MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer. I don't think at this point we have a clear answer. The President has indicated that the Australians have asked us to do some things with respect to lift and logistics and communications, perhaps intelligence. He has not ruled out other forms of participation. He has indicated that this should be led by the Australians and led by the Asians, they should -- because it would be more effective if they are doing so, they should be the vast bulk of this. But there's no number -- I think this has to be worked out really almost from a perspective of what the needs are.
Q -- rather than thousands? Hundreds?
MR. BERGER: I don't want to speculate on that. We also obviously need to -- if we get to this point, we need to consult with Congress. The President has made a number of calls, but we need obviously to have further discussions with the Congress.
Q Sandy, what are your options if Indonesia continues to resist a U.N. force and the killing continues?
MR. BERGER: I think our option principally is to intensify the pressure on Indonesia, until they do agree to an international force. I think you've seen some wavering on the part of Indonesian authorities in the last day, but inconsistent signals.
The fact is that if Indonesia faces widespread cut-off of military assistance and the possibility that they're really not going to get much economic assistance from the international community, the consequences for Indonesia here proceeding on this course far outweigh whatever benefit they could hope to gain from maintaining control of East Timor by force, notwithstanding 78.5 percent of the Timorese voting otherwise.
Q Sandy, can you talk about the North Korean missile test? Did I understand you to say there's an assurance now that North Korea was not going to go ahead with the test? What has changed in Berlin, what's the progress there?
MR. BERGER: No, I didn't say that. All that I said is that the reports from Ambassador Kartman in Berlin have been the talks have been positive, some progress has been made; but they've not reached a conclusion at this point. What we would hope out of those talks is a clear indication from the North Koreans that they would not proceed with testing -- but those talks are ongoing.
Q Do they want something in exchange, more aid or something?
MR. BERGER: Well, you know, we committed in the agreed framework in 1994, to an easing of sanctions. Those commitments have been made. We've done a little bit; we haven't done too much.
I think that the leaders indicated that if the -- the three leaders indicated that if there was a manifestation by the North Koreans that they would not proceed with testing, that some form of easing of the sanctions might be appropriate.
Q Is the President satisfied that the Russians are sufficiently aware and grappling with the problems of corruption in their country? In other words, saying, well, we have money laundering like everyone else -- doesn't sound like that full of a recognition of the extent of the problem there. Does he feel they're doing enough?
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't know the answer to that question, quite honestly, whether they're doing enough. I think that -- you know, we may know more when they send a team here and the extent to which they're prepared to cooperate with the investigation.
The impression that I get from this conversation and the telephone conversation with President Yeltsin is that they -- that while on the one hand they see a degree of Russian domestic politics in this; on the other hand, I was pleased that Prime Minister Putin today acknowledged that there is a money laundering concern in Russia as, he said, there are in other countries -- they're not the only country.
But I can't answer really your question as to whether they're doing enough.
Q What was the President's overall impression of Prime Minister Putin? This is their first meeting, sounds like he said a lot of the things that the President wanted to hear.
MR. BERGER: I think it was a good meeting. I think the President felt that he is somebody who has fairly substantial experience in the Russian system and, therefore, perhaps to a greater extent maybe than some of his predecessors may be able to work the system.
I thought that he was quite open in these conversations. I thought his reaction on national missile defense and ABM, his reaction on the corruption issue and other issues was more straightforward than sometimes has been the case.
Q What is your understanding as to why Boris Yeltsin did not come?
MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer for sure, Mark, but it would not surprise me if it was not health and stamina relate.
Q Thank you.
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