PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER,
NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISOR GENE SPERLING,
AND PRESS SECRETARY JOE LOCKHART
Sky City Hotel
Auckland, New Zealand
September 11, 1999
7:25 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our first briefing in
Auckland. Glad you could all be here, and we didn't tear you away from
too much wine tasting. Mr. Plante, sorry, that's excluding Mr. Plante.
Joining us today is the President's National Security Advisor
Samuel Berger, who will read out the bilat that was just concluded; and
Gene Sperling, the President's National Economic Advisor. And then I'll
come out after they're done if there are any domestic questions.
MR. BERGER: Let me generally talk about the meeting that just
completed between President Clinton and President Jiang and their
delegations. The President was very pleased with this meeting, as were
the rest of his national security team, economic team. It was -- I would
describe it as a very productive, friendly, non-polemical, and quite
comprehensive meeting between the two leaders.
It is clear that these are two leaders who, after six and a half
years, have learned to deal with each other, through good times and bad.
And as a result, I would consider the relationship between our countries
now back on track, with, of course, many challenges still facing us.
Let me talk more specifically about the discussion. The President
began, indicating to President Jiang that he was very interested in
restoring our relations to the path that they have been on in the past
where we have dealt with problems in a candid way and we've dealt with
issues that we have common interest in a cooperative way.
He started with WTO. I'll let Gene talk about that in more
detail. And he urged President Jiang to resume negotiations on WTO and
said that he thinks we could achieve a -- that we could work through the
issues that remain between us.
He talked about his awareness of the economic challenges not only
in the region, but in China; that he'd been impressed by the way the
Chinese have dealt with those issues and believed that WTO -- a successful
WTO agreement would strengthen China and make it economically -- put it in
an economically improved situation.
Second, the President expressed the hope that the United States
and China can resume the range of arms control negotiations that we have
-- the arms control agenda, I think the President put it -- that we have
had over the past six years: ratification of CTBT, the Chemical Weapons
Convention; he mentioned the North Korean missile tests, problems in South
Asia, resuming military-to-military exchanges and discussing a national
missile defense, which is an issue of interest to China.
Third, the President said that he hoped that we could schedule
another round of human rights discussions to deal with such issues as
Tibet, political and religious freedom, freedom of expression. The
President said we've had very candid discussions about these issues in the
past and I believe we should resume those discussions.
Fourth, the President expressed a hope that we could resume our
dialogue on energy matters, and on issues of growth and energy -- climate
change, in particular -- and finding a way for the developing countries to
chart a different energy path than the developed countries have charted
over the last 50 years, one that is less destructive of the environment.
Finally, the President raised Taiwan. He said that the statement
by President Lee had made things more difficult for both China and the
United States, but that the United States had immediately reaffirmed our
commitment to a one-China policy. He, however, said that to be candid
with President Jiang he must say, and Jiang must understand, that if Jiang
were to resort to military force, there would be grave consequences in the
He urged China to get back to the -- China and Taiwan
-- to the cross-straits dialogue, and said that our policy would continue
as it has been since the presidency of Richard Nixon, to be based on the
three fundamental pillars of the one-China policy, a peaceful resolution
of the Taiwan issue, and the cross-straits dialogue.
Jiang then started in reverse order with Taiwan. He said that is
the most important of the issues the President raised. He reaffirmed that
they wanted a peaceful resolution based on one China, two systems, which
is their formulation of the relationship. But he also repeated the
traditional Chinese position that if unilateral actions were taken towards
independence they would not renounce the possibility of force.
President Jiang said that he has tried to promote cross-straits dialogue
and in his view, President Lee had made that more difficult.
He raised with the President the question of arms sales, and
particularly the most recent arms sales to Taiwan, and urged the President
to discontinue those arm sales. The President said, I know that you
disagree with us on arm sales to Taiwan, but we will continue to comply
with the Taiwan Relations Act, under which we, on a case-by-case basis,
provide defensive arms for Taiwan.
Jiang ended this by saying, you know, I'm not someone who likes
war, but 1.2 billion Chinese people are concerned about what has happened
in Taiwan and he believes it's very important to resolve the issues.
On WTO I will simply say, and let Gene fill in the details, that
they agreed to resume negotiations towards a WTO agreement. And there was
some rather significant discussion of that.
On the agenda of issues that the President raised in terms of
human rights and arms control and those issues that I listed earlier,
President Jiang said that on all bilateral questions we can work together
in a positive fashion, thereby, in my judgment, suggesting that over time
we can and will be able to resume our discussions on issues ranging from
arms control to human rights.
He specifically singled out working for stability on the Korean
Peninsula, something they have a great interest in, as do we; the arms
race in South Asia, another area where we have a common interest; and
perhaps one or two others. He made reference to the Falun Gong issue,
described it as a cult, said he did not want it to affect our bilateral
I think the meeting was summed up at the end by President Jiang,
who, as the meeting was ending, said that he cherishes our personal
friendship, and appreciates the achievements that he and President Clinton
have made together. And he hopes that they will have a wider road for
So I think, all in all, for a 60-minute meeting this accomplished
what we hoped -- which was, as I say, to get the relationship back on
track; to resume the WTO negotiations; to get a strong indication from the
Chinese that they're prepared to resume discussions with us on a range of
other issues, from human rights to arms control. I would say the general
atmosphere of the meeting was productive and harmonious, and as I said
Let me let Gene talk a little bit more about the WTO piece of
MR. SPERLING: About two weeks ago, President Clinton sent a
letter to President Jiang asking for a resumption of negotiations on
China-WTO as soon as possible. That letter led to some technical
discussions, taking stock of where we are, over the weekend, with USTR's
Bob Cassidy and Bob Novak. At the APEC trade ministerial, Charlene
Barshefsky had a meeting with her counterpart, Minister Shi, in which they
again simply had a very basic discussion on the need to begin identifying
outstanding issues and the importance of working towards an agreement in
time to allow possibility of China to enter the WTO this year.
We're very pleased with the meeting today. Our hope had been that
today's meeting would lead to the resumption of serious negotiations and
that it would lead to the resumption of serious negotiations immediately.
And that was the result. And the result of the meeting was, indeed, to
bring forth the resumption of negotiations expeditiously. In fact, both
Presidents asked their ministers -- Ambassador Barshefsky, Minister Shi --
to meet, to begin meeting as early as tomorrow, as both of them are here,
and to begin the process of seeing what progress could be made and to
identify what issues would still be outstanding. There was no timeline
set, but I think through the discussions was a serious recognition of the
fact that sooner is better than later, and that there is a need to move
this process forward in a time that makes it viable for China to enter the
WTO this year.
With that, why don't I just stop there, and Sandy and I can take
Q Sandy, was there any discussion of East Timor in the
meeting, any reaction by Jiang to Clinton's statement?
MR. BERGER: No. I mean, I expect that there will be further
discussions over the next two or three days. But there was no specific
discussion. I know the President wants to talk to President Jiang about
East Timor, but given the 60-minute meeting, it didn't come up at this
meeting. It will come up during the week.
Q What's the volume of the arms sales that were suspended by
the President today? And could you tell us what's involved in the
MR. BERGER: Well, there are two different packages. One is
official arms sales, government-financed arms sales. There are about $40
million in foreign military sales in that package. There is about $400
million in the pipeline of commercial military sales.
Now, let me hasten to say that it's very difficult to ascertain
exactly how much of that, at this point, will be affected by the action
today. We should probably have better figures over the next day or so --
how much of that has been delivered, how much of that is in a position in
which it can be stopped. But I would imagine that it would be hundreds of
millions of dollars.
Q Sandy, the President said there could be a development in
the next couple of days on U.N. operations in East Timor. What did he
mean by that?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the President's statement reflected
less what's going on on the ground, which is not terribly encouraging,
than statements that have been made publicly and privately by various
Indonesian officials. General Wiranto indicated publicly that he could --
might in the future accept the deployment of a U.N. force. We've had
further conversations with General Wiranto and others. So there have been
-- number one.
Number two, I think there has been quite a strong international
reaction to what is happening in East Timor over the last 72 hours. I
think the international pressure is building. The actions we've taken, I
think, have helped to catalyze that. So I think -- again, I think on the
ground the situation continues to be unacceptable and ultimately that is
what will determine whether there's progress -- that is, whether or not
the Indonesians either, as a result of General Wiranto and the U.N.
delegation, go into Timor today -- are prepared to act promptly to take
control of the situation, or whether, alternatively, they're prepared to
see some sort of an international presence. That really is the ultimate
test that -- I think the statements, the public statements, the private
statements, are useful, but we've also heard them before.
Q Have you heard from that U.N. delegation? They're in Dili
today, aren't they?
MR. BERGER: No. I just checked before I came out here, and I
think they're still there. They're about to leave and depart.
Q Sandy, is it true that on Wednesday the five-member
delegation was asked to outline a plan for the Indonesian government of
what a peacekeeping force would look like and what role it would play?
MR. BERGER: I'm sorry?
Q Is it true that the five-member delegation was asked in
meetings on Wednesday with Indonesian officials to outline their plans for
MR. BERGER: I don't know, John, if that's true or not. I know
that there has been a good deal of work that has gone on in consultation
with the Australians, with us and others about what such a peacekeeping
force might look like. But I have not had any briefing, directly or
indirectly, from the team. I imagine they will go back to New York and
they will report to the Security Council or report to the Secretary
Q Which subjects did they dwell on for the longest period of
MR. BERGER: I think WTO and Taiwan. Maybe a close third is just
the general resumption of relations, the kind of ability to deal with
issues ranging from their signing the Human Rights covenant to MTCR, to
North Korea. And this conversation, this dialogue -- again, on issues we
disagree on, issues we agree on -- has been more or less suspended over
the past several months. And I think it is unstuck.
Q What about the North Korean issue --
Q Was there any discussion of the bombing, the NATO bombing
of the Chinese embassy?
MR. BERGER: It was raised by -- it was referenced, I would say,
by President Jiang in what I would call quite a non-polemical way.
Q -- North Korean issue -- anything about North Korean
MR. BERGER: Yes. Not specifically, but generally. That is, they
-- both President Clinton and President Jiang specifically talked about
one of the issues where we have a strong interest in cooperation being
stability on the Korean Peninsula. That is a fancy way of saying the
North Korean nuclear missile program.
Q Regarding Taiwan, Sandy, you mentioned -- indicated the
difficulty that President Lee's statement made to U.S.-China relations.
Is it blaming Lee Teng-hui on what he said?
MR. BERGER: I'll let the statement speak for itself.
Q Sandy, on -- or maybe Gene might want to take this -- on
WTO -- could you tell us whether President Jiang indicated that the
concessions that were outlined during the April meeting were still in
place -- in other words, whether China is picking up these negotiations
exactly where they were in April, and whether you defined in the course of
the discussions what the areas of disagreement still are?
MR. SPERLING: What was very positive about the discussion was not
only the resumption of negotiations, but that, rather than just leaving
the meeting with a vague sense that negotiations needed to start sometime
in the future, that they would proceed immediately, starting as early as a
But there was very little from either President Clinton or
President Jiang in the sense of seeking to actually negotiate the
specifics at that point. I think they both recognized that they want
their respective trade negotiators to see how much progress they can make
and identify those issues and then come back with us. Everyone
understands in any negotiation going forward, no one ever is going to get
everything they want. There were certainly issues that needed to be
resolved and we'll leave that negotiation to Ambassador Shi -- I mean,
Minister Shi and Ambassador Barshefsky.
Q Is there a sense right now that you've narrowed the issues
enough that it might possibly be resolved in the two or three days you
have here in Auckland? Or is there a sense that this is something that's
going to take weeks?
MR. SPERLING: The truth, David, is that I think up to this point
there has not been that type of substantive negotiation yet. I think that
the talks so far were really taking stock of where things were. So I
would not want to try to project.
I think one comment the President did make is that whatever issues
are out there he said won't be any easier to resolve a week from now or a
month from now or a year from now, and that it made the most sense for the
two sides to begin the process of trying to come to a satisfactory
commercially viable agreement.
Q Gene, you said it could be done by the end of the year.
But is it feasible to think that China could participate in the talks in
Seattle in November?
MR. SPERLING: All I would say at this point is understanding the
clocks -- one clock is the end of the year in the November ministerial;
and the congressional clock, to the extent that our goal would be not
simply an agreement, but the permanent waiver that would allow
congressional acceptance of the agreement. Both of those clocks suggest
that the sooner that agreement can be reached, the greater the chances
that China can enter the WTO this year.
Considering that this really will be the first time that there's
been substantive negotiations in over four months, I think that there's
enough issues that are on the table that I would not have significant
expectations over the next several days. And I don't want to try to do a
It is the case, though, that we do have an opportunity to make
progress here. There's an opportunity for further discussions with both
leaders and both teams here. And I think the goal that both Presidents
have was simply to see what progress could be made, and to begin the
process of identifying what outstanding issues will have to be resolved.
Q Gene, following the logic of that statement that these
issues become harder to negotiate the longer you wait, does it --
MR. SPERLING: I think the President's comment was that they don't
get any easier.
Q But following that logic, does the administration regret
not closing a deal when Zhu Rongji was in Washington at that time, when it
apparently was within reach? And could you try another bite at the apple
with David's question of whether the deal that existed at that time is now
the starting point, or whether the Chinese have changed their terms, or,
for that matter, the United States has changed its terms?
MR. SPERLING: As to your first question, significant progress had
been made in April, but there were some very serious issues that had not
yet been resolved and it was our feeling that we could make progress and
come to a satisfactory agreement. Obviously, unforeseen events took
place. In fact, when President Jiang -- the occasion in which he
mentioned the bombing was in the sense that that had certainly made it
more difficult to resume negotiations over the summer.
So one can never roll the clock back. I think that the reasons
that existed for not concluding the deal at that time were ones we feel
were legitimate and correct and we're still very hopeful that we can go
And your second question was whether April is the starting point,
and the answer there is simply that I just don't think it helps the
process of getting agreement here for us to negotiate in public or talk
about any aspects of the negotiations. I think we should try to give
Ambassador Barshefsky and Minister Shi the most leeway they can have in
the room to work this out.
Q Is the President prepared to wage the battle for permanent
MFN status for this, the Congress -- if the negotiators can reach a deal,
in this -- I mean, before this Congress goes home at the end of the year?
MR. SPERLING: Yes, absolutely. We have been committed from the
start not only to reaching a commercially viable agreement, but having
permanent, normal trade relations passed through Congress. We think, we
feel that there is significant support for that. There is no doubt that
it will not be an easy battle, no one expects that. But the President is
very committed to taking whatever efforts are necessary, and both his
economic and foreign policy team are committed to taking whatever steps
are necessary to pass an agreement, if a commercially viable agreement can
Q Sandy, -- speculation that the President and Jiang Zemin
might meet again in Christ Church when the President goes there for the
official visit and President Jiang is concluding his state visit. Is that
under consideration at all?
MR. BERGER: There has been no discussion of that, as far as far
as I'm aware. But these two men, along with their 17, I believe,
colleagues will be in a small room with Gene Sperling for the next two
days -- (laughter) -- and I suspect that they will have plenty of time for
informal conversations. I mean, one of the real values of these meetings,
seriously, is the opportunity for one-on-one discussions, including -- I
know the President wants to talk to most of these leaders about Timor.
And maybe I could just quickly preview tomorrow a bit. Before I
do that, I should tell you that Monday, the President will meet with
Ramos-Horta, who is a, as most of you know, a very well-known Timorese
pro-independence activist. Tomorrow, the President will --
Q What time?
MR. BERGER: At 5:00 p.m. I don't know that you've been invited,
but it will be at 5:00 p.m. (Laughter.)
Q Would you work on it?
MR. BERGER: Him only.
Tomorrow, the President will give a speech to the APEC CEO
breakfast. It will be a speech in which the President talks about
economics generally. The President will talk about what's happened in
this region; the need -- in particular, I think, the really fundamental
thrust of this speech -- two of them. One is, a lot of good things have
happened economically here in the last year. The region is in better
shape than it was when we met last year, but this is not the time to get
complacent. A lot of the reforms are not yet completed. It's the time to
rededicate, to finish the job. Second, a strong plea for open markets and
for a successful Seattle ministerial meeting, which can launch a new round
of global WTO negotiations.
He will then meet with President Kim Dae-Jung and Prime Minister
Obuchi in a trilateral meeting. I'm sure that the bulk of that meeting
will be -- or at least the number one issue will be stability on the
Korean Peninsula, the potential North Korean missile test, what actions
they can take collectively to try to prevent that test, as well as what
actions they might take should the test go forward.
As you know, Ambassador Kartman is in Berlin meeting with the
North Koreans now, discussing this issue. But they will also be talking
about East Timor, and talking about the economic situation in both South
Korea and Japan.
And then the President will also have a bilateral with Prime
Minister Putin. This will in many ways key off the conversation he had
with President Yeltsin a few days ago. There is a large agenda here --
arms control, START II, START III, national missile defense, ABM treaty,
technology transfer, corruption issues, law enforcement cooperation,
Russia's economic situation. And this will be the first opportunity the
President has had to meet with Prime Minister Putin.
Q -- can you say whether or not President Jiang understands
what the President means when he threatened grave consequences if China
were to move against Taiwan -- since this administration won't define it
for the American people?
MR. BERGER: Well, this administration and every past
administration has not defined that, and I think that ambiguity has served
stability well in the Peninsula. I think it is clear that, as we've said,
this would be a matter of grave concern. And I think the President made
it very clear to President Jiang that he needed to understand that. As I
say, President Jiang said, I'm not a person who wants war, I would like a
peaceful resolution to this.
Q You used to talk about a strategic partnership with China.
What would you call it now?
MR. BERGER: Well, if you're going to be precise about what we
said in the past, it is that we seek to build a strategic partnership. As
far as I know, it's been used as an objective, not as a descriptive state
of the relationship. We seek to build a strategic partnership. I think
that's still an operative phrase.
I would say, listen, we still have plenty of problems between
China and the United States. We have fundamentally different political
systems. We are at fundamentally different stages of economic
development. We have different strategic interests. And so there is a
range of issues where we do not agree with each other.
Now, our view has always been that the best way to deal with those
issues is to deal with them -- is to engage with the Chinese and get them
to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty so they won't test nuclear
weapons, for example; or get them to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention,
as they've done; or get them to cut off nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.
Now, there are also fairly substantial places where we have areas
that our interests converge -- stability on the Korean Peninsula. They
don't particularly want a war in the Korean Peninsula; we don't want a war
in the Korean Peninsula. South Asia. There are large strategic war and
peace issues where our interests also converge. And on those issues, we
can work together.
We can't -- it would be very difficult to really solve the problem
of North Korea without the cooperation of China. If China is not working
in the same direction that we're working in -- if they're not working in
conjunction with us, it will be far more difficult to solve that issue.
So, I would say that this is a complex relationship between the
most powerful country in the world and the largest country in the world
who have a number of -- who have fundamentally different systems and
serious disagreements, but who need to try to work through those for their
Q -- the duration of the trip, will the President make
public announcement on cross-strait relations --
MR. BERGER: I'm sorry?
Q Will he make public statement on cross-strait relations
that's unheard of?
MR. BERGER: I still don't understand your question. I understand
his question. Is that the same question?
Q Basically, will the President state that the United States
does not support a so-called nation to nation or special state to state
MR. BERGER: We're not going to comment. What every President,
again, since Nixon has done is not to comment, not specifically, on what
one country entity says to the other, but rather to state what our
position is. Our position is that there is one China, and that the issues
between Taiwan and Bejing should be resolved between the two and
peacefully through a cross-straits dialogue. That continues to be our
We believe that that policy has served the region very well.
Taiwan has become democratic, prosperous. They're our sixth largest
economic trading partner. The economic activity between Taiwan and China
has exploded and our relationship with China has improved. So all three
legs of this, or three pieces of this triangle have benefited by this
policy that was first articulated back several administrations ago, and we
believe it's a good policy.
Q On East Timor, it sound like things are moving quickly.
The President said he would be surprised if there is not a development in
a couple of days.
MR. BERGER: You heard what I -- I addressed that question, John,
which is to say I think the President was -- I think that reflects less
what is happening on the ground than statements that have been made
publicly and privately. But we've heard statements before.
Q Well, actually, I took it to mean that you think that
there may be a break in terms of the Indonesian agreement on an
international force. Is that --
MR. BERGER: I think that there is growing pressure on Indonesia
from the international community. I think they've made some statements
which have been slightly more positive. But until I see them either take
control of the situation or invite in an international force, then I don't
think it's a breakthrough.
Q Okay -- my real question, which is, is there now more
clarity on what a U.S. proposal would be for this force? And is the
President taking that to the other APEC leaders --
MR. BERGER: No, I think that there's been a good deal of
discussion. At the U.N. -- let me back up. There was always anticipated
that there would be a U.N. force in so-called Phase III, which is after
the government, the new government of Indonesia recognized the results of
the consultation. Obviously, the fighting, the chaos, has made that more
urgent. So there's been a fair amount of discussion in the U.N.,
generally, but more recently there's been a lot of discussion among the
Australians and us -- we've had people from CINCPAC that have been in
Canberra. I think the Australians have made clear that they would take
the lead on this.
I think our view has been that this should be an international
peacekeeping force that has a largely Asian character to it. And that's
simply because it would be more effective if that were the case. But we
are prepared to provide support. We discussed with the Australians what
they feel is needed, and that will take shape as the days unfold.
Q Sandy, what exactly were the references in the meeting to
the bombing of the Chinese Embassy? Did the President express any regret
or apologize? Did the Chinese ask the United States to punish those
responsible for the bombing? What exactly was mentioned?
MR. BERGER: The answer is, no. This came up only once in the
meeting. The President did not raise it or speak to it. He obviously has
made his views known in the past both directly to President Jiang and
In the context of discussing why there had been inability to
resume negotiations on WTO, President Jiang made reference to the
unfortunate incident of the embassy.
Q Did the espionage charges come up at all, Sandy?
MR. BERGER: No. But those have been raised in previous meetings,
and we fairly much know what the Chinese say about them.
Q Sandy, can I get one more question? You said that
President Jiang Zemin felt that the Taiwan issue was a very important
issue. Did he specifically request that President Clinton make any
comments directly in regards to the state-to-state statement made by
President Lee? Did he ask him to denounce those statements? Is this an
issue that they will be working through? If it is so important --
MR. BERGER: He did not. He did take issue with our arms sales to
MR. LOCKHART: Anything of the domestic variety?
Q Actually, just one more question for Sandy. The wires are
saying that Wiranto has asked for an expedited timetable for peacekeepers.
Do you know anything about that?
MR. BERGER: I don't know any more about it.
Q Sandy, was there any contact for the U.S. with Wiranto
MR. BERGER: Yes.
Q Can you say who he's talking to?
MR. BERGER: I believe General Shelton.
MR. LOCKHART: Anything else? Okay.
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