THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Auckland, New Zealand)
|For Immediate Release
||September 13, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY
BERGER, NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISOR GENE SPERLING, AND PRESS SECRETARY
Sky City Hotel
Auckland, New Zealand
6:25 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: For those of you who missed the 1:30
a.m. showing, Samuel Berger has rejoined us for a matinee performance.
Sandy is going to give you some sense of our views of the summit.
Gene will give you some specifics of how the day went. Then they
will be available for questions.
MR. BERGER: Good to see you in the daytime. This has
truly been a good week for stability and U.S. interests in Asia.
Asia at all times faces challenges, as any large, diverse, dynamic
region does. But we have good reason to feel that developments over
the past week have moved the region in the right direction.
Three key issues warrant particular attention -- Indonesia-East
Timor, the Korean Peninsula, U.S.-China relations. The East Timor
issues riveted the region's and the world's attention. It was a
focus of the leaders here at APEC. This region united, as did the
larger world, to act to set the conditions for an international
force under U.N. auspices, which we hope will provide security to
all the citizens of East Timor. The United States strongly supported
the referendum in East Timor and the President worked very actively
both before, on his way, and here, to lay the groundwork for what
we hope will be a resolution of this issue.
The U.S.-North Korean talks in Berlin this week have
increased the potential for reduced tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
It is now our understanding and expectation that the North Koreans
will refrain from testing any long-range missiles for the duration
of our negotiations to improve relations. This is an important initial
step for addressing our concerns about North Korea's missile program.
For our part, we are considering a number of measures
to ease economic sanctions against North Korea, and expect to make
a recommendation to the President in the near future. This is a
process that must proceed step by step, but I believe a process
that is moving in the right direction. Obviously, all of the people
of this region will be safer if we move farther along on this constructive
Finally, tensions in the U.S.-China relationship affect
this entire region. I can't tell you how many leaders came up to
the President today and said that they were pleased that our relationship
was back on track. And I believe that, as I've said before, the
meeting that President Clinton and President Jiang had earlier,
a few days ago, moved the relationship in that direction.
We've reengaged on WTO. We now anticipate moving forward
on other vital areas, such as arms control and non-proliferation
and holding dialogues on other issues of key concern. The Taiwan
issue remains very sensitive, but the steadfastness of our policy,
I believe, has been a stabilizing influence in what is otherwise
a tense situation. Overall, U.S.-China relations have advanced over
the past few weeks.
None of these issues can be resolved in one giant
step. Each requires patient work and persistent engagement. But
we feel that on balance, on the major issues that threaten stability
in this region, this week has witnessed a genuine progress.
Let me now ask Gene Sperling to talk specifically
about the APEC meetings and then we can take your questions.
MR. SPERLING: We were very pleased with the outcome
of the leaders declaration at APEC. We came here, as we said in
the pre-brief, Sandy and I did, before we left, saying that our
number one focus for the declaration would be to show a strong critical
mass of support for launching a broad, new, world-wide trade round
in Seattle this year. Things could not have gone much better in
The endorsement was strong and clear, not only for
the concept of launching a new trade round, but for completing it
within three years, for making it broad-based, dealing with agriculture
services and industrial tariffs. There were other specifics that
we were also very pleased with, particularly that within the text
of the leaders statement was the finding that the APEC countries
join in supporting the elimination of all agriculture export subsidies.
And I think that sends a very strong message and support for agriculture
liberalization as we go into the Seattle round.
There also was pleas that they incorporated the findings
of the trade ministers within the document. It did not specifically
refer to each of these details in the document, but incorporated
them. And those include the continued moratorium on e-commerce,
which is something we hope to achieve at Seattle as -- some of the
early results we'd like to see -- support for more accelerated tariff
liberalization and for government procurement transparency. And
this we think is very important both in fighting corruption and
in building confidence, which is just a very clear set of criteria
for bidding for government services. It cleared statements as to
how those are determined.
There also was approval of several of the business
initiatives that -- implementing several of the business initiatives
in terms of aviation, food, natural gas initiatives.
We would have liked to have seen a little more in
some areas reflecting the President's view that we need to increasingly
put a human face on the global economy. We would have preferred
to see a little more specific reference to the child labor convention
and to explicitly opening the WTO for more transparency and for
allowing the international labor organizations and labor to have
more of a say -- labor environment -- in these areas.
On the other hand, there was a very strong sentence
in it about the importance of building confidence with the public,
including women in business groups and with doing consultation with
other international organizations. So while we would have liked
to see a little more, we feel that the statement did give an important
nod in those areas.
This morning, the discussion was a lengthy discussion
on the lessons of the Asian financial crisis. In fact, I think Prime
Minister Shipley was expecting that to be perhaps an hour discussion
with a break, and that went quite long and it was a very substantive
and even at times animated discussion.
And there were some differences expressed concerning
the degree of the ability to control capital flows, and certainly
Chile and Malaysia spoke in support of their short-term measures
that they had done. And there were some larger philosophical issues
about whether or not one should take as a given the assumption that
there will be these types of large capital flows and seek to manage
from there, or whether there are ways to manage them better.
Where there was consensus is that a common denominator
both in the problems and the potential solutions did lie in better
risk assessment, disclosure, regulation in their banking sectors.
And in the end, Prime Minister Shipley pulled together on that and
suggested that the leaders ask the finance ministers over the next
year to look at the work that is going on. Certainly we ourselves
have been very involved in the financial stability forum and others
to bring to the ministers -- excuse me -- to bring to the leaders
their sense of what are the best approaches being taken for dealing
with problems of excessive leverage and capital flows through improvements
in the banking regulation assessments.
The last thing I want to say before we take questions
is that we certainly were pleased that the meeting between President
Jiang and President Clinton has led to the resumption of substantive
talks, talks that have gone on over the last two days. There remains
a lot of work to do, yet Ambassador Barshefsky feels that there
is a positive and constructive tone in the discussions. These talks
will continue -- though the delegations are certainly leaving Auckland,
the talks will continue, and actually, as we speak, Ambassador Barshefsky
is involved in discussions on arranging the when and where of the
So with that, I think Sandy and I will take questions.
Q Sandy, this morning the President said that the
Indonesian troops could work alongside the peacekeeping force, parallel
to them. How does that go along with his statement in the previous
couple of days that he accused and condemned the Indonesian military
for aiding and abetting the militia violence?
MR. BERGER: Well, this obviously presupposes that
the Indonesian military, as reflected by the change of position
of the government with respect to a peacekeeping force is now interested
in bringing stability to East Timor. I think the logical way in
which to do that is to have, at least in the beginning, the Indonesian
forces there alongside the peacekeeping forces and some transition
taking place over time as we get towards the turnover, the actual
affirmation of the independence referendum.
Obviously, if the Indonesian military were not being
cooperative and operating for the same objectives as the peacekeeping
force, that would be a problem that we would have to deal with very,
Q Do you have more details on how many U.S. forces
will be involved in this effort and when the peacekeepers are now
expected to move in?
MR. BERGER: Well, on the first, we've continued today
discussions with the Australians. Let me say this, because I don't
have a specific number -- but we're talking here about hundreds,
not thousands, of Americans that would be involved, and not necessarily
all of those would be based in East Timor. As I indicated, some
would be providing airlift, some would be providing logistics and
communications, intelligence, perhaps helicopter transport. So some
would actually be in East Timor and others would not be based there.
But we're talking about a figure in the hundreds.
In terms of when, I don't know the answer to that.
As far as I know, Foreign Minister Alatas has not yet arrived in
New York -- I think he's on his way to New York -- for the discussions
with Secretary General Annan, so that we can finalize arrangements.
I've noticed some constructive comments today from various Indonesian
sources indicating any forces are welcome, thereby, hopefully, taking
away any notion that they would seek to select or choose, or be
discriminating with respect to who might participate.
I would hope that this force could move into East
Timor in a matter of days. There is a serious humanitarian problem
in East Timor. The President just met with Ramos-Horta, as you know
the Nobel Prize winner from East Timor, who indicated -- confirming
what we believe -- there are roughly 200,000 displaced people inside
East Timor, many of them not close to areas in which food distribution
is available. There is a United Nations Development Program, UNDP,
ship that is moving towards East Timor with supplies.
But there is not only a need to restore stability,
but the need to provide humanitarian assistance, and therefore,
I think there's a sense of urgency about this.
Q Have you gotten any opposition from members of Congress
in your consultations on this?
MR. BERGER: The calls that I've made today I think
have been generally positive. I don't want to speak for individual
members, but I think that people that I have spoken to today have
generally believed the we should be supportive. They, I think, also
agree they should be largely overwhelmingly Asian force, but that
there is a justification for some American support.
Q I'd like to follow up on Mark's question -- the
refuge and displaced persons issue begins to sound very familiar.
How are you going to get these hundreds of thousands of East Timorese
to go back to their homes if the Indonesians are going to be patrolling
side-by-side with international force?
MR. BERGER: Well, these arrangements will have to
be worked out in New York. I think the people there -- the army
has demonstrated on a number of occasions that it can maintain order
in East Timor. I would remind you that on the day of the referendum
there was very little violence.
When the U.N. delegation went to East Timor in the
last two days, there's been a great substantial diminution in the
violence. So I think there's obviously needs to be a political decision
made by the authorities and by the Indonesian military and it would
be obviously extraordinarily unwise for them not to be pushing in
the same direction as a multinational force.
Q The Timorese are going to trust them?
MR. BERGER: I think the East Timorese will have confidence
in the international presence that will be there representing a
wide variety of mostly Asian nations. I think that is what will
restore their confidence.
Q Sandy, another follow-up to that. Who is protecting
that U.N. compound now? Are there still a thousand refugees in that
MR. BERGER: I don't know the exact number. There still
are a number of refugees on the compound and there are some -- I
think some protection there. But I really don't have a very good
answer for you. Let me get an answer for you and get back to you.
Q Sandy, what could you do between now and the deployment
of the peacekeeping force to ensure that we don't see a repeat of
the situation in Kosovo, where the army there launched a massive
campaign to sweep the area of people who did not agree with their
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the international -- the
indignation of the international community has been clearly expressed
and manifest over the past three or four days, particularly here,
but elsewhere. And I think that it is that fact that led the Indonesian
government -- obviously, not only the civil authorities, but the
military authorities -- to reverse course and invite in an international
And should there be a mass violence in this interim
period, then the Indonesian government I think would be subject
to the same kind of pressure and isolation that they've been subject
to up until now.
Q Why didn't a Vietnam-U.S. -- get off the ground?
MR. BERGER: It is off the ground, it just didn't get
signed. In fact, the President had a very interesting conversation
with the Prime Minister of Vietnam during the meeting, during which
he expressed the view that we should complete this agreement, that
he would work to that end. And the President expressed the view
that he believed we should do that as well. So I believe that we
will complete an agreement, but, you know, setting artificial deadlines
is not necessarily the best way to negotiate.
Q Sandy, now that Jakarta has reversed course and
is allowing in these peacekeepers, is the U.S. going to be changing
its recommendation as to what should be done with the IMF and World
Bank money that is being held up?
MR. BERGER: Well, in a sense this relates to John's
question. I think that if this goes as President Habibie suggested
yesterday, we obviously will change our view with respect to the
sanctions we've imposed, and the IMF loans can then be considered
on the merits without regard to this particular issue. But I think
it's premature to make those decisions until we've actually seen
the force deployed. I think last night, when I was in here, I said
that the devil was always in the details, and I don't think any
of us will rest comfortably until we see this force deployed.
MR. SPERLING: Can I just -- it's also definitely the
case that the IMF's concerns predated this, and that those concerns,
some of those go to issues that we're seeing in other countries
on certain banks and issues where we've been very clear on the need
for accountability and audits I think would have to be dealt with.
So I think that what Sandy is talking about is necessary, but not
sufficient. They still would have to deal with the issues that the
IMF had raised with them prior to the East Timor issue.
Q Two questions. In the discussions that the Chinese
negotiators had with Barshefsky, did the Chinese agree to hold to
the April offer that they made?
MR. SPERLING: I've received this question a couple
of times, I think probably David last time. And my answer is --
and Charlene's answer -- are probably going to continue to be boring
in some sense, which is we're not going to negotiate in public.
And to characterize either the starting point, the middle point,
the end point would be to restrict the flexibility that we want
Charlene and her counterpart to have in coming to an agreement.
Q One problem, what about in the President's meeting
with Jiang as part of APEC? I think Sandy has said that they would
be trapped in a room with you. Did China, WTO come up? Did the President
and Jiang talk about that as well?
MR. SPERLING: As I learned, you're in a side room
and you get to watch on video -- but there's coffee. (Laughter.)
To answer your question, they did have a chance to
talk and the President -- President Clinton made very clear, as
he did in this meeting, his personal commitment to wanting to get
this done. And I think that President Jiang felt that their face-to-face
meeting had been very helpful in making very clear to them the United
States intentions to work in good faith and getting a commercially
viable agreement. So they did have a chance to talk about it and
I think that they reaffirmed that they both wanted the talks to
Q Gene, be a little more specific about the sanctions
on North Korea, which ones would be used first. And also, there's
been talking in Japan today -- or I guess yesterday -- that Japan
and the United States might be using the G-7 meeting coming up --
to coordinate some intervention on the yen. Can you comment on that?
MR. BERGER: I'll let Gene talk about intervention
on the yen. (Laughter.) You think his answer on the other thing
was boring, believe me -- (laughter.) In terms of sanctions on North
Korea, what we're looking at basically are the basic commercial
trade sanctions that affect ordinary commerce and investment. We're
not looking at anything that would affect sensitive items, dual-use
items, munitions list items, but basically the sanctions that apply
to trade in ordinary goods and services and investment.
MR. SPERLING: Actually, your question reminds me about
the third or fourth month of the administration -- Rubin and myself
went to a Wall Street Journal lunch, and he was asked about whether
the President and the Prime Minister had spoken about possible intervention,
and then he asked if his statement could be completely off the record.
And everybody at the Journal said okay, it's off the record, and
they turned off their recorders. And they all leaned forward, and
Bob said, no comment. (Laughter.) And then they spent the rest of
the lunch, Bob defending why his "no comment" had to be off the
record. (Laughter.) But I'll actually go a little further and say
that those rumors were not true, there were never such intentions
or plans. In fact, as you know, Secretary Summers is not even here
Q Could you talk about the G-7 meeting, at the upcoming
-- not at this meeting, I meant the upcoming G-7 meeting that we're
MR. SPERLING: I would -- basically no comment, but
I would not think that there was anything to those rumors.
Q Could you talk about the incentives that the North
Korea agreement sends? Why should they be rewarded for not doing
something that they shouldn't have been threatening to do in the
MR. BERGER: Well, I would not characterize it that
way, John. (Laughter.) And I'm surprised that you would characterize
it, quite honestly. (Laughter.) Let's understand here that North
Korea is not bound by any international agreements. It's not a member
of the MCTR or any other regime, here. And yet its proceeding with
a long-range missile program would be one of the most destabilizing
developments for Asia and for the United States.
It would have an immediate effect on Japan, which
would feel its own security threatened and might then, therefore,
feel it has to develop certain countermeasures to deal with that,
which in turn might lead China to feel that it has to respond. So
that a North Korean missile test would be I think a very destabilizing
event. And that's why we've indicated that if that proceeded it
would affect our relations seriously and we would have to take action.
I believe the Japanese would take action. I believe
the Koreans would take action. Now, if we're going to embark on
a different course, a course which could conceivably lead to a long-term
moratorium on a missile program, that suggests the possibility of
a different kind of relationship with North Korea. And, obviously,
if that's the case, it's appropriate for us to take some steps which
would ease some of the sanctions that we have in North Korea.
So this is something if we can in fact gain, ultimately,
a moratorium on the North Korean missile program, it's very much
in the U.S. strategic interest and in any negotiation, any discussion,
obviously the question is what is the reciprocal benefit to the
North Koreans, and the reciprocal benefit would be some easing of
economic sanctions. But I would say very -- hasten to add that if
they tested, obviously we would be going down a different path.
If I could just put this back in a little bit of context,
as you know, Dr. Perry, Bill Perry has been working with us over
the last eight months looking at North Korea policy and basically
has recommended to the President that we, in a sense, offer the
North Koreans a larger choice here -- a path that on the one hand
ultimately puts further restraints on their nuclear program, beyond
the agreed framework, which already does restrain it to some important
degree, and restrains their missile program in exchange for which
we could envision moving towards a more normal relationship with
North Korea. That's the long-term objective. It's one we share with
South Korea and with Japan.
I think what's happened this week is a first step
in perhaps a constructive direction.
Q -- this promise by North Korea not to test the missile
while the talks proceed, what does that imply for how much longer
these talks will go on?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think this is a long-term process,
obviously. And we ultimately, as I said, would like to see a broader
understanding with the North Koreans with respect to their missile
program, with respect to their nuclear program and during this period
it is our understanding and expectation that they will not test.
Q -- sanctions without legislation --
MR. BERGER: The sanctions we're talking about are
ones that are within the authority of the President. We're not talking
about sanctions, for example, that flow from legislation, because,
for example, of their being listed on the terrorism list. I mean,
essentially North Korea would be in the same status as Syria in
terms of what we are talking about here.
Q Is there another round of talks scheduled?
MR. BERGER: There's no specific date for another round
of talks, but we would hope that these talks would continue.
Q Sandy, on China, did the President ever discuss
East Timor issue with Jiang? And then, what's the content of the
discussion, if there's one? And were you able to secure the support,
or at least vote abstain, when the issue come up in the U.N.?
MR. BERGER: It's a very good question, the answer
to which I don't know, because I didn't ask the President that question.
I know he did have -- I mean, one of the things that these meetings
facilitate are a lot of one-on-one conversations. The President
probably had almost a dozen of those during the day, including one
with Jiang. And I did not ask him whether Timor came up specifically,
although I know that he intended to raise it with him.
Q Gene, regarding Taiwan, did anything happen here
at this meeting that leads you to be slightly more optimistic? I
mean, you said "remain sensitive." But has the situation regarding
Taiwan and Chinese threats there improved in any way?
MR. BERGER: I would not say there's anything specific.
I mean, I think that we have now said directly to the Chinese what
our position is: that we will stand by the one-China policy, but
that we also expect this issue to be resolved peacefully. I think
that our position here has a stabilizing effect on the situation,
but I continue to believe that this is a situation that involves
tension, and one that we're going to have to watch very carefully.
Q Gene, Barshefsky said pretty plainly in her news
conference on September 9th that April 8th remained the starting
point on WTO. And yet, you seem unwilling to characterize it that
way. Does that suggest that there's been backtracking in the interim
by the Chinese?
MR. SPERLING: No. What it suggests is that starting
with this Saturday, you really had the re-entry of substantive discussions.
And it's just easier for us to simply say we're not going to discuss
the negotiations than to answer some questions and not others, and
create speculation as to why. So it's just -- we think it will just
be better for the overall process, now that things have started.
You need to understand that even though there have
been some talks before, there really was no substantive discussions,
or substantive negotiations, starting until after the two presidents
had met. And I think now Sandy and Charlene and I talked about it
and simply feel it's better for us at this point not to seek to
characterize the negotiations at any point.
Q -- help us to know what were the next steps? I'm
talking, if there's another meeting scheduled.
MR. SPERLING: I was just on the phone with Charlene
before here. She is in the process of having those discussions right
now. I was hoping to be able to give you a specific date, but it's
just a matter of there being conversation on the exact logistics
Q Gene, one more. Anything happen here that will improve
the political climate for fast-track back in the U.S., particularly
with members of your own party?
MR. SPERLING: I think that we have certainly had discussions
in which different trade ministers have shown a receptivity to the
President's statement, comments about the need to bring in more
groups, involve more people, have more concern of some of the value
issues that come up. And in that sense I think that the President
is, through his speeches, through his conversations, helping to
shape the debate in a way that could help move toward a type of
consensus that we would hope to have.
This was a very positive meeting. The degree that
within the discussions people recognized that it was an achievement
in and of itself, that there had been such a crisis, economic and
financial crisis, and that there had not been a turn toward protectionism
-- and there was some self-congratulations on that, but it was deserving
because that was -- I think everyone recognized that had been critical
to the recovery.
The President was very impressed in the discussions,
with particularly the conversations this morning from Prime Minister
of Thailand and Kim of Korea, the degree of which they were focused
on their own internal reforms, and even though they've had remarkable
turnarounds in their economies, that they were stressing the need
to continue to strengthen particularly the banking systems and dealing
with non-performing loans as a way of continuing forward.
And in both theirs and other conversations they stressed
that they felt one of the lessons that had been learned was that
remaining open and remaining open in terms of capital flows and
in terms of trade had been helpful for them in their recoveries.
Q Will you be bungee jumping tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: Hey, we've got to save something for
tomorrow, Sandy, don't tell them. (Laughter.)
Let me do one other piece of business, and then if
you have any questions for me. The President, just before Mr. Berger
and Mr. Sperling arrived over here, had about a 20-minute meeting
with Dr. Ramos-Horta, the East Timorese opposition leader. In that
meeting he stressed his concern for the displaced people and talked
about the need for the international community to focus on that
He also repeated what I think you have seen him say
publicly about the President in this meeting, in thanking him for
his leadership in helping to move this process and helping to convince
the Indonesian government to move toward restoring security in East
Q What did the President tell him?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President thanked him for
his leadership and his ability to mobilize support here, told him
that we'd be working in support of the peacekeeping force and we'd
be watching very closely to make sure that the words that were articulated
by the Indonesian government last night get translated into action
on the ground.
Q What are your briefing plans tomorrow, if any, in
MR. LOCKHART: I think somewhere near the 7th hole,
if anybody wants to talk to me there's a little spot I'll be glad
to -- (laughter.)
Q Which golf course?
MR. LOCKHART: I may have to go to both. (Laughter.)
Q -- playing golf tomorrow, did the President have
any other plans?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he's looking forward to seeing
some of the surroundings. I wouldn't expect him to descend rapidly
400 or 500 feet within three or four seconds, but besides that,
I think he's open to whatever Queenstown offers. (Laughter.)
Q What did Chelsea and Mrs. Rodham do today?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q What about skiing? Will Chelsea ski at all?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. The President doesn't
ski anymore since he hurt his shoulder and with his knee. But I
think she does ski, but I don't know what she plans to do tomorrow.
Q So it's a completely down day?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's no reason to be depressed
about it. (Laughter.) You can take the day off.
Q Well, we have Jake.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, that works for me. Anything else?
Q Well, it's just it's so out of character for the
President to take a down day on a trip like this.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, you know, you go through seven
years and you learn a few things. (Laughter.) And we're thinking
that scheduling these things in the middle of the trip is something
that will accommodate your needs and -- you're not buying any of
Q You're thinking of us. (Laughter.)
Q Will he talk in the morning about East Timor --
MR. LOCKHART: If there are developments over night
or if there's something worthwhile to say, he may have something
to say to you in the morning.
Q Joe, on that explosion that they just showed on
Russia, did the President communicate directly with the Russian
Prime Minister on that one?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, actually the word of the explosion
came while Mr. Berger was actually in conversation with the Prime
Minister. So I think they both found out at the same time.
Q Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.
END 7:06 P.M. (L)
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