Secretary of State Clinton Talks With Reporters ahead of Asia Trip

February 13, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Conference Call With Reporters Previewing Upcoming Trip to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and China

OPERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you all for standing by. At this time, all lines have been placed on a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session. At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Robert Wood. Sir, you may begin.

MR. WOOD: Thank you. Welcome, everyone. I have Secretary Clinton here. She’s going to make some very brief remarks, and then we’ll go to your questions. I’ll turn it over to the Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much for joining me on this call. I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Asia and I am pleased that this will be my first trip as Secretary of State. I think it’s important to signal that we intend to develop broader and deeper relationships not only with the countries I’ll be visiting, but with other nations throughout Asia and the Pacific.

We believe that our futures are inextricably linked. As you may know, I spoke from the Asia Society here in New York City, and they consider part of their mission being to prepare Americans and Asians for a shared future. And I think that very much sums up the approach that I want to take, and certainly, the opportunities that I see for stronger bilateral, regional, and global cooperation, as well as the ongoing rigorous engagement and collaboration to deal with the economic crisis, to strengthen our alliances, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to build on efforts to face challenges like climate change, clean energy, pandemic healthcare crises and so much more.

So I’d be happy to take some of your questions.

MR. WOOD: Okay. Operator, we’re ready for questions. Let’s go to question one.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, if anyone has a question, please press *1 to be added to the question queue. Again, *1 to ask a question.

Thank you. Andrea Mitchell, you may ask your question.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. Thanks for taking questions. You talked about North Korea in your speech, and I’m wondering what specifically do you want to see from Pyongyang in order for them to develop the relationship that you have signaled you’re interested in developing?

And if I could also just parenthetically ask you, on a very sad note, knowing your familiarity with New York and with the 9/11 survivors, whether you knew Beverly Eckert and whether you had any comments about her death.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, let me start by saying how deeply saddened I was to learn that Beverly Eckert was on the plane that crashed. You know, my thoughts are prayers are with all of the families who lost loved ones in that tragic crash that hit in Clarence Center and affected not only the entire Buffalo community, but far beyond Western New York.

Beverly became a partner and friend of mine in our efforts on behalf of the families of the victims of 9/11, and she was instrumental in pushing for the creation of the 9/11 Commission. It’s such a terrible loss and so deeply tragic that someone who herself lost her husband on September 11th and who channeled her grief and anger into trying to make sure that never happened again in our country would be taken so soon. So I’m certainly joining with so many who knew Beverly and the many more who lost someone that they loved in expressing my sympathy.

With respect to North Korea, the first point to make is that we hope North Korea will refrain from provocative actions and words at this time. We do want to work through the Six-Party Talks, and I will be discussing with South Korea, Japan and China how best to get the negotiations back on track. I think we have such an opportunity to move these discussions forward, but to do so, we have to be clear. If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama Administration wants them to know that we would be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the longstanding armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist, along with others, in meeting the energy and economic needs of the North Korean people.

QUESTION: Would you also be willing to engage in direct bilateral talks on the margins or outside of the Six-Party Talks? It’s already taken place previously, so it would not be setting a precedent, but are you willing to continue that or expand it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, I want to consult with our allies and our partners in the Six-Party Talks, and listen to them and hear what they believe are the best ways forward.

MR. WOOD: Next questions, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Mike Lavallee, you may ask your question.

QUESTION: Yes. Hi, Secretary. I was wondering, you said that you’re willing – with North Korea, you’re willing to normalize relations and provide the energy assistance and set up a permanent peace treaty. How does this actually differ from the approach of the Bush Administration? Are you just continuing on with what the Bush Administration had set up or is there going to be anything different?

And secondly, there’s been some talk about the appointment of a special envoy for North Korea. Will you be making that appointment before your trip?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mike, I want to emphasize that we intend to genuinely consult with our allies and partners with respect to North Korea. And I don’t want to state any position that is not a result of that consultation, but I do want to send a very clear message to the North Koreans that we hope that there will be reciprocity coming from them with regard to what we believe is a very important forum, namely the Six-Party Talks, but also with respect to the opportunities that could await North Korea were they to fulfill their obligation.

As to the envoy, we’ll be ready to announce our envoy to North Korea soon. But again, I think you’ll understand that we would like to consult with our partners in the Six-Party Talks before we do so.

MR. WOOD: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Xiaomin, you may ask your question.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, I was listening to your speech and I really liked it. My question is: There’s been concern of the U.S. dollar depreciation and Treasury bond report. So I wonder what will the Obama Administration do to ensure that – to ensure the Chinese that their investments from the foreign reserve in the U.S. is safe.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that we understand the importance of addressing this issue. And the actions that President Obama and the Administration are taking are aimed at stimulating our economy to get growth going again. We’re working on some of the underlying causes of this crisis, including inadequate enforcement of regulations in our own markets and insufficient assessment of the risks that are needed to, you know, manage excess liquidity. And you know, we intend to move very aggressively forward to try to make sure that our markets are functioning as well as they need to be.

But it’s also clear that other nations, and particularly China, have to be acting as well, and I applaud China for what it is doing on the stimulus front. And we are committed to, you know, having a system of open and fair trade. So there will be a lot of work ahead of us. And what I will be discussing with the Chinese Government is what more we can do together in order to cooperate. China will be at the G-20 meeting in London in early April. We see the Chinese economic relationship as essential to our own country, so we’re going to consult and work in a way that I think will be mutually beneficial.

MR. WOOD: Okay, last question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Ai Awaji, you may ask your question.

QUESTION: Hello, Madame Secretary.


QUESTION: You’ve just said in your speech – I’m sorry, my question is North Korea, on North Korea.


QUESTION: You’ve just said in your speech that you’re going to meet with family members of abductees in Japan.


QUESTION: And what message would you like to convey to them and the Japanese people through that meeting? And how do you think that U.S. Government could help resolve the issue? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to meet with them on a very personal and, you know, human basis. I don’t know that I’ll be meeting as a Secretary of State any more than I will be meeting with them as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to have lost family members and for so many years never to have heard anything about them or from them. And it’s important that their plight, you know, not be forgotten. I attach great importance to the abduction issue, and I want to emphasize that this will be an issue on my agenda to cooperate with Japan in any way that we can be useful in helping to resolve it. And certainly, you know, we will continue to press North Korea to address Japan’s concerns without further delay and to follow up on their August 12th agreement to reinvestigate the abduction cases so that families can have more information. They deserve it.

MR. WOOD: We have time for one last question, a very brief question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Satoshi Ogawa, you may ask your question.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to ask about the U.S. policy towards North Korea. What’s your estimate of how the Agreed Framework concluded in 1994? Why do you think this agreement didn’t work so well, and what lessons can we learn from it? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re going to be looking forward, not backward. I think that the Agreed Framework was useful and provided an opportunity to prevent the reprocessing of plutonium, which, as you know, is a somewhat easier process to create nuclear materiel that can be weaponized.

At the time, I said I regretted that the Bush Administration completely walked away from the Agreed Framework. I think information about the North Korean efforts to produce highly enriched uranium should have been dealt with very seriously, but could have been done so in addition to the Agreed Framework, not in place of the Agreed Framework.

So I believe that there was merit in that approach, but we’re living in the 21st century. It’s the year 2009. There’s been a lot more activity on the part of the North Koreans, and I think we have to deal with the world as we find it today.

MR. WOOD: Okay, thank you all very much. Madame Secretary, thank you.