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Condoleezza Rice Roundtable with Journalists


Roundtable with Australian, Indonesian and Latin American Journalists


Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
March 9, 2006

(5:00 p.m. EST)


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, my name is Nestor Ikeda so I am a reporter for Latin American affairs for the Associated Press. I have a question regarding your visit to Santiago. Some persons in the Chilean media are saying that you are going to meet in Santiago to Bolivian President Evo Morales and perhaps the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Would you please confirm those versions and what are the major issues you would like to raise if those interviews are held?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start with why I think it's important to go to Chile. This is a wonderful moment, the inauguration of the Chilean President, a woman president. I'm looking forward to meeting her. We have an excellent relationship with Chile and it is -- the relationship with Chile is emblematic of the kind of relationship that I think we are pursuing throughout the region, a very positive agenda that focuses very much on trade and economic development -- after all, we have an FTA, a free trade agreement, with Chile; that focuses on democratic development; that recognizes that democracies and democracies, even if they are growing economically, must give considerable -- must give consideration to the needs of their people in terms of education and social welfare; and that it is important for countries to be well-governed and to govern democratically and that the United States has no trouble, no difficulty, dealing with countries from either side of the political spectrum. I've been asked many times -- there are governments from the left. Chile is a government from left of center. Brazil is a government from left of center. These are governments with which we have excellent relations. The issue for us is that when you're elected democratically you have to govern democratically.

I am going to see Mr. Morales when I am in Chile. I think it is now set and I very much look forward to that. He is the new president of Bolivia. He comes from a segment of Bolivian society that I think also represents that indigenous people are moving up into the mainstream political positions of Latin American societies and that will be a very good thing. Those are my plans, to see him. I will see several other people but there are no plans to see the Venezuelan President.

QUESTION: Hello. Antonieta Cadiz from El Mercurio from Chile. My question is what kind of relationship does the United States want to develop with Bachelet's government and also what does the United States expect from Chile in issues like Bolivia relationship, Haiti troops or anti-American political scenario in Latin America?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first I hope we will have an excellent relationship and I believe that we will with the new President, with President Bachelet. We have had an outstanding relationship with President Lagos and I just want to say that I think he has been not just a great president for Chile but he's been really a wise and strong force for democracy and for free economies throughout the region. And I will also, I hope, have a chance to bid farewell to him because he's been really an extraordinary figure in this period of time in leading Chile.

We hope that Chile will do what Chile has done so well, which is to be a strong example of what happens when a country has sound economic policies, policies that empower the private sector, that are an economy that is clearly based on rule of law so that private investment is possible, an economy that trades freely with not just the hemisphere but with the rest of the world so that Chile and the United States have a free trade agreement, a country that governs wisely, governs democratically and that has also been concerned about issues of social inequality and social justice. Chile is a remarkable place and that is first and foremost what we look to Chile for.

We hope that there will be good relations between Chile and Bolivia and we will encourage that.

And we also have appreciated very much the role that Chile has played, for instance, in Haiti where Chilean forces have been a part of the peacekeeping forces in Haiti that have permitted the first elections and now will oversee or will provide security while the second elections are taking place. So we have a very broad and wide relationship with Chile that I think is really an example of the kind of relationship that we have with many in the region but hope to have with the entire region.

QUESTION: Tony Walker from the Financial Review of Australia. My colleagues are going to ask questions about the trilateral discussions but I want to ask about Iran, a two-part question. If Iran agrees to suspend nuclear enrichment activities, would the United States then agree to talk to Iran bilaterally? And if not, why not?

And the second part of the question is: Is the United States committed to a policy of regime change in Iran and does this preclude direct engagement with Tehran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just start by saying what the United States supports is what the great majority of countries now support, which was embodied, codified in the Board of Governors February 4th resolution which has a set of requirements for Iran, one of them being and probably the most important being the suspension of enrichment and reprocessing so that negotiations could begin again. But I think that that isn't a quid pro quo for anything. It just needs to be done because it's a demand of the international system.

The United States has not had broad relations with Iran for a very long time and there are very good reasons for that. Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hezbollah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian territories, and we have deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq. This is not an issue of Iran having relations with Iraq. They're neighbors. We want them to have good relations. But it's nontransparent activities that feed militias and perhaps endanger the lives of our forces and of other forces, coalition forces in the region.

I don't foresee any reason for broader talks with the Iranians. We have our channels. We have a channel that we sometimes employ in New York when messages need to be passed. Both our ambassadors in Afghanistan and Iraq are able to, under guidance, to speak with their counterparts. And so I think that that is the appropriate level of engagement given our deep concerns about Iranian policy on the nuclear issue, on the terrorism issue and indeed in terms of the Iranian regime's treatment of its own people where an unelected few continue to frustrate the aspirations of the Iranian people. So we'd like to see a change in the way that the Iranians behave and most importantly the way they behave toward their own people because the Iranian people deserve better. This is a population of a great culture that has been involved in and integrated into the international community before, craves that integration.

One of the things that we want to do is to be sure that everyone understands that when you talk about the isolation of the Iranian regime, we mean the regime. We want to continue to reach out to the Iranian people in any way possible, which is why we have asked for more resources for broadcasting, more resources for educational and cultural exchanges. I would like to see nothing more than Iranian sportsmen and Iranian artists and Iranian students studying here in the United States.

QUESTION: Michael Gawenda from the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age. I'd like to ask you a question about Australia and the agreement that the U.S. and India have come to on nuclear activities and its nuclear program. I see that in your testimony today before the Appropriations Committee you said that Australia has expressed support for the agreement.

SECRETARY RICE: I said I think that there are countries that expressed broad principle -- for the principle. I'm talking about what Prime Minister Howard said.

QUESTION: But you would be aware that Australia has a policy of not selling uranium to countries that aren't signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you going to discuss this issue with Alexander Downer when you're in Australia and would you expect Australia to change that policy and sell uranium to India?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we will certainly discuss it but this is up to Australia. I don't think that there is any need that countries have to have the same views of the fuel supply issue. I think that what, as I understand it, what was being expressed here was that the broad concept of trying to broaden the nonproliferation regime, if you will, so that a country like India becomes a part of the nonproliferation mainstream is something that is found to be useful. I would note that this is a deal that Mohamed ElBaradei has also expressed support for because he believes that it brings India into the nonproliferation mainstream.

I think the question of whether you intend to or decide to engage in fuel supply is quite a separate question.

QUESTION: Geoff Elliott from the Australian newspaper. I guess you're aware of comments from former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage about your canceled visits to Southeast Asia. And he mentioned the fact that he thought this was an error and they'd all said that the Bush Administration had been distracted by the Iraq war particularly. I'm just wondering what your comments on that are. And should we see perhaps Mr. Armitage's comments in light of perhaps some bit of personal politics?

SECRETARY RICE: I am not going to comment on comments. I'll just say the following: I've been to the Asia Pacific region four times in just over a year as Secretary and I have also met repeatedly with Alexander Downer with whom I have an excellent relationship, and not to mention lots of other foreign ministers from the region. And this is my second trip to Australia. It's my first trip as Secretary, but I was, of course, there with the President in '04. Yes. And I am very much looking forward to it.

I wanted to, when I went to Australia, to be able to spend a little time in Australia and I'll be there for almost three days. It's, I think, going to be -- we've got a wonderful program planned and I can't think of a better and stronger friend and ally than Australia. I remember when I was with the President in Australia meeting with Australian forces who were engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I'll have an opportunity to meet with Australian soldiers again, I think, because Australia's been with us through many a war and many a conflict and always on the side of trying to promote democracy and freedom. And so this is just a very strong relationship.

We've worked together on so many things. The Free Trade Agreement was something that I personally worked on with Ambassador Zoellick at the time and now Deputy Secretary Zoellick. So we don't have relationships that are -- too many relationships this strong, this deep and this based on values and common history. And I'm just really excited about the chance to go there.

QUESTION: Hendro from Suara Merdeka, Indonesia. What does U.S. expect about -- with this visiting? A little bit work on terrorism in Indonesia? Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, the relationship with Indonesia is one that has thoroughly transformed over the last few years and there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that Indonesia's own emergence as a democracy that has now had free and fair elections a couple of times, that has managed to throw off its authoritarian past, that is making strong efforts at peace with its neighbors and reconciliation with its neighbors, an Indonesia that has been a stalwart now in the war on terrorism. And Indonesia is a country that is a remarkable place in its multi-ethnicity and its multi-religious -- the multi-religiosity of Indonesia. It's also a place that shows that people of many different faiths and many different ethnicities can live together in a democratic system.

When we were in Bali with the President, we met with a group of religious leaders and it was very impressive to see these leaders -- Muslim, Christian -- sitting there together and other religions sitting there together, talking about their common future as Indonesians.

So there are reasons that this relationship has come so far in such a short -- relatively short period of time and I look forward with President Yudhoyono to celebrating the nature of that relationship, to spending a little time with some elements of Indonesian society, to also discussing the issues that we have in our common fight on terrorism, any assistance that we can continue to give to Indonesia, which is a country that has experienced terrible terrorist attacks.

We also are cooperating economically. Our military-to-military contacts are back online. I tell people all the time that if there's a good argument for IMEP, our International Military Educational Programs, it's President Yudhoyono who was a graduate of that program. And so we have been able to get our military-to-military ties back on track.

And I think we can also talk about some new challenges that we face, like the potential pandemic of avian flu where we, Indonesia and Singapore agreed at the recent APEC summit to a cooperative center that will be located in Singapore to try to improve transparency in the region, to make technical assistance available to countries that need to prepare themselves for what we all are hopeful would never happen but have to prepared for, which would be a pandemic of, I think, proportions that we have not seen before.

QUESTION: Thank you. Teguh Handoko from Antara news agency, national news agency of Indonesia. Regarding the international issue like Hamas, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, everything with Muslim country. According to you, how Indonesia can make contribution for keep peace in this area and support America and what American do? And will you ask support from minister when you visit to Indonesia?

SECRETARY RICE: Will ask?

QUESTION: Will you ask for support for -- support from Indonesia?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, from Indonesia.

QUESTION: Yes, in your visit.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have had, I think, very good support from Indonesia on -- it supports the roadmap and I think supports the growth of a moderate voice for Islam. I have watched Indonesia handle well when there's been turbulence in the Islamic world or turbulence between the Islamic world and other parts of the world. Indonesia has been a voice for moderation and that is perhaps what's needed most.

When I mentioned the meeting with the religious leaders that the presidents had in Bali, it was -- that was one the subjects, the need to speak out about the renunciation of violence and the renunciation of terrorism and the use of -- the belief in moderate voices.

Indonesia, I know, has a profound interest in the Palestinian issue. I have talked to my Foreign Minister colleague Mr. Wirajuda about that and, of course, to President Yudhoyono himself. And so I look forward to a discussion of how we move forward, given the circumstances in the Palestinian territories. But since Hamas is being asked really to join a consensus that has been there for quite a long time now in the Arab world, in most of the Muslim world, that the path to a better life in the Palestinian territories, the path to a Palestinian state, is the roadmap; and that roadmap requires the renunciation of violence, the disbanding of militias and it, of course, requires the recognition of Israel because you cannot have a peace process when one of the parties doesn't recognize one of the other parties. And so I would hope that Indonesia would add its voice to those who are saying to Hamas that this is the strategic choice that must be made.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I'm a journalist for VOA Indonesian Service. You talk about the democratic society in Indonesia, religious -- religious harmony, also moderate Islam in Indonesia. But some say that, in particular, Islam is making major progress in Indonesia. It's possible that hard-line or fundamentalist Islamic political party could win the parliamentary or presidential elections in Indonesia in 2009 or 2014. Is the U.S. concerned about this role of Islam in Indonesia's democratic development?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we trust Indonesia's democracy. And 2009 and 2014 are a long way away so I don't think it's possible to predict what will happen there. But what I do see in Indonesia, I know Indonesia has faced an extremist threat, an extremist threat that is common to many of the countries of Southeast Asia. It's not limited to Indonesia. And in a sense, many of us have faced an extremist threat. So the existence of extremism and violent extremism does not mean that I think democracy is incapable of bringing together people from all faiths and all creeds. You will always have outliers of extremism.

But what democratic systems, it would seem to me, permit is that it gives a way for people to channel their differences, their interests, into a political process rather than turning to violence. And as Indonesia's political system, its democracy gets stronger and matures and goes through more efforts of the kind that the President, President Yudhoyono, is going through to insist on rule of law, to develop civil society, to reform the armed forces and to root out corruption. This is going to be a stronger and stronger democracy. And I've always thought that in strong democracies that extremists have to stand up and say that our program is that we will send your children off to be suicide bombers, but this is not actually a very popular position and that the advantage that democracies have is that it's harder for extremists to hide in the shadows and harder for them to mobilize in the absence of the ability of anybody else to mobilize. And Indonesia has a rich political landscape. Lots of different parties, lots of different interests. But I'm quite confident that its maturing democracy will be able to handle these issues.

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that's --

QUESTION: Can we have another round?

MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have enough time for another round. I mean, if there is another two or three questions, maybe one of you --

QUESTION: Chile, Chile. (Laughter.) Okay, the premise of your agenda in Chile and also if the United States has in mind new future plans or actions with Bachelet Government, like social or economic side?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm sorry, can you say that again?

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

SECRETARY RICE: That's all right. That's all right. You were organizing yourself, I know. (Laughter.) That's fine.

QUESTION: In terms of your agenda in Chile and also if the United States has in mind new future plans or actions with Bachelet Government in areas like social or economical development.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would hope that we will have discussions of what we can do together on the social welfare, the education, health, these issues. The United States has had a very strong interest in education around the world and we have teacher training centers in most of the world, including in Latin America. And it is an expression of the fact that out of the Monterey Consensus there's a recognition that economic growth is critical, because without economic growth you do not have jobs and there will be no money for social welfare.

But it's not enough just to have economic growth. You then also have to have a commitment of governments, particularly democratic governments, because they are held accountable by their own people to address those issues of upward mobility, the issues of social welfare. And so I would be very interested to hear. I know that this was an issue for President Bachelet in the campaign and I look forward to hearing her thoughts on how we might, through our bilateral and multilateral context, address these issues.

And Chile has been a very strong member of the Organization of American States. There is, of course, a Chilean who is the Secretary General. And how we can also make certain that the Organization of American States is playing its full role across the range of issues. I have been on the phone with Jose Miguel Insulza quite a lot over the last several weeks as we've dealt with the issue in Haiti, and it just shows what an active OAS can do when we have these problems in the region. So I look forward to those discussions.

QUESTION: Australia would like to ask you about the trilateral security discussions. What do you hope will emerge from these discussions? What's the point of this exercise? What does the United States want to get out of it? What does it expect from Australia within this three-party group?

And the second part of the question has to do with China. What role do you see for Australia in dealing with regional security issues vis-à-vis China from the American perspective?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, first of all on the Trilateral Security Dialogue, the United States has a lot of important strategic relationships, but in this region our strategic relationships with Japan and Australia are among the most important and they are of course democratic allies with longstanding relationships that have ranged across the full range of national power.

This is a region that's in tremendous flux and change and on a number of different perspectives. It's in flux and change, first and foremost, because of a rising China. And I think all of us in the region, particularly those who are longstanding allies, have a joint responsibility and obligation to try and produce conditions in which the rise of China will be a positive force in international politics, not a negative force.

That means that we need to engage the Chinese in dialogue about security in the region. Now, that is sometimes difficult because there are some longstanding historical issues and troubles that get in the way. I think Australia, the United States, Japan can think about ways to deal with some of those issues.

We together need to try to, recognizing that China is going to improve its military, is going to build up its military, but to make sure that we're looking at a Chinese military buildup that is not outsized for China's regional ambitions and interests. And I think that's something that is concerning, particularly for those of us who have had a responsibility for defending peace in the Asia Pacific region, of which I would count all three.

Third, I think we come at this not just from a military perspective but also from an economic perspective. And the range of issues in which the Asia Pacific region, now a very dynamic region, and when you sit around the table at APEC and, you know, the countries here also are represented in APEC, you see the dynamism of this region and you want that dynamism to be a positive force, not a negative force. That means, for instance, being able to leverage the work that we do in APEC on nonproliferation which is of great concern to all of us, the work that we do on counterterrorism which is of concern to all of us, but also the work that we do on economic openness and trade.

So I see the dialogue, the trilateral dialogue, as bringing together three democratic allies to, first of all, have a common understanding of how the region is moving and what the challenges of the region are and then to also have common approaches to managing what is a very dramatic change.

QUESTION: And China is, in a sense, the big challenge for --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, China is both a challenge and an opportunity. It's clearly a challenge because it's rising so fast, it's changing so fast. Its external policies are moving very quickly throughout the region.

One of the things that I think we will want to talk about, for instance, is energy. One of the reasons that the Chinese -- and you know, we have an Asia-Pacific partnership that Australia is a part of with South Korea and China and India -- because the need for energy is driving diplomatic policies, driving foreign policy in ways that I would never have dreamed four or five years ago.

But China is a challenge because it's changing so fast and it's changing in its external policies, it's changing in its economic behavior and its economic openness. Its political system is still -- the jury is still out on whether or not it's going to make a democratic tradition -- transition internally as well. That's why it's a challenge. But it's an opportunity because when you have a billion-plus people who are as active and dynamic as China's people, an economy that has the potential to be a real driver of economic growth in the international system, that's an opportunity.

It's an opportunity that we cannot miss, but not missing that opportunity means that we all have to encourage China to operate in a kind of rules-based international economy. The last thing that we need is a very, very big Chinese economy that's operating outside the rules of the international economy. So Chinese behavior on currency, Chinese behavior on access to the services sector, Chinese behavior on intellectual property rights, Chinese behavior on what happens to private investment in what is still a huge government sector of the Chinese economy, these are the kinds of issues that we need to understand better. That's why I think the trilateral dialogue is very important.

QUESTION: And this is a useful lead-in to, from your perspective, I guess, to Hu Jintao's visit here in April.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, absolutely. And we will have a chance to consult and I think that'll be very good. I might just say too that even though Australia is not a part of the six-party talks on North Korea, Australia is, of course, a stalwart member of the Proliferation Security Initiative, a stalwart member of the nonproliferation community, and has been very helpful in insisting on North Korean compliance with its obligations.

QUESTION: You may know that President Yudhoyono has made an official visit to Washington, D.C. and also, President Megawati Sukarnoputri. And my question is, why it so happen long time president who is not visit? Is this because of the priority to -- with meeting of Indonesia is different with South Asia or Japan is to become more priority than Indonesia?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, no. I think Asia is a very big priority for the United States. I might just mention that not only was President Yudhoyono here, but he was, of course -- we, of course, met at APEC as well. The President met him at APEC, and yes, President Megawati was here as well.

I think you'll see more Indonesian visits here because Indonesia is among the countries that is emerging from a period in which -- an authoritarian past, an economy that is beginning to grow, that is beginning to attract private investment again, a country that has counterterrorism challenges, but a really vibrant country, that I think its democracy is going to be very successful and very strong at meeting the kind of challenges with it, and it plays a fundamentally important role in Southeast Asia. When you go to Southeast Asia, to Thailand, as I was in Thailand, or in Singapore where I was there with the President, there's a very clear understanding that Indonesia is by far the largest country in the region, that what happens in Indonesia will have a huge impact on what happens in Southeast Asia.

QUESTION: Is he planning for this year to visit Indonesia?

SECRETARY RICE: For the President to visit Indonesia? Well, he was in Bali not too long ago.

QUESTION: Yes, long time.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah -- well, it was the year he was actually running for office, he took the time to go over to Indonesia. I would hope that he'll be able to make a visit.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more question.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, this is it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Indonesia has just implemented these new government regulations that prohibits foreign broadcast of news programs from foreign countries. Will you raise concern about this? Do you think this is against the freedom of the press or freedom of information?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we'll certainly raise it. I'd like to understand the thinking behind it, because Indonesia has been otherwise very open to the influences, and so I'll certainly raise the issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much. 2006/261

# # #

Released on March 10, 2006

ENDS


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