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Condoleezza Rice Roundtable with Asia Journalists

Roundtable with Asia Print Journalists

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
July 21, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Okay, let's get your questions because I'm afraid we don't have very much time, so --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, because we're going only to have about 20 minutes.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, so I'll just take your questions.

QUESTION: Can I start?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, with the turmoil in the Middle East, I'm just wondering if your travel plans to Asia is changed. And if you're still going to Kuala Lumpur, what are your hopes for the ASEAN post-ministerial meeting?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, I am still planning to go to Kuala Lumpur. I will start in the Middle East and then go to Kuala Lumpur from the Middle East. I really hope to achieve three things at ASEAN. First of all, this is a very important set of relationships for us. We have a very good relationship with ASEAN. It's one we've tried to deepen and make more concrete over the last several years. The President himself has put a lot of effort into ASEAN. And so going to the Asian Regional Forum gives me an opportunity to continue this process of deepening the ties with ASEAN. The Asia-Pacific region and Southeast Asia are places that are developing and evolving and changing very rapidly, so it's good to have these fora in which we can talk about all of the changes that are taking place.

Secondly, I would hope that we will have an opportunity to talk about some of the security challenges that we face, counterterrorism, counterproliferation. I expect to talk to some of my colleagues about the North Korea issue -- we got a very good Security Council resolution -- and to follow that up.

And then finally, on the Middle East, there are a number of countries that will be there that have very great interest in what is going on and among them, Malaysia, which, of course, chairs the Non-Aligned Movement, has been -- is a member of the OIC. Indonesia will be there, other countries that have very important interests in the Middle East. And so I would hope to have an opportunity to talk to those colleagues as well.

QUESTION: May I ask a question about China-U.S. relations? I see Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the U.S. in April and General Guo Boxiong, Vice Chairman on China's Central Military Commission, is visiting the U.S. now and you also had talks with him. What do you think such high-level visits will help promote better relations?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, and President Hu and President Bush just met also at the G-8, so we're having a lot of high-level visits. Yes, I think it will help to promote better and stronger relations. We have a good relationship with China. We don't agree about everything. That's not surprising, given how complex and big the relationship is. We want China to be strong and confident in international politics and to be able to act responsibly on behalf of international security in the way, for instance, that China did in helping us to get a resolution on North Korea.

China is undergoing a major internal transformation as well. And so opportunities to talk about what is going on there, to raise our concerns about issues like human rights and religious freedom, but to do so in a respectful way. But I think that the relationship is really a quite good one. We're putting it to use around the world. China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. And so the work that we do together there is also very important, so as the UN is involved on Iran, on North Korea, potentially even in the Middle East, you have not just U.S.-China relations, but the U.S.-China relationship working to solve problems in international politics.

QUESTION: U.S. has called on China to become a responsible stakeholder. Do you agree that China is becoming a responsible --

SECRETARY RICE: I think China is certainly showing evidence of that. I thought the North Korea example was a good one. We need to make sure that we remain united on Iran, but all that that means is that China, which is a country of growing power and influence, needs to be a concrete and active contributor to the improvement of security and prosperity.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice --

SECRETARY RICE: Let me get these other folks here. Yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea, since it is one of the most difficult issues for this region, I understand North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun is coming to the ARF meeting. Are you prepared to meet with him maybe in the form of six-party or maybe bilateral in the context of the six-party meeting or is it too premature to have a meeting with the North Koreans since they have so many (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: If the North Koreans want to come to six-party talks at any level, I think it would be fine, but we need to do it at six parties. The North Koreans would like to make this an issue between the United States and North Korea, but of course, what the Security Council resolution shows is that this is a problem that North Korea has with the entire international community. And we need to keep that as the focal point, but if we could have a six-party meeting in Kuala Lumpur, I would be very happy to attend.

QUESTION: Let me ask -- I'm from Korea. Let me ask about the inter-Korean cooperation relationship. Do you think that inter-Korean cooperations between North and South Korea and massive aids from South Korea, which include economic investment to North Korea from South Korea have been the obstacles in containing North Korea from the developing weapons of mass destruction? And what kind of policies do you want South Korean Government to implement to stop development and the proliferation of WMD by North Korea?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, South Korea is one of the parties to the six-party talks and we actually have a framework agreement from September that forms the basis of what all states would be obligated to do. And so I would start there. We recognize the importance of the inter-Korean dialogue to the Korean -- South Korean people. We recognize that North Korea is South Korea's neighbor and that there are concerns about how that neighbor -- we would just hope that the -- any contacts with North Korea are aimed at getting North Korea to behave in a way that is responsible.

North Korea is a completely irresponsible state and dangerous. And when you look at them testing missiles, not telling anybody they're firing them in all different directions and they're saying that they have a nuclear weapons capability, that's a very dangerous -- that they could make those together is very dangerous. And so we're asking all of our partners to use whatever contacts they have and whatever leverage they have with North Korea to get the North Koreans to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Because it is in no one's interest to have a nuclear North Korea. That's what the six-party talks are about, that's what the UN Security Council resolution on the missile launch was about.

And so I would not presume to tell the South Korean Government how to exercise its leverage with North -- with the North. But people do need to use their leverage...

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.


QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the Korean Government's position on UN Security Council resolution and they -- during the making of this resolution and after the resolution was unanimously adopted?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, certainly, after the resolution, the South Korean Government has been very supportive and I think we have to look at what next steps we will need to take if North Korea is not going to adhere to its obligations under the resolution. I think there was a lot of talk before the resolution by a lot of countries and perhaps it wasn't so helpful in really trying to get the resolution. But we got the resolution and we are all in agreement going forward.


QUESTION: I'm from Vietnam. Relation between Vietnam and the United States is improving very fast.


QUESTION: Somebody called this the entering the final step of normalization. Our Premier visit the United States last year. Mr. Rumsfeld visit Vietnam last month.


QUESTION: And President Bush will visit Vietnam later this year.


QUESTION: And PNTR is going to be approved by U.S. Congress for Vietnam.


QUESTION: And what are your comment about Vietnam-U.S. relations now and in the future?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. I do think U.S.-Vietnamese relations are improving very rapidly. Vietnam is making very important decisions, particularly about economic reform, that will -- that make PNTR possible; that we would hope would make Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organization possible. It's, in many ways, a quite remarkable story how our relations are evolving. We continue to have concerns about internal evolution in Vietnam, for instance, religious freedom. But these are discussions that we can engage in and can have honest discussions. I know the President is very much looking forward to going to Vietnam. I want very much to go to Vietnam.

My trip to Southeast Asia is a little constrained this time because of the crisis in the Middle East, but I know that Secretary Rumsfeld thought his experience there was remarkable and I really look forward to going. The Vietnamese people are known for their tremendous industry, their ability to -- you know, that they're very hardworking and entrepreneurial. We have, of course, Vietnamese Americans who enrich our society. I'm from California, where there are a lot of Vietnamese Americans and we have a good future together, a very good future.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, may I ask -- go back to the Middle East.


QUESTION: Yes. There is going to be a big, I guess, protest, demonstration in Malaysia because of this -- what's happening in Lebanon. What steps is the U.S. going to take to reduce, at least to reduce the civilian casualties in the destruction of Lebanon and the fragile government in Lebanon?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, first, we have to remember how this started. This started because Hezbollah, without the knowledge of the Lebanese Government, launched attacks against -- first abducted two Israeli soldiers and then launched rocket attacks and then, by the way, in doing so, violated all kinds of obligations, international obligations and as well, it's really the obligations of being a part of the government. There are Hezbollah ministers in the Lebanese Government. So we are -- certainly want to see an end to the violence, but we have to have an end to the violence that is likely to be sustainable. And that means that you have to deal with the underlying problem of extremism. So we will look for a political framework in which to do that.

We also are doing a great deal in terms of humanitarian assistance. We have worked with others to get the Israelis to open up humanitarian corridors. They want very much to be responsive to the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese people. We are, of course, also urging the Israelis to have restraint in their military operations to try to avoid civilian -- innocent civilian casualties, trying to avoid civilian infrastructure. And we want to be as supportive as possible of a Siniora Government, because it's a good government. And so I'm going out to the Middle East. I'm going to work with partners to see if we can create conditions for a doable ceasefire and that's my plan.

MR. MCCORMACK: And I think we have time for maybe one more.


QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has been -- submitted his resignation. Who will take his place?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm working on it. I know that in China, it was well-known that Bob had a special interest and was often in China. We will make certain that the next person also has a special interest in Asia and --

QUESTION: I'm sure that he'll be a China expert.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, not a China -- Bob was not a China expert; Bob just had a very -- he recognized the importance of the region. And I think anybody who becomes Deputy will recognize the importance of the region.

QUESTION: Can I ask a very short question?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, sure, of course.

QUESTION: As you may know, the South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs decided to run for Secretary General in the United Nations.


QUESTION: I would like to know, could you tell me what is United States position on the election?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have not taken a position on the election. We want to have a candidate who is going to be committed to reform. That's probably most important to us, because the UN is a very important institution, but it needs reform. I know Ban Ki-Moon personally, of course. He's the Foreign Minister. He's a very good man and I'm sure that his candidacy is going to be very well considered and people will look very carefully, because he is a very good man. But we have not yet made a determination on who we will support.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a follow up.

SECRETARY RICE: Got to go, you get one extra, okay.

QUESTION: Japan is very hard to get the UN resolution.


QUESTION: How do you see Japan -- how do you advise Japanese --

SECRETARY RICE: I think Japan did a really excellent job in putting this on the agenda, on working with the parties on finding a means that everybody could vote for what was a very strong resolution, a binding resolution. And I was very impressed with Japanese diplomacy.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: You haven't told us where you're going to the Middle East.

SECRETARY RICE: I'm going to Israel.

QUESTION: To Israel?


QUESTION: That's it?


MR. MCCORMACK: Israel and the West Bank and then Rome for a Middle East meeting.

SECRETARY RICE: The West Bank and then I'm going to Rome for a meeting on the Middle East.

QUESTION: Okay. And you'll be in Kuala Lumpur on the 27th itself?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I guess that's right. I think that's right, yes. Okay. Thank you. Bye-bye.


Released on July 23, 2006


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