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Sec. Rice Gives Local Print Roundtable Interview

Secretary Rice Gives Local Print Roundtable Interview

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Hanoi, Vietnam
November 17, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: We'll get started right away then. Who's going to start? This direction? All right, good.

QUESTION: So can we start?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Yes. (Inaudible) the people coming to Vietnam who have heard a lot about our country, but now you are here, so do -- is Vietnam like you imagined?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Vietnam is both like I imagined and not like I imagined. First of all, I've always known that it's very beautiful. I've seen very many pictures of it and the river which is right out here, it's just very pretty. The lake, I should say. A lovely, beautiful country.

I wasn't prepared for how busy the city is. There are people everywhere, even late at night. And it seems that commerce and economic development is just everywhere. So that's very exciting and I think it means that Vietnam has a very great future economically because Vietnam has come a very long way in a very short period of time. So I was probably not prepared for how modern the economy is here in Vietnam, but I expected the beauty of the city. And also I've enjoyed meeting some people along the way. The Vietnamese people are very friendly. So it's been fun. I wish I could stay longer.

QUESTION: So my question is about how important is Vietnam in the policy of America, the United States, and what do you find are the interests of the United States in Vietnam?

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SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that Vietnam is important to us bilaterally and regionally as well. Because Vietnam is a large country within Southeast Asia and with real strong economic potential, I think that the United States is interested in extending and deepening our relations. It's also the case that regionally we have of course very strong relations with ASEAN and our economic relations with ASEAN are very important, our political relations with ASEAN.

I also think that for the United States, a country like Vietnam that is undergoing a major transition, that we want to be a good partner and a good friend for Vietnam. Obviously we are very hopeful and believe strongly that the PNTR will pass for Vietnam and that Vietnam's accession into the WTO will take place.

We're also interested in Vietnam's political evolution. I was pleased to be able to take Vietnam off the list of Countries of Concern about religious freedom because religious freedom is extremely important to a country that is in transition and it's important to the United States because this is a value that we hold very dear. And the person who works for me on religious freedom, Ambassador Hanford, was out here. He talked about the progress that has been made.

Obviously we want to see more progress on political liberalization, on human rights, and I've raised those issues with my Vietnamese counterparts. But as I've said, it's always in a way of respect to talk about an evolution that's taking place. This is a country that's come a very long way in a very short period of time, and we want to be a good partner and a good friend for Vietnam.

QUESTION: Madame, President Bush arrives in Hanoi today. So can you share with us some special aspect of the visit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I know that he's very excited. He's also never been to Vietnam so this will be his first experience. And of course Americans are I think very -- find it remarkable how much our relationship has developed over a really very short period of time. We had a very difficult history between us because of the war and yet here some 30 years later the President of the United States is coming to an APEC summit here in Vietnam. By the way, Vietnam has done a very good of organizing this international conference. It's not easy to have people coming from 20 different countries and all the delegations that have to be dealt with. I was very impressed by the beautiful new conference center that I understand was just completed a couple of months ago. And so Vietnam has done a really fine job of arranging the APEC conference.

And the President is looking forward to the bilateral aspects of the visit as well. We are going to have an opportunity to meet with the Vietnamese leadership later on today and then there's a state banquet tonight where we can enjoy again some of the great Vietnamese cuisine. You may not know, but in the United States Vietnamese food is very popular. I come from Palo Alto, California and there must be at least three or four Vietnamese restaurants just in Palo Alto alone. So we look forward to that banquet. The President will also -- we will go up to Ho Chi Minh City and see the stock exchange as well as some cultural elements.

So I think we are all very supportive of what is a remarkable economic transition that's taking place in Vietnam and we want to be supportive of a political transition too as the Vietnamese people get greater political participation and greater press participation. I'm already told that the parliament is a very lively place where debate is very great and debate is good in societies. People being able to express themselves, these are very good things and we look forward to working with Vietnam as it emerges in that way too.

QUESTION: Madame, how much do you know about Vietnamese young people? As a successful woman, do you have any advice to them?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I met a lot of very nice young women yesterday who were working at the APEC summit who had come out to work for the APEC summit. I think that it is very exciting in a place like Vietnam, I would think, to be a young person because this is obviously a young country. I'm told that the population is very young, that the leadership is trying to make new investments in both higher -- high school education and then in higher education.

I've seen a couple of advertisements for Vietnamese students to study abroad. And if I had one piece of advice, it would be that I would tell students to go and study abroad. It's a really great thing to be able to study outside of your country. I hope some of you will come to America to study. The United States has a wonderful higher education system, lots of foreign students. And I'm a big believer in exchange of students, both students going to the United States and students coming to Vietnam. And this is such an exciting place; I know a lot of American students would like to study here.

The other thing is you all speak English very well. Foreign languages are important. I myself -- Russian is the language that I speak, and some French, but I think that studying foreign languages is very important. And I've seen a lot of evidence that young women here seem to be doing very well. In the meeting that I had yesterday with the Foreign Minister, the Vice Premier, one of the young staff people was a young woman who was the notetaker, and so I assume that in the foreign ministry women are starting to make their way.

So there's no reason to think that there are limited horizons for young women or for young men, but I think that it will be a real benefit these days to study abroad and to study foreign languages.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you are widely respected around the world as the most powerful woman. What do you think about the title and what -- do you have advice to women to be -- to have a better life? What would you say to them?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't put much into most powerful. I think people shouldn't even think that way. (Laughter.) I'm very lucky because I got to study something that I loved and then it ended up being a profession that I loved and it ended up then being a profession that took me all the way to Secretary of State.

But I think my own story says two things to young people in general but also to women in particular. The first is you have to really find something that you love doing. Very often people go into professions because it's supposed to be a profession in which you can make money or it's a profession in which there are jobs.

When I went to college, I was going to be a music major. I was a piano major. And about half way through, I realized that I was pretty good but not good enough to be a great musician, so I took a course in international politics and it was a course about the Soviet Union and somehow I just loved this course about the Soviet Union. Now, there was no reason for me particularly to be interested in the Soviet Union. I'm an African American from Birmingham, Alabama. There was no reason for me to be interested in the Soviet Union, but I just loved it.

And so the first thing to do is to find something that you really love doing, that makes you want to get up every day and go and do that, study that. I'm sure you as young journalists, you feel that way about your journalism.

The second thing is to not let others define what it is you should want to do, because I suspect that if others had defined what I should do it would not have been to study the Soviet Union because that was not what African American women from Birmingham studied. So you have to follow your own mind and not be afraid to study things that may be a little bit unusual, not be afraid to take chances.

The final thing is that I'm not very good at planning my life. There are so many people who have a one-year plan, a five-year plan, a ten-year plan. They know what they're going to be doing when they're 45. I think that's not a very good way to lead your life. You should follow what you're interested in, and if what you're interested in changes then you have to be open to making those changes and then it's amazing how many special opportunities come along if you're not just really focused on exactly what you're going to do for the rest of your life.

QUESTION: I want to know that, ma'am, you are very busy so I'd like to know if you have time to play.



SECRETARY RICE: Yes, I do. I love to play the piano and it's -- even though you work very hard, it's important to have other things in your life too, so I have a lot of family and friends that I spend time with. And then in terms of piano, I try to play at least once a week or so, to practice once a week. And then about once a month on Sunday afternoon I play with a chamber music group, two violinists and a cellist and a violist and we play about once a month. So I do keep up my piano. It's very important to me.

Does anybody play a musical instrument? Do any of you play? No? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: My daughter plays piano.

SECRETARY RICE: Your daughter plays piano?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

SECRETARY RICE: That's great. How old is she?

QUESTION: She's 18 years old.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, fantastic. She's kept playing?

QUESTION: She's at university still and pursuing it.

SECRETARY RICE: That's great.

QUESTION: Secretary, you have dealt with -- you have talked about the difficult history between America and Vietnam. We all know about that and now a lot of things has been done to good (inaudible). However, there still remain a lot of things has not yet been resolved. Here I mean some consequences of the war remain and do not get resolved. So how do you think about that and what your opinion how do you think about how to resolve such very unlikable consequences?

SECRETARY RICE: Consequences, yes. Well, first of all, I think that as our relationship improves, which it is, we can -- we should be able to talk about anything and about concerns of Vietnamese people. There remain concerns of American people about people who are missing in action. There are lots of -- whenever there's a terrible war, there are many aftereffects of the war that have to be dealt with, but I think that we should very clearly talk about them and try to resolve them. I think it will be easier in the context of cooperation that we are developing, the United States and Vietnam.

Ultimately, as Vietnam looks forward, which I can see that it is doing, I think the United States can be a good partner in Vietnam's economic development. I was at the conference center yesterday when someone had a booth and it said, "Doing Business in Vietnam." And I know that American companies very much want to do business in Vietnam. It's become -- I know Intel has a major investment here and I think that will be very important.

But I recognize and I acknowledge that even as we look forward there may be issues from the past. And if there are, I think we should be able to discuss them and resolve them in a context that is now a friendly context.

QUESTION: How much do you know about Vietnamese community in the U.S.?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, actually the Vietnamese community in the United States is very vibrant and very active. There are actually some people who have worked in our government who are from that Vietnamese community and I've worked closely with them. There were many Vietnamese, both Vietnamese American students and even Vietnamese students, at Stanford where I taught.

And I'll tell you, it's interesting. When Hurricane Katrina happened in the South, I was surprised to find a large Vietnamese community in my old home state of Alabama, of all places -- but people who were active in the shrimping industry in Alabama. And I went down, in fact, to a Vietnamese community where there had been considerable damage to try and help after Hurricane Katrina.

So the Vietnamese community in the United States ranges all the way from people who are in professions like the professions of doctors and university professors all the way through to ordinary workers. So it's a broad community in the United States and one that is to be found in parts of the United States that you wouldn't normally think. You would think about California because California has every possible kind of immigrant, but you wouldn't think about Alabama, and yet in Alabama you have a significant Vietnamese community. And my aunt who teaches high school in Birmingham, Alabama has a large number of Vietnamese students. So it's a very vibrant community in the United States. It's very entrepreneurial in the United States. And it's also very widespread; it's in a lot of parts of the United States you wouldn't think of.

QUESTION: Madame, when you are talking about Vietnam with other people in United States, like Mr. President, what would you say?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, he'll get a chance to see for himself, which will be very good. But I think Americans would be surprised at what Vietnam looks like now. Part of it is that Americans don't often come to Southeast Asia. I think it's not a part of the world that we tend to know well. And everybody knows about economic growth in China, for instance. I think there is less knowledge of the vibrancy and the growth of the economy in Vietnam. And as we were saying, in part because of the war, Americans don't have an image of Vietnam that is forward looking. I think that it's therefore really helpful for Americans to come here and to see downtown Hanoi, which is quite remarkable, to see all the shops, to see all the young people.

And I would just say that this is one of the most energetic places that I have been. That's what I would tell Americans. And it's obviously changing very, very rapidly. I also think I've never seen more motor scooters than I have seen on the streets of Vietnam, so obviously people are finding ways to get around. But it would be good for more Americans to come here. I think they would be surprised.

All right, you have the last question.

QUESTION: U.S. State Department importance of ASEAN in the United States and how do you consider the role of Vietnam in (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have been working very closely with ASEAN because as a regional organization I think it is one of the most dynamic economically and politically. There are problems in ASEAN. The problem of Burma is a problem because we do not have good relations obviously with the junta and it's a regime that oppresses its own people. This is a problem within ASEAN.

But the President has met several times with ASEAN heads of state. I've met with ministers and I went to Kuala Lumpur just last -- in July to go to the ASEAN meetings. ASEAN is, as I said, one of the fastest growing sets of economies, one of the most dynamic places, and we've been really trying to broaden and deepen our relations with ASEAN.

But we do more than economic relations. When the bird flu epidemic broke, the potential for a bird flu pandemic broke out, ASEAN was one of the first institutions that we used to try and create some international mechanism for early reporting, for getting technical assistance to countries that might need assistance in dealing with bird flu. And that program has been very successful.

ASEAN has also been active in putting together anti-terrorism measures and technical assistance for anti-terrorism measures. So it's an active organization not just on the economic front but on some common problems as well. And so Vietnam, as one of the most important and one of the larger countries within ASEAN, is one of the anchors then of these relations that we are trying to build and extend with that very important organization.

Thank you very much.



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