North Korea: Engaging in More Bilaterals and the Six-Party Talks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Interview With Yoichi Funabashi and Yoichi Kato of Asahi Shimbun
Tokyo, Japan
February 17, 2009

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much. We really appreciate your sharing your precious time with us. Our first question is about North Korea. What would you say the biggest difference between your Administration’s policy towards North Korea, particularly North Korean nuclear issue, and the previous administration’s policy towards North Korea.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the previous administration’s policy changed, as you know, over time. And I think the ending policy – that we had to engage in the Six-Party Talks and even bilaterally with North Korea – is where they should have started, because I think that is exactly what we must do, and that we have to work closely with the other partners, particularly Japan and South Korea, and engage with China and Russia to bring influence to bear on North Korea to convince them that their pursuit of nuclear weapons is not acceptable and carries costs that are going to be quite high.

So we start from the premise that the Six-Party Talks are a good forum, and we will be appointing a successor envoy to Secretary Hill and engaging as broadly as we possibly can while trying to speak directly to the North Korean people and to the others in the government who are jockeying for position that there are benefits that they would obtain if they began to cooperate.

QUESTION: How do you put that – the human rights issues in this context, in this approach, then?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I believe that the agenda for the Six-Party Talks is a comprehensive one, denuclearizing in a verifiable and complete way, dealing with their missiles, and the human rights agenda, which includes the abductees.

QUESTION: I see. On China, there have been various concerns about China’s military buildup in the region, and particularly the nuclear buildup. Since you have started to talk about, you know, the initiation – re-initiation of START and also desired ratification CTBT, how do you put that – China’s nuclear buildup in this context?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s an excellent question, and it is one of the issues I intend to discuss with the Chinese about the possibility of their becoming more involved in nonproliferation and arms control, as the Russians historically have been. China has a role that is important for them to play, and I hope that there will be an opportunity for us to begin negotiating on some of those issues.

QUESTION: I see. So you are trying to initiate a bilateral negotiation? Is the process to discuss about this issue between the U.S. and China in the coming months and years?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. It will be a discussion that can very well lead to some process.

QUESTION: I see. The U.S.-China-Japan – there have – some voices arguing for starting that new process among those three countries because, particularly on the global issues, there have emerged so much overlapping interests and concerns. And perhaps it is the right time for those three countries to get together to at least consult each other with those mutual interests and concerns. Do you agree to that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s an idea worth exploring. Certainly, Japan and China and the United States have a lot of concerns in common. As you know, China and Japan both have historically exported a lot of goods to the United States. In this economic crisis, they’re both confronting some difficult decisions. The United States has a great desire in creating a cooperative relationship among China, Japan, and ourselves. So we will be asking both countries if there are such opportunities for a trilateral dialogue that we could perhaps look forward to.

QUESTION: Would it possibly include trilateral summits?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is one of these ideas that is just being born, so I think we have to see whether we can create a format that is acceptable to all three countries.

QUESTION: Specifically, in what way do you think that those three countries really should promote mutual understanding and explore the common approach with regard to the global warming, climate change issue?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that’s a perfect example. Japan is further advanced than the United States and China in energy efficiency and clean energy technology. So creating a partnership among the three of us would benefit China and the United States, and economically benefit Japan. I think that helping China understand ways that it can lower emissions without undermining their economic growth, which is their big fear – you know, they look at Japan, how advanced Japan is. They look at the United States and they say, well, you know, we have a right to develop and give our people a higher standard of living. Well, they do. But it would be far better if they did so in a way that limited emissions and led to clean energy uses. Japan has so much to offer to China on that front. And we have partnerships that we can offer as well. So I think that’s a perfect example for the kind of trilateral discussion that you referred to.

MR. WOOD: We have time for two more questions.

QUESTION: Two more questions. Thank you very much. Your predecessor, Secretary Rice, skipped twice in attending the ARF, ASEAN Regional Forum, due to, perhaps, some good reasons. But the East Asian – Southeast Asian country, the officials – politicians were a bit disappointed with the lack of presence on the part of the United States. What is your view of the United States presence and commitment to Southeast Asian countries, particularly regional (inaudible) there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s an important part of our global strategy to be involved with organizations like ASEAN. I certainly intend, whenever possible, to be at the regional meetings where the United States is invited to participate. And I hope that we can create even closer cooperation between the United States and the ASEAN countries.

QUESTION: Are you planning to also participate in East Asian summit for United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That I’m not as familiar with, so I will have to look at that. I know the timing on the ASEAN summit. I don’t know the timing on the East Asian summit.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, this is my last question. As you know, the Japanese politics has been disarray and this sort of political immobility in Japan actually has already hampered the Japanese Government from pursuing otherwise more perhaps dynamic, more forthcoming approaches and postures. Do you think that this problem already has actually given you some troubles, at least some constraints for you to explore that, you know, common approach with Japan?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t believe so. Of course, it is up to the Japanese people to determine their own political leadership. But I think that our alliance and partnership is durable, and it continues no matter who’s in the White House in Washington, and it continues no matter who is in charge here in Tokyo. And I want to underscore that, because as important as my ministerial meetings are, and I had excellent meetings today with the foreign minister and the defense minister, and I’m looking forward to my dinner with the prime minister, the people of Japan and the people of the United States have a close relationship. We have so many values in common. We have a view about how, you know, it’s possible to improve life for everyone by working together and having economic growth and prosperity. So I see our relationship as being very fundamental, and we look forward to working with whomever the people of Japan choose as their leaders.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much.


QUESTION: Just one question for me, sir. –


QUESTION: We are looking forward to welcoming new ambassador to Japan. And I understand Dr. Nye is a leading candidate. When is it – do you think it’s going to be finalized and announced?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I cannot speak to that. That is a decision that is still being made. But as soon as it is made, we will announce it and be very eager to have our new ambassador be here in Tokyo.

QUESTION: It’s going to be Dr. Nye?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I have no comment on that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.

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PRN: 2009/T1-11