Putting the Elements of Smart Power Into Practice

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State, Secretary of State
En Route Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, South Korea
February 19, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we're half way through our trip, and I just wanted to give you a sense of what's next in Korea, and then I think we have time set for tomorrow afternoon to get together to have a conversation as well.

We've had kind of a two-day or two-country experience with what I believe are the elements of smart power, if you look at the many tools for doing both diplomacy and development, and for reaching out beyond government-to-government relations to develop a better connection with people in these countries. Because even authoritarian regimes are interested in public opinion, and in democracies at whatever stage of development, obviously, public opinion and people's attitudes about countries influences the decisions that governments make.

So for me, this is all of a piece. Indonesia was a particularly good example because we did the government-to-government meetings with the Foreign Minister and with the President, as well as the Secretary General of ASEAN. We did the civil society gathering and visited the USAID project and talked with Indonesian journalists in two different settings: the show that's a combination of The Today Show and MTV; and the reporters at the Ambassador's residence.

And I really believe that it's that kind of outreach that we've got to do everywhere. Some settings are more susceptible than others, but there's a real hunger for the United States to be present again. I was so struck when the Secretary General at ASEAN said that he thought that the United States had just been absent. And showing up is not all of life, but it counts for a lot. And especially when you are the most powerful country in the world, if you're not paying attention, people are going to feel like somehow they're not important to you.

And so now, in Korea, we'll be sort of shifting to an emphasis on the security situation. I'll be starting my morning with General Sharp and his Republic of Korean counterpart to talk about the state of the military in South Korea, the plans for moving operational control, the military assessment of the North Korean actions. I'll obviously be speaking about that with the President and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, as well as attending another town hall at Ewha University, which is the largest women's university in the world. And I think we're in one of their small auditoriums, which has like 2,000 people. But it's a setting for more dialogue and another kind of town hall question-and-answer opportunity.

I think this is an especially important time for South Korea as they are confronting a lot of worries about what's up in North Korea, what the succession could be, what it means for them. And they're looking to us to use our best efforts to try to get the agenda of denuclearization and nonproliferation back in gear. So I'll be emphasizing that as we meet with the government leaders.

But let me stop there and just kind of throw it open. And Robert's going to call on people so we don't leave anybody out.

MR. WOOD: Nick, Arshad, and then Glenn.


QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. I actually want to thank you for playing along on that convoluted question last night at ASEAN, but I think – I thought it was important to point out that it's not a Muslim outreach, but it's the whole world.

So I'd like to ask you on the succession issue that you just mentioned in North Korea. How much can you tell us about U.S. plans or contingency plans? I know it's a sensitive issue, but – and God knows the North Koreans don't need another excuse to become even more provocative than they have been in the past weeks. But the people in South Korea, I think, are interested in the matter and would probably want to hear from you on that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, I think that our efforts have to be to number one, rebuild the commitment on the part of the other members of the Six-Party Talks – Japan, Russia, China, as well as South Korea and ourselves – into a united front to, again, deal with the North Koreans. The Six-Party Talks produced some results which we want to build on, but we are still facing the reality of North Korea not only possessing, we believe, some number of nuclear weapons, but showing very little willingness to get back on track.

And – now, some of that is attributed to their own internal situation, which I will discuss with the South Koreans. But I think our goal is to try to come up with a strategy that is effective in influencing the behavior of the North Koreans at a time when the whole leadership situation is somewhat unclear. So you add to the already difficult challenge of working with the North Koreans, the uncertainties that come from questions about potential succession. This is a difficult undertaking, but we are committed to it and we're going to be engaged in it, and I'm looking to guidance from both South Korea and then later in China about the best way to proceed.

MR. WOOD: Arshad.

QUESTION: Can you sketch out for us or can you flesh out at all how you think it may be possible to move the North Koreans, and whether, in particular, you're going to be asking China to exert some of their influence or put more pressure on the North Koreans despite the uncertainty about their leadership?

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, Arshad, I will better be able to answer that after my meetings in Seoul and Beijing, because I want to hear directly from both the South Koreans and the Chinese about what they think the next steps are.

We obviously have some ideas, but we do want this to be shared responsibility. We take a great deal of responsibility because of our alliance relationships with Japan and with South Korea because of our troops in both countries. But you know, North Korea is on China's border, and I want to understand better what the Chinese believe is doable. Chris Hill, who is with us, went to Beijing before he joined me in Japan to begin those conversations. So I'll have a better sense of it after I speak with them.

MR. WOOD: Glenn, and then Mark.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. In terms of getting the Six-Party Talks back on track, are you considering adding discussions about North Korea's ballistic missile programs, you know, perhaps as, like, another working group as part of the Six-Party Talks? And then also, isn't China, South Korea and the United States beginning, as part of a trilateral dialogue, a discussion of the potential succession issues in North Korea?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Glenn, I think that the ballistic missile discussion has to be pursued. Whether it's pursued as part of the Six-Party Talks, as an adjunct, or as a separate track is something I want to work through with our counterparts. But obviously, with the attention being paid to the potential launching by the North Koreans, this is, in and of itself, a matter of great concern. So it is something that's on my agenda, again, to try to figure out what is the most attractive option for the others as to how to proceed.

There was talk about including the ballistic missile track in the past that didn't come to pass, and I think that there is a pressing need for us to figure out how we're going to engage on that. Now that doesn't mean the North Koreans are going to engage, but we at least have to get our own position in agreement so that we can approach the North Koreans. And the conversations about the North Koreans go on all the time. I mean, everybody is trying to read the tea leaves as to what's happening and what's likely to occur.

And there is a lot of guessing going on, but there's also an increasing amount of pressure because if there is a succession, even if it's a peaceful succession, that creates more uncertainty and it also may encourage behaviors that are even more provocative as a way to consolidate power within the society. So we will spend a lot of time – I will – trying to determine from the South Koreans and the Chinese what their information is. Because obviously, they have a lot of sources that they can share with us, so we're going to have to try to feel our way forward here.

MR. WOOD: Mark Landler.

QUESTION: Two questions, a bit unrelated if that's okay. The first is, since we last spoke to you about the question of highly enriched uranium, there have been these reports in the South Korean news media about a uranium enrichment facility potentially being near Yongbyon, and I wonder whether you could comment, whether you have any sense that there's anything to these reports. That's the first question.

The second question is an economic one. We're flying between two countries that were both badly hurt by the Asian financial crisis. And at the time, the U.S. remedy for them was very much to emulate the U.S. – deregulation, rule of law, and an embrace of the free market. Now, both of these countries, but particularly Korea, are suffering collateral damage from our own economic crisis. So the question is: What message can you give the Koreans this time around? Is it possible this time to say, "You need to emulate us," or do we need to acknowledge that that may not be the right idea?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mark, on the highly enriched uranium, we're always on the lookout for what the North Koreans might be doing, and it is a matter of ongoing concern. But the point that I made the other day, and that I underscore, is we know for sure that they've reprocessed plutonium and produced fissile material. That is of grave concern. And there's been such a concern on the part of some about the highly enriched uranium program that I worry that they're straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. I mean, let's focus on what they've done and how much easier it is to reprocess plutonium.

Obviously, we're concerned, and as we move forward in the Six-Party Talks, if we were ever at the point where we could create a verifiable and complete agreement, it would clearly include highly enriched uranium. And the inspectors and the other means for testing would be charged with determining what, if anything, did exist.

With respect to the economy Korea will be going to the G-20 in London. And I think it's very important that the G-20 nations come out of that meeting with some agreed upon framework that they intend to pursue. Some countries have a larger load to carry than others, namely the United States, and that's why President Obama is working so hard to get the stimulus package passed, to get the housing proposal out there, to demonstrate that we're not just pulling our weight, but leading the way in what we think is the best approach to global recovery.

There may be internal national considerations that any country has to look at. But trying to figure out how to fence off and eliminate toxic assets from your banking system to get credit moving again, to clean up any other kind of overhang, whether it be a housing crisis or other challenge to your economic well-being, individual countries are going to have to do that. But there needs to be a global framework, and that's what we hope will be hammered out at the G-20. And in this instance, it's not the United States saying to somebody else, "You go do like we do." It's us saying, "Here's what we're doing to clean up our own mess." And we think this is an important moment for us all to act to do what we can.

Now, take Indonesia. We just left there. They're still projecting a positive growth rate of about 4.5 percent, which is pretty impressive given where the contracting economies in the region are. But they're worried that failure to act or other problems internationally can cut the legs out from under them and cause them to become much more economically unstable. So I think it's really important that this G-20 meeting come out with specific action items so that people know what the direction is that we're going to pursue.

MR. WOOD: One last question. Andrea.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, following up on Mark, in your visit so far, to what extent have you found that our economic crisis has affected perceptions of American credibility and American leadership? And in the coming months and years, do you feel that you need to address beyond the traditional mechanisms of public diplomacy, which many would argue have really failed in the last – certainly in the last eight years- but you have to come up with new ways of perhaps what you're doing now in going beyond government -but new ways to assert American leadership and restore respect for America abroad? You know, how damaged are we, and how much anger do you feel out there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that people around the world are bewildered by what is happening. And there is a certain expectation that the United States, with our large, resilient economy, can recover and lead the way for the rest of the world to recover, and that's why we're working so hard to turn that expectation into a reality.

Some people are very critical of the problems that we had. The economic crisis hit us first and hit us very hard. But to some extent, we have more resilience than other economies do. P people are still buying treasury bonds, even though they don't have any return to speak of. And so everyone who's investing in the American economy may be making the best bet they can on what they think the future holds.

But it's really important that we do everything within our power to demonstrate that people should have faith and confidence in our decision making. And that's one of the reasons the President worked so hard to get the stimulus package passed, so that we could begin to get our recovery moving.

So I think right now, people are just more nervous and scared. I just off the phone with Prime Minister Rudd in Australia and he is one of many voices saying we've really got to come together around this G-20 Summit and make sure we've got a positive program. And I think it's incumbent upon the United States to do everything we can to lead the way there, and that's what we're trying to do.


QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. On this smart power issue, I was really struck by the appearance on "Awesome" and the civil society dinner and the town hall in Tokyo. And in a lot of these places, you're being greeted as, you know, they love you, it's effusive.

I'm wondering to what extent, though, is it preaching to the converted? With these civil society people, with the journalists who went to Emerson, these are people who are already predisposed to be pro-American. So to what extent is your smart power message getting out to those people in Indonesia or in Tokyo, who aren't in the room and who don't already love the United States and you personally?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Indira, I think that every one of those events had a much broader audience. Obviously, the Tokyo town hall was on Tokyo television. The program this morning is one of the most popular programs in Indonesia. And so everything that I do, which does connect with people who are receptive has ripple effects. And Andrea said something about public diplomacy. We haven't done a very good job. And we have such a great story to tell about who we are as Americans and what we believe in and our desire to help other people be empowered.

Some of you walked through that neighborhood with me, I mean the United States aid programs, paid for by American taxpayers, are hooking people up to clean water, for example. And it's the kind of incremental change that if properly explained and highlighted, can give meaning to what America is to people who may have no opinion or a slightly negative opinion. We are in a struggle over ideas. And one of the points that the civil society people were making to me last night is that Indonesia is going to turn into a real battleground for the future of democracy and Islam and women's rights. And we need to be there. We need to be supporting the forces within Indonesia who care deeply about all of those values.

And I think our failure to engage on that level going back years, partly because we didn't realize it was going on right underneath our noses, and then when we did, we didn't exactly connect with the right messages for people in a way that they accepted. So we've got a lot of work to do. I mean, I have no illusions about how high a hill we have to climb here to inspire confidence and respect in people's minds again.

But I have found that in not only my personal encounters, but in every public research survey I've ever read that anybody's ever done, that people still really want to like America and they want to know what we're doing and what we stand for.

And take Indonesia; because of the war in Iraq and some other things, the attitude of people in Indonesia toward the United States was very negative. And then the tsunami hit, and we helped. You know, the United States showed up. The Navy showed up with supplies. President Bush sent my husband and his father, and they were visibly there, and then Bill went back time and again. And all of a sudden, people said, "Oh, well, they don't need to do this, but here they are, they're helping." And favorability toward the United States went up.

I mean, in Africa, in some of the sub-Saharan countries, where the favorability toward the United States has remained high, it's because of President Bush's PEPFAR program, that "the United States is here to actually do something good for us." So this to me is what diplomacy is about, because it doesn't just operate, as I said, government-to-government; it operates people-to-people. And when every single person that I met with said to me they wanted more student exchanges so that Indonesian students could study in the United States, or the President would say, "I studied in the United States, "or the Secretary General of ASEAN said, "I was an AFS student," – you know, for a lot of people those were transformative events. And we kind of cut back on that and we made it very difficult for people to get visas after 9/11, and so instead of coming to the United States, ambitious students went elsewhere.

So we have to rethink this and try to get back on the track of reaching out and being inclusive and giving more people a chance to see who we are.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. If we could just go back to Pakistan, which you said you didn't have enough information the other day about the Islamic law in the Swat Valley, and if you've gotten more information, if the confusion's gone, and what you think of that?

And also, Afghanistan. And you say people really want to like America. In Afghanistan, ABC did a poll recently – I know the military has as well – looking at how people feel about Afghanistan now who live there – I mean, about Americans who live there, and their opinions have really plummeted. And one major reason is because the U.S. hasn't been able to deliver aid or build on its promises. Obviously, security is huge as well. Talk a little bit, if you will, about what you can do differently. The President ordered more troops there yesterday, but it's not just a military mission. Are you satisfied with the State Department role? What can you do, how can you change it, how can you make the aid there really work? And the Pakistan question.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we're doing a policy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I'm not going to preview it. But I can guarantee you that we're looking at every single one of those questions. We did have the President order 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but that's only a part of what the eventual strategy will be. And it is important that we understand how we have to build – rebuild our position and our credibility, and figure out to produce results for people. But we hope to have that review done by the end of March, and we'll have more to say about it when it is done.

With respect to Pakistan, our Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and others are working with the Government in Pakistan to understand exactly what they intend with their recent announcement and how we're supposed to interpret it. So I don't want to say something that might not be particularly useful until we have a clearer idea.

But I'll just circle back and end with this: Part of the reason we're having an Afghanistan-Pakistan review – and we've worked very hard to get our allies on board and looking at both countries, not just at Afghanistan, which took some discussion – is because we see them as interconnected. And any decision in one affects our prospects and the prospects of peace and stability in the other, so we are very aware of the fact that we have to look at both of them. And we've asked that both countries contribute ideas and personnel to our policy review, because we want them to be part of what our eventual strategic assessment is going to be. And they've both agreed to do that. So I don't want to say anything other than that at this moment.

Thank you. Thank you.

QUESTION: Is there any way to get one in on North Korea (inaudible)? Basically, are you going with any idea of defusing the tensions that exist right now? Is that important to (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you know, defusing the tension between North and South Korea is always important, because we don't want it to spiral up. So I will talk with the South Koreans about how we can try to rein in the unhelpful comments from the North Koreans, or at least not respond to them, not take the bait, so to speak.

But this is a pattern. You can go back and chart it. And we're in one of those periods where there's a lot of threatening talk coming from the North, and we just have to take it for what it is and try to figure out how we're going to organize ourselves to deal with them going forward.

Okay. Thanks, everybody.

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PRN: 2009/T1-12