Remarks After Her Meeting With Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi

Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
March 11, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. I’ve just had a very productive meeting and luncheon with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang on a broad range of issues of mutual concern. As I said during my recent visit to Beijing, this is a very important relationship to both of our countries, and the United States intends to work together with China to build a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship, and to work together with China to address common challenges and seize common opportunities.

Minister Yang and I spent time laying the groundwork for the first meeting between our two presidents, which will take place at the London G-20 summit in April. We also consulted on preparations for the summit itself, and Minister Yang is heading over to see Secretary Geithner to continue that conversation.

The United States and China have a joint responsibility to help ensure that the summit yields tangible progress and concrete action steps toward a coordinated global response to stabilize the world’s economy and to begin a recovery.

We also covered a range of shared security challenges, including our efforts to achieve a denuclearized North Korea, to promote stability and progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to address the challenges posed by Iran. We talked about how we could work together to address the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and stem the suffering of more than 1.4 million people who have been put at risk by the actions of the Bashir government.

On climate change and clean energy, we discussed the upcoming meeting between our special envoy for climate change and his Chinese counterpart.

Now, Minister Yang and I also spoke about areas where we do not agree, including human rights and Tibet. The promotion of human rights, as I have said many times before, is an essential aspect of American global foreign policy. It is part of our use and definition of smart power. And it’s essential in an era where we are emphasizing diplomacy and development.

It has been a core belief of ours that every nation must not only live by, but help shape global rules that will determine whether people enjoy the right to live freely and participate to the fullest in their societies. Indeed, our own country must continually strive to live up to our own ideals.

Our bilateral relationships cover a broad range of issues, but we make clear to all nations, including China, that a mutual and collective commitment to human rights is important to bettering our world as our efforts on security, global economics, energy, climate change, and other pressing issues. With that in mind, Foreign Minister Yang and I discussed the resumption of the human rights dialogue between our two countries. While we may disagree on these issues, open discussions will continue to be a key part of our approach. And human rights is part of our comprehensive agenda.

I also raised our concerns about the recent incident involving the U.S. Navy ship Impeccable and the PRC vessels in the South China Sea. We both agreed that we should work to ensure that such incidents do not happen again in the future.

There is no doubt that world events have given the United States and China a full and formidable agenda. And the United States is committed to pursuing a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China, one that we believe is important for the future peace, progress, and prosperity not only for both of our countries, but indeed for the entire world.

And I’ll be happy to take some questions.

MR. WOOD: First one to Arshad.

SECRETARY CLINTON: How are you, Arshad?

QUESTION: Good, thanks. Secretary Clinton, on the Impeccable, do you continue to believe that the U.S. ship was in the right, was in international waters, and was harassed by the Chinese vessels? And do you think that with your agreement to try to avoid these things in the future that the case is now closed, or this is going to be a continued irritant in the relationship?

And on the G-20 preparations, do you think that China has done enough to stimulate its economy? And how do you answer the view that, given how heavily indebted the United States is, particularly to China, that you don’t have that much leverage over them on these matters?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Very comprehensive questions. (Laughter.) With respect to the Impeccable, we have each stated our positions. But the important point of agreement coming out of my discussions with Minister Yang is that we must work hard in the future to avoid such incidents, and to avoid this particular incident having consequences that are unforeseen. And I appreciate the agreement that Minister Yang and I hold on this matter.

With respect to the G-20, the important outcome of the G-20 is a recognition and agreement among the countries participating as to the steps that we must take individually and collectively to stimulate a global recovery by stimulating demand and making investments that will bear fruit as quickly as possible. I think that the significant stimulus that the Chinese have already committed to is a very positive step.

There are a number of issues related to the outcome in London that will have to be worked through between not only our two countries but all of the countries participating. And there’s a lot of hard work to do between now and the summit in London. But there is a great commitment and willingness on the part of both our government and the Chinese Government to play productive and constructive roles in helping to move the world toward this recovery that will be essential not only to get jobs growing again, but also to alleviate the suffering of the poorest people in the world who will bear the brunt of a stalled or falling economy.

You know, we each come to this with different strengths and weaknesses. We are still the largest economy in the world. We are a flexible, agile, incredibly dynamic economy. I have no doubt about our capacity to recover. It’s not going to be easy and it, you know, will take some time, but I am absolutely confident. I think the Chinese are equally committed to stimulating growth, to being able to help push the global economic agenda as well.

Obviously, we will have difficulties in dealing with the economic challenges we face. For China, they’re an export-driven country; they need consumers to buy those exports. For us, going into deficits to the extent we must in order to put in place our recovery plan is something we’re going to have to deal with; we can’t just ignore it, even though it may be necessary now. So you know, we bring different strengths to the table that we’re trying to utilize on behalf of global growth now, and then we’ll have to deal, as you always do, with the consequences of the actions we’re taking now.

MODERATOR: Next question will be Kirit Radia from ABC News.

QUESTION: Hi, Madame Secretary. I’d like to pick up on your comments on human rights. You’ve been criticized by human rights groups, and most recently The Washington Post editorial page just yesterday, for pulling your punches on human rights in China, especially leading up to this meeting today. Despite that criticism, do you still stand by your position that human rights should take – should not take a back seat to economic and environmental concerns, get in the way of your agenda there? What explicitly did you ask the foreign minister to do today with regard to human rights in China and in Tibet, and what do you plan on asking them during this upcoming dialogue? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, human rights is part of our comprehensive dialogue. It doesn't take a front seat or a back seat or a middle seat; it is part of the broad range of issues that we are discussing. But it is important to try to create a platform for actually seeing results from our human rights engagement. It’s also important, as I said in my remarks, that, you know, that the United States live up to our own ideals, something that sets us apart as an exemplar of human rights. So the Obama Administration is absolutely committed to a robust, comprehensive human rights agenda. We’re going to look for ways where we can be effective, where we can actually produce outcomes that will matter in the lives of people who are struggling for their rights to be full participants in their societies.

So I think that there is no doubt about our commitment. We’re exploring different ways of being effective in delivering on that commitment, and whether it’s with China or any other nation, we’re going to continue to look for opportunities to not just talk about human rights, but actually to try to advance the agenda on human rights.

Later this afternoon, I’ll be giving awards to some extraordinarily courageous women who have stood up in their own countries against human rights abuses. We’re supporting them. We’re supporting their efforts, their organizations within their countries, to not only demonstrate the importance of human rights, but to actually make changes that will benefit the people that they are fighting for. So there are many ways that we’re going to pursue a human rights agenda.

MR. WOOD: I think we have a question from (inaudible). Please.

QUESTION: You mentioned the denuclearization of – in North Korea. And yesterday, Stephen Bosworth came back and you talked with him about his trip. My question is, what did you talk about with him yesterday, and did you talk about with foreign minister of China today, in case of a possible launch of a missile by North Korea? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Ambassador Bosworth gave me a full report about his productive meetings in Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing. As you know, he was not invited to go to North Korea, which we regret. He was prepared to go on a moment’s notice to begin discussions with the North Koreans.

As I have been doing with all of our Six-Party partners – I did it last Friday night in Geneva, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, again today with Foreign Minister Yang – we believe in the Six-Party Talks, and we believe in the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. We are committed to that. We would like to see the Six-Party Talks resume at the earliest possible moment. We are outspoken in our opposition to the North Korean’s missile launch, and we believe that that is a unified position, and that each of the members of the Six-Party Talks have attempted to dissuade North Korea from proceeding.

And we are also agreed that we will discuss a response if we are not successful in convincing them not to go forward with what is a very provocative act. And there are a range of options available to take action against the North Koreans in the wake of the missile launch, if they pursue that, but also to try to resume the Six-Party Talks. Let’s not confuse the two.

The goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula remains a paramount goal, and the Six-Party Talks framework should be restarted so that we can begin to work on that.

We need to have a conversation about missile – missiles, and it’s not – it wasn’t in the Six-Party Talks. We would like to see it be part of the discussion with North Korea. But most importantly, we would like to see North Korea evidence in some way their willingness to re-engage with all of us and to work together on the agenda that they agreed to in the Six-Party Talks. And that’s what we’re working for.

Thank – oh, are you waiting?

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, may I just –

MR. WOOD: We can take one last question (inaudible). One last quick question, please.

QUESTION: Mike Lavallee from TBS.


QUESTION: Hi. Madame Secretary, I just kind of wanted to follow up on your – what you said about North Korea just now. First, with the Chinese minister, they see it a little bit differently than we do, whether it’s violating UN Resolution 1718, if they – launching for a satellite launch. And I was just wondering if you were able to get any headway about agreement on that with Minister Yang.

And secondly, it seemed like you were just saying now that even if they go ahead with a missile launch, that there still may be the possibility of continuing on with the Six-Party Talks. So I was just wondering if – is that the feeling, that they are completely separate issues and that we would be able to continue with Six Party even if there is a missile launch?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we won’t know until it happens. What we are trying to do is to restart the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible. We think that’s in everyone’s interest to do so, to continue the disablement of the nuclear facilities, to work toward the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. We believe that the missile launch, for whatever purpose it is stated to be aimed at, is in violation of the Security Council resolution.

I think that our partners in the Six-Party Talks are concerned about the missile launch. They are willing to address it if it does happen with us in a variety of ways, including the Security Council. But I don’t want to, you know, talk about hypotheticals. We are still working to try to dissuade the North Koreans. But it is important to recognize that the North Koreans entered into obligations regarding denuclearization that we intend to try to hold them to. And that is something we’re going to do regardless of what happens with their – with what they may or may not launch in the future.

These Six-Party Talks are the vehicle that we have, which have proved – which has proven to be effective, which did set forth a set of obligations which the North Koreans agreed to. And we would like to get back to those and begin discussions as soon as it would be feasible, and we’re pushing that right now.

Thank you all very much.

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PRN: 2009/207