Remarks With Thai Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu
MODERATOR: The Honorable Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, and His Excellency, Mr. Korbsak Sabhavasu, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand. We invite His Excellency to give a press statement first. Please.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SABHAVASU: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, member of the press, today we are very pleased to welcome Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton and Mr. Prime Minister just had very fruitful discussions on bilateral issues and other matters of mutual interest. Foreign Minister Kasit is in Phuket today for the ASEAN minister meeting. So as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs, I’m honored to be here with Secretary Clinton.
I’d like to say a few words before passing on to Madame Secretary. As you know, Thailand and United States have been friends for over 176 years. Our relationship has always been blessed with cordiality and understanding. At the meeting, Prime Minister Abhisit briefed Secretary Clinton on the political development in Thailand, also, as well as on the government policies. Mr. Prime Minister stated that despite the global economic downturn, Thailand still remains attractive for foreign investment.
The government remains committed to the promotion and facilitation of foreign trade and investment, and indeed, stands ready to engage in consultation with the private sector. Prime Minister Abhisit also stressed the importance that the government attaches to the intellectual property rights and the continuation of the GSP program for Thai exports to the U.S. market.
As the current chair of ASEAN, Prime Minister Abhisit is pleased with the U.S. decision to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Secretary Clinton and all ASEAN foreign ministers will sign the treaty tomorrow in Phuket. This reflects the U.S. intention to engage more deeply with ASEAN, a gesture Thailand strongly welcomes.
Prime Minister Abhisit also conveys his warm regards to Secretary Clinton, to the President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama. That’s about all I have to say. And I invite Secretary Clinton to say a few words.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Minister. And I appreciate this opportunity to be here. It gives me great joy to return to Thailand. I have very fond memories of my previous visits. And I am looking forward to working together with the Government and people of Thailand to achieve greater progress and prosperity in this region and beyond.
I bring greetings from President Obama and a message as well from the American people: We are committed to a broader, stronger, and deeper relationship with Thailand. We are, as the minister said, historic treaty allies. We are fellow democracies, we are strategic partners, and above all, we are friends. Our friendship has stood the test of time – more than 175 years. And I’m confident that it will stand the tests of the 21st century.
The prime minister and I just had a very productive conversation about how we can confront our shared challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. Thailand is a regional leader in a part of the world that is of great economic and strategic importance. It has played a key role as the chair of ASEAN in leading preparations for our meetings in Phuket tomorrow, and advancing constructive positions on regional issues affecting Burma and North Korea.
I know that Thailand is facing its own challenges, but the United States is confident that the Thai people can work through these challenges in a way that upholds this country’s constitutional principles and democratic traditions. You can count on us as your friend to work with you as you resolve differences, pursue reconciliation, and find a path forward. Our friendship is built on the strength of our alliance. Our bilateral and multilateral exercises here in Thailand enhance our capacity to respond to threats and humanitarian crises in the region. And Thailand’s extensive support for the United States military forces is critical to our global operations.
The prime minister and I also discussed the strides that we are making together on a range of global issues, from the work of our doctors and researchers to find cures for some of the world’s deadliest diseases, to our law enforcement cooperation to stem the flow of illegal drugs, to our shared commitment to end the scourge of human trafficking, and to our decades-long partnership to alleviate the suffering of refugees, an issue that will continue to demand our attention.
But the relationships between our two countries and our two governments is ultimately shaped by the ties between our two peoples. We have a thriving trade and investment partnership that increases jobs and enhances prosperity. Tens of thousands of Thais, including the minister, have studied in the United States over the past century, including the minister, have studied in the United States over the past century, including the father of His Majesty the King, and a growing number of Americans are coming to live, work, and study right here in Thailand. These interactions and exchanges make our partnership even more durable, and we look forward to expanding them.
So we have a full and formidable agenda. And as I said in a speech last week, we are counting on our bedrock treaty alliances, such as we have with Thailand, to help us chart a very positive peaceful and progressive course into the future. There’s much we can do to achieve that for our two nations. And I look forward to working with you.
Thank you, Mr. Minister.
MODERATOR: May I now invite the members of the press to answer – to ask some questions, beginning with Washington Post, Mr. Kessler.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, it is widely documented that young ethnic girls in Burma have been the – subject to extensive sexual violence at the hands of the Burmese military included repeated gang rapes orchestrated by officers. The latest military offensive against the Karen has sent 4,000 refugees across the Thai border. Are you going to tell your ASEAN partners that Burma is a threat to regional security or do you think it is worth waiting for signs of improved behavior by the junta?
And to the deputy prime minister, there have been new photographs of vast tunnels built by North Korea in Burma. How concerned are you about the growing ties between North Korea and Burma, including signs of nuclear cooperation? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me begin by saying that we are deeply concerned by the reports of continuing human rights abuses within Burma, and particularly by actions that are attributed to the Burmese military concerning the mistreatment and abuse of young girls. This is part of an ongoing policy review that we are engaged in, in our own country, and it’s true that our results are on hold pending the outcome of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. But we are very much engaged with partners, such as Thailand and others, in assessing and determining not only what is going on inside Burma, but also what we can do effectively to change the direction and behavior of the Burmese leadership.
We have worked directly and through our partners to press Burma to implement the Resolution 1874 concerning North Korea’s actions. We’ve made it clear that we expect fair treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi and we have condemned the way that she has been treated by the regime in Burma, which we consider to be baseless and totally unacceptable. We’ve worked with Thailand and others to address the needs of the Karen people that have been displaced by the attacks by the Burmese military and the ongoing violence which is a terrible abuse of their human rights.
Now, we know that there are also growing concerns about military cooperation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously. It would be destabilizing for the region. It would pose a direct threat to Burma’s neighbors. And it is something, as a treaty ally of Thailand, that we are taking very seriously.
Our position is that we are willing to have a more productive partnership with Burma if they take steps that are self-evident – end the violence against their own people, including the minorities that they have been focused on in the last months, end the mistreatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, end the political prisoners in detention who have been rounded up by the government, and other steps that Burma knows it could take.
So your question was a narrow one, but it raises all of the range of concerns that we are focused on in trying to determine how best to deal with Burma going forward.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SABHAVASU: As for Thailand, the Burmese situation and North Korea is quite different as far as we are concerned. The fact is that we are just next to Burma and the decisions that we have been making is that we want to make sure that we follow through the United Nations resolutions. Mr. Prime Minister and Secretary Clinton had discussions this evening. I think we basically almost just about share the same thought and idea about how to solve this problem.
MODERATOR: A question from a member of the Thai press, please.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) A member of the Thai press has just asked, following your visit here to Thailand, there’s been a press report from Washington Post regarding the treatment of suspected terrorists by the CIA, and the presence of secret prisons in Thailand. And what would be your view on this and whether there has been an investigation of this matter?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I do not comment on intelligence matters for obvious reasons. But I want to underscore the importance of my visit today to emphasize the very broad and deep relationship that we have with Thailand. It has been a very positive one, I think for both the Thai people and the American people. And I would only note that President Obama has made it very clear that his Administration and our country are committed to fulfilling the values and founding principles and high standards that the United States has consistently stood for.
MODERATOR: Washington Times, I believe, Mr. Kralev.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, I’d like to ask about unruly teenagers. Your new assistant secretary yesterday said that the five members of the Six-Party Talks are about to propose another package of incentives for North Korea. I wonder whether there are other benefits that you haven’t yet offered that you could. And doesn’t that send the wrong message to the North Koreans who have been things to misbehave in the past several months, and you’re now about to offer them more benefits? Thanks.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, I think that might be an over reading or a slight misinterpretation of what our position has consistently been. From the very beginning, my very first trip to the region shortly after I became Secretary, we have said that the United States stands ready to work with North Korea if, and only if, and when they are ready to resume the important discussions that will lead to the denuclearization of North Korea. That is still our position.
Now there are obviously a list of incentives and offers that could be made if the North Koreans evidence any willingness to take a different path than the one that they are currently pursuing. As of this moment in time, we haven’t seen that evidence.
MODERATOR: Last question from a member of the Thai press, please.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Spokesman. Madame Secretary, I have two questions. The first one is as North Korean send only official level delegates to attend the meeting, so what kind of commitment or what level of engagement do you expect from them and what’s your message to them in this meeting? The – sorry – the second question is: What is your real reason to participate this regional convention? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, my real reason is – (laughter) – first of all, it’s held in Thailand, which is a very attractive reason. But it is because on behalf of our country and the Obama Administration, I want to send a very clear message that the United States is back, that we are fully engaged and committed to our relationships in Southeast Asia, that we want to resume and strengthen our very strong alliances and friendships, we want new partnerships, and it is an important part of our overall approach to participate in ASEAN, which is an essential organization, cofounded by, among others, Thailand to bring the countries of Southeast Asia together. And we think there are many important undertakings that we could explore.
We’re very pleased that the United States had a role in helping to organize the first exercise on disaster assistance, recently held in the Philippines. There are so many ways that we can take ASEAN to the next level, sort of ASEAN 2.0, if you will, where it goes in the future.
I also committed, when I was in Indonesia in Jakarta at the headquarters for ASEAN, that we would sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and so tomorrow we will do so. And I think that it is a very strong statement on behalf of our Administration that the United States intends to be a very active presence in the region bilaterally, as with a friend and ally like Thailand, and multilaterally through organizations like ASEAN.
I have heard what you have heard, that there will be representatives from North Korea at the meeting tomorrow. I do not have any plans or intend to meet with them. But obviously, they will be part of the same meeting that I and my delegation will be attending. And my message is the same that I have delivered here, that we think there is a different path for North Korea to follow, that there is an opportunity which is theirs for the taking. But they have to be willing to change their behavior and agree to denuclearize North Korea, which will mean that the entire Korean Peninsula is denuclearized. And we stand ready to respond if we get any signal that there would be a serious commitment to doing that.
MODERATOR: Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the press conference. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SABHAVASU: Thank you.