Townterview Hosted by Suttichai Yoon and Veenarat Laohapakakul of World Beat
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you.
MODERATOR: And the host of today’s event is Nation’s group editor Mr. Suttichai Yoon and Nation’s channel editor, Ms. Veenarat Laohapakakul.
QUESTION: Good morning, everyone. Of course, everyone has been waiting for this moment for so long, and both Suttichai and I feel really honored to be interviewing Secretary Clinton. Everyone has been here since five this morning –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my.
QUESTION: – lining up, waiting for you. Everyone wants to hear you speak.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. And this is such a wonderful opportunity in a beautiful setting, and I’m looking forward to our discussion. I’m sorry that you had to wait here since 5:00 am. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding.
QUESTION: Is it worth the wait? (Laughter.)
I told the Secretary that Veenarat will do the tough questions; I would do the soft ones. (Laughter.)
You met the prime minister yesterday.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I did.
QUESTION: How did his British accent strike you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, we had a very good discussion. It was broad ranging and quite constructive. I started, of course, by thanking Thailand, which has been such a strong and very positive ally of ours going back 176 years. And then we talked about both what we’re doing together – fighting HIV/AIDS, our military relationship, our fight against human trafficking, something that I care deeply about – and then the regional work, and particularly in light of the ASEAN meeting.
QUESTION: Well, you mentioned Thailand in Washington these days. What is the image of Thailand and so many problems you’re facing? Is it a good positive or negative image?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that our relationship and our close partnership over the years gives us a broad understanding of Thailand. So it’s both the land of smiles and a place that is a vibrant democracy that, perhaps sometimes, its politics is as spicy as its food. (Laughter.) And so we know that –
QUESTION: You said you really (inaudible) to say about Thailand.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Yes, well, we know that this will be an issue – a set of issues that the people of Thailand have to work out for themselves. But we have great confidence in the vibrancy of your democracy and the stability of your country.
QUESTION: Is there any specific reason why you pick green?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, I consider this turquoise. Is that wrong? (Laughter.)
No, well, it’s funny, because I know there are certain colors that I should not wear. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You have been told that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have been told that. But that’s all right because some of them don’t look very good on me anyway, so I am safe from that.
QUESTION: Well, your trip to Asia and to ASEAN – what’s your key message to ASEAN? Because your predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, never gave much importance to this region.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the key message is that President Obama and I are giving great importance to this region. We not only have longtime friends and allies like Thailand, but we believe that the entire region holds such promise and potential. And that is one of the reasons why I came to Asia for my very first trip, and why I am back within six months to come to Thailand, and to go to ASEAN and Phuket, because we want a closer relationship not only country-to-country, but regionally. There are a lot of issues that the United States and Thailand can’t solve on our own. We have to deal with everything from pandemic disease to piracy, and we’ve got to have a really good alliance of people who are willing to cooperate.
I believe strongly that the United States has to be involved in this region. We have to work together to solve problems. We have to demonstrate our commitment and our leadership, and that’s the message that I wanted to send.
QUESTION: What would be the main difference between the Bush foreign policy and the Obama foreign policy, especially towards Asia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, hopefully, the Obama Administration will demonstrate that America is back and that we are pursuing our foreign policy in accordance with our values and our interests, as well as high standards. It’s important to me personally to recognize that there’s been so much progress in many areas within Asia, and yet we think that there is so much more work to be done.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And we want people of Asia – not just governments, but people – to know that the United States is in it for the long haul, that we have been friends with some countries like Thailand, and we are trying to broaden and deepen our relationship with other countries like China, but that we are going to work hard to try to bring a sense of future possibility, where we can have a more peaceful, prosperous, and progressive region.
And I think that’s all possible; I really do. I believe that there is a great commitment to continuing to push forward in Asia, and yet it’s unclear exactly what the form of that will take. So the more we work together in partnership, that we stand up for each other and stand up for our interest, I think the better we can see the future unfold.
QUESTION: So you're saying that you are refocusing Asia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: What were the mistakes that the previous administration was doing towards Asia that you intend to correct?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to go back to the past. That’s over. We –
QUESTION: Just a little bit of the past. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there was an important election that was held, and the American people made a very definite decision. And of course, with President Obama, we have someone who has roots in Southeast Asia – the time that he spent in Indonesia, which was very formative.
So we’d rather stay focused on what we can do going forward. Every country has to constantly be asking itself, are we doing the best we can? Are we making the right decisions? And in our case, when we came into office, it became clear that many of our friends in Asia felt like we hadn’t been paying attention, that we had been absent. I don’t know if that was the feeling here, but we certainly have heard that communicated.
The United States is uniquely geographically positioned. We are both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. And I don’t think you can do one and not the other, because our interests, our alliances, our partnerships span the globe. And we’re not going to pretend or claim that we are the answer to every problem, but we want to be a constructive actor in dealing with the major problems that confront Asia.
QUESTION: What do you think is the biggest threat to peace in the region at this moment?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the threat that I always worry about first and foremost is the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, we’re very concerned about North Korea and recent reports about perhaps their dealings with what we call Burma, and the –
QUESTION: You refuse to call it Myanmar.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We do. We do. We would like to see a democracy make decisions about the future of a country, and that hasn’t yet come to pass. So we are very strongly in favor of putting pressure on that government, trying to make it clear that the future doesn’t lie with those who would try to oppress their people and limit the opportunities to a very small ruling group. That is not in the interest of the people of Burma or people anywhere.
So we worry about the transfer of nuclear technology and other dangerous weapons.
QUESTION: From North Korea, you mean.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We do, from North Korea, yes.
QUESTION: To Burma?
SECRETARY CLINTON: To Burma, yes.
QUESTION: So you’re concerned about the tie – the closer ties between North Korea and Burma?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: How serious are you focusing on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re going to explore that in Phuket, in talking to all the other foreign ministers who are there. We want to try to focus attention by countries that have a direct relationship or share a border, as Thailand does, so that there can be a united front against that ever happening. I’m not saying it is happening, but we want to be prepared to try to stand against it.
QUESTION: North Korea is the main focus of your talks this time. How serious is North Korea’s threat to United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s not a serious threat to the United States. At this time, its weapons capacity and technological progress is not a threat to us. But it is a threat to other of our allies if it continues, and it is a threat to further destabilization in East Asia, and particularly Northeast Asia.
We’ll be talking about many important issues here at the ASEAN meeting. I’m very proud that we will – I will be signing, on behalf of my country, the Treaty of Amnesty and Cooperation. Of course, the work of ASEAN is just beginning to explore other areas. There was the first ever joint exercise in the Philippines to try to do better on disaster assistance.
So we have a full agenda. But of course, the behavior and provocative actions of the North Koreans raise issues, because, for example, if North Korea pursues this nuclear program, other countries are going to feel, out of their own self-defense, a necessity that they must also. That produces a chain reaction. It’s one of the reasons why in another part of the world we’re very concerned about Iran. If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon then other countries in the Middle East are going to think, well, they have to have one too. And pretty soon, you have so many nuclear weapons, and not just in the hands of states, but also non-state actors. And North Korea has been a notorious proliferator of nuclear technology. We know that.
So we want to continue to put the pressure. And I must say, I’m very gratified that we’ve had a united front in Asia coming together in the United Nations, passing a Security Council resolution with real teeth to try to go after all of the different institutions and individuals that are part of the proliferation network within North Korea and that supports it outside.
So I think we’re making progress in creating a very strong response to North Korea.
QUESTION: Who actually gives you more headache – Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, General Tan Shwe, Osama bin Laden, Hugo Chavez –
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s why I have a headache all the time. (Laughter.)
You’ve mentioned, obviously, some of the people who we think are playing a very negative role in the world. And I have to worry about all of them, unfortunately.
QUESTION: You said on ABC just on Monday that North Korea is like an unruly child seeking attention all the time. What do you mean?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think if you look at the behavior of North Korea in the last months and going back some years, it is hard to understand what their real objectives are, other than to try to get everybody to pay attention to them. And it’s sad, because of course, when you look at the Korean Peninsula, the progress, the success of South Korea, the opportunities that South Koreans have demonstrated to economic – to pursue economic progress, academic achievements, so much else. And then just across the border, a country that can’t or won’t feed itself, whose people are literally shrinking in size because they’re malnourished, and yet they want to have the world’s stage when it comes to trying to launch missiles and claiming, inaccurately, that they launched a satellite.
And it’s – to me, it’s sad, because obviously, the Korean people have so much potential. But they are badly governed in the North. And it would be a wonderful change in attitude if leadership in North Korea suddenly said, well, let’s compete in a peaceful way. Let’s see if our students can’t beat your students in competition. Let’s have our business people outsell your business people; the kind of competition that we’re seeing in Asia: peaceful, very aggressive, even vigorous from time to time. That’s how countries should be looking at their future, and we are a long way from seeing North Korea do that.
QUESTION: Back on Burma. If Aung San Suu Kyi is not released, would you be sorry to see Burma kicked out of ASEAN?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s up to ASEAN. But –
QUESTION: Are you going to encourage ASEAN to do that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that it would be an appropriate policy change to consider, because the other countries in ASEAN, despite what happens in every country – there are ups and downs, and there are problems – but the other countries in ASEAN have made steady progress on democracy and human rights and economic prosperity that is broadly shared, and that hasn’t happened in Burma.
Now, there is a great debate that goes on. Can you influence the Burmese military junta more by exchanging ideas and engaging with them –
QUESTION: Or sanctions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: – or sanctions, and trying to get their attention, and removing them from organizations and the like?
It’s a fair debate, and I’ve had the discussion with leaders in the region who have advocated both sides of the debate.
But you’ve put your finger on a particularly painful issue for me personally, as well as for my country. We admire Aung Sun Suu Kyi. We think that the sacrifices she has made for her people, the people of Burma, are admirable, and really demonstrate that one person can make a difference by standing up for the right to determine your own future in a country. And I regret deeply that this unfortunate incident that she had nothing to do with has served as an excuse for her to be put on trial, put into prison. And yes, we would like to see her released.
And let me just add that there are a lot of opportunities that could be made available to the Burmese Government and people if they did release her. This would open up doors for investment and for other exchanges that would help the people of Burma. So we’ll wait and see what their government decides.
QUESTION: Well, Iran. You earlier said that the overture that the U.S. is extending to Iran does – does have a time limit.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: What else can we expect from the U.S. on Iran?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, our president came to office with a very clear preference for talking with people and not prejudging what might come from those talks. Winston Churchill famously said it’s always better to jaw-jaw, meaning talk-talk, war-war. And of course, that is our view. And the president and I made it clear that we would be willing to have direct talks with Iran, and we had hoped that we would get a response that was positive, that would help to create the circumstances for that kind of dialogue.
Well, their election happened, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that irregularities occurred. And then when people tried to peacefully protest, they were brutally oppressed. There’s a great debate going on inside of Iran. We saw it just this past week with some of the leading clerics and former presidents even speaking out.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So we have said that the door is open to what we would like to see as a one-on-one engagement with Iran. But they are so preoccupied right now, and at the same time, the nuclear clock is ticking. We know that they are continuing to pursue their nuclear program, so we’re discussing with our counterparts around the world if there is no meaningful and sincere engagement not only with us, but with other countries – there’s a mechanism called the P-5+1, which the Security Council basically – the United States, obviously – where we’ve been talking with the Iranians about their nuclear program for a couple of years.
So it’s not just us and Iran; it’s the world and Iran. And as you know, the people in Iran’s neighborhood are the most concerned and are the ones who come to see me and convey their deep apprehension about what might happen. So we will still hold the door open, but we also have made it clear that we’ll take actions, as I’ve said time and time again, crippling actions, working to upgrade the defense of our partners in the region. We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment, that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon.
So I think there is still a lot of opportunity here, but we are not going to keep the window open forever.
QUESTION: As you arrived in India last week, there were bomb attacks in Jakarta; two luxury hotels were attacked. Is international terrorism still a big threat?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is, and it is, of course, an overwhelming priority of the United States because of our own experience. I think that what happened in Jakarta was tragic, as all of these cowardly terrorist attacks actually are. It’s especially cowardly because Indonesia had just gone through a democratic election. Now ten years of democracy, solidifying in Indonesia – a real exciting dynamism that you could feel in the country. And when I visited there a few months ago, I was very impressed with what I see Indonesia doing.
And clearly, the terrorists, they don’t want to compete in the political environment. They don’t want to take the results of that kind of competition and actually try to compete in the marketplace of ideas. So they engage in this very destructive, violent behavior.
But I have a lot of confidence in the resilience of the Indonesian Government and, of course, the Indonesian people. So as tragic as something like that is, I think it’s important to convey to the terrorists that they will not intimidate us and they will not, in any way, undermine our resolve to defeat them and their networks.
QUESTION: At the same time, there are stories about suspected terrorists being tortured. Guantanamo Bay camp will be closed, right? How are you going to reconcile the question of treating the terrorists in a way that is acceptable to the international standards, at the same time, being able to really give them the message that you are getting tough?
SECRETRY CLINTON: Well, that’s a very important question, and it’s one that President Obama answered from the very first day. Despite how difficult it is, he is committed to prohibiting torture, to ending Guantanamo. And what we believe is that there are very effective ways to combat terrorism, and there are effective ways to interrogate without crossing the line. In fact, many of the experts in interrogation will tell you that you get more information by treating someone humanely and trying to appeal to them and trying to find some common connection.
Now, I’m quick to add that some of these people are very difficult, and very dangerous. There isn’t any doubt about that. But I think we are in a real contest in some parts of the world for, as we say, the hearts and minds. And what we want – and we’re seeing some evidence of that – what we want is for the family member or the neighbor of the terrorist to say I don’t believe in that, so I know that my cousin or my brother or my schoolmate has signed on with this terrorist group, and I’m going to tell somebody; or, I’ve learned that they’re making bombs down the road where I live.
You probably saw in the news the very dramatic development in the trial in India –
SECRETARY CLINTON: – of the surviving Mumbai terrorist who confessed in court. But what I found so interesting about his confession is that he was a young man without much purpose in life. He was in a job that he didn’t find particularly satisfying, and he was susceptible to the brandishments of the terrorist organizations that, this will make you feel strong and powerful; this will give you a meaning and a purpose in your life. And he bought into that and joined this group that was trained for the Mumbai attack.
And yet when you listen to his confession, as I heard on Indian television, this is not someone who had some deep, overriding ideological commitment. It was someone who got swept up in it. So we want to convey to families and communities across the world there’s a better way. Now, we have to put some meat on the bones of that statement. We have to make sure people do get a good education; we have to make sure that people do have jobs. I mean, those are all part of what we see as a more positive alternative than to what the terrorists are selling.
QUESTION: So you’re going to stop the practice of the CIA having secret camps, like the one in Thailand, using torture tactics against suspects?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, I’m not going to talk about the past. We have moved beyond that. Our –
QUESTION: You will check into it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our government is very committed to very open and internationally accepted norms that we intend to follow.
QUESTION: But do they exist, then? Do they exist?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t talk about any of that, whether they do, whether they don’t. It’s something that –
QUESTION: Do you know, or is it because you cannot talk about it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: By my not talking about it, I’m following long-term advice: You don’t talk about intelligence matters. So my not talking about it doesn’t mean yes; it doesn’t mean no. It means we don’t talk about it.
QUESTION: Or do you want to know?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I think that we have a positive relationship with Thailand, that we want to look at how we’re going to focus on areas where it’s going to make a difference to the Thai people and to the American people in the 21st century.
QUESTION: Right. Talking about Thailand, are there any areas in particular that you think we can improve our relations on?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there are a couple that we’re working very hard on together. As I mentioned in the beginning of the interview, the trafficking issue is one that I personally am committed to. In 1996, I went to the north of Thailand and visited some of the shelters that have taken young girls in. And I met a young girl only 12 years old who had been sold by her family, and it wasn’t clear whether the family knew what her destiny would be or whether they were told a different story, but she was sold. As she ended up, unfortunately, in basically the brothels. And when she got sick with HIV/AIDS, they threw her out. And she made her way back home, but her family would not take her in. And so I met her when she was dying in one of the centers that had been set up for children in her condition.
And so that’s a very personal experience, and I know that Thailand’s making a lot of efforts to try to end that scourge of human trafficking. And we want to work with you and do what we can to accelerate those efforts.
I think the research work that our doctors and scientists are doing on diseases is especially important, not only on HIV/AIDS, but other diseases where the facilities and the reputation of your institutions and your researchers is so high, and we have a great partnership there. So I think that there is a lot of positive work for the future. We’re grateful that we have a wonderful relationship with our military in Thailand, because we want to be ready for disaster assistance and any other crisis that might occur.
So across the board, we feel positive, and I want the Thai people to know how positive we feel. I don’t want anyone thinking that under our new Administration we are taking Thailand for granted. That’s why I’m here with a very strong message of our appreciation for our partnership and friendship.
QUESTION: There’s a question –
QUESTION: The audience has some questions too as you listen to the Secretary. If you have any questions, please raise your hand.
QUESTION: We’ll start with a question from Chiang Rai province.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, good.
QUSTION: You went to Chiang Mai, right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I did. And Chiang Rai.
QUESTION: And Chiang Rai.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I went to both, yes.
QUESTION: So there’s a question for you from Chiang Rai province.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great.
QUESTION: It’s from Dr. Chakrapand Wongburanavit. He’s now the dean of the school of liberal arts at (inaudible) University. So let’s take a look at the video.
QUESTION: Hello, Mrs. Clinton --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello.
QUESTION: -- Secretary of the State. My name is Chakrapand Wongburanavit. I would like to welcome you back to Thailand again.
Actually, I met you in 1996 when you visit the Thai Women of Tomorrow Project in Chiang Rai. At that time, I served as the dean of the faculty of social science of Chiang Rai University, and also serving as the director of the Thai Women of Tomorrow Project.
I would like to report to you that we can really accomplish our goal; that is, we can find the workable model to solve the child prostitute problem in Thailand. In this regard, I would like to thank to the U.S. Government for supporting us at the first stage of the project.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Doctor, thank you so much, and I well remember my visit, and especially the –
QUESTION: What are the newest U.S. policies on controlling drugs and human trafficking from Southeast Asian countries?
QUESTION: Did you get the question?
QUESTION: What was it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Doctor, I think we got the question. We lost you in the middle of your question. (Laughter.) But I know that your dedication to this issue, particularly saving children from childhood prostitution, is very sincere and well known. And I well remember my visit with you and to the project that you showed and explained to me.
And I think that Thailand has made a lot of changes. When I was here in ’96, I actually met with some of the people in the government at that time, and we talked through some of the laws that were being considered. A lot of those laws have been passed. They’re on the law books, so to speak.
Now it’s a question of enforcement, and it’s a question to changing attitudes. And like the attitudes of police officers and judges, this is something that we work with countries on across the world. A lot of police forces or judicial systems are hard pressed for funds, and they worry that if they pay attention to this human rights abuse, they’re not going to be dealing with murders and robberies. And they have to understand that it’s all part of the same set of challenges to a law-abiding society.
So I think there’s some additional training and sensitizing. I also think society across the world has moved toward understanding that girls are just as valuable as boys, and girl children deserve the investment that you made in your daughter, sending his daughter to my alma mater, Wellesley College, or that Bill and I have made in our daughter, and that daughters are not a commodity to be sold. I remember when I was in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, one of the people showing me around showed me the houses that had the satellite dish were the houses that had sold their daughters. And the houses down the road next door without the satellite dishes either didn’t have daughters to sell, or refused to sell their daughters.
So we have to continue to change attitudes. And it’s something that takes time, but leadership from the media in Thailand, certainly for elected officials, for NGOs, academics, young people, to make it unacceptable. So we enforce the laws, we rescue young girls, we give them the care and protection they need, but we also have to be working to prevent it from happening in the first place. And that’s what I’d like to see more emphasis on.
QUESTION: This may not be a foreign policy question, but I think foreign policy cannot operate without a good economy. What is the latest report on the U.S. economy? Has it hit rock bottom?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, the reports are that we are stabilizing, that we’re not out of this yet at all, and that we still have very high unemployment, particularly in some parts of our country. But our Federal Reserve Chairman, Chairman Bernanke, testified yesterday before the Congress and said that we think that we should be able to maintain the plateau we’re on. We’re obviously, like much of the world, at negative growth, but we might, by the end of this year and early next year, see a slight positive growth, and then jobs returning.
But we’re not out of the woods yet. I guess that’s the best way of saying it.
QUESTION: Right. Are you here in Asia – are you giving more importance to Asia, it’s because you want to balance China, as well, because of its economic (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that we all want China’s remarkable rise to be a peaceful one. We want China to compete peacefully in the economy and in the political arena, and therefore, the more we involve China in the work we’re doing and in organizations like ASEAN, the more opportunities we’ll have to create a positive framework for not just China’s future, but Asia’s future.
Now, I know that a lot of China’s neighbors have expressed concerns, so we want to certainly strengthen our relationships with a lot of the countries that are in East and Southeast Asia. But what we hope is that we all can work together and that China remains focused on raising the economic well being of their people and competing in the marketplace. And that’s our goal. We will be starting a very significant strategic and economic dialogue with China on Monday, which I will lead, along with our Treasury Secretary.
So we want to explore areas of cooperation. And I think there are some. Obviously, we were very pleased to get the cooperation from China with respect to North Korea, which is important because they have a border with North Korea and longstanding ties with North Korea. And we want to look for other areas to deepen that cooperation.
QUESTION: You were in China in February?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I was.
QUESTION: Some critics said you were too soft on China on the human rights issue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, what I said was that we will always have human rights as a key part of our foreign policy. And I raised the tough issues: Tibet and Taiwan, religious persecution. But that’s not all our relationship is about, and I think it’s important to have a more comprehensive relationship.
The Chinese know what we’re going to say about Tibet and Taiwan. There’s no surprises there. We believe that they should allow more autonomy for the Tibetan people, they should respect Tibet’s religious and cultural traditions, they should have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives. They know what we’re going to say about Taiwan, which is that we have every intention of following the policies between the United States and China that were established years ago. There’s a one-China policy, and we understand that, but we also have relations in the economic sphere and in defense with Taiwan. They know we’re going to say all of that.
So it doesn’t help our relationship to broaden if we just come and say the same thing and they say the same thing back and we don’t talk about education, health care, the economy, the political challenges we face. So my goal was to try to make sure we had a broader base, and that’s what we’re going to do.
QUESTION: A new approach?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is. It’s a broader approach that takes along some of the tried and true, but tries to also pick out some new areas.
QUESTION: Did you detect a new approach from the Chinese side too?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think our relations in the last six months have been very positive. Now, we do disagree, there’s no doubt about that. But I think we’ll find in this strategic and economic dialogue starting Monday that the Chinese are very willing to talk with us, as we are with them, to see as many areas of agreement as possible.
QUESTION: The image of the U.S. so far since the Obama Administration – do you think the image of the U.S. has changed in a more positive way around the world?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it has; at least, I hope it has. It certainly feels that way when I travel. There is a great sigh of relief in some places that people believe that we will show mutual respect or expect mutual respect, that we will listen, and that we will try to find common ground.
We’re not going to agree with everybody; that is obvious. We have our own perspectives and experience and goals. But we want to work in a constructive way. I’ll give you an example from our hemisphere.
There was recently an action in Honduras where part of the government removed the President who had been lawfully elected. And in the past, a lot of people just expected the United States to side with the establishment, and we didn’t. We said, no, this is unacceptable. We are working very hard to try to resolve this, and it was a surprise to many people in the region. We’ve opened up talks with Cuba again, which had been on hold for a long time.
So around the world, we are trying to do what we think is actually smart power, which means you have to work with people and you have to be conscious of what their expectations and goals are. I just came from India. India and the United States have some disagreements over the best way to deal with climate change. But in listening to the Indian officials, there are many areas of agreement. So why would we just focus on the disagreement? Let’s see how many areas of agreement we can sign off on, and then try to tackle the disagreement.
So I think that many people around the world feel as though we are following through on what the President and I said, and that is that we’re going to have a different kind of diplomatic presence.
QUESTION: I believe we now – we’ll take a question from the floor.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great.
QUESTION: We’ll go to (inaudible.)
QUESTION: Yes, we do have questions from the audiences. And first question comes from a university student right here, so please introduce yourself, please.
QUESTION: Good morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.
QUESTION: : Good morning, Honorable Clinton. I am (inaudible) from Faculty of Art (inaudible) University. My question is, which of the U.S. foreign policies do you think has had the most impact on Thailand and Thai education? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s a wonderful question. We have been working together for 176 years, and there have been a number of important initiatives over that long period of time. But I think educational exchanges and student exchanges are among the most important, and I would like to see even more of them. I’d like more American students coming to Thailand. I’d like more American faculty coming to Thailand, and I’d like more students and faculty from Thailand coming to the United States.
I think that is one of the reasons that our alliance has been so strong over so many years, that people know a little bit more about each other’s culture. We have experienced it. We respect each other. And I’d like to see us do even more of that.
I also would like to see the very important research that we do here with our Thai counterparts expanded even more, if possible, because I just think that the more we share personal experiences and avoid the stereotypes – well, this is what Thailand is like and this is what the United States is like. I gave a speech in India a few days ago, and a student just like you said she had just come back from studying the United States and she said, “How do we get our cultures to understand each other better?”
And I think there’s no substitute for person-to-person connection, because we are fighting against cultural media stereotypes. The media paints a picture of the United States which very often has not got anything to do with reality. And for a lot of people in Thailand, that’s all they will know about the United States unless we create educational and cultural exchanges and opportunities. So that’s what I’d like to see more of.
QUESTION: Does that mean we’ll get more scholarships so they can send students over? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would like that. I would like that to mean that. I would like that very much. (Applause.)
QUESTION: As Secretary of State, your main responsibility would be to make image of the United States better. That is the number-one mission, I guess. There are reports in the American press that your role has not been very outstanding, that you have been sidelined, that you have been overshadowed by the President, by the Vice President, by the National Security Advisor. Is that true?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so. I think that we have a great team. But it is funny to me, having been in the White House with my husband when he was President – the President is the President.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I tried to be the President and was not successful. (Laughter.) So I know the President is the President and I think that – (applause.)
QUESTION: Did you try very hard to be President?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yes, I did try very hard; yes, indeed. But what the President does is to get a team he believes complements what he’s trying to achieve. And I was very surprised when President Obama asked me to be the Secretary of State, because we had competed very hard in the primary elections. And he said, “Look, I really need you, and I believe that we can have a great relationship,” and we do. It’s been everything I could have hoped for. We see each other on a frequent basis. I work closely with the Vice President and the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of Defense, and others. But what happened is I broke my elbow.
QUESTION: Yes, in June.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Very sad, yes.
QUESTION: What happened?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I tripped and fell, but luckily, I didn’t hit my head.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, so I hit my elbow and it broke in two places and it was very painful.
QUESTION: But you’re only 62 this year.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why do you have to tell everybody that? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I change --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I could have gone all day without that being part of the interview. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Sorry.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So once I broke --
QUESTION: I am 62 – 63, so --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, good, I’m glad you’re an older man. (Laughter.) So once I broke my elbow, there were a couple of trips I was supposed to take, and I couldn’t take them. It was just too inconvenient and painful, and besides, I didn’t want to do anything that would interfere with the important trip I was taking to India and Thailand. And I knew that if I set back my recovery, that might interfere.
So I talked – I went to see the President and I said, “Mr. President, I’m not going to be able to go to Russia with you.” I had worked very hard to get the meeting set up and everything,” and he said, “Don’t.” He said, “Look, we need you to be a hundred percent. We’re in this for the long run,” and I said, “Well, I appreciate that because I just don’t think I could be a hundred percent if I went at that point.” So now it’s about a month and a few days after my surgery, and I’m much stronger and I really appreciated the chance to take a little time to do the physical therapy.
So anyway – so I’m not with the President on the trip and all of a sudden, everybody goes, “Oh.”
QUESTION: Where is she?
SECRETARY CLINTON: She’s gone.
QUESTION: She’s gone.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Disappeared. And I’m thinking, well, gosh, I’m here. I’m actually here. But it was one of those things that happened, not to be taken too seriously.
QUESTION: How does it feel, though, to work with a former competitor before, and now President Barack Obama?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is one of the most common questions I’m asked in Asia. And think about it; I mean, we really worked hard against each other to defeat the other, and we said some things about each other that weren’t the nicest things to say.
QUESTION: Not very nice.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not very nice. But in our country, when the election is over, we try to work together for the good of the country. And in our system, when the President asks you to serve, you feel that you really should because you want to help the President succeed. And so the President has asked Republicans to serve – not just Democrats like me who competed against him, but he – and the Vice President Joe Biden also ran against him for a while.
So the President has tried to have a very unified approach to his Administration. And when I was in Indonesia, it was such a common question because in many countries, the hard-fought political competition continues, and it --
QUESTION: They don’t look at each other.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They don’t look, they don’t talk to each other, it’s very personal, lines are drawn. And so the Indonesians kept saying, “How do you work with somebody you ran against?” I said, well, that’s what we have learned through all these years of democracy, that the country must come first; that politicians come and go, people win and lose elections. But once the election is over, you can still have policy disagreements. And we do, as is obvious. But we should try to get along and we should try to pull in the same direction for the good of the country. So I have no problem with that at all.
QUESTION: How many days did it take you to make that decision after the President called and said --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it took a while because I loved being a senator from New York. And once my campaign ended a year ago June, I was very happy with the idea that I’d go back to representing New York. So right after the election when the President won and he called me, I said, “Oh, I have other people that would be so much better. Let me give you their names, go talk to them.”
QUESTION: Did you give him names?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I did. I gave him names, and as you have seen, watching him on TV, he’s very persuasive.
QUESTION: Yeah? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: So --
QUESTION: What did he say to you that changed your mind?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, despite our hard-fought campaign, we agreed on most things. And we magnified our differences, because you have to have differences; otherwise, why would someone vote for you or against the other person. So what we talked about in the days after his election is how we would proceed. And he gave me an enormous amount of authority as Secretary of State, and really everything I asked for so that I could do the job that he wanted me to do.
He agreed to, and I was running out of excuses. I remember late one night, I said, “Oh, I don’t know, I mean, you’re really making this hard for me.” And he goes, “I mean to make it hard for you. I want you to take this position.”
QUESTION: Did you consult your husband?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course, of course.
QUESTION: You did?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: What did he say?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I can never talk about what my husband tells me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: How much do you guys talk? I mean, you and Bill --
SECRETARY CLINTON: All the time, all the time.
QUESTION: About foreign policy issues or --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, we talk about everything. We talk about our dog who got sick and had to go to the vet. I mean, we talk about everything.
QUESTION: Do you talk about Kim Jong-Il, what to do, pillow talk, maybe?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sometimes we do because I really value his advice. But he’s so busy in his charitable activities right now that there’s no real connection between what he’s doing and my official capacity. But people in the Administration call and ask for advice all the time – what do you think about this, and how would this work. So he’s always ready to offer whatever constructive advice he can. But he’s very happy doing what he’s doing on behalf of his project on HIV/AIDS, and his project on climate change, and this wonderful initiative he’s started to bring people together to do charitable good works called the Clinton Global Initiative. So he has his hands full. So I talk to him about what he’s doing as well.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) We’ll now take one more question as well?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sure.
QUESTION: Another question for you, and this question comes from this gentleman right here who is one of Thailand’s most well-known actor and TV host. Could you please introduce yourself, please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m flattered. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary, Suttichai. My name is Paul. My question is much softer, so no long – so please --
SECRETARY CLINTON: But they’re hard, aren’t they?
QUESTION: Nice people.
QUESTION: Yes, they are. This coming August 12 is Queen Sirikit’s birthday, and also Mother’s Day in Thailand. So as a working mom who has done such a wonderful job raising your own daughter, Chelsea, do you have any tips to share with Thai working moms on how to balance your personal and professional life? And I have a little – just one more question, if you may – if you will. Which job is the most difficult for you? Being the First Lady, Secretary of State, or senator from New York, or being a mother?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Ah. Yeah, well --
QUESTION: He stole my question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, really? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That was supposed to be my last one.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I really appreciate your mentioning Her Majesty the Queen. When my husband and I came on our state visit when he was President, we had a wonderful time with them. We stayed at the palace. We really appreciated the gracious hospitality. And Her Majesty the Queen talked to me a lot about the projects that she champions on behalf of women and children. So I extend to her a very happy birthday and happy Mother’s Day, and to all the mothers of Thailand.
I think being a mother is the hardest job. I really do. And I only had one child, so those who have many children, I don’t know they manage it. But it is a very big issue in the minds of a lot of young women and men today. How do you balance the important work of your family, which truly is work, and you have to be committed and you have to be willing to sacrifice for your family, with the pursuit of both income and some satisfaction in the outside employment that you do?
I always am careful because people say, “Well, how do you balance being in the home and working?” Well, you work in the home, so you don’t want to draw that distinction. What you want to think about is how, at different stages of your life, you try to balance that. And the most important thing for any working mother is a very supportive working father, a father who understands that he has responsibilities as well, and that there’s a team, a partnership in the family.
And I think employers increasingly recognize that if they’re going to keep talented young women who are having a family, they’ve got to be more understanding of the pressures that exist between being at work and then still making sure that you’ve fulfilled your family obligations. There’s no one answer and it really does vary from person to person. And I’ve seen successful models and unsuccessful models in every kind of setting. I’ve seen mothers who never work outside the home who are overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and their children are not as disciplined, for example, as they should be. And I’ve seen mothers who work full time, sometimes two or three jobs, and their children are well-behaved and very focused on doing the right thing.
So it’s very possible model in between, and I just wish that you – it’s fine to have a Mother’s Day once a year, but I wish that people every day would respect the job that mothers do, and try to support mothers in the family and in society. And that’s something I’ve spent a lot of my time as an advocate over the course of my life trying to improve in my own country. But at the end of the day, being a First Lady is a great experience and it lasted for eight years. Being a senator from New York is a great experience and it lasted for eight years. Being a Secretary of State is an incredible experience, and it’s lasted so far for six months and I hope for a few more. (Laughter.)
But on February 27th, 1980, I became a mother for the rest of my life. And I think that that’s how I view it, that that’s always a primary obligation that I take very personally and very seriously.
QUESTION: Right. For your role as Secretary of State, what’s the legacy that you would like to leave behind?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we want to demonstrate that the United States will lead effectively in the world through creating partnerships with friends and allies like Thailand, and that how we exercise our power will use all the tools at our disposal. Of course we have a very strong and dedicated military, but we’d rather that be a last resort, not a first resort. And we want to emphasize diplomacy and development and exchanges and dialogue.
And I think if we can change that approach and get results for people, because I’m interested in how people’s lives change – not just agreements between governments, but do these agreements lead to more children going to school or more mothers getting healthcare or more jobs being created. That’s what I’m looking for. So that’s how I think we should judge the work that we do.
QUESTION: Right. Just now, you said you have been mother for your whole life since 1980, eight years as First Lady, eight years as senator, and of course four years now as Secretary of State. Will we ever get to see you as President of the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Wow. That’s not anything I’m at all thinking about. I think the job I have now is incredibly demanding, and it’s – I’m a hundred percent focused on it. And in our country, when you’re in the Secretary of State position, you’re out of politics. So I’m not involved in our domestic politics at all, and that’s fine with me because this job is so demanding.
QUESTION: Given up hope to be the first lady President?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I’ve got a very demanding and exciting job right now, and I’m not somebody who looks ahead. I don’t know, but I doubt very much that anything like that will ever be part of my life.
QUESTION: So it’s wait and see?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, no, no. (Laughter.) I --
QUESTION: Never say never.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am saying no, because I have a very committed attitude toward the job I’m doing now. And so that’s not anything that is at all on my radar screen.
QUESTION: But if you had a choice? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: You are very persistent.
QUESTION: Because we’re curious, you know.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, yes.
QUESTION: That – you know, you were running such an exciting campaign, we were watching you. And a lot of us thought “You’re going to make it.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: So did I. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So what was the biggest mistake?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, gosh, I’m not going to go back and look at all that. We don’t have enough time to talk about it.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. All right.
SECRETARY CLINTON: There were plenty of them, though, to be sure.
QUESTION: No, but let me ask you, if you had a choice – meaning that if you had been given the choice to choose between Secretary of State, Education, Energy, perhaps you might have had second thoughts?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t, really. I think those are very important jobs. I’ve done a lot of work in both of them. But the Secretary of State has such an important role in representing our country and the President to the world. And it’s something that I’ve had a lot of experience in, and I had already been to a country like Thailand. I had already been to visit many places – not just the governmental official residences, but to go to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai and see people and how they were living and what they were doing, and to create a lot of the structure for women’s empowerment around the world, which is something that I’ve worked on very, very hard. So I felt really well-equipped and ready to take on that job.
QUESTION: So no hesitation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, once I tried to unsuccessfully talk the President out of offering it to me – (laughter) – once it was clearly offered, I said, “Absolutely, I’ll sign up.”
QUESTION: You know Prime Minister Abhisit Wechachiwa has been called by some people Obamark – not Obama – Obamark. His nickname is Mark and there are similarities between the two. They are young.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: Their rise to the top was dramatic.
QUESTION: They’re both Democrats.
QUESTION: They’re Democrats. (Laughter.) You met him for half an hour. So do you think he is really Obamark?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well – (laughter) – I don’t think it’s fair to compare any leader to any other leader because everyone is such an individual. But some of the characteristics you mentioned, there is a whole new generation of young leaders younger than us.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Sorry to say.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, sorry to say. But they are very dynamic, they care a lot, they’re working hard. Obviously, the political situation varies from country to country, but I’m impressed with the number of these young leaders that are coming up. And I hope that they, like all generations, learn from the mistakes of the prior generation, and that they will – they’ll make their own mistakes, of course, but that they understand that really, government has to produce for people, especially in a democracy. You have to demonstrate that there is a hope for change in helping people lift themselves out of poverty and having a view, an aspiration for their children.
And I think if leaders keep working on that, then there will be a lot of leaders like President Obama that come to politics with a really strong story and carry through working hard, and that’s what we want to see more of.
QUESTION: A final remark to the audience, Secretary?
QUESTION: Especially the young students here, a lot of young ladies who may aspire to be the next Hillary Clinton of Thailand – (laughter) – what would be your advice for them now to prepare themselves for public offices? What would be the main requirements?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think three. I think first, education is the best insurance policy to prepare you for whatever happens in the future, and this goes for young men as well as young women. I mean, pursuing your education, challenging yourself, really preparing for the complexities of this new century that we’re in.
Secondly, I think if you are interested in going into politics, to expand your experiences beyond those that are already a part of your life. If you were raised in a certain way in a certain community, get out of that; do public service, do charitable work, meet people who don’t have the opportunities that you do, whose families were not able to send them to good schools or even let them stay in school, and really begin to feel a part of the broader population of your country, and really, of the world. Because I think leadership in the future is going to require that kind of base of understanding to be successful.
And finally, don’t try to be me or anybody else. Be yourself, be who you are, and the best you can be. Because often, when people come up and tell me that I’m a role model and all of that, I say, well, thank you very much, but my life is different from yours by definition. No two lives are the same. So you have to pursue what’s in your heart, and it’s not always easy, but you have to do it to be true to yourself. And I think that’s based on a lot of watching lives unfold over the course of my own lifetime.
And I wish all the young people here well. Thailand needs you. They need your energy and your commitment, your intelligence, and your dedication to your country’s future. And I’m very, very pleased that I had this chance to talk with all of you today.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
# # #