Interview With Jill Dougherty of CNN

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for taking time out. This is a busy trip, historic, really. I wanted to start with Aung San Suu Kyi. It must – I would like to know what it was like to see her face to face. There was obviously a lot of chemistry between you. But I also wanted to ask: Right now, is American policy too focused on her? Dare I say does she have a veto on U.S. policy toward Myanmar?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, let me start by saying that it was just an extraordinary personal privilege for me finally to meet her. I felt like I had known her for years because of all of the information that I had about her and the interactions that friends of mine had with her who carried messages back and forth, and I just really felt like it was meeting an old friend, even though it was our first time. And I deeply admire and appreciate everything that she's done over the years to stand steadfastly for democracy and freedom and to be someone who people in her country look up to and know that she has their best interests at heart, and they want to follow her because of that.

She is someone who we talk to and rely on about policy advice, and certainly we were very gratified that she encouraged us to engage, encouraged my trip, as she said publicly today, thought that we were proceeding appropriately, cautiously to determine whether or not these reforms were for real.

But she's not the only person we talk to. For the past two and a half years, ever since I asked that we do a review of our Burma policy, because I didn't think we were making the kind of progress we all had hoped to for the people here, we've had about 20 or more high-level visits from our assistant secretary, our special representative and others. They have fanned out across the country meeting with all kinds of people. Our Embassy here has been deeply consulting with people.

So of course we highly respect the opinions of Aung San Suu Kyi, for all the obvious reasons, but this was a consensus that developed that there was a great desire to encourage this reform and to validate the reformers so that they would feel acknowledged in the outside world and, frankly, encouraged to go even further.

QUESTION: You've talked a lot about political reform, but then you have, of course, mentioned economic reform. And one of the key issues there is that the military controls a lot of the economy. Are you convinced that this government is sincere in wanting to really restructure, reform, invite investment from the outside, which could threaten the military?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can only report on what they asked me. They asked that I personally follow through on a request for the World Bank to send an assessment team, that we try to offer technical advice about how they can and should reform their economy. There are a lot of vested interests. You always find that when you move from an authoritarian regime to a more open one. But we've seen it work elsewhere. There does have to be a lot of changes in the economy here. They need exchange rate reform. There’s all kinds of basic questions they have to answer. So again, we're at the very beginning. Where we'll be in one year, five years, or ten, I can't sit here and predict. But there was a great desire on the part of the leadership in Nay Pyi Taw to have assistance in reforming the economy, and we will encourage that.

QUESTION: And I know we don’t have a lot of time, but just very briefly, North Korea, big issue here. What is your understanding in brief about what Myanmar was/is doing with North Korea in terms of nuclear or missile technology?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there has been a military-to-military relationship in the past around missile technology in particular. But we've been pressing very hard on that, and we had a receptive audience yesterday in talking about the need to end that relationship if the country expects, under this current government, to have any deeper engagement with us, politically or economically, or with South Korea, which has a great deal to offer in terms of development assistance and the like. So we've made it clear that it would be difficult for us to pursue our engagement unless that relationship was once and for all ended.

QUESTION: And one question on Iran. Right now there's a lot of extreme behavior by Iran. We've had the Saudi Arabia plot; we had the attack on the British Embassy; there are other reports about Germany against U.S. interests still being investigated. What is going on? I mean, is Iran and the leadership becoming unhinged, or is this some deliberate policy of destabilization?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Jill, we have observed the leadership in Iran engaged in a very serious power struggle between the supreme leader and those around him, the presidency and those around it. So we think there's a lot of jockeying going on. We believe that the military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, particularly the so-called Qods Force, is gaining in authority, and that's a dangerous signal, because they seem to be quite reckless. There's a long history of provocative actions stretching from Saudi Arabia to Argentina that they have precipitated. And it goes with our constant warning to the international community that we're dealing with a dangerous regime, one that is unpredictable, that seems to be almost irrational from time to time as to the actions they’re taking.

I mean, what did it do for them to unleash mobs against the British Embassy, other than harden the resolve of so many people against them? Their plot against the Saudi Ambassador to the United States seems unbelievably reckless. So it is a sign of desperation, whether it's because of their internal power struggles, their personality conflicts, the fact that we know the sanctions are really having an impact on them. I can't predict all of the reasons or the directions that it will go, but it underscores the policy that we've been following in the face of their refusal to change their behavior.

QUESTION: But it doesn't seem to be leading to anything. It's not stopping their program.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we think that the sanctions have had a quite serious effect on them. Now, we know that there's more to be done, which is why Secretary Geithner and I announced more sanctions about a week ago, and you just saw the European Union adopt more sanctions. So the vice is getting tighter.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much, Madam Secretary.


PRN: 2011/T56-12