Interview With Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Consulate
Vladivostok, Russia
September 9, 2012

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for joining us today for Bloomberg Radio. I wanted to start out by asking you about the Haqqani Network which you decided to blacklist. The Taliban who harbored al-Qaida in Afghanistan prior to the 9/11 attacks have never been blacklisted. Should they be next?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do very intensive analysis before we designate someone as a foreign terrorist organization, and I think I’ll let the designation speak for itself. We have reached that conclusion about the Haqqani Network and we think it’s the right decision.

QUESTION: The U.S. already targets the Haqqanis for combat and drone operations, and also the assets of their sanction leaders. So what difference will this blacklist make? And is it about sending a message to Pakistan that they’re not doing enough?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. It is about squeezing them in the ways that now are available to us under the designation and the Executive Order. It gives us much greater reach into any financial assets or fundraising that they may engage in, gives us better traction against assets that they might own. So we think it adds to the pressure on the Haqqanis, and it’s part of the continuing effort to try to send a message to them – not to anybody else, but to them – because of the really incredibly damaging attacks that they have waged against us, against other targets, and inside Afghanistan. And it’s important that we use every tool at our disposal to go after them.

QUESTION: On Iran, nuclear negotiations have ground to a halt despite increasing noises out of Israel about a possible preemptive military strike. The EU is now talking about new sanctions. What’s the game-changer here? Does the U.S. need to state more explicit redlines to persuade Iran to take the deal that was offered and to reassure Israel to hold off from a military strike?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we’ve maintained a steady course of our two-pronged policy. We have always said every option was on the table, but we believe in the negotiation, the diplomatic effort through the P-5+1, but also pressure. And we are working to increase that pressure. The sanctions, we know, are having an effect. The efforts that the P-5+1 have made to pin Iran down on what exactly they are willing to do are still underway, and we will be having some meetings in the next month in New York and elsewhere to take stock of where we are. So I think it’s a very challenging effort to get them to move in a way that complies with their international obligations, but we believe that is still, by far, the best approach to take at this time.

QUESTION: Is there a deadline?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re not setting deadlines. We’re watching very carefully about what they do, because it’s always been more about their actions and their words.

QUESTION: Right. The Israelis, of course, have their own timeline and their own deadlines in their mind. What are the latest that you’re hearing from them privately beyond what’s coming out in the media about their willingness to wait for negotiations to have time to work?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think that there’s any difference in their public and their private concerns. I mean, they feel that it would be an existential threat if Iran were a nuclear-weaponized state. And no nation can abdicate their self-defense if they feel that they’re facing such a threat.

Our message has been very clear, and the Israelis have supported us through the last three and a half years, that we had to unite the international community, we had to put the most intensive sanctions we could possibly get, both through the international community and then unilateral by the United States, by the Europeans, and others. And they really have recognized, in all of our conversations, that these sanctions are making a difference. They’re more anxious about a quick response because they feel that they’re right in the bull’s eye, so to speak, if this doesn’t end up changing Iranian behavior and their nuclear weapons program. But we’re convinced that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good faith negotiation.

QUESTION: You’ve traveled more than any of your predecessors, particularly in Asia, focusing here on new institutional frameworks like TPP, ASEAN, Mekong Delta initiative. Does this reflect a view on your part that U.S. power is changing or has to change? And are there different ways in which it should be wielded?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it reflects a view that I think is rooted in American exercise of power. We have always understood the value of both unilateral and bilateral actions and multilateral actions. And we spent 50 years after the end of the Second World War building the architecture for the global economic community, for the Euro-Atlantic coalition, NATO, and other commitments. We’ve strongly supported the European Union. We spent a lot of diplomatic time and effort creating those institutional arrangements and embedding ourselves in them. And I thought it was time that we did the same in Asia because these countries are increasingly playing a major role – not just China, but Indonesia, as a member of the G-20, as is Japan and South Korea. We’re increasingly working economically, politically, strategically with Singapore and Malaysia. We’re very involved with Australia and New Zealand.

You go down the list and it struck me that we needed to begin to knit together the region and America’s role in it, and there were existing organizations such as ASEAN, the East Asia Summit, that the United States had never really committed to. We’d show up once a year, go to some dinner, do a funny skit, show up again a year later, and I don’t think that’s adequate for the importance of this region and our role in it. And so reasserting our Asia Pacific presence meant making sure that we were involved in both our traditional alliances, but also in the organizations that the countries themselves valued. And I think that has been an important decision and proving itself to be.

QUESTION: Short last question: Getting China policy right, the balance between firmness and friendliness, is something every administration learns on the job. So what have you learned on how to deal with Beijing, and what’s your advice to your successor?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think you have to be yourself. You have to be America. You have to stand up for American values, interests, and security. You have to look for ways to deepen understanding and to find common ground wherever that’s possible, to work on enhancing the level of cooperation, but also to stand up for what we believe in. I mean, we’ve come a long way doing that, and we can’t in any way subordinate that.

So it’s always – but Indira, that’s true with any country. I mean, we don’t agree on everything with anybody. We just went through a – what was it, a lobster crisis with Canada a few weeks ago. I mean, we’re always balancing, as you say, friendliness and firmness. That’s true with everybody. It’s just China is a very large presence, now the second biggest economy in the world. So what we do with China is always going to be very carefully followed and analyzed. So the methods are not so dissimilar. The challenges at this point in time are much more front and center because of the growing importance of the role that China’s playing economically and politically.

So I think it’s being aware of how you strike the right approach with all of these countries, and so everything we’ve done has been to construct a framework of cooperation in the region with China, ensuring our presence and our position now and into the future. And I think we’ve put the relationship on a firm foundation, and it’s been proven because we’ve had some choppy waters, but we have been resilient, and we have been very clear in expressing concerns that we have. And I think that’s the sign of a maturing relationship.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: You’re so welcome.

PRN: 2012/T70-24