For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 28, 2003
Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Crawford Elementary School
1:12 P.M. CDT
MS. BUCHAN: Good afternoon, everyone. The President had his usual briefings today. He's been working out on the ranch since then. And I will take your questions, and if someone will remind me at the end, I have your week ahead.
Q Does that mean you'll gaggle tomorrow?
MS. BUCHAN: It does not mean I'll gaggle tomorrow. It means that we're going to give you a long weekend.
Q What is the President doing to recognize the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington?
MS. BUCHAN: I expect you'll see a statement later today, so look for that.
Q What was the question?
MS. BUCHAN: What is the President doing to recognize the anniversary of the march on Washington. Expect a statement.
Q What about reaction to North Korea's position at the talks today?
MS. BUCHAN: As you know, the talks were held in North Korea today. It's now night in North Korea. And we expect there to be additional talks tomorrow. We believe there's been excellent cooperation in the talks among the five partners of the United States, including China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. And the only way to -- only through common effort and purpose can the U.S. and our friends and allies hope to convince North Korea to peacefully abandon its nuclear ambitions. And our position is clear, which is that North Korea must completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program.
Q Well, they basically thumbed their nose at that demand today and called their partners, liars on behalf of the United States. So what is the reaction to what happened? You described it as an excellent opening session -- it doesn't sound --
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the assessment from our team who was on the ground in North Korea -- or in Beijing, rather, in these discussions, is that this is a positive session that they have been having. The President has longed believed that this is an issue that must be addressed in a multilateral forum. And the fact that we are meeting in a multilateral forum to talk about the importance of North Korea completely and irreversibly dismantling its nuclear program is an important step. And we're receiving excellent cooperation from our partners.
Q But what's the basis of saying it was an excellent session?
MS. BUCHAN: This is the assessment, David, of the people who are in the negotiations.
Q Right, but what's the basis for that? We know --
MS. BUCHAN: You would have to talk to the people who are in the negotiations. I don't think they're probably going to get into all of the specifics of their conversations. But they are the ones who are on the ground and this is their assessment.
Q Claire, you're talking about --
MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry, John, I can't here you.
Q I'm sorry. You're talking about excellent cooperation there. You're talking about excellent cooperation -- countries who are not cooperating --
MS. BUCHAN: That's correct. Among our friends and allies who join with us in believing that North Korea must dismantle its nuclear program, that we need to have a nuclear-free peninsula.
Q -- into North Korea, itself, as opposed to the fine progress you spoke of. Are we disappointed -- is the United States disappointed with the reaction of North Koreans? Or does the United States feel we've heard this kind of thing before, its the opening of -- It's all about negotiating, but we're not too concerned. Is that --
MS. BUCHAN: What --
Q Should we take your comments to mean that the very negative comments by the North Koreans at the talks is only, like, the opening -- negotiations. And the talks continue, the talks -- therefore, the United States is not terribly concerned.>
MS. BUCHAN: Well, North Korea has a long history of making inflammatory comments that serve to isolate it from the rest of the world. And that is why this is an issue that the world and other nations, in addition to the United States, are addressing together.
Q So the fact that they made inflammatory comments this time is of no great concern, because you've heard it before and the talks continue and --
MS. BUCHAN: The talks are continuing, John, and they're going to continue tomorrow.
Q On the same point, Claire, AP, as you've probably seen, is reporting that North Korea --
MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over Dana.
Q AP is reporting that North Korea has --
MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry?
Q AP is saying that North Korea has both warned that it will declare itself a nuclear state and that it will conduct a nuclear test. The administration's position has been, there is no crisis here. If North Korea conducts a nuclear test or it declares itself a nuclear power, does that change the administration's assessment about whether we have a crisis?
MS. BUCHAN: I'm not going to speculate about things that haven't happened, David, but we've made very clear that North Korea must completely, irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program. And discussions are underway in Beijing. And that, in itself, is a very positive development because it has been something that the President has long believed is part of the solution there, a diplomatic solution, and that is what we are in the process of doing.
Q One quick follow up. In March or April, when the South Korean President was here, there was a joint statement issued in which both countries, South Korea and the United States, said they would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea. Does that statement remain in effect?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President has indicated many, many times that the Korean Peninsula must -- should be de-nuclearized.
Q Claire, is the U.S. trying to get the U.N. to send a multi-national force to Iraq?
MS. BUCHAN: I've seen the stories that you're talking about. This is one of many ideas. It's an idea that was presented by Secretary General Annan a number of days ago. So it's one of a number of ideas. The President believes, and we have always pursued a strategy in Iraq that calls for international cooperation. And, indeed, there are some 30 countries participating in Iraq. More would be welcome.
Q Will the U.S. be willing to concede more political authority to the United Nations in order to get this multi-national force?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the U.N. has a vital role to play. And evidence of that is the bombing that took place last week, attacking the very people who are distributing food and who are distributing medicine to the people of Iraq. So we'll continue to work with the U.N., as we have done. But this is an international issue. The world will be better off if Iraq is free and democratic. And terrorism is an international enemy, so we've been pursuing this on an international level, and as a broad coalition.
Q But it remains the President's view that the United States and the Coalition Provisional Authority ought to remain in charge in Iraq?
MS. BUCHAN: The story that you're talking about, or the issue that you're talking about, that's one of many ideas that are floating around, and no decisions have been made on any of those ideas.
Q Yesterday, you guys put out a statement on the Rwandan elections that did not mention -- make mention of any irregularities. The EU mission that was there observing the elections says there were irregularities. Does yesterday's statement on the Rwandan elections stand, or would you like to add anything to it today?
MS. BUCHAN: I'll let you know if there's anything to add on that. I'll get back to you.
Q On the economy -- this, today, was one of the better reports that you've all seen that the second quarter growth was, what, 3.1 percent. But how long does the White House anticipate that the job -- it will take before the job market turns around?>
MS. BUCHAN: Today's report on the upward revision of GDB -- GDP was welcomed. The President is pleased to see that the recovery appears to be taking hold, but he isn't satisfied. And he won't be satisfied until every American who wants to find a job can do so. And there are more that we can do on the economy. And you've heard the President talk about some of those specific initiatives, including energy legislation, comprehensive energy legislation, including tort reforms, prescription drugs for seniors. So there are a broad range of issues that will help strengthen our economy for American workers.
Q Claire, can you give us some guidance on what is and what is not on the record in terms of last night's dinner? The fact that it occurred you put on the record -- but can we say, like, various things that happened there? Or is it just the content of the conversations? How should we do that?
MS. BUCHAN: The conversations that you had with the President or any senior officials who were there, that would all be off the record. The fact that the President hosted you is certainly something you're welcome to report.
Q Claire, can I just revisit the North Korean thing one more time, because the impression -- at least, I'm getting, maybe others can speak for themselves -- I'm getting, is that the administration, even though that North Koreans could not have been more antagonistic at this session --
MS. BUCHAN: Could not what?
Q Even though the North Koreans could not have been more antagonistic at this session, been more negative in their remarks, there to be a certain Pollyanna-ish attitude at the administration. And maybe I'm misinterpreting remarks -- is the United States disappointed at all in these North Korean remarks, which were pretty harsh at this opening rally?
MS. BUCHAN: The United States position and our top priority has not changed. It is very clear. And that is that we need the complete, verifiable, and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. And that stands as it is, period.
Q So there's really no reaction to the North Korean statements, per se, is that right?
MS. BUCHAN: Our reaction from our negotiators on the ground is as I relayed it to you.
Q Will the U.N. General Assembly meeting next month provide a deadline or a forum for resolving this issue on Iraq and the international force? Do you hope to have something in place by then?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we have an international force. There are 31 countries that are participating. And the Iraqis are also continuing to step forward. We're training Iraqis to be police officers. We are training Iraqis to participate in an Iraqi army. So the Iraqis are increasingly stepping forward. We are talking to other nations about coming forward and joining the international coalition. The President believes that this needs to be a broad coalition. It is already a broad coalition, but of course we would always welcome more members.
Q Okay. So my question is what role do you expect the General Assembly to play in that process, the General Assembly meeting in September?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we won't have artificial deadlines, Randy, so I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. We
Q But you won't have agreement on a new resolution by the time of a meeting?
MS. BUCHAN: We want to have continued, increased participation from members of the international community.
Q Since you put some stuff off the record from what we might have gotten last night, can you tell us, does the President, as he prepares to end his stay at his ranch, does he feel well rested? Is he looking forward to going back to the White House? Does he dread it? (Laughter.)
MS. BUCHAN: The President looks forward to continuing to do the people's business in Washington and as he travels around the country. And he has appreciated the opportunity to be here, at his home in Texas, and also to travel out and visit with people across America.>
Q Do you know yet what the President will do on the second anniversary of the September 11th attacks?
MS. BUCHAN: We'll have more for you on that as we get a little closer to it.
Q I'm going to make one more stab on North Korea, okay? What is the President's reaction to North Korea saying it not only has nuclear weapons, but that it plans to conduct a test? I know how the administration -- what their stance is --
MS. BUCHAN: The President believes that North Korea must completely, irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program. That is the President's view. And that is also the view of our partners who are joined with the United States in these talks with North Korea.
Q But when it says -- but when it says it's going to conduct a test, does the administration view that as sabre rattling or does it think it maybe is not really telling the truth there?
MS. BUCHAN: As I said, North Korea has a long history of making inflammatory statements. And those statements further isolate North Korea from the world.
Week ahead? Okay.
Saturday the President will depart his ranch. He will travel back to Washington, where he will remain for the remainder of the weekend. Monday the President will travel to Richfield, Ohio, where will address members of the International Union of Operating Engineers and their families at a Labor Day event.
On Tuesday, the President will participate in the presentation of the first game football of the 2003 NFL season. The commissioner of the NFL and representatives of the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets will be on hand in the Oval Office to present him with the traditional game ball of the first game.
On Wednesday, the President will meet with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. And that afternoon he will participate in the signing ceremony of the U.S.-Chile and the U.S.-Singapore free trade agreements.
Thursday, the President will travel to Kansas City, Missouri, to make remarks to the Chamber of Commerce and other local officials on the economy.
And Friday the President will travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, to talk about the economy at Langham Company, which is a warehousing business. He'll be speaking with the company's workers and members of the Indianapolis small business community. And that evening the President will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception.
Q Claire, how old is this tradition of the first game football of the 2003 NFL season?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't know. I think it's been done before.
END 1:29 P.M. CDT