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 Home > News & Policies > November 2005

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 8, 2005

Roundtable Interview of the President with Foreign Print Media
The Roosevelt Room

10:30 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: First I'm going to make just kind of some general remarks, and then will be glad to answer some questions for a while.

First, I'm really looking forward to my trip. I'll be having meetings with the leaders of Japan, China, South Korea, and Mongolia, and then, of course, will attend the APEC meeting, as well as meeting with ASEAN countries. So this is a chance for me to continue to talk about the war on terror, the need for all of us to work to spread freedom.

I go representing the people of this country, obviously. I go to represent the workers, as I remind our partners in the Far East that trade must be not only free, but fair. I go to represent the business people, in reminding people that there must be a strong focus on intellectual property rights throughout the world. I go to represent people who believe that we ought to be working together, like I believe, at the WTO, the Doha Round, to advance the round, to see if we can't -- I spent time doing that my recent trip in Latin America; I will continue that message of working toward a successful Doha Round.

And so this will be a good opportunity to explain to our partners that a successful round in Doha will be good for our respective countries, our workers, our farmers, our business people. But it will also help us work together to alleviate poverty. So I've been really looking forward to the trip.

One other aspect of the trip that is important to me, and I know -- we'll continue our dialogue on avian flu, a potential pandemic, and how we can work together to detect and keep the folks informed about the possible outbreak of avian flu; how to isolate the flu -- the virus, if it's detected, and what we can do together. This will be an important way to continue to advance this issue. I've spoken to the President of China about this issue, for example, and I'm going to bring it up again.

We've got a lot of issues on the table, and so this is an -- this will be a chance to continue to advance those issues. Relations are strong in the Far East. U.S. relations with Japan and South Korea and China and Mongolia are excellent. We don't always agree on every issue, but they are very strong. And this is a chance to continue to advance those relationships.

And so with that, we'll start with you, Mr. Nishimura.

Q Thank you, sir, Mr. President. The United States and Japan recently signed a document on the transformation of U.S.-Japan alliance, and the realignment of U.S. and Japanese forces in Japan. But there is a strong local opposition to some of these plans. For example, the local government in Okinawa has called this relocation of Futenma Marine Air Corps -- Air Station unacceptable. Since these plans for relocation have implication for a broader transformation plan of your country, how will you overcome this local strong opposition to the implementation of the agreement, and more generally, what would you like to achieve in the Asia-Pacific region through the strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance?

THE PRESIDENT: The fact that we reached an agreement on troop realignment shows the maturity of our relationship. As you know, the agreement that has been reached was done so in good faith between the U.S. government and the Japanese government. It's an agreement that was not easy to bring to conclusion, but yet, nevertheless, because our relationship is strong and vital, we're able to do so.

In a democracy, it's hard -- first of all, it's hard to satisfy all the people all the time. And so -- I'm aware that there is a discontent with the agreement expressed by the folks -- some of the folks on Okinawa toward the government -- the Japanese government that negotiated the deal. My attitude is, and my message to the good people in Okinawa is, this is a good-faith effort. We tried to reach an accord that accommodated a lot of interests. And it's a positive development.

Secondly, the relationship -- it shows the -- how strong we are, as an alliance, as a friendship. This has been a difficult issue, and in that it got resolved, it should be a sign to people on both sides of this issue that there is a cordial, frank, relationship that was able to deal with this sensitive subject.

U.S.-Japan relations are important for our respective countries. We're trading partners, we're partners in peace. And I want to congratulate and thank the people of Japan for helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy. We worked in strong collaboration on a variety of issues, whether it be helping Afghanistan or whether it be to tackle disease around the world.

So this is a healthy relationship, and it's good for peace and it's good for prosperity of our peoples.

Mr. Heo.

Q Yes, Mr. President. I'd like to also ask about the relationship between United States and South Korea. Do you have any specific plans for the strengthening of the alliance, and to improve the relationship between the United States and South Korea? In that context, what do you also think of the growing anti-American sentiments in South Korea?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the trip will help strengthen the alliance. Any time I can sit down with a leader and discuss common opportunities and common problems, that strengthens the relationship. Secondly, we have shown the people in South Korea that we're able to, again, deal with the complex issue of military bases in a way that is thoughtful and sensitive.

As you know, we're realigning our forces and realigning our bases. The government is a duly-elected government of the people. It tends to reflect the will -- they reflect the will of the people and this relationship, and the realigning of the forces reflects the will of the people. And it's being done in a respectful way. That should strengthen the relationship.

As well, I want to congratulate the government and thank the government of South Korea for the support in democracy in Iraq. People there -- the government there has helped the people in Iraq see a way forward by providing security forces there. I appreciate that very much.

Ours is a very important relationship, and it is one that -- one that is able to accomplish important things, such as working together to make sure that we have fair trade. And I'll bring that up, of course, with the President. We don't have a free trade agreement yet with South Korea, but nevertheless, we've got a lot of trade with South Korea, and we want it to be mutually beneficial. And the more beneficial trade is between our countries, the deeper our ties become.

I don't study public opinion polls in South Korea, so I don't know the basis for the last part of your question. But, I mean, I made some difficult decisions, and I understand not everybody agrees with them. But one of the things I hope people do agree with in South Korea is that the United States -- they've got a strong friend in the United States. We've been a friend for a long period of time and we'll remain a friend.

Mr. Wang.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You are going to visit China for a third time since 2001. As we know, the relationship between two countries have made considerable headway since you took office. Now it's your second term in office. How do you assess the relations between China and the United States at this moment? And how do you anticipate relations in the coming years?

THE PRESIDENT: I would say my personal relationship with President Hu is very good. I would say relations between the United States is mixed -- or between China and the United States is mixed. On the one hand, we have got increasing trade and dialogue and cooperation. On the other hand, there is still work to be done on intellectual property rights, for example, or currency, or market access.

And so ours is a complex and important relationship. And I look forward to visiting once again with the President and talking to him about these very vital issues. I was very pleased the last time we met in New York that he openly stated that we need -- that China will work hard on having intellectual property rights. And this is not just an issue between the United States and China. It's really an issue that when China cracks down and enforces intellectual property rights laws, that it will be good for China's standing in the world. People really don't want to do business in a country if they think their products is going to be -- if the patents will be copied.

And so I appreciate the President's strong statement on intellectual property rights, and it will be a chance to continue to talk about intellectual property rights.

I appreciate the government's position on currency as they begin -- the beginnings of a market-based currency. And that was a strong step forward. I will remind him that this government believes they should continue to advance toward market-based evaluation of their currency, for the sake of the world, not just for the sake of bilateral relations.

There's a -- I want to tell him that there's a -- that we -- again, what we've discussed in the past, that there's -- the trade balance between China and the United States is bothersome to people here, and that we've got to address the trade balance. And one way to do so is for there to be market access for U.S. products, continued market access for U.S. products.

So we've got an important relationship, and it's a good relationship. But it's one in which I will continue to bring the -- our concerns to the Chinese government.

Another round.

Q Okay, Mr. President, thank you. It seems the relationship between Japan and China is currently at an all-time low. We have heard criticism, concern voiced by China about Prime Minister Koizumi's recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine. This is, Mr. President, historically, a sensitive issue between the two countries. As poor relations between Japan and China have a significant impact on U.S. national interests in Asia, I suppose, what can the United States do to address the worsening relationship between the two countries -- I mean, Japan and China -- and how would you like to rebuild U.S., Japan and China relations as a part of your comprehensive diplomacy towards Asia?

THE PRESIDENT: What I can do is to urge the leaders of not only China and Japan to dialogue, and to try to get the past behind them as we move forward, but also to do the same with the South Korean leader. I think the issue that you described goes beyond just Japanese-Chinese relationships, it's probably Japanese-South Korean relationships, as well. And my point to not only the Prime Minister of Japan but to the respective Presidents is that, look, I understand that there is great tension as a result of some events that took place in the past. But the United States and China -- I mean, the United States and Japan at one time were sworn enemies. And now here we are sitting down as friends. In other words, it's possible to forget the past -- it's difficult, but it is possible.

So I think a useful role for me will be to paint a -- talk about the future and talk about how optimistic the future can be, particularly as nations are able to work out past differences and focus on what's -- and focus on the future. No question that there's tension. On the other hand, if you look at capital flows between Japan and China, there is a significant amount of investment taking place, which indicates to me that there is a possibility for the relations to improve over time. In other words, not all aspects of the relationship is negative.

Mr. Heo.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: You probably were going to ask the same question, weren't you? (Laughter.)

Q I would like to ask about North Korean issue.

THE PRESIDENT: That's fine, but I thought you were going to ask about the shrine.

Q Mr. President, you have called Mr. Kim Jong-il, North Korean leader -- Kim Jong-il's regime a tyranny and North Korea an axis of evil. What can you do to promote human rights and democracy in North Korea? And what kind of leadership do you expect from Kim Jong-il to exercise as the leader of North Korea?

THE PRESIDENT: I have been -- I have expressed my concerns about the treatment of men, women and children in North Korea. I worry about a society that is going hungry. I worry about forced labor camps. And I do so -- and as I do worry about that, I do so because I am, like many Americans, a compassionate -- share a compassion for all peoples, regardless of where they live.

I believe a -- the measure, the mark of a good leader is one that cares first and foremost about the human condition of the people that live in the country. And where there's starvation and hunger, the leader's responsibility is to address that, and if need be, call upon others to make sure that food and aid actually get into the mouths of the hungry. I believe that a humane society is one in which people have a voice in government. And so I have talked about these values. But I've also talked about them in the context of say, Myanmar. I have warned about the undermining of those values in other parts of the world. It's a consistent message of my administration.

As you know, the main focus of the region is to adhere to the Crawford Declaration that President Jiang Zemin and I stated in Crawford, which was that there would be a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. And now we're working to achieve that goal -- working together -- Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and the United States -- sitting down at the table with the North Koreans as a group, saying, here's our goal: For the sake of peace for all peoples -- peoples of South Korea, people of North Korea, people in the region -- let us achieve the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula -- nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.

And so we'll be discussing this issue, of course. I'll be discussing it with the respective leaders about how to achieve that goal. We've made some progress where we declared that it's our intention to work with the North Koreans to see to it that they dismantle their nuclear weapons programs in a verifiable fashion. And so the dialogue will continue on as to how to achieve this noble goal.

Yes, sir.

Q My second question is about Taiwan. The Chinese people are determined about peaceful reunification with the motherland, but the secessionist force in Taiwan have never stopped their activities, causing a threat to peace and stability Cross Strait. What do you think the United States can do in preventing the secessionist forces in Taiwan from moving toward independence, while maintaining peace and stability in the region?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, one thing the United States can do is be consistent in its policy in dealing with the -- both China and Taiwan. And so our policy has been consistent from day one, which is one China, three communiqu s, that we do not support independence, and that, however, we strongly support the Taiwan Relations Act. And it's important for parties to understand that's the position -- that is the consistent position of this government; that we also believe and are heartened when we see dialogue beginning to take place between China and Taiwan. That's a positive development, and I will continue to encourage that dialogue.

Mr. Nishimura.

Q Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: One more round of questions.

Q Thank you very much, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Then you probably have to go back to work.

Q Okay.


Q Let's move to the six-party talks again.


Q A little bit more in detail.


Q Actually, the next round of six-party talks beginning tomorrow in Beijing, so this is previous -- the six-party talks. And now as of today, of course, the United States and Japan have demanded that North Korea take tangible steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. But North Korea, on the other hand, every day -- almost every day -- is insisting that the United States company provide it with light water reactors. So, Mr. President, there is obviously still a sizeable gap between North Korea's position and that of other five parties --


Q -- including Japan and the United States. So, Mr. President, what would you like to see achieved during the next round, and what do you think are the most important steps in attaining those goals?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. Well, first of all, you're right, there's a meeting starting, I guess, this week, but it's a three-day meeting which is really to prepare for the longer meetings, which will take place next month.

Secondly, you've assessed our position. It's not the United States' position, but our position -- the five parties that are working with North Korea to achieve the goal of having a nuclear weapons-free peninsula, and that is that -- and that is that we want to see tangible results in the dismantling of a program, and at the appropriate time we'll discuss the light water reactor. That's how we interpret the agreement.

So part of the reason to go on a trip like this is to remind people about the strategy and talk it out with leaders and friends and remind them that we will stick together and hopefully achieve this noble goal. Again, it's a goal vital to all the interests of the people in the region. And it's one that I believe we can achieve by working together. And this is the -- there is a certain degree of patience required when it comes to negotiating a difficult issue. And there is clearly a need for us to continue to dialogue amongst ourselves, to make sure that we send a consistent message in order to achieve this goal. It's in people's interest.

It's definitely in the interest of the people in the region that there not be a nuclear weapon anywhere on the Peninsula. It's definitely in Japan's interest; I strongly believe it's in China's interest. I know it's in Russia's -- and for that matter, it's in the U.S. interest. Even though we're seemingly removed, it's in our national security interest that we achieve this objective. So this is a very important subject and I look forward to continuing to dialogue with our partners in peace.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Make this a good one, because it's your last question. (Laughter.)

Q What kind of new role do you expect United States troops in Northeast Asia, including South Korea, to do in the future? And what are you going to deal with their critical issues, such as strategic flexibility of the United States forces in Korea and the transporting wartime operational control from the United States forces to Korea?

THE PRESIDENT: The first part of your question, the role of U.S. troops is to provide stability. Obviously, there is -- on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has got troops massed on the DMZ. Part of the role and the relationship with the South Korean troops is to provide stability to the people in the Korean Peninsula.

Now, as you know, we're repositioning our troops and realigning bases, but we have done so in a way, as we've worked out with President Roh in such a way as not to diminish the capacity to provide stability. And, secondly, the presence of troops helps provide regional stability.

The arrangement we have on the Korean Peninsula has worked for a long period of time. And that ought to be the operative model as we go forward.

Q China and the United States have enjoyed good cooperation in various areas, including fighting terrorism, democratic relation and the nuclear issues of Korean Peninsula. And a shared interest between the two countries have increased over time. So what's your comment in this regard, and where do you think we could expand our cooperation further, say, in what areas?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we do have good cooperation. We trade a lot -- that's cooperation. On the other hand, we just want to make sure -- and both sides feel that it's important to have a level playing field when it comes to trade. Advancing the Doha Round is an area where we can cooperate together.

The avian flu area is an area where we can cooperate together. And I did have a very good discussion with President Hu about this in New York. And I'll bring it up again, because I am concerned about a pandemic -- and I'm not suggesting it's going to break out in any country; but if it were to break out anywhere in the world, it becomes an international issue. In other words, I'm not saying just because I'm talking to President Hu that I think it's going to happen in China. All I'm saying is that if it happens anywhere, China and the United States, Japan and South Korea, ASEAN countries, APEC countries, everyone is going to have to work together to identify, contain and respond to an outbreak. So this is an important area.

We work together in the war on terror. There is a variety of ways that we can continue to advance an agenda that is based upon peace. And then, again, this is a complex relationship, as I said. And it's an area, for example, where I will continue to remind President Hu about, for example, my personal faith and the belief that people should be allowed to worship freely. And a vibrant, whole society is one that recognizes that certain freedoms are inherent and need to be part of a complete society. And he's made some very positive statements, and interesting statements about different aspects of freedom.

So this is a vital relationship. China is a vast, significant, growing economy that is -- using more and more energy. And here is an area where all of us can work together -- and that is on how to share technologies and use technologies in such a way that we become less dependent on hydrocarbons. Certainly, Japan has an interest in this in that she imports a lot of hydrocarbons. South Korean Peninsula, same thing -- or South Korea, same thing. And China. The United States uses a lot of hydrocarbons, and it's in our interest that we develop technologies so that we use less. It's in China's interest, as well. So energy cooperation, the idea of discussing how to best move forward and to share technologies makes a lot of sense for our respective people, and the world, for that matter.

And so it's a -- we've got great opportunities to work together. I'm really looking forward to going to the three countries represented here. Every time I go out to the Far East I come back appreciative of the notion of hard work and entrepreneurship and culture. So I'm looking forward to the trip. It's going to be -- it'll be an important trip.

Thank you all for your time. Very good questions, appreciate it. Thank you, all.

END 10:59 A.M. EST