For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 9, 2006
Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
President's Trip to Southeast Asia
4:57 P.M. EST
MR. HADLEY: I'm sorry this is starting later than it should have. My apologies. I'm going to go through, as we do on these trips, giving you some background on the trip. It's long, I'm afraid, because the trip is long. It's about eight days. I've also tried to give you a sense of the substance that's going to go on during the trip, so it means this runs on a little bit. I will get through it, and I will stay for questions, so it won't cut into the question time.
On November 14th the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Southeast Asia, where they will travel to Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. This will be the President's second trip to Singapore and Indonesia, and his first trip to Vietnam.
The President is traveling to Asia to attend the leader's meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC, and his purpose is to advance the core APEC goals of economic growth, trade liberalization and trade-related security. The President will also visit Southeast Asia, a region of great importance to the United States. Let me say a word about that.
Southeast Asia is a region with an active al Qaeda-linked terrorist presence that we are working with partners to defeat. It is a region where serious transnational health challenges exist, including avian flu. And the U.S. is cooperating with regional nations to control these threats. It is a region of dynamic and transforming economies, ranging from the financial and high-tech hub of Singapore to the reforming and literally booming Vietnam. But it is also a region that is experiencing change and uncertainty, in some sense as a result of the changing power dynamics within Asia.
The trip to Asia will allow the President to advance the interests of the American people by both partnering with Asian nations to tackle challenges that face us, like terrorism and disease, and by ensuring that American workers and businesses are able to reap the benefits of one of the world's most economically vibrant regions.
On his trip to Southeast Asia, the President will reiterate his appreciation for the excellent partnership we enjoy with Singapore. The President will highlight our evolving relationship with Vietnam as it reforms and reassesses its role in the region and the world. And the President will discuss our advancing relationship with Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country and an emerging democratic partner.
Additionally, the President will seek to reaffirm the centrality of the freedom agenda in Asia, continue to encourage efforts in the war on terror, and communicate his vision for smart development based on the Millennium Challenge principles of good governance, investment in people, and economic freedom.
That's what the themes of the trip will be. Let me go through the schedule specifically.
On Tuesday, November 15, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Andrews Air Force Base on route to Moscow, Russia. The stop in Russia is a very brief refueling stop. The President and Mrs. Bush will be greeted by President Putin and Mrs. Putin, who have been gracious enough to want to come and greet them at the airport. Following the brief stop in Russia, the President and Mrs. Bush will continue on to Singapore.
On Thursday, November 16, the President will visit the Asian Civilizations Museum. This museum is the first in the region to present a broad perspective on Pan-Asian cultures and civilizations, highlighting the multiethnic society that makes up Singapore.
Following the museum event, the President will attend a U.S. Embassy event to thank the American and foreign staff working in the Embassy on behalf of the United States and Singapore.
That afternoon, the President will see the acting president of Singapore and then meet with the Prime Minister of Singapore.
Q What day is this?
MR. HADLEY: This is Thursday, the 16th. Following that meeting, the President will deliver remarks at the National University of Singapore. In his remarks, the President will highlight the importance of Asia in the world and will discuss the ways in which the United States and Asian nations are partnering together to face the challenges of poverty, disease, terrorism, and energy security.
This is a story both of the United States working with Asia in addressing these issues regionally in Asia, but increasingly, it is a story of the United States and Asian partners working together to address these issues on a global basis. He will lay out his vision for building a hopeful, peaceful set of societies in Asia that can meet these various challenges.
Later that evening, again still Thursday, November 16, the President and Mrs. Bush will participate in a social dinner hosted by the Prime Minister of Singapore.
On Friday, November 17, the President will tape his radio address and then depart Singapore en route Hanoi, Vietnam. The President will meet and have lunch with Prime Minister Howard of Australia. That afternoon, the President and Mrs. Bush will be honored with a state visit to Vietnam, including an arrival ceremony and meetings with the President of Vietnam and the Prime Minister of Vietnam. This will be the first meeting between the President and the new President and Prime Ministers of that country.
That evening, the President and Mrs. Bush will attend a state banquet hosted by President Tran and his wife.
Saturday, November 18, the President will begin a day full of meetings, including a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun. Still on the morning of the 18th, the President will meet with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. He had a similar meeting last year in Korea. ASEAN is an organization of 10 member countries, but the President will be meeting with the seven of those countries that are also members of APEC and are, therefore, in Hanoi.
The meeting will be an opportunity for the leaders to discuss the progress of the U.S.-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership Initiative that the President launched last year. The Enhanced Partnership is a framework agreement for increasing cooperation with ASEAN in several areas, including health, education, disaster management and counter-narcotics.
After the President launched the initiative with a vision statement last year at APEC, Secretary Rice concluded a joint action plan with ASEAN foreign ministers at the ASEAN regional forum in Malaysia this July. This is a relationship that is strengthening between the U.S. and ASEAN, and the President will have an opportunity to push it forward.
Later that morning, still Saturday, November 18th, the President will visit the joint POW-MIA accounting command, where he will get a briefing on efforts to ensure the fullest possible accounting of all missing service members from the Vietnam War.
Following that visit, the President will participate in an embassy greeting, where he will express his appreciation for the work of U.S. embassy staff based in Hanoi.
That afternoon the President will meet and have lunch with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. This will be the first time the two leaders will have an opportunity to meet since Prime Minister Abe took office in October. This will give the President a chance to discuss with the new Prime Minister the strong U.S.-Japanese alliance, and how to work together to meet current challenges in Asia.
Later that afternoon, still Saturday, November 18th, the President will begin participation in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings, attending the first APEC leaders retreat. This first day of APEC meetings will focus on advancing trade and investment in the changing global context.
Additionally, the President will participate in the APEC leaders dialogue, with the APEC Business Advisory Council. This is an opportunity to highlight the U.S. private sector contribution to APEC. That evening the President and Mrs. Bush will participate in a gala dinner hosted by Vietnam for the APEC leaders at the National Conference Center.
Sunday, November 19th, the President and Mrs. Bush will attend a church service at Cua Bac church in Hanoi. The service will include both Catholic and Protestant worshipers, and will serve to highlight the President's support for religious freedom in Vietnam.
The President will then meet with President Hu Jintao of China. Later that morning, the second leaders retreat at APEC will focus on human security, economic and technical cooperation, APEC reform, and other issues.
Following the second round of APEC meetings, the leaders will participate in an official lunch and photo before presenting the APEC leaders declaration.
At the conclusion of the APEC events, the President will meet President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and then the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Hanoi en route Ho Chi Minh City.
Monday, November 20, in Ho Chi Minh City, the President and Mrs. Bush will participate in a greeting with staff and their families from the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. Later that morning, the President will participate in a tour of the Ho Chi Minh City Securities Trading Center -- or stock market -- and then will host a roundtable with business leaders. This roundtable will be comprised of American business people working in Vietnam, including some Vietnam-era veterans and some Vietnamese Americans who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and also additional Vietnamese local businessmen.
These events will give the President an opportunity to discuss economic reform and the business climate in an economically thriving Ho Chi Minh City.
Following the business roundtable, the President will tour the Pasteur Medical Research Institute, and the President will be briefed on the work of the Institute that it does in regards to HIV/AIDS and avian influenza. Vietnam faces tough battles in combating these diseases, and cooperation on health is a success story in the U.S.-Vietnamese relationship. With U.S. assistance, the Vietnamese government has succeeded in preventing a human case of avian influenza for over a year.
Later, the President and Mrs. Bush will visit the History Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The museum houses a collection of artifacts from Vietnam's 2,000 years of recorded history.
That afternoon, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Ho Chi Minh City en route Jakarta, Indonesia. Upon arrival in Indonesia, the President and Mrs. Bush will greet staff and families from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.
Later that afternoon, the President will meet with President Yudhoyono of Indonesia. President Yudhoyono is Indonesia's first directly elected democratic leader, and he is leading Indonesia on a path of stability, prosperity and reform.
The two Presidents will then drop by an education event hosted by Mrs. Bush and the First Lady of Indonesia to highlight the President's $150 million Indonesia Education Initiative. This program has three goals: to help local governments, communities, and parents effectively manage education; to enhance teaching and learning to improve student performance, and to provide relevant work-life skills -- computers, English -- to prepare youth to transition to work and to position Indonesia to compete in the global economy.
The initiative also offers Fulbright and other exchanges and activities to strengthen English proficiency. It is the cornerstone of the U.S. government assistance program in Indonesia and one of the largest U.S. education programs in the world.
The President and President Yudhoyono will then hold a joint press availability. That evening, the President will meet with a group of civic leaders in Indonesia to discuss a variety of issues, including health and education, and how to ensure that the moderate majority in Indonesia is not overshadowed by a vocal extremist minority.
Later that evening, the President and Mrs. Bush will be guests at a dinner hosted by the President and First Lady of Indonesia featuring local entertainment. After dinner, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Indonesia en route Honolulu, Hawaii.
On Tuesday, November 21, the President will have breakfast with U.S. troops. Following the breakfast, the President will be briefed by the commander at the U.S. Pacific Command. And later that morning, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Hawaii en route Andrews Air Force Base and then the White House.
I'll be pleased to take your questions.
Q Steve, when do we expect the President to receive the report of the Iraq Study Group? And have you had any contact with them formally or informally?
MR. HADLEY: I don't know what their schedule is. I don't think they've talked publicly about it. It is, as you know, an independent study group. That's how they want it, that's how the President wants it. I have had conversations with them, with Secretary Baker and former -- former Secretary of State Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. They have had a number of information requests. They have also asked us to arrange some interviews with administration officials. There has been administrative support that we have provided in connection, for example, with their travel to Iraq. So we have -- I've been the President's point of contact with them to facilitate and to give support to the commission, which the President said he wanted to do.
In terms of when they're going to report, I don't know. I see the speculation in the press. I think, quite frankly, this is a question you ought to address to the two co-chairs.
Q You haven't been alerted to anything though?
MR. HADLEY: No. No, sir.
Q Steve, with a new Congress, how is U.S. policy possibly going to change toward Iraq? And is there any attempt going to be made to reach out to some of Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran?
MR. HADLEY: Obviously, there is an opportunity to make further changes and adjustments in what we're doing in Iraq. I think you noted the President said the other day that what was going on in Iraq in terms of our efforts were not working well enough and not working fast enough. And I think that's -- recently in Iraq, that's the view, clearly, of Iraqis. That's a shared judgment.
And the question is, that being the judgment, how can we do better? And I think there's an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to share some ideas on how to do that. The Baker-Hamilton commission, obviously, will have some of their own suggestions. And I think the President, as he's talked publicly, thinks we are in a time now where we have an opportunity to try and define a way ahead that can be supported by Republicans and Democrats, by the executive branch and by the Congress, but also, most importantly, by the Iraqis, because we have to recognize that Iraq belongs to the Iraqis, and this has to be their program
and their success.
And the question for all of us is how can we do a better job of supporting them in their efforts to do what they have set for themselves -- in the President's words, to "an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself." That's what they want. That's what we want. And the question is, how can we support their efforts in a more effective way.
I think the President views this as a terrific opportunity.
Q What about reaching out to some of those countries that I mentioned?
MR. HADLEY: Well, there has been, as you know, over the last several years, contacts that we have had certainly with Syria and also with Iran, some directly through a variety of channels, a lot of it indirectly. These are not relations that lack for communication between the sides. I think the issue, of course, that we have all focused on and that the Iraqis have focused on is that Syria and Iran have not been constructive in Iraq. They have not supported the new -- the Iraqi unity government in trying to move forward with building democratic institutions and bringing peace and stability to the country.
And that is the message that Iraqis have sent. That's, quite frankly, a message that we have sent through a number of different ways. I think the issue about talking to Syria and Iran about Iraq is first and foremost an issue for Iraqis. And quite frankly, based on my conversations there, that is something that they would like to be taking the lead on because Iraq, again, is their country, and if there's discussions to be had on Iraq, they would like to do it directly.
Now there have been meetings, as you know, meeting on the International Compact, where Iran and Syria have been present. And I would expect there will be more meetings of that sort and regional meetings where they will participate. And the agenda for all those meetings is to get countries to do more to support Iraq and to stop doing those things that are destructive. And that's a theme that we will certainly be putting forward at those meetings. It's the same thing that Iraq is putting forward at those meetings.
Q So to what extent will the North Korea nuclear situation come up in the President's meetings with the Asian leaders and when will the talks start, the six-party talks? And are you concerned that North Korea might use an opportunity to do something belligerent as they have in the past during summit meetings?
MR. HADLEY: It's possible that they would take some action. I think it would be very ill advised. They -- I think by both their missile test and their nuclear weapon test, it's pretty clear that they have alienated the international community, resulted in a U.N. Security Council Resolution that's a very tough resolution. So I think it's a possibility. I think they would not -- it's not in their interests to do so. I'm sure the issue will be a subject of discussion.
The way ahead though, I think, is pretty clear. That is to say the North Koreans have indicated that they are ready and willing to come back to the talks. We have said, well, if you come back it's not just a talk; it has to be about concrete steps to implement the September 19, 2005 joint statement in which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear weapons and its nuclear programs. And the five of the six-party talks agreed to take steps that would provide economic assistance, some security reassurance, and a path towards greater diplomatic context. So that's the framework.
And what we hope and expect is that North Korea will come back and start talking about the actions that can be taken to implement that framework. So that's the next step. There are conversations going on now to try and structure that conversation, make sure that the first session will be successful, work out timing and modalities. They have not yet, so far as I know, resulted in a firm time as to when that will resume. My guess, it will be sometime after, of course, the APEC meeting -- is my guess.
Q Can you give us a closer time frame? Are you thinking December or will it start early next -- in January?
MR. HADLEY: I think we don't know at this point. That's part of the discussions that are now ongoing.
Q Steve, could you tell us, in the discussions with Mr. Gates that led up to his nomination, he has of course written quite extensively on the question of direct engagement with Iran, took a position quite different from the administration's current policy. What kind of assurances or discussions did he have about having some freedom to either change or influence established policy?
And during your trip to Iraq, did you explore the question of some kind of temporary increase of American troop presence and Iraqi troop presence in Baghdad, in that new effort to secure the city?
MR. HADLEY: No, I did not explore that notion. I did, on that trip, talk about a number of things about how we could enhance the ability of the Iraqis, first and foremost, and then with our support, to enhance security.
What I found was Iraqis very concerned from Prime Minister Maliki on down. They want to take more responsibility for security in Iraq. They want to see what they can do to enhance, as soon as possible, the capabilities of their forces. And, quite frankly, Prime Minister Maliki wants more control of those forces. That, of course, control is coming. As you know, six of the 10 Iraqi divisions have now been placed under the Iraqi chain of command. So there has also, of course, been provinces that have been transferred not only to Iraq security responsibility, but overall political responsibility for the security forces in those areas.
So this process of turning security responsibility and force to the Iraqis is going on. There is a desire to do it faster. And so we talked about some ideas the Iraqis have in order for accelerating these processes. These are ideas we've taken back. Obviously, the military has to be the principal party to those discussions. We talked about that.
Q -- speeding training.
MR. HADLEY: Speeding training, issues of -- there are a lot of issues that one could think about, speeding training, the level of embedding that is going on, what we can do to help those forces be more effective, what is the extent of the control that Prime Minister Maliki exercises over those forces, is there an ability to get greater and closer coordination between MNFI and the Iraqi government.
There are a whole host of issues that I went, really, to Iraq for two purpose: to reassure the government and Prime Minister Maliki of President Bush's support; and then to hear ideas from the Iraqis about how we can advance the political agenda, the security agenda and get more international support. And I've come back with those ideas and we'll put them into our policy process here.
In terms of Robert Gates, I was not party to the conversation that he had with the President in Crawford on Sunday, so I don't know the details of that conversation. I'm sure, knowing the President, that he indicated to Bob Gates that he wanted Bob to have a pretty free hand in managing the Department and would be interested in Bob's suggestions and recommendations for improving the execution and the carrying out of the President's policies.
I think the one thing I would say -- without getting into specific answers, specific articles -- is, obviously, one of the things the President does before he brings a Cabinet member in is to make sure that the Cabinet member is comfortable supporting the broad outlines of the President's policy -- you know, do you believe that there is a war on terror and it's important for us to succeed? And I think you can be confident that the President and Bob Gates are pretty confident themselves that they're on the same page on the basic pillars of the President's foreign policy. I think that's fair to say.
Q As you know, this trip is going to inspire a lot of comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. I'm curious, what do you think of those comparisons? And is Iraq starting to have the same divisive impact on government and society that Vietnam did?
MR. HADLEY: You know, it's interesting, I mean, for historians -- a lot of folks have views. There are a couple of things, when you ask me that question, that strikes me, having been through that period. One, what's interesting, that's very different is the support of the American people for their men and women in uniform, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, globally in the war on terror, is incredibly high. And that's a good thing, because the men and women out there really deserve it. And if you spend any time on that, that's the only conclusion you can come to. That's very different than the Vietnam era, when, I think -- I'll just leave it at that.
Secondly, the other thing that strikes me is that the overwhelming majority -- and there are always exceptions -- of the men and women who are engaged in the war on terror, whether Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, support the mission. And you see it in re-enlistments, you see it in new accessions in the Armed Forces. That's very different, and I think that gives some heart to the American people.
Third, the other thing I think that's very different is I remember a debate about what would happen if the United States left Vietnam. And there were discussions about dominos, some which fell, some which didn't fall. But nobody, I think, felt that it would result in a clear and present danger to the territory of the United States. And I think one of the things that's different is I think most men and women in America believe that it is important that we not fail in Iraq; that the consequences of an Iraq that descended into chaos would be an Iraq that would be a safe haven for terrorists, that would not only attack and destabilize neighboring states, which are some of our closest allies in the region, would disrupt a very important strategic place in the world, but also ultimately could result in 9/11-type attacks against the United States.
And I think that most Americans understand that, and that's why I think the debate that you hear most in the country is not whether or not we should try and succeed in Iraq; everybody thinks we should succeed. The question is, do we have a plan to do so in which the American people have confidence that the plan will succeed and that we are making progress toward success. That's the question.
And this is in response to Steve's question. I think we have an opportunity now to examine that issue and come forward with some changes and other things that will bring bipartisan support for a way ahead on Iraq. That's what we hope would come out of this.
Q If I could follow a little bit on that. During the campaign, the Democrats criticized all of the President's foreign policy -- too bellicose, too aggressive, too unilateral, as you know, wanted him to be more of a realist. Will the election results change any of President Bush's overall approach to foreign policy?
MR. HADLEY: Well, part of it is the -- it's interesting the unilateralism, and here we are six-party talks in North Korea. We have a EU 3-plus 3 in terms of Iran. We are in the Security Council all the time on resolutions on North Korea, resolutions on Iran. We're trying to work through the U.N. to get a force into Darfur. I mean, it's a little hard. We're now -- some of the people who used to criticize us for unilateralism are now beginning to criticize us for not taking more decisive individual action.
So look, I think the President's policies are pretty clear. We have tried to get international support and participation in those policies because we think it's a more effective way to do it. And I think one of the things -- there has -- I think a lot of us spend a lot of time consulting with the Congress. And obviously, given the election results, we'll probably be spending even more time consulting with the Congress.
Q Apologize if this has been brought out, but I don't think it has. Today the administration put forward the nomination of U.N. Ambassador Bolton. Republicans on the Hill say nothing has changed, and that there's very -- extremely doubtful that it would get out of committee. Democrats, obviously, are saying it's a non-starter. So what are the prospects, and what happens if it doesn't get addressed in lame duck?
MR. HADLEY: Well, one of the things that's changed is John Bolton has now had a long period of time up in New York, and one of the things we hope is that people will step back and look at that record. And we think it is a strong record. John has done a terrific job. He has gotten out of the United Nations some very important resolutions on some of the most important issues for our national security, a very tough resolution on North Korea, I think actually two tough resolutions on North Korea, which many people thought we could not get.
We have a very strong resolution in terms of Lebanon at a critical time. We are now working in terms of Iran. You know, these are hard to do. This is bringing countries with different views together. John has been terrific. He has been a champion of reform, and he has been a clear advocate of American values. So I have to tell you that I would hope that people would step back, take a look at John's record up there, and reach the judgment that the President has reached that he does a terrific job for the American people.
Q So you think it's possible that you could pressure Senator Lincoln Chafee into changing his mind into letting it out of committee?
MR. HADLEY: You say pressure, I would say explain and persuade, because John has a terrific record up there, and I just think -- I know what the President wants us to do is to sit down -- we need to do it senator-by-senator and explain the record. And I think if you want an effective American ambassador in the United Nations, John Bolton has proved he is that. And the President believes that the Senate ought to step back, take a look at that record, and confirm him.
Q How would you bet on the prospects of that?
MR. HADLEY: I don't bet.
Q On Russia, why did you decide to have two meetings in quick succession with the Russian President? What do you want to achieve? Do you expect an agreement on the WTO?
MR. HADLEY: They are not really two meetings. As I said -- there are not a lot of places you can fly to or fly over that allow you to get from Andrews Air Force Base to Singapore in one stop, rather than two stops. And Moscow is one. So we contacted the Russians and said, would you mind if we put down and refueled. And they said, perfectly fine.
And then we were -- and we said no ceremony, no meetings required. And what the word came back was, understand no ceremony, no meetings required, but President Putin and Mrs. Putina would like to pay a social call on the President for the 45 minutes or so that we're sitting on the tarmac to get refueled. And my guess is the President and the First Lady will come out of the airplane, and they will sit down and have some conversation with the two Russian folks.
Q But there is --
MR. HADLEY: There will be -- there are a series of bilaterals. As you know, when you go to these international conferences, it's kind of standard practice to have bilateral meetings. Obviously, we have a lot of issues to talk about with Russia, not the least of which being Iran. And we have now scheduled a bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the margins of APEC.
Q Sir, the WTO -- WTO?
MR. HADLEY: I think you should talk to Susan Schwab on this. She's the one, obviously, on the most up to date information. I think we're making progress at this point in narrowing the differences. I think that's the proper place to go for that question.
Q As far as the President's trip to APEC is concerned, how will this trip be different as far as dealing with terrorism is concerned, because there are terrorists also -- in Pakistan in retaliation with Pakistani army attack on these madrassahs? And also if this meeting will bring any -- as far as Afghanistan is concerned, because terrorism also coming back into Afghanistan?
MR. HADLEY: One of the things the President has done over his time in office is to broaden the agenda of APEC, which really started about trade and economic issues, and then three years ago or so, expanded it to security issues, of which fighting terrorism is the number one. That, of course, remains on the agenda as I described.
He's also now expanding that agenda for a third leg, if you will, which is the smart development, trying to help countries advance in a way that will provide sustainable economic growth and bring people out of poverty. And that of course, in our view, is good governance, investing in people through education and health, and then using the power of trade and private markets. And so that's -- it will fleshing out that agenda. So yes, trade -- terror continues to be on the agenda, but it's a much broader agenda now.
Thanks very much.
END 5:34 P.M. EST