For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 17, 2006
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Tony Snow and David McCormick, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs
Thang Loi Hotel
President's Trip to Southeast Asia
5:17 P.M. (Local)
MR. SNOW: The President had a series of meetings today. The first was with Prime Minister Howard of Australia. You probably already have seen their readout after the meeting. There's not much I can add to it. The two of them had a wide-ranging discussion, spent a lot of time talking about the war on terror and, particularly, what's ongoing in Iraq. They agreed that it's important to continue to work with Prime Minister Maliki to develop greater capability on the part of Iraqis from the security, political, and economic standpoints.
They also touched upon the Middle East situation and hoping that there's going to be the possibility to continue working toward the road map between Israel and the Palestinians. They talked about energy concerns and technologies that might provide ways to deal with global warming. The President, I think, mentioned earlier that they ranged from clean coal technology to alternative fuels to nuclear energy.
There was a brief discussion, as well -- and you'll forgive me, I'm going to go through my notes here -- they talked about North Korea, as well, making sure that we continue to maintain pressure on the North Koreans to find a diplomatic way to ensure a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, and also David Hicks, the Australian citizen who has been held in Guantanamo. The Prime Minister expressed his desire to make sure that Mr. Hicks gets tried, and the President did, as well.
That's sort of the basic readout there. A series of meetings with the Prime Minister -- the President, the Prime Minister and the Communist Party General Secretary in Vietnam. Do you have the names of all, or should I read them out for you? Okay, I will assume that that means that -- so you've got the book.
All of the conversations really followed a similar track. First, the Vietnamese were very eager to talk about economic reform in the country and building closer ties with the United States, in terms of enhancing economic cooperation. Obviously, PNTR was a big part of that. The President stressed his determination and his support for PNTR -- determination to get it passed. WTO accession, he congratulated the Vietnamese on that. They continue to maintain that this is the beginning of a longer reform effort, and they certainly are eager to have American cooperation on that.
I'm going to flip through my notes here. Again, you've got general readouts. One of the things the President said -- and I know that there's been a lot of interest in his reflections on being in Vietnam -- one of the things that he did add to what he had told you earlier, and he's said this on a number of occasions -- not only did he appreciate the friendliness of the people, but he also thought it was important for the American people to understand how eager the Vietnamese are to build closer relations with the United States -- he said that that might come as a surprise to the American people -- and reassured them about the importance of trade and closer ties.
Also he said that it's important for the Vietnamese people to know that the United States "wants you to succeed." He said he's impressed with the reforms that have taken place, but also understands that reform is hard. On the other hand, as you have a growing level of affluence, there is going to be a corresponding pressure for increasing economic, political and religious freedoms. And the President stressed the importance of working on the human rights front, because that was going to be important for the long-term success of Vietnam.
One of the other things that the Vietnamese also were at pains to say is -- and this is a pretty direct quote from the Chairman of the Communist Party, the General Secretary -- he said we want to, "put aside the past and look forward to the future." That is a theme that we heard from all three of the Vietnamese leaders. As far as they're concerned, they do not want to dwell on the Vietnamese War, although there are ongoing issues, in terms of dealing with some of the aftermath of the war. But the most important thing for them is to build closer ties, and that not only involves the economy, but also security, cultural exchanges -- the President at one point saying that he would welcome having more Vietnamese students coming to attend college in the United States.
And I think that generally covers sort of the basics. Dave, do you want to give us a quick readout on what to expect for tomorrow?
MR. McCORMICK: Tomorrow the morning begins with several bilats and a couple specific events that the President has scheduled -- a bilateral with the President Republic of Korea, a meeting with several ASEAN leaders, a visit to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, and then an embassy greeting, followed by a lunch with the Prime Minister of Japan.
The APEC leaders summit begins with the first session tomorrow afternoon, and that first session is focused primarily upon the core economic agenda, trade liberalization. We would expect that there will be a very robust discussion of Doha -- our preliminary discussions with a number of the countries involved in the trade minister meetings over the last day or two -- I think that will be a very fruitful discussion, and voicing a common commitment to restart Doha.
There will also be a discussion of the free trade agreement or the concept of a free trade agreement for Asia Pacific. And as the President foreshadowed in his speech in Singapore, this is an idea that a number of Asian countries, Asian leaders and business leaders have voiced over the last several years. It's something that the President has said is really a significant idea worth real consideration, and I expect there will be a good discussion of that, as well as an assessment of where we are among APEC members on the realization of the Bogor goals, and aspirations that were set and what the path ahead is on realizing those objectives.
Day two of APEC, Sunday, will focus on other dimensions of prosperity. APEC has captured a number of key themes; obviously the core of this is the economic agenda, but there's also been a focus over the last four or five years on the security dimensions that are so critical to economic prosperity. So avian flu, AIDS, secure trade -- these are issues that certainly will be discussed on day two. I also expect there will be a very good discussion of North Korea. The President has foreshadowed that in all of his discussions, all of his bilaterals. I expect that that will be part of the dialogue.
And there will also be a very, very good conversation, I suspect, around APEC reform and the investment and resources and focus that the members of APEC will bring in the future to ensure that APEC continues to be even more robust in the future in terms of realizing a common set of Asia Pacific objectives.
Why don't I stop there.
MR. SNOW: Okay. Just a couple of other obvious points that I skipped over with the Vietnamese meetings, and let me stress these. The President, as I mentioned, talked about trade; also health cooperation, especially with regard to HIV/AIDS and avian influenza. It's important not only as a template for how to deal with some of these problems, especially how the Vietnamese have been very proactive in taking on HIV/AIDS and avian influenza, but it also sets a good example within the region.
On the MIA issue, he thanked the Vietnamese for strong cooperation and hopes for further cooperation with regard to archival investigations, and also thanked them for not only the strong statement, but also their cooperation in working on the North Koreans. The President stressed that we do not have complaints with the North Korean people; in fact, we want to help them. They're starving and oppressed, he said, and the most important challenge now is to get the government to renounce nukes.
And with that, we'll take questions.
Q Tony, I have one for you, and one for David. The one for you is, did the President give the Prime Minister a gift today for his birthday?
MR. SNOW: No. At least there -- but on the other hand, we have a state dinner tonight; maybe there will be something then.
Q And tomorrow, at ASEAN, do you expect either Thailand or Burma to be present in the room with the President?
MR. McCORMICK: Certainly Thailand I expect to be there. I'm not sure --
Q I know there was talk of the Vietnamese of trying to get Burma into this meeting, over objections from the United States. Do you know if that --
MR. McCORMICK: Not to my knowledge. I don't know.
MR. SNOW: Don't know. No? Gordon Johndroe says Burma will not be there. We will count that as definitive.
Q What will be the message to the Thai Prime Minister, given the recent coup?
MR. SNOW: Well, what we have said is we expect and encourage Thailand to return to democracy as soon as possible. That's been the message from day one; that hasn't changed.
Q Did the North Koreans express -- did the Vietnamese express any opinion about the U.S. view on North Korea?
MR. SNOW: Yes, they share it. They do not want a nuclear peninsula and they have been supportive of our view, and the President thanked them for that.
Q Do we know the agenda of the President's meeting with President Putin on Sunday?
MR. SNOW: Well, obviously, there will be discussion -- generally, the war on terror. There will clearly be discussions of Iran. But I think rather than my trying to set an agenda for the two, we'll let the leaders do that and once they've done it, we'll tell you about it.
Q Are there plans for a North Korea statement out of APEC this year?
MR. McCORMICK: Certainly that will be an agenda item and there was discussion of whether there will be an actual statement or not. To be determined.
Q Tony, further on North Korea, can you be a little more specific than you were in the gaggle this morning about exactly what standard you expect the South Koreans to meet on the U.N. sanctions? You seemed to suggest this morning that they may not be living up to it the way that the U.S. government would like to see --
MR. SNOW: David, rather than trying to presage the conversations the President will be having with President Roh, one thing the United States does expect is that all parties to the six-party will be working for full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. And if there are areas of disagreement, I'm sure that they will be covered in the bilateral. But I'm not going to get ahead of the conversation between the two.
Okay. Thank you.
END 5:31 P.M. (Local)