print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
In Focus
News by Date
Federal Facts
West Wing

 Home > News & Policies > November 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 19, 2006

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

6:52 P.M. (Local)

MR. SNOW: Do you guys need a read-out on tomorrow's schedule?

Q We're good on the schedule.

MR. SNOW: Good on the schedule? Okay. Let me then give you a couple of things -- a read-out on the meetings with Presidents Hu and Putin, and a comment on APEC.

The President had good meetings with both Presidents, and he was happy also with the Chairman's statement at APEC. Let me start with President Hu. Topics were economic cooperation, security and strategic cooperation, especially in areas of proliferation. They talked at some length about North Korea and agreed to continue working together toward a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, and toward taking steps to implement fully U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. The President did thank the Chinese for bringing North Korea back into the six-party talks, which we hope will commence sooner rather than later. They also discussed Iran and the need for a U.N. Security Council resolution to make clear everyone's agreement that Iran should not be developing nuclear weapons. And the President also brought up the topic of Darfur. He closed by saying to President Hu that, "I want you to succeed and all Americans want you to succeed."

President Putin began the meetings with a little bit of a surprise -- he presented a birthday present to Secretary Rice, who had a birthday, I believe, on the 14th of this month. They started off by talking about WTO. The agreement was signed shortly before the meeting by the trade ministers -- I think at about 1:30 p.m. local time.

Both Presidents were thanking their respective trade ministers for the hard work that went into it. It's an important accomplishment for both countries.

On Iran, it's important to craft a Security Council resolution, again that reflects the shared conclusion that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, with both nations understanding the profound security implications if Iran should get such weapons. The President also stressed again that we have no objection to civil nuclear power for the Iranians, and if the Iranians make the proper moves there is certainly a clear way forward to better relations.

They pretty much saw eye to eye on North Korea; did not talk at great length about that.

There was something left out, I think, of the English translation of the Vietnamese Chairman's statement on -- he did have a section on North Korea; I do not have a verbatim on that, we're still trying to get that -- our Internet is down. We'll try to have you a copy. But he did, in fact, have a statement on North Korea; I will paraphrase. Everybody reiterated the commitment to a non-nuclear, peaceful Korean Peninsula; strong concern over the missile tests on July 4th and 5th and the October 9th nuclear test. All member states need to comply fully with U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1695 and 1718. They all support the six-party talks and their resumptions, and also call upon North Korea to take effective steps toward full implementation of the joint statement of September 19, 2005.

Q And what was this statement from that you just read?

MR. SNOW: This was part of the Chairman's statement at APEC.

Q That was read out --

MR. SNOW: No he read it in Vietnamese, but for whatever reason the translation was not given in the consecutive English translation at the time. We have double checked, the Vietnamese said yes, he did read it. We will try to have for you the correct English translation of that passage when we arrive.

Q That was not the one at the end --

MR. SNOW: It was when he was reading this long thing; it was part of that. So to answer the question, "Why didn't he talk about North Korea" -- he did.

I've given you a paraphrase; I don't have the exact language.

Q This is the public leaders' declaration, not the -- at the end of the --

MR. SNOW: At the end. At the end --

Q No, just let me finish, because there's two things, right? There's the meeting, where they're behind closed doors. Then they come out and they have their leaders' declaration. You're talking about that part?

MR. SNOW: I'm talking about the statement he read at the end.

Q The end of what?

MR. SNOW: APEC. You know, when they're all standing out there.

Q Outside?

Q -- the leaders --

MR. SNOW: Yes, outside. It was in public, yes. But this was the Chairman's statement, not the leaders' declaration. So he did read it out, but, like I said --

Q I'm sorry, so he did read this, or he did not -- not that part?

MR. SNOW: Yes, he did. No, he did. He did not forget it, but somehow the translation wasn't read out.

Q Okay.

Q There is talk that Hu Jintao and the President agreed on next steps for North Korea. Can you talk about what that -- can you flush that out a little bit?

MR. SNOW: I mean, the next steps really are North Korea returning to the six-party talks and showing, in concrete terms, their determination to start fulfilling the terms of the joint declaration. There really were -- it was not as concrete as all that, so whatever --

Q David McCormick said they had a very specific conversation, they reached agreement on next steps and a direction forward. That sounds a little more concrete than what you're saying.

MR. SNOW: I'm going to go back and look at my notes, but I'm afraid my -- my notes didn't reflect it as clearly as David's. Let me just take a fast look through.

I mean, I think what they're talking about is just working together -- I don't know how you -- the President said, you know, we can offer a good way forward. And the President did talk -- maybe what David is talking about is what we mentioned before, which is the President said, you know, we can announce an official end to the Korean War. That's probably what we're talking about here -- an end to the Korean War and also the way forward, in terms of economic and other cooperation. And, certainly, President Hu seemed to think that that was a good way to proceed.

Q With Putin, on Iran, after the meeting, does the President feel any closer to getting Russian cooperation on a sanctions resolution?

MR. SNOW: Yes, I think so. You know, the one thing that they did talk about at some length were the clear security implications of Iran having a weapon and how that can affect -- I mean, President Putin made it clear that he understood that it had some real impact for his own security. Again, they didn't talk in terms of specifics about what they would be saying, but they understand that you need a strong resolution that will send the Iranians the clear message that we're not only united, but serious; and at the same time are going to offer them the opportunity to have civil nuclear power, which is of some importance to the Iranian people.

Q Was there any indication that they were going to be clearing away the obstacles of -- or the differences that have so far held up the resolution on Iran and --

MR. SNOW: They're going to be working together on it.

Q Back to North Korea for a second. Setting aside the Hu meeting, has the administration come up with a set of criteria or signs, specific things that North Korea needs to do to prove its good intentions, other than simply joining the talks? Because there are reports about, say, shutting down the five-megawatt reactor, for instance. Is there any sort of definition of what North Korea needs to do?

MR. SNOW: Well, that's something that -- the United States is not the only negotiating partner, that's a point that we stress. This is not a U.S.-North Korea negotiation. We're working with our partners. And everybody has agreed that the North Koreans have to demonstrate seriousness, but I don't want to get into any specifics about how they might define it.

You know, the Chinese, obviously, have been talking and will continue to talk. And we will continue having discussions, as well.

Q Did the Chinese seem the most likely to communicate those criteria to North Korea?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I don't want to get into the process of it. The North Koreans know that they need to -- that they have to make the choice, they have to make -- the ball is in their court and I'm sure that they're going to be hearing about that from a number of different sources.

Q How would you characterize the trade discussions with the Chinese, in terms of -- obviously, currency wasn't brought up, for example, so what was brought up?

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, they didn't get into that. I mean, what's interesting is that the Chinese have very important considerations for their economy. There is still significant -- there's a real emphasis on economic growth. As the President has mentioned before, President Hu has said at this point they need to be generating 24 million, 25 million jobs a year -- they're not quite to that level. Even at an 8 percent growth rate, he said that they were generating about 10 million jobs. And it's important to bring incomes up and to create economic opportunities. The President said, that's absolutely right, he agrees with that. And, also, that the American people need to understand that China is developing a consumer-driven economy, as well, so that there are business opportunities for Americans. And President Hu absolutely agreed with that, that it's not merely a savings economy in China, but also one where consumers are going to have demand for goods that American and other companies in free and fair competition are going to be able to supply.

Q Tony, tomorrow, of course, the President wraps up his visit to Vietnam. Are you getting a sense of how he's feeling about what he's accomplished, in terms of putting the past behind and looking forward?

MR. SNOW: Again, you know, what's interesting is that the Vietnamese have said on a number of times, we're looking forward. This seems to be of much greater interest to the American press than it does to the Vietnam delegation, because they didn't talk about it hardly at all. Instead, what you saw is a real eagerness to build closer relations with the United States and a real warmth about -- they like Americans, and they want American business, and they also want expanded cultural and educational ties and they're going to get them.

The President also -- as you've seen, just making your way around Hanoi, and I suspect we'll see the same thing in Ho Chi Minh City, there really is a sense that this is a country that is really -- it's not only growing very rapidly, but there's this sense of vitality. And the President has expressed regret that he can't be a tourist right now, because he'd love to spend more time seeing it. It's a fascinating place, but the meetings went very, very well.

Q Can I just ask a question back, related to North Korea? How concerned is the administration that what you're doing by offering incentives -- economic and security guarantees to North Korea -- that you're setting up this moral hazard to where a rogue country that acquires nuclear weapons says, okay, threatens the world -- is there --

MR. SNOW: You're misreading what's going on. What we're really talking about are the provisions of the joint statement, back in September 2005. If you go back and you listen to what we're talking about in carrots and sticks, that is actually an agreement that the North Koreans have signed. All we're talking about is their fulfilling the commitments to something they've already agreed upon.

Certainly, we don't want to give anybody the impression that if you behave badly, we will reward you. As a matter of fact, the has been the impression that people have gotten in the past, and it is why we have gone to the U.N. Security Council to talk about North Korea, and it's also why we're taking the approach we are toward Iran. What they have to do is to step back from developing nuclear weapons. In the case of Iran, obviously, it's enrichment and reprocessing; in the case of North Korea, it's just mainly a nuclear program. You get the rewards after you've done good behavior.

Q I know you said that the negotiations are ongoing on North Korea and the set of criteria, and you talked about it obviously being a multi-party process. Can you talk about how that's happening and how quickly you think some of those might develop?

MR. SNOW: I don't want to leap too far forward. Let me find out how much I can tell you. I think there's a sense that the six-party talks are going to convene before too much longer, but, Jennifer, I'm going to be vague until I make sure that I'm not getting further ahead than --

Q Is anyone putting a timeframe on that?

MR. SNOW: No. No. But on the other hand, the one thing you don't want to do is to permit either the Iranians or the North Koreans to try to run out the clock, to try to buy time. So everybody is agreed that we need to get this moving quickly. So I think the sooner rather than later formulation, in terms of six-party talks, would at least be accurate.

Q Has the President --

Q -- developments we should know about?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Did the President bring up concerns about energy security with Putin, given what's happening -- the increasing concern in Europe about how Russia is playing politics with its gas pipelines and so on?


Q The Russian trade deal -- the President went out of his way to say that this is a good deal for America. Is there anything specific that he'd point to in the deal to show what makes it a good deal for America?

MR. SNOW: The one thing I can do -- I mean, I can start pulling through and reading you out from the sheet, but, obviously, you've got increased agricultural market access, and you're going to have, as you would have at any free trade agreement, goods and services access, as well, for American companies. USTR has at great length on the website a whole bunch of stuff that will give you the whys and wherefores of it.

Q What was the present that Putin gave to Condi?

MR. SNOW: He gave her a little sculpture.

Q Of what?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. It was a small sculpture.

Q Has the President expressed any interest in coming back to Vietnam as a tourist afterwards? I mean, you said he was frustrated --

MR. SNOW: He'd like to. At this point, I'm not sure that the President is sitting around and telling what he'd like to do after he gets out of office. As you know, there's plenty to do in the next two years. But, look, he's fascinated by the place. This is a very interesting country.

And one of these days we're going to teach Wolffe how to walk across the street. (Laughter.) I don't know if you heard about it, but he had to be pushed across yesterday because he was afraid to take -- you know, it's one of those faith tests.

Q Just a little guidance; friendly, local help. (Laughter.)

Q The visit to the church today, his comments -- they were a little bit cryptic. I mean, in some ways. Obviously, he seemed to be pointing to some concern that Vietnam still has some work to do here on religious freedom.

MR. SNOW: Look, I'll let his words stand for what they are. I thought it was -- you know, it was interesting, because you not had a church service, but in this case you had an inter-denominational Christian service. It's a pretty rare thing and it's a good thing and we'd like to see more of it.

Q He was talking about countries being comfortable with and confident in having such -- and allowing such freedoms. That has not always been the case here in Vietnam.

MR. SNOW: That's right. And the President -- we read this out yesterday, he made the same point in his bilateral discussions with the President, the Prime Minister and the head of the Communist Party.

Look, he understands that freedom is good. As you develop -- when you have the kind of economic growth you have, it naturally creates not only -- it reflects what freedom can do economically, but it also creates the conditions where people are naturally going to expect democracy and they're naturally going to expect the sort of freedoms that allow you to express your national genius even more fully and effectively.

Q Can you let us in on is the President reading any books --

MR. SNOW: I know he read a few, and I don't know which they are.

Q Can you find out?

MR. SNOW: I will try.

Q And what has he said about what he's been fascinated by? Is it just the economic growth or --

MR. SNOW: No, I mean, take a look at the history of this country -- again, I don't want to -- I, frankly, didn't get him on the couch for this one, so I don't have his inner feelings about it, nor do I have the reading list, but I'll try to get some more color for you on that.

END 7:10 P.M. (Local)