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Warren Christopher, Remarks en route to Beijing, November 19, 1996

Foreign Secretary of State Warren Christopher speaks en route to Beijing in 1996.
November 19, 1996

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En Route Beijing, China
November 19, 1996

Office of the Spokesman
(En Route Beijing, China)
November 19, 1996

First, let me stress the great importance that the President and I attach to the relationship between the United States and China. From the standpoint of the people of the United States, the people of this region -- indeed the people of the world -- I regard this as one of a handful of the most important relationships. In that context, I think it is of high importance that we adopt a steady and comprehensive approach to the relationship and we have done so.

This has, I think, enabled us to accomplish a number of things over the recent months -- the settlement of the ring magnets issue, the agreement in respect to intellectual property, working together on the North Korea issue, working together at the United Nations on many issues including the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban. These have been the product of a steady and comprehensive approach to the relationship between the two countries.

History and circumstance and tradition probably mean that there will be divergent views over the years, but they are substantially outweighed in my judgment by the common interests we have between our two countries. I look forward to these meetings as ones that will enable us to establish an even broader strategic concept for the relationship from a global, regional and bilateral basis. The meetings will also help to prepare for the meeting between Jiang Zemin and President Clinton in Manila three or four days from now.

But we have lots of work to do together. Just take the global areas where we need to be working together. Proliferation is one example. There is also narcotics, law enforcement, terrorism, human rights, the rule of law and the environment.

Speaking of the environment, I expect to be discussing the progress we have made and can make on environmental issues where the United States and China may be the two most important countries in the world on issues like climate change -- where we both contribute to the problem and have the ability to effect its solution. Issues of sustainable development that the Vice President has been working with Li Peng have great promise.

Just from those global issues you can see the very broad range of issues we need to address. On the regional front, there are such issues as North Korea, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and working together in the ASEAN Regional Forum. So it is a very comprehensive, very broad relationship and I feel a strong commitment to working on all facets of the relationsbip and not letting any one dominate our approach to China.

With that introduction let me try and answer some of your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you talk specifically about how you are going to approach the Chinese on non-proliferation issues. What is your message to them specifically? And are you going to ask them to halt the Iranian processing facilities, for instance?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I am going to be discussing with the Chinese ways in which we can bring into effect the 1985 agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation. Among the problems we will need to discuss in connection with that are some administrative issues within their own country relating to their export controls. I will be discussing Iran with them as I frequently do. There may be some basis for contending that Iran is already bound by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and full-scope safeguards. Nevertheless, the United States feels that Iran's record with respect to terrorism, with respect to attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, with respect to its open opposition to the peace process -- I simply think that Iran is not to be trusted with this highly sensitive technology and I will be discussing it in those terms.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned North Korea several times in your opening remarks. As you well know, there are problems with the nuclear arrangement. South Korea is demanding an apology from North Korea. North Korea is threatening to fire up the reactors again. Can you first of all give us your assessment of the extent to which that agreement is in danger? And second of all, what kind of assistance at this point would you like to see from the Chinese in trying to put it back on track again?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The Framework Accord between the United States and North Korea has proved to be quite durable through a rather long period of time as we have gone through the steps called for by the Accord. The United States has been furnishing oil and KEDO has been moving forward in its processes. When I met with Foreign Minister Gong recently we agreed it was very important to preserve the Framework Accord because through it we have frozen the North Korean nuclear developinent and have the potential to dismantle it. So I expect to be talking with the new South Korean -- Republic of Korea -- Foreign Minister in Manila on the importance of moving forward with the Framework Accord -- carrying through on the steps in respect to KEDO.

In connection with China, I will be talking with the Foreign Minister in China about the importance of encouraging the North Koreans to go forward with the four party talks and looking toward a peace treaty to replace the Armistice. I think it is in that connection that China can be most effective in trying to persuade the North Koreans to accept the briefing we want to give them as to how those four party talks might go forward. The Chinese quite regularly indicate that their influence is limited but nevertheless we think there is some influence and I think they have been helpful in the past and I hope they will be helpful in the future. The simplest way I can say it is: we want to keep that accord on track and we think that China also recognizes the importance of a nuclear free Peninsula and can use its influence with North Korea to that end.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the questions of visits that are coming up. Obviously we want to use the visits to some degree as leverage with the Chinese but would you expect that Mr. Gore -- the Vice President -- would still go to China before the end of the year? And secondly, would you think that his visit would be dependent on what happens on July 1 in Hong Kong?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: One thing I think I can answer with some assurance is I don't think the Vice President will be going before the end of this year. I will be discussing the possibilities of visits with the Chinese officials that I will be meeting with tomorrow. I will expect those issues to be further discussed in Manila in the meetings to take place there. As you know, I said in New York that I thought it was desirable to have regular visits between the leaders of our two countries. I think that is true of the Foreign Minister level and I will certainly be recommending that to my successor. I think we need to work out a regular program of visits at higher levels. I think that is something that will be suffused throughout this trip -- both here in Beijing and in Manila -- in the meetings in Manila as well. Michael?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you know prior to your visit, the Chinese authorities took a number of harsh actions against dissidents including a long sentence for Wang Dan. Have you anything to say about this action by the Chinese authorities? And in connection with the previous question, can you envisage a formal summit meeting between President Clinton and Jiang Zemin as long as these repressive actions against human rights activists continue in China?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I expect that I will be discussing human rights and rules of law issues at all of my meetings tomorrow. I have a very full schedule of meetings tomorrow and I expect those issues to come up. With respect to the meetings at the highest levels, I would emphasize the importance of the overall relationship -- the fact that we need to have a steady and comprehensive approach to the relationship where it is not rooted in a single issue.

I think I went over with you the very important global and regional issues not to mention the many bilateral issues we have with China. I think the President will want to take those steps which are in the interest of the people of the United States and the region and the world in judging the desirability of meetings at the highest levels.

Thank you very much.

(end transcript)



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