The President's Trip To Brunei and Vietnam - Briefings

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Bandar Seri Bagawan, Brunei Darussalam)

For Immediate Release November 15, 2000


National Stadium
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam

7:40 P.M. (L)

MR. SIEWERT: We will begin here with a readout of the meeting with South Korean leader, President Kim Dae Jung, by Ambassador Sherman and Jack Pritchard, NSC Senior Director for Asian Affairs. I'll then bring Gene Sperling who can give you an overview of tomorrow's APEC meeting and the agenda there. And then I'll be on hand to answer any other questions you might have at the end of that.

Q What about --

MR. SIEWERT: We could, but we thought we'd move quickly. So without further ado, I'll have Ambassador Sherman kick it off here.

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Good evening. The President held a bilateral meeting with President Kim Dae-Jung. The meeting lasted for about 40-50 minutes. They reviewed the whole range of the relationship; obviously discussed relations with the DPRK, with North Korea; discussed a range of bilateral issues, as well as the events here at APEC, the importance of the information age and its impact on developing economies.

They clearly have great admiration for each other, in working through a very strong alliance relationship between the U.S. and the ROK, and it was a very positive meeting where they each shared their own perspectives and their shared perspectives on all of these issues.

Clearly -- I will go ahead and answer a couple of the questions that I think that you will already have, which is, did they discuss the potential of a presidential trip to North Korea. They did, indeed, discuss the U.S. relationship with North Korea. The President got President Kim Dae-Jung's thoughts on a possible trip to North Korea. President Kim, as he has said in the past, believes in engagement with North Korea, believes that Chairman Kim Jong-Il is the key decision-maker, perhaps the sole decision-maker in North Korea, and that although President Kim clearly sees value in the President making such a trip, he is very clear that this is a decision that only the President can make, taking into a wide range of considerations of what is in the best interest for the United States' national interests.

Q And what did the President say about his own thinking about whether he should make that trip? Did he think it's something he would do?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: The President has not yet reached a decision on whether he will make a trip to North Korea. He is assessing all of the information from our nearly two years' worth of work since the Perry process began, including the Secretary of State's recent trip to Pyongyang and the results of that trip and the follow-on discussions in Kuala Lumpur. So he's taking that all into consideration. And as he said to the press as the pool spray came in to the meeting with President Kim Dae-Jung, he expects to make a decision in the very near future.

Q Wendy, you haven't said much to us about what came out of the sessions in Kuala Lumpur. Where are you in that process and what kind of commitments did the North Koreans indicate they were ready to make on restraining exports, restraining productions, and so on?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: As you can imagine, I probably won't go into nitty-gritty detail because we are in the midst of discussions with the North Koreans. But as the Secretary has said, when she was in Pyongyang she had a range of discussions with Chairman Kim Jong-Il on both their indigenous missile program and their exports. And we sent a team to Kuala Lumpur to have expert level talks to clarify the discussions that she had with Chairman Jong-Il. We did not have expectations that agreements would be reached in Kuala Lumpur, but as most of you know, when it comes to issues like missiles, there's a lot of devil in the detail and so one has to understand whether terms mean the same things; whether, in fact, you have discussed what you thought you discussed. And those expert level talks in Kuala Lumpur did, indeed, give clarification, and I would say positive clarification, to the issues that were discussed.

Q The last senior U.S. official who was here referred to a possible other round of talks before a decision would be made. Can you clarify for us if anyone else plans or if there are other plans for meetings anywhere?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Certainly expect that if the President decides to travel that there would quite probably be further preparations before he would make such a trip. One prepares a presidential summit very carefully, and we would in this instance as well.

Q Wendy, is it fair to say that you can't send the President unless you can actually reach the agreement or sign the agreement when he is there?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think that there are wide range of considerations for the President to make. And as Secretary Albright said in her speech after she returned, that if we believe that we can make significant progress on issues of concern to us, and obviously missiles are a primary issue of concern to us, then we need to pursue this to see if, in fact, we can reach an agreement or a substantial agreement in principle with the North, and that obviously would be a very important part of the President's consideration.

Q Wendy, you had clarification that satisfied you in Kuala Lumpur. To what degree is verification the pick-up at the moment?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I'm not sure I understand your question, Robin.

Q Is verification a major issue -- if you have what you hoped you would get in terms of clarification -- is verification the issue that might involve some further talks?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think there are a wide range of issues, and clearly modalities of monitoring verification, knowing that, in fact, an agreement that you have reached is an agreement that will be carried through is something that has been part of our discussions, were part of the Secretary's discussions, were part of Assistant Secretary Einhorn's discussions, and would have to be part of any agreement.

Q How do you respond to some critics in the administration's policy, who believe that the administration is rushing things, that a presidential visit in the next month, or even before leaving office would simply be too soon, that this process needs to take a bit longer?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Well, the process, as I said, began nearly two years ago, when the President asked Dr. William J. Perry, the former Secretary of Defense, to undertake a policy review of our policy toward North Korea. And through a range of consultations, including very close consultations both with the ROK and Japan, as well as a number of other countries around the world, we developed what was called the Perry Report, which set out what the objectives were of the United States. And we have in a very methodical way carefully pursued those objectives.

The Secretary of State's trip to Pyongyang was, we thought, the next appropriate step in that two-year process. And now the President will decide whether a trip by him would increase the United States' interests in our security, and he will have to decide whether he believes significant enough progress can be made to merit a trip by the people of the United States.

Q Is one of the factors in making a decision like that what the impact would be on a future President and whether it's appropriate to constrain their choices by committing to a certain course of conduct with North Korea?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think the President will take in a wide range of considerations in making this decision. We always take into consideration the prerogatives of Congress. We obviously would take into consideration the prerogatives of the next administration. But the President of the United States is the President of the United States, and he has an obligation to pursue what is in the best interests of the United States and our national security. And knowing this President, that's exactly what he'll do, is do what he thinks is best for our national security.

Q Can you say after this meeting with President Kim if the President is any closer or much closer to making that decision?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I can only repeat what the President, himself, said, which is that he expected to make a decision soon.

Q When the people who you and your team have been briefing on the Hill say that the price for -- being discussed for the kind of aid we would be providing North Korea is somewhat high, and they are concerned that this President couldn't make a commitment to fight for that on the Hill, since obviously he won't be around when the moment comes, how do you explain to the North Koreans? How do you reach an agreement that they would have any confidence -- would be able to get through --

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think that we understand our system; we've tried to help them understand our system, what we can do, what the limits are, what we can. This is true in any given year when you're talking about anything that might involve Congress, whether you're an incoming President, an outgoing President, you're President right now. Those are always considerations in any negotiation; they're considerations in this one as well.

Yes, sir.

Q What do you think about DPRK's reaction in case the President decides not to go to Pyongyang?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Well, the President hasn't made a decision about what he's going to do, so I don't think that it would be useful to go through hypotheticals, one direction or the other.

Q But he did make a decision not to go while he was on this trip. Do you believe that North Korea got that message?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I know North Korea knows why he did not go at this point in time.


Q The President has indicated that one -- another part of his consideration would be the impact it would have on the prospects of North-South -- further thawing of North-South relations. Can you tell us anymore about what President Kim said to the President about the impact of a possible trip to Pyongyang on North-South relations?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: The United States has always been clear that central to any ultimate peace on the Peninsula, central to it is a North-South dialogue. And one of the major tenets of the Perry process and of the policy of the United States is that everything we do we try to reinforce that relationship. The Secretary, in her discussions with Chairman Kim Jong-Il came back time and time again to reinforcing the importance of that relationship, as we do, as a matter of fact, reinforcing the relationship of the DPRK with Japan and improving that relationship.

And we have worked very, very closely with the ROK. Everything we have done, including the development of the Perry Report, has been done in partnership with the ROK. And I believe they will be very comfortable with however we proceed on this, because they know that our really central objective here is to support them in their efforts for peace and stability on the Peninsula.

Q Did President Kim say anything specific about that today?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think it would be better if I don't detail specifics of their conversation, but President Kim is very comfortable with our working relationship, how we are progressing together, and understands that the President believes that the North-South dialogue is central to whatever occurs on the Peninsula.

Q How important is North Korea in talks with other leaders Clinton has had both formally and informally?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: It is obviously a subject of much interest and discussion in various bilaterals everyone is having here, because of the Secretary's recent trip, because of the questions that you all have written about whether the President's going to go or not. So it is a subject of discussion here.

Q Do you find anyone who is discouraging you?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think everyone understands and believes that the President needs to make a decision that is in the best interests of our country, which is what they would want us to do if they were making a decision about how they're going to proceed. But I think that everyone has seen the value of engagement with the North, and we certainly are not the only country that is pursuing an improved relationship to try to ultimately ensure peace and stability on the Peninsula.

Q Are further discussions with North Korea necessary to obtain the clarifications that you want to see if there is a -- if progress can be made in doing such a visit?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I missed the beginning of your question, I'm sorry.

Q Do you need to have further, direct contacts with the North Koreans to assess their position?

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We are looking at and analyzing the results of the discussions we've had over a period of time, including, as I said, the Secretary's visit and the talks in Kuala Lumpur. And I also said that I would expect if the President decides to go that there will be further preparatory work.

Q I was wondering how high on the agenda are sort of human rights issues in North Korea, in particular sort of humanitarian issues. The famine, the winter is coming, treatment of its own people, we don't hear a lot about that.

AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I'm very glad you asked the question because I think there has been a lot of concern that was raised in part because the Secretary visited North Korea, and people were concerned that by her very visit, she was somehow reinforcing what is clearly an oppressive, totalitarian regime. The Secretary raised in all of her conversations our perspectives on this, our concern for human rights, how important we think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is, and the rule of law. She said quite clearly that someone who has been a student of communism for most of her life, that the glasses she wears are not rose-colored, that we quite understood what the event at the stadium was all about, and these issues of the value of the people of North Korea and supporting them is quite key to everything we do.

Thank you.

END 8:00 P.M. (L)

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