I am delighted today to welcome Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg to the Department of State. The minister and I just had a wide-ranging, good discussion about global, European, and bilateral issues. The Czech Republic is an important ally of the United States and, of course, our two nations share a strong commitment to defense, development, and human rights. And we are dedicated to strengthening our transatlantic alliance.
I also welcomed the foreign minister in his current European Union presidency role. The U.S. and Europe have great responsibilities in the world, especially at this time of global challenges and opportunities. And the United States appreciates Czech leadership on such key issues as Afghanistan, energy security, and the Middle East.
It was also a pleasure for me to particularly thank the Czech Republic for being at the forefront of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, with a commitment of 500 troops and leadership of the Logar Provincial Reconstruction Team. Europe and the United States, the Czech Republic and the United States, we have a big, important agenda before us. And I’m confident, as I told the minister, that our shared values, our common objectives, our commitment to freedom will continue to strengthen and deepen our partnership. So it’s a great personal pleasure for me to welcome the foreign minister here today.FOREIGN MINISTER SCHWARZENBERG:
Well, I would like to say that this is, for me, great honor and pleasure to be one of the first visits to Secretary Clinton. I do think we have a certain luck because it coincides that the new Administration started vigorously its work, and the Czech presidency of the European Union is at its beginning.
And the fact that at one side, the Czech Republic is probably the country that Americans have the most sympathies in all of Europe, and we are staunch allies of the United States on one side, as is American – your Administration changed not only America, but the world. It is an important start – motivation to work together to rejuvenate the process of (inaudible), which, after all – I mean, there are – NATO becomes 60 years old, we all became older, and we sometimes stuck too much to the routine. And now, there’s a change, a chance to make a real change, to rejuvenate the relation, to invigorate it, and to start together to tackle the enormous problems we have in the world. Some were mentioned by Secretary Clinton.
And of one thing – I’m sure that if we stick together, if the cooperation between the United States and the European Union goes with a new attitude (inaudible), we can really achieve something in the world to make it and to change it to the better. Thank you so much.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Thank you, Minister. QUESTION:
Thank you, Madame Secretary, and Mr. Minister, if you want to jump in as well. On the Israeli elections, you’ve said you’re looking forward to working with the new government, but certainly some of the candidates would make it easier to advance some of the goals that you’ve been talking about on a deal with Israeli and Palestinians. Could you talk about what’s at stake at this election, in terms of U.S. and European foreign policy?
And on Iran, there does – there definitely seems to be an interesting dance going on between the U.S. and Iran. Last night, after President Obama’s comments about engaging Iran, President Ahmadinejad said that Iran would hold talks based on mutual respect. Your review notwithstanding, what do you think is going on here, and are you heartened by the Iranian messages that they’ve been trying to send to the U.S.?
Thank you.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, as to the Israeli elections, I’m going to wait to find out what the people of Israel have decided.
As to Iran, we have been very clear that, as the Vice President discussed in Munich over the weekend, as the President said again last night, there is an opportunity for the Iranian Government to demonstrate a willingness to unclench their fist and to begin a serious and responsible discussion about a range of matters.
We still persist in our view that Iran should not obtain nuclear weapons, that it would be a very unfortunate course for them to pursue. And we hope that there will be opportunities in the future for us to develop a better understanding of one another and to work out a way of talking that would produce positive results for the people of Iran. QUESTION:
Czech television. Madame Secretary, this is a question about missile defense. Does your Administration have a, kind of like, plan to be presented – a clear plan, including timeframe, to be presented at NATO summit?
And on both of you, is there still an option to abandon this project if there would be a kind of diplomatic agreement with Iran or with Russia?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, as the Vice President also said in Munich, we are first and foremost very grateful to the Czech Republic, to the government and the people, for working with us to try to deter the threat from Iran. If we are able to deter that threat, it will be, in some measure, due to the courage of the Czech people in stepping up and being a partner to provide a strong defense in Europe against Iranian aggression that would certainly be present were they to obtain nuclear weapons.
There are technical issues concerning missile defense that you – that you know well. We had a very good discussion about our hopes to work together – the European Union and the United States – in dissuading the Iranians from pursuing nuclear weapons. But if the Iranians continue on this path, certainly one of the options for free countries like the Czech Republic, other Europeans, and the United States, is to defend ourselves. So this is one of those issues that really will rest with the decisions made by the Iranian Government.QUESTION:
Madame Secretary, there is a prospect looming on the Korean Peninsula of possible military clashes between the two Koreas, as a result of some actions that the North has taken in the past couple of weeks. And there are some reports that Chinese fishing boats are being pulled out of the area in case something happens. You’re going to Asia next week.
Can you tell us what can you do to make sure that such a situation doesn’t occur? And more broadly, what is your expectation on that trip? What do you hope to – what message do you hope to convey to not only the government, but the people of Asia? SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, I am going to Asia to reassert our commitment to our allies and partners in Asia, to work on a range of issues with Japan and South Korea, China, and Indonesia, as well as reaching out to the rest of East Asia.
And clearly, with respect to North Korea, our position remains the same. We intend to pursue the Six-Party Talks. We expect that -- with our partners in those talks to continue a policy that would lead to the denuclearization of North Korea and the end of any proliferating activities by North Korea.
We are hopeful that some of the behavior that we have seen coming from North Korea in the last few weeks is, you know, not a precursor of any action that would up the ante, or threaten the stability and peace and security of the neighbors in the region.
But again, North Korea has to understand that all of the countries in East Asia have made it clear that its behavior is viewed as unacceptable. And there are opportunities for the government and people of North Korea were they to begin, once again, to engage through the Six-Party Talks, through other bilateral and multilateral forums. And we’re hopeful that we’ll see that in the weeks and months ahead. But I know of the continuing concern on the part of the other members of the Six-Party Talks with respect to North Korea’s attitude in the last weeks, and I’ll be talking with our counterparts to determine the most effective way forward. Thank you.
Czech daily newspaper. Madame Secretary, do you think that the current financial crisis could anyhow delay the plans for development and deployment of the missile defense systems? SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, our concerns about missile defense are primarily technical. There may be some economic factors. But we’ve always seen this as primarily a technical challenge. Obviously, we expect any system that we deploy to be able to operate effectively to achieve the goals that are set. And as I have said earlier, our concern, the concern of other nations within the broad geographic area that could be affected by an Iranian missile, you know, are looking for ways to deter and end that behavior.
But you know, we have to be realistic, you know. Our slogan can be “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” I think that’s a realistic approach that we should be taking, and that’s why I admire the Czech Government. I know that that was a difficult decision. I understand that. But the Czech people won their freedom and do not want to be intimidated by the specter of, you know, nuclear weapons in the hands of unfriendly regimes. So I think that what the Czech Government and the Polish Government did in saying, you know, we want to be prepared in the event that we are unable to persuade, dissuade, deter, the Iranians from pursuing nuclear weapons makes a great deal of sense.
Now, the timing and the, you know, actual deployment, those are largely technical matters. And as the Vice President said, which I underscore, if we are able to see a change in behavior on the part of the Iranians with respect to what we believe to be their pursuit of nuclear weapons, you know, then – you know, we will reconsider where we stand. But we are a long, long way from seeing such evidence of any behavior change.
Mr. Minister, do you want to add anything?FOREIGN MINISTER SCHWARZENBERG:
No. I’d have to agree with what you have said. And I think the most necessary thing is that as with Iran, as to other dangers in this world, we need to stick together and we can rely on each other.
And just I would like to add one thing. It was a special pleasure for me – the meeting today with Secretary Clinton, whom I had the honor and pleasure to meet before already in Prague when she visit my former chief, President Havel. And I already was impressed by her great energy. Now to see her as Secretary of State of the United States is a special pleasure.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you.FOREIGN MINISTER SCHWARZENBERG:
Thank you so much.