SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I wanted to come back and talk to you about this trip. It's my first trip, obviously, as Secretary of State, and going to Asia is, for me, a very big part of how we're going to demonstrate the Obama Administration's approach to dealing with the multitude of problems that we see, but also the opportunities as well.
This region is indispensible to our efforts to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of the 21st century, and it is part of a larger context in which we intend to create networks of partners in order to deal with the problems that no nation, even ours, can deal with alone. And for me, this means employing all the tools of smart power. And I will be discussing with the leaders with whom I'll be meeting not only our bilateral relationships and our relationships with institutions in the region, but joint efforts that we can undertake on behalf of global problems like climate change or nuclear proliferation, or specific issues like the future of our efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and beyond.
Now, this is not just about meeting with leaders, though, because I think it's important that we get out of the ministerial buildings and listen to the people in the countries where I'll be visiting. So to that end, I'll be doing town halls and visits in areas of concern that we can discuss with NGO leaders and local officials.
This is not the first time I've been in these countries, but it's obviously the first time that I come in this capacity. But it's an opportunity to renew relationships with some people that I've known before, as well as those with whom I'll be meeting for the first time.
And it really is about listening as much as talking. I think that's an important point I want to underscore. We think it's not only a smart approach to engage our friends, partners, and have an opportunity to hear from them, but we also are looking for the best ideas about how to further the objectives of this Administration in pursuing peace and prosperity and progress.
The final point I would say is that the global economic crisis is the backdrop against which this visit takes place. The four nations I'll be visiting are all members of the G-20. They will be in London. I will be discussing with them the approaches that each are taking, explaining what we have just done with the passage of our stimulus bill, and seeking greater cooperation about how together we're going to work our way through these very difficult economic times.
But I'm optimistic and very much looking forward to this trip. I chose to go to Asia deliberately in order to send that message that we are reaching out. We do see Asia as part of America's future. As I said in my speech at the Asia Society, we are both a transatlantic and a transpacific power. And part of what I hope we can do is better understand and create the kind of future that will benefit both Asians and Americans.
So I'd be glad to answer questions.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. On the global economic and financial crisis, you said the other day that you have discussed with Secretary Geithner how you're going to deal with China and how, if you want – if you like, divide the tasks and the labor. There's been a lot of speculation about the fact that you're trying to claim turf that belonged to the Treasury under the previous administration, and so on, when it comes to China.
How are you going to handle the problem in terms of responsibilities and sharing the burden with Secretary Geithner? Thanks.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, the division of responsibilities is something that we are working out within our government. I have had a long conversation with Secretary Geithner. We believe that we have to have a comprehensive approach to our dialogues with China, which we did have, but they were divided between the Strategic Economic Dialogue and the Senior Dialogues. And we want a more comprehensive, unified approach to the discussions that we will be engaged in with the Chinese. But we're going to discuss the best way forward with the Chinese, because, clearly, you know, they have a lot of equities within their own government in trying to determine how best to engage with us.
But I'm very positive about the kind of cooperation that we can achieve together on behalf of really serious issues like clean energy and climate change and nuclear proliferation, as well as the economic crisis. And I would just point out that the Chinese have a very robust stimulus plan as well, so they're certainly taking internal steps. And what we have to do is work out a way together on these range of important matters as to how we can be most effective working together to solve these problems. And that's what our discussion internally and with them will be about.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, are you going to meet with any human rights activists when you're in China? And if not, why not?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will be doing a town hall in China. I will be going to church in China. I will be meeting with a wide variety of people. And certainly, the issue of human rights will be part of the agenda that I discuss with the Chinese.
QUESTION: Well, just to follow up on that, you got – seven major human rights organizations sent you a letter last week in which they said that human rights had been progressively moved to the margins of the U.S.-China relationship in the last eight years, and they urged you to signal that the relationship will depend in the future on whether China lives up to human rights norms. So I don't know if you've seen that letter, but is that – is that something that you would like to bring as part of your discussions there, to press them further on human rights than they've been pressed in recent years?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, human rights is a part of our agenda with the Chinese, as is climate change and clean energy and nuclear nonproliferation and dealing with the North Korean denuclearization challenge and the Six-Party Talks. We have a range of issues, as I just said, with respect to the economic crisis. And that's why we want a comprehensive dialogue. We're not going to be shying away from talking about human rights issues, but we have a very broad agenda to deal with when it comes to China and all of the countries that we're going to be visiting. So I think it's fair to say that this first trip will be one intended to really find a path forward to have as robust an engagement as possible on a range of issues.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the President ran on a cap-and-trade platform. Senator Boxer has put forward principles for doing this. Do you think part of your discussion, which would be a major change from the Bush Administration, obviously, will be to tell the Chinese we're – we, the United States, are moving forward on capping CO2 and that we are not demanding any kind of reciprocity; you're just there to see what they might do, responding to when we move first?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we're going to be talking about a range of options. Todd Stern will be with me in Beijing in those meetings. And there are a number of different ways that we want to explore with the Chinese that we can be partnering. I'll be visiting a clean energy plant that is a joint project in Beijing between GE and the Chinese.
I think we'll talk about what we are intending to do, although, as you note, no policy decisions have yet been made within the Administration. And the way forward for us with climate change inside the United States will be a part of the political process, and we're going to make it a high priority, as the President has said.
We want to talk with the Chinese about what are the options that they're seriously considering, and where can we best partner and coordinate with them. And I think it's premature to reach any conclusions about, you know, what that partnership will consist of, except to emphasize how important it is to us that climate change be a major part of our engagement with China.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on North Korea, you offered a lot of carrots in your speech – full diplomatic relations, the armistice – but do they have to completely and verifiably dismantle before that stage can be taken? How do you envision the sequencing in a best-case scenario?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the North Koreans have already agreed to dismantling in the 2007 agreement, and we expect them to fulfill the obligations that they entered into. So our position is that when they move forward on presenting a verifiable and complete dismantling and denuclearization, we have a great openness to working with them. And it's not only on the diplomatic front. It's not only the peace treaty instead of the armistice, or the bilateral relations, but a willingness to help the people of North Korea, not just in a narrow way with food and fuel, but economic and energy assistance more broadly. But it does require the North Korean Government to commit to denuclearization and nonproliferation.
QUESTION: Can I just verify something?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes, that's right.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. It's a question that is not related to Asia. Perhaps you can answer. We're just wondering how hopeful are you – how hopeful are you about the possibility of talks with the Russians, cooperation with the Russians on – if the United States pulls back on the missile defense shield that you'd get more cooperation from the Russians on Iran? We understand Bill Burns has been discussing this in Moscow. Can you tell us anything more?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we're hoping for a positive start to our relationships with Russia. I'll be meeting, as you know, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in about two weeks. And that is part of an effort on behalf of this Administration to engage at all levels with Russian counterparts. But we've made no decisions about anything. We have made it clear that we hope to have a positive relationship going forward, which means that we'll find areas where we can enhance our cooperation; and where we have differences, we will continue to address those.
But we think there are tremendous opportunities for us to work with the Russians on nuclear nonproliferation, on the START treaty which expires at the end of this year, on a range of concerns that we think connect us, particularly with respect to Afghanistan, which is a matter of joint concern. There are a lot of areas that we want to explore with the Russians, but we're not making any decisions in isolation from those discussions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I've said it two times. We're not making – we've made no decisions about any of that.
We can do a few more. Yeah, let's try to stick to Asia if we can, but Russia is an Asian country, too.
QUESTION: On Japan, you showed an interest in the abductee issue, and I wonder if that is a suggestion that you share the Japanese concern that maybe the Bush Administration in its final year was in too much of a hurry to make concessions to the North Koreans.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I'm not going to comment on that, but I will say the abductee issue is an issue of grave concern. It's such a human tragedy. And I think all of us can imagine how we would feel if a family member or an entire family that we were connected to in some way just disappeared and were never heard from. And only in recent years have we learned what happened to them.
So we do want to press the North Koreans to be more forthcoming with information. It's part of the Six-Party Talks. It is not just a concern of Japan. It is a concern of the comprehensive framework that the Six-Party Talks represents, and so we will be raising it. And I will be meeting with some of the abductees' families. As I've traveled around the world for many years, I've met with victims of genocide and terrorism. I've met with families of the disappeared in Argentina. I feel such a sense of sympathy and empathy with people whose lives are so upended by actions like that, and I want to show that personal concern that I have as well as our government's concern.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Long-time listener, first-time caller. A twofer, if you would. First, would you take this opportunity right here, since we'll be disseminating what you say when we land in Alaska, to reassure the Japanese that the U.S. nuclear umbrella is still strong and will still protect our Asian allies?
And secondly, I want to hearken back to something that you stated in your Senate confirmation hearing. You said that the highly enriched uranium program of North Korea was, quote, “never quite verified.” And I wonder how you can succeed in your stated task of getting these negotiations, the Six-Party negotiations, back on track if you proceed from such a different point of view about the nature of North Korea's nuclear program than our allies do, all of whom have no doubts about the existence of the HEU program.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, as to the question about our nuclear umbrella, we have and continue to support a policy of extended deterrence that provides protection as part of our alliance with Japan. It remains as strong as it has ever been. We are absolutely committed to it, and we'll be discussing that and other matters with Japanese officials.
Secondly, with respect to North Korea, I can only remind you that the North Korean nuclear weapons program is based on their reprocessing of plutonium, which they began to do in earnest after the Agreed Framework was torn up. The Agreed Framework was torn up on the basis of the concerns about the highly enriched uranium program. There is a debate within the intelligence community as to exactly the extent of the HEU program. There is no debate that once the Agreed Framework was torn up, the North Koreans began to reprocess plutonium with a vengeance because all bets were off. And the result is that they now have nuclear weapons, which they did not have before.
My goal is the denuclearization of North Korea, and that means a verifiably complete accounting of whatever programs they have and the removal of the reprocessed plutonium that they were able to achieve because they were given the opportunity to do so.
So it's clear to me that one can raise questions about the extent of the highly enriched uranium program. We want to know for sure exactly what it is, where it is, and make sure it is dismantled. But there is no doubt about the reprocessing of plutonium, which has led to the acquisition of nuclear material on the part of the North Koreans.
QUESTION: One last question about China. One issue on China that has not come up in the briefings but is an irritant in the relationship is Taiwan, and especially the military sales to Taiwan by the United States. Is the U.S. intent on continuing those supplies, selling arms to Taiwan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, our policy with respect to Taiwan is based on the One China policy and the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. And under the Taiwan Relations Act, there is a clear provision that the United States will provide support for Taiwan's defense. And that is why there have been, over the many years, the sale of defensive materials to Taiwan.
What I'm pleased about is the decreased tension across the Taiwan Strait and the increasing cooperation that we've recently seen. We obviously want to support and promote that, and I think that the current Chinese Government and the current government in Taiwan also have that as an objective. But our policy remains as it has been.
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