QUESTION: And joining us now is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Madam Secretary, good morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, Erica.
QUESTION: The state visit, as we know, gives China the recognition and really a little bit of the pomp and circumstance that it’s been craving. It’s now the world’s second-largest economy, obviously a crucial partner for the U.S. I know it’s a relationship that the Administration has been working on. But you also said very clearly last Friday that distrust lingers on both sides. How will this state visit work to eliminate some of that distrust?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Erica, it’s a great question, and I have to say that even though we live in a world of virtual reality a lot of the time where people communicate with the flick of a mouse or the touch of a screen, we believe strongly that you still need to have face-to-face, relationship-building opportunities. And I have seen that so clearly in the last two years as Secretary of State. We’re proud to welcome President Hu Jintao for a state visit to Washington. It is the continuation of two years of the Obama Administration’s efforts to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China. And we think it is one of the most consequential relationships for the future of our country and the future of the world.
So we will be working to find common ground wherever we can to enhance cooperation, but there will remain differences. Obviously, first and foremost, I stand for America’s interests, Americans’ values, America’s security; the Chinese stand for theirs. And we do not always see the world the same way, which is to be expected, since we have very different histories and cultures. But it is imperative that we work not only government to government, but people to people, to build a foundation of better understanding and trust so that where we can agree, we will do so and work together.
QUESTION: One of those major issues, and especially for a lot of the American people as they look at this, is, of course, human rights, which you also brought up as you were speaking about – in fact, referencing specifically Liu Xiaobo from talking about the Nobel Prize, and you said – and I’m quoting here – talking about how that chair remaining empty at the ceremony in Oslo was a symbol of a great nation’s unrealized potential and unfulfilled promise. China, though, has repeatedly dismissed U.S. calls for greater human rights as interference. How do you work on that issue of human rights while also balancing out the need for working on things like trade agreements?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because we want a comprehensive relationship in which these various issues are not eliminated because they are troubling, but are wrapped into our overall strategic and economic dialogue. I think everyone in the world knows that the United States and China have differences when it comes to human rights. That doesn’t prevent us from raising it in private and public, and it – and the fact that we have these differences doesn’t prevent us from working together on the economic prospects for the global economy.
So what I believe is that the United States must always stand for our values, and therefore, we must raise human rights, which remains at the heart of American diplomacy. But we cannot say that that’s all we’re going to be talking about, or the fact that we disagree there eliminates the need for us to work together on climate change, North Korea, Iran, and so much else.
QUESTION: You mentioned North Korea there, and the Korean Peninsula seemed to be on the brink of war not very long ago with, of course, the attack on a South Korean island and then South Korea’s military maneuvers that we saw. Will you and will the President be speaking with – and as you speak with your counterpart, your Chinese counterpart, asking them to be more firm when it comes to North Korea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are engaged in an ongoing discussion with the Chinese, as well as the South Koreans and the Japanese and the Russians, all who are members of the so-called Six-Party Talks, about what we must do in order to restrain North Korea’s nuclear program and end its provocative behavior. China was helpful in this last series of incidents in helping to restrain North Korea in responding to what was a legitimate exercise by South Korea to demonstrate its defensive capacity. And we’re going to continue to work with our Chinese counterparts.
The fact is that a stable, nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is in both Chinese and American interests. Now, how we get to where we want to end up is what diplomacy is about. So we have an ongoing discussion and we are looking for the best way forward, and I believe we will have some productive talks about North Korea during the state visit with President Hu Jintao and his delegation.
QUESTION: The benefit, again, of those face-to-face meetings.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.
QUESTION: There is so much attention, of course, on China and on the state visit, but there are other pressing issues at this point across the world. And last week on Thursday, you talked about the Middle East and stagnant governments there and you warned that the region’s foundation could be sinking into the sand. On Friday, we saw the president of Tunisia, President Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years, flee the country. Do you believe that that situation is serving, perhaps, as a wakeup call to other nations in that region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that certainly is what I’m hearing from my counterparts throughout the region. And as I said in the meeting in Doha, in the 21st century where people communicate constantly with one other, the old rules are not going to work. You can’t keep people in the dark, because everybody has a cell phone or a PDA. They have a way of communicating what they see going on and taking their own video and posting it to the internet.
Governments have to be aware that the rules have changed. And the best way to deal with the pent-up desires on the part of the huge number of young people in the world today, and particularly in the Arab world who don’t have jobs, who feel that they aren’t given neither economic nor political freedom, is to begin to look at how you create inclusive, participatory government that can deliver results for people. And of course, I understand the legitimate concerns of many of the governments which say if we open up, it’s the extremists who are going to rush in. And my response to that is: Not if you are giving support to NGOs and others who are looking for democratic participation where voices are heard, not silenced the way the extremists eventually choose to do. So this is a delicate, difficult time of change in much of the world, and particularly in that part of the world.
QUESTION: Extra, extra delicate, as you point out. I do want to ask you as well about former Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who, of course, has reemerged at this point, coming out of exile. The State Department is saying it was surprised by his return. Will the State Department put – push, rather, for prosecution?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are very clear going back many years about the abuses of that regime. And certainly, we believe that his record is one of repression of the Haitian people. Ultimately, a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti. But we’re focused on trying to maintain stability, prevent chaos and violence in this very unpredictable period with his return, with cholera still raging, with the challenges of reconstruction, with an election that’s been challenged. It sometimes seems as though the Haitians just never get a break; they just don’t get enough of a period where they can regroup and take the necessary actions that will give them a stronger future.
So we stand with the Haitian people and with their aspirations, and we hope that we can get through this difficult period and get back to a more stable relationship within Haiti and between Haiti and the rest of the world.
QUESTION: Lastly, before we let you go, of course, the campaign season is already heating up for 2012. I know you’ve said that you plan to stay in your current position at least through this first term. Any thoughts, though, on ever looking again at perhaps running for an elected office?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’ve been very clear that I think that is part of my very happy past, where I had a wonderful opportunity to serve the people of New York, to work beside my husband when he was president, to run for president myself, but I feel very good about the service I’m rendering now and will continue to do that.
QUESTION: And what about those rumors that we could see you over at the Department of Defense?
SECRETARY CLINTON: As far as I know, those are just rumors. I’m happy where I am, and I’m doing everything I can to persuade Bob Gates to stay as long as he can where he is.
QUESTION: All right. Secretary Clinton, thanks so much for your time this morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great to talk to you, Erica. Thank you.