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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on NBC-TV "Meet the Press" with Tim Russet and Andrea Mitchell
June 21, 1998, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MR. RUSSERT: Madame Secretary, Welcome.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: China, controversial trip, as you know. This week, the President of Italy went to China, went to Tiananmen Square, and said, would we all please bow our heads for a moment of prayer and meditation for those who gave their lives on this very square. Will the President of the United States do at least what the President of Italy did?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we’re going to China because it’s a very important country to the United States, and we have a very complex and important relationship. I hope we’ll talk about that.

There is an official arrival ceremony in Tiananmen Square, and the President will act appropriately to really make clear American interests. I think that one has to remember that this is just a short arrival ceremony. The President is going to be in many official meetings and many meetings with a range of people from China. He will make very clear our views on how we feel about human rights in China and Tiananmen. He has said that before; he will do it again.

MR. RUSSERT: Very important Chinese-American women tell me that the color of mourning in China is white, and that perhaps the Secretary of State or the First Lady would wear white to the opening ceremony as a demonstration of mourning for those who had died. Is there any consideration being given to that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we haven’t had that discussion, but I think it’s an interesting point.

MR. RUSSERT: Will the President meet with any dissidents while he’s in China?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the President, while he’s in China, will be meeting with a range of individuals with different views, who will make very clear their views and we to them. Throughout the trip, I think that the President will make very clear how we feel about the Chinese human rights record. The President certainly made it very clear when President Jiang was here, during his press conference, standing right next to him. He said that China is on the wrong side of history as far as the human rights issues are concerned. It is something that is always a part of our agenda, and the President will make those points very clear. He will be meeting with a range of people.

What we have to do, Tim, is to consider, since human rights is a major part of our policy with China, what is the best way to get that message across to get results. That is what we are after is results.

MR. RUSSERT: It seems that the Administration, Vice President Gore, once called the leaders of China the butchers of Beijing; the President accused President Bush of coddling dictators. They have changed dramatically in their rhetoric, and are now soft-pedaling human rights.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The Administration?


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I don’t think so. Let me just say that in your opening, while it was on, I was thinking about something that I think needs to be said. There have been the most astounding changes in the world in the last ten years or 20 years. It would be wrong for American foreign policy leaders not to recognize the changes and react to them accordingly. So what we are doing is dealing with a period of the greatest transition that we had. If we had a completely static policy, we could be accused of not doing our job. So we are looking at the changes in China.

The purpose of this trip, Tim, is for us to make very clear what American interests are; to talk about areas where we can cooperate; to make very clear areas that we cannot; and to keep invigorated in China the processes of change, which are really very important and ones that we want to see keep going.

MR. RUSSERT: If China encountered serious financial or economic difficulty -- there’s grave concern about the Asian markets – if economic catastrophe hit China, what would that mean to the American economy?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we are hoping very much that that will not happen, and they are taking some strong measures to make sure that it doesn’t. But clearly, the Asian economies generally are very important to the United States, which is one reason why we are concerned and are acting very forcefully in terms of trying to deal with the Asian financial crisis.

I think there has been a tendency a little bit to see it as over there in Asia and it doesn’t affect us. But clearly, it’s a big impact on our markets, and that’s why we consider the crisis as important as it is – as serious as it is.

MR. RUSSERT: What would happen to human rights in China if the economy went sour?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that clearly it is better for human rights if things are going well, because it provides people the opportunity to voice their views and to really – it develops, frankly, a class of people who have a greater stake in the future of China moving in reform measures.

MR. RUSSERT: Right now there are reports the Chinese have targeted missiles at the United States. Will the President insist the Chinese stop targeting US cities with their missiles?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it’s part of the discussion. But I think that the point here, Tim, is that we have been systematically working with the Chinese to bring them within proliferation regimes and to improve their record. I think that a lot has been done, more needs to be done; and this is obviously part of the discussion.

MR. RUSSERT: As you know, Johnny Chung, a fund raiser for the President has admitted he was a conduit for illegal foreign money from the Chinese. Charlie Tree, another fund raiser for the President, roamed around China without being arrested by the Chinese for nearly a year. Will the President insist that the Chinese come clean on what attempt they made to influence our election?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Tim, I can just tell you that every time that I have met with the Chinese or any one of the other officials, or when the President met with President Jiang, he has raised the issue of cooperation on the campaign finance investigation; and I am sure that the President will do so again. It is a part of the subjects of our discussion.

MR. RUSSERT: But thus far, the Chinese have denied any wrongdoing, even though Mr. Chung has now acknowledged he got illegal money and Mr. Tree was in China being, in effect, harbored by the Chinese Government.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as I said, we will raise it. But let me just make one thing very clear -- for those of us that are engaged in foreign policy-making, I can assure you that there has been no influence of that in any shape or form, and what needs to happen is for the investigation to go forward. We are doing everything we can to be helpful on it.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iran. You gave a very historic speech this week, suggesting there may be an opportunity or road map to resume some kind of relations with Iran. Only last April, the State Department put out its book on global terrorism – your department. And let me show you and your viewers what this said about the country of Iran: "It remains the most active state sponsor of terrorism. There’s no evidence that Iranian policy has changed, and Iran continues both to provide significant support to terrorist organizations and to assassinate dissidents abroad." Why would we engage in dialogue with that kind of behavior?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, it goes back to the question or the point in your lead-in, which is that there have been some significant changes in Iran. But let me also make quite clear that Iran still is on the terrorist list, and in my speech, I made very clear that if they were to be a part of the international community, they could not use terrorism as a part of statecraft, and that we are continued to be concerned about that.

But I think it is very important – and this is the point that I made in my speech – to respect the Iranian people who elected a new leader about a year ago, President Khatemi, who is responding to the desire by a large proportion of the Iranian people for change and for openness. Ayatollah Khomeni had said that they had to be isolated. I think that these people, the new voters, have said that they want to be a part of the world. And I said that if there was some parallel steps that could be taken over time, we would like to have a road map towards normalization. But we continue to be concerned about their support for terrorism.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, the Iranian radio, state-sponsored, has spoken out in response to your speech. Let me show you and our viewers what they had to say: "In order to restore relations with the US, the US must end support for Iranian opposition guerrilla groups based in Iraq, free frozen Iranian assets and apologize to the Iranian nation for US wrong policies the last 50 years." Will we end support for opposition groups; will we unfreeze assets; and will we apologize?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we’re not going to apologize. I made quite clear already that I could – the policies that we had were the policies that were appropriate to the period we understood. I think it’s understandable that there was some resentment from the Iranian people, but we need to move forward. They made some statements about regret for the hostage crisis. I think we need to move forward.

I think that clearly, we have to look at what can be done to make this relationship one that leads towards normalization of --

MR. RUSSERT: We would consider unfreezing assets?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I’m not going to comment specifically on what we would consider.

MR. RUSSERT: Last on this subject, as you know, this morning there’s an article in The New York Times that the investigation into the Khobar bombing, where 19 Americans were blown up in 1996 in Saudi Arabia – the Iranians are allegedly responsible for that – the investigation has broken down. Must we have accountability by the Iranians for whether or not they were involved in that bombing before we can normalize relations?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have to go forward with the investigation. The FBI is in charge of the investigation; we raise the issue diplomatically. We have to have some conclusion to the investigation. I mean, we can’t – it may take a while.

I think one of the other parts, again, that we need to remember, things don’t happen overnight. For instance, the Rashid* rendition, who had been involved in a TWA incident, that took over ten years to get him here. So these investigations are very complicated. We pursue them; and we will plan to pursue this one.

MR. RUSSERT: Now the tough one – 3:00 p.m. today, US versus Iran, World Cup soccer; who’s going to win?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I always bet with the Americans.

MR. RUSSERT: Not a very diplomatic answer, there, but patriotic.


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I’m sorry; I always stand up for America.

MR. RUSSERT: Andrea Mitchell, who covers the State Department is joining us this morning. Andrea.

MS. MITCHELL: Thank you, Tim. Madame Secretary, good morning to you. We do have very disturbing reports from Beirut today – two rocket-fired grenades launched toward our American Embassy. What can you tell us about this? It’s been a long time since we’ve heard of any kind of attack on our embassy in Beirut.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I was notified of it this morning, and investigation are going on. We think everything is under control, but we will be looking into it more carefully.

MS. MITCHELL: Any injuries?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Not that I know of.

MS. MITCHELL: Also in the Middle East, today, Israel’s Cabinet confirming Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to expand Jerusalem, which many of his critics believe is a provocation, would undermine the peace process. You talked to him last week, trying to talk him out of this. Does this mean that we have failed, once again, to persuade Netanyahu to do something more forward-looking in the peace process, as we define it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I talked to him after the announcement had been made, and I told him that it was being viewed as something that was not helpful to the peace process, because in this very delicate environment, unilateral actions are not the kind that are helpful. He has clarified what he really meant by this particular expansion. It’s putting under an umbrella of the municipality a certain set of steps in terms of making some areas more high-tech in Jerusalem.

But I think anything that is done at this point on something that is a final status issue cannot really be helpful when we are in a period of – I would just tell you – in terms of very intensive and constructive dialogue. We are going – right now, there are talks going on at a variety of levels.

MS. MITCHELL: And this doesn’t help.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I’ve said this many times – that unilateral acts of any kind at this point do not help.

MS. MITCHELL: There are also reports that the US Commerce Department, over Pentagon objections, exported nuclear materials – quite a bit of nuclear materials – to India over the past year. Is it time to get that licensing of nuclear and other technologies, that whole area, out of the Commerce Department, where trade is the primary motivation, and back to the State Department or to the Pentagon or to the Justice Department, to some agency that will care more about national security than about sales?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Andrea, I think, again, here, the facts are not quite as stated. What happens – the commercial sales, I think, belong in the Commerce Department; but that does not mean that the State Department, the Defense Department, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency does not have a voice. If any one of those agencies objects to something that is going on, we can block it.

So what has happened – and again, I think it’s very important to understand there’s a lot of technology out there, a lot of it is not nuclear, but a lot of other kinds of technology that is easily bought on the open market. We are working very hard to tighten controls, generally, on a whole host of new tech items. We think that the system that’s in place, where licenses can be looked at expeditiously, but where the Defense Department and the State Department always have the ability to block, is an appropriate way to tighten export controls.

MS. MITCHELL: Despite our sanctions and our criticism --worldwide criticism – India is indicating it is not willing to give up its nuclear program. Is there nothing we can do? We have a strong interest in repairing our relationship with India. Are we now going to just have to live with this reality?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I think that we can’t undo the tests. I believe they’re unfortunate, and I believe that it lowered the respect of the world for India and Pakistan, and it certainly didn’t improve their security. But what we are doing now – we announced the sanctions that went into place in fulfillment of the law. We have done everything we can not to hurt the people of India and Pakistan. But we want to make sure that both the countries move towards accepting the CTBT and the NPT and the fissile ban treaties.

MS. MITCHELL: But we now are understanding also that both India and Pakistan are producing more fuel for nuclear weapons and also positioning deploying missiles on their borders.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, what we have made very clear to them – and not just us, the international community – that weaponizing anything in terms of missile deployments or further tests are not acceptable, and that we need to get them within the regime.

What is happening is countries are now having bilateral contact with them. We had a meeting with a high-level Indian official, we will with the Pakistanis. We want to make them understand that they are better off within the system, and that they can’t blast their way into nuclear status.

MS. MITCHELL: And finally, Kosovo – a terrible problem for NATO, for the whole world. But aren’t we basically helpless? We’re threatening air strikes, but it is an internal matter. The UN would veto air strikes; and isn’t this again an instance of NATO threatening to take action but appearing weaker because Milosevic knows that we won’t really take action?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we want to solve this issue diplomatically. It is a different issue than Bosnia, as you pointed out; it’s within the country. But it is dangerous not only in Kosovo, but for the region. The Contact Group and the members of the G-8 and various other groups – the UN, Security Council resolutions – has made quite clear that this is dangerous for the peace and security of the region. What we are doing is working, again, intensively, diplomatically. Ambassador Holbrooke and Ambassador Hill are going to be seeing Milosevic this week, where we will deliver again a strong message that violence is not acceptable; that the package that the Contact Group put out is a package and not a menu. He has to pull back his forces. That is a strong message.

The NATO planning is in support of a strong diplomatic approach. We have said that all options are on the table.

MS. MITCHELL: But if he doesn’t pull back?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I’m repeating again that all options are on the table.

MR. RUSSERT: That obviously includes a military strike.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, but I think that isn’t the issue here. The issue here is that we want a diplomatic solution; and I don’t want to threaten strikes when what I’m trying to do is get a diplomatic solution.

MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, thank you for walking us around the world’s hot spots; and have a safe trip to China.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Great. Thank you very much. Thank you, Andrea.

[End of Document]

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