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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Remarks after meeting with President Estrada, Malacanang Palace
Manila, Philippines, July 28, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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FOREIGN SECRETARY SIAZON: Members of the press, this is to introduce Secretary Madeleine Albright of the United States of America. We are all set for questions.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on the Cambodian elections? Hun Senís ruling party claims it was a decisive victory. The opposition is claiming massive fraud. Given the large number of observers there, does the United States view the election results, so far, as credible and fair, and, if so, would you discuss the issue of restoration of aid for Cambodia and its UN seat?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I think the only thing we know for a fact is that the Cambodian people voted in large numbers as they did in the previous election. I think that they clearly are devoted to being able to vote and state their views. I think it is premature for anyone to declare major victory because as far as I know not a large percentage of the votes has been counted, and we have not specifically heard from the observers who will be there or are there in order to be able to declare whether the election has been free and fair and how the vote count is going. So, any declarations of victory are premature. The only people who, at this stage, deserve congratulations are the people of Cambodia who turned out to vote in heavy numbers.

QUESTION: Secretary Albright, what were the issues that were discussed at the meeting with the President. Was there any specific reference by the United States to President Estrada?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We had an excellent meeting. It was a great pleasure for me to be the first Cabinet-level official to meet with President Estrada. I congratulated him on his victory and we spoke about the very good bilateral relationships that our two countries have and the Visiting Forces Agreement and the commitment for both of us to continuing what has been an excellent relationship in terms of our strategic relationships. We talked about the Presidentís interest, which we admire, of dealing with the safety-net issues here, the social issues, his dedication to the poor people of the Philippines and his desire to deal with a variety of social problems, and we had a very good discussion about, generally, the issues in the Philippines and the success of the ASEAN meeting which has been hosted so brilliantly by the Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: One of the questions about the Visiting Forces Agreement is that it might violate the Philippine Constitutionís provision banning nuclear weapons. (Inaudible) your policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons in your ships. How does the VFA address this concern?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we have made statements all along that our surface ships do not carry nuclear weapons and it is my understanding that the government supports this agreement and that it is one that is viewed as mutually beneficial to both countries.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you spoke very passionately and strongly yesterday about Aung San Suu Kyi and the situation in Burma. Does the United States have any independent information about the situation in Burma or are you just dealing with news reports, especially since journalists donít have very much access, if any, to Burma at this moment? Are you aware of any new developments with her today, directly? And, finally, if this stand-off continues -- and you have raised questions about her health and safety, and if you have any specific details of why you are concerned in that regard, I wish you would share them -- what could the United States possibly do with Burma? You already have sanctions imposed on the country.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that we do have information from a variety of ambassadors who are reporting. She is still with her car. Apparently, she has enough food and water and medical attention, and her health is OK. I had been concerned about her health for two reasons: one, is because we know that she, in the past, has had some health problems and besides sitting out in a car for three days, I think the potential for having a health problem is there. I have, as have other members of the meeting here, been concerned about what is going on, and today ambassadors from a variety of countries gathered together to discuss what action could be taken to help defuse the situation. And we hope very much that there will be a resolution to the issue. Aung San Suu Kyi should be able to travel freely in her own country, and we hope very much that that will, indeed, happen. I think that what I have found interesting is the number of countries that are part of the ASEAN Regional Forum that have taken an interest in this issue and have made it quite clear to the Burmese authorities that there needs to be dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD, and the authorities.

QUESTION: On the same topic, the SLORC said today that the U.S. was acting as judge, jury and executioner on this issue. Your reaction to their statement?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, they are wrong. And, second, we are not alone in making clear that it is important for there to be a dialogue between the NLD leadership and the government authorities. And, frankly, it is usually kind of a normal practice for countries to allow their citizens to travel freely within them and to be able to meet with whomever they want. I think this is an international norm that many countries obviously support, and the United States is certainly not alone in this. I am very pleased to report that.

[End of Document]

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