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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Briefing Enroute to Honoi, June 26 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 27, 1997
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we are all going to spend a lot of time together over the next few days. I am looking forward to it, and I am very glad to be getting back to Asia. I had made a point in my first trip to say that our relations with Asia are very important to the United States and to me personally, so I am very glad to be doing this now and of course I will be back again in three weeks for the ASEAN meetings.
Also, I have to say that I am sorry that we had to cancel the Cambodia stop. The United States has been very supportive of the evolution of democracy in Cambodia and I had wanted very much to be able to give a message that would make very clear that we want the violence to stop and for the various parts of the government to begin working together again and prepare for elections. I have had a long time interest in Cambodia. First of all I was there three years ago as some of you may know, visiting the peacekeeping operation. Before that the Center for National Policy where I was president had a project about Cambodia so I had met Hun Sen and now King Siahnouk and Prince Ranariddh. I have dealt with those people before and I have had an interest in it for some time.
I am going to Vietnam with the following agenda and that is that we have been able to normalize our political relations with Vietnam and exchange ambassadors and we now want to lay greater stress on normalizing and moving forward in our economic relationship. Of course what is the highest priority is to deal with the POW/MIA issue and I will be discussing that. Also, I will be looking at and discussing the human rights situation.
At the same time on the issue of economic normalization we are going to be focusing on trying to develop increased trade, which requires them to improve their situation with the returnees --the ROVR Program and immigration issues so that we are in a position to waive Jackson-Vanik--and then be able to have an EX-IM program and an OPIC program. Then be able to negotiate a trade agreement and ultimately move to MFN. So those are the issues that I am going to be discussing.
I am also going to have the opportunity to throw out the first brick, or maybe more accurately lay the brick for our new consul ate for Ho Chi Minh City. We expect there to be about 12,000 immigrant visas to deal with, plus the 75,000 or so Americans who visit. There is a lot of business, so that's what we are about.
QUESTION: There are so many things on the agenda, I want to go back to your speech in San Francisco. I want to clear up something that you said in your speech in San Francisco that Mr. Berger also said in his earlier speech with relations with China. On the list of positive developments that have taken place with China, you mentioned their signature declaration adherence to international non-proliferation and missile control agreements. Is it your view that the Chinese are in fact adhering to the spirit and the letter of missile technology and missile control agreements?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the issue here is first of all that there really has been progress in getting them to abide by various international non-proliferation regimes. I won't go through all that. Are they abiding by the MTCR? I think that for the most part they are, but we need to examine further whether they are fully in compliance with it. Obviously there are concerns, but there has been no determination on specific cases recently.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you mentioned earlier the waiver of Jackson-Vanik. The American business community is very anxious, almost impatient, to get going on that. Some people I spoke to before we came out here in the business community said they would like to see the Administration make a decision on that by August. Do you think that's possible and what sort of concrete promise or any promise will you be able to make to the Vietnamese during your visit there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: One of the things that I have to actually look at is how this ROVR program is working in order for there to be a waiver. I will be explaining to them what more needs to be done in order to move the process forward. I think there have been some questions about the number of exit permits that have been provided and how the ROVR program generally is working. So I will see. This is one of the first steps that's really important in order to move the whole trade relationship forward. I am going to be making clear to them the importance to us that the ROVR program, generally the refugee issues, are worked out in a way that would allow us to move forward.
QUESTION: Inaudible
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't know. I won't know until I have really had a chance to look at it.
QUESTION: A lot of business people have said in the two years since many of us were there that the progress they had hoped for has not taken place, that the bureaucracy had been much more sporadic than they anticipated. Are you going to send a message to them the leadership that they need to?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The prime purpose of my trip, obviously is dealing with the POW/MIA issue, but at the same time telling them that they do need to give new emphasis to the economic reform so that there is in fact a good climate for investors. They have to deal with some of their legislation to do with investment and generally getting a rule of law plus giving their doi moi campaign their economic reform campaign greater impetus. So that is partially what my message is about. That there have been complaints by business people that there has been sort of a slow down and that they need to revitalize that effort and how important it is from the perspective of the United States and generally in order to revive them.
QUESTION: How do you analyze the elections slate? Does this seem to you a time that they are going to be moving in a new direction with a change of generation?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have to look at that very carefully. There does seem to me that these three older people are not running for the national assembly and therefore they are not going to be able to have the elected or appointed jobs as leaders of the country but they will continue to be major leaders within the Communist party. Also, I will be looking to see what the next generation is. I think part of the issue here is that it is very hard to tell exactly at this moment about the new leadership.
QUESTION: On a personal level could you tell us how in the Sixties you were effected by the war? Did you have any close relatives that either fought it or refused to fight it? What was your position?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On the latter question, I did not. But I was in graduate school during the war at Columbia. I was not a demonstrator but I was very much a part of the whole scene there. In '68 I was taking my comprehensives and at that stage I had three children, so I was in somewhat of a different phase than a lot of the students. But clearly the war affected everybody in the United States, and affected me and the role that the U.S. ought to play internationally.
QUESTION: Were you for it? I mean, everybody was for it or against it in those days.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I thought that it was a war that, as it was being carried out, created such dissension in the United States. It troubled me a great deal. Originally, when the war started I think that I had more of a sense that there was a Communist monolith and having come from where I had come, I was more likely to view it that way. I came to see what everybody came to see -- that it was not the same kind of a war. There were different systems of communism and a sense of nationalism and so I think I kind of was where most people were on it.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it will soon be two years since relations were restored and POWs is prime on your list MIAs, have the Vietnamese done what the United States has expected in these two years?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all I think President Clinton has made clear that they have and it is really in four areas. One is in dealing with the discrepancies in live sightings, the second is in trying to get the archives turned over, the third is getting the remains also turned over, and the fourth is dealing with the issue of POWs/MIAs in the Laotian situation.
I think that also we now have, if it is possible to say this, the most representative kind of an Ambassador there dealing with the issue. Clearly Ambassador Peterson is dedicating himself among other things, to really dealing with the POW/MIA question. He is focusing on it and at the same time understanding the importance of moving forward. To restate what I think is a great statement: We have to think of Vietnam as a country and not as a war. The POW/MIA issue is the single issue that we have to focus on, but at the same time we have to think forward and Ambassador Peterson is a great representative for us on that.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, this is sort of two parts. To what extent will the United States ever be able to put the POW issue behind us? I mean will it always be an issue because realistically you are never going to be able to settle all those cases? The other question is how important is human rights as you go into this visit? How important it as the United States proceeds with developing crises?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that for thousands of Americans the POW/MIA situation will never be fully resolved. It will clearly be part of the agenda and it will clearly be part of a priority issue that we keep pressing. On the other hand, I think people know the importance that has to be attached to dealing with Vietnam as a country, as a country that is important in terms of regional stability in our relationship with the second most populous country in Southeast Asia. So we can not forget the POW/MIA and at the same time I think we have to move ahead.
On the human rights issues, again, human rights are central to the way that the United States describes itself and describes our relations with other countries. I will be raising specific human rights cases with the government and pressing them on improving their human rights record. And that will be very much a part of our agenda and doing that on a parallel track with also pressing them on improving our trade relationship.
QUESTION: Talking about Vietnam, our experience there was so complicated and it spilled over into Cambodia and we have done a lot of talking about Cambodia, Pol Pot, our own responsibility is there too. But I really wanted to ask you with all this talk about Pol Pot do you really think Ieng Sary is any less responsible for the crimes against humanity than Pol Pot? And if we are talking about extraditing Pol Pot should not we also be talking to the Cambodians about extraditing Ieng Sary?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all I think it is very hard to find anybody comparable on mass murder characteristics than Pol Pot. I think that you know the horror of what he directed is something that is seared into American minds and obviously into the minds of the Cambodian people. It is hard to make comparisons, but Pol Pot is clearly one of the greatest mass murderers of history. I think that the U.S. believes that Pol Pot needs to be tried internationally and we are going to be dealing with that issue.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up for a second: Does that mean that Pol Pot will stand alone for all the crimes of the Khmer Rouge and that no one that worked for him, no second in command, third, fourth should also be tried?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Steve, I think we will have to look at all that. We are just coming to the possibility of being able to deal with Pol Pot. I always believed that others were also responsible but I think we have to deal with the top man on this.
QUESTION: Could you tell us your understanding of what is happening vis-a-vis the four-party talks? The four-party talks vis-a-vis North Korea. What is happening? Is there a breakthrough?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are looking forward Monday to a tri-lateral meeting in New York and we will have to see where those lead. We have looked at this situation before. It looks hopeful but we will have to see. There is this tri-lateral on Monday.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you said you want to raise human rights cases, but what about the general human rights situation? Are there any specific situations that you are looking at with them?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think generally there is the question of how those who are dissidents and who would like to practice their political rights and human rights are treated within a country that is still a Communist country that is working towards reform but has still some serious characteristics that make it difficult for people to be able to exercise their rights. Also, pressing them to understand that if they wish to join the international community then they need to do a better job in the area of human rights. Evolution and democracy and free markets are the future and that is the way to try to make Vietnam a healthy and prosperous country.
Thank you.

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