|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press briefing, Central Vocational School for Handicapped Persons
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, June 28, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman in Hong Kong,
June 29, 1997
U.S. Department of State
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the Chinese have announced that they are putting an extra 4,000 troops into Hong Kong on July 1st, and Patton has denounced this move. Even if it may not violate the legal commitments that they have, he said it's a bad symbol. How do you feel about it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I said when I announced that I was going there for the reversion ceremony it was not just to be present at the historic occasion but also to underline the fact that the United States is going to be watching how the reversion is carried out for a period of time. I think that what is important here is for the Chinese to live up to commitments that have been made in the Sino-British agreement and to provide reassurances to the people of Hong Kong that their way of life will continue to exist and be protected. It is not just a situation now where actions can be taken that are permitted in the agreement, but the signals that are sent and the message that goes out and also the actions generally that are taken. This is not just a situation which is going to take place on July 1st, but a continuing evolving situation of how the way of life of Hong Kong will in fact be protected.
QUESTION: But do you think this particular situation is inappropriate?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the issue here, as I have said, is not just what is in the agreement but basically what message it sends.
QUESTION: Is it a negative message?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we have to make some judgments as we watch this. I think the issue here is one where the Chinese are taking over the sovereignty of a portion of their territory, and we have to watch generally not just what actions are being taken but what the signal is that it is sending.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, on such a historic occasion can you tell us the significance of your laying the cornerstone? Whether it is going to be possible to get past the war to move into a different relationship?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What has really moved me so deeply here the last couple of days is that it is very hard to get away from the past. We all, whether Americans or Vietnamese, are never going to be fully able to put the past behind us. But what I have been deeply moved by is the desire of the people to look towards the future. Whether I have been talking to or meeting Vietnamese people or whether talking to the business community, or the diplomatic community. Generally, there is just a sense of the desire to move forward.
Symbolically, I think there in the shadow of that embassy that we all have seen so much of, and to be able to lay a brick for not just an American Consulate, but an American Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, where in fact it seems evident to me that Americans are very welcome. Ambassador Peterson, who himself is an embodiment of the need to move forward, has said that this is going to be the third largest or the third busiest consulate that we have in terms of the issuance of visas and the work that they do. So, I think this morning was very symbolic of having the shadow of the past but basically being prepared to lay a foundation for the future.
QUESTION: As you look at much of the suffering you have seen today, do you, as you leave here, take with you any sense of a need for the United States to do more? Realizing of course that means are very limited, the pie is only so big?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that I am impressed with what we are doing. I think we have a program. Let me just say that I happen to believe we ought to do more in a lot of places, and that the pie is too small. I am very impressed at what is going on here, which is the combination of private volunteerism, the support of the business community. I found, for instance, at Operation Smile a tripartite cooperation among doctors and individuals and businesses in support of a program. But what I think we need to do is broaden and deepen our relations. What we have said is that the political relations have now been restored through the presence of Ambassador Peterson here and what I tried to do on this trip was to deliver the message both to the officials and to businesses. But it is very important for us to broaden and deepen our economic relationships now. I think we have obviously a very special relationship with the people of Vietnam. One that came out of suffering, and we obviously have a special sense that there is a future here which Americans and Vietnamese can share.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you've said just now that you think the Vietnamese are ready to look to the future. Do you think the American people and government are ready to the future? You've been raising a number of issues that are still problems between the two countries that are still impediments to a real economic relationship. Is America ready to look at Vietnam as a country rather than a war?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we are moving in that direction and it all comes from the fact we have been laying great stress on our top priority which is an accounting of the POW/MIAs. I think clearly the process of trying to have that accounting taking place is very impressive. President Clinton has said that he is satisfied with the way that it is moving forward and that it has to continue. And I think the fact that we are opening a Consulate here which will make it possible for Americans to come here and Vietnamese to go to the United States is a sign I think of a increased normalization in relationships. But I think we have to tell the story more. I think what I have been impressed by is the ability of the people here to move beyond the horrors of the past to the future. I think, with the healing of wounds, it will be possible for that to happen. I keep repeating that I do believe that Ambassador Peterson is the single best emissary of that message, both here and in the United States. And if he can get over the past, so can everybody else.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, we spend apparently about $10 million a year trying to make a final accounting for the last forty-eight cases as the dead. We spend less than $3 million a year on assistance to the living. Is this the right proportion?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that one can not discount the emotional nature of the POW/MIA issue for the American people. The President and all of us are committed to doing everything we can to get a full accounting. And I think it is very important. In fact, the past can be put behind us. And, I think it is very hard always to assess where money is well spent. But the truth of the matter is that this is a deeply emotional issue for the American people, and I think we have to deal with it and an accounting is the way to do it. And I was very impressed with the process that was taking place.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, much of the Vietnamese population is under the age of twenty-five. Do you think that the spread of American culture is actually having more an impact on them than the war ever did?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are always very impressed with how the young can adjust to what it is that they are seeing and their ability, which some of us that older do not have, is to live in the future, and to see the opportunities of being a part of the international community. Vietnam has that opportunity now. Clearly, I think the thing that has impressed me probably more deeply than anything else here is the dynamism and the sense of hope and a spirit that people want to look forward. As I look around there is kind of sensory overload. But you see so many young people out doing various things and I think those young people can look forward and are enthusiastic and optimistic are the wave of the future. Not only in Vietnam but obviously every where.
Thank you very much.
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