|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on PBS-TV "Newshour with Jim Lehrer"
Washington, DC, October 28, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. JIM LEHRER: To the China summit and to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Madam Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you again, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: What's happening on the stock markets, what we just heard about what's happening in Asia, does that mean an addition to the agenda between these Presidents tomorrow?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think they probably will be talking about what is going on Asia in terms of the economies without getting into specifics on the market. But, clearly, this is of interest, and they will be talking about it. The summit, basically, Jim, is about working at a whole set of relationships that we will need to have with China, a major power -- 1.2 billion people -- and working out a way to have regular discussions on issues of strategic interest to us.
MR. LEHRER: Would you use the term "fairly scary," the term we just heard to describe what's going on right now around the world?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Clearly, we are concerned about it. I think "fairly scary" is probably overstating it. There is concern that we have about what is going on in southeast Asia on these issues. Secretary Rubin and I have been talking about it. We do think that the existing international financial structures are well positioned to be of assistance. But we obviously are watching it very carefully.
I think it's also interesting because it does show what we have all been talking about so much, Jim, about the interdependence that we are experiencing across-the-board in issues and how all of us are linked with each other.
MR. LEHRER: So you would agree, though, with the analysis we just heard that China is affected by what's going on just like we are?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we all are. This is part of being part of a global economy; and the extent to which anybody participates in it, there is an affect on it. But, again, we have to watch it very carefully.
MR. LEHRER: The two Presidents are meeting informally tonight. Is there a special purpose for that -- for this meeting tonight?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: President Clinton has very much enjoyed having kind of pre-formal meetings with many of the leaders that have come to visit him. I think it gives them a chance to have an informal discussion and to kind of get things started.
I have just come from having a meeting with President Jiang Zemin whom I welcomed to Blair House, and before that had met with President Clinton. I can tell you that both the Presidents are ready for a vigorous discussion on the issues of interest. Tonight is just kind of a way to break the ice and get things going.
MR. LEHRER: The formal meeting itself tomorrow is only 90 minutes long. With all this commotion - this major summit -- why are they only going to talk for 90 minutes about serious matters?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, they will have tonight where serious matters will come up. They will be together a large portion of tomorrow, and there's plenty of time to have discussions on what are really huge issues, I think, for all of us.
What is important to understand is that we will be talking to the Chinese on what we now consider kind of threats to our national interests, and that is, nuclear proliferation, climate change, drugs, terrorism, what is going on in Korea. I think that we have allotted enough time to be able to have serious discussions on that and, obviously, on issues of human rights.
MR. LEHRER: Human rights: Should this summit -- all the pre-game warm-up -- not all of it, but a lot of pre-game warm-up is that this is a terrific thing for China and a terrific thing for President Jiang to come and have this official state visit. Should it be seen as a reward to him and to China for things they have done, or should it be seen as an incentive to get them to do some things we want them to do?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What it should be seen as is a normal way to carry on a dialogue between two powers. We are obviously the sole superpower. They are a huge, growing power, and it is essential for there to be contact at head-of-state level to go through these issues that are of common interest.
What we hope to have as a result of this is a regular summit process where the two heads of state, at various intervals, get together to talk about these issues of mutual interest, on some of which we agree and some of which we'll disagree. It's not a reward or anything like that. It is a normal business process, the way heads of state get together to talk about the bread-and-butter issues of foreign policy.
MR. LEHRER: Going in, there was speculation, in preparation for this, that China would release two or three of the major dissidents that are now in prisons in China. It didn't happen. What happened?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think all along we have been pressing for there to be some advance on the human rights front. There has been, I think, some minimal thing that's happened before the summit, which is that they have released this Bishop Su and also they have agreed to a --
MR. LEHRER: He's a Catholic Bishop, right?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: A Catholic Bishop in China, and they have also agreed to receive a high-level American delegation of religious leaders -- Mr. Argue, who is an Evangelical, Bishop McCarrick, and Rabbi Schneier -- who are going to go over there to talk about religious persecution. We would obviously like to see more action in terms of release of dissidents and human rights, and we are going to be pressing that. But this is just one frame of a long movie. We are going to be pushing on the issue and having a discussion with President Jiang Zemin now, when he's here, and obviously this will continue.
MR. LEHRER: Did you expect them to release some of these dissidents in preparation for this visit?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have been talking about the necessity of moving on the issue but did not specifically -- obviously, it would have been great had they been able to do so before; but I think we just have to keep pushing on it. This is one of the subjects of discussion on which we will not agree. We're going to make our point of view clear.
MR. LEHRER: The point of view will be in specific terms: "Hey, why don't you release Mr. So-and-So; why don't you release Mr. So-and-So?" Or is it going to be a general kind of conversation tomorrow between the two Presidents?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think probably both. We have gone to them with specific cases, and we have talked to them about the general issue of human rights and the necessity for establishing a rule of law.
MR. LEHRER: Is there just a basic misunderstanding on both sides about their view of human rights and our view of human rights, and vice versa?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have all been treated to this discussion by them. They, basically, believe that our view of human rights does not apply to their culture and to their history. We disagree with that. We think that there is a universal declaration of human rights and that there is no cultural thing about human rights; that people in every country wish to be able to live a free life and make decisions about the way they live and be able to engage in a political system. So we maintain that this is not a cultural thing; it is a universal right. They argue back that we don't understand their system and we argue back again that we do.
MR. LEHRER: What is your reading of President Jiang's view of this, himself? Forget the Chinese society, generally. Does he understand what this is all about?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think he represents his country. He sees it from his perspective, which I have just described.
MR. LEHRER: That is his view of it as well?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't want to put words in his mouth, but that is my sense. I think, however, it is going to be made very clear to him by President Clinton, as it has been made by all of us at various levels, that we believe that if the United States is ever going to have a completely normal relationship with China, they are going to have to make some adjustment.
MR. LEHRER: What do you say to Congressman Lantos, among others? Congressman Lantos said today -- we had it our news summary -- that it is basically offensive for President Jiang to go to Colonial Williamsburg or to Philadelphia -- these symbols and places of American democracy? It's a kind of a mockery based on how he operates in China.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We did not choose their itinerary. They chose their itinerary. President Jiang has an interest in American history. We've just had this discussion, he and I, about his interest in American history. We are a free country. People ought to be able to travel where they want to go. But they are the ones who chose the itinerary.
What I think is really important, though, Jim, as I've made very clear, human rights is central to our long-term relationship. But this is not a one-issue summit. This is a summit where we are going to be having discussions, as I said, on regional stability, on climate change, on energy, on nuclear proliferation, on crime, terrorism. This is what we are calling a multi-faceted summit. It's going to be very businesslike. We have a lot that we need to talk to this major power about, and have the opportunity, in the long run, to fashion how our relationship with them will evolve into the 21st Century.
So while clearly human rights is essential to all of us and we see it, as I said, we'll never have a normal relationship with them, we cannot be in a position where the summit becomes a one-issue summit.
MR. LEHRER: Related to this is the issue of Tibet. What is the U.S. position? Should Tibet be given its independence?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's interesting. I've met with the Dalai Lama, and the Dalai Lama is not asking for independence for Tibet. What they are asking for, which we support, is that there be a dialogue and that the unique character and religious nature of Tibet be appreciated and recognized. But the Dalai Lama himself does not ask for independence for Tibet.
Now, the subject of Tibet will come up, and we will make our points there about the necessity of having a dialogue.
MR. LEHRER: How do you and the President respond to the basic Chinese position that not only Tibet. but Taiwan also --those are internal matters of China and they're none of the United States business?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We make quite clear that they are, and that there will be discussion, a reiteration of our one-China policy and the fact that we believe there needs to be a peaceful resolution of the issue. But I think they understand that the United States does have an obligation to raise these issues because of our own values and because of the way we believe countries and parts of countries need to be treated.
MR. LEHRER: The other issue that you mentioned -- proliferation, for instance. Is there a final and fast deal between the United States and China on their agreeing no longer to sell nuclear weapons type things to Iran, Pakistan, etc.?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have been working diligently on getting an agreement. There has been substantial progress, and we hope to be able to have a deal. But I think what's very important, Jim, again, is for people to understand, the Chinese in the last few years have moved very much into what are the international regimes governing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention. They have put on some very serious export controls.
They are a nuclear power; and while they have been outside of the regimes, they have now systematically moved inside them.
On what we are trying to get them to do as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, there in fact was an agreement that the nuclear powers would help the non-nuclear powers develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses. We, however, have been concerned that sometimes the peaceful approach to this might overlap into more dangerous ways of cooperation. We are working on getting the Chinese to go beyond their responsibilities under the NPT and commit themselves not to have a nuclear relationship with the countries that we're concerned about. That is where we believe we're getting substantial progress so that the President can be in a position to certify that this kind of relationship is not going on.
MR. LEHRER: And that should be a result of the -- we should expect something like that to come out of the summit?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We're hoping. This is a summit -- frankly, I think people kind of think that summits are all prearranged. The truth is that --
MR. LEHRER: It's not?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: -- there are people who work until the last minute, working on language and trying to sort this out. That's what we're doing now.
MR. LEHRER: So how should the rest of us, who are not involved, judge this summit? In other words, what's the check-off list as to whether or not this was a successful summit?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, it's going to be hard to grade the summit. But I would say that there's a measure of success already in the fact that such a summit is taking place; because a part of what we're trying to do is to establish a kind of normal way of talking to the Chinese and to be able to deal -- I won't name the issues again -- but to deal with all those issues in a businesslike way. So the fact that we are establishing now this way of operating is successful and useful. I think you're going to find that we have made progress in a lot of the areas that I mentioned.
MR. LEHRER: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Jim.
[End of Document]
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