The President’s News Conference With President Kim Yong-sam of South Korea

Avatar

Spoken by

William J. Clinton

President Clinton. On this day, as we remember the sacrifice of those who built the great alliance between the United States and Korea, President Kim has come back to the White House to look forward. In our discussions, we focused on the clear and common goals that our nations have pursued together for decades: to strengthen our alliance, to stand together against threats to our shared ideals and interests, and to increase the safety and prosperity of our peoples. Over the past 3 years, President Kim and I have worked closely together to advance these goals. And in him I have found an ally whose courage is matched only by his commitment to freedom.

Our talks centered on the critical strategic challenges facing Korea and the United States. Forty-two years have passed since the Korean war ended, but for the people of South Korea the threat is present every day. Through all these years, America’s commitment to South Korea has not wavered. And today I reaffirmed our Nation’s pledge to keep American forces in Korea as long as they are needed and the Korean people want them to remain.

President Kim and I discussed the strategy our nations, along with Japan, are using to confront a new, but no less terrible, threat to his people, North Korea’s dangerous nuclear program. Already, thanks to our efforts, North Korea has frozen its existing program under international inspection. Today President Kim reaffirmed his strong support for the framework and for the understanding reached in Kuala Lumpur that confirmed South Korea’s central role in helping the North acquire less dangerous light-water reactors.

I also told President Kim that the United States regards North Korea’s commitment to resume dialog with the South as an integral component of the framework. President Kim expressed to me his determination to enter into meaningful dialog with the North, and the United States stands ready to support his efforts.

As North Korea fulfills its nuclear commitments and addresses other concerns, it can look forward to better relations with the community of nations.

I emphasized to President Kim, however, that until South and North Korea negotiate a peace agreement, the armistice regime will remain in place.

President Kim and I also touched on a number of regional and global security issues: efforts to ensure stability in Northeast Asia, Korea’s commitment to peacekeeping, and our commitment to work together on issues facing the United Nations Security Council.

Finally, we reviewed a wide range of economic issues, including APEC, and we talked about efforts to expand our bilateral trade. Korea is already our country’s sixth largest export market.

One hour from now, the President and I will look to the past as we dedicate the new Korean War Veterans Memorial on The Mall. This monument is a long overdue reminder of what Americans, fighting alongside the people of South Korea, sacrificed in the defense of freedom. Today’s meetings remind us that the people of South Korea have built a nation truly worthy of that sacrifice, the eleventh largest economy in the world and a thriving, vital, vibrant democracy. It is a country America is proud to claim as an equal partner and ally, a reminder that the strength of democracy and the power of a free people to pursue their own dreams are the strongest forces on Earth.

Let me now invite President Kim to make opening remarks.

President Kim. Today President Clinton and I exchanged wide-ranging views and opinions on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and agreed to further strengthen cooperation between our two countries to preserve the peace and stability of the region.

President Clinton reaffirmed the United States firm commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea, and I supported the U.S. policy of foreign deployment, of U.S. troops to maintain peace in East Asia. President Clinton and I reconfirmed that maintaining and strengthening a firm, joint Korean-U.S. defense posture is essential to safeguarding the peace and stability not only of the Korean Peninsula but also of the Northeast Asian region.

We share the view that improvement of relations between the United States and North Korea should proceed in harmony and parallel with the improvement of relations between the Republic of Korea and North Korea. We also agreed that our two countries will cooperate closely with each other in encouraging North Korea to open its doors in order to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and promote peace in Northeast Asia.

With regard to this issue, I noted that the issue of establishing a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula should be pursued through dialog between South and North Korea, under the principle that the issues should be resolved between the parties directly concerned. President Clinton expressed the U.S. total support and resolve to cooperate with the Republic of Korea regarding this issue.

Korean Government supports the results of the Geneva agreement and Kuala Lumpur agreement. And President Clinton and I affirmed that the Governments of our two countries, while maintaining close coordination with regard to the implementation of the U.S.-North Korean agreement, will continue to provide the support needed by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization.

President Clinton and I express satisfaction over the fact that the economic and trade relations between our two countries have entered a mature phase in terms of the size of our bilateral trade, the trade balance, and bilateral investments and should continue to develop further on a well-balanced basis. At the same time, we reaffirmed that our two nations will further expand mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation under the new international economic conditions being created by the inauguration of the World Trade Organization. We also agreed that any bilateral trade issues arising out of increasing volumes of trade between two countries will be resolved smoothly through working-level consultations.

President Clinton and I concurred that our two countries need to further improve bilateral relations, both in terms of quality and quantity, so that in the forthcoming Asia-Pacific era of the 21st century, our two nations can assume leading roles in enhancing cooperation and the development of the Asia-Pacific region.

In this context, President Clinton and I agreed to coordinate closely with each other to ensure that the upcoming APEC summit conference in November of this year in Osaka will be a success. Furthermore, we agreed that our two countries will bolster multipronged collaboration in the United Nations and other international organizations.

We are fully satisfied with the results of our talk, which we believe will provide added momentum to the efforts to develop the five-decade-old Korean-U.S. relations forged in blood further into a future-oriented partnership between allies for the next half a century.

I would like to express my appreciation once again to President Clinton and the U.S. Government for their warm hospitality and kindness extended to me and my delegation.

Thank you.

President Clinton. Thank you.

Bosnia

Q. Mr. President, your administration said that if the Congress voted to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia that that would almost guarantee that U.S. ground troops would have to be sent in. The Senate voted that way yesterday by a margin that suggests you couldn’t sustain a veto. The House looks like it’s going down the same road. How close are we now to having to send U.S. ground troops in? And do you feel this is a vote of no confidence in your foreign policy?

President Clinton. I think it’s a vote of no confidence in the fact that the United Nations did not move to do anything when Srebrenica fell after Srebrenica had been declared a safe area and the fact that the war seems to be dragging on without resolution. But I also wouldn’t be so sure we couldn’t sustain a veto. I think that depends entirely on the vigor and the strength of the response of the U.N. forces in Bosnia and their NATO allies.

And we are working hard in that regard. I have been very encouraged by what Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali said yesterday, and I have been very impressed by the determination of President Chirac and Prime Minister Major to set up this rapid reaction force and to fight back if attacked, not simply to be taken hostage.

So we’re going to see what will happen in the days ahead. But I wouldn’t be so presumptive about what would happen in the Congress. I noted that the French Prime Minister, Mr. Juppe, said not very long ago that if—just a few hours ago—that if, in fact, the Congress took this action and it became U.S. policy, that they would withdraw from Bosnia and that would require us to send our troops in to help them get out, which is exactly what I said. And if we do it alone, if we unilaterally lift the arms embargo, that means that the rest of the world will consider that we are responsible for what happens from then on, solely. And I think that we need to consider that.

Mr. President.

North Korea

Q. Looking back to the attitude of North Korea in the past, despite the fact that the Kuala Lumpur agreement is there for us, still we can expect more difficulties coming from the North Korean behavior in the future. Have the two Presidents, through the meeting this time in Washington, had a chance to discuss how to secure Korea’s central role in the process of dealing with North Korea?

President Kim. Yes. In fact, we had a chance to mention this issue in my statement of the press conference today, and also yesterday in my congressional speech, I mentioned this issue as well. We entirely support the result of the Kuala Lumpur agreement. Concerning the question, our position is that between the United States and Republic of Korea, we have had very full and complete agreement on our joint position towards North Korea, and we are in full and thorough accordance with each other and how to deal with North Korea.

I think that if we do our best in trying to persuade North Korea that it is in their interest to faithfully implement the contents of the agreement, I think that, in fact, we can see a good result. And I firmly believe that we can achieve that goal.

Together with that agreement, I think the fact that the KEDO had its executive meeting, which has confirmed Korea’s central role in the nuclear light-water project, in addition to President Clinton’s letter given to me, which was a letter of assurance that Korea’s central role will be guaranteed, I think, enough for us to believe that we would not be faced with major problems in the future negotiations. So in our position, there is no change at all.

Bosnia

Q. Mr. President, there is a perception that U.S. leadership, prestige, has really suffered under this devastating debacle of Bosnia. You wanted to bomb—more than 2 1/2 years ago—heavy bombing to stop—that peacekeeping per se, despite the humanitarian side, is a misnomer. What do you think are the lessons of Bosnia? And do you think that the U.S. leadership has gone down the drain?

President Clinton. No. Keep in mind, when I became President, a decision had been made—a decision, by the way, that I couldn’t criticize—that in the aftermath of the cold war, the Europeans should take the lead in dealing with the first major security crisis on the European Continent at the end of the cold war and that they would do that under the umbrella of the United Nations, that our role would be to support that with airlifts of humanitarian goods and then later with enforcing a no-fly zone and then later with enforcing the peace agreements that the United Nations had made through the use of air power. That happened when I was President.

And we also would support this effort to some extent from the sea as well and through enforcing the embargo and through putting our troops in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That was the agreement.

And I still believe that, on balance, it was working better than the other alternatives, considering there was no peace to keep a lot. The death rate went down breathtakingly from 1992 to 1994, and there was a long period of time there where we had a chance to make a peace.

Then what happened—and as you know, I believe that a multilateral lift of the arms embargo early on would have helped us to make a quicker peace. I still believe that that would have happened. What happened was, along toward the end of last year—well, there was an agreement for a cease-fire. Then it expired. Since it expired, the Bosnian Serbs concluded that the United Nations would not keep its commitments to the safe areas if it took peacekeepers as hostages and that under the rules of engagement in which the peacekeepers were there, and given their fairly lightly armed nature, they could be easily taken as hostages. Now, that happened.

That, I think, when that happened and the threat of hostage-taking and the effect of hostage-taking caused Srebrenica to fall without a terrific response in terms of air punishment, that collapsed the support for the United Nations. And all of us, including the United States and NATO, who had supported it suffered in prestige, if you will, not because we didn’t win but because the U.N. didn’t do what it said it was going to do. You can’t go about the world saying you’re going to do something and then not do it.

So I—that’s why I spent all that time, leading up to the London conference and, since then, working with NATO to say, look, we have to reestablish the fact that we will have a strong—not just close air support but a strong air response to raise the price of Serbian aggression. Secondly, I strongly support the decision of the French and the British to establish this Rapid Reaction Force so that they just can’t be taking hostages at will.

But I would remind you that this was—the question of whether a lot of people still say, “Well, America ought to fix it.” But we don’t have troops on the ground now. And this distribution of responsibility all grew out of a decision made prior to my Presidency—which I am not criticizing, I say again—to try to say that, okay, here’s a problem in Europe, the Europeans ought to take the lead, they would put people on the ground. We have had troops since I have been President, I would remind you, in Somalia, in Rwanda, in Haiti. We have not been loath to do our job. But we have tried to support the base commitment of the Europeans there. And it has not worked. No one can say it has worked.

So I decided we’re either going to do what we said we were going to do with the U.N. or we’ll have to do something else. This is the last chance for UNPROFOR to survive. But I do believe if it can be made to work, it has a greater chance of securing a peace and minimizing death of the Bosnians. That’s what I believe. And I also believe it would be a very great thing for Europe if the Europeans can take the lead in resolving the first post-coldwar security crisis on the European Continent.

Inter-Korean Summit

Q. When does the Korean President expect to hold inter-Korean summit meeting? And to Mr. Clinton, what is your—[inaudible]—plan to hold the South and North Korean summit?

President Kim. Actually, this is not an appropriate stage to discuss this issue because in North Korea there isn’t still an official leadership of succession. Of course, we know that there isn’t any other alternative to the leadership than Kim Jong Il. However, we don’t know when this inter-Korean summit meeting can take place, and I think it is not desirable for use to discuss this issue now. I really didn’t have the opportunity to discuss this one in depth with President Clinton specifically on the possibility of an inter-Korean summit meeting.

President Clinton. But, sir, I think the important point for me to make, on behalf of the United States, to the people of Korea is that it is still our position that the armistice will remain in effect until the Korean people themselves reach an agreement for a permanent peace. And in that, our position is 100 percent behind the position taken by the President and the Government of South Korea.

Yes. Go ahead, Brit [Brit Hume, ABC News].

United Nations Peacekeeping

Q. Mr. President, has this difficult experience that the United States has had in getting the U.N. to do, as you put it, what it has said it would do, shaken your confidence in the U.N. as an institution through which the United States and with which the United States can work toward its various foreign policy aims?

President Clinton. No. But I think what it has done—let me—I would say there should be two lessons that we draw out of this as Americans. Number one, the United Nations cannot go to a place with a limited peacekeeping mission if there is no peace to keep, without considering what it’s going to do if it can’t fulfill its original mission. That’s really been the fundamental problem here. The rules of engagement for the forces there have made them very vulnerable to be taken hostages and, therefore, to become the instrument in the last few months of Serbian aggression, Bosnian-Serbian aggression.

The second lesson I would ask the American people, all of us, to think about is, that if we determine that in various parts of the world at the end of the cold war it is appropriate for other countries to take the lead, and they have troops on the ground and people at immediate risk and we don’t, then we have to be willing to accept the fact that we may not be able to dictate the ultimate outcome of the situation.

The difficulty for the United States is this: We are still the world’s only superpower; people want us to fix things or at least say we’re absolutely not involved in them. And here’s a case where we decided to let someone else take the lead in a, to be fair to them, very difficult problem, but to be involved in a supporting role. And that, to some extent, has put our own prestige, the prestige of NATO, and the prestige of the United Nations all at risk. And because we don’t have the large segment of troops on the ground, our ability to dictate the course of events has been more limited.

Now, having said all that, keep in mind, we are trying to work our way through, in this postcold-war era, sort of an uncharted field in which the United States can lead the world, can be, in effect, the repository of last resort, of responsible power, but still give others the chance and responsibility to take the lead where they can.

So I think we have learned the hazards of that policy. And I think that the kinds of problems we have had here have led us to learn things that we won’t repeat. But I would caution the American people that that does not mean they should give up on the U.N. The U.N. is doing dozens of things today that you will not be able to show on the news tonight, Brit, for the precise reason that they are working and they won’t rise on the radar screen.

So it’s important that we not throw out the baby with the bathwater here. We need to learn what went wrong in Bosnia, why it didn’t work, what the limits of our partnership are. But we shouldn’t give up on the United Nations, because it still has great capacity to do important things.

Thank you very much.