Newsmaker: Secretary of State Albright
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JIM LEHRER: To the China summit and to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Madam Secretary, welcome.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: What we just heard about what’s happening in Asia, does that mean an addition to the agenda between these two presidents tomorrow?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think they probably will be talking about what is going on in Asia in terms of the economies without getting into specifics on the market, but they clearly, this is of interest and they will be talking about it because the summit basically, Jim, is about working at a whole set of relationships that we would 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.
JIM LEHRER: Would you use the term fairly scary, the term we just heard, to describe what’s going on right now around the world?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, clearly we are concerned about it. I think fairly scary is probably overstating it. But there is a 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 we are linked, all of us linked with each other.
JIM LEHRER: So you would agree, though, with the analysis of what we just heard that China is affected by what’s going on, just like we are?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think we all are and I think this is part of being in a global economy and to the extent to which everybody participates in it, there is an effect of it. Again, we have to watch it very carefully.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the two presidents are meeting informally tonight. Is there a special purpose for that, for this meeting tonight?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, President Clinton has very much enjoyed having kind of pre-formal meetings with 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 and I can tell you that both the presidents are ready for a vigorous discussions on the issues of interest and tonight is kind of a way to break the ice and get things going.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the meeting, before the formal meeting itself tomorrow is only 90 minutes long. Why with all this commotion, this major summit, why are they only going to talk for 90 minutes about serious matters?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all they will have tonight where serious matters will come up and they will be together a large portion of tomorrow and there is always time for, I mean, there is 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 interest, and that is nuclear proliferation, climate change, drugs, terrorism, what is going on in Korea, and I think that we have allotted enough time to be able to have serious discussions on that and obviously on issues of human rights.
JIM LEHRER: Human rights. Should this summit, because all the, the pre-game warm-up, not all of it but a lot of the 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?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, 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’s essential for there to be contact at head of state level to go through these issues that are of common interest and 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, some on which we agree and some of which we’ll disagree, but it’s not a reward or anything like that. It is a normal business process that the way heads of state get together to talk about the bread and butter issues of foreign policy.
JIM LEHRER: Going in also, there was speculation that 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?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, 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 they have released this Bishop Su and also they have agreed to a —
JIM LEHRER: A Catholic Bishop?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Right. In China. And they have also agreed to receive a high-level American delegation of religious leaders. Mr. Argue, who is 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 in human rights and we are going to be pressing that. But this is just one frame of a long movie and we are going to be pushing on the issue and having a discussion with President Jiang Zemin now when he is here and obviously this will continue.
JIM LEHRER: But did you expect them to release some of these dissidents in preparation for this visit?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we have been talking about the necessity of moving on the issue but did not specifically, I mean, obviously it would have been great had they been able to do so before but I think that we just have to keep pushing them. This is one of the subjects of discussion on which we will not agree and we are going to make our point of view clear.
JIM LEHRER: And the point of view will be in specific terms, hey, why don’t you release Mister So and So? Why don’t you release Mister So and So, or is it going to be a general kind of conversation tomorrow between the two presidents?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think probably both. We have gone to them with a variety, with specific cases and we have talked to them with the general issue of human rights and the necessity for establishing a rule of law.
JIM 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?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we have all been treated to this discussion by them. They basically believe that our view of human rights is — 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 and they argue back that we don’t understand their system and we argue back again that we do.
JIM LEHRER: Now, 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?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think he represents his country and he sees it from his perspective which I have just described and I —
JIM LEHRER: That is his view of it as well?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but that is my sense. I think, however, that it was 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.
JIM LEHRER: What do you say to Congressman Lantos, among others. Congressman Lantos said today, we had it in our news summary, that it is basically offensive for President Jiang to go to Colonial Williamsburg or Philadelphia, these symbols and places of American democracy. It’s kind of a mockery based on how he operates in China.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we did not choose their itinerary. They chose their itinerary. President Jiang has an interest in American history. We 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, it is, as I have 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 multifaceted 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.
JIM LEHRER: Related to this is the issue of Tibet and what is the U.S. position? Should Tibet be given its independence?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, you know it’s interesting. I have met with the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama is not interested in independence for Tibet. We are interested that there be a dialogue and that the unique character of the religion of Tibet should be recognized but the Dalai Lama does not ask for independence. The subject will come up and we will make our points there about the necessity of having a dialogue.
JIM 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 are none of the United States business.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we make quite clear that they are and that there will be a discussion, a reiteration of our policy, our one China policy and the fact that we believe that there needs to be a peaceful resolution of the issue. But I think that they understand that the United States does have an obligation to raise these issues because of our own values and because of the way that we believe countries and parts of countries need to be treated.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the other issue that you mentioned, proliferation, for instance. Now, is there a final and fast deal between the United States and China on their agreeing no longer to sell nuclear weapons, pipe things to Iran, Pakistan, etcetera?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we have been working diligently on getting an agreement and there has been substantial progress and we hope to be able to have a deal, but I think what’s very important, Jim, again, 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 nonproliferation treaty, the comprehensive test ban treaty, the chemical weapons convention. They have put on some very serious export control so while they had been — 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 nonproliferation 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 and the Chinese, 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 are concerned about, and that is where we believe we are getting substantial progress and so that the president can be in a position to certify that this kind of relationship is not going on.
JIM LEHRER: And that should be a result, we should expect something like that come out of this summit?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we are hoping. I think people kind of think frankly that summits are prearranged. The truth is that people work until the last minute on language and trying to sort this out. That’s what we are doing now.
JIM LEHRER: But how should the rest of us that are not involved judge in summit? In other words, what’s the check-off list as to whether or not this is a successful summit?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I would think, it’s going to be hard to grade the summit. I would think there is a measure of success already in the fact that such a summit is taking place. Part of what we are trying to do is to establish kind of a normal way in 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. But the fact that we are establishing now this way of operating is successful and useful. I think we are going to find that we have made progress in a lot of the areas that I mentioned.
JIM LEHRER: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Jim.