Public Papers - 1989 - February
Written Responses to Questions Submitted by Xinhua News Agency of China
Q. What is the general assessment on the current world situation? Since there exists a wide disagreement on whether the process of detente is irreversible, I would like to know your views on this question.
The President. I am cautiously optimistic. The one constant in today's world is change. For the most part, the direction of change is positive from the standpoint of America's values and interests. Around the globe, I see increased respect for and interest in democratic values of openness, human dignity, pluralism, democracy, individual initiative, and entrepreneurship. I see a worldwide trend toward greater recognition of the need for cooperative solutions to worldwide concerns, such as peaceful resolution of conflicts, environmental issues, and ensuring global economic growth. Balance has been restored in the international system by a Western policy of strength and realism.
Important differences based on fundamental values and interests continue to guide the policies of nations, both toward their own citizens and toward other members of the international community. Being fundamental, these differences must not be minimized, nor do they lend themselves to easy resolution. In addition, our world still is a tumultuous, dangerous place. Just as we appear to be making headway in reducing the threat of nuclear war through the arms reduction process, we must grapple with the proliferating dangers to civilized society from terrorism, the use and spread of chemical and biological weapons, together with sophisticated delivery systems, ballistic missiles, and international drug trafficking.
Yet I would argue that the world is significantly less turbulent and less dangerous today than it would otherwise be, thanks to the farsighted statesmen in recent decades. China's leaders were some of the first to contribute to this effort, and as chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing in the 1970's, I was privileged to have been part of this historic process. Today we find ever-broader acceptance of the proposition that in our increasingly interrelated world, national security cannot be achieved through military means alone. Moreover, through their own experience, more and more nations are realizing that the freeing of market forces and human creativity is the true basis for sustained prosperity and national success.
Nothing in this world is irreversible from a political, military, economic, or social perspective. That is why America's foreign policy is grounded on values that abide and a realistic determination to safeguard our interests and those of our allies and friends. Finally, I would say that any man with 11 grandchildren is a cautious optimist by definition. He has a big stake in the future.
Q. With regard to disarmament, in which area do you think breakthrough will be most feasible, the nuclear, conventional, or biochemical? And it is widely reported here that your administration might slow down the SDI program. If that is the case, doesn't it mean the U.S.-Soviet talks on concluding a START agreement will be accelerated? What is the prospect of an early START agreement?
The President. The United States is committed to progress in all aspects of arms control -- nuclear, conventional, and chemical. Our goals include a strategic arms agreement which will enhance strategic stability and security; conventional arms reductions in Europe which will result in stability at lower levels of conventional forces; and a comprehensive, truly global and effectively verifiable chemical weapons ban. One cannot predict which arms control negotiations will meet with the earliest success, but I hope for significant progress in all fields. My administration is reviewing the current status of negotiations in each of these areas even as I visit your country.
Chemical weapons have been much in the news recently. Unfortunately, over the past decade, the world has witnessed an accelerated erosion of respect for international norms against the use of chemical weapons. The United States seeks to reverse this trend. Our first objective is the negotiation of a comprehensive, truly global, and effectively verifiable CW ban. In this connection, I am proud to have presented to the Geneva Conference on Disarmament (CD), in 1984, a U.S. draft treaty to ban chemical weapons, which remains the basis of the CD negotiations for such a ban. The United States is also working to stem the proliferation of CW and to restore respect for and strengthen the norms against illegal CW use. The Paris conference on chemical weapons use, held in January, was a helpful step in this regard.
In the conventional area, new negotiations on conventional armed forces in Europe will begin in Vienna in March. At present, the Warsaw Pact has a more than 2-to-1 advantage in tanks and artillery over NATO. While I welcome the recently announced Soviet conventional reductions as a step in the right direction, even with these cuts, Warsaw Pact forces will still retain substantial conventional superiority over NATO. Redressing this military imbalance in forces will be a prime objective of NATO at the upcoming talks.
In the START talks, U.S. and Soviet negotiations have made solid progress, including the development of the outline of an effective verification regime, an absolute necessity for a successful START agreement. While the strategic arms reduction process will be a major focus of my administration's review of U.S. arms control positions, the United States is committed to working toward a START agreement which will improve strategic stability and reduce the risk of war.
As to the Strategic Defense Initiative, it is an important program which is designed to contribute to stability. We will continue our research in this area to help us understand how and when we might move in the direction of a greater reliance on defenses.
Q. As the two parts of Korea are prepared to hold high-level talks, the protracted tensions on the peninsula seem somewhat relaxed. So, do you think the time is coming for the United States to respond positively to the DPRK's demand for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea?
The President. I am encouraged by regional trends affecting Korea, particularly China's positive role in seeking reduced tensions on the peninsula. While the atmosphere has improved somewhat, hard realities remain. North Korea has a very large standing army stationed well forward. It would be far too optimistic at this time to suggest that tensions have been reduced to the point where the deterrence provided by U.S. forces in Korea is no longer needed. At the request of the Republic of Korea, our forces are in Korea to deter aggression from the North. They will remain as long as the Government and the people of South Korea want us to remain and as long as we believe it is in the interest of peace to keep them there.
Q. Thanks to the efforts made by the parties concerned, some hot spots in the world are cooling off. As a result, the world public opinion is focusing its attention on the Middle East and Central America, where the United States has remarkable influence. Do you intend to make some readjustment to the U.S. policies toward these two regions and more actively make use of your influence to help promote early and just solutions to the problems there?
The President. The United States continues to seek a just solution to conflicts in Central America, based on democracy, respect for human rights, and security. In El Salvador, the popularly elected government of President Duarte has worked, with our support, to institutionalize democracy, despite an organized military assault by Communist forces. There has been considerable success in curbing human rights abuses from the far right and within the military. We will continue to support the Government of El Salvador in its efforts.
In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas still seek to consolidate their totalitarian control and regional hegemony. The press and church remain harassed. Political opponents are jailed. And the economy continues in a downward spiral while the Sandinistas maintain by far the largest army in Central America. A just peace can come to Nicaragua only when the Sandinistas negotiate in good faith with the democratic resistance and the civic opposition and cease to threaten the neighboring Central America democracies.
In Central America, the United States Government continues to support the Esquipulas II agreement in all of its provisions, which include provisions calling for democratic freedom of the press; labor rights; freedom for opposition groups to organize, hold meetings, demonstrations, etc. We believe that all the commitments, including those to democracy, must be complied with if there is to be lasting peace in the region. In verifying compliance with all the principles of Esquipulas II, there also needs to be an enforcement mechanism to promote adherence to its provisions, particularly concerning democracy and cessation of support for subversive groups in the region. In this regard, economic aid to Nicaragua should be conditioned on actual performance, not just on words but deeds.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is among the most difficult of regional conflicts. The United States has long been committed to a just settlement of this dispute based on the principles embodied in UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. Our commitment to a negotiated settlement will not waver; we will continue to work closely with the parties to forge a common basis that will facilitate negotiations among them and a durable settlement.
There are also a number of difficult and dangerous problems in the Middle East. We must find a way to deal with the missile proliferation, chemical and biological weapons, the conventional arms race, as well as other conflicts, such as Lebanon and the Gulf. These are problems in which the international community can play a leading role.
Free and Fair Trade
Q. Your country is still playing a leading role in the fields of economy and technology, but the challenges from Japan and Western Europe are getting serious. How do you evaluate the challenges, and what would you do to handle them during your tenure?
The President. The Japanese and European economies are indeed growing strongly, as are the newly industrialized economies which follow free market practices. We regard this growth as a highly positive development. It has been a priority of our foreign policy since World War II to encourage the economic development of friendly countries. We take some justified satisfaction, I think, in the current success of free and open world trading and financial systems. The vigorous competition in world markets has been, and will continue to be, a driving force for the improvement of world living standards. By keeping world markets open, we will reward those entrepreneurs and managers and workers who can adapt most quickly to changing markets. I have every confidence in American business and American labor. They will handle the challenges, and we expect to continue to be the world's leading economy.
Q. What do you think should be and could be done to make the current Sino-U.S. relationship, which is healthy, even better and more solid?
The President. First let me say that I certainly agree that the current state of our relationship is healthy. Both countries have come so far since my stay in China 13 years ago. We now cooperate in many areas -- political, economic, scientific, cultural, educational, and military. U.S.-China trade is booming, and U.S. companies are making a strong and growing contribution in China. Thousands of Chinese and American students and professors are involved in educational exchanges with some of the finest institutes and universities in both our countries. American tourists are visiting China by the hundreds of thousands. And perhaps most importantly, our two governments maintain a serious and cooperative dialog on a wide range of bilateral and international issues, finding that we have many interests in common.
To improve relations further and make them more solid, I think we should build on what we have already accomplished. We need to keep up the dialog between our two governments on political issues of mutual concern: global peace, regional conflicts in Asia and elsewhere, arms control, how to combat the scourges of terrorism and drugs, and the multiple threats to the global environment. We see eye-to-eye on many of these. We also need to encourage more people-to-people contacts, which have grown so dramatically in the last decade. These promote understanding and trust.
We should also seek to expand our economic relationship. The opportunities for trade and investment between our countries are enormous. We have to find ways of taking advantage of them. To do this will require efforts on both sides. Continued steps by China to make its trade practices compatible with those of its major trading partners and remove barriers to trade and investment are important if China is to expand commerce and attract capital for its modernization. For example, improvements in intellectual property protection, a less regulated trading system, and more effective legal protections for investors could have a very favorable effect. The United States, for its part, must keep its markets open to Chinese exports and continue to give China access to advanced technology needed for modernization.
Science and technology cooperation should also expand. We have developed a unique relationship in this field. Cooperation involves some of our best scientists and most advanced technical facilities and covers a wide range of important endeavors in such fields as fusion energy, public health, and the environment. Both countries have a lot to gain from these joint activities.
Cultural and educational exchanges in other fields should grow as well. A good example of successful bilateral cooperation in education is the Management Training Center at Dalian. Since the U.S. and the Chinese Governments established the center in 1980, with the help of U.S. corporations and universities, it has produced over 2,300 graduates trained in modern business and management practices. The Dalian center has become a model for other management centers in China. It can also serve as a model for bilateral cooperation in other fields.
In addition to the positive developments in our political and economic relations, I think it is especially noteworthy that friendly cooperation is also taking place between our defense forces. We are looking forward to continuing and expanding these activities in the future.
The United States recognizes that Taiwan is an important issue for the Chinese Government and people. We are pleased to see that the growing opportunities for trade and travel between both sides of the Taiwan Strait have contributed to a climate of relaxed tensions, and hope these trends will continue. The United States is committed to abide by the three communiques of 1972, 1979, and 1982, which provide a firm basis for the further development of our relations.
One final point on building relations for the future: When differences arise between us, as they inevitably will, we need to continue to approach them in a constructive spirit. If we do, I think we will build a strong foundation for bilateral ties and see expanding cooperation in new fields that will benefit both our peoples.
Note: The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 25.