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Question and Answer Session Hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong

John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
J.W. Marriott Hotel
Hong Kong
September 17, 2008

AMCHAM CHAIRMAN STEVE DEKREY: Thank you, Ambassador. We appreciate your reassuring words, especially your continued confidence in Hong Kong.

At this point we welcome your questions. I will invite you to stand, give your name and connection, and then we’ll try to make sure we cover the room.

QUESTION: Hi Mr. Ambassador, Mary Kissel from the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

One of the threats to security in Asia was in a country that you didn’t mention, which is Pakistan. We’ve had some conflicting signals out of the government there. You’ve been closely involved. I wondered if you can comment on the conflicting messages we’ve been getting out of Istanbul.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: My remarks were limited to our policies towards East Asia and the Pacific, but I’d be happy to talk a little bit about Pakistan because you quite rightly point out that it’s a very important relationship. There are very important interests in the South Asia sub-continent. The war in Afghanistan, the issues of dealing with militant extremism in Pakistan, and above all the nexus, if you will, between the situation in Pakistan and in Afghanistan because of the so-called federally administered tribal areas in the border area.

Pakistan, as you know, is going through a political transition at the moment which hopefully things will begin to stabilize in that regard going forward, and there have been issues about the degree to which Pakistan has been able or not been able to control the border region, the region bordering on Afghanistan, which of course is not only of importance to the stability of Afghanistan, but also directly relevant to the security of our own forces that operate in Afghanistan.

So I’d say that looking to the future what we want to do is work more collaboratively with the government of Pakistan to see what we can do together on a collaborative basis to try and improve the security situation in that border region. Unilateral actions are probably not a durable or a viable solution over a prolonged period of time and I think the best way forward for both of our countries is to try to deal with the situation in that border area on a cooperative basis -- cooperative both between the United States and Pakistan, but also with the country of Afghanistan. So I would say trilateral cooperation, if you will, is probably the best way forward.

QUESTION: My name is Shusi (phonetic). I’m a novelist. I’d like you to comment on Taiwan, a country you didn’t mention.

VOICE: Is this for your next novel? [Laughter].

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Some comments on Taiwan. Well, I think probably the most important thing I would say is that like others, we are committed to the peaceful resolution of any differences which may exist across the Taiwan Strait. So I’d say that we’re encouraged by the advent of a new government in Taiwan and the fact that since that government took office there have begun to be some talks between the authorities in Beijing and the authorities from Taipei. We think that is to the good.

We remain, as you probably know, committed to a one China policy but at the same time we are committed to the peaceful resolution of whatever differences may exist across the straits. We are also under our own Taiwan Relations Act committed to the defense of Taiwan.

QUESTION: Mark Michaelson from APCO Worldwide.

You mentioned the WTO briefly and some other organizations. Obviously the Doha Round has not been going particularly well. In fact a lot of these organizations have been under attack across the world, of course within our own Congress and other places. Is this a symptom of the situation going forward? Are multilateral organizations like the WTO going to be less effective in the future? Or do you think this is going to be something we can overcome? It seems like the focus now is on bilateralism and settling specific issues that way in many areas, especially on the economic front.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I think sometimes people underestimate – particularly when it comes to heated political rhetoric – people underestimate the value that international organizations can provide to the individual member states of the international community. Having served as Ambassador to the United Nations I can personally testify to that, because the UN does a lot of extremely useful things and yet it’s popular in some quarters and at some times to bash the United Nations. So I would certainly say the same thing for the international trading system, for the WTO. After all, it’s proven to be a very convenient vehicle for getting various countries, not the least of which has been China, committed to policies of openness and transparency that might otherwise have been more difficult to achieve.

So I think the WTO can be a very convenient and useful, and is a very convenient and useful, organization.

As far as the Doha Round is concerned, there’s no question that it’s run into some choppy waters, but I don’t think we’ve completely – in fact I know that we’ve not completely abandoned the hope – that the Doha Round might be successfully concluded, although it’s looking more and more problematic that such a conclusion could occur before the end of this particular U.S. administration.

I might just say lastly, in regard to your question about WTO and free trade, is that we remain very committed to getting the pending free trade agreements that we’ve already negotiated and which are lying before our Congress, we remain committed to getting them ratified. And to this part of the world of course, the free trade agreement we’ve negotiated with South Korea is extremely important, not only for its implications for our economic relationship with South Korea, but for the potential onward effects that it could have in influencing perhaps other countries to be interested in similar arrangements as well.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, my name is Andrew Lo. I’m a private investor in real estate.

As I understand, before you came here you went to see Chief Executive Donald Tsang, and you also talked about the timetable for the Hong Kong universal suffrage. Is that [for] the CE, not in 2012, or in the direct election of all the legislators in 2020, or that long (sic). But I believe the Hong Kong people demand universal suffrage ASAP. I wanted to ask you in your capacity, how can you help the Hong Kong people to achieve this dream?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, as I said in my remarks, we support that objective and we’re strong supporters of Hong Kong and the “[One Country,]Two Systems” model. We think it’s important. We think the rule of law is important here. We think democratic freedoms are important. The fact that you have a vibrant and free press and expression. We think these are all factors that have contributed to the extraordinary accomplishments of this city.

But as far as the specifics are concerned and how universal suffrage is going to be actually achieved, I think that’s part of the dynamic that’s going to have to take place here in Hong Kong itself and in its relations with China.

But we certainly favor and support the idea of upholding democracy and democratic principles for this city as much as possible, and we think it’s in the self-interest of Hong Kong and we think it’s in the self-interest of China to respect that.

QUESTION: Nicholas Ambre of the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell.

I was wondering if you could comment on the recent events in North Korea and how they may impact the hoped-for denuclearization of North Korea.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: That’s a very good question and I think of course North Korea is not the most transparent place. So one can never know with great certainty exactly what is happening there.

We are very committed to the 6-Party Talks. We’re very committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we think a certain amount of progress has been achieved. We’ve had the initial destruction of some of their plutonium facilities, particularly the cooling tower. I think we’ve taken a significant step forward. But the next step we have submitted to the North Koreans a proposal for a verification regime for the denuclearization of the peninsula and the North Koreans have not yet responded.

So as has almost always been the case during the course of these negotiations, things always seem to take longer than we would initially hope. But we have not given up hope that we may sometime in the reasonably near future get a response from North Korea on a verification regime that would permit us to move this denuclearization process to the next level.

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Ambassador. I’m Erin Fung from New York Life.

Certainly, as you mentioned in your speech as an engaged leader in the Pacific, the United States certainly has responsibilities in this region and we’ve fulfilled those responsibilities. What do we have to say now to our Asian partners in light of the recent titanic shifts in the financial services sector to ensure that there’s continued confidence in America?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I think first of all what I would say is that we are still a very large and strong economy. We’re a very transparent society. So I think all of us have almost instantaneous visibility, if you will, into what is going on and what is happening. We remain a very open market for a large portion of the manufacturing capacity of the rest of the world. I think those fundamental facts and the fundamental strength of the United States economy will continue going forward, and I don’t think people should have any doubt about the continued fundamental strength of the American economy. That would be my message.

I think as far as the current situations are concerned, obviously they’re going to have to be worked through. But I think even if you look back at the past few months you can see where some specific issues that came up have subsequently been worked out or worked through and I think that process is likely to continue into the future.

Perhaps one last question.

Voice: I believe you were first. Can we take two?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Sure.

Voice: Two more.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Ambassador. It’s a pleasure to listen to you. My name’s Brad Ziv. I’m with a trading company here.

With the close ties between China and Russia I was curious how Americans will be using China to resolve the Georgian conflict.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well -- [Laughter] -- you’ve managed to bring in three countries there.

Voice: Next question. [Laughter].

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: First of all, I don’t think we pursue relations with these two very important countries, one at the expense of the other or anything of that sort. I think we value our relationship with both of them.

As far as the situation in Georgia is concerned I think I would say that it’s more about our relations with Europe because Georgia is part of Europe. It’s a country that aspires to become a member of NATO. The question of the relationship of countries to the south and the west of Russia is a matter of paramount concern to the European countries so we’ve been working with them to try to maintain a coordinated and a unified view, to try to make the Russians aware of the fact that the kind of behavior they engaged in in Georgia is detrimental to their long term interests, and that by engaging in that kind of action they have isolated themselves to some extent. So I’d say it’s more about our relations with Europe than it is with China, as far as Georgia is concerned.

Voice: One last question, please.

QUESTION: I’m Jonama Suliamanly (phonetic). He almost asked the question I wanted to ask. It’s about the similar region. I’m from Azerbaijan and I’m the only official resident of Hong Kong from Azerbaijan, so you can imagine my interest is about Azerbaijan, even though it’s not East Asia, it’s Eurasia.

Armenia has occupied 20 percent of our land. You know about the Karabakh problem, has been going on for 20 years now, since 1985. Why do you think we’re called the aggressors when our land is -- just your personal opinion -- when our land, 20 percent of our land was taken? [Laughter].

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: That’s a leading question, but you remind me to make an important point about Georgia, too, which is: In addition to checking or containing or restraining Russia, if you will, with respect to Georgia. I think one of the other points is that we want to reassure our other friends in the region who neighbor on Russia that we care about them, that we are concerned about them. Our Vice President went to Azerbaijan, so I’m sure he had friendly things to say when he went there and I doubt he used any of the characterizations that you alluded to there.

I think this is a problem that needs to be solved one day or another in the Nagorno-Karabakh. I remember it back in the 1980s when it first flared up. It’s a continued sore point that impedes the establishment of normal relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I think maybe that’s an issue whose time has come in terms of some kind of renewed diplomatic effort to resolve it.

I myself plan to visit Azerbaijan in about a month’s time. I’ll be going there for the first time and I very much look forward to my visit. It’s transported us quite far from Hong Kong here, but nonetheless, I look forward to doing that.

Thank you very much.

# # # #

The Honorable John D. Negroponte
Deputy Secretary of State
Impromptu Media Q&A Following AmCham Event
September 17, 2008

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Maybe I’ll just take a couple of questions. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: The recent [inaudible]in Russia are benefiting the regime in Iran. What are you doing there?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Your question is about Russia and Iran.

QUESTION: Benefiting the regime in Iran.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Iran is an issue of great concern to the United States. We don’t want them to develop nuclear enrichment capability and we don’t want them to develop any capabilities that would enable them to acquire nuclear weapons. Actually we have --

QUESTION: What are you doing about it?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, there are already three Security Council Resolutions. We’re working with the Russians and the Chinese and others to --

QUESTION: [Inaudible; perhaps “Not the Russians.”].

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Yes, we have. They voted with us in the Security Council, to restrain Iran’s behavior. That will continue to be our position.

QUESTION: You mentioned military relationships the U.S. has with a number of states in the region. You didn’t mention the military relationship with Taiwan. I wonder what your thoughts are on what that really should be, and the apparent freeze there seems to be now on military sales to Taiwan.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well there’s not been any recent sales of arms, but there have been in the past and there may well be in the future. As I mentioned, we’re committed to conducting a defense relationship with Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. That continues to be our policy.

QUESTION: But it seems to me there are no arms being sold. There seems to be a de facto --

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, there was an offer a number of years ago, and then only recently did the Taiwan legislature take the step of approving that offer. So now there’s a new government in office in Taiwan and we’ll have to see where it goes from there.

QUESTION: You’re saying that U.S. and China are having talks about the possible instability in North Korea, is that true?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I am not aware of any talks between us and China on that particular subject, but certainly the issue of 6-Party Talks and the question of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is very much an issue of discussion between our two governments. I’d say that is an issue that is always on the agenda between the United States and China.

QUESTION: What about Mr. Kim’s health up in the North? To what extent has that been a factor in the talks?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I wouldn’t want to speculate on that. I just don’t know about his health.

QUESTION: -- difference emerging between India and the United States on the nuclear reprocessing rights and the supply of fuel. Would you care to comment?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I’d say this has been a landmark agreement. We worked very hard on it. We want to move it forward. We negotiated with India. We worked with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. I think we’re going to keep chipping away at it, if you will, to try to bring it to fruition because we think it’s a positive --

QUESTION: Some say in India the United States is backing away from the assurance --

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I would think that’s wrong, frankly. I would say that we, despite reservations that have been expressed by other countries, have worked hard to overcome those reservations in support of the United States-India agreement. That remains our policy. We think it’s the right policy. I also think that President Bush and Secretary Rice have been courageous in pressing it forward in light of some of the resistance they’ve met from other quarters.

Thank you.


Released on September 17, 2008

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