Question and Answer Session Hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong KongJohn D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
J.W. Marriott Hotel
September 17, 2008
AMCHAM CHAIRMAN STEVE DEKREY: Thank you, Ambassador. We appreciate your reassuring words, especially your continued confidence in Hong Kong.
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.
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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.
Released on September 17, 2008