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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > February

Press Conference

Secretary Colin L. Powell
St. Regis Hotel
Beijing, China
February 24, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: (Applause) Clearly not the American press, but thatís all right! Well, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by saying it is a great sight to be back in China. This is my third visit to Beijing since becoming Secretary and my fourth visit to China, which I think illustrates the importance that we attach to this relationship. And in this visit so far Iíve had excellent meetings with Vice President Hu and Foreign Minister Tang, and I am looking forwarding to meeting right after this brief press conference with President Jiang Zemin.

Vice President Cheney will further our high level dialogue during his visit this spring. Our relations with China have really moved to a new dimension. In addition to three meetings in 18 months, President Bush and President Jiang have had frequent phone calls and I meet with my counterpart, Foreign Minister Tang, almost every other week now. In between, we two communicate by phone on a regular basis. The U.S. and China are now addressing, through these many ways of dialogue, issues of worldwide concern, not just to us bilaterally, but issues that affect the entire world.

As a fellow permanent member of the Security Council, we work closely with our Chinese colleagues to ensure for example that Iraq cannot continue to threaten international peace and security. I discussed with Foreign Minister Tang and with Vice President Hu earlier today the need for us to take action in the near future with respect to Iraq and noted that early this week, we and the United Kingdom will be tabling a new resolution that will make clear that time is running out on Iraq and that Iraq has so far not taken the opportunity given to it under UN Resolution 1441 to come into compliance with its international obligations.

The United States believes strongly, and I conveyed this to my Chinese interlocutors today, that it is time for Saddam to disarm or depart, and for the Security Council to get ready to live up to its responsibilities if Saddam does not meet his responsibilities. We also discussed at some length this morning our shared goal for a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula. A goal that both of our nations share. The United States appreciates Chinaís consistent message to the North Koreans; that China joins the rest of the world community in expecting Pyongyang to comply with its obligations and its own promises with respect to nuclear weapons.

The United States and China share the goal of a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to this problem. It cannot simply be treated, however, as a bilateral matter between the United States and North Korea. The Unites States feels strongly that North Koreaís actions pose a threat to regional stability and to the global non-proliferation regime. I cannot emphasize enough how seriously all of us would view any move by North Korea toward reprocessing of the spent fuel rods and production of nuclear weapons. And we are prepared to address these issues with North Korea in a multilateral context in which China and other nations can participate. It is a matter for China, itís a matter for South Korea, itís a matter for Japan, itís a matter for Russia, itís a matter for the United Nations, the IAEA, and it is a matter for the United States. I believe that North Korea must come to understand that if it wants to benefit from the opportunities of the modern world, the opportunities that exist to help the North Korean leadership feed its people and improve its economy, it needs to step forward and abandon these programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to proliferate other dangerous technologies throughout the world.

In our discussions this morning we also talked about counterterrorism cooperation and I must say that China is certainly doing its part and we are pleased with the level of cooperation we have with China. China is tracking down terrorist finances, stepping up law enforcement coordination, and sharing information. To further these efforts we opened a legal attachť office in our Embassy last year.

The fight against terrorism also requires us to ensure that Afghanistan can never again be a source of instability, a source where terrorists can go and find haven. And in order to work toward the rebuilding of Afghanistan, we are working with China and Iím pleased that China donated $150 million in bilateral assistance for Afghan reconstruction as part of our overall international effort to help the Afghanistan people.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, raise the specter that terrorists could use weapons of mass destruction, so this makes global proliferation issues even more critical for U.S.-China relations. Last fall China promulgated missile, chemical and biological, and munitions related export controls. These regulations were a welcome and a very positive step forward. What is now key is full implementation and effective enforcement of the regulations through a transparent process. Companies and individuals must be held responsible for adhering to these new laws and regulations.

Chinaís decision to adhere to international norms in this area fits with the historical and positive trend of Chinaís acceptance of world standards in other areas as well. China has a challenging task, for example, as it works to fulfill its World Trade Organization commitments and obligations and we look forward to working with China in that regard.

China is our fourth largest trading partner and one of the worldís half dozen largest trading nations. We look forward to working with China to help it implement fully those commitments that it enters into and to advance the Doha Agenda Trade Negotiations. As you also know, human rights and religious freedom are another key area of our bilateral relationship and today we discussed both of the elements in this key area of human rights and religious freedom.

We are a little concerned that, after a year of promising steps in this area and a very productive U.S.- China human rights dialogue last December, we have seen some setbacks on human rights that threaten to undercut the progress that we have previously made. Since the December dialogue, we have been deeply concerned by the execution of a prominent Tibetan, the detention of more than a dozen democracy activists and the continuation of a pattern of inconsistent and irregular legal and judicial procedures. Our goal is to turn human rights into a positive element in our relationship and I look forward to further dialogue and sending more delegations from the United States to China and vice-versa to continue in our efforts to improve the human rights situation, the human rights dialogue, and a better understanding of each otherís positions.

Indeed, building an open and creative society is part of fighting terrorism and enhancing Chinaís cooperation with the world. Our post-September 11 experience has demonstrated our capacity to advance our relationship across the board. We have developed important bilateral dialogues in HIV/AIDS, the environment and law enforcement. Our cooperation will advance global efforts to address transnational problems.

The growing cooperation between the United States and China enhances both our nations, helps stabilize the region and benefits the world. I would like to thank my Chinese hosts for all their hospitality and I also want to take note of the fact that I got word a few moments ago of a serious earthquake in Western China that caused the loss of life of, so far, 89 or so individuals. And I extend my sympathy and condolences to the families of those who have been lost in this tragedy. Now, I am ready to take a few questions before I have to leave for another meeting.

SPOKESMAN BOUCHER: Letís begin with Mr. Gedda.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Could you say whether the Chinese leadership is interested now in doing more concerning the problem of the nuclear weapons development in North Korea.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think they are anxious to play as helpful a role as they can. They have a long, deep and historical relationship with North Korea. They understand North Korea and North Koreaís leaders. I think they prefer to play their role quietly, but they have a clear understanding of our desires and our interests and I thanked Foreign Minister Tang and Vice President Hu for the role that they have been playing. And we, perhaps, will have some other ideas that we can pursue with the Chinese in the days and weeks ahead. And we started to discuss some of those ideas today, but I am not at liberty to share them with you.

QUESTION: Iím from China Youth Daily, my name is Yuan Tiecheng. Over the past few weeks you have had frequent contact with Mr. Tang Jiaxuan. I wonder how the United States makes sure that Chinaís interests will not be harmed in Iraq after the war against Saddam Hussein.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I have had quite a number of opportunities to meet with Minister Tang. We have been doing everything we can to avoid a war. We have been using the United Nations, both the United States and China and other members of the Security Council. Weíre working hard to see if we can get Iraq to comply and avoid a war and there is still time to avoid a war. We must not be afraid of a conflict, if a conflict is what it takes to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. We are not talking to any of our friends and colleagues about ďslicing up the pieĒ so to speak after the conflict. If there is a conflict and the United States leads a coalition into Iraq, everything we do during that conflict and after that conflict will be for the purpose of providing a better life for the Iraqi people. And with respect to such issues as oil and their other natural assets, those assets belong to the Iraqi people and everything we do would preserve those assets and make sure they serve the Iraqi people and not anyone else. And so, I am sure that China shares that same point of view if a conflict comes, but China is working just as hard as the United States to see if such a conflict can be avoided. But the Security Council must meet its responsibilities if Iraq does not comply. That was the clear intent of UN Resolution 1441 when it was passed in November. We now have four months of experience, almost, with that resolution, and so far Iraq continues to play games, continues to deceive, continues to let out a little bit here, a little bit there, but has not answered the basic questions: What happened to the anthrax? Where is the botulism toxin? What have you done with the missiles? Why arenít you getting us the documents that are needed? Why canít people be interviewed without having minders and tape recorders present? Stop the game. But the game continues because that is Saddam Husseinís intent, to try to hang onto these weapons of mass destruction, and that must not be allowed. That was the clear intent of Resolution 1441. To end his possession, to make sure that weapons of mass destruction no longer exist in Iraq and that it will happen one way or the other -- peacefully or through the use of force.

SPOKESMAN BOUCHER: Barbara Slavin, USA Today.

SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Secretary, are you, after the talks that you had this morning, more reassured that China will not do anything to block another resolution at the Security Council? And you mentioned human rights, did you also raise the issue of the North Koreans in China who are being arrested and sent back against their will? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: I made it clear to Foreign Minister Tang what our point of view was. There is no resolution before the Council yet, but there will be one shortly, and so it would have been inappropriate for me to press him for a decision, particularly since it is a resolution we wonít be putting up for a vote immediately. I hope that after the resolution has been presented and they have had a chance to study it and we see what happens over the next couple of weeks with respect to reports that we are expecting from the Chief Inspectors, Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei. When all of that has been dealt with, then each member of the Security Council will have to make their own judgment as to whether or not Iraq is complying, Iraq is not complying, and what appropriate action should be. And I am quite sure that China will approach that matter with the same seriousness it has approached this entire situation from the beginning.

On the second question, it has been a part of our dialogue, but we didnít focus on it in any great detail this morning. But it has been part of our ongoing dialogue with the Chinese but it wasnít a major item of discussion this morning.

SPOKESMAN BOUCHER: Young lady in here.

QUESTION: China Central Television Station. Good Afternoon, Mr. Powell. My question is also about Iraq. Just as you mentioned the resolution of United Nations, if the United Nations does not produce a resolution which permits the United States to take military action towards Iraq, what will United States do next step? In the opinion of the United States, what is role of United Nations? Thatís all, thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: We hope that Iraq will comply. That is the reason why we went to the United Nations in the first place to get a strong Resolution 1441, that made it clear that the international community was unified and that Iraq had to disarm. If Iraq does not comply and the United Nations, in the presence of that noncompliance refuses to act, I think it would be a bad day for the United Nations - not willing to step up to its responsibilities. And, as President Bush has said all along, he reserves the right to lead a coalition of the willing to disarm Iraq if the United Nations is not willing to provide a coalition to do so. We believe that there is sufficient authority in Resolution 1441, 678 and 687 and earlier resolutions for such action, but it is also clear that if Iraq is not complying, a second resolution would be very, very helpful in order to make the case to the international community. And so let us hope that a peaceful solution can be found. But letís also not lose sight of the fact that the only reason that Iraq has done anything -- anything -- in the last four to six months is because of the threat of force and because of the unity of the international community. This is not the time to step away from this responsibility. This is the time to disarm Iraq, one way or the other.

SPOKESMAN BOUCHER: Weíll go back there, in the corner.

QUESTION: Iím with CNN. What does China stand to gain if it were to support the new resolution that you will propose at the United Nations? If it were to support the new resolution that you plan to table in the UN? And also, China wants, prefers, the U.S. to directly talk with Pyongyang. Why is it so difficult for the U.S. to do so?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the second question, we talked directly to the DPRK when we entered into the agreed framework in 1994. We talked directly to them, came up with an Agreed Framework and that Agreed Framework clearly led the world to believe that North Korea was not working on weapons of a nuclear character. Yongbyon was all sealed up. We also believe that North Korea was faithful to the obligation it entered into with South Korea in 1992 with respect to no nuclear programs. Since 1994 the United States, in direct conversation with North Korea, gave other assurances. The President of the United States wrote a letter to North Korea, saying that we have no intent against you that you should be concerned about. In the fall of 2000, a joint statement was issued between the United States and North Korea dealing with these matters, but during that whole period of time, for most of that period of time, while we were observing these agreements, North Korea was off developing a technology to enrich uranium. In effect, it was deceiving the world with respect to its true ambitions concerning nuclear weapons. And we found out about it and we brought it to the attention of our friends in the region, then we brought it to the attention of the North Koreans who admitted it. And then the International Atomic Energy Agency, concerned about all this, has now reported it to the Security Council. So it is not just a matter between the United States and North Korea, just because North Korea says it is a matter between just the United States and North Korea. It is a matter that is of concern to Japan. It is a matter of concern to South Korea who has found its commitment to North Korea, its agreement with North Korea, violated. It is a matter for the International Atomic Energy Agency that reported it to the Security Council. It is a matter for the international community. The United States believes that, therefore, dialogue should begin in a multilateral setting because there are many equities involved, many countries around the world. And, as part of that multilateral setting, the United States would be present, discussing it with other persons present, to include North Korea. And merely because North Korea says this is the only way they will deal does not necessarily mean that it is the right way with which to deal with this issue. The other half of your question, what does China have to gain? Thatís not the right question. The right question is, the whole world, what the whole world stands to gain? What we stand to gain is a rogue regime such as Iraq not having weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons with which to threaten their neighbors, or perhaps even become a source of such weaponry to terrorists. We should focus on that regime and what it has done and how it has tried to deceive the world for these past twelve years about its weapons of mass destruction and its intent to develop even more weapons of mass destruction. The burden for this crisis rests squarely with Iraq and with Saddam Hussein.

SPOKESMAN BOUCHER: Last question right in here, this gentlemen.

QUESTION: Michael Anti, 21st Century World Herald, Chinese Media. So, I want to ask you two questions. The first: You showed yourself to the world as a dove in the Afghanistan war, but you now become a hawk in Iraqi issues and speak words just like Rumsfeld, so why you change? The second question is, you want to persuade China to donít give their veto to Iraq resolutions and you want China to give more pressure to North Korea. Whatís the exchange, what do you give some gift to China, for example: Taiwan issues.

SECRETARY POWELL: Itís very unwise to stereotype people with one-word labels. I have always advocated peaceful solutions to international crises. Iíve been a soldier. Iíve fought in wars. Iíve lost friends in wars. Iíve sent men and women to die in battle. So, I hate war. And anything that can be done to avoid a war should be done. But when a war cannot be avoided, fight it and fight it well. Now, what does that make me? You pick. But that is my personal philosophy. Avoid war, but if you have to fight it, do it well, get it over with and get back to building the peace. And that remains our philosophy and we have tried in every way possible to prevent there being a conflict with Iraq. But it is Iraq that is denying the world the opportunity for a peaceful solution.

With respect to North Korea and China, I think Iíve covered this in considerable detail. I think that it is in everyoneís interest to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the crisis with Iraq, and also to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation that currently exists between the international community and North Korea, and thatís what weíll continue to try to do.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Released on February 24, 2003

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