Interview With Derwin Pereira of the Singapore Straits TimesSecretary Condoleezza Rice
November 8, 2006
QUESTION:Do you see a Democratic-controlled Congress and the resignation of Mr. Rumsfeld having any bearing on the Bush Administration's Iraq policy?
SECRETARY RICE: The President made very clear this morning that the American people have spoken. We go through these elections. In fact, it's not at all unusual that in the second half of a President's term there will be a change in one or more of the houses of Congress. And so the American people clearly were voting for change as the President said. But the American people were not voting for anything less than a success in Iraq. And the President has been very clear that we will certainly make adjustments to our policy. We will certainly look to new ideas, for instance, from the Baker-Hamilton Commission. And he believes, along with Secretary Rumsfeld, that perhaps it's time for a new leadership in the Pentagon and fresh eyes. Mr. Gates will come with those fresh eyes. But the American commitment to the goals that took us to Iraq remains absolutely steadfast and that is what is important.
QUESTION: So you're saying that the U.S. will stay the course?
SECRETARY RICE: The United States will certainly keep after the goal that took us to Iraq, because it's too important to our own security. Iraq has to be successful for America to be secure.
And so we will maintain that course.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, is Iraq forcing America to pay less attention to other world issues including the rights of China.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, no. In fact, Iraq is very important but it is a part of a broad foreign policy set of issues. You can go around the world and look at American engagement on any number of issues. We are going to be going, of course, to APEC where we have strong relations and strong ties with our Asian allies. I was just in Asia in the wake of the North Korea nuclear test. Now, we are about to go back to the six-party talks, meaning that we are dealing with that problem. We, of course, are dealing also with the Iranian proliferation issue. So we are dealing with a lot of challenges in the Middle East, in proliferation, but we also have a very positive agenda. This President has been very active in free trade. We have many free trade agreements that we have signed including, in fact, with Singapore. We've got the Doha Round that we're pursuing actively. We've been one of the most active partners in the Doha Round. So we are determined to support and press for free trade because it is the best opportunity for prosperity for the United States and also for the rest of the world.
QUESTION: But the issue here is that you've got a Democratic-controlled Congress. They're not very keen on free trade and how is that going to have a bearing on that --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is true that it will be a hard fight on free trade issues, but it's been a hard fight for some time now on free trade issues. And the President will continue to make the case that the United States, of all countries, cannot close off to the international economy; that Americans prosper more when we have open economies and open trade; that it produces new jobs. That Americans have every reason -- as long as it is free and fair trade -- Americans have every reason to believe that we're completely competitive in matters of free trade. And so you'll see him continue to make that case. But yes, it's gotten harder. And one reason that it's gotten harder is that it -- sometimes it looks as if not everyone is completely devoted to -- not all countries are completely devoted to the principles of free trade. And so we have to make sure when we sign trade agreements that everybody respects those principles.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Beijing is rapidly making friends in Africa and Asia. They're signing deals. I think Hu Jintao is making another round of trips to Asian countries. What do you think of China's growing power and influence in the world and how is the U.S. dealing with it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't see any of this as zero sum. I'd like to have China have friends in the world. It's better than having China have enemies in the world. You know there have been times when we worried about the opposite; that China would be a destabilizing factor in the world. So I would rather see a China that is trying to reach out, that's trying to have friendships around the world. We have excellent relations with China. We are working on a number of issues together.
Now, China has to be responsible in its engagement with the world because it is a big power. It's not just a developing country. Yes, it has some aspects of being a developing country, but it's a big power with lots of influence. And so we say that it needs to be a responsible stakeholder, meaning that it needs to take its responsibility for issues like North Korea, for issues like Iran. It needs to take responsibility in Africa not just to seek resources but also to contribute to the development of Africa and so that people's lives are better. But a China that is responsible and active in the world would be I think of great benefit to international peace and security.
QUESTION: There are some voices in this country that think that China might not emerge as benevolent power. What is your response to that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is partly the responsibility of countries like the United States and China's neighbors and institutions like APEC to create conditions in which China will be a positive force in international politics. There are some aspects of China's external policies that are not very positive. We've had --
QUESTION: Such as?
SECRETARY RICE: -- difficulties on intellectual property rights. We continue to work on this problem, but this is a problem. We are concerned, as many of China's neighbors are, about what sometimes seems an outsized military buildup of Chinese forces. China, of course, needs also in terms of its own domestic transition to respond to the natural desires of people for human rights and for religious freedom. So there are -- China's a country in transition and there are a lot of aspects of Chinese development that are not yet settled. But I think on the whole the relationship that President Bush has established with the Chinese leadership has been positive, positive for the world.
I was very glad to see the visit of Prime Minister Abe to China just very recently, because we would like to see a better development – development of better relations between China and Japan as a part of getting a more peaceful Northeast Asia and set of relationships between those neighbors.
QUESTION: At the same time the United States is also trying to build alliances in --
SECRETARY RICE: We have them. The United States has these alliances. We have an excellent alliance with Japan, an excellent relationship with and alliance with South Korea.
We have good friends throughout Southeast Asia. We have nothing to fear from an active China as long as it is operating within the rules of international trade, within the rules of international policy.
QUESTION: Now the U.S. has said that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable, but can you stop it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, not only the United States has said that it is unacceptable, so has China and Japan and South Korea and Russia and others and now the entire international community with Resolution 1718. Yes, I think we can stop it. I think that international community, when it speaks with the kind of resolve that it did with Resolution 1718, can help create the conditions in which then diplomacy can lead to a good outcome. We are very much looking for the resumption of the six-party talks but the talks have to lead somewhere. You can't just continue to talk. We have a coalition of states that are really dedicated to that and that's very important.
QUESTION: So what is really the best option to stop or deter North Korea? Diplomacy has not really yielded many successes.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it hasn't yet, but we haven't tried diplomacy in -- under the conditions that we now have, which is that we now have a Security Council resolution that actually punishes North Korea for having launched the nuclear test and that actually puts constraints on North Korea's ability to fund its program, to get materials for its program, puts sanctions on luxury goods for the regime that likes to have luxury goods even though its people are very often close to starvation. And so we haven't tried diplomacy under these circumstances. I'm hopeful that diplomacy, when the North Koreans are in a situation in which they see what the alternative is, that we'll be more successful with diplomacy.
But you're right. It's been 30 years and ironically this is the first time that there has been a Chapter 7 resolution sanctioning the North Korean program.
QUESTION: Now there are concerns in the region that without Robert Zoellick no one is keeping an eye on Asia and ASEAN.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, people are keeping an eye on ASEAN and Asia.
QUESTION: How --
SECRETARY RICE: I was at Kuala Lumpur for ASEAN --
QUESTION: Sorry, it was a mischievous question.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, right. No, we're all spending a lot of time in Asia. I was just in Northeast Asia. I was in Southeast Asia this summer. We have diplomats right now in Northeast Asia. The President will be in Hanoi for APEC. I think we're pretty active in Asia.
QUESTION: Have you found a replacement for Zoellick?
SECRETARY RICE: We are working on that and I think there will be someone soon. Bob is a fine diplomat and he'll not be easy to replace, but we look forward to a new Deputy.
QUESTION: Now, Madame Secretary, what's the purpose of President Bush's trip to Singapore and Indonesia?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, when he goes to Hanoi for APEC and to Vietnam, he will take the opportunity to visit a good friend in Singapore with whom we have broad cooperation on a wide range of fronts and a place that he very much liked being at another -- the last time that we were in Asia. I think he plans to -- while in Singapore talk about his vision for the region. And of course going to Indonesia is going to a country with a large Muslim population, a country that has made the hard road to -- or has made the hard steps to democracy, now has had free elections. And that is really an example of what tolerance can mean because Indonesia is multi-ethnic, multi-religious country that people are living in peace, and so it's an important message to the Muslim world.
QUESTION: What role has Singapore played on the global war on terror? And does the U.S. view Southeast Asia as still the second front in the global war on terror?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, certainly Southeast Asia is a front in the war on terror just like other places. There are terrorist organizations that operate in Southeast Asia and we have excellent cooperation, counterterrorism cooperation. Singapore has been among the best. It's been a stalwart in counterterrorism cooperation. It has the right values about it; it sees it as the kind of threat to free peoples that I think we have a similar view of this. Singapore has been also a stalwart in nonproliferation policy, a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative and very active in enforcing the nonproliferation initiatives that the world has. So we couldn't have a better partner than Singapore and that's one of the things that the President will have an opportunity to celebrate when he's there.
QUESTION: And he'll be meeting the Prime Minister?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, he will be meeting all of the leaders.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I just ask, Madame Secretary, one question about football?
SECRETARY RICE: Football? Sure.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if you had a choice between becoming Commissioner of the National Football League and being the President of the most powerful country in the world in 2008 --
SECRETARY RICE: No contest.
QUESTION: What would you choose and why?
SECRETARY RICE: No contest.
SECRETARY RICE: Commissioner of the NFL is a much better job. (Laughter.) You get to go to all those football games. Unfortunately, the Commissioner of the NFL, Mr. Tagliabue, decided to step down while I was still Secretary of State, so it looks like I'll have to wait.
I have enormous admiration for people who run for office, but --
QUESTION: Would you run?
SECRETARY RICE: It's not what I want to do and it's just not in my --
QUESTION: But, Madame Secretary, not many women have been considered as serious contenders for the presidency, so why do you choose to pass?
SECRETARY RICE: It's a very good question, but you know you have to want to run for office. I don't think that people who have to be persuaded to run really should run because ours is a very tough process and it takes a special talent to run for office. I've been now around enough presidential elections that I know what it takes and I know I should go back to Stanford instead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.
Released on November 9, 2006