THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release July 21, 2000
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
ON PRESIDENTS CLINTON AND PUTIN BILATERAL
Rizzan Sea Park Hotel
8:30 P.M. (L)
MR. CROWLEY: Good evening. President Clinton and President Putin
have concluded a bilateral meeting here in Okinawa. We have two senior
administration officials here to give you a debrief of that meeting. I
remind you it is on BACKGROUND, attributable to senior administration
With that, I'll introduce senior administration official number
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good evening, everybody. What I
thought would probably be most helpful to you would be for me just to
run through the topics covered by President Clinton and President Putin.
The meeting lasted for just about exactly an hour and 15 minutes. This
was the fourth meeting between them, the second meeting since President
Putin assumed that office. You all know, I think, that President
Clinton met with Mr. Putin twice last year in his earlier capacities.
I will go through the topics in the order in which they came up.
Not too surprisingly, President Putin was interested in getting a little
bit of the flavor of the Camp David peace process from President
Clinton. They spent some time on that. But because it is still very
much in progress, there's not a great deal to report to you there,
except that President Putin -- and by the way, Foreign Minister Ivanov
was a part of the meeting -- President Putin did underscore Russia's
desire to be helpful in whatever the follow-up to Camp David turns out
to be. Russia, of course, is a cosponsor of the Madrid process in the
Middle East peace process.
Then President Clinton asked President Putin for some of his
impressions of his travels, particularly his visit to North Korea. And
President Putin actually had quite a bit to say in that regard, and I
would describe it as quite interesting and useful to us, as we try to
get a better sense of what's happening in North Korea and a little bit
better sense of Kim Chong-Il and his regime.
That subject led, quite naturally, into the question of ballistic
missile proliferation, which, as I'll come to in a moment, relates,
obviously, to national missile defense. And there was some discussion
of ballistic missile proliferation in general, ballistic missile
proliferation with regard to North Korea in particular. And then they
got into the subject of strategic stability, which is the umbrella
phrase we use to talk about strategic offensive arms control, START II,
START III, and also strategic defense.
In that regard, the two leaders agreed on a joint statement on
cooperation and on strategic stability, which has already been released
to you. This should be seen, I think, as another step in a process that
we hope will continue throughout this administration and beyond, which
is to identify and move in areas where the United States and Russia can
cooperate with regard to the whole problem of missile proliferation and
the spread of dangerous technology.
It follows directly on -- it's a kind of a sequel to the principles
document released at the Moscow summit, and the Presidents agreed that
they would hope to make more progress of a concrete nature on
cooperation of this kind when they meet during the millennium summit in
Then they discussed another very specific nonproliferation issue,
which is assistance and cooperation that has gone from Russian entities
to Iran, assisting the Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
This has been on the presidential agenda between the United States and
Russia for at least three, three and a half years, and we've been
dealing with it as governments longer than that. And it was a quite
highly focused discussion on specific measures that we hope the Russian
authorities will take following up on understandings and, indeed,
following up on Russian regulations and laws that are on the books there
in order to ensure that this kind of technology -- that is nuclear and
missile technology -- does not fall into the wrong hands elsewhere.
Then there was a discussion of Chechnya, and particularly about the
need to increase access to Chechnya for the international community, and
more specifically, the OSCE assistance group. And then the two turned
to the question of the Balkans and the months ahead, and from our
standpoint -- here I'm characterizing the United States position -- the
need to make clear to the Milosevic regime in Belgrade that it must show
restraint, particularly with regard to the democratically elected
leadership of Montenegro.
I'm coming now to senior official 1-A, who will report a little bit
on the economic discussion. But there was a kind of a bridge between
the political and economic discussion -- President Clinton talked about
the need for rule of law as an underpinning for economic reform, for
keeping Russian capital in the country, for attracting investment from
outside. And he talked about rule of law not only in strictly economic
terms, but also with regard to civil society, free press, open media.
He did compliment President Putin on the economic team that he's
put together and the economic plan, but did register some concerns in
the more general area of rule of law, very specifically with regard to a
Why don't I turn it over to my colleague, and then we'll take a few
questions. My colleague, 1-A. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I was going to be colleague 2, but
I negotiated for 1-A with Lockhart. (Laughter.) There's no question
that this bilateral was overwhelmingly on the security side, which is
not surprising as they had had a quite extensive bilateral, they'd gone
through many specific issues when we were in Moscow. And certainly,
there will be -- some of these issues on the economic side will be
raised tomorrow in the G-8.
The President did compliment President Putin on the fact that he
used his state of the union address to give a very candid and direct
description of the need for structural reform, rule of law for Russia,
to fully make the transition that it needs to return to being a strong
As my colleague mentioned, he stressed the importance of the rule
of law and attracting capital. He complimented the economic team, made
clear that we were watching very closely their progress, that we knew
that he was fully engaged in tax reform and the other issues that are
currently going through the Duma, and that we were obviously following
their negotiations with the IMF and their continuing progress, and that
in the context of their reform efforts, that we looked forward to being
supportive in their desire to have a successful IMF plan and to move
forward from there.
So with that, I'm happy to take questions. But there's no question
that the overwhelming part of this discussion was on the security and
political issues my colleague mentioned.
Q I didn't hear you mention the words "national missile
defense." Did President Putin bring that up? Did he express the
opposition that you've heard? And what did he think about what
Chancellor Schroeder said today, and Prime Minister Chirac?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Terry, I actually did refer to
NMD. It came up -- just to put it in the context of the flow -- it came
us as kind of a segue of the discussion of North Korea because, as you
know, the North Korean ballistic missile program is at the cutting edge
of the threat, which in turn is the driving consideration in the
national intelligence estimate in NMD.
The two Presidents have talked about this considerably before; they
spent a great deal of time on it during their Moscow summit. President
Clinton made clear, as he has publicly, that he has not made a decision,
but he intends to make a decision during the course of this summer. He
mentioned that he will be consulting with Secretary Cohen, who is
reviewing, among other things, the most recent test and that that will
be one factor -- though, not the deciding factor by any means.
President Putin did say basically -- and this is a paraphrase, not
a quotation -- that the Russian reasons for concern about NMD and
opposition to the specifics of the American program are well-known, but
that Russia and the United States can still find a great deal to do
together to deal with the overall problem, which Russia recognizes. And
Russia's recognition of the overall problem was contained, of course, in
the Moscow document. And you'll see in the follow-up document that we
release tonight some additional steps that we're taking.
Q Can you -- steps are that are actually --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. They're in a couple of
areas. As you know, there was an early warning center established in
the Moscow document. We've now set a timetable for getting that up and
running. We've also given some additional instructions to experts on
some activities that will take place, particularly with regard to
pre-launch notification. We're going to, under the general rubric of
the Nonproliferation Treaty, we're going to work together to find some
ways of ensuring that that comes into force.
On CTBT, in addition to reaffirming our desire -- that is, the
United States' desire -- to see that come into force, which, of course,
can happen only when it's ratified, we've also instructed experts to
zero in on some confidence and transparency measures which, if we can
achieve those measures, will help in CTBT.
Then, the Russians have put forward a proposal for something that
they call a global monitoring system, sometimes translated to global
control system. We think that there are some elements of that which can
be incorporated, both with the existing missile technology control
regime and also a code of conduct for nations to follow that would
provide incentives to countries not to proliferate dangerous technology.
It's all pretty well spelled out in the document.
Q On North Korea, did the President have a specific discussion
of North Koran leader Kim Chong-Il's proposal of stopping ballistic
missile research in exchange for access to other nations' rockets. And
did you get any more of a sense of whether you now view that offer as
any more sincere or likely to actually be carried out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We got a somewhat clearer idea of
what President Putin has in mind in this regard, although we're going to
have some follow-up discussions tomorrow among others besides the two
Presidents. While they're involved in G-8 activities tomorrow, we're
going to have some additional meetings, and I think that will give us a
chance to get a lot more precision, not only on what the Russians think
the Pyongyang leadership has in mind, but also what Russia has in mind.
Our position on that is we've already referred to in public, just
based on the press accounts, and that is if what's envisioned here would
be for North Korea to give up, to foreswear its ballistic missile
program in exchange for some kind of international assistance in putting
into orbit satellites and that kind of thing, and if it was clearly
understood that the launch capability was going to be outside the
territory of North Korea and thoroughly subject to international
technology controls, that not only would be something that we would be
prepared to pursue, but it's actually something we have pursued in the
past. And, by the way, it might have some resonance here in the G-8;
there might be a role for the G-8 in that, as well.
Q Does that description comport with what is the Russians'
understanding of it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So far. And we are going to have
follow up discussions over the next day or so.
Q I'm sorry, I didn't get the follow-up there. Did Putin
believe also that what Kim Chong-Il was talking about was assistance for
rocket development outside of North Korea or not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We need to have further
discussions with our Russian colleagues in order to get a bit more about
what actually transpired between President Putin and Kim Chong-Il in
Pyongyang on that. That is a very germane and immediate question.
I think you can tell from the list of topics that I gave you -- and
also there was really quite a bit of time spent on the Middle East and
on some more general impressions of North Korea -- we sort of laid the
basis for good follow-up discussions both at a political level and a
technical level in the days to come.
Q You mentioned earlier that North Korea is on the cutting edge
of this threat that the national missile defense system -- dealing with.
Obviously, Putin, I would think, would say, listen, if the North Koreans
are willing to do this, there is even less need for you to have this
system. Was that argument made by Putin?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not quite, John. There are couple
of issues. First of all, as I tried to make -- I'm trying to be clear
about what's not clear. It's not entirely clear what is in Kim
Chong-il's mind with regard to this possible trade-off. I mean, a very
dangerous possibility -- which I'm not attributing, by the way, to the
Russians -- but a very dangerous idea would be that the international
community would provide actual launch capability to North Korea -- that
is to say, rockets -- rockets to be launched from North Korean
territory. The North Koreans might say, well, this is for peaceful
purposes, it's to launch satellites -- but, of course, it was supposedly
a satellite launch that really got this ball rolling, or at least
rolling a lot faster in August of 1998.
So we need to have a much better idea of what the North Koreans
have in mind. We have a somewhat better idea of what the Russians have
in mind. But in any event, the underlying problem here is that the
North Koreans had already progressed quite far, as the August '98
missile shot demonstrated. And that means that they could, in
relatively short order, if they were to decide to suspend the moratorium
on testing and rush ahead with a testing program, they could have a
missile that could threaten Japan, for starters -- well, I guess we
should say South Korea for starters, Japan and not too much farther in
the future, the United States.
And part of the dilemma of the offense/defense relationship is that
it takes a lot longer as we've been reminded recently to demonstrate a
highly accurate defensive system than it does to develop a fairly crude,
not very accurate offensive system.
So, in other words, what I'm saying is, President Putin did not say
that what he had heard in Pyongyang was some kind of a slam-dunk
rebuttal to the premise of NMD. He's opposed to NMD, and he's hoping
that we can, whatever we do, we'll do cooperatively. But he didn't go
as far as your question suggested.
Q Was Putin enthusiastic about what North Korea is proposing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He clearly thought it was
something to be studied and discussed with us and with others, and I
suspect he'll be reporting on it to the other G-8 leaders. I would say
he was cautiously interested in it.
Q What do you think the North Koreans hope to accomplish by
having these out-of-country launches, peaceful launches?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's not clear that that's
what the North Koreans have in mind, at least on the basis of what we've
heard so far. I think I've taken it about as far as I can.
Q On the Balkans, did Mr. Putin --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Balkans.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Balkans.
Q Did Mr. Putin indicate any change, modification, clarification
of his position regarding Mr. Milosevic?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to characterize the
Russian position, except to say that the fairly intense part of the
conversation on the Balkans gave each president a chance to concentrate
on the key points. For us, the key point is that Slobodan Milosevic has
already unleashed four wars; he's already once presided over the massive
dismemberment of a country called Yugoslavia, and come very close to
doing so again in Kosovo, and let's not do it again. And that ought to
be the message to him, notably including from Russia.
Q Does the U.S. support the -- warning to Russia about
Milosevic, that they better back off supporting --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The conversation between President
Clinton and President Putin wasn't about exchanging warnings, it was
about exchanging analysis and views and making sure that we understand
each other's position and saying if we can broaden a little bit the
Q Yes, but does the U.S. support the move afoot among European
countries to pressure Putin against supporting Milosevic, or even giving
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've got to tell you, I mean, I
was in Miyozaki for the G-8 Foreign Ministers' meeting last week, and it
is not correct to say that the consensus among other foreign ministers
there was to pressure Russia. Russia is part of this organization, it's
part of the G-8. We're working on this problem together.
I assume many of you have seen the language that was included in
the ministerial communique coming out of the G-8 last week. That was
language that Russia supported. So we're doing this with Russia; not by
any means pressuring Russia.
Q Roughly, how much of the hour and 15 minutes was devoted to
North Korea and NMD? And secondly, am I correct in understanding you
that President Putin did not feel it necessary to rehearse his arguments
in opposition to NMD? He just said these are well-known and sort of
brushed over it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The latter point's easy. That's
basically correct. He sort of did his opposition to NMD by reference.
They were together six weeks ago, something like that, and President
Clinton remembers vividly what President Putin had to say and
As for how much time -- it would be a wild guess. It was certainly
10 minutes, 10 or 15 minutes, something like that. Is that what you
asked -- you lumped two subjects together, North Korea and NMD/missile
proliferation, the whole cluster of issues. I would say, particularly
if you add that other part, it probably was 15 minutes in all, because
there was discussion of START III as well.
Q Do you know what President Putin have in mind when he said
Russia was willing to be helpful in the aftermath of Camp David?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I do, but I don't want to get
into it. I mean, none of it would surprise you very much. Russia has
both interests and influence in the area, and it's a cosponsor of the
peace process. But how exactly it might be helpful will depend on the
outcome in Camp David, which not even this guy can tell you, whatever
his name is.
Q And the question -- in the discussion about Iran and Russia
and proliferation, was there anything said in concrete terms in that
discussion which would lead the United States to be less concerned about
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. No. We're very concerned
about the issue, and President Putin, by the way, has said publicly in
at least two interview that I read that he recognizes that there is a
real problem here. In fact, the Russian recognition that there is a
real problem is contained in the Moscow principles document.
Now, that said, it is useful to get a better insight into the
thinking in Pyongyang and we certainly are interested in exploring not
only Russia's understanding, but the North Koreans' understanding of
what might be possible by way of an arrangement whereby North Korea
would truly give up and unplug -- and "unplug" is key -- its ballistic
missile program. But there are many more questions than there are
I would say we established a good basis for beginning to answer
those questions from the Russian standpoint, but we're going to have --
Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Bob Einhorn is going
to be having follow-up discussions directly with the North Koreans,
picking up on the ones that he had in Kuala Lumpur a week or so ago. So
we'll have a chance to talk to the North Koreans directly about this, as
Q A question for colleague 1-A -- was there any discussion of
the U.S. stance towards a possible rescheduling of Russia's Soviet-era
debt, and what was the President's position on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there really wasn't, other
than the general notion that I think has been expressed several times --
things have to proceed in a certain order, which is, first, the
implementation of a sound, structural economic plan with an IMF program.
And then that is what triggers the ability for there to be Paris club
consideration for a rescheduling.
And then I think as was said in Cologne last year, to the degree
that such reforms can be shown on a consistent, sustained period, that
would open the door for more comprehensive long-term look at their debt
situation. But I think that, again, with the meeting they had fairly
recently, and with Secretary Summers' discussions with the Finance
Minister so recently, I think both positions were known. I do expect
the discussion to come up tomorrow at the G-8.
END 8:55 P.M. (L)
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