President Clinton Meets with the Prime Minister of Thailand

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 13, 1998


The OvalOffice

11:05 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Let me just begin by welcoming PrimeMinister Chuan here to the United States. We have had a remarkablefriendship with Thailand over a long period of time. It is ouroldest security alliance in the region. We have, obviously, beenvery concerned about the challenges facing the Thai economy, butvery, very impressed with the leadership of this Prime Minister --his willingness to make difficult decisions to bring his country backto a full and robust financial health. And we want to do whatever wecan to be a good friend and a good partner, because we haveconfidence in the Prime Minister's leadership and because we valueour partnership with Thailand.

We welcome you here, sir.

Q What are you going to do?

THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to say anything?

PRIME MINISTER CHUAN: I thank President Clinton forinviting me and the Thai delegation to visit the United States.Thailand and the United States have enjoyed a long history ofrelations for the past 165 years. My visit is aimed to reaffirm andunderline the friendship that exists between the Thai and Americanpeople and between our two countries.

Thailand is undergoing a period of financial andeconomic crisis. During this time of need, we appreciate the helpand support of our friends. We, the Thai people, will do whatever wecan to overcome our crisis, and we are confident that we will be ableto regain economic stability and be a force that can contribute toworld peace and progress.

The people of Thailand wish to thank President Clintonfor the concern that he has displayed for the crisis in Thailand, theconcern that he has displayed for the situation in Southeast Asia.We thank him for his sincere engagement in that region.

THE PRESIDENT: To answer your question, I will make anannouncement later today. But I think in fairness, the PrimeMinister and I should have a chance to speak first because we haven'tdiscussed it and I want to have a chance to hear from him on anyideas he has. But we will have one or two things to say later in theday after we've had a chance to visit.

Q Mr. President, is the worst of the Asian financialcrisis now behind us?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I hope so, but it's hard to say.I think what we're beginning to see is a differentiation on the partof the markets in dealing with these different countries. And that'swhat, first and foremost, I would like to see -- that is, we don'twant to see the whole region thrown into a long-term recessionbecause of a perception that everything is the same everywhere. Ithink that what we want is at least to get the investors wherethey're making individual judgments about nations and aboutparticular investments within nations, and then get everybody on apath to recovery and reform.

We've worked hard with Indonesia, with South Korea, withThailand. We want to support the efforts of the IMF and others inMalaysia, the Philippines, all these countries that have had either atemporary or longer-term difficulties. So I hope the worst is over,but I think that every leader is going to have to do what this PrimeMinister has done, which is to try to follow a rigorous path thatwill build confidence in the investment community, get the flowsgoing back into the country of the money necessary to get businessgoing, and strengthen the lives of ordinary people.

Q Are you going to China and Russia this spring?Have you moved up a travel schedule?

THE PRESIDENT: I do not have a definite schedule forRussia. Prime Minister Yeltsin -- I mean, President Yeltsin and Iagreed a long time ago, probably a year or so ago, that I would cometo him for the next visit, but that it would occur after the RussianDuma ratified START II so that we could begin to work on START IIIand really get the -- take the next big step in lowering the nuclearweapons arsenals of both countries.

Q They haven't done that?

THE PRESIDENT: Not yet. That's something that I talkedto Prime Minister Chernomyrdin about when he was here, and the VicePresident did. If the Russian Duma should decide to do that, then Iwould attempt to respond, as I promised President Yeltsin over a yearago I would.

Now, on the China issue, let me explain why this tripwas moved up. Ambassador Sasser and other advisors of mine have beenarguing for months, literally for months, that I should move up thetrip to China. Because we had such a successful summit here withPresident Jiang, a lot got done. Much has happened since then. Ifelt that, after listening to them, that they were probably right,that even though we had a lot of trips this year, so we tried tospace them out, that our relationship with China is so important thatwe needed to try to build on it and make some more progress.

Now, just yesterday, the Chinese announced theirintention to sign the Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. Thisis a very significant step forward in our attempts to work within toestablish rational legal systems and to elevate the cause ofdemocracy and human rights. So I was very pleased by that. And Iexpect that they will sign it soon. So we will continue to work onthat, and we're trying to work out the details of the trip now.

Q Sir, what about Belfast?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as you know, we're about tocelebrate St. Patrick's Day here and we expect that many of the majorplayers in the Irish peace process will be here. I will do my bestto see them all. I am -- I've been very involved in this from thebeginning. I think that the next 60 to 90 days are very, veryimportant, and we have to do everything we can to try to get theparties together to move in a timely fashion.

Whether I would go to Belfast or not when I'm going to-- more or less around the time I'll be in England for the G-8meeting would depend upon what the posture of things is then with thepeace process and, after consultation with Prime Minister Blair andPrime Minister Ahern, whether I could make any kind of constructivecontribution.

There's been absolutely no decision and hardly anydiscussion of that. I am far more -- that's a very premature thing.The more important thing is when the parties are here next week, canthe United States play a positive role in trying to push the Irishpeace process forward. It's a very -- that's a very important thing,and in a way, much bigger in terms of its potential impact than aquestion of an Irish trip.

Q Are you confident that China is living up to thenuclear agreement?

THE PRESIDENT: You're referring I think to the story inthe paper this morning. Let me say that when I made the agreementwith President Jiang, sometime after that information came to us thatindicated that there was a low-level discussion -- not a high-levelone in the Chinese government, a low-level discussion -- about thepossibility of some transfers which would have been inconsistent withthat agreement. We followed through on it. The Chinese followedthrough on it, and kept their agreement to the letter.

So I think that the revelation in the paper this morningis further support for the proposition that we should be engaged withChina. The Prime Minister and other Asian leaders who are friendswith the United States have urged us to build a stronger,constructive partnership with China. And so I'm well pleased,actually, with the way that issue came out.

Q Sir, do you think the Patient's Bill of Rights isgoing to pass, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Do I believe it will?

Q Do you believe the Patient's Bill of Rights willpass, given that you're going to receive the report of the qualitycare commission today?

THE PRESIDENT: I do. I hope it will pass this year,and I think there are relatively few differences. The differencebetween the business and the insurance community on the one hand, andthe medical and patient community on the other, about many things,but there's -- you know, there's some discussion about the litigationissues and all that -- we have to resolve some of the differences. Ihave been impressed with the number of Republicans who have agreedwith what I think is an almost unanimous position of the DemocraticCaucus in the House and I think there's a similar sense in the Senatethat it is urgent that we do something on this.

So I'm hopeful that we can do it this year. If we --I'm hopeful that that will happen. I hope we get the tobaccosettlement. Obviously, I'd like it if my entire legislative programcould be adopted this year, as well as some of their ideas, but at aminimum we shouldn't leave without dealing with the tobacco issue.

Q Are you going to keep Congress in until it passes,sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would certainly consider that.I don't think they should leave without resolving the tobacco thing.You know, passing over from one year to the next is understandable ina measure of this size and magnitude, but we're talking about athousand children a day who are going to have their lives shortened.You can't justify taking another whole year to deal with this. Theissues are somewhat complicated, but they're not that difficult andthey ought to be dealt with this year.

Q Once the Paula Jones case is resolved --

Q Did you see the tournament --

THE PRESIDENT: It's a great tournament. It's the mostinteresting tournament we've had in some time, really.

Q Sir, I wonder if I could ask you, once the PaulaJones case is resolved and Ken Starr is no longer a legal threat,will you explain your relationship with Monica Lewinsky?

THE PRESS: Thank you.

What's New - March 1998

National Association of Attorneys

Medicare Commission Members

California Disaster Relief Efforts

Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training

Prime Minister of Thailand

First Woman Space Shuttle Commander

Irresponsible Tax Reform

School Safety Event

Health Care Commission Report

Unemployment at Lowest Level

Ratify NATO Enlargement

Promote Science And Math

Health Care For American Families

Springbrook High School

Quality Child Care

UN Secretary General Annan

Social Security Discussion

Irish Prime Minister Ahern

Targeted Medicare Expansion

Action To Reduce Drunk Driving

Violence Against Women

St. Patrick's Day Reception

Legislation Ensuring Food Safety

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