Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg at Press Conference 9/27/09
27 September 2009
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg
Deputy Secretary Steinberg: Good afternoon everybody. I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to my host and the host of our delegation, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and the Vice Foreign Minister who have been very gracious and we’ve had a very productive day of discussions.
As you know, we are still in the early months of the new Obama administration, but I’m very pleased to have a chance early in our new administration to come and visit here as a part of building and expanding on the relationships between our two countries. The President and the Secretary of State place great importance on our relationship with the countries in Southeast Asia and with Vietnam, as evidenced by already the extensive engagement we’ve had with the Secretary having made two trips to the region and a number of visits back and forth between the United States and Vietnam already in the last several months. The relationship between the United States and Vietnam is very broad based and as a reflection of that we’ve had a very wide-ranging set of conversations during the course of today.
We’re very grateful for the leadership role that Vietnam is playing on the Security Council and as it will play in its upcoming chairmanship of ASEAN next year. During the course of our discussions we reviewed the progress we’ve made in our economic relations over the last decade and talked about ways that we can continue to strengthen our economic ties and promoting trade and investment between our two countries.
In our discussions with the Defense Minister we discussed our cooperation on security and military to military ties, stressing the fact that as we build close ties between our two countries it’s designed to benefit the security and peace and stability of all the countries in this region.
In addition to discussing the areas of cooperation that we’ve had in science and technology and military medicine and aspects of developing peacekeeping, we also talked about how we could work together on the mutual important issues of the missing in action on both sides, demining, and dealing with chemical decontamination here in Vietnam.
With the Deputy Prime Minister we stressed the importance of strengthening the people to people ties between our two countries and working on issues such as education and health which are such important mutual interests.
In my discussions with all of my hosts today we talked about the importance of strengthening regional stability and the need for a peaceful dialogue about the issues in the region, particularly in the East Sea, the South China Sea.
The vice Foreign Minister and I had very productive discussions on a range of regional and global security issues including the very important issues of non-proliferation and disarmament which we are cooperating together very effectively on in New York in the Security Council and discussed in particular the importance of dealing with the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.
As you may know, the Vice Foreign Minister has just returned from Geneva, from as session of the Human Rights Council. The United States has recently joined the Human Rights Council and he and I had a chance to discuss the recent UPR review of Vietnam in the Council and we discussed ways in which we could work together to address these important issues of open press and human rights which are important to both of our countries.
In all of our meetings my hosts stressed the importance that we both attach to strengthening our bilateral ties, to increasing dialogue between our two countries, to intensifying the high level visits in both directions, and the value that we place on this increasing cooperation that we have on these many areas of agreement as well as on some areas where we still need to make progress.
I come away with the discussions today more optimistic than ever about the future of our bilateral relationships and the opportunities for us to cooperate in the future across the full range of interests of common interest.
Thank you, and I’m ready for questions.
Question: I don’t know if you're aware of the situation in Central Vietnam involving some monks who are followers of Thich Nhat Hanh who is very popular in the West, has a lot of best-selling books. It’s hard to explain this without getting bogged down in details. I’ll try to make it simple.
There’s been an ongoing standoff at this monastery for a few months now. The Vietnamese authorities want these monks to leave. They don’t want to leave. Today apparently matters are coming to a head and many police officers have gone to the monastery and rousted the monks from their rooms and are trying to get them to get into taxis and leave. They don’t want to leave. There’s been some pushing and shoving and conflict.
My basic question is, are you familiar with this situation? And does the U.S. have an opinion about whether the monks should be able to stay there or not?
Deputy Secretary Steinberg: During the course of the day today we have received some reports about that. We have asked our interlocutors in the Vietnamese government to see whether they could provide us additional information and clarify the situation. We’ve expressed our concern and look forward to getting some more information from them about the situation.
Question: I would like to ask you about the areas that you mentioned. Which area is given the highest priority by the U.S. with regard to U.S.-Vietnam relations?
Deputy Secretary Steinberg: I think it’s hard to pick out a single issue. I think it really is a reflection of the fact that we do have such a broad based relationship that we had so many things to talk about.
I think the true test of a good bilateral relationship is that it doesn’t depend on just one pillar, whether it be economic or political or security or cultural, but rather has a broad base. I think one of the things that’s very striking for me, returning for the first time for me in ten years to Vietnam, is how broad-based our relationship has come. I think that’s a very good sign for the future.
But I do think one thing we all agreed on was the importance of strengthening the ties between our two people. Because as important as the ties are between two governments, at the end the strength of a relationship comes from the people to people ties. I think this is a shared interest on both sides.
Question: [Inaudible] talks [inaudible] Security Council. What do you hope to [inaudible]?
Deputy Secretary Steinberg: Of course in all the capitals we’ll be having a broad range of talks. I’m looking forward to my first visit to Malaysia in the new Obama administration and talking about how we can strengthen our ties there as well as continuing our dialogue with the new government in Japan.
But the North Korea issue will be prominent on the agenda in all of our visits. We discussed this here today and I will be discussing it in each of the other stops as we go forward.
President Obama had a chance to talk with a number of his key opposite members on this issue in his meetings with President Hu, President Imyan Bak and Prime Minister Hatiyama during the discussions in New York and Pittsburgh.
In my discussions and our delegation’s discussions, what we’ll be focusing on is how we can continue to work together as we have over the last several months to send a unified message to North Korea that we are open to dialogue if the North is prepared to return to the six-party talks and reaffirm its commitment to complete denuclearization. That is the path we would hope to pursue. At the same time, we are determined to continue the very strong implementation of Security Council Resolution 1874 that was adopted after North Korea’s last nuclear test.
So in all the capitols we’ll be discussing the next steps we can take together, both on the diplomatic track and on the enforcement track. We believe that this strong show of unity among all of the other parties to the six-party talks should send a clear message to North Korea that there is clearly a preferable path that they should pursue and that the door is open for them to walk through.
Thank you all.