Interview With Jung-suk Lee of the Korean Broadcasting System on the President's Trip to the Republic of Korea

November 7, 1983

Mr. Jung. This is my once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you very much.

Mr. President, it seems to me that the timing of your visit to Korea couldn't be more timely and more appropriate to witness the anger and sorrow of the Korean people. What significance do you give to your forthcoming visit to Korea, sir?

The President. Well, hopefully, to talk over any problems we may have, although they would be very few because of the strong relationship that we have there. Certainly, my visit was not planned with these tragedies in mind that have taken place. But the very fact that they have and the two great tragedies that have befallen your own country -- the airplane massacre and then the terrible deeds in Rangoon -- make it even more imperative that we continue to strengthen the bonds between our two countries.

So, I'm looking forward to this trip. President Chun visited us here, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to make a return visit over there to -- well, I guess it could be summed up in that I think it's important that people talk to each other instead of about each other.

Mr. Jung. Last week, the Burmese Government announced officially that the North Koreans were fully responsible for the recent murder of 17 Korean Government officials and journalists. Yet the Government of Korea was very restrained in its response to this senseless provocation in Burma. America also has had a similar experience, terrorist acts, most recently in Beirut. How, Mr. President, can we prevent such uncivilized acts in the future?

The President. Well, let me say first of all that I admire your government's restraint under this extreme provocation. It's very easy and I know it's only human to want to strike out in retaliation. I had those same feelings about the tragedy in Beirut. But getting the people directly responsible and doing something to indicate that terrorism does have its punishment is a little different than just blindly striking out, and that's why, as I say, I admire the restraint that your government has shown.

The main thing that we must do about terrorism, though, is show the terrorists that it doesn't work. We know that the terrorist act against our own people in Beirut was designed to make us retreat, to make us say, ``Well, we'll take our men out of there. We'll abandon the mission that they were sent to perform.'' Well, we're going to prove to them that terrorist acts are not going to drive us away.

And in the meantime, I think that all of us must recognize the savagery of those who are responsible for these things and thus make sure that we've taken every step we can for the protection of our people and our personnel. And beyond that, we just have to, as we have an expression, ``stay the course.''

Mr. Jung. The next question is about the Pacific Basin community evolution. A close cooperation among Pacific Basin nations is necessary to take a full advantage of the region's potential. In this context, President Chun of Korea has proposed a summit conference to discuss a closer cooperation. My question is, what future role the U.S. are playing in the Pacific region?

The President. I think a very close role because the United States is a Pacific nation, also. I was Governor of California for 8 years, and I came to realize, with our 1,100-mile frontage on the Pacific Ocean, that we are a nation of the Pacific Basin. So, I foresee much greater and closer cooperation and relationship between the United States and the nations of East Asia and look forward to it because I think that is the new frontier in the world.

Mr. Jung. Korea is among America's top 10 -- to be exact, 9th -- trading partners in terms of trade volume. However, complaints of protectionism have been heard by both sides. Mr. President, how can we best ensure that our trading relationship grows and prospers without any friction?

The President. Well, I think, again, that this is one of the things to be talked about, because we know from history and experience that protectionism might have a short-term advantage. But in the long range, it destroys prosperity, it doesn't create it. And since we are such close trading partners -- in fact, we import more from Korea than any other country in the world. And I think that where there are friction points with regard to trade restrictions, tariffs or whatever, we must study every one of those and make sure that we do not drift into protectionism but have the ultimate in free trade between us.

Mr. Jung. Prior to your taking office, the withdrawal of American troops from Korea was proposed by a previous administration. I understand you have no plan either to reduce or withdraw American troops from Korea. My question is, do you think, however, that one division of combat troops is enough in size to deter a North Korean attack?

The President. Right now, yes, I believe that it is, and with the knowledge of other forces that we have within range. And part of that is because of the great development of the Republic of Korea's own military forces and the great progress that has been made there. At the same time, we continue to watch this. When it was advocated that we withdraw those troops, before I was President, just as a citizen and a candidate, I objected and disapproved of that suggestion. So, I think it is imperative that while we see no need now for a change that we continue to observe closely, and if ever we feel the tensions have reached a point where that would be necessary that we augment those troops, that we do so.

We are allied with South Korea. We have been now -- as a matter of fact, we're observing the 100th year of a relationship with your country. So I feel that what is there is adequate, mainly because of the strength of the Korean forces themselves. Adequate now, but we'll do whatever is necessary.

Mr. Jung. The Republic of Korea and the PRC, that's China, currently have no diplomatic relations. While the PRC continues to support North Korea, their attitude towards Korea considerably seems to have softened since the normalization of the diplomatic relation with the United States. My question is, what do you feel are the prospects for normal relations between the PRC and the Republic of Korea?

The President. I would think that it would be stabilizing to the entire area and that, while care be exercised, that both countries should seriously look at the possibilities and the prospects for a better relationship.

Mr. Jung. You have visited when you were Governor of California. What impression did you have about Korea and its people, sir?

The President. Well, from all that I had known of an earlier Korea and what I saw there on that visit made me think I was living in the presence of a miracle. The great development of Korea, the modernization that had taken place -- it was a thriving, energetic, industrial, and very productive society that I saw, and I came away greatly impressed.

Mr. Jung. In recent weeks, U.S. economy has shown a good sign of upturn after a long recession. What is, Mr. President, your assessment for the outlook of the world economy in coming months, sir?

The President. Well, I'm convinced that we are, here in our country, on a road to a solid recovery. We have brought inflation down to a fraction of what it was. We've cut our interest rates in half -- we have much further to go in that. And our unemployment is dropping rapidly. As a matter of fact, just last month our unemployment reached a point that in our most optimistic predictions we had thought we wouldn't reach for another year or more. And I believe that the United States recovering that much can have an effect worldwide in the other countries where recession has prevailed, so that I'm optimistic that we are on our way to a solid recovery and it will be worldwide.

Mr. Jung. Thank you, Mr. President, and please have a nice trip.

The President. Thank you very much. I'm looking forward to it.

Note: The interview began at 11:50 a.m. in the Library at the White House. It was taped for later broadcast in the Republic of Korea.