Written Responses to
Questions Submitted by Asia-Pacific News Organizations
December 4, 1987
U.S. Role in the Asia-Pacific
Do you envisage an expansion of the U.S. role in the
Asia-Pacific region? If so, how will the U.S. help ensure stability,
security, and prosperity in the region?
The President. The nations of East Asia are becoming
increasingly prosperous and politically stable. This is in our interest as well
as theirs, and our aim is to work with the region's nations as partners in
promoting prosperity and stability. All partnerships require a balancing of
benefits and burdens. For example, U.S. diplomatic efforts and
military presence contribute directly to the region's peace and stability,
which in turn foster economic prosperity. We look to our East Asian allies to
share with us this mutually beneficial burden according to their means. Of course,
we will maintain our commitments to defend their security.
prosperity depends significantly on continuing the liberal world trading system
we and our trading partners have enjoyed for the last 20 years, but there are
threats appearing to this system. Some of our major trading partners still
maintain restrictive trade policies, and there is rising protectionist
sentiment in the United States. My efforts to resist
this protectionist pressure will succeed only so long as our major trading
partners take some steps themselves toward structural adjustment of their
economies. These steps include strengthening domestic demand, dismantling trade
barriers that discourage U.S. exports, and adopting
exchange rate policies that reflect their economies' underlying strength.
am confident your readers recognize that working together to keep the peace and
promote everyone's prosperity benefits all of us. The United States has been active on the
East Asian scene for more than 100 years, and we look forward to continuing our
productive cooperation with friends and allies in the region.
Prime Minister Takeshita
The newly appointed Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Noboru Takeshita,
plans to come to Washington in January 1988 to have
his first summit meeting with you. In view of the ongoing serious bilateral
problems confronting our two nations, what would you expect out of that January
meeting? And what kind of feeling do you have toward a new Japanese Prime
Minister who has been almost unknown to the Western World?
The President. First, I am very
pleased that Prime Minister Takeshita has accepted my
invitation to visit Washington. I look forward to
seeing him again, this time in his new capacity. I recall that we met in
January 1986, when he was visiting the United States to receive an honorary
doctorate from Columbia University, and we met again at
the Tokyo Economic Summit, when Mr. Takeshita was
answer your second question first, I would like to point out that people who
are ``almost unknown to the Western World'' do not normally meet with Western
heads of state and receive honorary degrees from leading Western universities.
I have known the Prime Minister for some time now, and I look forward to getting
to know him better in his new position. I think that what we can all expect to
come out of the January meeting is a reaffirmation of the importance of
U.S.-Japan relations, not only to our two countries but to the world, and a
renewed commitment to pursue our many common interests and tackle our bilateral
problems in the spirit of cooperation.
You have said that this INF agreement and the progress made towards a strategic
arms reduction treaty would not have been possible without the Strategic
Defense Initiative. Do you also think it would have been possible without the
change in the Soviet leadership? Realistically, what are the chances of
reaching an agreement on strategic nuclear forces -- reducing them by 50
percent by next spring?
The President. The prospective INF
treaty -- the first agreement in history actually to reduce, not simply limit,
offensive nuclear weapons -- is a direct result of U.S. and allied unity and
steadfastness in the face of unilateral Soviet SS - 20 deployments. It is
inconceivable that the Soviets would have considered eliminating their SS -
20's had the United States not followed through
with its deployments of cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe. In addition, it is
probably no coincidence that Soviet willingness to reenter the Geneva nuclear arms
negotiations occurred subsequent to my declaration of our intent to pursue the
SDI program. I cannot speculate on whether the change in Soviet leadership has
affected the course of our negotiations.
have made considerable progress toward agreement on our proposal to reduce U.S. and Soviet strategic
nuclear arsenals by 50 percent. We believe such an agreement can be concluded
next year if the Soviets apply themselves with the same seriousness as the United States and if they abandon
their effort to hold it hostage to crippling restrictions on our Strategic
The Congress mandates cutting off aid if there is a coup in Manila. Would you accept that
such a cut-off include compensation for the bases in the Philippines?
The President. We fully support
President Aquino and the government she heads. We are
unalterably opposed to any attempts to destabilize her government. As a matter
of law, the United States must cut off foreign
assistance to any country whose duly elected leader is overthrown by a military
coup. That said, I see no need to speculate on what
would happen if there is a coup in Manila.
At the forthcoming review of the military bases agreement with the Philippines, Manila is certain to ask for a
much larger compensation than currently allowed. In view of the shrinking
foreign aid budget, how would you accommodate such a request?
The President. The forthcoming review
of the military bases agreement will offer us the chance to go over security as
well as economic aspects of the agreement. Both sides are well aware of the
severe pressures on the U.S. foreign assistance
budget. Nevertheless, I am confident that in the review, as well as in the
renegotiation which will follow the review and address the post-1991 period, we
can work out arrangements which will be in our two countries' mutual interests.
U.S. Forces in Japan and South Korea
Some in Congress and elsewhere are calling for the United States to scale down its Armed
Forces' strength in Japan and South Korea as retaliation for
their refusal to open their markets more to exports from the United States and elsewhere. Do you
believe this would be an appropriate response to East Asian protectionism if
other means of persuasion fail?
The President. Successive
administrations have maintained our military presence in Japan and Korea, because our mutual
security interests are served by keeping a credible deterrent against
aggression in northeast Asia. It is important to keep security
interests in mind and separate from detailed trade concerns.
it would not be in our national interest to reduce our military strength in Japan or South Korea for any such reason, including
as retaliation for difficulties in opening markets in those countries. We will,
of course, continue to seek further opening of markets in Japan and South Korea. After all, open
markets are also in our mutual interest -- they are necessary to preserve the
world's free trade system -- and are a pillar of our strength.
Role in the Pacific Region
What kind of steps would you take to counterbalance Soviet initiatives in the
Pacific region? Do you think there is scope to renegotiate mutual reductions of
Armed Force strengths in East Asia with the Soviet Union, as proposed in Europe?
The President. The Soviet Union's interest in the
Pacific region has waxed and waned through history. Following a period of
neglect under General Secretary Brezhnev and his immediate successors, the
Soviets apparently have decided again to pay attention to this important area,
one in which the United States has been actively engaged for more than 100
the United States, however, which has extensive
trade, investment, cultural, political, and military links with almost all the
countries of the Pacific, the Soviets need to create reasons to become
involved. In the absence of solid relationships in most of the region, it is
perhaps understandable that the Soviets have to fall back on high-sounding
rhetoric and vague generalities, but that kind of thing does not meet the
concrete and pressing needs of the region.
United States and most Asian nations are firmly in agreement about what needs
to be done on a large number of real issues, like getting Soviet troops out of
Afghanistan, stopping Soviet support for the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia,
stopping the Soviet buildup of military facilities at Cam Ranh
Bay, encouraging North Korea to talk sensibly to the South Koreans to reduce
tensions on the peninsula, resolving the northern territories dispute with
Japan, and reducing the military threat to China.
Soviets already know that they can do a great deal for peace and stability in Asia by resolving these
important, tangible problems, and we take almost every opportunity to remind
them of that. Moreover, the United States is working hand in
glove with almost every country in Asia and the Pacific on real
world issues, like economic development, collective security, the almost
universal longing for greater democracy, the growth of trade in free market
conditions, and humanitarian issues. We think that real contributions to human
welfare beat lofty phrases every time.
Pacific Nuclear Free Zone
Why did you not sign the protocols to the SPNFZ treaty? Will you reconsider
your decision, as the House of Representatives requested last month?
The President. A world free of nuclear
weapons would be a much less frightened world, and I think that nothing is more
important than working to make that goal a reality. But achieving that goal
safely demands a massive amount of work which cannot be short-circuited.
free zone treaties are at their best when they provide a bulwark against
nuclear proliferation, as might be the case in South Asia or Latin America, for example. Where
that is not the case, however -- and I think that the South Pacific is not such
a case -- we have to be a little careful about encouraging growth of the notion
that writing a treaty that would wall off a portion of the world from nuclear
weapons somehow makes a contribution to world peace. It might do exactly the
exploded its first nuclear weapon in 1949, the world has been saved from
nuclear warfare and, indeed, from major conventional aggression by the credible
threat of the Western nuclear powers to use all means necessary to defend themselves against aggression. This is how deterrence works.
Anything that may weaken deterrence does a disservice to the cause of world
peace, because it is on deterrence that world peace since the start of the
nuclear age has been based. The spread of nuclear free zones can make the job
of maintaining deterrence much harder.
regard to the resolution that has passed the House of Representatives, if it
becomes a ``sense of the Congress'' resolution, of course we will give it
careful consideration when it arrives here. From what I have said about nuclear
free zones in general, however, it should be apparent that our reconsideration
of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone issue is unlikely, in current
circumstances, to produce a change of our policy.
What do you think is the prospect for the democratization of South Korea? How will this affect
the success of the Seoul Olympics in 1988?
The President. Korea is about to hold its
first direct Presidential elections in well over a decade. The campaign is
being contested vigorously. This is a sign, I think, of a new, more open
political system. Koreans have shown they are a can-do people -- look at their
economic achievement. I believe they will be equally successful in their
efforts at democratic political development.
for the Olympics, the Koreans are working hard to make the games a success. I
am sure they will be. We hope that all the nations of the world will attend and
make the games the international celebration they should be.
Note: The questions were
submitted by Yomiuri Shimbun, the Far Eastern Economic
Review, the Hankuk Ilbo,
the Melbourne Age, and the Singapore Straits Times. The questions and
answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on December 7.