[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 13, 1998]
[Pages 371-373]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 371]]

Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Chuan Likphai of Thailand and an Exchange With Reporters
March 13, 1998

    President Clinton. Let me just begin by welcoming Prime Minister 
Chuan here to the United States. We have had a remarkable friendship 
with Thailand over a long period of time. It is our oldest security 
alliance in the region. We have obviously been very concerned about the 
challenges facing the Thai economy but very, very impressed with the 
leadership of this Prime Minister, his willingness to make difficult 
decisions to bring his country back to a full and robust financial 
health. And we want to do whatever we can to be a good friend and a good 
partner, because we have confidence in the Prime Minister's leadership 
and because we value our partnership with Thailand.
    We welcome you here, sir.
    Q. What are you going to do?
    President Clinton. Would you like to say anything?
    Prime Minister Chuan. I thank President Clinton for inviting me and 
the Thai delegation to visit the United States. Thailand and the United 
States have enjoyed a long history of relations for the past 165 years. 
My visit is aimed to reaffirm and underline the friendship that exists 
between the Thai and American people and between our two countries.
    Thailand is undergoing a period of financial and economic crisis. 
During this time of need, we appreciate the help and support of our 
friends. We, the Thai people, will do whatever we can to overcome our 
crisis, and we are confident that we will be able to regain economic 
stability and be a force that can contribute to world peace and 
    The people of Thailand wish to thank President Clinton for the 
concern that he has displayed for the crisis in Thailand, the concern 
that he has displayed for the situation in Southeast Asia. We thank him 
for his sincere engagement in that region.
    President Clinton. To answer your question, I will make an 
announcement later today. But I think in fairness, the Prime Minister 
and I should have a chance to speak first because we haven't discussed 
it, and I want to have a chance to hear from him on any ideas he has. 
But we will have one or two things to say later in the day after we've 
had a chance to visit.

Asian Economies

    Q. Mr. President, is the worst of the Asian financial crisis now 
behind us?
    President Clinton. Well, I hope so, but it's hard to say. I think 
what we're beginning to see is a differentiation on the part of the 
markets in dealing with these different countries. And that's what, 
first and foremost, I would like to see; that is, we don't want to see 
the whole region thrown into a long-term recession because of a 
perception that everything is the same everywhere. I think that what we 
want is at least to get the investors where they're making individual 
judgments about nations and about particular investments within nations 
and then get everybody on a path to recovery and reform.
    We've worked hard with Indonesia, with South Korea, with Thailand. 
We want to support the efforts of the IMF and others in Malaysia, the 
Philippines, all these countries that have had either a temporary 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 Prime Minister has done, 
which is to try to follow a rigorous path that will build confidence in 
the investment community, get the flows going back into the country of 
the money necessary to get business going and strengthen the lives of 
ordinary people.

Future Visits to Russia and China

    Q. Are you going to China and Russia this spring? Have you moved up 
a travel schedule?
    President Clinton. I do not have a definite schedule for Russia. 
Prime Minister Yeltsin--I mean, President Yeltsin and I agreed a long time ago, probably a year or so 
ago, that I would come to him for the next visit, but that it would 
occur after the Russian Duma ratified START II so that we could begin to 
work on START III and really get the--take the next big step in lowering 
the nuclear weapons arsenals of both countries.
    Q. They haven't done that?

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    President Clinton. Not yet. That's something that I talked to Prime 
Minister Chernomyrdin about when he was 
here, and the Vice President did. If the 
Russian Duma should decide to do that, then I would attempt to respond, 
as I promised President Yeltsin over a year 
ago I would.
    Now, on the China issue, let me explain why this trip was moved up. 
Ambassador Sasser and other advisers of mine 
have been arguing for months, literally for months, that I should move 
up the trip to China. Because we had such a successful summit here with 
President Jiang, a lot got done. Much has 
happened since then. I felt that, after listening to them, that they 
were probably right, that even though we had a lot of trips this year, 
so we tried to space them out, that our relationship with China is so 
important that we needed to try to build on it and make some more 
    Now, just yesterday the Chinese announced their intention to sign 
the Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. This is a very significant 
step forward in our attempts to work within to establish rational legal 
systems and to elevate the cause of democracy and human rights. So I was 
very pleased by that. And I expect that they will sign it soon. So we 
will continue to work on that, and we're trying to work out the details 
of the trip now.

Northern Ireland Peace Process

    Q. Sir, what about Belfast?
    President Clinton. Well, as you know, we're about to celebrate St. 
Patrick's Day here, and we expect that many of the major players in the 
Irish peace process will be here. I will do my best to see them all. I 
am--I've been very involved in this from the beginning. I think that the 
next 60 to 90 days are very, very important, and we have to do 
everything we can to try to get the parties together to move in a timely 
    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-8 meeting would depend upon 
what the posture of things is then with the peace process and, after 
consultation with Prime Minister Blair and Prime 
Minister Ahern, whether I could make any kind 
of constructive contribution.
    There's been absolutely no decision and hardly any discussion of 
that. I am far more--that's a very premature thing. The more important 
thing is when the parties are here next week, can the United States play 
a positive role in trying to push the Irish peace 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 a question of an Irish trip.


    Q. Are your confident that China is living up to the nuclear 
    President Clinton. You're referring, I think, to the story in the 
paper this morning. Let me say that when I made the agreement with 
President Jiang, sometime after that information 
came to us that indicated that there was a low-level discussion--not a 
high-level one in the Chinese Government, a low-level discussion--about 
the possibility of some transfers which would have been inconsistent 
with that agreement. We followed through on it. The Chinese followed 
through on it and kept their agreement to the letter.
    So I think that the revelation in the paper this morning is further 
support for the proposition that we should be engaged with China. The 
Prime Minister and other Asian leaders who are friends with 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 

Legislative Agenda

    Q. Sir, do you think the Patients' Bill of Rights is going to pass, 
    President Clinton. Do I believe it will?
    Q. Do you believe the Patients' Bill of Rights will pass, given that 
you're to receive the report of the quality care commission today?
    President Clinton. I do. I hope it will pass this year, and I think 
there are relatively few differences. The difference between the 
business and the insurance community on the one hand, and the medical 
and patient community on the other, about many things, but there's, you 
know, there's some discussion about the litigation issues and all that. 
We have to resolve some of the differences. I have been impressed with 
the number of Republicans who have agreed with what I think is an almost 
unanimous position of the Democratic Caucus in the House, and I think 
there's a similar sense in the Senate that 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.

[[Page 373]]

    I hope we get the tobacco settlement. Obviously, I'd like it if my 
entire legislative program could be adopted this year, as well as some 
of their ideas, but at a minimum we shouldn't leave without dealing with 
the tobacco issue.
    Q. Are you going to keep Congress in until it passes, sir?
    President Clinton. 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 in a measure of 
this size and magnitude, but we're talking about 1,000 children a day 
who are going to have their lives shortened. You can't justify taking 
another whole year to deal with this. The issues are somewhat 
complicated, but they're not that difficult, and they ought to be dealt 
with this year.
    Q. Once the Paula Jones case is resolved----

NCAA Basketball Tournament

    Q. Did you see the tournament?
    President Clinton. It's a great tournament. It's the most 
interesting tournament we've had in some time, really.

Note: The President spoke at 11:05 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to President Boris Yeltsin and Prime 
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of Russia; President Jiang Zemin of China; 
James M. Sasser, U.S. Ambassador to China; Prime Minister Tony Blair of 
the United Kingdom; and Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland. A tape 
was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.