Interview With Kristen Welker of NBC
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for doing this interview.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Happy to talk to you.
QUESTION: Thank you. What do you think is the most significant development that came out of your meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it was an important meeting for both substantive and symbolic reasons. Obviously, I was thrilled to finally meet her. She felt like an old friend that I was seeing again after some long absence. But it was personally incredibly important to me, but it was also substantively important, because we have worked with her closely over the last months to make sure that we understood what she thought was happening inside the country, that our policy was aligned with that, along with many other people inside with whom we’ve had constant interactions over the past two-plus years. So it was gratifying that she fully endorsed our engagement efforts and that she wants American support for the reformers. She thinks that’s an important message to send. So that was a critical conclusion that came from both my private discussions and then her public comments.
QUESTION: What do you think she means to the people here in this country and to United States efforts to try to help bring about reform here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that she’s so deeply admired and loved here that people who care about the future, who know that Burma could be so much more, it could place – it could take its place in the world in the 21st century instead of being left behind, as it has been for the last years. I think she is so admired because of her steadfast dignity and determination and the fact that she stands on her own for democracy, for freedom and justice. And then because of the connection with her father, who was the liberator, who achieved independence for Burma, there’s a sense of continuity and what might have been and what still could be. So in so many ways, when I talk with people who are in the opposition, of course, in her party and elsewhere, in civil society, the ethnic nationalities, her name comes up all the time because people see her as their leader on behalf of a better Burma.
QUESTION: President Obama has recently said that his foreign policy focus is shifting away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the Asia Pacific region. How much of this trip is also aimed at sending a message to China that the United States can serve as a counterweight in this region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: This trip is not about anything other than the potential for American engagement to support the reformers inside of the country. And we have no concerns about Burma having good relations with China. They share a long border; it’s a big neighbor that you have to figure out how to get along with. That is not anything that we have an interest in or an objection to.
I think what President Obama was saying is that, given our history, we have been a Pacific power, a resident power. We liberated the Pacific. We worked to help the South Koreans withstand the brutal assault from the North. We have been in this region. But certainly over the last 10 years, because of our preoccupations with Iraq, with Afghanistan, there were doubts in the region that maybe we were no longer going to be paying attention, that we weren’t going to play the role that historically we have played. And it was important for us to clearly, unequivocally, state we are and we will be, far, far into the future, a Pacific power.
QUESTION: Do you worry that if the officials here, if the government here doesn’t start to enact the type of reforms that they have said they will, this will ultimately become a foreign policy blemish, this trip?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t, because, first of all, we have followed the lead of the people that are at the forefront of the struggle for democracy here. And I don't see how we could have said, “Well, you’re on your own. Yes, we hear you, but we’re not responding.” That’s not a way a responsible nation such as ours acts. And ultimately, it is not the Americans’ decision. It is the decision of the leadership of this current government. The test is really theirs, and we’re going to do everything we can to encourage them to make the right decisions, but ultimately they have to bear the praise or the condemnation. And our goal is to assist those who are trying to be reformers within the government and those on the outside who have so long believed in a democratic future.
QUESTION: I just want to do a quick international wraparound. Pakistan – what is your concern right now in terms of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan given what happened there? Are you concerned that it will further harm a very complicated relationship already?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a terrible, tragic incident that we deeply regret and have communicated that to every level of the Government in Pakistan. The fact is we have some similar interests in making sure that extremism is pushed back, that the threats to Pakistanis, the threats across the border in Afghanistan, the threats to our troops, and even the threats beyond the borders, because of the safe havens for extremists, are dealt with. And I don’t think that changes because we have a problem arising from what everyone admits was a deeply tragic incident.
QUESTION: And just quickly, two more quick questions. Iran – you condemned what happened there. Is the United States thinking about taking any punitive measures against Iran at this point?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve announced additional sanctions, as the EU has as well. And we’re going to continue to keep as much of an international coalition to condemn Iran and sanction Iran as we can. Because remember, if it’s just the United States and Europe, that is not sufficient. What was very significant about what we achieved early in the Administration was to get China and Russia to sign on to sanctions. China is very reliant on Iranian gas and oil. I think we are going to do everything possible to tighten the screws on the Iranian regime, because their provocative actions – whether it’s attacking the Embassy of the United Kingdom or trying to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador – are deeply troubling to us.
QUESTION: Finally, as we cap off this historic week, I wonder if you could reflect a bit on your own unique path. As you look back at everything that you have done, what do you think at this point is your greatest achievement?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t think like that. I have to confess I live – I try to live in the moment because there is so much that is going on every second. And this trip here to test the democratic movement and see whether it’s real or not is such a great privilege for me to represent my country and to try to do what we possibly can to make this reform real. We’re just going to get up every day and go to bat and try to advance America’s interests and values, and sometimes we get on base, sometimes we even hit a home run, sometimes we strike out. (Laughter.) So it’s a kind of daily challenge that I’m just trying to manage, and maybe when I’m finished with the job, I’ll look back and be able to answer your question.
QUESTION: I think I’m getting (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Great to talk to you.