Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rangoon, Burma
December 2, 2011


QUESTION: The trip.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: Success? How do you sum it up?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it was an important beginning. It was an opportunity for us to be able to assess what is happening here. It comes after about 20 trips from high-level American officials who have visited many different people, heard a lot of voices about what should be done. And the consensus from the people within the country was they wanted American engagement, they thought it would send a positive signal to the reformers within the government, that their efforts would be acknowledged, that there could be a pathway forward, that the United States would be willing to go with them.

And I think we’ve learned that if they’re serious – if they release all political prisoners, get these elections set for a date certain, engage in a serious process for political reconciliation to end the armed conflicts in the ethnic areas, the United States will respond positively.

QUESTION: Some of the offers that – (inaudible) that you announced today, Burmese reporters seemed to think were far too modest. Is he wrong?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think there is a modesty to them because we’re at the beginning of a process. And as I said before I came, we are here to test and assess, and we’ve laid out much more far-reaching actions we would be willing to take when we see the government doing what they have said they intend to do. Because after all, this is in the early stages of this reform process, and the people here have been disappointed before when efforts were undermined or subverted. The United States has tried very hard to support democracy against tremendous odds here in Burma. And we are not going to easily alter our policies unless we see good reason to do so.

I think what you are hearing from reporters is what we’ve heard from many activists. They believe we should be moving even faster because they hope that will help to create the momentum that they’re looking for. But we’re being cautious here because we want to see them act before we get too far out.

QUESTION: President Thein Sein, do you trust him?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s not for me to say. I think he has to demonstrate by his leadership and the actions he takes that the people of this country can trust him, that they can see results from what he says he wants to do going forward. But it’s going to come down to whether the steps they take are sufficient to create a positive momentum toward reform that people can believe, invest in, and the international community then can be responsive.

QUESTION: Just a couple of weeks ago in Bali, he said that there were no political prisoners here.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That was an odd statement which was quite surprising, I think, to a lot of the activists here. But I think they – and I’ve talked to several of them – they thought that he’s not someone who is used to being particularly in the public arena, and he quickly amended it after it was pointed out to him.

QUESTION: What about U.S. lawmakers who feel that we’re moving too fast, that Burma hasn’t earned a change in the relationship?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I understand the skepticism and doubt. Obviously, I have some of that myself. But we have closely coordinated with Aung San Suu Kyi and a number of opposition figures and activists, civil society leaders here inside the country. And with all due respect, I think the people who are on the frontlines here who have been the victims of the military brutality over the last years and many of whom have been in prison – I think they’re better judges of what they need in order to push forward this reform effort.

And I believe, as Aung San Suu Kyi said today, the United States has carefully calibrated what we’ve done and the timing of what we’ve done. And in fact, some of the people inside Burma are pushing us to do more, more quickly. And I think that everybody who cares about Burma back in the United States should really listen carefully to voices coming from inside the country.

QUESTION: If I can ask you a couple of other questions --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about other parts of the world, you’ve spent a lot of time defending our very complicated relationship with Pakistan, and it is in trouble now, it seems. It is irreparably damaged? How do you get it back?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the reason it’s important to continue working on it is because it is in the mutual interests of both of our countries. We do have a common enemy. The terrorists who attacked inside Pakistan are also attacking our forces in Afghanistan as well as Afghans, and launching attacks against us and other countries around the world. So we have a mutual interest in working together. That doesn’t mean it’s easy and without a lot of big bumps in the road, but I think we’ll be able to work through what our current difficulties are, arising from a terribly tragic incident that --

QUESTION: Why? Just because it’s important to resolve it, to work it out?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s important to work it out. It’s important to continue to cooperate in areas that are important to us both.

QUESTION: Al-Qaida today claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an American, I think, in August in Pakistan. What can you tell me about that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to say I was quite intrigued by Zawahiri’s statement that they had been behind that. That wasn’t the original information we received. We thought it was a kidnapping probably related to ransom. But we’ve been very concerned about, as we would be with any American, the kidnapping and the hostage-holding of this man. So now we’re obviously looking into this claim. We don’t know whether it truly was an al-Qaida plot or whether the al-Qaida forces that still remain inside Pakistan somehow obtained custody of this man through some other means and are now trying to use him for their own purposes.

QUESTION: You’re getting Pakistan’s help on this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re working – we have been working together on this from the very time he was kidnapped.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.



PRN: 2011/ T56-16

[This is a mobile copy of Interview With Wendell Goler of FOX]