President Clinton delivered an impassioned appeal Tuesday night to North Korea and its people to turn back from the increasingly ominous confrontation over international inspection of nuclear sites.
Even as senior Administration officials have stepped up warnings that the issue could lead to crisis and even conflict, Clinton used a worldwide television broadcast to assure the Korean people that the United States continues to hope for a peaceful solution.
“I believe we have North Koreans watching us tonight,” Clinton said, and “I say to you: The United States wishes to have friendly and open relationships with you. We wish to have a constructive relationship. We want you to have a constructive relationship with South Korea. . . .
“The options are, I think, clear, but they are not easy,” Clinton said. “No one wishes this confrontation. But neither does one wish to have a state not only with nuclear power but with a capacity to proliferate nuclear weapons to other nations. It is a very serious potential situation.”
Clinton’s appeal to the North Koreans was part of a larger effort to use an unusual worldwide television broadcast on the Cable News Network to restore luster to his image as a foreign policy leader. Faced with widespread criticism that he has been hesitant and inconsistent, the President insisted he is prepared to maintain the American leadership role--even in messy post-Cold War conflicts such as North Korea, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Haiti and Rwanda.
Clinton’s statements on North Korea paralleled those made earlier on Tuesday by Defense Secretary William J. Perry, who told Pyongyang the United States is ready to provide substantial economic aid if it agrees to drop its nuclear weapons program.
But Perry also sought to warn Americans that U.S. insistence on Pyongyang’s compliance with international nuclear weapons inspections also contained the risk of “consequences” that might provoke North Korea into military action against the South.
Describing his “road map” for national security and foreign affairs, Clinton acknowledged that American involvement in overseas conflicts “costs money and it costs lives.” And, he said, “we cannot solve every problem, nor should we.” Yet the United States “must be willing to assume the perils and the risk of leadership,” he declared. “And I am willing to do that.”
Fielding questions from correspondents representing news organizations from about 100 countries, Clinton made these points:
* China: Taking a middle course, he said Beijing had met some American demands on human rights but had fallen short on enough others that ending most-favored-nation trade status for China is “clearly on the table” and still “a possibility.”
“I do not seek, nor would it be proper, for the United States or for any other nation to tell a great nation like China how to conduct all its internal affairs or to treat all its citizens or what laws it should have. That would be wrong,” he said. “The criteria in the executive order I issued are those things recognized in all universal declarations by all countries as essential to human rights.”
* Bosnia: He angrily defended his policies against charges that he had “flip-flopped,” asserting he had done everything he could in the face of European opposition to more aggressive action. Asked by CNN’s Christian Amanpour, from Sarajevo, whether his cautious stance in Bosnia had prompted North Korea to take Washington less seriously, a nettled Clinton shot back: “No, but speeches like that make them take me less seriously than I’d like to be taken.
“There have been no constant flip-flops, madam,” he declared.
* Middle East: Asked what signs of progress he saw in negotiations between Israel and Syria, he said Syrian President Hafez Assad has shown new flexibility.
* Rwanda: He said the world “has grieved for the slaughter in Rwanda” but stopped well short of pledging direct American military intervention. He said the United States will join other nations in helping Rwandan refugees.