Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea — 29 July 1998
Madame Secretary, on behalf of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea, I extend a warm welcome to you on your stopover in Port Moresby today. And I also appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and exchange bilateral, multilateral issues, concerns and interests to both our countries - Papua New Guinea and the United States of America.
I also appreciate your sensitivity and concern over staging of welcome ceremony, especially at a time when Papua New Guinea is grieving over the loss of human lives as a result of tidal wave disaster. However, I wish to reiterate, that such courtesy is consistent with Papua New Guinea customs and traditions. And it is normally extended to very important guests such as yourself.
In this regard, we are most grateful that you have decided to stop over here in Port Moresby today, and we appreciate your presence. At the outset, I take this opportunity to convey our sincere gratitude of your government’s contribution of US$125,000 and other forms of support and assistance towards the drought that severely affected certain parts of Papua New Guinea. The (inaudible) chemical disaster in 1994 as well as the recent tidal wave disaster in Aitape. I also thank you and your government for your support towards the peace process on Bougainville and in particular the undertaking to dispatch two officials to assess the situation.
Allow me also the opportunity to extend my government’s official invitation to President Bill Clinton to stopover in Papua New Guinea, either to or from the APEC Leader’s Summit in Auckland, New Zealand next year.
Papua New Guinea is satisfied with the current warm and friendly relationships enjoyed by both countries and is pleased that this constructive relationship is now expanded to cover various aspects of cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, development and technical assistance, and of course defense cooperation. We however, believe that there still exists the vast scope and potential for expansion, and we look forward to cooperating with your government to further strengthen and consolidate our bilateral ties for the mutual benefit of our countries and its people.
Papua New Guinea is generally perceived as a country of instability, thereby discouraging potential and businessmen to explore and engage in business activities in this great country. Your stopover today is therefore particularly important as it will assist in deviating such image, and to extend and also encourage potential foreign investors and businessmen.
In trade and economy, in terms of bilateral trade, the Papua New Guinea government is satisfied with the increase in bilateral trade despite the fact that the balance of trade is still in favor of the United States. Both our countries, however, have the potential to narrow the trade imbalance under the APEC process and joint commercial commission. In this regard, my government looks forward to working closely with the USA government to improve this aspect of our bilateral cooperation.
In the areas of development and technical assistance, Madame Secretary, Papua New Guinea and the United States concluded a development cooperation agreement in May 1990 to facilitate development assistance directly to Papua New Guinea, instead of via regional and international bodies. Papua New Guinea values and appreciates the high level of development and technical assistance it continues to receive from the USA, including those through the USA Peace Corps programs.
And the defense cooperation, as you know Madame Secretary, both our countries have formalized several defense cooperation arrangements which include status of forces agreement, procurement of military equipment from the United States, international military education and training scheme, and the memorandum of understanding on joint and combined military activities. My government appreciates the forthcoming official visit by the United States Army Attache, Colonel Richard Warthurst to Papua New Guinea from 9th to 11th of August, 1998, who will be accompanied by USA original military assistance specialists Mr. Lowell Clarey and Major Pep Cassidy of International Military Affairs Division of USA Army Pacific Command.
Papua New Guinea continues to benefit from these arrangements and would like to further consolidate cooperation in these areas. Papua New Guinea acknowledges the important contributions by both the government of the United States and Japan towards the protection of the environment in Papua New Guinea under the Community Resource Conservation and Development Project, which has been designed to assist groups of (inaudible) and manages the resources in ways that are ecologically sound, socially beneficial and economically viable.
Papua New Guinea Government is satisfied with the arrangement and would like to see increased cooperation in this important area. On multilateral cooperation in terms of cooperation at the multilateral level between our two countries, Papua New Guinea is satisfied with current arrangements and looks forward to the continued maintenance and the expansion of this aspect of our relations through various international forums such as WTO, APEC, and UN and its agencies. In view of the above, I wish to congratulate President Clinton and your government for its dedication towards the promotion and advancement of democratic principles throughout the world.
In conclusion, once again, on behalf of the government and the people of Papua New Guinea, I wish to convey bon voyage to you and also extend our best wishes to President Clinton, the Government and the people of the United States.
Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister and thank you very much for this wonderful greeting. Let me say right at the beginning that I am delighted to be the first Secretary of State of the United States to ever visit Papua New Guinea and I am very, very pleased to be here.
For sometime I have been looking forward to this visit and as an opportunity to reaffirm America’s commitment to our partnership with Pacific Nations and to see for myself this nation’s progress toward development and internal peace. And those goals were very high on my agenda with Prime Minister Skate today, but of course the nature of my visit has changed since the tragedy at Aitape.
We flew over the devastated area on our way here just a couple of hours ago. We saw the coastline where the thriving community destroyed by the tsunami once stood. We could only begin to imagine the horror of what took place there, it simply staggers the imagination. Words could only begin to describe the sorrow we feel at the death of so many thousands of people, so many of whom were children. I want to offer my deepest condolences on behalf of President Clinton and the American people.
It’s hard not to feel helpless before the awesome destructive power of nature, but we are not powerless to help those who are suffering or to take precautions that might prevent needless deaths in the future. Since the disaster, American military aircraft have flown $400,000 in relief supplies into the country including water containers, plastic sheeting, tents, cots, and medical equipment. All in all this is roughly enough to provide assistance to between two and three thousand homeless victims, and I understand our third flight arrived just yesterday.
We have also flown a team of public health and medical experts from our Pacific Command in Hawaii to work alongside the Australian medical team here. And today, I am pleased to announce that the United States is making available an additional $650,000 to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy for a total package of $1,050,000. This includes $250,000 in new aid to compliment Australia’s medical assistance to survivors, and to help rebuild livelihoods in some of the fishing villages that were destroyed. It also includes an additional $400,000 to collaborate with Papua New Guinea, Australia and others to improve seismic early warning systems throughout this country.
As I said, we discussed a number of other issues today, among the most important was Bougainville. Papua New Guinea has an historic opportunity to end permanently a conflict that claimed thousands of innocent lives. I want to commend Prime Minister Skate’s government for its initiative in seeking a negotiated peace and for sticking to the process until a cease fire agreement was reached. It’s up to the people of this country to make sure the agreement sticks, that America will do all it can to help. I am happy to announce that we will provide $450,000 to support UN projects for reconstruction in Bougainville. We also plan to support training for the Papua New Guinea electoral commission so that it can ensure free and fair election of a reconciliation Government in Bougainville.
There are many other issues that we need to be working on together, we want to minimize the impact of the Asian financial crisis on Papua New Guinea, we want to support its efforts to build a more transparent democracy and a more open economy and we want to help the Government in its efforts to make Papua New Guinea more inviting to investment. We want to work with the people of this country to help preserve their forests, coral and fisheries for the sake of the environment and development.
More broadly, I want to reaffirm America’s continuing interest in an engagement with the nations of the Pacific. This is a region of democracies, a region of nations that have been friends of the United States for many years and I intend to build on this visit to increase our profile in the years ahead.
Thank you very much and I think we now would be happy to take your questions.
Trevor Chappell from Australian Associated Press. Madam Secretary do you support, or what are your thoughts on independence for Bougainville?
Well, first of all as I said we are pleased with the process that has taken place and salute the Prime Minister for what he has done. We believe in the territorial integrity of Papua New Guinea.
Mr. Prime Minister, Phil Shenon from the New York Times. Can you tell us what is the status of the rescue effort today and is there any hope of finding any additional survivors from the tsunami?
The latest information I got is that there are about 8,200 survivors, approximately 1,654 people are dead. I think there are a few more yet to be found who are dead.
No hope of finding additional survivors?
I think there is some hope.
Madam Secretary has the Prime Minister told you anything today that would give you increased confidence in, say, telling U.S. investors to invest in this country?
We had a very good discussion about the importance of getting more investment here. We discussed the importance of making the investment climate here one that would provide a sense to investors of accountability, transparency, and generally a good climate for getting investment into this country that has so much potential. I was impressed with the fact that the Prime Minister understands the potential of this country and his desire to work with a variety of international organizations, financial organizations, in order to make sure that the currency gets stabilized and that reform is carried through, and his desire, I think, to work with outside investors in order to pursue development here in a county that has so much to offer.
Madam Secretary have you heard any news today of the events in Burma, is the government there going to allow the United States and Japanese ambassadors to go and talk to Aung San Suu Kyi?
We have had reports from there the standoff continues and we are concerned about Aung San Suu Kyi’s health and her ability to get food and water. We are making sure that they understand the importance of her personal situation as well as what she is doing politically. As you know, we met in Manila yesterday, a group of ambassadors, I’m sorry I’m not an ambassador any more, foreign ministers who were working to make sure that our voice was heard about the importance of dialogue and reconciliation. There are on-going efforts to try to resolve this conflict and again we urge the Government of Burma to understand the importance of what Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD are seeking and we are calling for a dialogue between parties.
Madam Secretary, could you also bring us up to date on the situation in Cambodia and are you disappointed that Prime Minister Hun Sen is so insistent on declaring victory at this point?
Well, first of all we need to understand what has happened in Cambodia. Most important is that once again the people of Cambodia have come out in record numbers that many Countries could envy of showing with their feat and their votes what it is they want, and I think we need to really congratulate them for that. The count continues to go on. I think it is premature really to talk about results counting is proceeding. There have been some allegations of fraudulent activity; and those are being investigated and I think that it is important to let the process go forward which means allowing the count to go on before victories are claimed. We were going to follow it very, very carefully. We have observer groups there who will be giving their assessment and reporting to all of us. But again I think we need to focus on what the people of Cambodia have done which I consider quite remarkable.
Madam Secretary Sean Dorney from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1996 the State department vetoed an attempt by the Papua New Guinea Defense Force to buy ten surplus U.S. Army Iroquois helicopters because of concerns about human rights abuses on Bouganville, given the progress on Bougainville would a similar request be treated in the same way?
We would have to consider it. I think that clearly the changes in the way that the Bougainville problem was handled was quite remarkable and the Prime Minister and I spoke at some length about his efforts and what has happened there to end one of the more difficult situations, not only in the region but in the world and if a request were made we would consider it.
Madam Secretary, could I ask you another Cambodian question? Has the government in Cambodia been directly apprised of the strong feelings of the United States and other countries about the need for fair count on this election?
Yes, first of all certainly the observers are making that clear and our representative there have also and I hope they hear me now. I think that we believe that it is absolutely essential that the process be allowed to go forward, that a fair count is what the people of Cambodia deserve. The world is watching them, and they have an opportunity to put Cambodia on the right road after a very difficult year. We will obviously investigate any charges of illegalities, but the count needs to go on. It’s a process, and one should not make judgements about this until the count is completed.
Madame Secretary, Jerry Ginua from the local television. There is a suggestion that you wanted to go to Aitape that is the area (inaudible) suggested.
Well, I want, very much to make clear the concern — my own personal concern and that of President Clinton and the American people for what has happened. But I do not, did not and do not want to put any burden on what is the rescue effort there. I know that there are many different organizations and countries trying to assist there, and having me arrive might be — I don’t want to create another tidal wave (laughter). So, I was very encouraged by what the Prime Minister said about how he is trying to get better coordination of all the activities there, and try to make sure that there are not overlapping efforts and that the efforts go to the right places and that there be accountability for the donations being provided and for additional donations.
This is a big effort. The world has seen it, thanks to the journalists who have really reported on it, and I think that we want to make sure that efforts are directed properly. I was very pleased to hear what the Prime Minister told me about his plans to try to coordinate it. But, whether I am there or not, my thoughts are with all the people there and certainly with all the efforts that are being made. Thank you.
Madame Secretary, Joseph (inaudible) from the local media. There has been an international push for self-determination for Irian Jaya ethnic people. What’s the U.S. position on that? If there is any position.
Sorry, I didn’t hear.
There’s been an international push for self-determination by the ethnic Irian Jayans — that’s in Indonesia — has the U.S. Government got any position on that?
No, we believe that that is an internal affair and we agree with the government here that has the same view.
Last update: Tuesday, 23 February 2010 GMT+1100