Interview With Michele Kelemen of NPR
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateNew Delhi, IndiaMay 8, 2012
QUESTION: It’s been quite a trip.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes it has.
QUESTION: And if you don’t mind, I want to kind of go back to the beginning and talk about the situation with the Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. How soon do you expect him to be able to be in the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Michele, he is still in the hospital receiving medical treatment, some of which was discovered to being necessary by our Embassy doctors. We remain in close contact with him. He has been meeting with the Chinese Government to prepare the necessary arrangements to be able to come to the United States to pursue his studies. And on our end, we’ve gone to the point of getting all of our arrangements finished. So I think we’re certainly making progress, but I’m not going to put any timeline on it.
QUESTION: You and your staff took a lot of heat back in Washington for how you handled it, but you also seem to have taken a lot of risks for him. And I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about what it was like talking to the Chinese, first, about when he wanted to stay in the country and live a normal life, and then going back to them and asking them when he changed his mind and said he wanted to come to the U.S.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Michele, I know you’ll understand my reticence to go into any retrospectives until we finally welcome Mr. Chen to the United States. I want to see him safely arrive and begin his studies, and I think there’ll be plenty of time to talk about the details. But I’m very proud of the extraordinary professionalism and commitment of our diplomats, both in Washington and Beijing.
QUESTION: And do you see a shift in how the Chinese are approaching this issue?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to comment on what the Chinese are doing. I think it’s clear from our following this closely and from Mr. Chen himself that they are pursuing the necessary actions in order to give him the documents that he requires.
QUESTION: And how worried are you about a run on U.S. – the U.S. Embassy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: This was an extraordinary case under exceptional circumstances, and I do not anticipate anything like this in the future.
QUESTION: I noticed in public, in China, when you talked about human rights issues, it was – you talked about it, but in a very measured sort of way, whereas when we were in Bangladesh, you were much more forceful and specific about disappearances of opposition figures, murder of a labor activist. Why the difference in tone? Is there a different way of dealing with these issues?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the issues are the same no matter where they are in the world and we raise them no matter where they are happening. But I’ve been engaged in an intensive, ongoing dialogue with the Chinese on human rights and every other issue that is of significance to us both for the entire time of my tenure as Secretary of State, but actually going back to 1995. I’ve been to China numerous times. This is only the second time I’ve been to Bangladesh; I don’t have the opportunity to engage on a regular basis with either their government or their people. And so certainly, the need to cover a lot of ground very quickly during the visit there, I think is an apparent and necessary reaction.
Also, we raise all of these issues through our embassies, through other high officials of the United States, going to countries on a regular basis, through our annual human rights report. So I don’t think it’s anything other than this is a constant part of our dialogue. In some cases, it’s perhaps viewed as more intense than others, but the commitment remains the same.
QUESTION: And what are you telling the Chinese now about the future for Chen’s family, the network of people that have supported him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to go into those conversations. I – let’s take this one day at a time, and we hope to be welcoming Mr. Chen to the United States to pursue the studies that he wishes to do.
QUESTION: When you were in China, you talked about how an established power like the U.S. is working with this rising power of China; the same is true here in India. But here, you have a democracy, more of a natural partner for the U.S., yet India still doesn’t see eye to eye with the U.S. on some of its policies, like Syria or Iran. How are you working through that with them on this trip?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know any two nations that see eye to eye on everything, whether they’re democracies or authoritarian. And part of diplomacy – part of what I do all day, every day – is working with counterparts to try to make progress in areas where we agree, try to narrow the areas of disagreement, and bridge them in some way. And India is the largest democracy in the world. It is, by its own self description, contentious, argumentative, dynamic, and they have to balance out 1.3 billion opinions, because people actually get to vote and they get their voices heard and they have a very strong tradition of engagement domestically. So I’m not surprised that there would be debates within their society and political system just like there are within ours.
QUESTION: But do you feel like you made some progress with them on, for instance, the issue of Iran?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as I just said in a press conference, they have certainly made progress in reducing their imports of crude oil from Iran. Their refineries are cutting back. And they share our goal. Their goal is our goal, which is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And I’m convinced that Iran never would have come to the table for the serious negotiations that we are pursuing within the P-5+1 context had it not been for the tough sanctions.
On the other hand, if you’re an Indian politician or an Indian business owner or an Indian citizen, who is desperate to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and get them electricity and keep the lights on, this is a hard decision for them because they have been historically looking to Iran for a significant percentage of their oil.
So I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and say okay, if – we don’t get oil from Iran, so it’s no skin off our nose as Americans. We want everybody to come together and try to convince Iran to make the right decision. Some countries in Europe that were very dependent upon Iranian oil have found substitutes. Japan has made significant progress, and India is working toward that too, looking for affordable, reliable supplies. But you have to understand where other countries are coming from, and the point that I have made, not just to the Indians but to many other countries, is the United States is leading an international effort to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon or prevent its potential nuclear weaponization from being the cause of conflict, which would be really bad for anybody who gets any oil from the Middle East. So you have to balance all of that. And it’s a calculus that countries make, kind of like people.
QUESTION: Does India have any sort of role to play in passing messages to Iran --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. And we know they have. I mean, we’ve asked them to; they have been conveying their concern about Iran’s behavior. They just had Iranian agents try to kill an Israeli diplomat – kind of reminiscent of what we’ve discovered when Iranians were trying to kill the ambassador from Saudi Arabia to Washington. So they – they’re investigating that crime. They have put themselves on the line to get Iran back into the P-5+1. They have made it very clear, publicly and privately, that Iran is not in any way entitled to a nuclear weapon. So they’re very much on the same page we are and they are working through this very difficult issue regarding oil. They’re making progress.
QUESTION: This trip seemed pretty hard on your staff. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I’ve noticed.
QUESTION: Was it tough on you or is this – are these trips just routine for you at this point?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have the most amazing, dedicated staff. I hope they’re not listening because I don’t want it to go to their heads, but they literally work around the clock. And while I’m out there at a press conference or making a speech, they’re busily trying to figure out what’s happening, what’s about to happen, and what we could do about it. They work hard on every trip. This was probably a little higher visibility than some of the trips, but – maybe right up there with others. But we’re out there doing the best we can every day to further American values and protect our security and make it clear that American leadership is alive and well.
QUESTION: Are you going to miss this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sure. I’m going to miss a lot of it because it’s an incredible rush to represent the United States of America – walk down that stair from the plane, get into those meetings, do the hard negotiatings that we have to do on a lot of important issues. It’s been the most extraordinary experience and privilege that I could ever imagine. But it’s, in my view, time to move on.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you.