Op with Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
The Oval Office
The White House
December 14, 2001
10:50 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I want to welcome the Prime Minister of our longtime friend,
Thailand, to the Oval Office.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for being here.
PRIME MINISTER SHINAWATRA: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: This is not the first time I've had a chance to have a meaningful
discussion with the Prime Minister. We sat next to each other in Shanghai, and
we had a couple of hours worth of very substantive discussions about our relationships,
about our mutual concerns, about our desire to work closely together on a variety
The Prime Minister has assured me, and this visit is further confirmation, that
our longtime friend will be a steady ally in the fight against terror.
Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you for that.
And secondly today, our Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of his government
are going to work on a framework for economic cooperation which will be completed.
And it's further evidence that this relationship is a strong, strong relationship.
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, I'm so thrilled you are here, and welcome to the
PRIME MINISTER SHINAWATRA: Thank you, Mr. President.
Thailand and the U.S. has been treaty allies since 1833. This is very right
for me to visit and giving full support to U.S., which is our very long ally.
And it's very right for me to discuss war against terrorism and also -- economic
issues that we should further enhance the cooperation among our two countries.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Steve. What we're going to do is two questions from the American press, two
questions from our visitors, if there are any.
QUESTION: Sir, what do you expect Americans to get out of the bin Laden tape? And what
do you say to some of the Islamic world who contend it's a farce or a fake?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, for those who contend it's a farce or a fake are hoping
for the best about an evil man. I mean, this is bin Laden unedited. This is
bin Laden -- the bin Laden who has murdered people. This is the man who sent
innocent people to their death by -- this is a man who is so devious and so
cold-hearted that he laughs about the suicide, so-called suicide bombers that
lost their lives.
It is preposterous for anybody to think that this tape is doctored. That's just
a feeble excuse to provide weak support for an incredibly evil man.
And, you know, I had mixed emotions about this tape because there's a lot of
people who suffered as a result of his evil. And I was hesitant to allow there
to be a vivid reminder of their loss and tragedy displayed on our TVs. On the
other hand, I knew that it would be -- that the tape would be a devastating
declaration of guilt for this evil person.
QUESTION: Sir, two things. Is Osama bin Laden cornered? And when you weigh the pros
and cons of either option, would you rather take him alive so you can question
him, or dead so you don't have to deal with him?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't care. Dead or alive, either way. I mean, I -- it doesn't
matter to me.
Secondly, I don't know whether we're going to get him tomorrow, or a month from
now, or a year from now. I really don't know. But we're going to get him. And
I -- the American people must understand that I have no timetable in mind. There's
no -- I don't have a calendar that I say, well, gosh, if he's not gotten by
this certain moment, then I'll be disappointed. Because I am pleased with the
progress that we're making in Afghanistan. I mean, there is no such thing as
a Taliban. We have liberated, literally liberated village after village from
incredible barbaric behavior toward women and children.
I think one of the joyous parts of this war, if there is such a thing as a joyous
part of a war, is to see the -- is to see what it means for our country and
our alliance to free people. We're achieving a lot of our objectives. But we're
chasing a person obviously who is willing to send suicide bombers, on the one
hand, and hide in a cave. Somebody who is -- encourages young people to go kill
themselves, and he, himself, refuses to stand and fight. And so he may hide
for a while, but we'll get him.
Anybody care to talk to the Prime Minister?
QUESTION: I'll ask one. Mr. President, do you see any signs of hope or progress in stopping
the killing in the Middle East? And do you believe that Israel has been justified
in its retaliatory actions against the Palestinian leadership, and in the Prime
Minister's decision to cut off contacts with Chairman Arafat?
THE PRESIDENT: First, let me talk about Chairman Arafat. Chairman Arafat has
said that he intends to fight terror and to bring those to justice who are killing,
murderers, in the Middle East, and now is his time to perform. The world expects
Chairman Arafat to lead, and so do I. And I will continue to work with our friends
and allies to make it -- to talk to Mr. Arafat in very blunt terms.
And that is, if you want to achieve the Mitchell -- if you want to get in the
Mitchell process, if you want there to be a peace, you must do everything in
your power, you must use your security forces to bring to justice those who
murder to keep peace from happening.
The world has now seen that there are killers and murderers around the world
and in the Middle East that are not interested in peace. Our government strongly
desires peace. We have sent emissaries throughout my administration to work
to get a secure enough environment to get into the Mitchell process. We still
have a man in place, General Zinni, working to get there to be some kind of
security arrangements so we could possibly get into Mitchell. But so long as
there's killers and people who would derail the peace process by murdering others,
it's going to be very difficult to do.
I will continue to make peace in the Middle East a priority, and it starts with
routing out terror wherever it exists.
Listen, thank you all very much. Have a great weekend.