Opportunity with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
The Oval Office
The White House
October 21, 2002
3:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's my honor to welcome Lord Robertson back to the Oval Office.
I think we've met, gosh, five -- four or five times since I've been the President.
I've enjoyed every meeting. He does a great job at NATO. NATO is an incredibly
important part of U.S. foreign policy. I appreciate the alliance.
We are mainly discussing issues that we will confront and/or deal with in Prague,
including NATO expansion. He's soliciting the views of the administration. I
told him that we would give him a definite answer about our views on expansion
in a couple of weeks, and that timetable seemed satisfactory with him.
But, Lord Robertson, welcome back. I appreciate you being here. Thanks for your
LORD ROBERTSON: I'm delighted to be again in the Oval Office, Mr. President.
And the President has shown, not just by meetings with me, but in every other
way possible his and his administration's commitment to NATO and to the strength
of this trans-Atlantic alliance that has bound together these democratic and
freedom-loving states over all of the years.
We're now a month to the day away from the Prague Summit, probably the most
important summit meeting in NATO's history, a transformation summit where NATO
has to transform itself to deal with the threats and the challenges of the 21st
century. And I believe we will have a good package on new members, a robust
enlargement, new capabilities to deal with terrorism and to deal with the other
challenges and nightmares that we may face ahead in the future, and new relationships
with Russia, with Ukraine, with our partner countries, building the world's
largest permanent alliance and one on which the world can rely on.
THE PRESIDENT: Three questions. Fournier.
QUESTION: Sir, is North Korea an imminent threat to the United States and what
consequences, if any, will it face for hiding its nuclear program from you?
THE PRESIDENT: One, we had a bit of troubling news when we discovered the fact
that, contrary to what we had been led to believe, that they were enriching
uranium with the idea of developing a nuclear weapon. I say troubling news,
obviously, because we felt like they had given their word they weren't going
to do this.
I view this as an opportunity to work with our friends in the region and work
with other countries in the region to ally against proliferation of serious
weapons and to convince Kim Chong-il that he must disarm. To this end, I'm going
to be talking to Jiang Zemin at Crawford. I look forward to a good discussion
with the President of China about how we can work together to take our relationship
to a new level in dealing with the true threats of the 21st century.
I will see the leaders of Japan and South Korea and Russia the next day, in
Mexico. I intend to make this an important topic of our discussions. This is
a chance for people who love freedom and peace to work together to deal with
a -- to deal with an emerging threat. I believe we can deal with this threat
peacefully, particularly if we work together. So this is an opportunity to work
QUESTION: They're not an imminent threat, though?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, that's an operative word. We view this very seriously.
It is a troubling discovery, and it's a discovery that we intend to work with
our friends to deal with. I believe we can do it peacefully. I look forward
to working with people to encourage them that we must convince Kim Chong-il
to disarm for the sake of peace. And the people who have got the most at stake,
of course, in this posture are the people who are his neighbors.
QUESTION: Mr. President, can you explain so the boys in Lubbock can understand
THE PRESIDENT: Crawford or Lubbock?
QUESTION: Lubbock or Crawford, both --
THE PRESIDENT: Lubbock is a little more sophisticated than Crawford, Arshad.
QUESTION: Crawford, then.
THE PRESIDENT: Or Scotland, for that matter.
QUESTION: Why --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Arshad.
QUESTION: Why you threaten military action against Iraq, but you believe that
Korea's nuclear weapons program only merits diplomatic efforts?
THE PRESIDENT: Saddam Hussein is unique, in this sense: he has thumbed his nose
at the world for 11 years. The United Nations has passed 16 resolutions to deal
with this man, and the resolutions are all aimed at disarmament, amongst other
things. And for 11 years, he said, no, I refuse to disarm.
Now, what makes him even more unique is the fact he's actually gassed his own
people. He has used weapons of mass destruction on neighboring countries and
he's used weapons of mass destruction on his own citizenry. He wants to have
a nuclear weapon. He has made it very clear he hates the United States and,
as importantly, he hates friends of ours.
We've tried diplomacy. We're trying it one more time. I believe the free world,
if we make up our mind to, can disarm this man peacefully.
But, if not -- if not, there's -- we have the will and the desire, as do other
nations, to disarm Saddam. It's up to him to make that decision and it's up
to the United Nations. And we'll determine here soon whether the United Nations
has got the will, and then it's up to Saddam to make the decision.
QUESTION: Mr. President, again, for the good people of Crawford --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. It's been a big day for Crawford.
QUESTION: If you can explain this in a way that they and the rest of us will
understand. There is some hints over the weekend, the possibility that taking
weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq is our goal, raising the possibility
or the implication that he could somehow remain in power.
Can you say authoritatively and declaratively whether you can achieve -- if
you can achieve your aims there in a way that leaves him still in office?
THE PRESIDENT: The stated policy of the United States is regime change because,
for 11 years, Saddam Hussein has ignored the United Nations and the free world.
For 11 years, he has -- he said, look, you passed all these resolutions; I could
care less what you passed. And that's why the stated policy of our government,
the previous administration and this administration, is regime change -- because
we don't believe he is going to change.
However, if he were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions
that I've described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that
in itself will signal the regime has changed.