Albright to 'Tell It Like It Is' on Human Rights
By Thomas W. Lippman
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright pledged yesterday to "tell it like it is" to China about human rights issues and the future of Hong Kong, but she said relations between the United States and China "cannot be held hostage to any one issue."
In a wide-ranging news conference on her first full day in office, Albright said the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese rule this summer "has to be done in a way where the civil and human rights of the people who live in Hong Kong are respected."
In the agreement with Britain that will end British rule over the dynamic financial center on China's southeastern coast, China promised to preserve Hong Kong's freewheeling system after the July 1 takeover. But some Hong Kong officials and Western analysts have been alarmed by early indications that China will attempt to rein in Hong Kong's boisterous political parties and news media.
"We have made clear," she said, "that what happens in Hong Kong is very important to the overall relationship."
Albright is already giving clear signals that she will be a more public and more outspoken figure than her predecessor, the cautious Warren Christopher. In addition to her news conference yesterday at which she fielded questions on the expansion of NATO, the Middle East, Cuba, Bosnia and other issues she appeared last night on CNN's "Larry King Live" and is to be on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
The Clinton administration suffered in its first year from the fact that the key members of its international affairs team, including Christopher, were ineffective on television. Albright, as ambassador to the United Nations, was often called upon to appear on the Sunday talk shows to fill that breach, and she shows every indication of willingness to be the public defender as well as the architect of administration policy.
Described by Christopher at her confirmation hearing as "master of the one-liner," Albright tossed off a few samples of her straightforward language:
"It is a mistake to have a romantic view of Fidel Castro."
"Whatever contacts may have been made [between the White House and Asian campaign contributors] they did not affect any foreign policy decision."
Iran and Iraq are "rogue states" unworthy of more favorable treatment from the United States. "They have to stop supporting state terrorism."
Albright appeared reticent only on one subject: the extent of official Saudi Arabian cooperation with the FBI in investigating the terrorist bombing last June that killed 19 U.S. airmen in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
This week FBI Director Louis J. Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno have criticized the Saudis for withholding information sought by U.S. investigators. Asked the foreign policy implications of this, Albright replied: "Let me say here that the FBI is in charge of this investigation. We have had cooperation with the Saudis and we expect full cooperation from and with the Saudis as this investigation goes forward."
Asked if she shared the views of Freeh and Reno, she said, "The stand of the U.S. government here is a unified stand."
She also said the United States will ask the United Nations to levy additional economic sanctions on Sudan, which is on the State Department list of terrorist countries.
She defended the newly disclosed U.S. decision last year to allow U.S. companies to do business in Sudan, a decision that allowed Occidental Petroleum Co. to negotiate an oil drilling deal with the country. "There was no exemption asked for and none was given," Albright said. Other officials said straightforward commercial transactions with Sudan as opposed to those directly financing terrorist activities do not require an exemption from the U.S. government.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company