Video: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:  'People are scared'

NBC News
updated 2/17/2009 3:16:29 PM ET 2009-02-17T20:16:29

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Tokyo on Tuesday, the first stop of her first overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat. She discussed her agenda with Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News.

Andrea Mitchell: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for sitting down with us. First of all, the economy.  Here you are in Japan talking about the economy. The Japanese have just announced the worst growth in 35 years; their finance minister has had to resign. What can they do? What do you want them to do?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well I think that Japan understands the challenges it faces; it has a very export-dependent economy and a significant manufacturing sector. It’s going to have to try to stimulate internal demand and will look for ways to diversify the economy, but it’s also made commitments to try to assist other countries so that we don't worsen the economic crisis. And we're very grateful for that. Japanese leadership as the second-largest economy in the world is essential for global recovery, so leading up to the G-20[Group of 20] there will be a lot of discussion, consultation between our country and Japan about how we can work together to try to lessen the impact of this contraction.

As we talk to people here and in other countries frankly a lot of people say this crisis was "Made in America." Are you hearing that?  How do you react to that?
Well it hit first in the United States and it hit deeply, we have, as you know, rising unemployment, lots of small and medium and even large businesses filing for bankruptcy, people continuing to lose their homes, so we know what the impact of this. Globally, there were many decisions that contributed to the slowdown that has affected every part of the world, But, I think what is important now is that we work together, the public and the private sector. The passage of our stimulus bill was a very strong sign that the United States is taking seriously our obligation to try to grow our way out of this difficulty. But we're going to have to have partners and I'll be speaking about this economic crisis at every stop I make.

In China and in Japan there's a lot of resentment about the "Buy America" provision. There is some protectionism in this stimulus bill as well. What do you say to them when they say that we, the United States, are shutting our markets to them?
Well, President Obama worked very hard to get that provision changed and it now requires that any such action be done only in a way consistent with our international agreement. It’s a natural reaction, it’s human nature. People are scared and I fully understand that and that’s universal. When you see your jobs disappearing when you are not sure that the business you work for is going to remain in business. People naturally get a kind of defensive attitude -- but we can't let that interfere with job #1, which is to grow this economy again. Each country will have to take steps internally to try to stimulate demand and to look at how to diversify our own economies. But, collectively we can't do anything that will slow down the recovery. So it’s a balance and everybody's walking that.

The first time I went to China with you, in 1995, you made headlines around the world [when] you said that women's rights are human rights. This time you're not meeting with human rights activists; you are meeting with a lot of other people but you're not meeting with some of the activists. Are you taking a softer line now to human rights now that you're secretary of state, playing a different role?
Well human rights will always be on the agenda the United States has with any nation; I will be meeting with some of the women that are leading the way for changes in China, some of whom I've met with before. I'll be attending church because I believe so strongly in freedom of religion. I have spoken out in the speech that I gave to the Asia Society last week about the importance of that. We have a big, broad agenda with China and many of the issues that we are going to be addressing have human rights implications. When you think the drastic rise in unemployment in China, many would argue that that’s a human rights issue: the people don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot of suffering that will come from that. When you think about the threat of nuclear proliferation and North Korea with their provocative language right on the border -- that has implications for quality of life and so much else. So I think that the agenda will remain very broad and comprehensive.

You talk about North Korea; how worried are you that they will test-fire another long-range missile?
Well, it would not be helpful for them to do so; they entered into some agreements through the six-party talks that we expect them to fulfill. They are also requirements on any nation that is contemplating a space launch that they haven't complied with.

What would you do if they did?
Well, we'll wait and watch to see what they actually do. I don’t want to telegraph any action. I want to make it as clear as I can as I have on numerous occasions that if the North Koreans do decide to fulfill their obligations and achieve denuclearization and end proliferation there are opportunities awaiting them which I think would be very attractive.

We don’t have a whole lot of time but I want to ask you about Indonesia. You're going to the most populous Muslim country in the world; what signal are you sending? What is the importance of Barack Obama's first big interview being with Al-Arabiya. What is the new approach by this administration?
Well I've been to Indonesia before and I am very impressed at its record of successful change in the last years. Its economy, until this contraction, has been growing, its democracy has become more vibrant. Women have played a major role in government and business in Indonesia, so yes it is the world's largest Muslim nation but it's also an example for the benefits of [a] dynamic economy and democracy. I think what you're finding with the Obama administration and certainly with President Obama's leadership is that we want to reach out to the rest of the world. We want them to know that we are coming into power with a view that we can learn, that we can listen, not just dictate. That we have problems that will affect the future of the children from the Middle East to East Asia, that we hope will be able to work with people of good faith to try to resolve. And it’s a very open invitation as the president said. We will reach out our hand if you unclench your fist. And we hope that many of the countries will take advantage of the offer.

More on Japan | Hillary Clinton   | North Korea | China

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