White House Briefing, October 21, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS GAGGLE BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
Aboard Air Force One En Route Singapore
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're going to be stopping off in Singapore in a few hours. The purpose of this stop is to further a warming of our relationship that's been noticeable over the past few years. Our cooperation on counterterrorism with the Singaporeans has been excellent. You might have noticed that we've also recently moved on to issues like the opening of a Regional Infectious Disease Interdiction Center, what we call a RIDIC. We signed an MOU just the other day on this. This is in response to the SARS epidemic that hit East Asia. We are going to be working with them; we're going to have CDC personnel down there.
We've also signed an Article 98 agreement with Singapore. The President also greatly respects that views that he gets from Prime Minister Goh on the region, terrorism in the region, the political situation in the region. So it should be a very good and interesting stop.
Tomorrow, we're going to move on to Bali. This is a very important stop for us. We have had good cooperation with the Indonesians on terrorism and we strongly support the emergence of Indonesia's democracy. In both cases, we've sort of put our money where our mouth is. We provide significant assistance to the Indonesians in their counterterrorism efforts, including $12 million for their police training.
Q: How much?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: $12 million directly for their police, a total of $25 million among their various security services. In terms of supporting their democracy, we're also going to be giving something like $24 million to support the elections next year. They're going to have a series of three elections, starting with legislative elections, and then two rounds of presidential elections. We're going to be in there helping them. We think Indonesia's success is crucial to stability in Southeast Asia, and so we're going to help out.
In addition to meeting with President Megawati and her cabinet, I think you've all heard that the President is also going to be meeting with religious leaders while he's down there. This is going to be a grouping of five religious leaders, the leaders of the two largest moderate Muslim organizations in the country -- together they have a total of 70 million adherents -- also the rector of the Islamic state university, the chairman of the Indonesian Community of Churches, and also the leading Hindu leader, Hindu cleric of Bali. This is going to be an opportunity for the President to express his appreciation for their support for moderation and tolerance.
As you know, Indonesia, although, it is the world's largest Muslim nation, is a secular nation. Their constitution specifically says that it's a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. These religious leaders are at the forefront of keeping it a moderate, nonexclusive state. So that should be a good exchange. He's looking forward to it.
I'll take any questions.
Q: Sounds like some of those Islamic leaders that the President is going to meet with are going to challenge U.S. policy on a number of fronts. Is the President prepared for a frank discussion with them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the President is looking forward to a frank discussion. I think that he has seen some mischaracterizations of his policies on Iraq and on the Middle East coming out of Indonesia. He wants to correct those misunderstandings and share views with them.
Q: How fraught with risk is this visit to Bali?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: How fraught with risk, in what sense?
Q: Well, he's only there for three hours, and I take it that security is one of the issues limiting the duration of his stay.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't think the President has any worries about his personal safety if that's what you're trying to imply. Don't forget, Bali is a peaceful island, 95 percent Hindu. They had the horrible attack a little bit over a year ago now. But I think the President personally feels safe, and I'm sure the Indonesians will do everything necessary to make sure that we have a very secure stay.
Q: What did you make of the warning by the Security Minister, I think it was Monday, who said that attacks were imminent?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I stick by what I said. I'm going. I'm planning to get out alive, and I think the President is to. I don't want to -- security concerns are important, but the Indonesians are working hard with us. They've had a series of visits to Bali recently. They had the ASEAN leaders, they had the ASEAN Plus Three leaders, they had the Prime Minister of India. They've been able to provide good protection for a whole series of very important guests, and we look forward to them doing the same for us.
Q: The Indonesian Vice President -- I can't pronounce his name --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hamsa Haz.
Q: -- has called the United States the terrorist king. Does it complicate relations at all to have him saying this while you're trying to foster good ties with President Megawati?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the Indonesian Vice President has said many things at many times. We're not going to get into a blow-by-blow with him regarding various things. I think he, too, is a voice you've got to listen to. On the other hand, he's not the leader of the country. If you look at Indonesia as a whole, it is a country where the vast majority of people adhere to a moderate, tolerant form of Islam. The people with more extreme, more exclusionary views have been making inroads. And that's part of the reason why we want to go there. We want to talk to people. We want to, for example, talk to these Muslim leaders who do a lot in education, but are basically getting out-funded by the radicals from outside Indonesia. We've got to talk to them, see what we can do to help them on that.
Q: Well, what does this mean for President Megawati's efforts to crack down on terrorism, having the President come? What's the symbolic nature of that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's obviously an endorsement of her efforts. The Indonesian government has really recognized the problem -- particularly since the Bali bombings, has taken a lot of effective steps. There's something like a hundred JI members arrested since then, 30 people connected with the Bali bombings already convicted. So they're moving vigorously. The President wants to support that. Like I said, we're doing that financially, but it's also symbolic. That's part of the reason why he's going there, too.
Q: Is there an aid -- education aid package for Indonesia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll look -- we'll talk to the leaders, see what we can do with them. That's something we've got to consider, yes.
Q: Your figure, $150 million, has been reported. Is that accurate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll see what we come up with tomorrow.
Q: You talked a little bit about why the President is meeting the Muslim leaders. Is there a little, kind of brief, prepared thing that he wants to say to them when he first meets them, a specific message?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely. Again, the message will be that we support moderation and religious tolerance in Indonesia. We want to hear their views on the issues. Why not discuss a little bit about our foreign policy, make it clear that we have a foreign policy that is by no means anti-Islamic. What we're trying to do in the Middle East is to set the conditions for peace exactly the same as in Iraq. What we have done is remove one of the world's worst tyrants, not declare war on Islam.
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, thank you.
Q: Thank you.
4:28 P.M. (Local)
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