JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE

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U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Bill Skate

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea July 29, 1998

As released by the Office of the Spokesman U.S. Department of State

PRIME MINISTER SKATE:

I also appreciate your sensitivity and concern over staging of welcome ceremony, especially at a time when Papua New Guinea is grieving over the loss of human lives as a result of tidal wave disaster. However, I wish to reiterate, that such courtesy is consistent with Papua New Guinea customs and traditions. And it is normally extended to very important guests such as yourself.

In this regard, we are most grateful that you have decided to stop over here in Port Moresby today, and we appreciate your presence. At the outset, I take this opportunity to convey our sincere gratitude of your government's contribution of US$ 125,000 and other forms of support and assistance towards the drought that severely affected certain parts of Papua New Guinea. The (inaudible) chemical disaster in 1994 as well as the recent tidal wave disaster in Aitape. I also thank you and your government for your support towards the peace process on Bougainville and in particular the undertaking to dispatch two officials to assess the situation.

Allow me also the opportunity to extend my government's official invitation to President Bill Clinton to stopover in Papua New Guinea, either to or from the APEC Leader's Summit in Auckland, New Zealand next year.

Papua New Guinea is satisfied with the current warm and friendly relationships enjoyed by both countries and is pleased that this constructive relationship is now expanded to cover various aspects of cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, development and technical assistance, and of course defense cooperation. We however, believe that there still exists the vast scope and potential for expansion, and we look forward to cooperating with your government to further strengthen and consolidate our bilateral ties for the mutual benefit of our countries and its people.

Papua New Guinea is generally perceived as a country of instability, thereby discouraging potential investors and businessmen to explore and engage in business activities in this great country. Your stopover today is therefore particularly important as it will assist in deviating such image, and to extend and also encourage potential foreign investors and businessmen.

In trade and economy, in terms of bilateral trade, the Papua New Guinea government is satisfied with the increase in bilateral trade despite the fact that the balance of trade is still in favor of the United States. Both our countries, however, have the potential to narrow the trade imbalance under the APEC process and Joint Commercial Commission. In this regard, my government looks forward to working closely with the USA government to improve this aspect of our bilateral cooperation.

In the areas of development and technical assistance, Madame Secretary, Papua New Guinea and the United States concluded a development cooperation agreement in May 1990 to facilitate development assistance directly to Papua New Guinea, instead of via regional and international bodies. Papua New Guinea values and appreciates the high level of development and technical assistance it continues to receive from the USA, including those through the USA Peace Corps programs.

And the defense cooperation, as you know Madame Secretary, both our countries have formalized several defense cooperation arrangements which include status of forces agreement, procurement of military equipment from the United States, international military education and training scheme, and the memorandum of understanding on joint and combined military activities. My government appreciates the forthcoming official visit by the United States Army Attaché, Colonel Richard Warthurst, to Papua New Guinea from 9th to 11th of August, 1998, who will be accompanied by USA original military assistance specialists Mr. Lowell Clarey and Major Pep Cassidy of International Military Affairs Division of (the) USA Army Pacific Command.

Papua New Guinea continues to benefit from these arrangements and would like to further consolidate cooperation in these areas. Papua New Guinea acknowledges the important contributions by both the government of the United States and Japan towards the protection of the environment in Papua New Guinea under the Community Resource Conservation and Development Project, which has been designed to assist groups of (inaudible) and manages the resources in ways that are ecologically sound, socially beneficial and economically viable.

Papua New Guinea Government is satisfied with the arrangement and would like to see increased cooperation in this important area. On multilateral cooperation in terms of cooperation at the multilateral level between our two countries, Papua New Guinea is satisfied with current arrangements and looks forward to the continued maintenance and the expansion of this aspect of our relations through various international forums such as WTO, APEC, and UN and its agencies. In view of the above, I wish to congratulate President Clinton and your government for its dedication towards the promotion and advancement of democratic principles throughout the world.

In conclusion, once again, on behalf of the government and the people of Papua New Guinea, I wish to convey bon voyage to you and also extend our best wishes to President Clinton, the Government and the people of the United States.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:

For sometime I have been looking forward to this visit and as an opportunity to reaffirm America's commitment to our partnership with Pacific Nations and to see for myself this nation's progress toward development and internal peace. And those goals were very high on my agenda with Prime Minister Skate today, but of course the nature of my visit has changed since the tragedy at Aitape.

We flew over the devastated area on our way here just a couple of hours ago. We saw the coastline where the thriving community destroyed by the tsunami once stood. We could only begin to imagine the horror of what took place there; it simply staggers the imagination. Words could only begin to describe the sorrow we feel at the death of so many thousands of people, so many of whom were children. I want to offer my deepest condolences on behalf of President Clinton and the American people.

It's hard not to feel helpless before the awesome destructive power of nature, but we are not powerless to help those who are suffering or to take precautions that might prevent needless deaths in the future. Since the disaster, American military aircraft have flown $400,000 in relief supplies into the country including water containers, plastic sheeting, tents, cots, and medical equipment. All in all this is roughly enough to provide assistance to between two and three thousand homeless victims, and I understand our third flight arrived just yesterday.

We have also flown a team of public health and medical experts from our Pacific Command in Hawaii to work alongside the Australian medical team here. And today, I am pleased to announce that the United States is making available an additional $650,000 to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy for a total package of $1,050,000. This includes $250,000 in new aid to compliment Australia's medical assistance to survivors, and to help rebuild livelihoods in some of the fishing villages that were destroyed. It also includes an additional $400,000 to collaborate with Papua New Guinea, Australia and others to improve seismic early warning systems throughout this country.

As I said, we discussed a number of other issues today, among the most important was Bougainville. Papua New Guinea has an historic opportunity to end permanently a conflict that claimed thousands of innocent lives. I want to commend Prime Minister Skate's government for its initiative in seeking a negotiated peace and for sticking to the process until a cease fire agreement was reached. It's up to the people of this country to make sure the agreement sticks, that America will do all it can to help. I am happy to announce that we will provide $450,000 to support U.N. projects for reconstruction in Bougainville. We also plan to support training for the Papua New Guinea electoral commission so that it can ensure free and fair election of a reconciliation Government in Bougainville.

There are many other issues that we need to be working on together; we want to minimize the impact of the Asian financial crisis on Papua New Guinea; we want to support its efforts to build a more transparent democracy and a more open economy and we want to help the Government in its efforts to make Papua New Guinea more inviting to investment. We want to work with the people of this country to help preserve their forests, coral and fisheries for the sake of the environment and development.

More broadly, I want to reaffirm America's continuing interest in an engagement with the nations of the Pacific. This is a region of democracies, a region of nations that have been friends of the United States for many years and I intend to build on this visit to increase our profile in the years ahead.

Thank you very much and I think we now would be happy to take your questions.

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This is a big effort. The world has seen it, thanks to the journalists who have really reported on it, and I think that we want to make sure that efforts are directed properly. I was very pleased to hear what the Prime Minister told me about his plans to try to coordinate it. But, whether I am there or not, my thoughts are with all the people there and certainly with all the efforts that are being made. Thank you.

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