President Clinton signed papers Friday officially ratifying the chemical weapons treaty and hailed its passage as a model for how he and Congress can reach an accord on a balanced budget plan.
“Can we bridge the differences (on a balanced budget)? If we proceed just as we did with the Chemical Weapons Convention … I’m convinced we can,” Clinton said during a freewheeling news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.
The president also said Americans should not rush to judgment that China deliberately sought to improperly influence U.S. elections, saying U.S. friends such as Israel and Greece, among others, routinely seek to influence policy.
Clinton called on North Korea to return to talks with South Korea, defended his decision that the new Franklin Roosevelt memorial include a depiction of Roosevelt in a wheelchair and said a renewed RussiaChina relationship would be good for everyone.
The president, appearing in a good mood following his come-frombehind treaty victory in the Senate on Thursday night, repeatedly extended the news conference, imploring a reluctant Hashimoto to continue calling on Japanese reporters, so he could call on more American reporters.
The president called the 74-26 vote on the chemical weapons treaty “an indication of what we can do if we put the country first.”
Prior to the news conference, Clinton said he signed the instruments of ratification that make the United States a party to the convention.
Clinton said there have been “quite intense talks” between Democrats and Republicans on a balanced budget plan in recent days but added that differences remain.
The president said an agreement to balance the budget by 2002 “is so manifestly in the interest of the United States” that he thinks it will be done.
Asked about allegations that “top” Chinese officials attempted to improperly affect U.S. elections, Clinton said, “It’s something we’d have to take seriously.” But he also said the United States has an interest in a stable relationship with China and that allegations should not be assumed as fact.
“I would encourage all of you to think about … what you would define as ‘improper’ influence. A lot of … countries with whom we are very closely allied have friends in the United States that advocate for the policies of the governments all the time. It’s true - to take two obvious examples - … of Israel, it’s true of Greece. I would not consider that improper. It’s publicly done,” Clinton said. “There’s nothing secret or covert about it.”