Transcript of Reagan interview

WASHINGTON, April 21, 1986 (UPI) -- Following is the transcript of President Reagan's interview Monday with wire service reporters:

Q. Mr. President, terrorism will be an important topic of the summit, as I'm sure you know, and of course it has been on the agenda for all of us in recent weeks. The allies so far have been unwilling to go along with U.S. efforts to isolate (Libyan leader Moammar) Khadafy or to use force against Libya. What do you expect to get out of them in Tokyo?


Reagan: Well, I think there is an indication that our allies and those countries that are going to be represented there have been taking increasing action with regard to the People's Councils there, which is their term -- the Libyan term for embassies. And actually I hope that we can have a businesslike getting down to this problem and seeing what we can do together with regard to resolving it.


One of the things is, we do have now quite a good intelligence-sharing relationship with them, but to see if there is more that we could do about pooling our intelligence so that we can learn of intended targets and intervene -- abort them. Last year, as a result of what we've done so far, we were able to abort 126 planned terrorist attacks. And this action of ours was the result of intelligence information in which Libya had planned 35 different targets involving the countries that will be represented at the summit. The action is mainly taking place in those countries, even though they were quite verbose in their ideas or their statements that Americans were their prime target. But they would be finding the Americans in those other countries.

So I am not going there with the idea that we should get some grandiose statement. I think we all know how we feel about terrorism. I am hopeful that we can sit down and work out what it is that we can do together to deal with this problem.

Q. But, sir, how do you explain, given what you said about their being the primary targets most often -- how do you explain the reluctance of the other Western democracies to join you in your efforts?


Reagan: Well, I don't. I'll let them explain that. But they do know the information. For example, France's expulsion of some of the Libyan representatives was because of one of those 35 targets. That target was going to take place outside the -- or that action take place outside the - American embassy there. The weapons had already been distributed. But the target was going to be the line of people that forms waiting to get into the embassy to get visas. Now, those wouldn't be Americans. Americans don't need a visa to come to the United States. But Frenchmen do and other immigrants who might be there of other countries.

And they took that action. But this was -- as I say, this is a sample of the type of thing that was planned in advance. And maybe it might be well right here to say that I notice that the media is speculating a great deal on would there be an upsurge because of the action we took. The upsurge was planned before we took the action. Those 35 targets are evidence of that. Those were immediate things that Libya was ordering and supporting and being done.

Q. Mr. president, you've spoken many times in the past about how frustrated you personally get at the terrorism and how you've punched many walls around here -- I don't see any holes. Could you give us an idea of what you might tell President Mitterrand or Prime Minister Chirac about France's refusal to let our planes, at some risk, cross French airspace?


Reagan: Well, I think this is a subject that has to be discussed. And we certainly will discuss it. Whatever the reason that they did not change and allow that kind of overflight, I think it's something to be considered now and talked rationally between us as to what the effect might be. Now, I happen to know that to our representatives abroad - we've had General Walters most recently and we've had State Department representation over there talking to them -- and General Walters found that several of them were reconsidering now with regard to that. It happened so swiftly that they didn't make a change in their policy.

But also we found that some of them were suggesting that -- not that the answer be nothing of that kind, but that we look seriously at, together, real major action against Libya.

Q. Are you suggesting that to this day you don't know what caused that decision by France?

Reagan: No, I don't.

Q. I'd take it, though, from the tone of your answer you wouldn't be thinking of any kind of diplomatic or other type of penalty against France, as some of the more strident commentators have suggested?


Reagan: No. We're going to the summit to see what we can work out together.

Q. Mr. President, I thought I understood you to say just now that some of your allies were changing position and would be more willing now to take some major action -- military action -- against Libya. Is that what you said?

Reagan: Some have suggested that this thing -- this type of action that we had -- if we were going to resort to force, that then perhaps it should be a wider based and more all-out effort to change the Libyan policy. Now, when I say -- this has simply been in conversation with some of our representatives who have been over there and briefing them and in their talk. I think it would be the kind of thing that they would want to talk about at the summit as to whether we had reached that point or not.

Q. Do you think the criticism that France has had in this country because of its decision not to allow the flight was justified? In view that -- for instance, when there were these strikes against the French compound and the Marines compound in Beirut, the French did retaliate and the Americans did not. So, do you think this wave of criticism against France is justified in this case?


Reagan: I think it is difficult to understand that if we're all allies together, and supposed to be sharing in the protection of all of our countries, that -- one time to deny the right of our planes fly over, yes. I have to criticize that. I have to say there's -- I can't see any justification for it. They had the evidence -- they, themselves, were taking actions such as sending diplomats home -- Libyan diplomats back to their -- expelling them from their country.

Q. Are they still invited to the Statue of Liberty ceremony?

Reagan: I'm quite sure, yes.

Q. Mr. President, at this summit the allies are also likely to press you on another summit -- when you might meet Mr. Gorbachev. Will you tell them -- what will you tell them, and do you think he's stalling?

Reagan: No. I thought -- I thought even in these somewhat angry statements that he's made recently he, however, indicated that -- or made no indication that he was planning any change away from the summit. I thought he kind of indicated, in the most recent remarks, that he was expecting to be meeting in a summit.

Q. He said that he's cancelled the pre-summit planning meeting which again sets back your timetable, I guess.


Reagan: Yes, although -

Q. Or do you think that's just -- you expected that?

Reagan: Frankly, I don't understand it because he, himself, has recently made statements about the evils of terrorism. And I would hate to think that he's being rather selective in it -- that he's only opposed to terrorism if certain people are doing it, but not if others are doing it.

Q. Did you discuss terrorism in any great detail at the last summit? And if so, what did you learn of his position then?

Reagan: I can't -- you now, I honestly can't remember whether that - if it did come up, it wasn't in a major discussion. We were discussing more the bilateral things between us and the elimination of mistrust and so forth.

Q. When you do meet again, it will be an important -

Reagan: I think that they should be discussed.

Q. May I ask you, sir, given the five years or so that you have been speaking out strongly against terrorism, we still see that tourists are afraid to travel to Europe. There are barricades all over this city. People generally are afraid. Couldn't one assume that terrorism has already won this war?


Reagan: Oh, no, but I can understand right now. This is one of the reasons why I think that our allies will be very willing to talk with us, because they have seen this attitude, this reluctance on the part of people to travel, and it must be of great concern to them.

No, terrorism hasn't succeeded. Terrorism will have succeeded when we decide that we shouldn't take any action against it.

Now you mentioned a moment ago, and I didn't get around to that, about in Beirut and the assaults made upon various armed forces that were there from the allies -- the British, the French, and ourselves. And you mentioned the French and us, and them retaliating and us not retaliating. I think there was a difference. The difference in our case that was so frustrating was that ours was a suicide mission and those who had perpetrated it were gone. There was no way to pin down who was responsible.

There are a number of terrorist groups. In Europe they have their own -- the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof gang. In the Middle East we know that there are several different groups. And it was -- we were doing everything we could, and for quite a long period of time, to try and pin down what was the source, where did -- who was in back of this? We couldn't get the actual perpetrators. They were gone because it was a suicide mission. But to find who had sent them, who had helped organize this? And we had great difficulty in pinning that down, and at times, when we thought we had leads, we found that they did not lead to a target that you could hit without simply taking out a great many innocent people.


Q. Mr. President, haven't you said about that you did in fact -- I forget whether it was the Marine barracks or the Embassy -- but that you did find a target and were going to attack it, but the Israelis got there first?

Reagan: We finally, quite some time later, we finally were pretty sure that we had the locale and the training ground where these terrorists had come from. But, again, there was a great problem of collateral damage around it.

And, in the meantime, it is true the Israelis staged an air raid against that particular target.

Q: Mr. President, it seems to me by the conversation we're having that we're all talking about military action. Is it your view that since the two raids on Libya, the next step has to be military?

Reagan: We won't make a decision about that until we see what happens and what is necessary, but I'd like to remind you, we've done all the other things. We tried not only diplomacy, but then tried trade sanctions and so forth. And the violence not only kept on but our intelligence revealed that it was being stepped up. So we decided that they had to discover that there was a price for what they were doing.


Q: I'd like to change subjects again, but -

Q: One more on this subject, if you please. You've spoken so often before the attack on Libya about how we would hold the perpetrators responsible. Public opinion had been whipped up in favor of that. Do you feel at all, in your decision-making process, that you were bound to take some military action just because of the past years of increasing public fervor?

Reagan: No. We met and we discussed this at great length and we were all -- we truly had a consensus within the administration that we had no other choice, that we had to let them know there was a price. And we were very careful in the targets we picked out. I cannot tell you that it wasn't a bomb of ours misdirected that did the collateral damage to the innocent civilians there. But I can't tell you either that it might not have been their own missiles, because we were interfering with their ability to target their missiles on our craft, they were firing their missiles just simply straight up, then they were returning straight down. And if you'll recall, there was a photo widely publicized in this country of something lying in the street that's evidence of this in which they had claimed it was a part of one of the planes that they had -- you'll remember there was one place where Khadafy said he'd shot down 20 planes. Well, the M-111s, we only sent 18. But what he was pointing out -- or what they were pointing out -- was a part of an airplane was the booster off one of their own anti-aircraft missiles, which shows these things were coming back down. So I believe before we just automatically assume that there was an accident in which one of our planes missed the target, we have to accept that it also could have been damaged by their own descending missiles.


As a matter of fact, we were so strict about collateral damage that we gave orders that any plane that had any difficulty coming in - whether from clouds or smoke of previous explosions, whatever -- that was going to interfere with their exact targeting, they were to abort and six of the M-111s -- or F-111s I should say -- did and two of the naval planes off the carriers aborted their missions.

Q: So I take it you have no regrets in the week or so aftermath of this attack?

Reagan: Oh, I'm sorry -- if it was one of our bombs, I'm sorry about that in that missed target, but again, as I say, there is just as much evidence on the side of it being their own missiles.

Q: On that point, Mr. President, you know the reports that Khadafy's daughter was killed and two sons were wounded. Was that intended or something you regret?

Reagan: Well, it's something you regret any time children or innocent people are wounded or killed, hurt -- anything of this kind. On the other hand, I was equally sorry about a little baby that was blown out the side of an airplane and fell 15,000 feet to its death along with his mother and grandmother. I also feel badly about an 11-year-old girl that was shot down in cold blood for simply standing in the airport in Rome. I think that was one of the deeds that Mr. Khadafy referred to as a noble deed.


Q: Mr. President, this is an economic summit, although it may be overshadowed by terrorism -

Reagan: You're getting back to the subject we were supposed to talk about. Good.

Q: Yes, I am. I have two questions on -- allied to that side. The dollar has already fallen sharply against the yen. Do you think it should slide even further?

Reagan: I prefer to put it that the yen has risen in value in comparison to the dollar. We have -- the dollar, with relation to our trading partners -- the mark and the franc and so forth -- and the pound and the yen -- this had been one of the great problems for us that's resulted in the increase of the trade imbalance that have made American products so expensive abroad.

But, actually, you have to say that their recoveries -- not Japan's, they were doing all right -- but the other -- the European partners, their recoveries were not as great or as early as ours and so I think it is legitimate to say that their currency was undervalued as much as we could say that ours was overvalued. And with the yen, this is truly a great advantage, because the biggest amount of our trade imbalance is with Japan. And I think that more than any restraints they had on imports, the yen and its depreciated value was the biggest advantage that they had, because their products were underpriced compared to ours.


This figure -- I don't whether it has to change or not -- I believe this is supposed to be the highest value of the yen against the American dollar that we've ever known. Certainly, I know it's true ever since - well, in the half century, since World War II, it's -- this is the highest that it's ever been.

Q: Will you be discussing with the allies ways to coordinate moves to prevent currency imbalances?

Reagan: This will be, very definitely, one of the terms. We're not only discussing with them a new GATT round, the tariff treaties and so forth, but also I think very definitely, there will be a discussion on monetary policy and is there something that we can do to stabilize it and quit having this volatility and the ups and downs.

Q: Is there a point at which the yen, for instance, could get so strong against the dollar it would re-ignite inflation here, given America's love of Japanese products?

Reagan: Oh, I would have a hard time believing that that could seriously affect our inflation rate, which incidentally, for the first quarter of this year has been running at an annual rate of 2.2 percent, and that's the lowest it has been in many, many years.


Q: How are you going to go and prevent yourself from gloating?

Reagan: What?

Q: How are you going to go and prevent yourself from gloating - (laughter) -- the figures you'll be taking -- the last -

Reagan: Well, the last couple of summits the difference was already there. For example, they were asking us about our policies that have created so many new jobs in our country. And -- so we didn't gloat. We just tried to be helpful -- tell them what we'd done.

Q: On the monetary question -- in your State of the Union address, you asked Treasury to prepare a study to see if it would be useful to convene international conference to reform the international monetary system. Do you -- have you seen the study? Do you think such a conference is needed now?

Reagan: This is something -- I think we're at the point now of discussing with our allies whether we all feel that this could be helpful.

Q: Mr. President, the Japanese are proposing to deal with their trade surplus with an even more fundamental revolution than the one you proposed for this country in getting it out of its economic problems. Given the trouble you've had implementing your proposals, are you prepared to wait for Japan to institute even more drastic measures?


Reagan: No. We've -- as I say, we've -- at the ministerial level, we've been continuing to meet with them and the prime minister has his political problems, just as I do here. He isn't free to suddenly issue edicts. He has to get the Japanese Diet to go along with him. And now this plan -- it hasn't been adopted by them as yet. He favors it. And this is a long-range plan to make a basic economic change. Their economy right now is geared toward providing great incentives for saving on the part of the people, lesser incentives for buying.

And they, themselves -- this study that you're referring to -- this study is one that suggests that they would be better off if they provided more incentives for consumption -- better living and so forth for their people -- because they don't have the real need in an investment way for the tremendous savings that they have there.

Q: Mr. President, in Bali you'll be meeting with the Philippine foreign minister. It'll be the first time you've had contact with - personal contact with anybody from the new government there. Will you be pledging any further aid or what will you tell him?


Reagan: Well, historically, we have had such a friendship with the Filipino people and we feel that this is something we want to continue. And, yes, we know they have great economic problems and right now I think our figure -- whether it can be augmented or not -- but our figure for this year is about $239 million in aid. And we want to be helpful.

Q: Any international effort or any American effort, you're talking about? In Tokyo, I'm talking -- the summit in Tokyo. Would an international package for the Philippines -- is that in -

Reagan: Well, whether it's a package or whether it's persuading other countries to participate and Japan has been a country that, like ourselves, has been greatly helpful of other economies and I think that Japan is looking at what they can do with regard to the Philippines.

Q: There's been some talk that Mrs. Reagan's separate schedule to Malaysia and Bangkok might be cancelled in order for her to accompany you and this increased security around both of you. Has that been discussed in your family?

Reagan: I have heard no suggestion of anything of that kind. As far as I know, her schedule is still on. But if your asking if I'm concerned or not, I worry when she goes around the block.


Q: Mr. President -

Q: So you're not suggesting she stop this trip?

Reagan: No. I'm -- I have confidence in those who are planning our security that if there was some specific threat, they would let me know.

Q: Mr. President, in the last week we've been reading in the papers that Mr. Stockman says you're not particularly intellectual, that Don Regan has a profoundly destructive influence on you, and even Bud McFarlane says that the disputes between Shultz and Weinberger have led to a paralysis in decision-making. Would you care to defend the way you run the presidency against those attacks?

Reagan: I'd rather not comment on that, frankly. I've seen and heard the statements and so forth and I did refer to it as fiction and I still feel it comes under that head.

And, so, this -- again, as I say, I think it's supply and demand. And that one thing that we have to watch -- and this was the thing that caused the confusion when the vice president spoke, and he was talking the truth and trying to call attention to one thing, that because so much of oil production in the rest of the world is not in private hands but is government-owned, the possibility that some producer might decide to push the prices down and down regardless of how much they might lose, until they had eliminated some of the competition, and then they would be in a position to start putting the prices back up, we just wanted to warn against anyone attempting such a tactic.


Q: Can we go back to Tokyo for just one minute?

Larry Speakes: I think he needs to go to lunch. You've got a whole bunch of folks waiting across the hall for lunch.

Reagan: Oh, yes.

Speakes: You want to -

Q: Yes, I was just going to -- earlier on you said -- when we were talking about terrorism -- that you wanted to work out a way that you and the allies could coordinate your efforts on this, but you didn't expect anything grandiose.

Reagan: No, no -

Q: But summits always result in communiques, and I think people are expecting that this one will result in a joint communique on terrorism.

Reagan: Well, it may very well -

Q: Are we wrong to expect that?

Reagan: But what I meant was we didn't want to just go there and get some big declaration about the evils of terrorism and then think we'd done our duty. We want to get down to the nitty-gritty and get some agreement as to how we're going to deal with it.

Q: But then you think if there is a political communique, as there always is, that will be the subject of it, in your view?


Reagan: Oh, no -

Q: Should be.

Reagan: I think any communique's going to touch on what the whole agenda would be.

Q: So arms control -

Reagan: Yes.

Q: The whole lot?

Reagan: Yes.

Q: Mr. President, what did Rick Dempsey mean when he said you'd called Khadafy a name when you were on the bench?

Speakes: That was the last question. (Laughter)

Q: Do you remember that conversation?

Reagan: No, I don't. I was taken quite aback by it. I don't remember it.

Q: Mr. President, thank you very much. Always nice to see you.

Reagan: Good to see you.

Q: Rid of all those pens, thank you.

Q: Is there any chance we're all going to meet Mrs. Aquino on this trip?

Reagan: No, there won't be any stop in the Philippines, unless she decides to come to the ASEAN meeting instead of sending her foreign minister.

Q: Have you suggested that?

Reagan: What?

Q: Have you suggested that?

Reagan: No, that's up to them. I think some countries will have heads of state there. President Soeharto will be there. I don't know whether others will be represented by ministers or not.

The press: Thank you.


Latest Headlines