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Obama's Message to Beijing; U.S., Philippines Sign Military Deal; Congresswoman Called to Action on Guns; Imagine a World

Aired April 28, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Last stop, Manila; President Obama landed in the Philippines today at the end of his week-long four-nation Asia tour. And he signed a new security pact with President Benigno Aquino, bringing back America's military presence since Benigno's mother, President Cory Aquino, ended the Subic Bay Agreement 22 years ago.

The Philippines, once a U.S. colony, is its oldest ally in Asia and 85 percent of the population there approved of the relationship, according to a new poll. In a moment, I'll talk to the Philippines ambassador to Washington about development aid and trade and that new military deal.

But first, before Manila, there was Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. But no stop in China. And yet that is the country that's loomed largest of President Obama's entire trip, one that's been a high-stakes balancing act delivering the same message all along the way.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected.


AMANPOUR: So was President Obama right to skip China? And is his tightrope diplomacy working? Who better to ask than the diplomat who had to walk this line every day as the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke left the position two months ago and he joins me now for this exclusive interview from his home state in Seattle.

Ambassador Locke, welcome.


AMANPOUR: So is the tightrope diplomacy working? Did President Obama manage to not terrify China while reassuring his allies?

LOCKE: I think he and his entire administration have been striking a very good balance. There -- the administration and the president very much want to pay more attention to all of Asia, including China. And just in the last several weeks and months, there have been numerous high-level visits by top administration officials, Secretary of Defense Hagel, Vice President Biden was in China just a few months ago.

And so the administration, the president are paying a lot of attention to China, but also making sure that it pays attention to its other allies in the entire region.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about those allies because as we mentioned, he's been to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and now in Manila.

In some of those areas, there are real tensions, for instance, between Japan and China and between the Philippines and China.

Did President Obama convince his allies that he would come to their defense if something went wrong? In other words if there were regrets by China? And I ask you this because it's not happening in a vacuum. It's happening as all these allies are looking very closely to the U.S. reaction to what's going on with Russian aggression towards Ukraine.

What do you think these allies feel, given the U.S. response?

LOCKE: I think they feel much more assured and reassured with the president's visit as well as his statements. The U.S. position has long been that in case of a conflict, the United States will stand by its treaty obligations and its partnerships with both Japan and the Philippines.

And having the president himself make those statements in public, I think, is very, very reassuring to them. And it makes our alliances with these countries and all of the Asia Pacific region much stronger.

AMANPOUR: We played a small snippet of some of President Obama's press conference in which he said, "We're not here to contain" or threaten China, but we do expect China to abide by international norms, again, a very pointed demand of China and, of course in light of Russia not abiding by international norms and gobbling up smaller countries' territory, President Obama said he hopes China will look towards Russia and pick the winning side, in other words that Putin, President Obama thinks, is going to be the loser.

Do you think that is a message that will be heard in China?

LOCKE: Well, the United States has long indicated that it welcomes a growing and prosperous China, but a China that actually abides by international standards, that takes greater responsibility with respect to international obligations, whether it's the United Nations, or trade agreements and so forth.

So this is a reiteration of longstanding positions by the president, enunciated by the administration itself.

Clearly if he's also sending a message to China that it needs to be very, very careful in terms of its alliances and what position it takes, whether it's on Syria or what's happening with Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: And let's get to the allies in South Korea. They're clearly very worried, as is the United States and the rest of the region, as to what North Korea's next move will be. Will it be yet another nuclear test?

But particularly there is a lot of people saying that President Obama was badly briefed about the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, that he was told that this is a man who would abide by some of the more stable, older leadership, those who are well known.

But of course, what did he do? He had his uncle executed, the old guard.

Who's responsible for badly briefing the United States on Kim Jong-un?

LOCKE: Well, actually, the briefings are all conducted based on intelligence estimates and gatherings of the intelligence agency, the entire intelligence agency or community. But the reality is that the new leader is untested. He's unpredictable. He's an unknown. He's never really had any public power positions, statements before. And so it's not under -- it's not -- it's understandable that no one really had a clue of what this man was going to do. And certainly he has -- certainly he has become very, very unpredictable.

AMANPOUR: And let me finally ask you a personal question.

When you first went to China, there was that amazing picture of you and your daughter standing in line, paying for your own cup of coffee and the Chinese love that. And then you get to China; there's a bit of a diplomatic brouhaha over one of the dissidents to came out.

But as you left, there was a pretty extraordinary attack on you in a newspaper that is basically a state-run newspaper.

Let me read what they actually said.

Among many other insults, they called you, Ambassador Locke, quote, "a banana man with yellow skin and a white heart."

I mean, that is really a racist insult.

How do you take that, not just in terms of personally, but as the U.S. representative to China t this time?

LOCKE: First of all, I was very gratified and honored and touched by the outpouring of reaction by the Chinese citizens themselves, who were outraged at that particular editorial by a Chinese-run, government-run newspaper.

And in which the citizens themselves expressed embarrassment, and outrage over the -- over the tone and the substance of the article.

I have long said that I am proud of my Asian heritage, my Chinese heritage, proud of the contributions of China over thousands of years to civilization.

But I am 100 percent American and proud of all that America has brought to the modern world in terms of our values, our innovations, our symbol of freedom, hope and democracy. And I've made it very clear that, yes, I'm Asian; yes, I'm Chinese. But I'm an American at heart.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Locke, on that note, thank you so much for joining us.

LOCKE: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: So Barack Obama is the first U.S. president to visit the Philippines in more than a decade. My next guest is Jose Cuisia, the Philippine ambassador to the United States and he has just come from a banquet with Mr. Obama in Manila, joining me live now from the capital.

Ambassador, welcome to the program.

Tell me how excited, if that is the right word, the Philippine authorities and the Philippine people are by this visit by President Obama?

JOSE CUISIA, PHILIPPINE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: This is the visit of the eighth American president to the Philippines. And I must say that there was a lot of excitement as obviously President Obama is very much admired by the Filipinos. The Filipinos have a very great fondness for the U.S. and for the American people.

So we were all looking forward to this visit of your great president.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's take some of the hard topics at hand. It is really kind of ironic to watch this Philippine president sort of go back on a deal that his mother as president brokered, and that was the end of the U.S. military and naval presence.

What do you hope now this new military deal will do for the Philippines?

Why is it important, particularly what do you say to those people in the Philippines who are against it?

CUISIA: Well, first that it will certainly strengthen the defense and security alliance between the United States and the Philippines and this enhanced development -- enhanced defense cooperation agreement will contribute to a greater interoperability between the U.S. military and Philippine military. It will enhance our maritime domain awareness and maritime security.

It will contribute to the modernization of the Philippine armed forces. It will enable us to build our capability for humanitarian assistance and disaster response. And in addition to that, this agreement will create jobs for Filipinos and provide opportunities for Filipino business men to provide goods and services to the U.S. military.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador, this obviously as we've been talking comes against a backdrop of China and not only Japan is embroiled in a territorial dispute, but so is the Philippines embroiled in a dispute over islands, a reef, with China.

Is this agreement designed to counter Chinese aggression as you see it?

CUISIA: No. It is not designed for that purpose. I think we've been discussing this for some time and even before these tensions arose between China and the Philippines, China and Japan, because we wanted to have a more modern, a more mature and forward-looking agreement with the United States.

AMANPOUR: If it wasn't designed --


CUISIA: So I would like to say that this was not designed.

AMANPOUR: If it wasn't designed to do it, do you think it will --

CUISIA: Yes, go ahead.

AMANPOUR: -- deter aggression?

And do you believe after your talks, after the president's talks with President Obama that the United States will come to the rescue of the Philippines if there is a clash over these islands, this reef in the South China Sea?

CUISIA: First I would say that the Philippines, like the United States, would like to maintain good relations with China, but at the same time, we both believe that we have to have a good faith (ph) system that is based on international law, that all parties respect freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce.

Now with regard to your second question, the Philippines is looking forward to the U.S. to respect its obligations under the mutual (ph) defense treaty as well as the listening (ph) forces agreement, which were of course ratified by our Senate. So we are -- I say -- as I said, hopeful that we won't have any confrontation with China.

AMANPOUR: But are you confident that you will get U.S. support if you do, U.S. military support?

CUISIA: Well, we are, as I said, counting on the U.S. commitment under the mutual (ph) defense treaty to respect its obligations under that treaty to its allies, including the Philippines.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Ambassador Cuisia, thank you so much for joining us from Manila at this very important time.

CUISIA: Thank you. Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And when President Obama returns here to the United States, he'll come back to a country where concealed weapons are legal in all 50 states. And the National Rifle Association, which held its annual convention and gunfest this past weekend in the American heartland state of Indiana, is ready to lock and load for more guns in more places.

So where does the right to bear arms end and the duty to bar them begin? We'll ask a victim of gun violence who became a passionate gun safety advocate. That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. America's gun lobby pulled out all the stops at its annual convention this weekend. The NRA continues to resist even the kind of sensible gun control that the overwhelming majority of the American people support. And with mass shootings becoming almost standard practice here, even after the terrible massacre of children in Newtown 15 months ago, the NRA keeps racking up victories.

Most recently a Guns Everywhere law in Georgia that critics call the most extreme in America which now allows weapons into schools, churches, libraries, airports and even into alcohol-fueled bars.

Michael Bloomberg, who's the former mayor of New York, has announced money and plans to launch a rival lobby to take on the NRA and one member of Congress has been fighting for change on that level for the past 20 years, ever since a gunman shot and killed her husband along with six others and injured 19 more, including her son, as they were taking the commuter train home.

This was Carolyn McCarthy's call to action. But she'll be raising her voice for gun safety elsewhere now, as she's retiring after 18 years in Congress. I asked her whether she thinks she had made even a dent in the extraordinary resistance to sensible regulation even now so many years and so many deaths later.


AMANPOUR: Congresswoman McCarthy ,thank you very much for being with me.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D): It's my pleasure to be here with you.

AMANPOUR: The whole world is gripped every time there is a shooting incident in the United States of America. This was your signature work on Capitol Hill. After 20 years, you're retiring. Do you feel you've achieved what you set out to do?

MCCARTHY: I do, in many ways, number one, I think that we have come a long way from where I first started. I will agree that my nemesis has been the National Rifle Association. But I also see now today new voices speaking out. I also know that in the courts of the states that we are winning cases against the NRA. That doesn't make the news.

AMANPOUR: And yet it seems no matter the extent of the coverage, there still is pushback, major pushback in Congress because of the NRA. No law of any type, despite what the people of America said was enacted after Newtown, not a single federal law has been enacted since 1997 on this.

MCCARTHY: People in Congress have come to me, Carolyn, I'd love to be with you. I can't. I can't be with you; this is not what I came to Congress for and my constituents don't understand it.

The message has always been that we're trying to take away everyone's right to own a gun. We're not. Never have been. It's gun violence that gun safety that we're trying to do. And we have had hearings in the last two years and basically we brought NRA members in. We brought people that own guns, hunters, and they thought everybody went for a background check.

AMANPOUR: But they don't.

MCCARTHY: But they don't.

AMANPOUR: Given the fact that your activism and your ascent to Congress was borne out of your own personal gun tragedy, talk to me a little about what happened to your own family, how it propelled you into Congress.

MCCARTHY: Well, going back to 1993, we just had the 20th anniversary last year, my husband, my son and so many other people were coming back from New York City out onto the island, and unfortunately there was a person on the train that had large amounts of bullets and every one of his bullets hit somebody. And my husband was killed and my son was severely injured, as so many others were.

And I was a fairly quiet person. And I was just angry that this happened. And people started to ask me, can you talk about it? And it was at that time that I said, I have to do something about it.

And I became a voice.

AMANPOUR: What do you think was your greatest achievement on this issue in Congress?

MCCARTHY: After the Virginia Tech shooting, I -- my heart broke. And the victims started to come in to me. And I didn't think I could do it anymore. I really, really didn't. And with that being said, we had a bill for background checks and I just started working like the dickens on both sides of the aisle. And yes, even with the NRA.

And we got that bill passed and we also got it signed by President Bush. So you can get things done. But you need the cooperation of both aisles.

AMANPOUR: It doesn't seem to be that there's any kind of working across the aisle going on in the current Congress. Dysfunction seems to be the modus vivendi right now.

How bad is that?

MCCARTHY: It's pretty bad; actually, it's downright awful mainly because there's so many members on the Republican side and on the Democratic side that have worked together for years. Look at the people that are leaving Congress. I mean, I'm leaving for health reasons. But others are just leaving because they feel they can't do their work.

AMANPOUR: As you contemplate leaving Congress now, what is your message for Congress and for women and men who are coming up through the ranks now?

MCCARTHY: I would say to them that stop saying that Washington doesn't work. It's not working because no one is talking to each other. And if you learn to talk to each other or go on trips to get to know each other. When you're on a plane, going to a foreign country and sitting next to another member who might be totally opposite than you, you find you actually have a lot of things in common.

The way our schedule is now, you really have no time to make friends with your colleagues. I mean, last week when we were voting, one of my colleagues said, who's that person up there? You know, and I'm looking and I said, I don't know. And I used to know almost every member of Congress.

AMANPOUR: (INAUDIBLE) congressperson, you didn't know who they were?

MCCARTHY: Didn't know who they were.

AMANPOUR: Congresswoman McCarthy, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

MCCARTHY: Thank you for having me.


AMANPOUR: So in America, an outspoken critic of government dysfunction like Carolyn McCarthy can go to Congress. But in China, speaking out against authority has put its leading artist and activist under 24-hour surveillance. He's unable to leave the country. But they cannot embargo his art.

"Ai Weiwei: According to What" is a sweeping new exhibit of the artist's work, which is now on display at the Brooklyn Museum here in New York. And with his provocative and deeply personal vision, he casts a light on life in China from a reconstruction of the prison cell in which he was held for 81 days back in 2011, to hundreds of thought-provoking ceramic crabs. Are they heading for the cookpot or for freedom?

After a break, imagine another repressive government in Egypt, where human rights are facing the gallows, the verdict is in when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where the promise of freedom has been given a death sentence. As well as the challenges he's facing in Asia, President Obama has got to figure out how to properly deal with Egypt, where nine months ago the military regime that deposed the first democratically elected president promised a new era of political and religious tolerance.

But today mourners were left to weep and wail outside a Cairo courtroom where 683 people were sentenced to death in a mass trial that took only a matter of minutes. And among those who were convicted and condemned was Mohammed Badie. He's the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meantime his follower and the former president, Mohammed Morsy, remains in prison, awaiting his fate. It is the latest in a series of draconian measures by the government of the former General al-Sisi, who is now a presidential candidate.

So-called political opponents, some of them just teenagers, are being rounded up and detained in secret centers, cut off from family members and lawyers, where overcrowding, lack of medical care and a diet of physical abuse are their daily bread. This is happening to our journalist colleagues as well in Cairo.

And it all brings us back full circle to these words of the China artist, Ai Weiwei, emblazoned on a skateboard.

He says, "There are no outdoor sports as graceful as throwing stones at a dictatorship in the world."

And that is our program for tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.