Before leaving Japan earlier Friday, the president addressed two of the United States' biggest worries in Asia. He said communist North Korea may be taking a more hostile approach to America and its Asian allies and he warned of increased trade tensions with Japan.
Closing out a two-day visit, Mr. Clinton said he was reviewing his administration's policy toward North Korea, which considers the United States an enemy and remains in a technical state of war with South Korea 45 years after a Korean War cease-fire.
He said William Perry, a former U.S. defense secretary, was overseeing the policy review.
CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports that the president took time out from foreign policy discussions to tell reporters that he had not been following the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. He did, however, take issue with the House Judiciary Committee decision to subpoena his attorney to testify.
At a joint news conference at the Akasaka Palace, Mr. Clinton and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said both nations realize Japan should act quickly to help pull Asia out of its economic crisis. Clinton struck a conciliatory tone, but earlier in the day the president talked of possible trade wars.
Mr. Clinton and Obuchi both said that North Korea must come clean on a suspected secret nuclear weapons site and limit its ballistic missile program. The Washington Post reported in Friday's editions that the program has been accelerated.
"There are some disturbing signs there," Mr.Clinton said, without offering any details.
Obuchi, recalling North Korea's firing of a ballistic missile over Japanese territory on Aug. 31, said the event was "a very shocking experience" for the Japanese. He said the incident made it even more important for North Korea to clear up suspicions about its nuclear ambitions. Mr. Clinton said the missile shot was destabilizing and "disturbed us greatly."
The president said a U.S. team he sent to North Korea this week to insist on seeing a suspected secret nuclear weapons site was met with "completely unacceptable" conditions. The North Koreans demanded a $300,000 payment in exchange for the inspection, U.S. officials said.
President Clinton and Prime Minister Obuchi share podium
Mr. Clinton's two-day visit to South Korea will include meeting with U.S. troops at an Army training range and at Osan Air Base, host to U.S. Air Force U-2 spy planes that keep an eye on North Korea.
Mr. Clinton also will discuss North Korean missile and nuclear problems with Kim, officials said.
Speaking to reporters before Mr. Clinton's arrival in Seoul, Kim said he would counsel the United States not to press North Korea too hard on the issue of its suspected nuclear site.
"We need patience when dealing with North Korea," Kim said. "Without any conclusive evidence, it is not a good idea to blow up the problem."
At his news conference in Tokyo, Mr. Clinton stressed the importance of Japan's economic revival. He said Obuchi's government must move quickly to implement its newest economic recovery plan. And he also cautioned that unless Japan becomes more open, tensions over trade will only get worse.
In a speech earlier to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Mr. Clinton raised a red flag on trade. He said he feared that if the American public got the impression that Japan is refusing to play by fair trade rules, it would retreat from the principle of open markets and expect U.S. government officials to crack down hard on Japan.
"The worst thing that can happen is if it appears that when times are tough, borders are closing up ... then you're going to have, I'm afraid, a round of retaliatory protectionism," Mr. Clinton said, using a euphemism for trade wars. "I'm quite worried about this now."