Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1984 Dec 21 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC en route to Washington (denies rift with US over SDI)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: In-flight from Hong Kong to USA
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: John Osman, BBC
Editorial comments: The precise timing of the interview has not been established. For copyright reasons, John Osman's questions have been replaced by brief summaries. Reuters reported MT's denial of any kind of rift with the Reagan Administration over SDI; a copy found its way into the NSC file on her December 1984 visit (Reagan Library: European & Soviet Directorate NSC (Thatcher Visit - De 84 [3] Box 90902)
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1675
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: still confident regarding future of Hong Kong?]

Prime Minister

Yes, very confident. I think the correspondents were bound to put some doubting questions, but they were against the background that the people of Hong Kong have overwhelmingly accepted that Agreement. Of course, they are worried about one or two things. They are worried about what the basic law, which China will draft, will be. They are worried about whether it will be implemented in full. That was one reason for my going to Peking. So that Zhao Ziyangthe Prime Minister of China and myself would sign it and I hoped that it would give an extra assurance to the Hong Kong people, so therefore it would be implemented. [end p1]

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: future Sino-British relations?]

Prime Minister

I think they will be very good. Our trade actually has been going up recently, but I think we have entered into a new phase of cooperation and that is very good, not only for Britain and China, but for the people of Hong Kong, because do not forget we are going to have a Joint Liaison Committee between China and Britain right up to 1997 when the lease ends and beyond 1997 for three years or so, so it is absolutely vital that we keep very close to China and do everything possible to increase our friendship.

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Success of your tour so far?]

Prime Minister

I think it has gone very well indeed. The reception we had in Peking was excellent and the reception in Hong Kong wonderful, especially from the ordinary people. As you know, I went down into one of the great big housing estates where I spoke to a number of people and saw the children and saw the youth and community halls, saw the women's organizations, and they all seemed very very pleased. [end p2]

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Now coming to Washington to see President Reagan. Main purpose of that meeting?]

Prime Minister

Well, it is the beginning of his second term and obviously his main policies are being formulated. Ronald ReaganHe will be working on his policies on the economic situation, both national and international; working on his policies towards the Middle East and above all East-West, and I think it is a very very good time to see him. Also, do not forget I have recently seen Mr. Gorbachev, who is very close to the top in the Soviet Union, and I recently in Peking saw the four leaders of China all together all in one day, which has never been done by any Western politic ian before. So it is right that I should go and see him at this time and we together discuss the enormous issues which will affect the peoples the world over.

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Main subject of your coming conversations?] [end p3]

Prime Minister

Well, I do not think I can give you any surprises on that. There will obviously be the great world issues. East-West and the relationship between the Soviet Bloc and the NATO bloc a very obvious one; and the coming arms control talks.

At the beginning of President Reagan 's second term, I am sure he will be thinking very carefully about policy towards the Middle East because it is really rather important that policy on the fundamental Arab-Israel question there should be pursued. And the economic situation still gives us great cause for concern; the international debt; and, of course, the great American deficit and the effect that that has on the height of the dollar and the effect that in turn has on all European countries and the debtor countries. So there really are these very very big issues and I am very much looking forward to discussing them with the President.

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: No prepared agenda? Informal conversations?]

Prime Minister

No, no set agenda, but you know, when you are talking about these things—I think I am with him three hours—that will be all too short. [end p4]

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Truth in speculation over last few days of split between UK and US over SDI?]

Prime Minister

No, and I cannot think who invented it either. After all, I have been one of the people who has been absolutely staunchly behind Ronald Reaganthe President in going ahead with the research.

We must remember that it was the Soviet Union who put up the first anti-satellite satellite. It was they who have been very well to the fore in laser and electronic pulse research, and it seemed to be not merely natural but advisable that the United States should carry on with their own research in these very very important spheres. It is research do not forget and it will be a very long time before there can be any question of full production, let alone deployment, so there is a long long long way to go before that.

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Specifically stated that UK and Russia do not want an arms race in space, so Britain out of step with US on SDI.] [end p5]

Prime Minister

No. I am not out of step with the Americans and the Soviet Union knows full well that I would be very careful not to get out of step with the Americans. They are our greatest allies and they are really the lynchpin of the freedom of NATO, and we all stand together.

But I just wonder if some people have just forgotten what Ronald Reaganthe President said in his Report to Congress. He sent the Report on anti-satellite systems on the 31st March and he reaffirmed his Administration would—and I quote—“consider verifiable and equitable arms control measures that would ban or otherwise limit testing and deployment of specific space weapon systems should those measures be compatible with United States national security.”

So I think that they are thinking, in his own words, of limiting testing and deployment of specific space weapon systems, but I think we all approach it in the same way. Each side wants to be secure and to know it is secure. Each side believes that security will only come from balance and that balance must be verifiable. That, I think, is the spirit in which we enter these arms control talks.

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Suggested that at your meeting with Mr. Gorbachev he wanted you to persuade President Reagannot to test anti-satellite satellite in March.] [end p6]

Prime Minister

Mr. Gorbachev knows exactly where I stand as far as the United States is concerned and he knows that there is no possibility of separating me from the United States—separating Great Britain from the United States—because we realise that the freedom of the West depends upon the staunchness of the alliance between Britain and Europe and the United States.

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: What do you hope will come of Geneva talks between Secretary of State, George Shultz, and the Soviet Foreign Minister, Gromyko?]

Prime Minister

Well, I am sure we shall be discussing them, but I am not going to say what I am going to say before I say what I am going to say to Ronald Reaganthe President, but obviously they are extremely important. Obviously, it is important that we know what is in the President's m ind; that he knows what is in ours but please may I make this point—it will take quite a long time in my view to get the agenda for those talks sorted out and to get the procedure sorted out, and that itself will be quite tricky, so do not expect anything sudden and quick to come out of it. We want to build proper disarmament talks and we want them to be successful and we shall give a great deal of attention to them and I hope that Europe and the United States will keep absolutely in step in their ideas on this. [end p7]

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Jet-lagged?]

Prime Minister

No, I am fine. We have just had a most interesting visit to Guam where, of course, there were very considerable battles during the Second World War and I have just been to see a memorial to the American airmen who were lost in that battle. I think I shall feel it when I get home, but you know, there is something that when you are on one of these missions you just keep going as long as you have to.

John Osman, BBC

[Summary of question: Happy Christmas & New Year.]

Prime Minister

A very Happy Christmas to you and a good New Year and I hope you have enjoyed this trip in spite of a bit of jet lag.