TOKYO – Former President Bill Clinton said Saturday he expects diplomacy to play a larger role in President Bush's second term in office because of "the drain on our military."
Speaking at an international forum in Japan, Clinton said Bush's second-term appointment of Condoleezza Rice (search) as secretary of state marked a new beginning for the administration.
"I think by sending Condoleezza Rice to the State Department (search), (the president) was saying diplomacy will be more important in his second term," Clinton said. "The drain on our military has made this administration more interested in diplomacy."
Clinton also was in Tokyo to promote a Japanese-language edition of his best-selling memoir "My Life." (search)
Listing a series of trouble spots from Iran to North Korea, Clinton said the need for diplomacy is greater than ever.
"If you look at the stress on our military, I think most people in the Bush administration would be thrilled if diplomacy works with Iran," he said.
The United States has accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons — a claim denied by Tehran. Bush said rumors that Washington planned military action against Iran were "simply ridiculous," but he quickly added that "all options are on the table" when it comes to dealing with Iran's nuclear threat.
Clinton also said the United States should be firm but fair with North Korea. The impoverished, isolated state, which declared earlier this month that it had nuclear weapons, is believed to be seeking concessions in return for returning to the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
"I think the six-party talks are good," said Clinton. "America should talk firmly and make it clear that we will be a part of helping them build a modern economy, but they can't have it both ways. We have to make a deal."
Clinton said North Korea's recent revelation that it has nuclear weapons was likely a sign that the reclusive communist state was prepared to negotiate. That claim has not been verified independently.
"The real problem is North Korea feels its only leverage is to threaten to do what it does best: make bombs and build missiles. It is the most curious, reclusive place in the world. They can grow bombs, but not rice," he said.
On China's emerging power, Clinton said it makes no sense for Washington to get into an arms race with Beijing.
"We will be far better off if our competitions with China are economic, athletic, cultural, scientific and not military," Clinton said. "We should have a strategic partnership that gives China every incentive to act responsibly."
Clinton will visit Singapore next week to meet the city-state's leaders and play golf.
Clinton and former President Bush were in Asia to tour tsunami-hit countries, including Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
"I followed the tsunami disaster in the international media," Clinton said. "But until I actually visited, I had no idea of how physically and emotionally devastating it was."