US Department of State Daily Briefing #24: Friday, 2/12/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:00 Noon, Washington, DC Date: Feb 12, 19912/12/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, Eurasia Country: USSR (former), Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, China, Iran, North Korea, Philippines Subject: Military Affairs, State Department, Human Rights, Democratization, Trade/Economics (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)


I have zero for you, so I'll be happy to take your first question. Q That's frank. A This should be one of our 10-minute candidate days, which are rare. Q There were two more sentences by a Chinese court of Tiananmen Square leaders -- very harsh sentences. Do you have a comment?

[Tiananmen Square Demonstrators Sentenced]

A As we did the other day concerning the sentences in China, we find these deeply troubling. And, as you know, we have tried to have embassy personnel present as observers. We have still been denied that -- we were in these cases. We have said that no prison sentence imposed for non-violent political activity can be considered lenient. Moreover, the speed of the verdicts, the limited opportunity afforded defendants to prepare a defense and the inability of independent observers to attend the trials inevitably raises questions of justice, fairness, and due process. Q Does the U.S. Government have any recourse or any plans to address these concerns to the Chinese? A The Chinese are very well aware of our concerns, Jim. As we have in the other cases, we have raised these concerns. They're aware of our desire to have observers at these trials, and so I think they know very well what our concerns are. I believe when Ambassador Schifter was in China in December, he raised this very issue with the officials he met with. Q Are there any plans for anymore talks between Assistant Secretary Schifter and Chinese officials, or is that a one-shot deal? A I don't know, Carol. I haven't asked. Let me ask. I don't know. I know he was there in December. I don't know if they're coming to see him. I'll ask for you. Q Is there any recourse? Is there anything that the United States could take away from the relationship with China that might underline that message? A If there is, Jim, I'm not aware that someone is pursuing that avenue. I'll be happy to ask for you. As you know, we still have sanctions in place from the Tiananmen Square episode. I'm not sure that there are additional things that the United States Government is looking at, but I do know that this is an issue that we have raised a number of times with the Chinese. They know how we feel about it. Q A few hours before -- Q Are we reinstating the ban on high-level exchanges for visits? A That's purely speculative for me to do. I've not heard anyone say that we are considering such a thing. I'll be happy to ask if there's some type of option paper that is possibly going forward from the Secretary of State. If there is, I'm unaware of it. Q A few hours before he was supposed to get on the airplane, Foreign Minister David Levy postponed his talks with Secretary Baker. Does that cause any problem here? Was there something Mr. Baker wanted to talk to him about that will have to be delayed now? A No. As you know, the Foreign Minister was coming here to the United States primarily on a private visit to Miami and since he was going to be in the United States, he had requested to fly up to D.C. and see the Secretary. Our Embassy this morning was notified that he was cancelling his visit, and I'd have to refer you to the Israeli government for the reasons, or to the Foreign Ministry. I don't have a reason for you. But I would just remind you that his original visit was a private visit to Miami. Q And could you tell us how Mr. Arens's visit with the Secretary came about? Did he request it or -- A He requested it on Sunday. His staff requested it of our staff. The Secretary was called at home by his staff and said, of course, he would see him, and he did. Q Would you care to offer any kind of a readout on that meeting? Did they discuss military matters, operational matters? Did they discuss political matters aid; anything of that sort? A Basically, the meeting lasted one hour. They began the meeting by saying it was very nice to see each other again. As you know, he was the former Foreign Minister. The Minister said to Secretary Baker that he had just had a very in-depth, detailed discussion with Secretary Cheney and that he and Baker agreed there was no reason to go into that level of detail. Plus, as you know, Secretary Baker attended the President's meeting with the Foreign Minister, so he had already seen him once that day. They had an overall discussion on the situation in Israel. The Secretary, once again, took the occasion to personally, face-to-face, tell the Defense Minister of America's -- and our government's -- deep appreciation of the situation that Israel is in and the response that they have taken. The Defense Minister expressed deep concern over the continuing Scud attacks on the Israeli civilian population. As a matter of fact, while he was meeting with Secretary Baker, the Ambassador and he were passed a note that the Scud attack that happened last night was taking place. As a matter of fact, it was in the Defense Minister's neighborhood, and he excused himself from the meeting and went and called his wife, and then we reconvened the meeting. As far as aid, I can say that he only discussed his specific portfolio. He explained to the Secretary of State that Israel has been maintaining a very high level of military preparedness and that that was obviously an expense to them and they would need help. Secretary Baker told him what he has told you all, that he has been seeking help for Israel from the EC and from others and that he will continue to seek that help. But I would characterize the discussion on aid: (1) it was very limited to just his portfolio, and it was discussed in a general way. There were no decisions that were taken and no conclusions were reached. Q Were any ballpark figures bandied about as to the extent of the readiness costs Israel has experienced? A Yes. Q Would you care to reveal those? A No, I wouldn't. Q When the Minister expressed his concern over the Scud attacks -- A Continuing Scud attacks. Q Continuing Scud attacks. Did he indicate that Israel might have to do something about it? A The Israeli government has always expressed their policy on this. I would refer you to any number of statements they have made, and he restated the policy in private as they have in public. Q Which was? A As you know, it is our policy that we recognize Israel as a sovereign nation and that it, a sovereign nation, has the right to make any decisions that any sovereign nation does. Having said that, you know that our policy is that we express on behalf of our Administration our deep appreciation for the restraint that Israel has shown. Q Margaret, when you refer to the Secretary speaking of seeking help from Europeans and others, did he mean it in a general sense or as help specifically for Israel? A Help specifically for Israel. As you know, we just had the President of the EC here. Secretary Baker asked him and has been talking to other allies about this very subject -- Israel. Q And to the extent that such subjects are divisible, would you say this was the kind of ground that normally would involve defense matters and that there was enough left about foreign policy to talk to Mr. Levy about? Or was it the same sort of material that the Secretary would discuss with the Foreign Minister? A As you know, they, just as in our Government, have very different portfolios. I'm very specific in saying that the Defense Minister specifically addressed himself to his portfolio. A Foreign Minister's portfolio, as you know, covers different ground and has different elements that make it up. Q You said the Defense Minister expressed himself with regard to his portfolio. Did Secretary Baker discuss with Minister Arens any questions of future Arab-Israeli negotiations of any sort? A No. Q Was there any discussion over the future of the Golan Heights? A Excuse me, Jan? Q Was there any discussion over the future of the Golan Heights? A No, there was not. Q Margaret, you previously said that the United States would give full consideration to an Israeli request for aid. Was there a request that you could describe as such, and has the United States given that full consideration? You only mentioned the EC. A As you know, the United States -- the Secretary has said this -- considers Israel a frontline state and the United States is trying, in its capacity to get others to contribute to Israeli needs. After all, they have been in a military state of preparedness. They have had damage that we all see every night on our TV screens, so they do have expenses. So that is what he has been trying to do. Q But he did not -- the Secretary did not open the door to additional U.S. aid; is that what you're saying? A I will only characterize it for you as: Decisions were not reached -- or conclusions. Q Was an Israeli request made? A A specific Israeli request? I don't know how to characterize this for you, other than to say that the Foreign Minister discussed with Secretary Baker, in some detail -- the Defense Minister, sorry -- the additional cost to the Israeli military for having kept their military in a high state of preparedness and alert for six months. I'm not going to get into specifics. It was, I'm sure, no different than what he has said to Secretary Cheney and what he has said to the President. Q You and the Secretary have both used the phrase repeatedly when asked about previous discussions -- again, using your word from today -- discussions between Israel and Secretary Eagleburger, for example, of Israel's need for additional funds. You've repeatedly used the phrase "no request has been made." A That's correct. Q Would you continue to use that same phrase today? A I have used the phrase that no formal Israeli government request has been made to our Government. After all, Ralph, the Defense Minister was here, as I've said a number of times this morning, discussing his specific portfolio -- his part of any particular request that the Israeli government may decide in the future to submit to our Government. There are other elements of an official Israeli government proposal, should they decide to make one, that this would be taken into account. This is one part of it. Q The Defense Minister made a comment as he left the Pentagon. When asked by reporters about Israel's desire to do something to eliminate the Iraqi missile threat, he said that "If arrangements could be made, we" -- meaning the Israelis -- "feel we have something to contribute." He commented that he feels Israel has a pretty good air force. Can you tell us whether he and the Secretary discussed that issue of Israel's contribution to removing the Iraqi missile threat? A In specifics, no. As I said, they had a general discussion of the situation in Israel. But further than that, I'm not going to go for you. Q Margaret, also on that visit, did the Secretary raise the Israeli attacks on Palestinian positions in southern Lebanon? A No. Q Margaret, Iran's Foreign Minister has said in a television interview, I believe it was, that Iran would not remain neutral if Israel directly entered the war. Did that subject come up at all in last night's discussions? A No. Q Israel aside, I think even as late as last week, you folks were describing Iran as neutral, usually with reference to those airplanes. But so far as their position is concerned, with everything you've heard from Tehran, would you still describe Iran as neutral? A I don't believe that I described them as neutral. I believe they have described themselves that way and we have referred to that. Q And we've said we found that description credible? A Throughout this Gulf crisis, they have supported and we believe maintained -- they've done this publicly -- 12 United Nations resolutions. They have said any number of times, privately and publicly over the last three weeks, that the Iraqi planes that are there and pilots will be kept there for the duration of the war. Q I mean the statements they've been making about U.S. behavior in the war. Do they sound like statements of a neutral country? A What statements are you referring to and whose? Q I'll get you any half dozen of them. They seem -- A Why don't you get me the specifics and who said it? Q Well, they seem to think the United States is unncessarily bombing civilians, for instance. They criticized the U.S. tactics. They describe themselves as neutral. You folks have said said, there's no reason to challenge it. A Their actions, Barry, have, I would think, supported -- they have supported, as you know, for six months the resolutions. Q The resolutions. A These airplanes and these pilots, they have said to us, through our third party and through others who have been there, privately the same things they're telling you publicly. Q Margaret, on a related subject. To revisit something we asked yesterday, can you tell us whether the U.S. in its receipt of a message from the Soviets on Saturday about the Primakov visit, whether the U.S. was asked by the Soviets to provide safe conduct, or was a request made to be sure that the coalition knows that Primakov's plane would be flying around Iraq? A I forgot to ask. I'll ask for you today. Q On the CBS crew, do you happen to have any information as to whether they're in Iraqi hands? A No, I don't. Q Have any of the details been worked out with the government of Iraq yet about its diplomatic presence here in Washington? A No. Q They haven't been completed, they haven't been dealt with at all, or -- A They haven't come back to us. As I said yesterday, the ball is in their court. They are the ones who need to come back to us. "Are they going to have an Interests Section or not? If so, with who? Do they want 4 diplomats to stay? Do they want 2 to stay?" We're waiting for information back from them. Q Has there been any contact between the U.S. and any individual Iraqi diplomat who are still in Washington? A Since Saturday when David Mack met with them? Q Yes. A Not to my knowledge, no. Q Who will represent the United States in Baghdad? A I don't know yet. I don't have an answer for you on that. Protecting power? There's not a decision on that. Q Is the United States concerned that North Korea may be funneling some kind of arms or spare parts to Iraq? A What I would say to you there is that North Korea has said throughout that they are abiding by the 12 United Nations resolutions. We would certainly hope, just like every other nation, that that is true. I would remind you that at our officials' level, we have now had 14 meetings between our officials and officials of the North Korean government. It is the policy of this Administration that we do not discuss the substance of any of those meetings. So I cannot address whether we have or have not raised the issue. Q Two follow-up questions: (1) Do you believe the North Koreans when they say they're abiding by the sanctions, and (2) when was the last of these meetings? A The last meeting was in Beijing on February 4. That was the 14th meeting. And, as I said, we expect North Korea to honor its commitment to abide by the sanctions. We would be very concerned about any action that would contribute to the destabilizing proliferation of missile parts or missiles to any part of the Middle East/Persian Gulf region, particularly at this time. Q That suggests to me that there may be some concern on the U.S. part. A Those are your words. I cannot tell you that we are concerned. I can tell you that we're aware of such allegations. I cannot discuss any substance at all of these meetings that are held -- that's standard policy -- and I can only tell you that they have stated publicly that they will abide by the U.N. resolutions. Q Margaret, does the United States have evidence to substantiate the allegation? A That's just another way, really, of kind of asking me what Carol just asked me. I cannot move this forward any further for you than as far as I've been able to take it. Q New area, Margaret. A Sure. Q CFE. There are some talks getting underway in Geneva on the troop level aspect of CFE, and my question is, how can those talks proceed, given the hangups on the armaments and what have you?

[CFE Negotiations to Resume February 14]

A Right. Consistent with decisions that were taken last December, the CFE IA negotiations will resume as scheduled on February 14. Soviet fulfillment of CFE Treaty obligations continues to be a problem, as you all know. They continue to claim, contrary to the provisions of Article III of the Treaty, that equipment held by naval infantry, coastal defense units and strategic rocket forces are excluded from treaty limits. Their data submission contains inaccuracies that have yet to be corrected, and we are still concerned about equipment movement east of the Urals prior to signature. We have made clear that we will not submit the Treaty to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification unless the Soviets have met their Article III obligations. Under these circumstances, we and our NATO allies agree that we cannot proceed with business as usual in CFE IA. We are currently consulting with our allies on the specific approach that we should take. So this meeting is going to take place on February 14. The two are obviously connected, but the first meeting of CFE IA, which you know has to do with manpower limits, will take place, and I can't tell you where they will go from there. Q So you're saying -- Q Can you tell us whether the U.S. and its NATO allies will be present at that meeting? A Yes. We'll be present. Q Well, isn't it -- Q You're going to be there, and isn't that business as usual? A We are going to attend the February 14 meeting as scheduled. We recognize that in CFE, as you know very well, there are outstanding problems that are being worked on right now. At that meeting, in consultation with our allies, they will all decide, Ralph, how to proceed. They could proceed not to proceed. I don't know. But they are definitely going to a February 14 meeting, as was mandated and decided in December, and at that time they will make decisions. Q I suppose it's an organizational meeting, but have I missed something? The Secretary last week said he didn't want to speak for the President, but he had recommended to him that he delay submitting the treaty for ratification. You spoke of "we" as if the U.S. Government has made that decision now -- to delay ratification -- is that correct? -- until the inaccurate -- until the disputes are cleared up. A You are correct in what Secretary of State Baker said. I don't have the latest thing, to be honest with you, Barry, for what the President has said. I'll check for you if the Secretary and the President have talked about it, and the President's made a decision. Q A decision. There's a U.S. decision. If I read you correctly on "we," you're speaking for the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government has decided the Treaty will not be submitted for ratification until these discrepancies are clarified. A I don't think there's much doubt about that, Barry, since you know the things that are discrepancies are a major problem for us. You brought it up to me yesterday and said, "Why didn't you spend more time on CFE?" The Secretary of State has spent time with the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union and is actively pursuing this. Q I was just trying to say there was a slight gap between him saying -- A I understand what you're saying. Q -- it was his recommendation, and you saying the U.S. has taken this decision. A And I just -- Q So I guess you've closed the gap. It's a U.S. decision. A I have just said that I am -- I understand very well, your point is well taken. I am only speaking for the Secretary of State. I just said to you, "I do not know, since his testimony last week, if the Secretary of State has discussed this with the President, and that the President has made a decision." Though I understand your point -- that we said something one word different today from what the Secretary said. I'm granting you your point. I acknowledge it. I said I will look into it. I will find out if the President has made a decision. Q Margaret, you said just a moment ago -- Q Check it out. A I'll check it out. Q You said just a moment ago that -- something along the lines that we agree with our allies that we cannot proceed with business as usual. What do you mean by that? A Come on you all. (Laughter) I have acknowledged three times now, I think, there are problems in CFE. I've just stated what they are, and you are very, very familiar with them. I have said that we are going to a meeting on February 14 -- CFE IA. I have said, "I do not know what decisions we and our allies will make at that particular meeting on how to proceed on CFE IA, because we know we have these outstanding, serious problems in CFE." That's all I'm saying. Q But this phrase here has nothing behind it. It doesn't mean anything unless you say -- A Well, I guess the way I could say it then, so maybe you'd understand it, is to say, "Yes, we're going to a meeting on February 14, and we are oblivious to any problems whatsoever in CFE, and we're going to go right at CFE I, as if CFE is all put to bed." So that is not what I'm saying. I'm saying the complete opposite. It's obvious what I'm saying. Q If what you mean is that the United States and its allies have made a decision that there cannot be business as usual -- I think that's what you said. It sounds to me like that's what you said. If you -- by all means re-read the language. Maybe I missed that. A I have said that, and I've said it when I'm explaining it to you. All I've told you, the first question came to me -- who was it? You asked me. "What are you doing about a CFE IA meeting that is coming up?" I've told you all, we're going to the meeting. I have told you that we recognize there are problems in CFE. Thus, that probably impacts on what we are going to be doing in CFE IA, but I can't prejudge for you -- today is February 12 -- 48 hours in advance what, if anything, we or the allies will decide to do in CFE IA. I don't know how to make this any clearer. Q I'm not asking you to prejudge anything. You did make a statement as if the U.S. and its allies have made a decision -- A And I said that now four times. Four times. We acknowledge, Ralph, that it is not normal. How many different ways do I have to say this: We acknowledge that. Q You know, it's baffling, and it's not your fault necessarily, but, hey, look, we have a problem here. A Well, I don't. Q The Secretary says, "START is in trouble, because CFE isn't cleared up." You've got about six days -- five days to clear up CFE, and the State Department through you -- Canada announced not only you're proceeding with CFE I, but you haven't even announced any forum for clearing up these problems which Reggie [Bartholomew] was unable to get to or, you know, get cleared up last week. So we're baffled for good reasons. There's not a lot of sense here. A You're not baffled at all. I said yesterday that this Administration, as you know very well, is working on CFE. They are. This is something the Secretary of State, who is at a different level than the Under Secretary and the Deputies, personally was working on this with the Foreign Minister when he was here. That is at the highest level in this Department concerned about CFE. Carol asked yesterday about February 17 and what would happen on that date. I have found out for you this morning that there is nothing to prevent parties from agreeing by consensus to accept data corrections submitted after that date. So you're absolutely correct -- February 17 was the 90-day period that was granted to try to clear up any discrepancies, but it also is my understanding from Reggie this morning that that date can be passed, and you can continue working on clearing up the discrepancies. Q Last week your two statements about Japan -- A Correct. Q Yes. It's still controversial in Japan. Before your statement, Prime Minister Kaifu was [in a] very critical position. After your statement, Prime Minister Kaifu could survive politically, so it's still controversial. And so your name is very famous in Japan. (Laughter) So I have to ask you every day, the first question is I asked you yesterday the meaning of the "transportation." The second question is, do you have any intention to help Mr. Kaifu by your statement? A I answered this question for you -- I think it was at the end of last week -- and said that the United States and our officials make our decisions in our government based on what we think is best for our government. Your question came to me a little differently at the end of last week. "Had we discussed this previously with Japanese officials?" Had I told you, "That's not how we make our government decisions. The United States' officials dealt with United States' officials and made this decision." You did ask me yesterday for a definition of "transportation" under "logistics." I don't have one for you. I'll check for you. I just, to be honest with you, forgot. Q Margaret, could I ask a question about the Philippines? There are base negotiations going on -- A Correct. Q -- now and some apparently back-and-forth on how much money should change hands, and what have you. Do you have any readout on where we are on those? A I don't have a very lengthy one. As you know, our negotiator did one yesterday there in the Philippines. This is the fifth round of talks. They began, it's my understanding, on February 11 in Manila. Discussions are focusing on technical issues pertaining to the bases, including a status of force agreement as well as the duration of a new agreement. Compensation is also being discussed. My understanding is that the negotiating sessions are expected to continue throughout the end of this week. Q Margaret, the U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss the Gulf. A Right. Q Does the U.S. have a position, (a) on whether the meeting should take place, and (b) on whether it should be open or closed? A I don't know what the instructions are, to be honest with you, on open or closed, or what the feeling is at the Council or what they're discussing. As far as the meeting taking place, the United States doesn't have any problem with it. They meet all the time. Q Margaret, have there been any other third-party communications with Iran lately either on their peace initiative or any other thing to do with the Gulf crisis? A I haven't asked in a number of days, Betsy, because, as you know, it's not only our policy but previous Administration's policies that we do not like to say how often, and we certainly, as you know, do not talk about the substance. They just like to refrain from giving the number. But I can tell you, to my knowledge to date, we do not have -- if you're speaking of President Rafsanjani -- I've seen it described by the Iranians as an "idea," as a "proposal," as "six points," "seven points" -- we have not seen that. No. Q You have had reporting through other countries, though, haven't you? A Almost every person -- this is off the top of my head, so don't hold me to this statement -- that has been in Tehran that I can think of real quickly, definitely we have readouts on their meetings there. Q You said before that no decision had been taken on the United States' side, vis-a-vis third-party representation with Iraq. Could you be more specific on the decision? Is that a decision whether to have third-party representation or a decision about who would be the third-party representative? A I think it's a little of both, Jan. My understanding is this falls into what's called "protecting power" in a nation when we're not there, and I just do not have -- I know the decisions have not been made, and I don't have the legal backup for you of what goes into these things routinely. Q One on Central America: The Chairman of the Panamanian Legislative Committee, which apparently oversees the Panama Canal from the Panamanian government side, the other day made a speech in which he essentially said, you know, "Why are we, the Panamanians, adopting the cost of running the Canal? Its operation is degrading, and we don't have the funds to keep it up. Why shouldn't we renegotiate with the United States and get the U.S. to continue running the Canal?" Has there been any discussion of reverting to the previous -- A I have no idea, Ralph. This is something that I have not been exposed to, probably since last year, so, I mean, I just have to check it out for you. I don't know. Q Thank you. Q Do you have anything on the cholera epidemic in Peru? A Cholera? Where is it? Q In Peru. (Laughter) A No, I don't. Sorry. (The briefing concluded at 12:30 p.m.) (###)