US Department of State Daily Briefing #57: Thursday, 4/8/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:38 PM, Washington, DC Date: Apr 8, 19914/8/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa Country: Iraq, Kuwait, China, North Korea, Turkey, Iran, Cambodia Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, Arms Control, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Human Rights, POW/MIA Issues, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to start off with a brief announcement about a meeting with the Vietnamese in New York which will be held tomorrow.

[US-Vietnam Officials to Discuss Cambodia and POWs]

Assistant Secretary of State Richard H. Solomon will meet with the Vietnamese Permanent Representative to the United Nations tomorrow, April 9, in New York. This will be the fifth meeting between Vietnamese and American officials on Cambodia since Secretary Baker's announcement last summer that the United States would talk directly with Vietnam on the subject. This meeting will be aimed at encouraging an early political solution to the conflict in Cambodia and a rapid acceleration of progress on resolving the POW/MIA issue. As we have stated repeatedly, normalization of our relations with Vietnam can only occur in the context of a Cambodia settlement, and the pace and scope of normalization will be directly affected by the seriousness of Vietnam's cooperation on the POW/MIA and other humanitarian issues, including the Orderly Departure Program and the release of all present or former re-education detainees who are eligible for it. With that, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything on aid to the Cambodian rebels? As I understand it, they're complaining that they've been cut off. Do you have anything there on aid? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, I'm afraid. Q What specifically is Mr. Solomon going to talk about? Can you be more direct? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't. They'll be talking about the political solution to the conflict in Cambodia and seeing if we can accelerate an early political solution there. Q Bolton won't take part in this one? MR. BOUCHER: Bolton is with the Secretary in Turkey, or has been, so he won't be there. Q The agenda will be limited to Cambodia? MR. BOUCHER: No. As I said, it's both Cambodia and encouraging an acceleration of progress on the POW/MIA issue as well. Q Richard, why are you saying MIA/POW issue? Do we think there are POWs? MR. BOUCHER: Until the exact status of people is clarified, we carry a number of people as MIAs and POWs, potentially. These are people whose exact status we need to clarify and that's what this process is about. Whenever we receive reports of potentially live Americans there, we always follow up on them. I think the Defense Department can give you some more information on what we've done in the past. But I think it's basically a question of following up on any reports, following up on the existing information that we have, and clarifying the status of people. Q When was the last meeting between high-level officials? MR. BOUCHER: Previous meetings we've had on this: It started off at the Ken Quinn level, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. He met with the Vietnamese Permanent Representative to the U.N. on August 6 and August 30, 1990. Assistant Secretary Solomon met the Vice Foreign Minister on September 20; and then, as you remember, Secretary Baker met with the Foreign Minister on September 29. This is number five. Q As far as the U.S. Government knows, is fighting still continuing in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: In Iraq? Q In Iraq.

[Iraq: Civil Strife Update]

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Fighting continues in northern Iraq between government forces and dissidents. Sulaymaniyah remains in government hands but there was heavy fighting east of the city over the weekend, and we believe that there has been unrest inside the city itself. The government continues to send additional re-enforcements to the north. Meanwhile, large numbers of Kurdish refugees continue to approach Iraq's borders with Turkey and Iran. Q Richard, yesterday, various senior Administration officials on interview shows and otherwise were talking about the idea of creating possible United Nations buffer zones with the refugees and the fighting there. Could you elaborate any on what you have in mind? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I really can at this point, John. I think you're aware of the fact that U.S. forces in southern Iraq have been taking care of the refugees who are there. That is an area where the U.N. Observer Force will deploy. We have been in discussions with various U.N. agencies about taking over the task of caring for these people once U.S. forces depart. Q But the U.N. Observer Force will be in size far, far smaller than the number of American troops there. It's mandate is very, very strictly limited under both the resolution and the Secretary General's recommendation. It also has a mandate to operate only -- what is it? -- about five miles inside Iraq. MR. BOUCHER: It's ten kilometers. It's not the same thing as the U.S. presence, and that is why this is an issue that has been of concern to us. It's an issue that we have been discussing very carefully at the United Nations with other countries and very carefully with the international organizations which we are encouraging to take over from U.S. forces once we depart. I just don't have anymore definitive statements to describe how it will work at this point. Q Do you envision the possibility of another resolution? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'm not aware of any proposals for another resolution. Q Richard, the United States has gone into an emergency mode concerning refugees on the Turkish border. Apparently, Iran is claiming that there are far more on its border. Is the United States planning any sort of airlift there? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any plans for that, Carol. Q Why the dichotomy? If people are in need on one side, why not the other side? MR. BOUCHER: It's our strong interest in taking care of people in need. Last week, when we talked about this, we described how U.S. contributions to the international organizations that are working on this are used to support their efforts wherever people need the assistance. The situations are somewhat different in either place. We are supporting the work of -- we're doing what we can and we're supporting the work of international organizations. They will be assisting people in Iran as well as in Turkey. Q But it seems that the main difference is that we're friends with Turkey and not friends with Iran. So if you're unlucky enough to be a refugee who sort of wanders on the wrong side, you're not going to be assisted. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I would not draw that conclusion at this point. There is strong international support for this overall refugee effort. We are talking very closely and carefully with the U.N. organizations involved. I think you're aware of the fact John Bolton was in Geneva last Friday. This is a multinational effort of which the U.S. is playing its part. It's playing a strong part, and we will continue to do so. Q Why no airlifts, though? You haven't answered the question, with all due respect. Why no airlifts there near Iran? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think the needs are best addressed with international organizations, directly by us with the countries involved where we have a bilateral relationship such as the one we have with Turkey. In as far as the situations differ, the way the international community addresses those situations will be different. I can't explain why we don't do everything that you might think we should do everywhere in the world at any given moment. The fact is that the needs of people, wherever they are, are being addressed, and we will continue to work and to address those. Pat. Q There are reports that Israel plans to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners tomorrow, timed with the Baker visit. Do you have any reaction to that? MR. BOUCHER: Just that the Secretary is due to touch down in Israel in about an hour and a half, and I'm not going to touch issues related to Israel today. Chris.

[Iraq: Refugee Estimate]

Q Richard, do you have a better handle on the numbers of refugees on the Turkish and Iranian borders? Also, what is the status of the Iranian border? What is your understanding of that? Is it now closed? MR. BOUCHER: That's not a question I asked this morning, but I thought I saw statements by Iranians over the weekend that the border is open. I don't have real good numbers for you, frankly. We put out, I think, on Saturday the most recent information -- that is, as of late Thursday or Friday, really, the information came to us. Then we put out on Saturday the information at that time on the numbers of refugees. In general, we understand that the international organizations and the Turkish officials are estimating about 250,000 refugees have entered Turkey, and say that similar numbers are on the border or moving towards the border. In Iran, Iranian government officials report that more than 500,000 refugees have entered the country and that hundreds of thousands are near the Iranian-Iraqi border seeking some sort of assistance. But perhaps, especially during the visit to Turkey, those travelling with the Secretary, and the Secretary himself, were able to get better numbers that I just don't have for you. Q Are you able to verify that this number is rising dramatically? There are reports that because of more fighting the numbers are increasing greatly? MR. BOUCHER: Well, the numbers have increased. If you look back at what we had in the middle of last week and then late last week and now these numbers here. All the numbers do remain estimates. But I think I also told you on the update on the situation there that we know from various sources that there are large numbers of people that are believed to be heading towards the border. Q Richard, does the United States have a position on the rights of Kurds as Kurds, like we talk about Palestinian rights, or things like this? Is there a position about what rights, if any, people have by virtue of their Kurdish nationality? MR. BOUCHER: Yes, there is, and I don't remember it. Also, let me get it for you after the briefing. Q Also on the Kurds, a Kurdish group held a news conference this morning, saying that their uprising and the uprising of the Shi'ites in the south was in response to broadcasts coming from a clandestine radio station, apparently in Saudi Arabia. They claim that the United States had some connection with that radio station. Did it? MR. BOUCHER: This was reported last week by one of the news organizations. I didn't have any comment at that time, nor did Margaret, nor do I have any comment today. It's an allegation involving intelligence, and I'm not going to touch it. Q Does the U.S. Government take any responsibility for statements fomenting an uprising? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, that general question has been addressed to the President and the Secretary many, many times, and I'll stick with their responses.

[Kuwait: Announcement of Elections]

Q Do you have any comment on the first statement made by the Amir of Kuwait with regard to general elections next year and other parts of it? MR. BOUCHER: Certainly. We welcome the Amir's commitment to restore parliament and to expand political participation in Kuwait. It is noteworthy that the Amir specifically reaffirmed the platform of the October 1990 Jeddah conference of Kuwaiti citizens which pledged a return to the 1962 constitution. I would also note that as in Jeddah, the Amir made special mention of the greater role which women have been playing in Kuwaiti political life. Q A follow-up: Do you have any comment on the opposition's notice that it's a long time before getting elections, that it's delayed unnecessarily? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen precise comments like that. I know that as far as the question of the date goes, the Amir did not set a specific date. But the Amir and other officials have repeatedly committed themselves, both publicly and privately, to having elections and to reopening the parliament, and we have no reason to doubt that commitment. Q Richard, back on the Kurds for a moment. Also at this news conference the Kurd representatives say that they're able to handle the ground forces, but why they are being driven out is because of these helicopter gunships. And they say that the United States bears some moral responsibility for permitting them to continue to fly. And then they go on to say that the United States should accord the Kurdish guerrillas the same rights of self-defense that were given to the Afghan guerrillas -- a reference to surface-to-air missiles. Have the Kurds that the State Department has talked to made such a request? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any such request, Jim. Q Could you look into it? MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into it and make sure. Q A follow on the helicopters, Richard. If the Iraqi acceptance of the U.N. resolution of last week is accepted and the ceasefire goes into effect under the auspices of the resolution, does that negate the conditions of the de facto ceasefire that the United States has with them, including our threat to shoot down airplanes and helicopters? MR. BOUCHER: John, I don't think I know the precise answer to that, and I know the easiest answer is to say it's a hypothetical since you started your question with "if." But let me make two observations on it. I think it's been made clear by our spokesmen, first of all, that we will do what it takes to defend our forces. Second of all, the President's statement of last Friday on the provision -- the air drops provision of assistance to Iraqis inside Iraq -- made very clear that we expect the Government of Iraq to permit that effort to be carried out without any inference, and that that message was delivered on Saturday to various Iraqi representatives, both here and at the United Nations. Q Richard, the President made a kind of hint to Lebanon, talking about the trip of Secretary Baker to the Middle East. Is there any share to Lebanon in his interests in the Middle East now or if he is going to meet any of the Lebanese officials? MR. BOUCHER: I guess that's a question that's best answered by the party. The President's made clear our interest in Lebanon. We have our Embassy back there now. We've had close contacts with the Lebanese government. The Secretary did have a meeting with a Lebanese -- I forget who it was -- the Foreign Minister, last trip. But I think that if there's anything specific in this trip, that has to be answered by the party. Q Richard, if we could move to Romania: President Iliescu has been saying that Romania is finding it difficult to get credit from international financial organizations, because the Americans disapprove of him and his ties to the Communist Party. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those comments. I don't have anything on it. Q Can you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into it.

[United Nations: US Studying WHO Abortion Pill Policy]

Q Do you have anything on the story about U.S. funds being used by the World Health Organization for abortion? MR. BOUCHER: We sent a letter -- Assistant Secretary John Bolton sent a letter to the World Health Organization several weeks ago, requesting information on World Health Organization programs relating to the abortion pill, RU-486. We have now received a data-FAX copy of the letter from the World Health Organization's Director General. We have not yet received the original copy of that letter. We are currently studying the reply, and we have no further comment at this point. Q On a policy matter, though, is it against U.S. policy to promote this pill? MR. BOUCHER: Let me double check that. I think at this point we're looking for information. I'm not sure we've taken a policy position. Q You're not commenting, because you haven't received the original? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not commenting, because we're still studying the FAX version.

[China: US Concern About Weapons Proliferation]

Q Does the United States have any information that China may be selling ballistic missiles to Pakistan? MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I have to say that I can't comment on the specifics of matters that are related to intelligence. But let me state the policy on this. The United States is firmly committed to combatting the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as the missiles that can deliver such weapons. We have expressed that commitment firmly and repeatedly to China through continuing contacts and diplomatic channels, including through high-level contacts with Chinese officials. The Chinese have stated that they will not export intermediate-range ballistic missiles to the Middle East and will act "prudently and responsibly" -- that's in quotes -- with respect to missile exports worldwide. We expect the Chinese to live up to these commitments, and we will continue to make our views clear to them at senior levels on this subject. Q You're including Pakistan in the Middle East? MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to ask the Chinese, but, as I said, they've made two statements -- one about the export of intermediate-range missiles to the Middle East -- and they have said in general that they will act "prudently and responsibly" worldwide. Q When was the statement with regard to the Middle East made by the Chinese? MR. BOUCHER: I think they've made it on several occasions over the past several years. Q The most recent one, do you know? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure. But we have had a continuing and ongoing dialogue with the Chinese on the subject of proliferation, including missile proliferation. This is something that we raise constantly in our conversations with the Chinese.

[North Korea: Report on Developing Nuclear Capability]

Q Richard, what about the North Koreans, when it comes to proliferation of missiles to the Middle East? They are active in this regard. MR. BOUCHER: And certainly we feel very strongly about the issue of proliferation. It's something that we have cooperated with a lot of countries on in the Missile Technology Control Regime. It's something that we raise in our contacts. Of course, you know that we don't have relations with North Korea. Q Same country: There was a story in the Times yesterday about North Korea developing a nuclear capability. Do you have any response to that? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't think I can comment on the specifics, but this has been an issue of concern to the United States and other members of the international community. I think we've always stressed the importance of full North Korean adherence to the IAEA safeguards regimes. Q Is it true that they are not adhering to those safeguards, even though they're signatories? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check exactly on the status of that. When I last left it, they had indicated a willingness to comply but hadn't actually concluded the agreements. Q Do you have anything more on helicopters attacking unarmed refugees along the border? You mentioned that at the end of last week. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific new reports of that. I do know that overall levels of Iraqi helicopter activity appeared to have fallen off during the past two days and that during that period we've noted no fixed-wing aircraft activity. Q Back on Vietnam, you mentioned recent U.S.-Vietnamese contacts, and you omitted the Secretary's meeting with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister last October. MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't. Q You did include it? MR. BOUCHER: I said, "Secretary Baker and Foreign Minister Thach on September 29." Q But there was a meeting here in October. MR. BOUCHER: In October? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: Let me double check that. O.K. Q All right? MR. BOUCHER: Let me double check. Yes. I think your memory may be better than mine. Q Can you give us a little status report on our beloved U.S. Embassy in Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: No. Not precisely today. I don't think the situation has changed appreciably since last week when we last talked about it. Q I'm sorry. Are emergency services or visa services being improved, or are they open, available? What's the -- MR. BOUCHER: Let me double check on that. We'll have to see. Q Do you know that the Secretary made some comments? He arrived in Israel already. Did he make any statements about the Israeli release or -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he did arrive in Israel already. I talked to the airplane about 45 minutes ago, and he was in the airplane. In fact, they all were. Q You can't make any statements at all? MR. BOUCHER: No. He did a briefing on the airplane. We expect we'll get the transcript of that when he arrives in Israel. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:59 p.m.)