US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #94, Thursday, 6/6/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:37 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 6, 19916/6/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Mauritius, USSR (former), Pakistan, Vietnam, North Korea Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Arms Control, Trade/Economics, POW/MIA Issues, Military Affairs, Democratization, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Mideast Peace Process (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[Announcement: Press Briefing Canceled]

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. One announcement today. As you know, tomorrow Secretary Baker will hold a press conference in Copenhagen at the conclusion of the NAC ministerial. It's scheduled for 1:15 p.m. local time -- that's 7:15 a.m. our time. And as is our usual practice when Secretary Baker briefs, we will not have a daily press briefing here on Friday -- tomorrow. So go out to lunch. Q And after that, where does the Secretary go? MR. BOUCHER: To Geneva to meet with Bessmertnykh, as he has already said. Q There's been a lot said over the last 24 hours about the prospects for a Middle East peace conference. The Israeli Foreign Minister suggests it's a good possibility. Do you have any observations on that? MR. BOUCHER: Not extensive observations at this point. Clearly, any statement which talks about the pursuit of negotiations is welcome. We agreed that the peace process should start as soon as possible. That has been the objective of all our efforts, and, as you know, the Secretary has made very intensive efforts for the last several months. Other than that, I really don't have any specific comment on these various statements. Q Do you know if there's been a reply to the letters that the President sent out late last week? MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you'll just have to ask at the White House. Q There wasn't a White House briefing today is my understanding. MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure they're prepared to answer the question if you ask it over there. I mean, I assume that they're prepared. Let's put it that way.

[Vietnam: Closing of US POW/MIA Office]

Q Richard, what is the state of play on the U.S. Liaison Office in Hanoi? MR. BOUCHER: I think Pete Williams has explained that to some extent already at the Pentagon, but let me give you what I know and then refer you for anything else to the Pentagon. The office there is being set up pursuant to an agreement made by General Vessey and Foreign Minister Thach during General Vessey's visit to Vietnam in April. Defense Department personnel began setting up a temporary office in Hanoi last month. We understand the Vietnamese have suggested closing the office until after the Party Congress, which is scheduled for June 24-27. They made this suggestion, and we have complied. For further information, I'd have to refer you to the Department of Defense. I believe Pete said that they would expect to go back in. The Vietnamese asked us to close the office until the beginning of July, I think it was. Q Did they say why? MR. BOUCHER: As I understand it, the explanation was, "We're going to be very busy with our Party conference and won't be able to work with you." Leave it to them to explain. Q Do you accept that? MR. BOUCHER: I think our interest in MIA issues and pursuing them is well evident, particularly by the setting up of this office. But, as I said, they ask that we close the office during the Party Congress, and we complied.

[North Korea: MIA Affairs]

Q Also on MIA affairs, has the United States had any indication from the North Koreans that they are prepared to turn over the remains of any Korean POWs? MR. BOUCHER: I guess I saw a wire this morning about it. I didn't have time to check. I'll have to check if there are any further turnovers. You know this has taken place at least once already in my memory. Q This could well be another question that prompts you to refer me to the White House, but do you have any response to the British proposals that Gorbachev meet with the G-7 leaders after the G-7 summit? MR. BOUCHER: I will refer you to the White House, Mark, on that one. The Secretary addressed this to some extent also, and I'll give you a transcript of his remarks. But I haven't actually seen an official British spokesman on this yet either. We'll have to see. I think Marlin said yesterday that the President had talked to John Major and would leave it to the British to announce what the plans might be.

[Lebanon: US Weapons Used in Air Raids]

Q Richard, has the Department had a chance to look into the thing that we were discussing yesterday, whether the use of American-supplied aircraft by Israel in southern Lebanon is permissible under the terms of the Export Arms Control Act? MR. BOUCHER: To some extent. My understanding of the law is that U.S. defense articles furnished to Israel under the foreign military sales program are governed by the Arms Export Control Act. Under that Act, Israel is required to use such articles for internal security, for legitimate self-defense, to permit it to participate in regional or collective measures consistent with the U.N. Charter, or otherwise to permit it to participate in certain collective measures requested by the United Nations. We have expressed our concerns about the cycle of violence in Lebanon. We have discussed these particular raids with the Israelis. We are urging restraint, and we're strongly supporting the efforts of the Lebanese Government to resolve security concerns on all sides by full implementation of the Taif Accords. Q That doesn't answer the question. Q Well, that's fine, but it doesn't answer the question, which is: Was the use of such American weapons permissible, justifiable, under the terms of the law as the United States Government sees it? MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is that I don't have a legal answer for you at this point. The legal question is one that I don't have an answer for. It's a matter of the terms of the law; it's something we keep in mind as we explore these issues. I said we've been discussing them with the Israeli Government. We've been following the situation very, very closely, and it's just something that's always there. It's always kept in mind. Q Richard, are you reviewing the export control law as a result of the recent incursions into Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I could go quite that far. I'll stick with what I said -- that this is the legal framework. It's something we keep in mind. It's something that is part of the framework in which we investigate and look at these things. And I think I've described to you over the last several days the discussions we're having, the attitudes we've had, in terms of finding out information on this, looking at the information that we have and dealing with it in a policy sense. Q Richard, you noted yesterday that these are not the first Israeli air raids. It's a pattern that's been going on for years. I think Israel has averaged 20 or 30 a year for a number of years now in Lebanon. Wouldn't it have already been established whether these U.S.-provided weapons are being used in accordance with U.S. policy guidelines? MR. BOUCHER: It's a question that has come up before. People said they had some history going back to 1979 of this question having been looked at. I don't remember the entire history of when determinations might have been made or not. At this point, we're dealing with it in connection with some specific raids that we've been following, that we've been asked about, and that we're looking at in terms of a policy issue that we're exploring right now. Q What does that mean, "that you're exploring"? Are your lawyers looking at it, or -- MR. BOUCHER: I said in terms of the policy issues that we're exploring right now, and that means the kind of thing that we've been discussing with the Israelis, that I've discussed here over the past several days and Margaret has discussed. The issue right now is the issue of the cycle of violence, the violence that's taking place, the restraint that we've urged on parties and the desire to see that the security concerns on all sides are taken care of by the implementation of the -- Q It sounds like you're saying the law is irrelevant? MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying the law is irrelevant, George. I said the law was clearly something we had in mind. It's part of the context that we have to look at these events in. But I don't have a legalistic sort of determination for you today.

[Algeria: Civil Unrest Update]

Q What's new in Algeria? Anything new on that? MR. BOUCHER: The situation in Algiers appears quiet although troops remain in the city and a curfew has been established. Former Foreign Minister Ghozali has been named Prime Minister. Last night, the Algerian Government published implementing decrees explaining the state of seige. The army has been given extensive power to control meetings and marches and has also been given the authority to enforce the curfew. We continue to urge all parties to show restraint in the coming days. We hope that conditions for holding elections will be rapidly restored. There has been no injury to U.S. citizens and no damage to U.S. property. As of yesterday, all U.S. citizens have been contacted by the Embassy, and they are safe. Q Anything on the Pakistani proposition of nuclear disarmament in South Asia? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen anything new on that. I think that's an issue we have addressed in the past, but I hadn't seen anything new. Q The Prime Minister made the proposition this morning saying he would ask the United States, the Soviet Union, and China to hold a meeting regarding it. Do you think they would be ready not to work anymore on nuclear weapons if India would do the same? MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on that and see what I can get for you. Q Do you have anything on the Secretary's suggestion of last Saturday that the START negotiations would intensify? MR. BOUCHER: I think it's best just to refer you specifically to the Secretary when he talked about his meeting with Bessmertnykh. He said they would talk about next steps with respect to the strategic arms negotiations. He said that it's time to intensify our efforts to conclude the strategic arms treaty; and he said that they would talk about the prospects for concluding a strategic arms treaty, what it looks like, and how we might go about intensifying the discussions on the strategic arms agreement. Q These are remarks he made today? MR. BOUCHER: Remarks he made today. I think we have the transcript for you. Q Do you have anything on a call by the Mauritius Prime Minister for the United States to use its influence with Britain for the return of Diego Garcia? MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm afraid I don't have anything on that. Q Do you know, Richard, if any new instructions have gone out to the arms negotiators? MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary discussed that as well. I think the best thing is just to get you the transcript of what the Secretary said. The next event that I'm aware of on START is going to be the Secretary's meeting with Bessmertnykh, and we'll see what that produces in terms of new departures. Q An official on his plane said, as I recall, that the instructions had not gone out as of when he left yesterday. My question was, are you aware of anything since yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: I think, with START, since the Secretary does have a meeting planned with Bessmertnykh, and he spoke about what he intends to do at that meeting, it's best for me just to leave it to him to do that. I'm sure after that meeting, in some way, he'll be prepared to tell you what his next steps are. Q Does the Secretary plan to return to Washington after his meeting in Geneva? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a new schedule from the party. The only change to the schedule that I'm aware of is the meeting in Geneva. Q Richard, can we go back to Algeria for a second on a slightly separate note? There is some understanding, a vague understanding that Algeria has agreed to, at least, visitations by the IAEA regarding ballistic missiles -- possibly ballistic missile sales from China. Do you know if Algeria has, in fact, welcomed a delegation from the agency for review of their -- MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the IAEA deals with nuclear matters. I think you're talking about the Algerian reactor. My understanding is that both the Chinese and the Algerians have stated publicly that the reactor is for peaceful uses and that IAEA safeguards will be applied to the reactor. Q Have they invited the agency, or have they complied with a request for a visit? MR. BOUCHER: I don't personally know at this point. I think they both stated very clearly in public that the safeguards will be applied. As for how the applications stands between them and the IAEA, I think you best ask the parties involved. Q Richard, going back to the suspension of the Hanoi office, the liaison office, or whatever you call it, is there any suggestion that the Vietnamese are now beginning to drag their feet on the MIA issue? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, Jim. Q You think this is just a technical hitch? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm in a position to try to explain exactly why the Vietnamese came to us and why they asked us to do this. As I said, our interest in pursuing this issue is strong and avid in setting up the office there. As a practical matter, if they say they're all going to be busy and we won't be able to meet with them, there's little we can do about meeting with them during that time period. So I think our interest is strong. Their willingness to establish the office, the indication that they want people to come back after the Party Congress, I think we just have to take it at face value and expect that we can continue working with them on this. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:51 p.m.)