US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #99, Monday, 6/17/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:17 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 17, 19916/17/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia, E/C Europe, Europe, Polar Regions Country: Iraq, Kuwait, South Africa, India, South Korea, Philippines, China, Vietnam, Iran, Romania, Yugoslavia (former), Syria, Antarctica Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Human Rights, Trade/Economics, Travel, Military Affairs, Science/Technology, Environment, Arms Control, International Law, Immigration, Nuclear Nonproliferation (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements or statements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q No questions either. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: All right. Anybody want to have lunch?

[South Africa: Population Registration Act Repealed]

Q Do you have a reaction to the repeal of the Population Registration Act in South Africa? MR. BOUCHER: This is a historic moment for South Africa. With the repeal of the Population Registration Act, an important "pillar of apartheid" has been eliminated. We welcome this positive development which should encourage all South Africans to move speedily into the process of negotiation on the country's political future.

[South Africa: Sanctions]

Q How many of the five conditions under the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act have now been fulfilled, in the view of the United States? MR. BOUCHER: This will make four out of five. By repealing the Population Registration Act and earlier this month the Group Areas Act -- that comes into effect June 30, the repeal does -- the South African Government has met four of the five requirements for the termination of sanctions under the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. Section 311(A)(4) of the act requires the government to repeal the Group Areas Act and Population Registration Act and institute "no other measures with the same purposes." We have reviewed the repeal legislation, and we have concluded that it does not institute such measures.

[South Africa: Political Prisoners]

The only condition remaining to be met is the release of all persons persecuted for their political beliefs or detained unduly without trial. This is a process which is still underway. The South African Government has released over 1,000 prisoners so far, and the U.S. Embassy in South Africa will follow developments closely to determine if, in fact, all prisoners of conscience have been released. Q Do you have a list of how many more you expect need to be released? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Do you have any idea how many are left? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have any numbers. We're relying primarily on our Embassy to follow the situation and report back to us, to make such determinations as they can about this. Obviously, they're going to be in touch with various parties in South Africa, and then we'll come to our own conclusion. Q But does this government have already an idea of how many people, who they are, and what their number is? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have any precise numbers for you, Bill. Q You may not, but do you believe that this government does? MR. BOUCHER: I'll check and see if we do have some precise numbers. As I said, we'll be in touch with the various parties out there. We'll be following the continued progress of these prisoner releases as they proceed. We'll want to make our own determination. Q There may be, in fact, no political prisoners left, is that right? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we think the process is one that's still continuing, but I said the Embassy will follow developments and determine if, in fact, all prisoners of conscience have been released. Q Is there the possibility that some prisoners fall into a gray area? In other words, there's some ambiguity as to whether they're political prisoners or non-political prisoners. MR. BOUCHER: We've discussed this before, and I think that that is generally true, and we expect various parties will have various opinions about this, and that's one reason why I said that we've asked our Embassy to follow the situation to help us make the determination that we have to make. Q Has the South African Government made a pledge to release all prisoners of conscience? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know precisely what they've stated. I think they've generally stated that they will, but I'm not sure how they stated it. Q Richard, several weeks ago didn't the South African Government fail to meet a self-imposed deadline for releasing all the political prisoners, and what is the status of that as you understand it now? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's something I think you would really have to ask them. As I understand it, yes, there was some sort of deadline that was not precisely met, but we said at the time that the process was continuing. And I think they said at the time that they would continue the process. So we'll be looking to our people out there to help us make the determination. Q Richard, as I understand it, the Anti-Apartheid Act does not mean that South Africa has to fulfill all those requirements before the President acts, if he wishes to act. I think it's four out of five, as a matter of fact. Do you happen to know whether the political prisoners is one of the requirements, one of the -- MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is there there is this four-out-five provision, but it requires that political prisoners be one of them. So we're not yet at the point in the act that would automatically bring anything into effect. I think as we proceed in this process, of course, we'll want to consult with our friends on the Hill as well. Q Have there been consultations yet? MR. BOUCHER: It's been a subject of ongoing discussion with the Hill, I know -- you know, for times past. I don't know of any immediate recent conversation. Q But there has been no immediate conversation about the possibility of getting ready to do something about the moderating or the repeal of some of those -- MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we're looking to carry out the requirements in the law. I'm saying that as of today, we think that four out of five are met. So we're not at the position yet of being able to modify. Q Richard, two other things. First of all, could we get a copy of that first statement you made? It's easier. MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q Thank you. If the South African Government uses force in the townships, will that affect American thinking in any way on these sanctions? MR. BOUCHER: I would have to say that's hypothetical at this point, and I'd have to check the law in any case. Q Also, by your statement, are you flatly ruling out that President Bush will propose a lifting the sanctions at this point? MR. BOUCHER: I'm never flatly ruling out any of the President's options. I'm describing the situation as we see it, and that's that they've met four out of five, and that we'll continue to follow closely to determine if and when they meet the fifth. Q Richard, one of the five is that there should be good-faith negotiation, if I'm not mistaken, and the South African Government has proposed holding some kind of round-table which the ANC says it doesn't want to attend. In your view, are there good-faith negotiations currently going on between the various parties? MR. BOUCHER: There have certainly been negotiations and discussions between the various parties, and, as I said, at this point, we believe that four out of the five conditions have been met, and the only remaining one is the one dealing with political prisoners. Q So the absence of negotiations would be seen as the fault of the ANC rather than of the South African Government. MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that, Alan. I wouldn't describe blame from here. Q Has there been any communication from the White House or the State Department with South Africa on this latest development? Has the President sent a letter, encouraging them, prodding them, lauding them? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure they're fully aware of our requirements and the way we intend to approach this. It's been consistent all along. This repeal was just reported this morning. I doubt if there's been anything at this point. Q One other thing, Richard: As you know, one of the problems with political prisoners is definition, and Mandela has one definition, ANC has one definition of political prisoners, and the government has another. Who or which one are we going to be looking at? If the government says all political prisoners are freed, is that good enough for us? MR. BOUCHER: I think, as I said earlier, Saul, we'll want to be in touch with the various parties out there and hear from different people what their views are. But ultimately, it's a determination that we have to make under our law. We'll get whatever the best information is we can on it and decide when we think it's time. Q One of those parties will be the ANC, is that right? MR. BOUCHER: I assume they'll be keeping in touch with all the parties in South Africa. Q Do you have any comment on the Lagomarsino amendment passed by House of Representatives? What it does is to make subject to (inaudible) certification any new aid to India, and leaves it to the nuclear issue. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: I think Margaret offered our comment last Friday. Alan? Q Two columnists who write together and are renowned for their insight and accuracy -- (laughter) -- have today proposed that the Ambassador to Syria is about to replace the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. Can you comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: Without commenting on the high regard that you hold certain columnists, Alan, any announcements on personnel changes are up to the White House. Q Did you say "accuracy"? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say anything on that. Q Accuracy and insight. Yes. I'd like that on the record, please. (Laughter) Q Richard, on the same subject: Are you denying the veracity or lack thereof in the column? MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying that any announcement on personnel changes at that level will have to come from the White House. You can ask them. Q Richard, on another subject -- Q [I'm with] the Korea Times. Do you have overall master plan of evacuation of the civilian workers and military dependents, as supposedly you did in the Philippines? If you have, what might be the conditions of an evacuation in case of Korea, please? MR. BOUCHER: Wherever it is, I'm sure the military is the same. We always have contingency planning if disasters or problems should occur throughout the world, and we always hold those among our own hands. We don't forecast in advance how we might react to any given situation, so I'm afraid I just can't fulfill your request.

[Phillipines: Base Negotiations/Evacuations]

Q What is the status of the base negotiations with the Philippines in light of the unpleasantness going on there? MR. BOUCHER: The "unpleasantness." (Laughter) It's a very unpleasant volcano. The status is really that at this point, it's impossible for us to say how this will affect the talks. Since the last round of negotiations a month or so ago, we have had various contacts with the Philippine Government to continue our discussion of the issues. My understanding is, as far as the bases go, the security contingent for Clark Air Base has returned to the base and is evaluating conditions there. Conditions at Subic are still difficult because of the heavy accumulations of ash. And, as you know, I think, from the military, that the evacuation of military dependents is currently in progress. The Navy vessels are transporting dependents from Subic Naval Base to the vicinity of Cebu, and from there they'll be flown on to the United States. Q I asked the other day. There was no answer forthcoming. Isn't this an indication that Clark Air Force Base is not such a desirable location after all? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I don't think I can draw that conclusion from one volcano that blows up every 600 years. We're going to have to -- we'll have to see what the ultimate situation is out there. At this point, it's just impossible for us to say how this might affect our desire to stay in those bases. Q To say the least, it's under a cloud. Q When do the leases run out? Is it September -- this September? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember exactly. I'd have to check on that for you. Q Do you have to clean up after you leave? Is that part of the lease? MR. BOUCHER: I'll invite you to check the previous agreements. Q Richard, can you tell us anything on whether Syria has replied to this government on the President's -- MR. BOUCHER: At this point, they have not. You'll remember what the Secretary said on Friday, that our Ambassador had been told to expect a reply soon. But at this point, we haven't received it. Q Richard, back on the bases for a moment. The talks, however -- the Armitage talks -- are in suspension; is that right? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know how to describe it, Jim, except for the way that I already did, that we had a round where they were unable to reach agreement about a month ago, I think it was. We've had discussions and contact with the Philippine Government since then to continue discussing the issue. I would expect those sorts of contacts to continue. Q Do you have anything on why the Secretary is going to Belgrade and what he intends to say? MR. BOUCHER: Any changes in the Secretary's schedule, or explanations thereof, will have to come from the party. Q To your knowledge, there's no changes? He's not even going to Yugoslovia? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that. Q Is he going to Yugoslovia? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say what I knew. I said that any announcements or changes to the schedule will have to come from the party. Q Anything on the invitation to the Paris oil conference? It's less than 2 weeks now before it begins? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything new. I'll double-check that to make sure. Chris.

[Iraq: IAEA Inspection of Nuclear Material]

Q Several weeks ago the Iraqis allowed in, I believe it was, an IAEA team to inspect their known stocks of enriched uranium. The team went in and measured it and was satisfied that it was all there. In the last several days, the President, among others, has said -- in response to questions -- that he isn't sure whether all the Iraqi nuclear material or capability has been accounted for and whether they still retain some. What is the U.S. Government's view of that? MR. BOUCHER: The report on the first inspection, I think, was made available through the IAEA. I would invite you to read it in its entirety to see what they said. We have urged the Special Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate information about Iraq's nuclear program. The U.S. Government looks to the joint IAEA Special Commission [on] Inspection and Elimination which allows full access to any site identified by the Special Commission to address these concerns. We expect to continue working with the IAEA and the Special Commission to ensure that they have complete and accurate information as they proceed with their work. We know that the Special Commission and IAEA share U.S. concerns about the possible implications of an Iraqi nuclear program. We fully expect that they will take whatever actions are necessary and appropriate under the mandate of U.N. Resolution 687, which includes short-notice suspect site inspections. We encourage them to exercise this mandate to maximum effect. On your specific question of "Can I tell you what the Iraqis still have and what they don't," I'm afraid that gets me into a level of information that I'm not able to share with you. But I think my answer indicates that we look to the IAEA, using information from us as well as others, to carry out their mandate to full effect. Q If I may follow up. Are your concerns, then, mainly in things other than the known enriched uranium stocks program to acquire the ability to make enriched uranium? That's what the IAEA thing would suggest -- that they were satisfied with the known but they were still looking at the other, the unknown. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't think I can define precisely for you exactly what we know and what our concerns are. This gets into a level of information that I just can't describe. But I did note that it was important that they have the authority to carry out short-notice suspect site inspections, and we would expect them to use that authority to maximum effect. Bill, you had something else. Q No. Q Do you have any readout so far on Bartholomew's talks in China? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. He'll be briefing the press in Beijing at -- what's the equivalent to early morning our time tomorrow? We expect the readout to come that way. Q There was a report on Friday that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program with the help of China, Pakistan, and perhaps others. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Richard, last week, Margaret said she would be checking on the U.S. position on mining in Antarctica, and we never heard anything back. I think the conference opens in Madrid today or this week on that. Do you have anything? MR. BOUCHER: Didn't she answer that? Q It never was posted. No, she didn't answer it. MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to double-check what happened to that. But in any case, we'll get it to you this afternoon. Q I have another one if you could please look into it, because you probably don't have it. Is there a State Department policy or regulation which restricts the travel of a group of American journalists to Vietnam as opposed to individual journalists to Vietnam? Apparently, some of the groups have been held up in going. MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea. Q Could you look into it and check and let us know, please? MR. BOUCHER: I will. Q The CFE agreement that was reached between the Soviet Union and the United States was ratified by the other signatories in Vienna last week. When does the Administration intend to send that to the Hill? MR. BOUCHER: We intend to send it to the Hill shortly. I don't think I have any precise date. I'll double-check and see if we have one. Q You're not intending to wait for the START agreement to be completed and send them both together? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard that raised. Q Richard, any reaction to the death sentences by the martial law court in Kuwait? MR. BOUCHER: As we've said before, our views on the need for due process have been conveyed to the Government of Kuwait. There is a review panel that will look into every case. We understand that all convictions must be approved by the Crown Prince. By setting up these panels, Kuwait appears to be continuing to respond to international and Kuwaiti concerns that the judicial process must be fair and in accordance with international legal standards, and that has been our position all along. Q So you don't have anything to say about these recent sentences? MR. BOUCHER: Just that they must be fair and in accordance with international legal standards, and we note the steps that they have taken in that direction. Q Are we reviewing specific cases? Is this Administration reviewing cases to see whether they are following the letter of the law? MR. BOUCHER: We have made it a practice not to comment on individual or specific cases. Our concern has been about due process, and we have raised those concerns and discuss them frequently with the Kuwaiti Government. They've taken various steps in that direction. Q That's not what I asked, though. Are you reviewing their procedures? Are you reviewing the cases, without commenting on the specific cases? MR. BOUCHER: We're certainly following the events closely through our Embassy there. I wouldn't say that we had some sort of legal review mechanism. A review panel has been set up by the Kuwaitis. They, of course, review it -- the Crown Prince has to review all the sentences. Q Richard, what [are the] categories of crimes for which there is capital punishment; like working for newspapers? Are we reviewing those categories? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Does this conform to international standards? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, at this point, we've expressed our concerns that it should be fair, and it should conform to international standards. I don't have a final judgment for you, but we have noted the steps that the Kuwaiti Government has taken in the direction of making sure that due process was provided. Q But if we don't have a mechanism to observe and find out, how do we know whether it's conforming to international standards? How can we make a judgment? MR. BOUCHER: Who said we didn't have a mechanism to observe? Somebody was asking if we were conducting some sort of legalistic review of every case. But I did say that our Embassy was obviously following the situation very closely. Q (Inaudible) reviewing -- MR. BOUCHER: Individual cases. Q Administrative review. Q How often does the review board report back to the United States and say, I can give you a comment on a certain case? I've been hearing this talk about the review board for awhile now, but I've never seen any judgment released by the review board saying, "This case was not correct and this case was." MR. BOUCHER: It's a Kuwaiti review panel. My understanding is, it was established in the last few weeks. We've been in touch various Kuwaiti officials all along. I don't think the panel has a responsibility to report to the United States. It's a Kuwaiti review panel. It's part of their system. Q When does it respond to the United States' concerns? And how much input does it take from the United States, like through diplomatic channels? MR. BOUCHER: I guess I don't understand the question. We've been discussing these issues with the Kuwaiti Government all long. Q Does it report to you on a regular basis? MR. BOUCHER: What is "it?" Q The review board. MR. BOUCHER: Again, we did not establish the review board. It's a Kuwaiti review board that operates within their system. They're not beholden to us. Q This one is on Romania. Could you look into the situation, please, about the Romanian orphans, or those Romanian children who are being adopted by Americans? There has been a slow-down in granting citizenship so that the parents can take the children back here. MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure that's actually current. I know that as of last time we checked, which was about a week ago, we had sent additional consular officers out; that we had done things to reduce waiting times, for example, for Americans; that we instituted weekly meetings with the Americans who are out there, and we've taken a variety of steps within the U.S. Government to expedite the process. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:38 p.m.)