US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #101, Wednesday, 6/19/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:30 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 19, 19916/19/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, Caribbean, South America Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Iran, China, Cambodia, North Korea, South Africa, Ethiopia, Cuba, Colombia, Hungary, Syria, Saudi Arabia Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, International Organizations, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Narcotics, Military Affairs, Arms Control, POW/MIA Issues, Mideast Peace Process (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything on the signing ceremony at the White House on the trade and investment framework agreement between the United States and four South American countries? MR. BOUCHER: I expect there will be further information from the White House as the event takes place. It takes place at 5:00 p.m. today in the White House Rose Garden. It's a trade framework agreement between the United States and Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It's an agreement that provides for regular consultations on ways to increase trade and investment between the United States and these four countries. We see it as another step toward the President's vision of free trade throughout the hemisphere. Q At what level will the South Americans be represented? MR. BOUCHER: I heard it was Foreign Minister, but I think you'll have to go to the event to confirm that.

[North Korea: Return of MIA Remains; Expanding Relations]

Q Richard, officials in North Korea and South Korea are saying that the remains of some American citizens are to be turned over. One, do you have any reaction to that fact, and, two, does that tell you anything about the direction which North Korea is moving? MR. BOUCHER: On the second one, I think the answer is no, I don't have any broad conclusions from it. We understand -- we expect that next Monday on the 24th, the North Koreans will return 11 more sets of remains of U.S. servicemen who are missing in action from the Korean war. You'll remember the last time this happened was that five sets of remains were returned to Representative Sonny Montgomery in May of 1990. This next turnover -- the 11 more sets of remains -- we understand will be made to Senator Bob Smith. We welcome the prospective return of 11 more MIA remains from North Korea. We're pleased that Senator Smith could participate in it. We hope that North Korea will be able to return significant numbers of the remains of the more than 8,000 Americans and allied servicemen who are still listed as missing in action in North Korea during the Korean war. Q Do the quantities involved here give you the impression that they're parceling out from a warehouse full of remains as a means of political signals? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that kind of information at this point, Jim. I couldn't say that. Q Who is accompanying Senator Smith to Panmunjom? State Department? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the details on that at this point. I expect it will be Defense Department and State Department officers that would accompany him on the trip. Exactly what they will do there is, I think, not determined at this point. Q Do you think that United States or Senator Smith gave prior information or asked some cooperation to South Korea concerning that meeting? MR. BOUCHER: I assume that we've been in close touch with the South Koreans. I don't have any specific consultations to cite for you. Q Senator Smith announced in his statement yesterday that these bilateral talks could lead to diplomatic negotiation talk. Do you have any comment? MR. BOUCHER: We have a standard position on the issue of willingness to expand our bilateral relationship with the North Koreans, which I'd be glad to read for you if you're interested, which I assume you are. We have made clear to North Korea the circumstances under which we would be willing to upgrade and improve our relationship. Most importantly, we want the North Koreans to address our concerns about nuclear proliferation. This includes North Korea's fulfillment of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to accept safeguards on its nuclear facilities. We also want a constructive North-South dialogue that will ease tensions on the peninsula. We want the North to cooperate on the return of Korean war remains, and we want the North Koreans to disavow the use of terrorism. If North Korea acts positively on this agenda, the U.S. response will be equally positive, including a willingness to expand our bilateral relationship. Q I take it their response has not been positive except for this narrow issue of remains. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we've seen the broad kind of progress at this point that we would hope for. You know that there have been discussions recently of their accepting IAEA safeguards on their nuclear facilities, and we certainly look forward to that happening. Q Are the meetings in Beijing continuing with the North Koreans? MR. BOUCHER: We have periodic meetings in Beijing. Yes. Q On another subject. Richard, does the Administration intend to consult with the Congress, as it has pledged to do, before lifting sanctions if all five of the conditions are met? MR. BOUCHER: We have consulted with the Congress all along, and I'm sure we will continue to consult with the Congress. Q It's unclear, because yesterday Marlin said from the podium that if all five conditions are met, under the terms of the law, the sanctions would simply terminate and that no congressional role would, therefore, be necessary. Is that the view? MR. BOUCHER: I asked somebody to look at the act, and what Section 311 of the act says is that sanctions shall terminate if the following conditions are met, and then it lists the five conditions. That's what the act says. But, as I said, we'd obviously, first of all -- the point that we're at now is trying to make a determination on the fifth, the political prisoners issue. We've asked our Embassy to do that, and they're doing that. So if we make that determination, I'm sure we would say so, and I'm sure we would consult with the Congress as we go forward. But as to the precise steps, I think it's premature and somewhat hypothetical at this point since we haven't made the determination about political prisoners. Q Who does make the determination on whether the conditions -- all five conditions have been met? Is it the President or the President in consultation with Congress or Congress? Do you know? MR. BOUCHER: I'd refer you back to whatever language the act has in it on that, Saul. Q The act doesn't have any language. MR. BOUCHER: But I think our basic -- the way we've handled this all along is the way that we would continue to handle it. We do have certain determinations that we have to make, and we've asked our Embassy in South Africa to help us make this last determination on the issue of political prisoners. We also all along have been consulting with the Congress, and we would intend to continue doing that. Q Some people have complained that you're not consulting with Congress but simply letting them know that when the five conditions are met, the sanctions will terminate; and that, according to them, does not amount to consultation. What I'm trying to find out is whether there is a legal opinion anywhere on who decides on whether the sanctions shall terminate. The law does not make that clear. It simply says the sanctions shall terminate, or the law terminates if South Africa achieves the following five conditions. And I'm not clear on who makes that determination, and yesterday Marlin wasn't quite clear either. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can make it any more clear today, because, as I said, the issue that we are seized with is the one of deciding whether, in our view, the political prisoners have been released -- whether the conditions are met. We'll obviously have to look at whatever procedures we use at that point to terminate the sanctions. But, as I said, we have an intention -- one that we've been carrying out all along on this issue -- to continue our consultations with the Congress. Q Yes. Finally, you have no -- can you say whether there is any intention of lifting these sanctions after Congress is gone on the summer recess? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any way to speculate, because I don't know when we'll be able to make the decision about political prisoners. That's the issue that we're seized with. Q What can you tell us about withdrawal of U.S. forces and allied forces from northern Iraq? Q A couple more on South Africa, could we, please? MR. BOUCHER: O.K. Q Other countries, including Japan and Norway, have decided to go ahead on their own to remove sanctions or to establish embassies or make other gestures in light of the South African Parliament's action this week. Do you find that to be helpful, sort of a piecemeal lifting of the sanctions? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would have a comment one way or the other, Jim. I'm sure each country follows its own policies and its own procedures. The President has made clear, and I think the Secretary repeated this yesterday, our intention to follow strictly what's in our law. That's always been what's governed our view of this, and how we should proceed, and that's our intention. Q And are you talking to other allied countries about what would be the most helpful, cooperative approach? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure that we consult with our allies on a whole number of issues, including the situation in South Africa, but I don't think I have any -- I'm not in a position to sort of indicate that there's coordination of this, because, as I said, for our part we are following strictly what's in our law. Q On that subject -- Q No. Same subject. Q Yes, Barry. On that same subject. The fact that some countries are lifting the sanctions now, would that not inherently give them some kind of commercial advantage in cracking the South African market before the United States had a chance to do so? MR. BOUCHER: You can speculate one way or the other on that, Jim, but I don't think that changes the way we intend to proceed. The way we intend to proceed is to follow the law. Q Apart from following the law, is keeping the sanctions on an effective means of bringing about the desired results? MR. BOUCHER: You can debate that too, Barry. The fact is, it's our law, and it's the law that we're going to follow. Q But I think the law reflected possibly a moral view but also a notion of how to get something done. I'm trying to come to Jim's point another way. You can't be happy that others are releasing South Africa from a hold that appears to be working, but I guess you're constrained from commenting on what other countries are doing. So the opportunity may be there to ask you if you think the sanctions worked, and if they're continuing to work. MR. BOUCHER: That's something that we've addressed in our periodic reports to the Congress on the issue, and I don't have them with me, but I don't think we've changed our view. Q One final thing on this. Aside from the sanctions on the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, there are other sanctions that are independent regarding IMF, aid, arms embargo, and tax credits -- the Rangel amendment. Do we have any intention at the moment of asking that Congress abandon or repeal these sanctions once the CAAA sanctions are removed? MR. BOUCHER: I just plain don't know. Q Chief Buthelezi was on ABC this morning recommending sanction-lifting. Are you going to be talking with him over here at all? MR. BOUCHER: I have to check. I'm not sure if we have meetings with him over here or not. Q Have you heard from the Syrians? MR. BOUCHER: No. Jan. Q Northern Iraq: What's the situation of the troop withdrawal or the coalition forces in northern Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't get any new numbers this morning. I think the Defense Department has those and put some numbers out yesterday. Intentions as far as withdrawal, or to withdraw once we feel we've accomplished our mission, that hasn't changed. Q I mean reports of allied troops, actual combat troops now withdrawing; you don't have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: There are troops withdrawing, and the Defense Department has reported on this on a very regular basis. I think you can get the numbers from them quicker. Q Have you gotten any assurances from Iraq on security for the Kurds? MR. BOUCHER: Iraq is obligated under U.N. resolutions to avoid interfering with its citizens, to facilitate U.N. relief. You're aware that there are a whole series of things that have been done in terms of U.N. arrangements in the northern area -- the U.N. agreement with Iraq and those sorts of things. That's, I think, the basic set of assurances. Q The Kurds don't seem to be reassured by those assurances. A lot of them are apparently saying they'll go back to Turkey or other places up in the mountains in the event of trouble. MR. BOUCHER: The whole issue of how much is necessary and what happens next is really something that we're consulting with our allies on, so I don't have anything further on that. At this point, based on the arrangements that are in place at the time, there are very large numbers of Kurds going back to towns and cities that they came from. Q Can I ask you a question or two about the same area, please? Do you have any comment, or are you prepared to comment on reports that the U.S. assured Israel to veto any Security Council resolutions critical of Israel? Or, further, that it has granted Israel a "secret veto" against Palestinians that Israel doesn't like if and when negotiations proceed or start? MR. BOUCHER: The issue of Palestinian representation, I think, is one that we have discussed before. I'll just stick with what we said last week on it. There was an article today about a veto at the U.N. I hope you'll understand if I say that I'm not going to jump into that one. It references a meeting that, first of all, I was not part of, and most of the people who were are not in town. But, second of all, we haven't made it a practice of trying to comment on the specifics of discussions like that that have taken place between the Secretary and various groups in the United States. So I'm just not in a position to try to comment on that. Q You're not willing to ground that or really dispel that? MR. BOUCHER: It's another one of these articles based on unnamed people saying that something was said in a meeting that we haven't really talked about. I'm just not in a position to know one way or the other. Q Please, one more. Maybe it's the same answer, but I might as well ask it. There are also reports that the U.S. somehow talked to Saudi officials and extracted an agreement from them that they would be willing to help Israel economically other than just to meet with Israel if Israel only allows for the international conference to take place? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I just haven't seen those reports. Q It's in The New York Times, if you want to take a look at it. MR. BOUCHER: I didn't read that far. Q People opposed to the regime in Iran have suggested that the Iranians are trying to acquire nuclear capability -- weapons-grade capability -- by buying from a wide range of suppliers. They charge that it includes nations such as Japan and some European nations. I don't remember which ones. Do you have anything at all on that? MR. BOUCHER: Bill, we have no evidence that nations -- anybody is cooperating with Iran in the area of nuclear weapons development or technology. For our part, we have discouraged any nuclear cooperation with Iran because we have substantial doubts about their commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA regimes. We've conveyed those doubts to other countries when the subject has come up. Q So there's reason to believe that Iran may be pursuing a nuclear weapons program? MR. BOUCHER: I think that would be fair. As I have said, we've discouraged -- a nuclear weapons program? No. I was going to say that we had no evidence of cooperation, at least, with other countries on a nuclear weapons program. Q The question was, is there reason to believe that Iran is pursuing it, though? MR. BOUCHER: Are they trying it themselves? Q Pursuing one, to the best of their ability, whether anybody is cooperating or not? MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on that and make sure. Q Richard, can I please ask you in another way? Has the United States approached the Saudis with such suggestions at all? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I just don't know anything about it. I think the Secretary has discussed the role of the GCC countries in the talks, including the Saudis. I would have to leave it with that. Q Do you have any response or any idea as to whether the Saudis actually have agreed, as reported, to sit in bilateral talks with the -- MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I didn't see the report. I didn't look into it. I'm not going to try to wing it. Q You didn't see the report, but do you know from previous things that the U.S. Government has approached the Saudis with such ideas? MR. BOUCHER: You just asked me that. I said I don't know, really, anything on the subject beyond what the Secretary has already said in public. I'm sorry. Q Another area. Do you have any comment on the Soviet withdrawal from Hungary, which was completed today, formally and officially? MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't have anything prepared on that. Q If you do have something -- MR. BOUCHER: We've always supported the process. Q Oh, absolutely. But I mean they finally are out after 47 years -- MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we have anything to say. -- and it is the first of the Warsaw Pact countries to be vacated completely. MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we can get you something. Q Can I go back to North Korea for a moment? You say one of the things that is standing in the way of diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea would be the continuing U.S. concerns over non-proliferation -- nuclear matters. As you recall, about 10 days ago, the North Koreans told the IAEA that they would permit international inspection of their nuclear facilities. Are you saying, then, that you are not reassured by this? You don't believe it? You don't think it's going to happen? MR. BOUCHER: We want to see it actually happen. This was supposed to happen within 18 months of a date in 1985 when they first signed up with the IAEA. They were supposed to have a safeguards agreement. We certainly welcome the fact that they have now pledged themselves to go ahead and do this. We want to actually see it happen, and we want to make sure that they see them put all their nuclear facilities, all their nuclear activity, under safeguards. Q Richard, could I ask a question about Cambodia? There's a wire service report from Phnom Penh that Cambodia is agreeing to look into reports that two American pilots are being held by hill tribesmen. There's an American MIA activist who is promoting this. Do you have any comment or any confirmation that Cambodia has said they'll do this? MR. BOUCHER: I don't. I'll have to check into it and see if I can get you something. Q Do you have a clear idea whether China will proceed with the sale of missiles to Syria? MR. BOUCHER: I believe we've circulated to you the transcript of Reggie Bartholomew's press conference in Beijing. What he said on that was basically that he had some very serious discussions on the issue. He said, "We had a serious dialogue on very serious matters, and it's a dialogue that will have to continue." Q It sounds like the issue isn't resolved. MR. BOUCHER: That sounds like I can't give you a definitive answer nor could he. Q Richard, the Cubans have issued a strong denunciation, saying that the U.S. Government has once again shown that it is lying in a rude and coarse manner, saying -- MR. BOUCHER: You want me to admit? Q -- in saying that they have SA-16 portable missiles. This was an official communique on Tuesday, I believe. Are you going to reply to that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a reply for you now. I certainly couldn't agree that we would lie in any manner much less the way they said. I'll try to get you something on that. I think our information is pretty good on those missiles. Q Governor Martinez, the drug czar, today called for Pablo Escobar to be severely punished and for him to get many years in prison -- in a prison that is not exactly like the one that he's being confined to. How does the United States feel about the deal that the Colombian Government has struck with him? And have we discussed this with them? Do we agree with this resolution? MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I can get you something on that. I'm not sure that they have described themselves what the deal was that they might have struck with him. Q Let's just take it one step further. Is the United States satisfied with the degree of cooperation that the Colombian Government is providing in the war against the drug traffickers? MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to get you something on that, Bill. It's a subject, obviously, that we've addressed in the past. We praised all their efforts against the drug traffickers that they've made so far. We found that they've carried out a very courageous campaign. What you're really asking for is, what is our comment on the current round of people turning themselves in. I'll have to get you some comment on that. Q And the current level of commitment from the Colombian Government? Q This is a man who is accused of causing the death of thousands of people. He seems to be going to a fairly low security prison where he can clearly continue to carry on his operation and for not very many years. MR. BOUCHER: Let me get you something on that, Betsy. Q Richard, at U.S.-sponsored peace talks on Ethiopia last month, the resolution when they broke up was that they were going to reconvene by July 1, at the latest. It's now June 19. Are there any signs of this reconvention? And is the United States beginning to be a little anxious that the parties won't come together as they agreed to? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything specific that's scheduled, Alan. I think we should look at Hank Cohen's testimony from yesterday where he went through the whole situation in Ethiopia. We'll get you a copy of that. Q I certainly read his opening statement. My question is, here we are with less than 2 working weeks to go. Are there any doubts beginning to creep into people's minds that this meeting might not happen? MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see, Alan. There's 2 weeks to go. Q Do you have anything on a U.S.-ASEAN meeting? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point, no. (Press briefing concluded at 12:23 p.m.)