US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #102, Thursday, 6/20/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:36 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 20, 19916/20/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, Central America, Subsaharan Africa, South America Country: Kuwait, South Africa, North Korea, China, Nicaragua, Turkmenistan, Jordan, Syria Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, POW/MIA Issues, Mideast Peace Process, Military Affairs, Narcotics, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Human Rights, Arms Control (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday, we were talking about the return of Korean war remains. I was asked if I could specify in any further detail what the role of State and Defense Department people that were going with Senator Smith would be. I was unable to do so yesterday based on the information I had.

[North Korea: Return of MIA Remains]

I have a little more information, and there have been continuing stories, so I thought I would provide that to you today. As in May 1990, when Representative Montgomery traveled to Korea to receive five sets of remains, the State Department and Defense Department officials will accompany Senator Smith to Korea to facilitate the return of the remains by North Korea. We welcome the return of any additional remains that Senator Smith may be able to arrange. I point out that many nations besides the United States were involved in the Korean conflict, and the question of resolving the fates of the missing is not a bilateral issue between the U.S. and North Korea but rather a multilateral one. The United States has made proposals to North Korea to address the issue in an appropriate multilateral fashion. Unfortunately, the North Koreans have not responded positively or offered a constructive counter-proposal. We hope that they will do so in the future. In the meantime, there are no plans for any State Department official to participate in the talks that Senator Smith has announced he will hold with North Korean representatives. Senator Smith will obviously not be negotiating on our behalf or representing the Administration. That clarifies that, and I'd be glad to take any questions you have on anything.

[Colombia: Surrender of Pablo Escobar]

Q You were asked yesterday about Pablo Escobar, and you didn't have anything. Do you have something today? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Let's start out by remembering that 18 months ago, Pablo Escobar and the other drug cartel leaders were free in exercising their trade. Today, most of these top leaders are either dead or in jail. The Colombian Government has said that it made no deals with Escobar to obtain his surrender. President Gaviria has said that no concessions were made on his possible jail sentence. Discussions were held, he said, concerning the logistics of the surrender. The Colombian Government also insists that extraordinary measures will be taken to ensure that Escobar does not traffic from prison. The Colombian Government has said any trafficker caught continuing his illegal activities from prison will lose any potential benefits gained by his surrender. That's about where I stop. Those were the issues we addressed yesterday. Q You have nothing to say about the trappings of Escobar's detention? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the logistics of his surrender -- and I think the circumstances of his incarceration -- were addressed by Colombian officials. The important thing to us is the trafficking stop, that people face the rule of law, and the traffickers be punished. The provisions that the Colombian Government says it's making to ensure that trafficking stops, I've described to you. The fact that he is going to face the bar of justice, I think, is clear, and the Colombians have addressed that. And the punishment, we'll have to see. Obviously, this is something that we care very much about and we're following very closely. Q What were the benefits gained by his surrender that you referred to? In your statement, you said that if he continues -- MR. BOUCHER: That would refer to any possible consideration by the courts in the future of -- I assume, I guess I have to say -- any possible consideration by the courts in the future of the fact that he surrendered. Q Is this a way to characterize your opinion as to the conditions of his arrest? Do you have a kind of anticipation that he would be able to continue his illegal efforts? MR. BOUCHER: I was asked yesterday, what about this possibility? There have been reports and speculations to that effect. Certainly, that is something that would be of great concern to us and, I think, based on the statements that I've seen, to the Colombian President and to the Colombian Government as well. I've given what our understanding is of the situation, as he prepares to face Colombian justice. Q Richard, you don't really address the point of the fact that this surrender was carried out in the context of an act by the Colombian Parliament, which was to repeal the extradition law. Could you please address that? MR. BOUCHER: OK. We see extradition as one tool in our bilateral counter-narcotics effort. We regret the Assembly's action that bars extradition and removes this tool. We support President Gaviria's determination to strengthen the Colombian judicial system. The key, as I said before, is not where narco-traffickers serve time but that they are jailed and receive appropriate sentences. We hope that such judicial reform, as is going on now in Colombia, will enable the Colombian Government to prosecute and, as necessary, incarcerate the narco-traffickers. Q How can you say there was no deal when the arrest took place? Was it a coincidence that it took place immediately after this was repealed? Was it a coincidence that we all knew for weeks in advance what kind of conditions he was going to be held in, where he was going to be held? All this is all laid out in advance? Maybe nobody actually shook hands over a deal, but it certainly looks like all the trappings of a deal to relatively unconnected observers such as myself. MR. BOUCHER: Alan, I'm relating to you what the Colombian Government has told us in private, what they have said themselves publicly -- that they held these discussions concerning matters that you're talking about; that they were discussions about the logistics of surrender. I assume that means not only when and where he would surrender but where he would be held during the period of facing trial. As far as we understand, from what the Colombian Government has told us, there were no deals on things such as sentencing and that kind of stuff. Q During the time that he's facing trial? Do you mean he's got these accommodations only so long as the trial is pending? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that, Jim. I don't know how far their discussions of logistics went with him, and that's something that you will have to check with them. Q So you're not saying that -- as far as the United States is concerned, your understanding is that he would not necessarily remain in these quarters that have been built beyond any sentencing? MR. BOUCHER: That will be something that I'm sure the Colombian Government and the Colombian judicial system will address. Q Does the United States intend to request extradition in spite of the congressional action? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of at this point. Q Why not? MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check on that and see whether their action in some way nullifies the ability to request. Q The incarceration conditions have been widely publicized. Do you think those will have a negative effect on drug traffickers or a positive effect on drug traffickers? MR. BOUCHER: Gil, I don't see how the issue of the incarceration conditions really gets to that. The issue is whether this guy is taken out of the business, whether he is prevented from trafficking further, whether he has to face justice, and whether he gets punishment. Those are the things that will have positive or negative effects on other drug traffickers. Q Richard, extradition is usually a bilateral matter between two countries. It's agreed on mutual terms. It seems to me that what's happened here is that Colombia has unilaterally changed the terms of that condition. Are there any implications for that so far as reversed extraditions the other way? MR. BOUCHER: That is sort of the other half of Jim's question. I'm going to have to check on the whole legal aspects of how their Assembly action affects the extradition procedures that are available. Q Does the agreement have to be renegotiated? MR. BOUCHER: That's the kind of thing I'll have to look into. Q I think it was back in '86 or '87, there was an alleged drug trafficker, who is now convicted, in Honduras who was taken by joint action of the U.S. and Honduran Governments despite the fact that the constitution did not provide for -- or made illegal any extradition of a Honduran citizen. Whatever legal rights were present in that case, are you publicly saying that you would not, under any circumstances, pursue a similar remedy in the case of Escobar? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't know what you're talking about, Jim. I can't address a similar remedy unless I know what the circumstances were, so it's not a question I can address. Q Can we go to another subject? Q Same subject, if I may. Do you read the agreement between Escobar and the Colombian Government as an agreement with him personally or with the organization he heads somehow? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any way of addressing that. Our understanding is that they discussed with him the logistics of his surrender. That's as much as I can tell you.

[Kuwait: Trails and Judicial Review Process]

Q Richard, this is a kind of elegant link to the next subject. It seems to me that Colombia and Kuwait provide two interesting case studies of the United States' wide tolerance of very different judicial kinds of standards: On the one hand, congratulating the Colombians for this excessively lenient deal which they seemed to have struck, and on the other hand you don't have any condemnation for the kangaroo courts in Kuwait where they condemn people to death at the drop of a hat. Do you have any reaction to the latest verdicts in Kuwait? MR. BOUCHER: I beg to differ that that was not an elegant transition. But throwing out everything you said before your question, I will try to answer your question. It gets back to what we have been talking about before. We have not tried to comment on individual cases. We've consistently stressed to the Government of Kuwait, as I think we have done here, the importance of respect for human rights and principles of due process. We have continued to do that during the course of the current trials. In fact, we know that in Kuwait, a panel has been set up along with the review responsibility of the Crown Prince and the Amir. We believe that in cases when death sentences are involved, it's doubly important that the review process be complete and meticulous with a view to ensuring the appropriateness of judicial action. Q Richard, you have kept saying through the days that you don't deal with individual cases, or every case should be taken by itself. Now, there is a kind of pattern. Every day is giving us new death sentences for numbers of people. How do you see the pattern? MR. BOUCHER: I think that's what I was addressing myself to. We have stressed the importance of due process. I just said that in the cases where there are death sentences, that a judicial review -- that an appropriate review -- is doubly important. It has to be meticulous, and those are the kinds of concerns and suggestions that we have been raising consistently with the Kuwaiti Government. Q Richard, you stress the importance of due process. Does that mean that you believe there hasn't been due process in these cases? MR. BOUCHER: I believe that we have raised our concerns about the trials that have occurred, about some of the circumstances of the trials, particularly the earlier ones where we had concerns about due process. We've seen some steps from the Kuwaitis to try to meet those concerns that we, the Kuwaitis, and others in the international community have raised. Q Richard, is it your understanding that the punishments for various crimes, that are crimes in the eyes of the Kuwait court, that these people have been found guilty of and sentenced -- there was one yesterday of life imprisonment for singing at the unveiling of a Saddam Hussein poster. Are those things codified in any way, or is it just made up ad hoc, and does that concern America? MR. BOUCHER: I personally don't know. I will try to check on that and see if we are aware of the Kuwaiti legal code, but that's also a question that you should be asking them. Q Richard, to go back to this business about due process, you just said something about "we've seen some steps from the Kuwaitis that tries." That doesn't answer his question about due process. Do you see what's happening in the Kuwaiti courts as being due process or not? MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I can get you a well-formulated answer on that, Jan. The point is that we have raised some concerns about the trials and how they were going and some of the conditions at the trials. We've seen steps to meet some of those concerns that we and various others have raised. To sort of try to compare the Kuwaiti trial system, as it's operating now under martial law, against some standards of complete due process is something that I'm not prepared to do off the top of my head. Q Richard, on this point of martial law, if they were to wait until martial law was revoked, these trials could presumably take place under civilian courts and perhaps due process would be better served in that case. What's the justification for continuing martial law now, so many months after the liberation of Kuwait? MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you have to ask the Government of Kuwait. Q Richard, I just wanted to ask -- on the panels that you talked about, the review panel -- is this functioning as an appeals court? Can you say any more as to what is the significance of these panels? Are they going to simply review the procedure? Are they going to allow expanded introduction of evidence, or what is the nature of this second stage, or whatever it is? MR. BOUCHER: That gets into a level of detail that I just don't know. The Kuwaitis have announced the establishment of these review panels, and I'd suggest that they've probably provided that sort of information. Q Richard, do you still have concerns, or have these steps that they've taken mitigated those concerns? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we have continuing concerns that due process be fulfilled as the process goes on. But this is really getting back to Jan's question of have they fulfilled every -- some sort of criteria of due process. Q What about the case of the four expatriate workers who were working on the U.S. base? MR. BOUCHER: The circumstances of that are still somewhat unclear to us. I talked to our Ambassador about an hour ago now. He tells me that about 2 weeks ago, some third-country national employees of the Army came to us and said that this incident had occurred to some of their friends who in his understanding were not employed by the Army. The Embassy and the Army took from them the information that they had and have sought to get from them and the people to whom the incident occurred more information on the actual incident in order to pass it on to the human rights group in the Embassy, and thereby pass it on to the Kuwaitis in a useful fashion so that they could take some action. At this point, they have not really gotten that additional information, so the complete circumstances of the situation, as I said, are somewhat unclear. Obviously, they will be continuing to pursue that. This kind of incident is something that is of serious concern to us, and we trust of serious concern to the Kuwaiti authorities as well. And if we can get the facts, it's certainly something that we would like to raise and like to see pursued. Q Does the U.S. have an opinion as to whether martial law should be extended when the decision comes around next week? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have one for you today. No. Q Did you have a chance to ask Ambassador Gnehm about the death sentences? MR. BOUCHER: No. We talked about this other question. Q Richard, on a historical matter, nothing like this occurred either in Japan or Germany or, for that matter, in Thailand, France, or any place else at the end of of World War II. Why does the U.S., in effect, tolerate this sort of activity in this case, in great distinction to U.S. policies at the end of World War II? MR. BOUCHER: Your knowledge of history is probably more thorough than mine. I couldn't make that comparison. Q What about the severity of the sentences? It's a point that hasn't been really addressed. Does the United States feel that the kind of crimes which have been -- or alleged crimes which are being punished by death or life imprisonment are appropriate for those kinds of punishments? MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I can get you some sort of standards on that. Jan? Q Going north of Kuwait, do you have anything on the proposed rapid deployment force that is supposed to be -- is being called "Poised Hammer," to be based at Incirlik? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, no, I don't. I don't have anything for you. The Secretary was asked, I think, this morning. He addressed some of these issues, and he said when we have any arrangements that we might be discussing, we'll tell you about them when they're worked out.

[Nicaragua: Civil Unrest]

Q Richard, do you have anything about the problems that the Nicaraguan Government is having with the Sandinistas? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The Nicaraguan National Assembly is considering this week legislation addressing the problem of millions of dollars of confiscated state property distributed to Sandinista officials and supporters between the election and President Chamorro's inauguration. The Sandinista reaction to this was to walk out of the Assembly, to provoke armed takeovers of a radio station and the mayor's office, and to threaten to harm legislators who voted to revoke the property distributions. When President Chamorro was elected, the Sandinistas promised that they would act as a democratic opposition party. Rather than issue further threats, Sandinista leaders have a responsibility to disavow these violent actions, take action to end them, and conduct their debate through constitutional means. We find it ironic that a party that came to power, saying they wanted to help the poor, is taking to the streets to protect its leaders' confiscated mansions. Q A question on that: I understand that there is a parallel arbitration process that is dealing with these claims and that's been recently put together. Can you comment on this process and whether the United States thinks it's a good idea? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on the process. I don't know about it. But I think, certainly, that any process is better than the process that the Sandinistas appear to be undertaking. Q Richard, on this do you have anything new about a Syrian response to the President's letter? How do you read the delay? Is it a positive thing or -- MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything new, and no, I don't read the delay in any way. Q Richard, the Chinese today acknowledged the sale of missiles to Pakistan. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really. This was discussed, as I think we talked about yesterday, during Reggie Bartholomew's visit. He said it was a serious issue, we've had serious discussions, and we expect to continue our discussions. Q How do you view their acknowledgement, though? MR. BOUCHER: We certainly, I think, would like to see more information about what it was that they sold. I don't think they identified precisely what the missile was. Q Will this have any bearing, in the State Department's mind, on extending MFN status to Beijing? MR. BOUCHER: We have legislation and other tools to discuss and to deal with the issues of proliferation and missile sales, and we've said that we would like the MFN to be unconditional. Q Just as a point of information, could you post what countries don't get MFN? I mean, we make such a big deal about countries getting it, but as virtually everybody gets it, it might be more interesting to look at those who don't get it. MR. BOUCHER: I think that's available somewhere. We ought to be able to find it. It seems to me it's been in testimony before, but I can't remember precisely where.

[Jordan: Opposition to Blocking Aid]

Q Any reaction to the aid cut for Jordan by the House floor last night? MR. BOUCHER: We are strongly opposed. The Administration is strongly opposed to legislation that would prohibit U.S. assistance to Jordan. Jordan is pivotal to the peace process and is playing a constructive role in it. Jordan's stability remains important to the region and to U.S. interests there. Jordan wants to improve its relationship with us and is making serious efforts to do so. We think that rigid legislation prohibiting or restricting aid to Jordan would remove a key tool we have to respond to improved Jordanian behavior. We believe such legislation could inhibit Jordan's effort to return to its traditionally moderate and helpful role in the area. Q O.K. On any other part of the appropriations -- on population -- do you have any comment on the population provisions and MFN in China? MR. BOUCHER: We posted an answer to that June 13. Q This is the appropriations. It's a new -- MR. BOUCHER: Isn't it the same provision that -- Q On China and MFN. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q And population. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. June 13 we posted it. Q OK. Yes. You posted an answer. I wouldn't say it was an answer to the question. MR. BOUCHER: It was an answer to the question. Q Can I go back to Jordan for a second? What are you going to do about this? I mean, this has been passed in the House. Now what do you do? Do you work closely with the Senate or in committee to try and make sure this doesn't pass up there? MR. BOUCHER: We work closely with people on the Hill to achieve our goals. That's what we do. Q Richard, any determination on political prisoners in South Africa? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Why is there such a delay in this? This has been an issue for so long in our determining whether there are any remaining. MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, it's not an easy thing to decide. It's something that involves careful judgments that are made on the basis of various pieces of information that have to be gathered at any given moment in time, contacts with various people. I'm sure we'll be making our determination in due course as the Embassy proceeds with its research. Q The Administration has made up its mind, because we've had all these stories over the past 2 or 3 days, suggesting that sanctions will be lifted next month. Do you have any comment on them? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Well, I guess I do. I mean, there's no timetable for doing this. The act imposed conditions. We've said, the President has said, that the conditions are clear cut, not open to reinterpretation, and we'll follow the law as we determine whether the final condition has been met. Q But if it's difficult to determine the release of prisoners -- it's a complex issue -- how can the Administration have arrived at the decision to pursue lifting sanctions? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't said it. Q The White House has said it. MR. BOUCHER: The White House has said what I have said, that there are clear -- five conditions in the law; that at this point we have determined that they have met four of the conditions; that we are in the process of examining the information that we can get; and that we will make a further determination as to whether they have met the fifth condition. Q So there's no plan at this time to lift the sanctions. MR. BOUCHER: I said there's no timetable. The plan is to follow the law and to make the determinations that allow us to establish whether or not the conditions of the law have been met. Q So it would be irresponsible for any Administration official to say that sanctions will be lifted in the next few weeks. Is that right? MR. BOUCHER: It would be very irresponsible for me to say that, George. (Laughter) Q But you seem to be suggesting that all five of the conditions may have already been met. You are determining the fifth right now. MR. BOUCHER: Since we don't have a final determination, that's what has to be looked at. Q You said when this subject came up a few days ago that four of the five had been met, but the fifth had not been met. MR. BOUCHER: That's what I just said again. Q Right. But you're not saying that you just don't know whether the fifth has been met. MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to draw too fine a line on this. This is an area that we have asked our Embassy to investigate to determine. It may be that it has been met, and we have not had the information to determine it. It may be that it will be met shortly. It's a process that has been ongoing, at any given moment you can take its temperature and determine where it is; that's what we're doing now. Q Richard, is the United States Government recommending other countries to follow the same policy, or everyone is to his own view? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have an answer on that for you at this point. Q Will you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll take the question and see. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.

[Kuwait: Wheat Sales]

Q Richard, one more question on Australia. The Australian Prime Minister has complained to President Bush that the provision of subsidized U.S. wheat to Kuwait breaches an undertaking given during the war. Does his complaint cause you concern? Is there any justification and any guarantee that in future, Australian trade won't be adversely affected by EEP? MR. BOUCHER: Those are clearly the questions that we have to look at when we make decisions about sales like this. If I can, let me give you the short version. In our understanding, Kuwait is in the market for wheat. We had information that both Saudi Arabia and the EC, heavy export subsidizers, planned to meet the demand. We chose to offer the Export Enhancement Program to make U.S. wheat competitive with those suppliers. Q You don't have any comment on the Australian Prime Minister's complaint? MR. BOUCHER: We have reviewed Kuwaiti trade statistics in making this determination and framing the initiative to offer the Export Enhancement Program. We determined that while Australia had been a traditional supplier, it was effectively squeezed out of the market by the Saudis in 1988. Our information indicates the Saudis have sufficient wheat stocks and projected production to continue to dominate the Kuwait market if we did not offer an EEP initiative. With Australia out of the market, it became a question of either subsidized Saudi and EC farmers getting the business or American wheat farmers. Q It's causing a lot of concern, obviously, amongst politicians and farmers in Australia. Does that worry you? MR. BOUCHER: I think the best I can do on that question is to tell you that these are the criteria on which we decided this. We did not see it as a question of competition with Australian farmers. We saw it as a question of competition with Saudi and EC export subsidies for wheat. Q Doesn't that put you in a slightly false position in GATT negotiations, where you take a very kind of principled high-minded position against the EC for subsidizing agriculture, and then you go ahead and do the same thing? MR. BOUCHER: This is a program that I think if you investigate further, you will find was set up with the sole goal of being able to match subsidies that others were in the process of offering. It certainly does not change our desires to see changes in the way countries offer agricultural subsidies in the GATT. Q So the only people who take a really principled position on this are the poor old Australians, and they get squeezed out of the market. MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to talk to the Australians about their principles and their position. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:06 p.m.)