US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #114, Thursday, 7/18/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12: PM, Washington, DC Date: Jul 18, 19917/18/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to start off with a statement on the postponement of the hearing that we thought was going to be held tomorrow for April Glaspie. The newspapers reported today that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has delayed the hearing tomorrow with Acting Secretary Eagleburger and Ambassador Glaspie because the State Department has declined a Senate request to declassify Ambassador Glaspie's secret cables. The reason given for this delay is simply not true. It's the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Committee alone, which chose to postpone the hearing, despite Acting Secretary Eagleburger's request that Ambassador Glaspie and he appear before the Committee at the earliest time possible. The Committee had never discussed with the Department the possibility of postponing the hearing if certain documents were not declassified. A member of the Committee informed Acting Secretary Eagleburger yesterday that the Committee would not, under any circumstances, permit the Acting Secretary to appear with Ambassador Glaspie, and would require that Ambassador Glaspie first respond to a questionnaire before the Committee would permit her to testify. The Committee has undertaken these delaying tactics despite the fact that a member of the Committee has made allegations of wrongdoing on the record against Ambassador Glaspie and against the Department of State, and in disregard of the fact that classified documents sent to the Committee by the Department were leaked to the press. The issue of whether or not the documents in question remain classified is simply not relevant. A member of the Committee chose to attack Ambassador Glaspie publicly, using at least one of the documents as the basis for his attack. Newspaper articles have been written drawing on the leaked documents. While no final decision has been reached on whether to declassify Ambassador Glaspie's cable -- a fact which was known to the Committee -- it should be noted that to declassify documents simply because they have been leaked would establish a precedent of rewarding those who violate reasonable standards of conduct. The fact of classification did not deter a member from publicly and unfairly attacking Ambassador Glaspie and the Department of State. Why should it now be used to gag the Acting Secretary and Ambassador Glaspie from responding to that attack? In short, the Committee's decision to prevent the Acting Secretary from responding promptly and publicly to the Committee's allegations, and its decision to delay Ambassador Glaspie's response, is censorship, pure and simple. Acting Secretary Eagleburger and Ambassador Glaspie both remain prepared to appear before the Committee tomorrow as originally scheduled. That's the statement. I'd be glad to take any questions. Q Is revealing classified information against the law? And, if so, do you plan to follow up? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what the law is on this subject. I assume there are such laws. I'm not making specific accusations here other than to say it was not leaked by the Department of State. Q What was this questionnaire that the Ambassador was asked to fill out? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any more details on that. I'm not sure we do. That might be a question you could ask the Committee. Q The only thing you mentioned was that the Committee person said that they would not allow Eagleburger to accompany her? Is that -- MR. BOUCHER: That's right. A member of the Committee informed Acting Secretary Eagleburger yesterday that the Committee would not, under any circumstances, permit the Acting Secretary to appear with her. Q There was no reason given for that? MR. BOUCHER: None that I'm aware of. Q Did they ask that the Secretary be allowed to accompany her? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Would he be permitted to appear separately, then, in a -- MR. BOUCHER: Again, those kind of questions you might want to ask the Committee. I'm trying to explain this as it stands from where we see it. Chris. Q Does the Department have any objection to April Glaspie appearing by herself? MR. BOUCHER: Our proposal and desire was that the Acting Secretary and Ambassador Glaspie be allowed to both appear before the Committee. They were willing to do so in public session. They asked to do so, in fact, at the earliest time possible. That, as you see, for the reasons that I explained, has not occurred. Q Richard, does the Department believe that Ambassador Glaspie can testify in public session and that questions can be asked of her based upon these classified cables as long as they remain classified? MR. BOUCHER: She has already answered 5 hours of questions about what went on in Iraq and what the policy was in the period leading up to the Iraqi invasion. Of course, she did all that on the basis of classified instructions and cables. So I don't think there's any question but that she's in a position to explain that period of time without specific reference to -- without specific declassification of cables. But I did say that no final decision has been made on that particular cable. Q Richard, also on Iraq. Have you seen the latest United Nations report which suggests that the amount of uranium material which Iraq has may, in fact, not be as substantial as the Spokesman of this Department suggested earlier? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember that we ever gave an amount to it, frankly, Jim. But let me just say on this general question of Iraqi compliance, let me point out that in the original declaration Iraq only declared uranium which was under IAEA safeguards. After two IAEA and Special Commission inspections, and under pressure from the United Nations, Iraq, when confronted with incontrovertible evidence, admitted that it did have a uranium enrichment program. The third IAEA Special Commission inspection team is still in Iraq. So my understanding is they have not presented a formal report. This team is attempting to determine whether that declaration is complete. They have determined that Iraq had a large nuclear program which IAEA experts say is incompatible with a peaceful nuclear energy program. The only logical purpose for such an enormous expenditure of money and time is for the production of nuclear weapons. Based on Iraq's previous efforts to conceal its nuclear program and the lies Iraq has made to the United Nations, we are skeptical that Iraq's latest declaration is complete. We fully support the IAEA and Special Commission's continuing efforts to determine the scope of Iraq's nuclear program, as well as its chemical, biological, and ballistic missile programs. Q Richard, Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister, Nizar Hamdoun, is in the United States, ostensibly for a medical checkup. We were led to believe that he's trying to request -- to meet with some Government officials. Did he do so? And will it be possible for people in the Administration to meet him? MR. BOUCHER: I was not aware of that. I'll have to check on these questions. Q Could you please take a look at it? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q Mr. Boucher, today, Mr. Eagleburger transmitted to the Secretary of State a Congressional request that the Soviet Union open up its archives in Moscow that contain the names of U.S. prisoners of war taken by the Soviets. What's the status of that request? What is the status of the talks between Mr. Baker and Mr. Bessmertnykh on this topic last week? And, finally, what is the status of the April demarche requesting information on the more than 20,000 U.S. prisoners of war taken by the Soviets since 1945? MR. BOUCHER: You're ahead of me on most of those questions. The last thing I remember, I think, was the Secretary responded to one of your questions last week. I'll have to check on these other things. Q Do you have anything on diplomatic activity concerning the MIA photo? MR. BOUCHER: I think most of you are aware of the fact that when we got this photo last Friday -- that's July 12 -- we passed a copy of the photograph to the Vietnamese representative to the United Nations in New York. We requested Vietnam's urgent assistance in investigating the matter. Also on that day, we instructed our Embassy in Vientiane to present a similar message providing information and requesting cooperation from the Government of Laos and to the representative from Phnom Penh. In our initial discussions, officials of those countries we contacted did promise to cooperate. We are now awaiting more detailed responses that would describe what they are doing, what they may already know and what they have learned. Q The Foreign Relations Committee has put out a report this morning saying that the U.S. had promised $3.25 billion in aid to Vietnam at the end of the war. We reneged on that promise and as a result these prisoners are being held. Was there such a promise made? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to reveal my age, but that's something I'll have to look back on. Q As a follow-up on the initial question, are you confident that as these pictures were taken in Cambodia, that the approach through Laos will be effective? In addition, are the U.S. diplomats, now in that area discussing the Cambodian situation, also pursuing these POWs who were, at least at one point, if you believe the account of this picture, held in Cambodia? MR. BOUCHER: The approaches that we've made, I said, were with the Vietnamese representative in New York, with the Government of Laos in Vientiane, and with the representative from Phnom Penh -- from Cambodia; in Vientiane, as well. And, yes, there are U.S. officials who are traveling in the area. Ken Quinn, our Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, is in Asia to work on Cambodia and POW/MIA issues, and then he'll participate in the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference in Kuala Lumpur. He'll be going to a number of capitals in connections with these issues. Details of his schedule are still being worked out, but I think we can make clear that we do intend to actively pursue the report, to take all appropriate steps, and to raise it in contacts with other governments wherever it's appropriate. Q Well, which countries is he going to? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the only places I have now are that he's going to be going to Kuala Lumpur. I don't have a full list of his schedule at this point. We're still working on it. Q You don't know whether he's going to Hanoi or Vientiane? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that detailed a schedule on him yet. We're still working on his schedule. Q But he's in the Beijing right now? MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q Is the fact that you have passed the photo and its accompanying information on, does that imply that you give it some credibility? MR. BOUCHER: Pete Williams, I think, addressed this to some length at his Pentagon briefing just now. I think I just need to point out that it's the Pentagon that does the photo analysis. The collecting and analyzing of the information is done at the Defense Intelligence Agency. So we do this on the basis of having a photograph which, clearly, the family members believe very firmly is of their loved ones and of our basic attitude which is to follow up wherever possible, wherever things might lead. Q Just on a matter of timing, you say you got the photo on Friday? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q Because the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Mr. Ford, testified yesterday that it was -- a fragment was in U.S. Government hands last September, and the full photo was in U.S. Government hands in November, I think -- October, November, that time frame. I mean, it wasn't passed to the State Department until some eight months later? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard of anything like that, Jim. I think Defense has talked about the fax copy, or whatever they had, earlier, but it was passed to us on Friday to pass to the Vietnamese, and we did that right away. Q As a follow on the aid issue, the $3 billion-plus offer to the North Vietnamese -- a State Department document that has since been declassified -- was turned down. The Vietnamese linked this with the POWs. In the early Reagan Administration, the Vietnamese offered to sell back about 97 U.S. POWs for part of that aid. Was there any similar offer made by the Vietnamese so far in the Bush Administration to sell back POWs in return for the aid they had been promised? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything like that. Q Richard, in general, does the State Department believe there are American POWs still in Vietnam? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check our precise position on that. I think we have some well-crafted words, but if you can allow me to get by with some less well-crafted ones, I think what we have said is that we continue to have concerns about the POWs and MIAs in the area; that we cannot rule out the possibility that some may still be alive; that we and the Defense Department have checked out many, many reports that there might be specific people alive in specific places and that those reports so far have not resulted in our being able to find somebody, but that we intend -- whenever there is information like this -- that we intend to follow it up as best we can. Q Would you describe this photograph as the strongest lead you've had? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not familiar with the total record. I think that's probably better done at Defense, since I told you they are the ones that analyze the compile the information. Q But is it a fact that the United States Government doesn't have a single, firsthand evidence, direct evidence, that any of these people may be alive? MR. BOUCHER: Again, looking at the total record on any of these people, the analysis and compilation is done at Defense. I'm sure Defense can answer that. Q The Vietnamese claim that they returned the remains of Colonel Robertson, one of those allegedly in that picture, last year. Are there any records that our government has that corroborate that? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think that's something the Defense Department is probably better at doing than I am. They're the ones that have gotten the return of the remains, and they have the appropriate laboratories and people to pinpoint exactly what it is. Q Cambodia has also invited us to send teams into the country to investigate and check out any reports. Is that something we'd be interested in doing? MR. BOUCHER: I can't predict a precise course of action at this point because we have, as I said, contacted various governments, including the representative from Phnom Penh who is in Vientiane, Laos, and we'll see where that goes. Q Richard, this may sound like bureaucratic nit-picking, but it's not. The fact that you didn't get the photo until last Friday strikes me as strange, since the State Department -- specifically, Mr. Quinn -- is supposed to be head of the interagency group on MIA/POW matters. And the fact that the head of this interagency group didn't know about something which apparently you consider important enough to bring to the attention of the Southeast Asian governments strikes me as some kind of breakdown in communication on what is supposedly a matter of the highest importance. MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me check on that, Jim. You know, Defense has gone through the chronology of the fax copy, as I said, and the other things that they had and what they did in the meantime to try to check this out. My understanding is that the current action is based not just on the existence of the photograph, but rather on the photograph plus the fact that the families are coming to us and saying that they firmly believe that these are their loved ones. It's that kind of testimony that I think makes it all the more important that we try to follow this one up. Q Just to elaborate a little on Jim's line of questioning, you say the actual photograph came to State on Friday. Was the existence of the photograph known by the State Department before that time? MR. BOUCHER: That's the kind of thing that I told Jim I would have to check on. My understanding is that it came to us on Friday to pass to the Vietnamese, and that's what we did. Whether we had some fax copy like Defense had or not, I just don't know. Q On Moscow summit, please, in the (inaudible) -- the new economic cooperation between the U.S. and Soviet Union, which could be opened after the Moscow summit, in any sense of technical assistance or money-lending or loan, what do you think of the Korean or Japanese side role in the new cooperation era? And my second question is that could the North Korean nuclear problem be raised in the summit if the North Korean Government do not sign the safeguard agreement until that time? MR. BOUCHER: I guess on the first question on the Japanese role -- I mean, the Japanese were in Paris, and John Major -- or in London, excuse me -- and John Major did the briefing, I think, on behalf of the others, including ourselves and presumably the Japanese, on the discussions that were held with Mr. Gorbachev. As for a specific Korean role vis-a-vis the Soviets, I really don't have anything precise to say on that at this point. As for whether the issue of the North Korean safeguards agreement would be raised in Moscow at the summit, I really wouldn't hazard a guess from here. Certainly, we think it's important that North Korea has not only agreed to a safeguards agreement, but that they sign it and implement it fully and totally. Q Is there a heightened concern about terrorism in Greece and Turkey right now while the President's there? MR. BOUCHER: I think you probably saw the statement that we put out this morning. This comes -- As a result of the President's travel there have been a number of inquiries about the status of travel conditions in the greater eastern Mediterranean region. I want to point out that there is an existing travel advisory for the eastern Mediterranean, and that advisory of course will continue to be reviewed in accordance with normal procedures. Q But is there any reason to think that there is an increased threat for acts of terrorism against Americans or against anybody traveling in the Presidential party? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can characterize it for you any further than we did in the statement we released this morning. That reviews the available information and the situation as we see it. Q Can you say on what did you base that information -- that you have information or indications of potential terrorist attacks? MR. BOUCHER: I have to let the statement speak for itself in that regard. Q What statement is this, incidentally? MR. BOUCHER: We put out a statement this morning reviewing the situation with regard to terrorism in Greece and Turkey. Q Mr. Boucher, Congressman John Miller today said that if the Soviets fail to make available to us the information on those American prisoners of war, we should link the trade credits and other credits to this issue. What is the State Department view on linkage of U.S. aid to the Soviet Union with the resolution of that POW issue? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen anything like that, so I'm not in a position to comment. Q Do you know if the question of Soviet aid to Cuba came up during the President's talk with President Gorbachev yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: I think the President mentioned it in one of his new conferences, didn't he?. He dealt with the subject. I don't have any further readout of the Paris meetings -- London meetings. (Laughter) I wasn't there, and if I had been there I probably would have been in the wrong place. (Laughter) Q One last one on POWs. Have you received any of the other pictures that are now coming out on U.S. POWs alive in the last two years, specifically the two in Laos? Have these been given to the State Department? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the analysis, collection and compilation of information really goes on in the Defense Department. So whether we have other pictures or not is something you have to ask them. Q They haven't been relayed to you? MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know. Q Do you have any numbers there on how many remains the Vietnamese have returned over the years? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check. I don't know. Q Richard, on London, where is the actual drafting work going on in the wake of this final conclusion -- agreement? MR. BOUCHER: The delegations in Geneva will be meeting -- this is an interesting rundown, actually, of the work in Geneva -- the delegations in Geneva will be meeting around the clock to finish the START Treaty text in time for the summit. The basic treaty text is 75 pages in length; the entire document, including protocols and data, Memorandum of Understanding, will likely run over 800 pages in length. The protocols include the conduct of inspections and the conversion or elimination of treaty-limited systems. The delegation faces a number of tasks in the next two weeks, turning the agreements reached in the past week in high-level meetings in Washington and London into legal treaty text, resolving any remaining third- or fourth-order language issues, proofing and conforming the text to make sure that the Russian and English texts express treaty constraints properly and say the same thing in both languages, and printing the text on treaty paper. I'm told because the printers we have to use for this, it could take over 60 hours alone to print the text. The U.S. delegation already has the resources to complete work on the treaty in time for the summit, and I think General Scowcroft expressed his confidence yesterday that they would get the job done in time. Q Well, presumably, since this process has been going on for a number of years, most of the translation and drafting work has already been done on the bulk of these 800 pages. Is that correct? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly how much there is left to do. I think when you get to the final text, it has to be gone over once again to make absolutely sure before you ask heads of state to sign it. So in any case, whatever preparatory work they've done, there's still quite a bit of this kind of work left to do. Q Do you by chance have something in your book that sums up how they resolved the throw-weight question? Q Please say "no." (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I'll say no, and I'll get you a copy of the readout. General Scowcroft, after the President's briefing yesterday, ran through the issue, I think, quite succinctly and as best as anyone can understand it. Q Could you give a verbal explanation of -- this goes back to the terrorism statement. Can you give a verbal explanation of the statement for us, please? MR. BOUCHER: The explanation of the statement is the one that I gave. As a result of the President's travel, there have been a number of inquiries about the status of travel conditions in the greater eastern Mediterranean region. I want to point out that there is an existing travel advisory for the eastern Mediterranean, and this advisory will be reviewed in accordance with normal procedures. Q Because the paper statement seems to go a little bit beyond what you're saying. Are there more indications or greater indications of terrorist activity now? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I'm not in a position to characterize it beyond the statement. Q Richard, in Moscow, there's a United States team at the moment negotiating with the Soviets on nuclear testing. Do you have anything on how that's going? MR. BOUCHER: No. I wasn't personally aware of it. I'll have to check. Sorry. Deborah? Q Anything new on the hostages in Lebanon? There's a new picture of Terry Anderson out today. MR. BOUCHER: I just heard about that before I came in. It's something I'll have to look for in the afternoon. Sorry. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:33 p.m.)