US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #135, Monday, 9/16/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:32 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 16, 19919/16/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, East Asia, Caribbean, Central America Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), North Korea, Philippines, Cuba, Panama, Turkey, Germany Subject: Democratization, Military Affairs, International Law, Trade/Economics, Development/Relief Aid, Human Rights, Arms Control (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 Can you go beyond the White House in responding to the events in the Philippines concerning the base? MR. BOUCHER: The United States is disappointed by the action of the Philippine Senate in rejecting an agreement that clearly is favored by the large majority of the Filipino people. We appreciate the unprecedented efforts by President Aquino to secure ratification of this treaty in the Senate. We also appreciate President Aquino's friendship toward the United States. We admire her determination as she continues the effort to put the treaty into effect. Once again, we wish to affirm that these constitutional issues are matters for the people of the Philippines to resolve according to their own constitutional and legal procedures. We will follow the process with interest, and we will abide by the outcome. Q I think you said that if the Senate rejected the proposed agreement, withdrawal proceedings would begin, or words to that effect. I take it you're not going to withdraw? MR. BOUCHER: George, we continue to believe that the agreement is good for both sides. We support President Aquino's efforts to find a way for the Philippine side to ratify the agreement. Obviously, with the Philippine Senate's rejection of the agreement, we will be looking more closely at the necessary preparations for withdrawal. But, as I said, she has announced her determination to put the agreement to a national referendum. We've made clear in the past that the procedures for ratification within the Philippines are for the Philippine people to decide. Q Well, legally, was it not the former State Department position that if the agreement had not been ratified by September 16, then it would cease to exist and the one-year withdrawal period would begin? Is that not the case? MR. BOUCHER: You're right in saying, Jim, that it has always been our view that the agreement can't terminate until September of 1992. It has been our view that if the agreement was rejected by the Philippines, then we would have to withdraw. I think that remains the case. What you have now is the situation where President Aquino has continued her efforts to seek ratification of the agreement. We support her efforts to find a way for the Philippine side to ratify the agreement, and we'll continue to follow the process closely. Q Let me ask you this, Richard, if I may. Would the United States stay in the Philippines in the event the people would approve this referendum but the Philippine Senate would not act upon that? What's the legal opinion? MR. BOUCHER: Frank, the legal opinion is one for the Philippine Government to determine; and that is if the Philippine Government tells us that the treaty has been rejected, then we would have to withdraw. If the Philippine Government finds a way to ratify the agreement, that would be something that we would consider ratification. But, really, the procedures involved and how they go about that is a matter for the Philippine Government to determine. As I said, we admire the efforts that President Aquino is making to support this agreement and to get that kind of ratification. Q But withdrawal is a matter for you to determine, and you can't say "yes" or "no" as to whether withdrawal proceedings will or will not begin? MR. BOUCHER: But he's basing it on some hypothetical scenario that involves a question for the Philippine Government; and that is, for them, what are the appropriate procedures for them to either ratify or reject the agreement. At this point, Mrs. Aquino is making efforts to seek the ratification of the agreement. Obviously, we think the agreement is good, and we support those efforts. We admire her determination, and we will be following the situation closely. Q How long will you wait? MR. BOUCHER: I can't give that kind of estimate at this point. Q Did President Aquino ask for certain steps to be taken by the United States Government in order to re-enforce the support of the Filipino people to the bases? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know what you're talking about. We've been in close touch with her all along throughout this process. My understanding is that the final vote came about 10:00 this morning, so I'm not sure we've talked to her since then. Q Am I correct to assume that the United States, in any case, would not begin withdrawing from the Philippine bases before September of 1992? MR. BOUCHER: That is not an assumption that I can make at this point. Obviously, we're going to have to look at the preparations that might be necessary for withdrawal. At this point, we're also looking at the process that President Aquino is following in the Philippines to secure the ratification of the agreement, and that's what we're following most closely. Q Richard, if the United States does fall back, will that be out of the area entirely or is there a fall-back option in the area to establish other military bases? Has that been thought about and worked on? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, obviously, the Defense Department is the most appropriate place to deal with those sorts of issues. I believe that Pete Williams has discussed this to some extent to say that we wouldn't necessarily relocate everything to one particular place. We'd probably parcel out the missions and functions that are carried out in the Philippines. Q Richard, other clocks are running. For example, at the beginning fiscal year, October 1, will the Administration go ahead with the $203 million aid plus the $160 million -- what was it for? -- foreign military sales assistance? MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember the numbers exactly. I think I gave them to you last week, and therefore I forgot them already. We have the Fiscal Year 1991 assistance package that has already been appropriated by the Congress. At this point Congress has not yet acted on the Fiscal Year 1992 budget. We would intend to stand by our original request for aid to the Philippines. But, of course, we would review our assistance program as any future developments would dictate. Q One of the objections to the treaty by some key Filipino Senators is that they believe it undermines the Filipino sovereignty. Would the State Department consider renegotiating the treaty itself to shift some of the functions to the Philippines? Is that an option? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, Frank, we have negotiated an agreement that we think is in the interests of both sides. We think it's a good agreement. We continue to look at the process underway in the Philippines that we hope will result in ratification because it's a good agreement for both sides. I can't speculate on renegotiation. I don't think we've talked about that at all. Q Some work will be necessary if Subic were to be used as a substitute for Clark, as well as its former function as a naval base. Will that refurbishing work now proceed? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That's a question that the Defense Department will have to look at. Q Do you have any comment on, or does the United States Government have any reaction to, Rehavam Zeevi's -- the Israeli Minister without-Portfolio -- attack on the President and questioning his integrity? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any further reaction today. I believe Defense Minister Arens and then General Scowcroft addressed the question on television yesterday. Of course, the Secretary is out there. I don't know what he might have said. Q Do you also have any comment about this morning's report or interview with Mr. Ben Aharon, who is the senior assistant to Mr. Shamir, saying that the postponement of the loan guarantees cast a shadow on the Middle East peace efforts? MR. BOUCHER: My only comment on that is that the Secretary has arrived in Israel, and he's discussing these issues with people out there. Q For everything, ask the Secretary; right? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q Do you have anything on the developments yesterday in Iraq? The U.N. team, I believe, left because helicopter flights were not permitted. MR. BOUCHER: We discussed this somewhat on Friday. I can update you since then. The full Security Council met Friday to discuss Iraqi refusal to allow the U.N. Special Commission helicopters into Iraq as required by U.N. Security Council Resolution 707. There was agreement that obstruction of the will of the Council was unacceptable. The Security Council President -- which, in this case, is France -- met with the Iraqi Permanent Representative to convey the Council's concern over Iraq's obstruction of U.N. resolutions. The Security Council President informed the Iraqi representative that Iraq must immediately comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 707 and that non-compliance would be met with the most serious consequences. We consider Iraq's obstruction of the U.N. Special Commission a breach of its obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolution 707, and we are continuing consultations with other Council members over the most appropriate steps to take if Iraq does not immediately comply. We support the Security Council President's demand to Ambassador al-Anbari that Iraq allow the deployment of U.N. Special Commission helicopters and that if it does not comply, serious consequences will result. Q The Kuwaitis are saying that there has been yet another border incursion or violation. Do you know anything about that? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard of that, Jim. I think the Kuwaitis could probably provide you with more information than I can, since I don't know about it. Q Last week you mentioned a pattern that the U.S. Government saw developing. Does the helicopter episode fit in with that? And, also, do you have any reading on the dismissal of the Iraqi Prime Minister? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any reading on the dismissal of the Iraqi Prime Minister. I believe what we discussed last week was in the context of their refusal to allow the ballistic missile team to use helicopters. That was part of the continuing pattern on the part of Iraq of obstructing the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Q Richard, do you have an update on the situation in the Kurdish areas? There are reports that the Kurds have taken 800 prisoners. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that, Alan. Q Richard, I can understand that any questions relating to Secretary Baker's talks in Israel would be referred back to the delegation there, but I hope maybe you can answer this very general question: Do you think that, at least, there is a part right in the reports that his talks are aiming at a compromise for the confrontation of these days between Israel and the U.S.? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on the Secretary's talks. They're on going right now. They may be finished for the night. He had arrived in Israel and went immediately into meetings, is my understanding. I'm not going to speculate on that. He said last week -- or was it the week before that? -- that he intended to go out there and discuss the details of the loan guarantee issue with Prime Minister Shamir; and we'll leave it at that. Q Can you tell me what if anything is being done to pressure the Chinese to stop the illegal trade of the so-called "gulag goods," the goods made in the forced labor camps? MR. BOUCHER: I think there was a report on television last night. It's certainly an issue that we've been following, that we're aware of, and I will try to give you a fairly complete rundown. We've been aware of the existence of prison factories and agricultural farms in China which employ convict labor. Imprisonment in China, except for those in detention camps, generally entails compulsory labor. The U.S. opposes forced or compulsory labor; and, in fact, earlier this year we ratified ILO Convention 105 on the abolition of forced labor. Voluntary prison labor and the export of prison labor products are not outlawed by the International Convention. Our concern is with the violation of our domestic laws that could occur if products of the Chinese prison system are exported to the United States. There is growing evidence of possible violations of our law. This has prompted an on-going Customs Service investigation. I would, of course, refer you to Customs for further information on that. We have informed the Chinese Government of our insistence that no products of prison labor be imported to the United States. We have received a firm commitment from China to prevent the sale of prison labor products to the United States. In fact, Ambassador Roy reiterated our concerns in his initial call on the Chinese Foreign Trade Minister on August 22. We have been assured that China would follow up on any case on which it was provided information. Certainly the information on the television show last night could provide adequate documentation for such a follow-up with the Chinese. We've also discussed with the Chinese Foreign Trade Ministry the need to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding on procedures for the prompt investigation of allegations that specific imports from China were produced by prison labor. We are actively pursuing this issue and will begin negotiations with the Chinese as soon as possible. Q Just a follow up. Can you confirm the report in Newsweek today that the State Department has reassigned its personnel that are working on prisons and prison labor issues in China? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that report. I don't know if what they're talking about is a routine rotation of personnel or what. But we have people that have been following this issue. It's something that we keep under our view in a variety of different ways. I don't think there should be any conclusions drawn from it. Q Well, supposing you do find further evidence of systematic exports of compulsory labor-produced products from prisons. Would that affect the Chinese MFN status, for example? MR. BOUCHER: The action that that would bring, Jim, is that we have asked the Customs Service -- they have been instructed to deny entry to products imported from China when there is reasonable indication that the products were made with prison labor. The denial will continue until the Chinese Government, or the Chinese exporter, provides credible evidence that the products were not produced by prison labor. Q Richard, last week the Customs Service made a number of seizures of products from China. Was that related to this question? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what exactly those were for. I think you'll have to check with Customs on that. Q Richard, do you have anything more to say than the Pentagon did about U.S. troops in Guantanamo and the Cuban demand that they leave? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, with the trial of General Noriega just getting underway, can you provide us -- you may not have this at hand -- but can you provide us with an update on U.S. aid to Panama in this year? How much was allocated and how much has actually been disbursed? MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to get that for you, Alan. Q Richard, on the Guantanamo question, do you know if the Soviet Union is asking for the same, like the Cuban request for withdrawal of the U.S. troops? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We have, I think, the press conference that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Pankin gave last Friday, but I don't think that issue was addressed. Of course, the Foreign Minister had made some comments before that. So I don't really have an update at this point. Q Would you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there is anything we can get. I think it is most likely to come out of whatever further transcripts we can get from the party. Q Richard, what can you tell us about plans to withdraw the coalition forces now in Silopi, Turkey, from the border area with Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can tell you anything at this point, Chris. Q There's an American general quoted, saying this will happen in two weeks. MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I'll see if there is anything we can say. Q Richard, can you tell us something about possible U.S. plans to modify the ABM treaty and the proposal that it should be put up there at the Geneva talks at the end of the month? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard about that. Is there something specific you're referring to? Q Well, the Pentagon is preparing a new project that would go along with what the President said about space defense. MR. BOUCHER: I'll see where we are on those talks. I'm not sure I have anything new for you. Q You were asked Friday about this new report of a North Korean atomic bomb factory, and you said you didn't know anything about it then. Do you know anything now? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, Jim. I'll see if I can get you something on it, but I don't think it's something that we are in a position to comment on. Q Richard, what is the nature of the visit by Chancellor Kohl today? What are the subjects of talks with President Bush? And was this pre-planned or was this a spontaneous visit on the part of the Chancellor? MR. BOUCHER: I think those are all excellent questions to ask over at the White House when they give the readout on the visit. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:50 p.m.)