US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #155, Tuesday, 10/15/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:27 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 15, 199110/15/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Caribbean Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Israel, USSR (former), Haiti, Burma, Barbados, Philippines, Pakistan Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, Human Rights, Immigration, Refugees, Trade/Economics (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER:Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I would like to start out with a statement about the Nobel Peace Prize. The United States applauds the Nobel Prize Committee's decision to award the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the major Burmese opposition party, the National League for Democracy. Arrested because of her political activities, she has been held incommunicado without trial under house arrest for over two years. Even her husband and her children have not been allowed to visit her. Her courage and her sacrifice are an inspiration to all who believe in democratic principles and government. The United States has condemned Aung San Suu Kyi's detention. We've likewise repeatedly called for her release and that of all political prisoners in Burma. While she was detained, Aung San Suu Kyi's political party won over 80 percent of the seats contested in a national election in 1990. This remarkable result demonstrated the desire of the Burmese people for a return to parliamentary democracy. We call again upon the Burmese military regime to accede to the will of the people of Burma, free all political prisoners, and implement the results of the 1990 election through a prompt transfer of power to the civilian government. We hope the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi will hasten the coming of true democratic reform in Burma. With that statement, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything to say about the disclosures of the Iraqi H-bomb? MR. BOUCHER: No. I think the Special Commission and the IAEA inspectors have reported on what they found, and I don't really have anything to add to it. Q Richard, the White House announced a change in position -- a U.S. position -- on the defense and space talks in Geneva. How significant a change is this? And could you explain more fully exactly what it means? MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to explain a little more fully on the negotiating process. I don't have the technical details of the GPALS system with me. You would have to ask, I guess, the Defense Department about that. This is an outgrowth of the President's initiative, and the President's initiative in the SDI area with the GPALS program. In keeping with the President's initiative to reduce nuclear weapons, the U.S. Defense and Space Negotiating Group in Geneva has tabled a new U.S. approach to an agreement facilitating deployment of ballistic missile defenses. The current round of Defense and Space Talks began on September 30, and that's where we've discussed this with the Soviets. The new U.S. initiative is consistent with the President's direction to reorient the SDI program to pursue a system that provides protection against accidental, unauthorized, or third country launches. The United States is now prepared to discuss limits on the scope and timing of defensive deployments consistent with GPALS more limited objectives and missions. My understanding is that the previous U.S. position in these talks would have permitted unlimited deployments of defenses. The agreement we're proposing, at the same time, would not undermine the credibility of offensive retaliatory forces. The deployments that we are proposing, however, would require us to go beyond what is currently permitted by the ABM Treaty. During Under Secretary Bartholomew's recent discussions in Moscow, and the President's nuclear initiative, the United States team briefed the Soviets on the GPALS program. The Soviets have asked a number of questions, and the discussion was factual and analytical. We hope the new climate between the U.S. and the USSR, as reflected in the recent Bush and Gorbachev initiatives, will make it possible to reach an agreement facilitating the deployment of limited defenses. Q Is the United States backing off its broad interpretation of the ABM Treaty with something a little bit less sweeping? MR. BOUCHER: Carol, I'm not an expert on the ABM Treaty. And some of these issues that have been discussed in legal terms in the past, I don't think I really qualify to address. Many of you may understand them better than I do. That said, we've had a negotiation that was on-going. Our principle focus in that negotiation was to talk about openness, predictability, and we still think that those elements should play a major role in a new regime. We put down a package of measures in 1988 that we think would represent a good start in that respect, but we're also prepared to discuss additional measures on the old stuff. And now we have tabled a new approach that would provide for limits on the scope and the timing of defensive deployments so that this kind of GPAL system -- that's designed to protect against accidental and unauthorized or third country launches -- would be possible. Q You may not be an expert on ABM, but there are people in this building who are. So could you get an answer to that question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see if I can get an answer. Your question is basically, "Does this represent a change from the broad interpretation of the ABM Treaty?" Q Right. MR. BOUCHER: Is that right? Q Yes. Q And while you're at that, Richard, why don't you answer the question, "In what way does it demand deployments that go beyond the ABM Treaty? In what way does this proposal, the GPALS -- the new tabled proposal -- you said it would, however, require going beyond the parameters of the current ABM Treaty. MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that the current ABM Treaty provides for one site and that this would be additional sites beyond that. Q Richard, you may have answered this already and I may have missed it. Is it expected that the U.S. will renegotiate the ABM Treaty with the Soviets on this issue, or would there be some sort of side document, or what's -- MR. BOUCHER: The answer to all of the above is "yes." We haven't decided -- we haven't made a decision yet on the legal form or the duration of an agreement. So it could be a new treaty, it could be an amendment to the ABM Treaty. Q Richard, the Pakistani Supreme Court has throw out the convictions of two American brothers who were going to have their feet and hands amputated. Have you got anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: Only that I can confirm that Daniel and Charles Boyd were released October 14, after Pakistan's Supreme Court overturned their earlier convictions. Because of the Privacy Act, that's all I can say about the case. Q Richard, Margaret told us last week that it had been brought up at the highest levels with the Pakistani authorities. Did you tell the Pakistanis that relations could be harmed if this had been carried out or if they proceeded with this? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any amplification on that. I believe what Margaret said is that we had raised our concerns about the harshness of the sentence. Q And one question on Burma, Richard. What's the status of U.S. aid to Burma? Is it still cut off? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. It's still cut off. I've got a rundown of the sanctions. I think you remember a few months ago I talked about their textile quota that wasn't being renewed. We have long since terminated all forms of non-humanitarian assistance to Burma and we've actively urged others to do so. We suspended Burma's GSP benefits. We decertified Burma on narcotics. That requires us to oppose loans to Burma by the World Bank, the IMF, and other international financial institutions. We've blocked the sale of arms to Burma from the United States, and we've attempted to dissuade others from selling arms to Burma. We note the EC has also imposed an arms embargo on Burma. We've been consulting with other industrial democracies to search for further methods to increase pressure on the Burmese regime. As you know, this was addressed at the Summit in London, as well as at the ASEAN Post-Ministerial meeting in Singapore. Q So for all intents and purposes, there is absolutely no U.S. aid going to Burma now? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. I checked on humanitarian aid. Apparently, we have twice exercised the Ambassador's humanitarian discretionary fund. Once was for assistance in some flooding that took place a couple of months ago. That was twice we've exercised $10,000 worth of authority for humanitarian relief. But that's all that there was. Q But have you been putting any sort of pressure on or relating your concerns to whoever is in the military junta there? Or is it just -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what contacts they have. Certainly, I think our actions speak for themselves. Our statements have been made repeatedly and our position has been made very, very clear on the need to restore democracy. Rick. Q Richard, on Haiti, can you give us an update on where things stand, especially with the OAS and whether or not there will be another mission to Haiti anytime soon by the group? MR. BOUCHER: As far as the situation itself, I'm told that calm prevailed in Haiti over the weekend. Police patrolled the streets. The airport was open for both commercial and charter flights. U.S. citizens who wish to leave Haiti are doing so with few difficulties as flights become available. Our Embassy estimates that as many as 2500 Americans may have left. That would come from both the registered and the unregistered population of Americans. The number that we had registered -- as of yesterday, I guess it is -- came to 8400. But, as I said, some portion of those people may have left already. The OAS resolution calls on the Secretary General to keep channels of communication open and to assist in a process of agreement on the terms and conditions that will allow the restoration of President Aristide's government. We hope the various parties in Haiti will continue the dialogue that they began with the OAS eight-country mission to come to such an agreement. And, as you know, the OAS resolution itself speaks of the civilian mission. And once agreement is reached, that could be sent to Haiti to help with the democratic process. Q Do you know if talks are taking place, if any movement is taking place within Haiti itself in terms of coming around to the OAS view that Aristide must be restored? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's anything specific that I could point to at this point. I think the Secretary General is keeping the channels of communication open, but I'm not aware of any basic change in the situation. Q Do you have anything on compliance with the trade embargo? MR. BOUCHER: We have taken some significant measures already through the Executive Order that imposes a freeze on all Haitian government financial assets and transactions with the Haitian government. We have ceased all bilateral assistance to Haiti. We've stopped sales or transfers of defense equipment and services. Additional measures are being considered. As far as regulations on the trade embargo, which was in the last OAS resolution, we're still studying how to implement it with the humanitarian exceptions that exist in the resolution. Q Do you have anything on the continuing Turkish invasion of northern Iraq against Kurdish people? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. As you know, our view in the past was that such operations should be concluded as as swiftly as possible. I think I saw press reports this morning that said it was over. So that's about where we are. Q Anything on Yugoslavia, and specifically on the recent results by the EC mediation? MR. BOUCHER: On Yugoslavia, our understanding is that the level of fighting has remained the same over the weekend. There remains a low level of fighting in areas of eastern Croatia. Our understanding is that Dubrovnik is still being blockaded. According to our Consul from Zagreb, who is currently working out of Ljubljana, the relief convoy reached the federal army barracks at Vukovar, but has not been allowed to proceed to the city center to distribute its humanitarian cargo. We call on all parties to the ceasefire accord to adhere to its provisions in full and to cease actions which exacerbate this crisis. We further call on the Yugoslav national army to allow the relief convoy to distribute its cargo to civilians in Vukovar. As far as the EC goes, we understand the EC is looking to extend their monitoring efforts and must consult with all the parties in Yugoslavia. We fully support this move. We also understand that there will be a high-level meeting of the peace conference under Lord Carrington's stewardship on Friday, October l8th. Q One more question on Bulgaria. Have you got an assessment on the recent general elections in Bulgaria? MR. BOUCHER: Local and parliamentary elections were held in Bulgaria on October l3th. Unofficial tallies give the Union of Democratic Forces approximately 37 percent of the vote, the Bulgarian Socialist Party about 3l percent, and the Ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms about 7 percent. In our statement of October llth -- that was last Friday -- we characterized these elections as "another landmark step towards consolidating democracy." We encourage the next government to accelerate the process of political and economic reform. So far, we've seen press reports that the election monitors have not seen any significant problems. We don't yet, at this point, have a readout from American observers and from our Embassy's own accounts. Q Thank you on that. Q Richard, a couple of things left over from last week. Maybe you've handled them; I'm not sure. As you've seen, President Aquino said that her government would no longer object to the return of President Marcos' remains under some conditions. There's no obstacle, as far as the U.S. Government is concerned, about the corpse leaving; is there? MR. BOUCHER: No, there's not. I think that we put that up in a question last week that we answered. Q And have you heard of any plans afoot to actually remove the remains? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. But, as I said, at this point it's a question of Philippine Government authority, and so you can ask them what they are -- Q And from last week -- remember the small village near Jerusalem in which some Israeli settlers moved in. There are new reports today that the Israeli Government has now leased those houses, which were taken over, to the people -- the Israeli settlers. Do you have any confirmation or reaction to that? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid, Jim, with the Secretary in the Middle East, I'm not going to try to react to events over there. Anything further that has to be said I'm sure he will say. Q And one other thing, the lottery for these 40,000 visas. Does the State Department now agree that that was a pretty dim way to do it? MR. BOUCHER: Since I understand the way to do it was specified by Congress, I don't think I would be in a position to characterize it, Jim. Let me tell you what's gone on over the weekend. First of all, we expect by the end of the week that we will have begun to notify the individuals whose names were selected as possible winners in the program. As you know, 40,000 people will ultimately receive immigrant visas under the AA-l program. We will notify the first 50,000 people from which the 40,000 will be selected. This figure of 50,000 allows for attrition -- meaning individuals who don't qualify, or individuals who may change their minds. In the past week, we received l9 million pieces of mail. Seven million of those arrived before l2:0l on October l4th and were consequently disqualified. So there are l2 million pieces of mail that have to be gone through and that the 50,000 will be chosen from. The first envelope that was opened was from a British male, the second was from an Irish female, and the third was from a Japanese male. As soon as individuals are registered, they will be informed promptly of their place on the list. Registered applicants who wish to receive visas must be prepared to act immediately on their cases to ensure that they are among the final 40,000 selected. Each month, visas will be issued in chronological order of registration to those applicants who are ready for visa issuance during that month. Once the total of 40,000 visas has been issued, the program for the year will end. Q You say that this was mandated by Congress. The numbers were, but the actual mechanics of the lottery were not dictated by law; were they? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that some of that was in the legislation. I have to admit to not having re-read the legislation, but that the legislation, more or less, specified a first-come, first-serve basis. Q Richard, if I'm not mistaken, on October 23rd in Paris, the Cambodian settlement agreement will be signed. Do you have anything on the forced repatriation of refugees from camps along the Thai-Cambodian border by the Khmer Rouge back into Cambodia? Do you have anything on that now? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything with me. I think we can try to get you something this afternoon. Q Specifically, there's a Site Eight that is controlled by the Khmer Rouge, which recently the Khmer Rouge replaced the leadership of the camp -- some question about them being forced, or being taken away, and therefore some concerns, that as we get close to that October 23rd date, they may be up to their old ways. MR. BOUCHER: O.K. I'll see if we have anything general on the issue of repatriation into Cambodia, and more specifically if we know what's going on at Site Eight. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at l2:45 p.m.)