November, 1991

US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #164, Wednesday, 11/6/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:26 PM, Washington, DC Date: Nov 6, 199111/6/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, East Asia, South America, Central America, Eurasia Country: USSR (former), Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru, Israel, Ukraine Subject: Military Affairs, International Law, Regional/Civil Unrest, Terrorism (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon. I don't have any statements or announcements today so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Croatia has asked for the United States to intervene militarily in the civil conflict there. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: Steve, we've seen those kinds of statements before, and our position hasn't changed. We don't have any intention of getting involved militarily. Q We hear reports that Baker and Pankin might visit Yugoslavia in the near future. Anything like that that you know of? MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard those reports. Q Speaking of Boris Pankin, can you confirm that Baker, 2 months before the coup, called him over for an incognito meeting at his hotel in Berlin? MR. BOUCHER: I think the report was Bessmertnykh, not Pankin. Q I'm sorry, it was Bessmertnykh. It was. MR. BOUCHER: All I have to say to you on this subject is to tell you that Secretary Baker has had extensive discussions about Soviet internal developments in virtually all his meetings with his Soviet counterparts. This was also the case during his meetings with then-Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh in Berlin on June 20th. Q Did he ask him to come back over and hide his identity as he came back into the hotel? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to go into any more details about the contents of his discussions or the meetings. Q But you say "meetings" as plural, so there was more than one that day? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to go back and check the schedule and see what exactly there was. I don't remember precisely. Q This is quite specific, as you no doubt know, having read the story. MR. BOUCHER: The story -- I guess the aspect I'm dealing with here is the contents of the discussions. I think the meetings themselves were a matter of public record. I'll double-check that. Q No, not the sneaky part where he came in the back door. Q That's precisely the point. MR. BOUCHER: I think I'm not going to be in a position to clarify that. Q That would not be in the public record at the time? Q Would you regard this as classified, that he had a private meeting with the Foreign Minister? Why would you not want to confirm that? MR. BOUCHER: John, I don't remember what the schedule was at the time, so I'm just not -- I didn't check that aspect of this. Q Can we ask you to? MR. BOUCHER: I will check that aspect. Q Richard, without reference to the specific meeting, you said that Baker has had extensive discussions about the internal developments in the Soviet Union. In any of those -- not specifically this one -- did he warn the Soviets of the possibility of a coup? MR. BOUCHER: I think I also said I can't provide any more details about the contents of his discussions. Q That's right. I'm not asking you about that. MR. BOUCHER: That would apply to any of those, including these particular -- Q Can you say, in general, whether he gave notice of a possible coup? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't, Jim. We've always declined to get into that degree of detail or the specificity of the discussions that he's had. As you know, he's had extensive discussions on Soviet internal developments whenever he's met with his Soviet counterparts. That was the case in Berlin. But I'm not, at this point, prepared to go into any more detail than we have in the past of what he discussed there. Q Richard, when we were coming back from the Brussels NATO meeting, right after the coup -- in fact, as the coup was in progress -- a senior official on the plane, in fact, told reporters that the U.S. had tipped off the Soviets or had given them some information about a possible coup attempt beforehand. The official would not go into detail. The story merely seems to be the details. MR. BOUCHER: You're asking a question, Warren? Q If you put the two together, it would seem to confirm the story. MR. BOUCHER: Warren, you can put together whatever senior officials or other officials might tell you with whatever you want, but I'm not going to stand here and go into any more details from this podium on things that have been said in these meetings. Q On Baker's trip to China, does he have any plans to meet with any Chinese dissidents? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I don't have a full schedule for that at this point. We're still working on the Secretary's schedule. Q Without pinning it to a schedule, in general, does he have any plans or hopes to meet with any Chinese dissidents? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that sort of information, as the schedule is developed, will come out during the course of his trip. Q Are you aware that there are some 30 political prisoners in a Manchurian jail working in a matchbook plant, a matchbook factory, putting together -- assembling matchbooks 14 hours a day; that if they don't meet the quotas, they are prodded with electronic devices, or electric devices, and such? Are you aware of that? MR. BOUCHER: What exactly are you referring to? Is this a report that's come out? I'm personally not aware of it -- of the conditions in a prison in Manchuria. I think we've made clear our position on prison labor in China. We've had testimony on the Hill about this subject. We've had investigations. We've had contacts with the Chinese on it where they agreed to stop any exports of prison labor. We've also made clear that human rights is a very important topic on our agenda with China and will be the top agenda item for the Secretary when he goes there. Q I'm sorry, I'll be a little more specific. There are two political prisoners, specifically, in this prison who were among the 21 most wanted students that the Chinese authorities issued after the Tiananmen Square demonstration. We apparently have that list ourselves -- the United States. So one would assume that we would have some information about this situation in Manchuria. MR. BOUCHER: Steve, I'm not sure we know the location of every political prisoner in China. As you know, we've encouraged the Chinese to take steps on human rights. That's been a key part of our policy. We've had meetings there; we've had visitors there. It's been a fundamental goal of our policy to engage the Chinese on the issue of human rights. We had a limited dialogue with the Chinese, but they haven't taken the kind of substantive actions that we would like to see. As I said, the issue of human rights will be a key issue on the Secretary's agenda when he goes there. Q Back to the Soviet Union. Do you have any comment on the signing by the Ukraine of the inter-republic economic treaty today? MR. BOUCHER: Today? Q They signed it today, but I think -- MR. BOUCHER: As it occurred, I think I saw something that said that they passed it. I'll have to check on that, Sonja. I think you're aware of what we said in the past of the importance of economic cooperation and establishing the economic relationships between the republics. Q So you would welcome this development? MR. BOUCHER: I think, in general, we would, yes. Q Sorry. Just back to China for a second. Do you have any comment on the Asia Watch report that came out the other day about the list of prisoners that supposedly was presented? MR. BOUCHER: We presented a list of some 800-plus prisoners whom we believe to be detained for political and religious reasons to the Chinese in June in Washington by Assistant Secretary Schifter and in Beijing by our Embassy. We haven't received what we would consider a satisfactory response to our concerns about these individuals, and we intend to continue to press the Chinese on this issue. Q On the Soviet Union, do you now have confirmation that the Soviets have agreed to the conditions for the "open skies" proposal? MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to give you a fairly complete rundown on "open skies," because I think many of you find yourself in the same position as I was yesterday; that's not remembering exactly where we stood. The "open skies" negotiations involving the NATO allies and former Warsaw Pact members resumed in Vienna on November 5. All European member states of the CSCE have been invited to attend either as participants or observers. Progress in earlier rounds in Ottawa in early 1990 and in Budapest in May of 1990 had been hampered by Soviet efforts to limit coverage of Soviet territory and to minimize the number of overflights and types of sensors used. The Soviets also insisted on using Soviet aircraft to overfly the Soviet Union. In April of this year, NATO approached the Soviets with a compromise proposal, meeting the Soviets' aircraft concerns in exchange for Soviet flexibility on territorial coverage, quotas, and sensors. When negotiators gathered for a September 9-13 exploratory round after a 16-month hiatus, we found the Soviet position was still quite unacceptable. As a result, the U.S. in both Washington and Moscow strongly urged the Soviet Government to accept the NATO compromise and to return to Vienna with acceptable territory, quota, and sensor positions. Thus, when the negotiations resumed on November 5, the Soviet delegation demonstrated just such flexibility. This opens the way to making significant progress toward an agreement. Delegations hope to craft a joint draft text during this session. That text may then require further work, probably early next year, and we would anticipate that an agreement will be finalized before the March 1992 Helsinki CSCE meeting. Q Where was the flexibility -- in the nationality of the aircraft or the geographic limits or what? MR. BOUCHER: The compromise that we proposed would have met some of the Soviets' concerns on aircraft in exchange for asking them for flexibility on territorial coverage, quotas, and sensors. And their flexibility was along the lines of our proposal. They'll have to finish working out the details in Vienna as we go forward. Q Basically, we're willing to use their aircraft if they will let us overfly what we want to see. MR. BOUCHER: It's not precisely that way. It offers a little more flexibility on each of the issues. But, as I said, the details have got to be worked out as they put together the text. Q And no other countries are raising any problems? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I think there was pretty close to unanimous support for this idea and for the proposals. I think you'll remember back in -- toward the beginning of negotiations in 1989, there was a NATO consensus on it, and at the point that the hiatus occurred, I think the Soviets were really the only outstanding country. Q Is this not a case of finally getting a treaty, just at that point when a treaty is not particularly useful with the end of the Cold War? MR. BOUCHER: No, Jim. I think I'd have to reject that totally and completely. This is an important confidence-building measure, unlike some of the aerial overflights, for example, in the CFE agreement. It's not specifically tied to monitoring compliance with this specific agreement, but rather it's an important measure to build confidence. It includes more territory than other agreements do. It would include both Soviet territory and U.S. and Canadian territory -- Soviet territory east of the Urals as well as U.S. and Canadian territory -- and we think it's an important agreement that can allow for the kind of confidence in what's going on that we need in this day and age. Q Would the Soviet Union be able to speak for the individual republics when it came time to actually sign a treaty? MR. BOUCHER: If there are any questions about that, Jim, I think we'd address them when it comes time to actually sign the treaty. Q How does it work on the other side? Do they -- if they're going to have overflights of the U.S. and Canada, do they use U.S. and Canadian planes? MR. BOUCHER: Again, the specific issue of aircraft concerns is one that has been addressed in our compromise proposals that will be addressed with the Soviets now that they've come back and demonstrated the kind of flexibility that we were hoping for. But the details remain to be worked out by the negotiators. Q Richard, if I recall, when this was first up, it was a bloc-to-bloc agreement, so that the members of one bloc could not overfly the territory of other members of the same one. Is that still the case, and, if so, are we holding the Warsaw Pact together just to have somebody to overfly? [Laughter] MR. BOUCHER: I think I referred somewhere in here to the "former Warsaw Pact members," so we're certainly not trying to hold the Warsaw Pact together. Exactly how the treaty addresses itself to those sorts of issues of countries and quotas, I just don't know, and I think we're going to have to give this a little time to work out the details. Q Were any republic representatives invited to the negotiations in Vienna? MR. BOUCHER: Sonja, that really gets into the same sorts of questions of "how do the Soviets organize themselves to negotiate, and how are they going to implement the agreements." And I don't have any details for you on that. I think that's something you might want to ask the Soviets about. Q But we're agreeable to signing it with a Soviet sponsor or a number of republics and the Soviet Union? Are we flexible on that point? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think it's probably premature for me to try to specify that. I'm sure that if your question is raising sort of "are we agreeable to signing an agreement that can't be implemented," no, I doubt if that is the case. But as long as we think we have arrangements that can be implemented, then I think we'll be agreeable to signing. Q That's what I'm asking. I'm asking whether we think it can be -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's a question I can answer for you at this point, Steve. I'll see if there's anything we can say. Q As a specific example, do the Baltic states now have to be included as parties to this? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, that's something I didn't specifically check on. I don't know. Q Could you, please? MR. BOUCHER: I'll try. I did say that all member states of the CSCE have been invited to attend either as participants or observers, so I'm sure they're there. Whether they're there as participants or observers, I don't know. Q On another matter -- MR. BOUCHER: In the back? Q I want to change the subject for just one second. There are reports from the United Nations that most, if not all, Latin American countries have advised Cuba to withdraw the embargo issue from the agenda. Any comments or further information as to the reasons behind that move? MR. BOUCHER: For their own particular reasons, I think you'd have to ask them. Of course, we do not want to see the issue of our embargo on Cuba addressed there, and we've told other people that that's our view. Q Now, could you comment on Cuban claims that the United States has been pressuring Latin American countries into withdrawing their support for Cuba -- or their potential support for Cuba? MR. BOUCHER: We have been meeting with other government officials to explain our objections to Cuba's request. In our conversations, we've impressed upon our interlocutors the great importance that the U.S. Government and the people of the United States attach to this issue. Q Is there a growing concern by the U.S. Government about the situation in Nicaragua as strikes end up paralyzing the economy and making it more difficult for the elected officials to run the government and such? MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if we want to say anything on that, John. I didn't prepare anything today. Q Richard, while we're on Latin America, anything on all the killings that have come out in Peru? There's been a surge of violence -- terrorists. MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that as well, Mike. Q Richard, there's a report today that in 1967 during the -- or just prior to the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty that the United States picked up a transmission from an Israeli Mirage pilot, saying, "That's an American ship." Was there such a transmission picked up, and was this information in the hands of the United States at that time? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I frankly don't know. Q Would you look into that? MR. BOUCHER: It's not something that I checked on. I do remember that since I've been here, we haven't had anything further to say about that incident, which was more than 20 years ago, and I don't think we do at this point either. Q It still is of some interest, and I wonder if you'd look into it. MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's any inclination to begin addressing these things now. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:43 p.m.)