US Department of State Daily Briefing #80: Thursday, 5/21/92

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: Washington, DC Date: May, 21 19925/21/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, East Asia, Caribbean Country: Israel, USSR (former), Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Iraq, Lebanon, Haiti Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Development/Relief Aid, Arms Control, Regional/Civil Unrest, CSCE, Nuclear Nonproliferation, State Department, Democratization, Refugees, Immigration 12:23 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to do two things off the top here. I'd like to tell you a little more about the Secretary's travel, and then I'd like to discuss a Chinese nuclear test.

[Secretary's Travel to Georgia and other NIS Countries]

Following his visits to London and to Lisbon to attend the follow-on meeting of the Coordinating Conference on Assistance to the New Independent States, Secretary Baker will travel to Tblisi, Georgia. He will return to Washington on Tuesday, May 26. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the United States wants to establish good relations with all the New Independent States. The Secretary has visited every new state except Georgia, and he wanted to see first-hand what progress Georgia is making on political and economic reform. By seeing the situation first-hand, it will make it easier for the United States to provide appropriate support for the institutionalization of democracy and free markets there. Q He'll see Shevardnadze, I suppose? Do you know that? MR. BOUCHER: I suppose, yes. I'm sure they will be seeing each other. As you know, Shevardnadze is Chairman of the State Council there. Q Does he leave Sunday and get there, or does he stay overnight another night in Lisbon? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the exact schedule for you at this point. I'll see what we can give you later. Q Richard, do we have any indications on when Georgia might be recognized by the U.S.? MR. BOUCHER: Georgia has been recognized. We have an Embassy there. Q Oh! Q Since we're inside 24 hours from departure, do you think it might be soon that we'd get a schedule? MR. BOUCHER: John, you know how these things work. We get the information to you as soon as we have it pinned down and worked out. I'm sure we'll tell you everything we can as soon as we can. O.K. We go on to China? Q You told us why he's going there, right? MR. BOUCHER: I told you why he's going there. Q I mean, is it sort of like trying to get the whole set -- I mean, this being the last place he hasn't been? Or -- really -- or is he trying -- you know, Georgia has had a rocky past. It didn't seem to be on a democratic path. Is this a way of saying "We're pleased the way you're going," or look at conditions or -- MR. BOUCHER: Barry, as I said, it's an opportunity for him to see first-hand. He has gone to each of the New Independent States and started discussions on things like the basic principles of our relationships, the importance of democracy and free markets. He wanted to know first-hand what the various governments were doing in those directions. Georgia has gone through a difficult period and now appears more stable, and he's going to want to go there and see what they're doing in that direction as well. Q Can you say anything more about the program for Lisbon? Are they in fact going to be able to sign the protocol? MR. BOUCHER: At this point I don't have any news on that for you. Q Do you know about arrangements for ceremonies in Lisbon? There's word from Lisbon they're arranging Saturday ceremonies. MR. BOUCHER: Barry, at this point I don't have anything new on that protocol or that issue other than what Margaret said yesterday.

[China: Underground Nuclear Test/US Reaction]

Q Why don't you do China? MR. BOUCHER: China. We understand that about midnight, Eastern Standard Time, China conducted a very large underground nuclear test. The yield of this test was in the one megaton range. This appears to be the largest underground test China has conducted. We regret that the Chinese have conducted this test and that they are not demonstrating the same restraint as that shown by Russia, ourselves or the other nuclear weapons states. Under the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to limit our underground nuclear tests to less than 150 kilotons in yield. We call on China to observe similar restraint. Q When was the last time China conducted an underground test? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Carol. Q What's your understanding of why they were moved to do this at this time? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's a question you have to ask the Chinese. Q Was this discussed or the general subject of the test ban discussed during Kanter's trip there? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that it was. Q Do you make -- what do you think is going on in Beijing? I mean, first we had the detention of, you know, and rather sort of severe warnings to a Washington Post reporter that at least border on censorship, and now we have a flaunting of, you know, international policy on nuclear testing. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I have to say that China is not a party to the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, but that we and other nuclear states who have conducted tests do not conduct tests in this range, either by treaty because of us and the Soviet Union heretofore, or by policy for others. So we're asking -- looking to China to observe similar kinds of restraint, and we'll be talking about to them about this more directly as well. I wouldn't start drawing a pattern between this and other actions. I mean, you can, I guess, do whatever analysis you want to, but I'm not aware that those two things have been related by anyone. Q Do you know where physically the test was? MR. BOUCHER: I don't. Q Do you know if there was any venting? MR. BOUCHER: At this point I don't have information on that question. Q Could I ask you to do a little analysis so far as nuclear arms control is concerned? What I mean is when the Soviet Union broke up and Russia inherited the good bulk of the Soviet nuclear weapons, the U.S. position was we want the others -- meaning the three other nuclear states -- to be nuclear free, but we think the Russians should maintain nuclear weapons. There are threats out there. The U.S. never specified what. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we quite said that, Barry. Q Yes, you did. Not from the podium -- MR. BOUCHER: We'll check the record on that. Q At a higher level, yes -- that we think that Russia -- that it's good for the security of the world that Russia retain nuclear weapons, and I can substantiate that. That's true. Secondly, Kazakhstan, which just now is pretty much on board, has been saying "Hey, you know, we have China on one border, we have Russia, and we've got to protect ourselves." So they've sort of used the China threat as something that makes them wary of giving up their weapons. What does this China test do to U.S. efforts to persuade other countries to get rid of nuclear weapons? Is this an alarming development that justifies the retention of nuclear weapons by neighboring or adjacent countries? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I hesitate to try to draw grand conclusions out of this. This test doesn't change the fact that is acknowledged and that we're all aware of: that China has nuclear weapons. And that's the fact that neighboring countries or other countries in the world deal with on an international scale as a matter of their political and security policies. In terms of the test, what we're saying here is that this was a test of a very large size. It was a size exceeding by six or more times the levels of tests that are observed by other nuclear testing countries, and it's a test that therefore raises some concerns that we would like to see the Chinese exercise the same kind of restraint in terms of the size of their nuclear tests as we do. And that's what we're saying here. As far as the implications for security policies of other governments, I really think those security policies are formulated not on the size of any one test but on the fact of the nuclear arsenal. Q On the size of the test, you're saying it's the largest China has ever conducted since they've had nuclear weapons. MR. BOUCHER: That's right. That's our understanding. Q Is it the largest -- Q Was the previous the largest one? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly, but I understand it wasn't on this magnitude. It was several times smaller. Q Richard, when you say that you're going to be discussing this with the Chinese, are you going to make any kind of formal protest to the Chinese? I mean, what do you mean "discussing it"? MR. BOUCHER: We, I'm sure, will make our concerns known about the size of the test, at least in the terms that I've made it known here. We will call on them to exercise restraint the way we do in the size of nuclear tests; and, until we've done it, I hesitate to describe in any more detail what we're doing. Q Can you say on what level this -- is this going to take place here or in Beijing? MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to get you the details after we've done it. Q How does it compare with the size of American or Soviet tests? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not -- you may be able to get from the Energy Department some more details on the exact size of our tests if they release that kind of information on the actual size of tests. But we are limited under the Test Ban Treaty to 150 kilotons. This test was in the one megaton range. Q Richard, does the size of this test tell us something we didn't previously know about their weapons program? MR. BOUCHER: That's not an area I could get into. Q Why? MR. BOUCHER: Because I'm not in a position to discuss what we may have known before about their weapons program. Q Is this something -- is the size of this new to us? Do we now know -- did we know -- is the size of it news to us? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Sid, that's not an area I can get into. I'm sorry. Q Can we have a filing break? MR. BOUCHER: Filing break? O.K. Q Richard, another subject? MR. BOUCHER: Sure.

[Former Yugoslavia: Update/US Sanctions]

Q Anything new in terms of sanctions or reactions toward Yugoslavia because of actions it has taken in the past few days? MR. BOUCHER: On the specific question of sanctions, as you know Margaret said yesterday and I think the day before that we are considering steps that we might take either alone or in coordination with other countries. We are indeed consulting with allies at this point on a broad range of measures, but those consultations are continuing. I don't have anything new to announce here today. Q Would you give us an idea of what that broad range could include? MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm afraid I can't. Q Richard, can you talk to us a little bit about the letters the Secretary has been receiving from the Bosnian Foreign Minister, appealing to him to intervene, to do something? Can you confirm that in fact he has gotten those letters? Does he have any reaction to those letters? MR. BOUCHER: I just saw a wire service report this morning. I wasn't able to confirm that we'd in fact received the letters. Based on the reports I saw, I really, you know, can't give a full response to those letters at this point. We have been active. As I said, we're actively consulting with other governments about what we can do, about further measures we can take. Margaret announced yesterday a sanction against the Yugoslav national airlines from flying into the United States, which is quite a revenue loser for them; and she said that we would continue to consult and to take further measures, either alone or in consultation with our allies. Q But, Richard, the Bosnian Foreign Minister is talking in terms of Bosnia having become a slaughterhouse, and he's asking -- specifically he appealed to the Secretary of State on the creation of some kind of a security zone to allow humanitarian supplies to get to people in Sarajevo. I mean, what does that have to do with suspending the airlines? They're talking about immediate, direct intervention. MR. BOUCHER: Well, it has two things to do [with it]. I mean, the first thing is that we are making diplomatic efforts in a variety of ways to bring home to Serbia and those responsible for the violence the need for it to stop and the need to open up the airport to humanitarian shipments and let convoys go through. We have been actively participating with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in trying to get supplies in there. As you know, a month or so ago we flew in six airplanes ourselves to Sarajevo airport, and we've been continuing those efforts. I've just seen wire reports that we hope are true -- I can't confirm at this point -- that as many as 6,000 or more people that were being held hostage outside of Sarajevo -- that they may have been permitted to go. Q To go or return to their homes? MR. BOUCHER: To leave and to go on their way to a safer place. That was something the Bosnians were in touch with Serbian leaders to try to get done, and that we as well were in touch with the Serbian Foreign Ministry to try to get them to use their influence. I'm told that our Embassy now in Belgrade has confirmed to us that they, too, have heard out there -- has pretty good information, I think, from the U.N. -- that the hostages have been released and the group is now proceeding toward Split. So we have continued to be active. We have continued to try to work on the humanitarian situation, getting the airport open, getting relief supplies in there, taking steps which encourage those who haven't permitted the convoys to go through or those who haven't permitted humanitarian relief to go in to think again and to permit that to happen. Now, let me give you an update on the convoys, if I can, because there's sort of some good news and some bad news here. The UNHRC relief convoys which left Tuesday from Zagreb have experienced some difficulties. One of the convoys was able to deliver the supplies, and it's now returning to Zagreb. The other convoy is stuck at a Serbian roadblock. The UNHCR is seeking assurances for its safe passage. The convoy which left Belgrade yesterday for Tuzla was stopped by the Yugoslav National Army at a roadblock, but it was also then able to deliver its supplies, and that convoy is enroute back to Belgrade. We understand that the UNHCR has cancelled plans for the Friday convoys from Belgrade and Zagreb to Sarajevo because of concern about the security situation. At this point the UNHCR has no plans for when these convoys might leave, but plans to continue relief efforts in other parts of Bosnia. We're in close touch with the UNHCR regarding plans for these convoys. Q What about our convoys that Margaret -- MR. BOUCHER: The convoys on Friday from Zagreb and Belgrade were the ones that we were contributing the food to. Q So those are -- MR. BOUCHER: So at this point those are off because of the security situation, but UNHCR will continue to try to bring supplies into place wherever they can. Q Richard, this morning or last night the Senate called on -- voted on a resolution to ban all assistance to Yugoslavia. Is there any assistance, other than humanitarian, that we're still sending to Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: No, there's not. The sanctions that we imposed involved a cutoff of the assistance -- it was limited amounts to begin with -- except for humanitarian supplies; and we've announced various other measures that we've taken, including a cutoff of air service yesterday. Q Richard, back on the convoy. Yesterday Margaret gave the figures of somewhere between one- and five-thousand. You just gave a different figure. Is that -- MR. BOUCHER: The group that was being held hostage? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: She said between l,000, which was some reports yesterday, and 7,000, I think, which was other reports yesterday. The reports today seem to converge on about 6,000 people -- 6,000 or 7,000 were being held hostage. Q Do you know if any of them have been injured or in any way harmed? MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you for sure. My information did not indicate that they have. The Serbian forces were holding hostage a large group of women, children, and elderly people outside Sarajevo. The Bosnian Government put the number at about 7,000. The large majority of them were children. That's what I know of this.

[Former Soviet Union: Update on Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh]

Q Richard, on another subject, can you talk to us a little about about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh? Apparently the fighting is spreading and CIS troops are supposedly on alert now. You haven't said anything about -- it was brought up the other day in the briefing -- who might be the aggressor in this; and I wondered if you're willing to talk about that at all now. MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you the situation first. The reports indicate that the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Nakhichevan-Armenian border is somewhat reduced. The Azerbaijani Government has issued a statement that shelling on the Nakhichevan-Armenian border has stopped. No new attacks in the area have been reported. Armenian forces are reported to have moved into the city of Lachin, outside of Nagorno-Karabakh, and no more fighting is reported in the city. Both Armenian and Azerbaijani sources report clashes are continuing between Armenian forces and Azeri forces inside Nagorno-Karabakh. The U.S. Government is encouraged by Armenian President Ter-Petrosyan's proposal yesterday that Armenia and Nakhichevan sign a cooperation treaty to create a security and stability zone around the border area. We look forward to hearing more details of that. Our Embassy in Yerevan is in touch with them, and you should also know that Secretary Baker will be seeing a few Foreign Ministers -- the Armenian, the Azerbaijani, and the Turkish Foreign Ministers -- in separate meetings in Lisbon. Q I'm sorry. To see who again, please? MR. BOUCHER: Among other meetings he'll probably have, he'll have meetings with the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, the Armenian Foreign Minister, and the Turkish Foreign Minister. Q And on this issue of who is the aggressor and if the United States is willing to say anything about that? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I don't have any characterization of one side or the other at this point. We've reported on the situation there. We have made our efforts to encourage positive proposals, such as the one we've heard from President Ter-Petrosyan about the security zone in Nakhichevan; and we've also supported action in the CSCE to try to get the CSCE to move forward more forthrightly with their proposals. As you know, there was an understanding that they would have a meeting in Minsk, a Minsk conference of the parties, to try to make arrangements for that. We're continuing to pursue that in the CSCE. Q Do you have concerns about the CIS troops being on alert now? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard that, so it's not something I can address at this point. Q And about the comments from the Commander-in- Chief of the CIS forces about the possibility of World War III starting in Nagorno-Karabakh? MR. BOUCHER: Margaret expressed yesterday our view of outside intervention and said very clearly the U.S. does not support intervention in this conflict by any outside party. We have expressed our deep concern about the current violence. We've expressed concern that it could escalate into a conflict that threatens the peace of the entire region. We remain committed to working with the parties to the conflict, other regional states, and the CSCE to end the violence and to begin a process of good-faith negotiations that will produce a lasting solution to the conflict. It's in no one's interest to have this conflict escalate even further and expand to other states in the region. We think the talk of outside military intervention on anyone's part only serves to exacerbate the tensions. Q Do you have any comment on President Ozal's statement -- President Ozal being a guest in this country at the moment -- that Turkish troops ought to be used in the region? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific comment on that statement. Margaret expressed our views about Turkey's role. We continue to believe that Turkey is playing a constructive role. We're in close contact with the Turkish Government. There was also a statement that we did note -- that it was Prime Minister Demirel's statement that Turkey will not intervene in the conflict -- and we welcome that as a helpful declaration as well. Q Do you think this was an appropriate comment for the President of Turkey to make while he's a guest in this country? MR. BOUCHER: John, I really haven't seen the text of what exactly he said, and I don't have any comment on it at this point. Q So, Richard, you think everybody is being constructive here. So who's fighting? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I wouldn't reduce my remarks to that level of simplicity. That's not what I said. Q You said that the Armenians are being constructive and the Turks are being constructive, and I assume you think the Azerbaijanis. MR. BOUCHER: I said that we've seen various helpful statements and proposals. We've said that threats to escalate are not helpful in this situation; and we've reported to you on the situation, both in the area of Nakhichevan and the area of Nagorno-Karabakh. But Armenian local forces and Azeri forces inside Nagorno-Karabakh are continuing to fight. Q Richard, staying in the same neighborhood -- MR. BOUCHER: It's a big world out there. Q -- any reaction to the Kurdish elections in northern Iraq? Are you in a position to judge them, as the international observers, as fair and free? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to judge them at this point. I didn't check again this morning. But I think yesterday, when we checked with our people, they told us that it had basically gone off peacefully. I think we expressed our view of those elections last Friday in a fairly lengthy statement. But yesterday I was told not to expect results right now, so I didn't check today. Q In the same neighborhood, do you still harbor any concern that this could be a prelude to ultimate secession or independence? MR. BOUCHER: I would say that our views on that issue remain those that we stated in our statement of last Friday. These were expressly elections that dealt with local administrative issues and expressly not a harbinger of the breakup of Iraq. Q Also in the neighborhood, any reaction to the Israeli attacks today on Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any reaction at this point. Not at this point, no. Q Nothing? MR. BOUCHER: Not at this point. I saw some reports; I don't have anything on it. Q Would that fall within the parameters of the areas you can't comment on? MR. BOUCHER: I don't exactly know, Mike. I'll see if anybody wants to say anything about it. I think our views on the violence in the region have been expressed before.

[Haiti: Overcrowding of Refugees at Guantanamo/US Policy on Repatriation]

Q Well, Richard, a couple of days ago the Pentagon indicated that the facilities for Haitian refugees in Guantanamo were almost overwhelmed and they were considering other options. Do you have anything to indicate as to what those other options yet will be, because I understand that Guantanamo is now full up? MR. BOUCHER: As for the exact status of Guantanamo, I think I'll leave it to the Pentagon to discuss those issues, the situation on the ground. At this point we are considering other options. We're considering them in conjunction with the Department of Defense and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and when we have something to announce we'll announce it. Q Richard, the repatriation policy, the argument made on behalf of it over the months, was that it would basically influence people not to set to sea in small boats and that it would have an effect in curtailing the exodus. With a new record picked up on Tuesday and the exodus apparently continuing, any assessment of the policy at this point as having failed, for instance? MR. BOUCHER: Well, Howard, I -- sure, yeah. (Laughter) Howard, first of all, we didn't -- you know, if you remember the expression of the policy, the policy was one to, No. l, save people at sea; No. 2, examine carefully who might be subject to persecution if they were sent back; and, No. 3, in accordance with international rules and definitions of refugees, to return these other people to the home country where there was no established basis for believing that they had a well-founded fear of persecution. The numbers on refugees, you'll remember, throughout the whole period since the coup have gone up and down. I don't think we've ever been in a position to draw a conclusion as to why at one point they were going up or why at another point they were going down. And, indeed, the refugee flows have continued despite the repatriations, but I certainly wouldn't subscribe to any failure of policy. And at this point nobody has given me a very cogent analysis -- I really haven't seen one -- of exactly why the numbers go up and down at any particular point. Q So your hope is that they may well go down again? MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, I think our determination is to continue the policy that we've established; and, second of all, certainly our hope is that people won't put to sea and risk their lives. Q Richard, if we could go back to Nagorno-Karabakh just for a second, at how high a level and how clearly have you put it to the Turkish Government, in particular, your views on intervention? I mean, to put it bluntly, have you told them not to intervene and what the consequences would be if they did, as far as the United States was concerned? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Mary. We have been in close contact with the Turkish Government. I think Margaret has noted various conversations the Secretary has had with the Turkish Foreign Minister. The Secretary will be seeing the Turkish Foreign Minister, among others, in Lisbon and will continue to discuss our concern about the situation there. We and the Turks share a concern about the situation. We've discussed it before, and we've said that we think the Turks are indeed playing a constructive role. Q Richard, on the subject of Yugoslavia again, will the Secretary be dealing with this subject on his trip this weekend? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure it will be a subject of discussion in many if not all of his meetings with other Foreign Ministers. This is a subject on everybody's mind right now. Q Will one of -- rather than just simply a generalized "tut-tutting" about the situation, will they attempt to come up with some plan of action, perhaps as Margaret indicated yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, we've been consulting with other governments. I'm sure the Secretary will discuss the issue. I would expect further measures in those discussions to be part of his discussion as well, but I don't want to try to predict any specific thing. I'll leave that to the Secretary. Q No. But what I'm getting at is not just simply that it will come up as a sort of tour of the horizon but simply that there would be an agenda item which would attempt to come up with a plan of action by the United States and other governments to force some better behavior by the Government of Serbia. MR. BOUCHER: At this point, John, I think I have to leave questions like that to be addressed during the course of the trip -- predicting the agenda for specific meetings in specific ways. Q What is your holiday schedule here in the State Department Press Office? MR. BOUCHER: Here? Q Yes, here. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: Monday is a holiday. That's our holiday schedule. Q So when the Secretary is in Tblisi, normally when he's traveling you put out -- Q Transcripts. Q -- transcripts of backgrounders and so forth. That's not going to be possible this time? MR. BOUCHER: We'll probably have some things. Whatever we get on Saturday we'll make available to you during our duty hours on Saturday. But after that I don't think we'll be open, and we look to your colleagues who are going on the trip to tell us everything that's said out there. Q Could you get them to fax them? (Laughter) Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at l2:5l p.m.)