US Department of State Daily Briefing #122: Thursday, 9/3/92

Snyder Source: State Department Acting Spokesman Joe Snyder Description: Washington, DC Date: Sep, 3 19929/3/92 Category: Briefings Region: Subsaharan Africa, E/C Europe, Central America, MidEast/North Africa, East Asia Country: Yugoslavia (former), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Somalia, Nicaragua, Iraq, Italy, China, Taiwan Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, Development/Relief Aid, United Nations, Environment, Human Rights, Refugees, Security Assistance and Sales 1:30 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. SNYDER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate your forebearance in waiting and apologize for the delay. I'd like to begin, if I could, with several announcements. The first one is a housekeeping announcement. There will be no briefing tomorrow, as we announced earlier, and of course Monday is a holiday, so there will be no briefing then. So the next scheduled briefing will be on Tuesday.

[Update: Nicaragua: US Aid in Wake of Tidal Wave and Damage Assessment]

First on Nicaragua, an update on what we've done on the tidal wave situation. The United States is making a maximum effort to provide immediate relief to the victims of tidal waves and floods in Nicaragua. In response to the destruction along the Pacific Coast, the United States will make available on an expedited basis $5 million for Nicaragua's social investment fund. These funds will be drawn upon to support repair and reconstruction of infrastructure and cleanup in areas affected by the tidal wave. The first planeload of U.S. disaster relief supplies -- a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane -- arrived in Managua this morning. It contained supplies for shelter for the victims, water containers, food and other forms of immediate relief. A United States military needs assessment team also arrived on that flight. The team will work with AID and Nicaraguan Government relief officials to survey damage and determine reconstruction priorities. They're expected to be in Nicaragua several days. An AID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Disaster Relief Specialist, Paul Bell, has been in Managua since noon, September 2. He completed an initial damage assessment in cooperation with Nicaraguan Government officials and other international relief organizations yesterday afternoon. Mr. Bell and Embassy officials met this morning with President Chamorro and are traveling to the affected area with Nicaraguan Cabinet officials to determine further immediate assistance needs.

[Iraq: Harassment of UN/NGO Personnel]

The second statement I have is on Iraqi harassment of U.N. personnel. The President of the U.N. Security Council, on behalf of the entire Council, issued a strong statement yesterday, criticizing Iraq's "continuing failure to ensure the safety of United Nations personnel and the personnel of non-governmental organizations." The statement concluded: "The Council urges Iraq in the strongest possible terms to cooperate with the United Nations." Iraq's repression of its own people continues. The August 11 statement before the Security Council by U.N. Human Rights Envoy Max van der Stoel is further graphic proof of Saddam's brutality. Some examples: -- The blockade in the north has gone on for nearly a year; Iraq has refused to provide fuel, and delivery of humanitarian assistance is virtually non-existent. -- The Iraqi regime continues to control the distribution of humanitarian assistance, favoring Saddam's cronies, while vulnerable groups throughout Iraq continue to suffer. -- The Iraqi Government increased its military attacks on civilians in the south. -- Iraq has refused to grant visas to U.N. guards, driving the number of guards down from 500 to just 117, further endangering U.N. and non-governmental organization humanitarian relief workers and the efforts they undertake for the Iraqi people. The U.N. in Geneva has described over 133 incidents of harassment against U.N. personnel in Iraq since June 25, citing increasingly frequent verbal abuse, vandalism and violent attacks. Some of these examples: -- A car bomb attack aimed at Mrs. Mitterrand when she visited northern Iraq, which killed seven Kurds and wounded 19. -- A bomb found underneath a U.N. guard vehicle. -- A driver of a U.N. guard vehicle threatened with a knife as his car is spray-painted. -- U.N. personnel in the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad have their electricity and telephones disconnected, then an unidentified gas is sprayed into their rooms. -- At the Al-Hayat Hotel, one U.N. guard staffer had garbage thrown at him, and another had his clothes sprayed with acid. -- Grenades were thrown into U.N. guard offices in northern Iraq. -- A U.N. guard was shot at and injured while on patrol. The Government of Iraq continues shamelessly to flout U.N. Security Council resolutions. Its behavior is an affront to the civilized world. We continue to hold the Government of Iraq responsible for the security of all U.N. workers. We also expect Iraq to respect all U.N. Security Council resolutions, including the prohibition in Resolution 687 against any hostile or potentially hostile action mounted from one state to another, and Resolution 688 regarding repression of the Iraqi people.

[Yugoslavia: Situation Update]

Finally, I'd like to do an update on the situation in the former Yugoslavia, and I've got a fairly long statement on detention camps. First of all, on the fighting. Press reports from Sarajevo say that the city was generally quiet last night and this morning. UNPROFOR Headquarters suffered a direct hit by two shells, but there apparently were no casualties from that incident. The long-delayed convoy from Sarajevo to Goradze departed this morning, and I just saw a press report before I came in saying it had arrived in Goradze. Press reports indicate that Serbian forces have withdrawn from Goradze. While we have no confirmation, we welcome indications of this development. U.N. Representative Goulding and Bosnian Serb Leader Karadzic are now working out an agreement on heavy weapons that likely would include Goradze and Sarajevo. Such a development would be a very positive step. We urge all parties to the conflict to act in a way to facilitate implementation of the agreement, including the departure of combatants. Briefly on the airlift, there were 24 flights yesterday, delivering a total of 258.5 metric tons of humanitarian assistance materials. Four of those flights were American flights. Just a wrap-up on the month of August on land convoys. Land convoy food deliveries exceeded 1,945 metric tons during August. Total land convoy food deliveries to date exceed 5,665 metric tons. On the detention camps: We've spoken from this podium before on the terrible problem of detention centers in former Yugoslavia. We and other U.N. members are obligated by the U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution and the Security Council resolution on war crimes, both of which passed last month, to report any information we have on human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia. We will be doing that shortly. Today I want to bring you up to date on what we know and what we are doing to try to bring an end to this reprehensible practice. Just to remind you, both civilians and prisoners of war are being held in detention centers in Bosnia-Hercegovina. There are also alleged detention centers in Serbia and Montenegro and in Croatia, although we have not been able to confirm these allegations. All parties to the conflict -- Serbs, Croats and Muslims -- have been found to maintain detention centers in Bosnia-Hercegovina. However, the overwhelming responsibility for this practice lies with the Serbs, who are using detention centers as part of their "ethnic cleansing" campaign. According to ICRC officials, of 11,704 prisoners they have registered in 19 detention centers they've been permitted to visit in Bosnia, 9,848 are held by Serbian forces, 902 by Muslim forces, and 954 by Croatian forces. Information on the detention centers is contradictory and incomplete. The ICRC and other international humanitarian organizations are routinely denied access to many of the Serb-controlled centers. Journalists are only rarely allowed to visit detention facilities. Therefore, systematic verification of allegations about the detention facilities has not been possible. Nevertheless, information we have obtained from visits to detention centers, from interviews with former detainees, and from representatives of international organizations and the media lead to the conclusion that there is a pattern of serious and ongoing human rights abuses in many of the detention centers, particularly in those operated by Serbian forces. Malnutrition and starvation occur in the centers. Especially when coupled to the lack of adequate sanitary and medical facilities, these can result in high numbers of casualties. Those running the detention centers often block deliveries of food and medicine. There are reports, many of them credible, of beatings, sexual abuse, and even executions in the centers. The evidence we have does not, however, thus far confirm allegations that the detention centers are "death camps" established to systematically exterminate their inmates. We continue actively to investigate all charges and to develop as much information as possible on the camps. Those responsible for the centers typically deny that they exist or deny that abuses occur. Their protestations would carry more weight if they would live up to their obligations to allow regular, unfettered access to the centers by international humanitarian agencies. The practice of maintaining these detention facilities is reprehensible. Inhumane conditions clearly violate both the Geneva Conventions and Security Council Resolutions 770 and 771, which demand that all detainees receive humane treatment, and that the ICRC and other international organizations be granted complete, immediate and unconditional access to all detention facilities. We have repeatedly raised this issue with those in control of the centers, including Serbian authorities in Belgrade; Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic; Bosnian President Izetbegovic; and Croatian President Tudjman. We have insisted on an immediate end to abuses. We have demanded that the ICRC and other organizations have unfettered and continuous access to the centers. We have also called on those controlling the centers to allow food and medical supplies into the facilities. The London Conference condemned illegal detentions and called for closure of the detention camps. We support this agreement and urge that it be carried out without delay. I'll be happy to take your questions. Q Before we go on to China, on the Nicaraguan statement, is $5 million the total sum that the U.S. will be making available for this? MR. SNYDER: I don't know at this point. We've got people down examining what the needs are. That's what we've made available as of this point, along with the $25,000 that we announced yesterday. That's where we are at the moment. But we're examining the situation. We have people on the ground looking to see what's needed. Q Joe, I'd like to go back to your statement on Iraq for a quick question. You said that Saddam's regime increased the attack in the south. Are you talking about lately or are you talking about during the "no-fly zone" thing or before that? MR. SNYDER: No. This is the period up to the "no-fly zone." I was talking about the behavior that at least in part prompted the institution of the "no-fly zone." I am not talking about the -- Q Your statement applied to a period of time prior to the "no-fly zone." MR. SNYDER: As did the rest of the statement. Yes. Q O.K. MR. SNYDER: It's behavior by the Iraqi Government over the last months. Q And what is new in this statement? It really didn't include anything we haven't heard before. MR. SNYDER: We're speaking in support of the U.N. President's statement from yesterday. Q What is this mysterious gas they're spraying into the hotel rooms? MR. SNYDER: I thought you might ask about that. I thought about it after it was too late for me to check on it. I'll see if I can find a little bit more on that. Q I'm told that they do use this sort of an air freshener? Is that what they're talking about? (Laughter) MR. SNYDER: I doubt it. Q Iraqi air freshener -- mustard gas. MR. SNYDER: I mean, they had their electricity and telephones disconnected. It was a form of harassment. I'll see if I can find out a little bit more about the gas -- the mysterious gas. Q On Yugoslavia, where and when does the United States plan to make evidence available? You said at the top of the statement that -- is that going to be at the U.N. this fall or -- MR. SNYDER: It's going to be shortly. I'm not sure exactly when. And because we're responding to two different resolutions -- one is a Human Rights Commission resolution and the other is a Security Council resolution -- I'm not absolutely sure of the vehicle in which we're going to be doing it. But we and all other member countries have been called on to let the U.N. know what we know about human rights abuses, and we will be doing that. Q At the London Conference, Karadzic put his name to a piece of paper, I think both for a private human rights organization and also as a formal conference conclusion, that the camps would be dissolved in fact, would be opened. Has this happened since the London Conference? MR. SNYDER: Have the camps been dissolved? Q Has any one camp -- has any camp been? MR. SNYDER: There are discussions. I recall from early this week we put out -- there are discussions with the ICRC with a view towards closing a camp. I'm not aware that any of the camps have been closed, however.

[Taiwan: Arms Sales]

Q New topic. The sale of F-16s to China? I'm sure you have something on that. MR. SNYDER: Do you have a question, specifically? Q I did. I had one two hours ago but I forgot it. Q Do you have a comment on the Chinese protest about that sale? MR. SNYDER: Let me run down our rationale for the sale, if I could, and then I'll comment on the Chinese. The decision to approve the sale to Taiwan of F-16 aircraft, configured for defensive purposes, followed a careful review. The President's decision satisfies obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide defense articles and services to Taiwan. It also advances the central goal of the 1982 U.S.-China communique on arms sales to Taiwan, promoting cross-strait peace and stability. The aging of Taiwan's air force and China's purchase of Russian Su-27 aircraft were among the factors considered in the President's decision. Q Will -- MR. SNYDER: We -- let me get to the Chinese reaction. We hope that China will take into consideration the defensive nature of these aircraft and their own recent acquisition of advanced fighter aircraft, the decline of Taiwan's air force, as F-5s and F-104s have gone out of service, and the President's strong commitment to the U.S.-China relationship. The Chinese did protest with us in a meeting. Our Ambassador met with their Vice Foreign Minister, Liu Huaqiu, on September 2, and the Chinese delivered a protest regarding what, at that time, was the expected U.S. decision to sell F-16s. The protest paralleled the public statement which the Chinese Government released in Beijing yesterday. Q Joe, on the statement you made a minute ago, it says that this sale "advances the central goal of the 1982 agreement between the United States and China regarding Taiwan arms sales." But the agreement says, and I quote, "The United States Government states it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arm sales to Taiwan; that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed either in qualitative or quantitative terms the level of those supplied in recent years, since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and that it intends to readily reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan." How is that agreement in keeping with the -- I mean, how is the sale in keeping with the agreement in which the United States agreed that it would not exceed the level of recent years and would gradually be reduced? MR. SNYDER: What I would like to do is to focus on what the President, yesterday, called the importance of the '82 communique on arm sales: It lies in its promotion of common political goals -- peace and stability in the area through mutual restraint. It's the focus on "peace and stability" which we're dealing with here. Q Does having a focus on one part of an agreement permit the United States to violate another part of the agreement? MR. SNYDER: It's not a violation of the other part of the agreement. Q Could you explain why it isn't? MR. SNYDER: Because we are taking into account the decline in the quality of Taiwan's air force. We said we would be providing spare parts, and so forth. It's impossible now to provide the spare parts for the old aircraft that they have, and we're maintaining the quality of that air force in the only way that we have available now. Q Are you maintaining that supplying F-16s to Taiwan is somehow supplying spare parts? Is that why the plane is being supplied? MR. SNYDER: It is maintaining the quality of the Taiwan air force in keeping with the times. Q In view of the fact that the United States said in 1982 that the level of arm sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or quantitative terms a level of those supplied in recent years, would you provide the numbers as to -- the information as to what the level of United States arm sales to Taiwan has been before the 1982 agreement and since the 1982 agreement? MR. SNYDER: I'll see if we can get that for you. I don't have it here. Q Joe, did the Administration know when the President made this decision that China might pull out of international arms control negotiations as a result? MR. SNYDER: Well, we're not sure China is going to do that. Q A senior Administration official said here yesterday that the United States was in contact with China privately to let them know that this was under consideration. So I'm curious about whether the Chinese red-flagged this for the United States and said, "Hey, if you do this, we might pull out?" And did the President know that? Did he have that in order to make his calculation? MR. SNYDER: I don't know the answer to that specifically. Let me make a comment, though, on that threat by the Chinese, which gets back to the original question, or that statement by the Chinese in regard to this sale. In our efforts at non-proliferation, we draw a sharp distinction between those arms transfers which meet legitimate defense needs and contribute to the stability of a particular region and those that do not. Clearly, the Middle East is an area where all arms transfers have to be examined carefully in this light, and we would expect China to continue to participate in the President's arms transfer restraint initiative as befits its position as a leading arms exporter and Permanent Member of the Security Council. The planned F-16 sale cannot be compared to the sort of massive destabilizing transfers which the President's initiative seeks to end. Such transfers can only add to the volatility of the Middle East as opposed to this sale which we believe helps to contribute to stability on both side of the Taiwan straits. This sale, like previous sales, have given Taiwan the confidence and sense of security which has permitted the dramatic improvement in the relations with the PRC which we've witnessed over the last decade. Q Can you take the question of whether China had been given, privately, a warning about this consequence? MR. SNYDER: I'll see what we can do about it. I'm not so sure we're going to go into the details of our diplomatic exchanges, however. Q Are you sending a senior official to Beijing to explain this policy? MR. SNYDER: We have informed the Chinese Government that Assistant Secretary William Clark is prepared to discuss our overall relations as well as the President's decision to authorize the sale of F-16 aircraft to Taiwan. Arrangements for a stop in China are not yet final. He will also stop briefly in Japan to discuss topics of bilateral, regional, and international concern. Q Are you saying the Chinese have not yet indicated whether he would be welcome? MR. SNYDER: We have informed them that he's prepared to do this, and we have not yet made final arrangements. Q Joe -- Q Wait a minute. You have not yet made final arrangements or they haven't given you an answer yet? MR. SNYDER: Again, without going into the details of our discussions, we don't have a stop in Beijing to announce. That is not set up yet. Q Can you explain, when you say that this advances peace and stability in that part of the world, what is the rationale? How does it advance peace and stability to provide these high-performance airplanes? MR. SNYDER: The best thing I can do is quote what the President said yesterday. I think he addressed this quite well. "In the last few years" -- this is quoting the President -- "after decades of confrontation, great strides have been made in reducing tensions between Taipei and Beijing. "During this period, the U.S. has provided Taiwan with sufficient defensive capabilities to sustain the confidence it needs to reduce these tensions. That same sense of security has underpinned Taiwan's dramatic evolution toward democracy. "The decision" -- the President's decision -- "does not change the commitment of this Administration to the three communiques of the People's Republic of China. We keep our word. Our one-China policy -- our recognition of the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China." And, as I said before, the importance of the '82 communique on arms sales to Taiwan lies in its promotion of common political goals: peace and stability in the area through mutual restraint. Q Could you give anymore detail about this rationale of spare parts? What do you mean that they couldn't get spare parts and therefore you're selling this plane? MR. SNYDER: Under the 1982 communique, one of the things that we undertook was to maintain the quality of Taiwan's air force. Taiwan has got older aircraft in its inventory. It's reached the point where it's impossible to maintain those older aircraft, and the new ones will be sold to them in line with the same goals that we pursued during this period to maintain stability. Q No where in the communique does it say that if Taiwan can't get spare parts or anything like that, as far as my reading of it is concerned. What is the authority that the State Department relies on in asserting that this is part of the communique? MR. SNYDER: Don, I'm sorry, I didn't bring my copy of the communique here. You have yours. I'll see if I can find the specific citation in the communique, but we're confident that what we have done is fully in keeping with the spirit and the letter of the communique. Q Have you had a legal opinion on this? Has the State Department legal advisor said that this is in keeping with the communique? MR. SNYDER: I don't really know. I'll check and see if that's necessary. I'll check and see if that's been done. Q Joe, is it your contention that these strategic arguments, which you've laid out, are the sole reason for this sale? Or were other considerations -- domestic considerations -- such as the need to preserve an assembly line and perhaps even the President's desire to be re-elected had something in the decision? MR. SNYDER: Alan, since this is the State Department, we deal in foreign policy. I've discussed the decision in terms of its foreign policy rationale. I think I'll leave it at that. Q Let me rephrase the question: Is it your contention that these strategic considerations were the sole reason for the sale? MR. SNYDER: No. No one has ever said that they were the sole reason for the sale. Q Joe, what's China's more recent record been in terms of arm sales to the Middle East and other regions -- missiles and other technology items? MR. SNYDER: Well, of course, they have signed onto the MTCR. Our judgment has been that they've been abiding by the MTCR since they agreed to adhere to the provisions of the MTCR, and they have done so. That's our judgment lately. Specifically, what have they sold? I really don't have a rundown here. Q Joe, excuse me, my recollection is that they sent a letter to Secretary Baker some time last spring, I believe it was, saying that they would abide by the guidelines of the MTCR. That letter has never been made public, and China has never stated publicly in any other forum or in any other way that it would abide by that agreement; is that correct? MR. SNYDER: I don't know specifically. Q Could you check that and -- MR. SNYDER: I'll check specifically on the Chinese actions regarding the MTCR. I'll see if I can give you something. Q And the quality of their commitment. I know that there's a letter to Secretary Baker. I'm not aware of anything else. MR. SNYDER: I'll get something for you. Q Is there anything more on this arms sale situation that you're prepared to make public here and discuss, to explain it all? MR. SNYDER: No. Not really. Q Do you have anything on the airplane crash in Yugoslavia? MR. SNYDER: I've got a little bit. The Pentagon, I understand, discussed it at some length today, but let me give you what we've got. We were advised at 8:00 this morning, Eastern Daylight Time, that an Italian relief flight, which had departed from Split to deliver assistance in Sarajevo, was overdue in Sarajevo and had not been heard from for 40 minutes. A British plane and a German plane, flying for the U.N., immediately began looking for the downed plane and eventually sighted it, crashed on the ground. The Italian Government and the U.N. requested that the U.S. provide search-and-rescue assistance and two CH-53s were launched from the USS Iwo Jima which has been stationed in the Adriatic. We have no information about the cause of the crash, and we have no information from the crash site yet. Q Have there been any incidences at all, any firing at aircraft over the past day or so? MR. SNYDER: Not that we're aware of, no. There was radar incidence and other things, but nothing lately. Q Thank you. MR. SNYDER: Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:56 p.m.)