US DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12, 1994 BRIEFER: Christine Shelly Subject Page CHINA Prospects for Secretary Meeting with Foreign Minister ..........................................1,3 Human Rights Developments/Improvements/ Problems...............................................1-2,4-5 Status of Red Cross Visits to Prisons .........................3 Cooperation with US re: North Korean Nuclear Issues ......................................................6 SWITZERLAND US Review of Proposed Nuclear Fuel Transfers to UK .....................................................7-8 -- Reported US Interagency Dispute on Issue ..................8 HAITI Conference of Parties in Miami..............................9-10 Fuel Tanker Scheduled to Arrive This Week .....................9 MEXICO Possible Groups Involved in Violence/Prospects for Negotiations.........................................10,11 -- President Declares Unilateral Cease Fire ..............10-11 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Status of Fighting............................................11 GABON Opposition Leaders Prevented from Departing the Country/US View ..........................................11-12 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12, 1994, 12:52 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements, so we'll start right away with your questions.
Q Do you have anything on the situation in Bosnia in light of the NATO demonstration of resolve?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't really have anything to add. The President has continued to address Bosnia and the air strikes question. He did this in Prague today, and I don't have anything further to add to what the President has said.
Q Can you just clarify again on the issue of Boutros-Ghali having to sign off on either an initial air strike or on every air strike? Is that clear yet?
MS. SHELLY: I addressed that yesterday, and I don't have anything to add to what I said on that yesterday.
Q Christine, is the Secretary planning to meet the Chinese Foreign Minister later this month in Europe?
MS. SHELLY: I'm aware of the fact that there's a report to this effect. I don't have anything definitive to give you on this. This is something that's been under consideration. It wouldn't surprise me if something did pop up on the screen on that. All I can really tell you at this point is that it is under discussion for the possibility for the Secretary to have a meeting with his counterpart. But I can't confirm any details related to that at this point.
Q If we can just revisit, while we're on that point, the state of Chinese human rights, the extent, if any, that there's been an improvement?
MS. SHELLY: Sure, I'd be happy to address that. As you know, the State Department is in the final stages of preparing its human rights report that will be submitted to the Congress at the end of this month. There has been some reference to the China section in the State Department's annual country report. But as this is still in process and the final version of this has not yet been pulled together, I'm not really in a position to get specifically into what may or may not be in that report.
But on the subject more generally, I think I can make a few comments on that. As Secretary Christopher himself said most recently on this subject, we have seen some positive developments in the human rights situation in China, but it is certainly clear that much more needs to be done.
We have, of course, a dialogue with them on this. This has been going on for some time. Last October, as you know, our Assistant Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Assistant Secretary Shattuck, went to Beijing. He had something like 20 hours of discussions with Chinese officials on this subject. He was also in Seattle at the APEC meeting. The subject of human rights came up and was discussed and the very detailed discussions on this were continued by Assistant Secretary Shattuck in Seattle.
The President has addressed this. The Secretary has addressed this. U.S. officials have certainly indicated that we are looking for further progress during the early months of 1994. We will have to assess by June, when China's Most-Favored-Nation status will come up for renewal, whether China has made the overall significant progress which has been identified as being necessary in order to meet the conditions of the President's May 28 Executive Order.
We are using our dialogue with the Chinese, including the meetings that I've referred to at the highest levels, to underscore the seriousness of our concerns about the human rights issue and the need for progress which is specifically indicated as being necessary in the Executive Order.
Q Can you be more specific about what the positive developments have been and what specifically needs to be done for them to meet U.S. standards?
MS. SHELLY: As to the specifics, this is a subject under discussions with the Chinese, and I just don't think it would be appropriate for me to get involved in the exact things that we have had under discussion.
The areas where there has been some progress, which, again, the Secretary has indicated these areas that there is a perceived willingness on the part of the Chinese to receive visits by the International Red Cross to Chinese prisons. There is also the question of permission for relatives of some of the dissidents to leave the country. These are the two areas that we have publicly identified where there has been some movement. But as to the other areas, these remain under discussion, and I just don't think it would be helpful to our dialogue for me to identify what these are or to engage any further.
Q Christine, this trip that's under consideration, would it be specifically and expressly to have this bilateral meeting, or would it be for an event at which the Ministers would both be attending and the meeting would be on the fringes of that?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything for you on that. What I know to be the case is that the meeting has been talked about in the context of reviewing the entire set of issues that we have with China. I wouldn't say that this is just linked to one issue or one event. I think, assuming that they reach closure on an announcement on this at some point in the near future, there might be some indications at that time about what the topics would be. But I think it is supposed to be a broader discussion of a range of issues.
Q What you just said suggests that the United States has asked for a meeting, is that the case?
MS. SHELLY: I wouldn't put it in those terms. I think it's the subject of having a meeting is something which has been under discussion, and we've gone back and forth. I think it's not a question of one party being the demander and one being responsive. I think there's a desire to meet to discuss the range of issues on both sides, and the exchanges that are going back and forth on this reflect that. Again, I hope we'll be able to give you some more details on this shortly.
Q And these Red Cross prison visit have not actually taken place, have they?
MS. SHELLY: I'd have to check on that. I'll see if I can get anything more specific for you.
Q I haven't seen any news that they have, and I think they've been talking about it for some six months, so isn't such a lengthy delay in itself a sign?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know whether this has been on the agenda for six months. It is something that's been on the agenda, I know, for at least the two or three months. But again I don't have that information with me. I'd have to check on that, and if there are some details related to that that I can shed further light on I'll try to put up a response to that this afternoon.
Q Christine, why would the Secretary meet in Europe with the Chinese Foreign Minister when he has said to be considering a trip to Asia in the first quarter of this year? Why not just do it in Beijing?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's a scheduling question. I wouldn't read any particular meaning into that.
Q Do you have an evaluation of Ambassador Roy's remarks to The New York Times last week in light of what you're saying now about their human rights performance?
MS. SHELLY: No. I don't have anything to say on that.
Q You don't want to say whether you stand by his remarks or disavow them?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not instructed on that point. I'd have to go back and take a look at it to see -- look at specifically the remarks that he made. I know that there was some discussion about whether or not he might have been perhaps more upbeat than some of the other reports have been.
He is our Ambassador, and I think that he is certainly in a position to make those kinds of comments and judgments. But as to whether or not this is exactly the position of others back here, I just don't want to get dragged into that.
Q Christine, will China's economic liberalization be one of the things that the Administration looks at as it evaluates MFN?
MS. SHELLY: In evaluating MFN, I think that the criteria are really very clear. There has been discussion about looking at the broader relationship and the economic liberalization, trade, other kinds of issues. But the statutory requirement is what is specifically identified in the Executive Order, and that is the phrasing referring to the overall significant progress on human rights.
So certainly the question of economic liberalization is one which continues to be of great interest to us, and it's something in which our dialogue is also continuing. But I would say those issues are looked at in the context of the broader relationship.
Q Christine, I wonder if you could characterize the difference between where perceive China to be now on human rights and where they need to be to satisfy Mr. Clinton's Executive Order?
MS. SHELLY: I've said what I have to say on this. I don't think that it's productive for me to get dragged any further into setting a kind of yardstick of progress. I think the key point here is that there is dialogue. It's being undertaken at the highest levels, and certainly there is a feeling that the dialogue is a very serious one. But I don't think it will be appropriate for me in this context to try to establish benchmarks.
Q But in the areas that are the areas you said progress had been made -- announcing prison visits, which apparently have not taken place, and allowing some relatives of dissidents to immigrate -- that strikes me as pretty small potatoes compared to the larger question of political prisoners, freedom of the press, the other freedoms listed in the human rights report. Would you agree that they are relatively minor compared to those larger issues?
MS. SHELLY: I think it reflects progress. But, as I've indicated already, it is very clear that much more needs to be done in order to meet the criteria which have been set in the MFN renewal, and I think that's where we are.
Q Implicit in what you're saying is that it needs to be done relatively quickly because if the decision is taken in June, presumably something that's undertaken two weeks before that decision falls wouldn't be viewed in the same way as something that was undertaken, say, in February or late January?
MS. SHELLY: I think that we certainly would like to see progress at the earliest possible moment. Secretary Christopher himself has used a formulation indicating that measures taken sooner will carry more weight than measures taken later, and I think that that gives the idea that we're trying to send. We would like to see progress on this now and not things occurring at the 11th hour.
Q A last question on China: When we were all in Seattle, Chinese President Jiang pointed out that China was also a market of 1.2 billion people. Is the Administration ready to jeopardize the chances of American businesses in China for the principles you just enunciated?
MS. SHELLY: I think that raises a very broad policy question, and that's not just a simple yes or no. I think that our commitment to the human rights issue has been made explicitly clear. At the same time, we have business interests in China. It is a major market. There is a substantial amount of trade.
I think that we all would like to see that trade go forward on a favorable basis. But a benchmark has been laid down on the MFN point, and the Executive Order on this, I think, is quite clear.
In any relationship that you have with a country, you are pursuing a multitude of interests, and sometimes those interests conflict. It's just not a simple yes or no. Yes, China's important to us. Economic liberalization is important. We do have commercial interests there. We would like to have as positive a relationship as we can in that regard.
But the Executive Order is very clear on the MFN point, and, without progress, it's going to be very difficult to renew it.
Q Are you trying to embark the usual allies -- other powerful, exporting economies -- in the same crusade to avoid having them, you know, filling the vacuum in case one day American businesses are to get out of China?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any information for you on that.
Q You don't want to take the question on numbers of political prisoners released by China over the past year or two, or number of political prisoners who are still imprisoned? You don't want to take that question?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't think so.
Q How do you assess the current level of Chinese cooperation with the U.S. on the North Korean nuclear issue?
MS. SHELLY: That's a separate issue, but certainly as we've indicated before, this is an issue on which we are in contact with China. I think that we have been very pleased with the Chinese engagement in this issue. We have felt in our exchanges with them that they were very committed to the broader goals of a denuclearized Korean peninsula. They have indicated on several occasions with us their willingness to be helpful, and certainly what they have done has supported the indications that they have given us bilaterally.
Q Therefore, there has been no conflict with them over their opposition to any threat of imposing economic sanctions in North Korea? They were very clear on their opposition to that.
MS. SHELLY: They have articulated that view, but they have also had ways of working the issue quietly with the North Koreans, and I think we've been very pleased with what they have done.
Q We're a little confused.
MS. SHELLY: Are you on the same topic?
MS. SHELLY: Okay.
Q We're a little confused back here in the third row. From what you're saying, it would seem that human rights has become sort of the overall reason for denying or giving MFN status, and I thought that things like how they responded to selling of technology and of missiles to countries like Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran were also included in this criteria. Am I wrong?
MS. SHELLY: No, there is no explicit reference to the non- proliferation issue or non-proliferation goals that is linked to the MFN renewal. The Executive Order is very clear, and that is specifically -- it articulates the need for the overall and significant progress in human rights. There are not other factors which fall within that order.
But certainly in the broader relationship that we have with China, this is a very important concern. As you know, we have announced that there are talks which are occurring later this month specifically on this subject. So it is a subject that is very much on the agenda with China. But there is not a statutory linkage for progress on this to MFN renewal.
Q I always thought that progress on human rights was a necessary condition for MFN renewal but not a sufficient one, that there were other things as well. This Administration has just made it a one- issue thing: human rights/MFN? Is that right?
MS. SHELLY: I don't want to put it in those kinds of terms. I think the point is, what is in the Executive Order? And on that I think I've made myself very clear.
But as to the range of issues which concern us with China, that's not a uni-dimensional point. We have a broad range of interests with China. We have a lot of issues on the agenda. And in terms of the overall relationship, we have the dialogue, we're looking at these things, and all of the different elements are factored into the broader relationship.
But on the Executive Order, what that is specifically linked to is the human rights point.
Q A different subject? Why, after a year, has the United States refused to grant a license to Switzerland to transfer spent nuclear rods to Great Britain? Some in the Swiss Government are saying that the U.S. is blocking that effort.
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware of the fact that this is an issue in which there has been a year of delay. As a general policy statement, we do have a policy on nuclear fuel transfers. The U.S. doesn't encourage the civil use of plutonium and doesn't engage in plutonium reprocessing.
As a general rule, we are concerned about accumulations of highly enriched uranium or plutonium anywhere that they might occur. We do seek to ensure that they are subject to the highest standards of safety, of security, of accountability; and where it's possible, to actually eliminate them.
We do maintain our existing commitments regarding the use of plutonium in civil nuclear programs in Western Europe and Japan. This includes being a reliable supplier and granting the necessary advance consents for transfers of U.S.-origin fuels on a predictable and reliable basis.
On the specific point about Switzerland and the shipment in question which involves U.S.-origin nuclear fuel rods going from Switzerland to the U.K., to their Thorp reactor, we have reviewed the request for transfer and have looked at it against the various conditions that I've mentioned about the safety, the security, the conditions surrounding the transfer.
We're in the final stages of this review for the transfer, and a final decision has not yet been taken.
Q Is there disagreement between the State Department -- which has, I'm told, already approved this -- and the Department of Energy which, I am told, the Secretary has stopped this process and said she wants more information? Is there a disagreement between the State Department and the Department of Energy on this?
MS. SHELLY: I'd have to look into that. I'm not aware specifically that there is a dispute between the two agencies. I know that the Department of Energy has the final authority to actually approve retransfers of the U.S.-origin nuclear fuels. Certainly it's an issue in which we work with them and we consult with them. But on this particular point, I don't have precise information on the Energy point. And so on that part I'd like to take your question and see if I can find anything that we could put up this afternoon.
Q Just one final question. The changes that President Clinton announced a couple of months ago on our proliferation policy, is that somehow affecting this decision? And sort of secondarily, do Great Britain or Switzerland pose a proliferation risk in this case?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware that there is any specific linkage between the announcements. I think you're referring to the late September Presidential statement on that. I'm not aware of the fact that that has been angle in the delay, but I'll be happy to look into that and see.
Q And the proliferation risk -- the proliferation risk posed by Switzerland?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any information on that. As I said, I've stated what the indication is and the fact that we have these commitments related to the civil nuclear programs in Western Europe and Japan, and those are continuing. So I'm not aware of anything that suggests that either the U.K. or Switzerland -- that there's a problem there.
Q Can we do Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Do you have anything on (a) the tanker or (b) U.S. participation in the Miami Conference?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot to add on the meeting itself. We were informed, as I mentioned yesterday and the day before, that the military was to be invited. There have been some recent press reports indicating that the military may decline to attend the conference this week. I don't have much to add on that.
The U.S. position on participation is unchanged from yesterday. We've looked at, as you know -- we felt it was necessary to have a good-faith effort to get all of the parties to attend the conference. If we felt that there was a basis for a very serious discussion of the issues, we would be likely to attend. We're still at that point. I don't have anything new to add for you on that.
On the fuel tanker delivery, the tanker, as I said yesterday, is expected to arrive later this week. I don't believe it's arriving today. I think it's still a question of another day or two. I don't have the exact date on this. But we are confident that the military and the police will take the necessary steps to ensure that the international effort, which is being made to distribute the fuel to the humanitarian relief organizations, that this will be facilitated.
Q What kind of explanation can you offer for the delay?
MS. SHELLY: For the delay in the ship's arrival?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't know what the problem is. I don't know if it was a technical problem or if it was just related to other things. I don't have that information, so I couldn't shed any further light on it.
Q It's your understanding that there is a problem?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't think so. It's supposed to arrive within the next day or two. I'm not aware of there being any problem.
Q But the State Department announced very clearly last week that it would arrive January 12.
MS. SHELLY: At that time, that's when we thought it would arrive, but now I'm told it's going to be slightly later this week.
Q What would the point be of having this conference without the military who are a principal party in the whole dispute?
MS. SHELLY: On that, I really would have to direct you to Aristide or to the Haitian Embassy here. It's their conference; it's their idea. They've set the agenda on this. They're also the ones who of course are extending the invitations to the participants.
I think it's very clear that in order to break out of the political impasse which exists right now, you need participation by as broad an element of Haitian society as possible. That's what we have worked with Aristide and his representatives, to try to both shape the agenda and to try to encourage them to extend their invitations to as broad a range of participants as possible. But as to actually what they hope to achieve out of that, it's their conference. Again, I think the question has to be directed to them.
Q Can we go to Mexico?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q According to the analysis that the U.S. is making down in Mexico, do you have any information if, in this whole movement, there are several groups that are participating? It seems like the explosions in Mexico City may have been perpetrated by other groups, with reference to subversive -- I mean, clandestine groups, and that perhaps their movement is being taken advantage of by other movements also. Do you have any information about that?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any specific information on that. I know when these other episodes of violence occurred that of course we looked into them; we exchanged information with the Mexican Government on this.
At the time that they occurred, our conclusion at that time was that there were several different groups which had been involved in these episodes; and there had been some impression created that these were all linked to the actions of the Zapatistas. But I think that upon looking at it and also sharing information, or getting information from Mexican authorities on this, that we came to the conclusion that there were a number of different things taking place out there. So there wasn't a single threat or a single source responsible for all of the different things which occurred.
Q Do you have a comment on this morning's Salinas announcement of the cease-fire?
MS. SHELLY: Of course we've seen that. I don't have a specific thing for you. I've seen that President Salinas has declared a unilateral cease-fire. He has indicated that the soldiers have been ordered not to fire unless they come under attack; and he has also called on the rebels to turn in their arms. He's promised a pardon, I understand.
More broadly speaking, he has been very clear in his statements and actions to date that the government authorities in Chiapas must ensure respect for human rights for the residents of that state.
As we've mentioned, I think yesterday, the naming of the former Attorney General and the first President of the National Human Rights Commission, Carpizo, to the Interior Ministry and the former Foreign Minister, Camacho, to the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, these are indications that the human rights concerns are being addressed at the highest levels.
Q According to what you said before, that perhaps several groups are having some participation in all this conflict, do you foresee a quick solution to this conflict? It seems like if there's more than one group, then the negotiation will be complicated, just to use one term.
MS. SHELLY: I think the situation is certainly complicated. It's going to take some time. I think we're pleased that fighting in the Chiapas region has diminished sharply as the clashes between the Mexican army and the Zapatistas certainly have markedly decreased. Negotiations, however, between the government and the rebels in Chiapas state have not actually commenced. Both of the sides have expressed their desire for negotiations, but I think they still have to address the modalities of how these would commence. Of course, we hope that that would start soon.
I think that this is something -- there are certainly some broad issues out there, and they will take some time to address. We expect that they first will have to address the modalities of the negotiations and then obviously get into them, but it would probably take some time.
Q Can we just go back to Bosnia for just a minute? Are you in a position to report any improvement in the situation around Sarajevo after the very strong threats made to the Serbs by the NATO Summit?
MS. SHELLY: I'd have to look into that. I'll check and see. We're usually able to get fairly timely information about the situation on the ground and fighting and shelling -- that kind of thing. I don't have that with me now, but I'll check and see. We probably can post an answer to that this afternoon.
Q Christine, on Gabon. Does the State Department have a comment on the allegation that a group of former Presidential candidates were arrested and not permitted to take a flight to Paris and to Washington to meet with U.S. officials at the White House and here? And does the Administration finally have an opinion on whether the Gabonese elections were free, fair, uncoerced, and so forth?
MS. SHELLY: On the point about the elections, I think, in fact, we did have some guidance on this a couple of weeks ago. So on that point, if I can ask you to check with our Press Office.
When we heard the reports about this group of opposition leaders having been stopped, we did look into that. What I understand is that the Government of Gabon, on both January 8 and 11, stopped several opposition leaders, including a National Assembly Deputy, from departing the country.
I understand also that several -- I don't know the exact number; perhaps three or four -- were former Presidential candidates in the election.
On January 11, members of this group were barred from boarding an aircraft -- it was actually an Air France flight -- that was going to Paris. They were stopped by airport police and by elements of the Presidential guard.
I understand also that several of the supporters of this group, who had accompanied the delegation to the airport and were aware of the fact that the boarding was prevented, they participated, they staged some demonstrations after the incident, stopping traffic. I understand that there was one attack on a motorist, and police eventually were called in to break up the disturbance.
We may actually have something, a statement on this, later today.
I would note that the U.S. deplores the actions by the Government of Gabon to restrict the right of opposition political leaders to travel outside of Gabon. Their constitution provides the right to their citizens to travel freely outside of the country and to return. This is clearly a right which we would expect to be respected by the government. So we call upon the government to respect the basic civil liberties and the fundamental human rights of their citizens.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thank you.
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