U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Wednesday, March 23, 1994 BRIEFER: Michael McCurry MIDDLE EAST Reports of Civil Strife in Hebron ..........................................1 Meetings Among Parties/Co-Sponsors ...............................1-2,5 -- Norwegian Track ....................................................................7 HAITI Efforts to Restore Democracy ................................................2-3 -- Congressional View .............................................................2-3 UN Sanctions Resolution ...........................................................3 US Immigration Policy/Asylum Claim Processing ........3-5 -- Number of Haitians Granted Residency ........................5 NORTH KOREA Reaction to Team Spirit/Patriot Missiles .........................8-10,12-13 US Goal of No Nuclear Weapons in North/South ...............9-10 -- Chinese Position/Sanctions .............................................10-11 Status of UN Resolution ............................................................11-12 PAKISTAN US Sale of F-16s/NPT Sanctions ...........................................13-14 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23, 1994, 12:49 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any prepared statements today, so I'm prepared in a very minimal way to not answer the questions that you have. Go ahead.
Q Would you give us the minimalist position of the restiveness in the Middle East?
MR. McCURRY: On the --
Q On the latest unrest.
MR. McCURRY: The incident in Hebron is clearly one of concern to us. We are attempting to get more detail based on some of the initial reports that we've seen. I think we have had some contact with the Government of Israel about what happened, mostly to understand more factually about what appeared to be a battle, as you've seen it reported on the wires. But I don't have any details at this point that I can really share. We will continue that diplomatic contact and learn more about the situation.
Q For years there was a living relationship -- there was a co-existence at least there. Does the U.S. think that such a situation is tenable any more?
MR. McCURRY: I think that the situation that's tenable is the implementation of the Declaration of Principles which will lead to changes in the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, that can lead to a situation in which they can live peacefully with each other. That's the purpose of the peace process and the purpose of the Declaration and the purpose of the negotiations that are under way now in the region.
Q Have you heard of any possible meeting between Mr. Arafat and Rabin in Moscow in the immediate interim, because they are supposed to be in Moscow around the same day.
MR. McCURRY: I had not heard about a meeting in Moscow. I mean, we have had fairly extensive conversations with the parties about the process as it moves forward at this point, and we will have to leave it up to them to make their own announcements about steps they plan to take.
Q Any comment --
Q In that case, if it happens, you mean that you are not aware of what Moscow is doing?
MR. McCURRY: No, I think we are very well aware of the work that our co-sponsor is doing in the process. We had extensive conversations with Foreign Minister Kozyrev when the Secretary met him in Vladisvostok, and we have remained in close contact with him throughout our work in the region and here in Washington.
Q Mike, any comments on statement coming from PLO leaders quoted in The New York Times today, saying that Dennis Ross is being a hindrance to their proceeding?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know that that warrants a reply. You don't see any of those remarks attributed to a certain Y. Arafat, and I think that that would be the authoritative voice on that subject. I think Chairman Arafat in fact called Secretary Christopher yesterday morning to go over lots of things involving the process and, among other things, told him that he was delighted that Dennis was in Tunis, and that Dennis was being very helpful. So unnamed quotes from people who are lower down in the chain of command in the PLO are not particularly interesting to me.
Q Can we do Haiti?
MR. McCURRY: Sure.
Q Do you have any comment to the spate of stories about the congressional black caucus unhappiness and unhappiness of other supporters of the President of his Haiti policy?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know that they're unhappy at the Administration. I think they're probably properly unhappy at those parties in Haiti that continue to thwart the return of President Aristide and the restoration of democracy, and I'd say that we share that unhappiness. They are the ones that are blocking the implementation of those accords that have been agreed to in the past, and they are the ones responsible for the conditions that now exist in Haiti for the citizens of Haiti.
It's up to them to begin to show some flexibility, to begin dealing with the legitimate proposals that have been put forward to help break the impasse and to solve the political crisis, and I feel the United States and the Administration here and those on Capitol Hill that we work with on the problem with Haiti know what we are trying to do to resolve that crisis. It's been an extensive and difficult piece of work.
Q But they are unhappy with the Administration. I invite you to read the transcript of the news conference they had this morning.
MR. McCURRY: It's easy to understand that they would express some frustration over the unwillingness of the parties to move forward with the process. They know what we are doing to try to push that process forward, and they know the work that's underway, both at the United Nations, in Haiti and elsewhere.
If they're dissatisfied that the pace has not been rapid enough, then I'll let their comments speak for themselves.
Q What happened to the international effort to tighten the sanctions?
MR. McCURRY: It's something that still is being discussed in New York at the United Nations.
Q But it's something which is not coming to a head. The U.S. has sort of given up on it?
MR. McCURRY: No, I wouldn't say we've given up on it. It's under discussion in New York how best to propel this process forward to try to get some movement on a political dialogue that will result in all the steps that have been under discussion since the time of the Governors Island accord is precisely the purpose of our policy; and how best to propel that policy is something that we are discussing, as I say, with other partners at the United Nations.
Q Do you have any response to the ad today in The New York Times, calling the Administration multiracist?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, I do have a response to that, Ed, because it suggests, I think, no other explanation than a racial motive for our policy. I'd like to make clear our policy is about saving lives in Haiti. It's about people who are going to try to get on unseaworthy vessels and at great peril to themselves go out onto the high seas and likely drown and lose their lives.
And our policy has been about returning them to Haiti so they can be processed in a process that we have developed that we think is fair and that takes into account all the legitimate concerns of those who might want to seek to come to the United States.
The suggestion that the policy would somehow be based on other factors is just unwarranted.
Q In view of the renewed killings, though, in Haiti, wouldn't it be wise to take another look at that policy of returning those people who try to leave?
MR. McCURRY: Let me remind you once again we've got this process for in-country processing of people who have valid claims; that those who are in direct danger, who feel that they need to make the case for asylum, have got a process that they can do so.
To attempt to come illegally to the United States by bartering with criminals who are going to try to transport you in boats that can't make the trip puts their lives at peril, and our policy is about trying to convince them not to take that risk.
We do in fact have a process by which we can look at individual claims from those who want asylum, and we think it's working. It has worked. I think in the last 14 years, 185,000 people have emigrated to the United States from Haiti, and that ranks in sum total, I think, among the highest percentages of an indigenous population immigrating to the United States of any place in the world.
Q But I don't understand. This is a totalitarian regime there. Now, you know, certainly the Soviet Union used to have a totalitarian regime. If people got out of the Soviet Union, they were welcomed here with open arms. These folks are being sent back to a totalitarian regime that seems to be killing a lot of people.
MR. McCURRY: They are being sent back to -- if they want to make the case that they should come to the United States, they've been sent back to people who are perfectly willing to process them in a legal manner and to look at their valid claims. That's the policy.
Q Have we ever asked Russians to make -- I mean, citizens of the Soviet Union to make that claim before we accepted them?
MR. McCURRY: We had ways that we processed the claims for immigration, of course.
Q What was the figure you said on the number of Haitians who --
MR. McCURRY: There were, during the last 14 years, more than 185,000 Haitians have been granted legal permanent residence in the United States. And then in terms of the number of immigrants admitted to the United States as a percentage of a native country's population, that ranks Haiti among the top in the world of numbers that have been able to immigrate to the United States.
Q What were those figures for the last two years?
MR. McCURRY: In the last two years. You know, we've done some of the figures before, and the numbers that we have done at these two in-country processing facilities, and the numbers are very high. We've looked at thousands and thousands of cases and determined those that have got legitimate claims to come to the United States and processed them accordingly. They're given every consideration that they're entitled to under U.S. law.
Q Mike, you said the Secretary spoke to Arafat yesterday. Did Arafat by any chance say whether he's coming back to the negotiations? But I'm wondering, I suppose, if Tunis hasn't overtaken Washington. I mean, aren't negotiations going on now? Maybe this line has become kind of indistinct.
MR. McCURRY: As I suggested yesterday, there's been a lot going on in that, and you know the important aspects to the conversations they had yesterday and to the discussions underway in Tunis, and we've got good, solid discussions underway there that I think the parties will be the best people to tell you about. That was a very equivocal answer. (Laughter) The actions in Tunis, in English.
Q The actions in Tunis?
MR. McCURRY: And elsewhere. Ambassador Ross is off to Amman. They were in Damascus yesterday. I believe they're back in Jerusalem now, so the action right now is in the region I guess I should say.
Q You wouldn't want to give me a laundry list of the things they've accomplished, would you?
MR. McCURRY: If they've accomplished anything, it would be abundantly clear in due course.
Q Could you give us a readout of the meeting with -- was it with Assad in Damascus?
MR. McCURRY: Don't have one, no.
Q Sort of in general what they were discussing? I mean, besides --
MR. McCURRY: As general, as is very often the case after we meet with the Israelis, we do touch base with the Syrians and give them a sense of where things are based on the most recent accounts we've had at highest levels with the Israelis. And that was one of the purposes, and Ambassador Ross's trip there was to touch base with President Assad following the meeting between Prime Minister Rabin and President Clinton.
Q I think when the Israeli Prime Minister was here, it was said afterward that people would go out there and perhaps suggest a date -- an appropriate date for the Syrians to come here. Is that what Mr. Ross is doing? Is he giving them a date, or will he give them a date?
MR. McCURRY: I think he's remained very focused on how to resume the discussions here on all four of the bilateral tracks and on the separate question of how to keep the discussions going between Israel and the PLO, how best to advance that. But I don't have any specifics beyond that.
Q Well, it seems to me that he hasn't -- they haven't reached the point where the Syrians would be satisfied enough to come to Washington.
MR. McCURRY: Perhaps the Syrians are in the best position to tell you that.
Q Well, do you wait to give them a date until you know they'll say yes?
MR. McCURRY: I think we make announcements about next steps when they're ready to be announced.
Q I mean, then what was said when Rabin was here is no longer true then.
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q You're not saying that.
MR. McCURRY: No. You mean when --
Q No. I say it was said that it wasn't immediately clear then -- no, it was actually that Ross and Indyk and others would go out there, and the briefers who looked a lot like Ross and Indyk said that one thing that would be done would be to suggest a date for the Syrians to come here. Now, they haven't done that and I wondered why?
MR. McCURRY: I don't want to dispute the briefers. They have not suggested a date publicly. Whether or not they're discussing when or not to reconvene is a different question.
Q But it's not just an academic question. I mean, it's not just a frivolous --
MR. McCURRY: No, it's not an academic question.
Q If you don't have the --
MR. McCURRY: It's not an answerable question.
Q No, no. But you could say whether or not they're able now to say to the Syrians, "We'd like to see you here April 11," or something.
MR. McCURRY: I think they've had pretty good precise discussions about how to proceed, but I'm just not in a position to say much publicly about that.
Q Michael, could you answer -- the two tracks that seem to be being pursued towards resumption as far as mediation is concerned are the Norwegian and the American tracks. Is there coordination between them?
MR. McCURRY: There is a high degree or coordination. I think Ambassador Ross talks to Deputy Foreign Minister Larsen at least several times a day, and I think we are certainly aware of a lot of what's going on, and the parties themselves are very well aware of the U.S. role. I think the parties themselves in their -- you know, the authoritative parties, the authoritative leaders for the parties in negotiations are the ones to describe best the U.S. role, not unnamed individuals who have other motives.
Q Could I have a follow-up on that. Is there an equal coordination, would you say, between the Norwegian and the American and Russian tracks?
MR. McCURRY: I can't answer that question. I don't know what degree Norway is in discussion with our co-sponsor on that. We certainly, I think, keep the Russians well informed of our understanding of what's developing in the various discussions that are underway. But I'm just not in a position to know to what degree Norway briefs Russia.
Q The Russian input to the Ross mission.
MR. McCURRY: I think as co-sponsor in the process there's Russian input on the peace process. I can't tell you specifically in what way that's coming in connected to Dennis' trip right now, but we do get input from them, good ideas, and we exchange views with them often.
Q Could we do South Korea?
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q Do you have any response to the South Korean Ambassador to Beijing, I believe, whose comments today --
MR. McCURRY: The North Korean --
Q I'm sorry, North Korea's Ambassador to Beijing comments today again -- once again, saying that all the U.S. is trying to do is to provoke a war here, and they're about to succeed.
MR. McCURRY: They misrepresent the goals of the United States. The goal of the United States is to peacefully resolve the nuclear issue that's been under discussion. That's simply and only the purpose of the diplomacy that we've been pursuing.
Belligerent comments from the North Koreans are not uncommon.
Q They may not be talking about your diplomacy; they may be talking about Patriot missiles, refusing even to rule out nuclear weapons going there, by saying that we will come to South Korea -- the U.S. will come to South Korea's defense if it is attacked. I mean, I think it's possible they mean the military steps the U.S. is taking and not your efforts to open the nuclear sites to inspection.
MR. McCURRY: I think the two things that they know have been under discussion are the status of "Team Spirit '94," and the deployment of the Patriot missile. They know enough about the Patriot missile to know what it's used for. It's a defensive weapons system. That's not going to start a war, and they know that. So we shouldn't pretend otherwise.
Q Mike, on occasion from that podium you've been able to talk about North Korean military movements. Have you personally noticed any North Korean military movements recently?
MR. McCURRY: No, I don't. I would give probably the same answer that I think they gave over at the Pentagon yesterday: that they've seen some activity. It's not inconsistent with what happens seasonally at this time of year, but they're watching it very, very closely. I believe that was the gist of the answer, and certainly that would be the one that I would give if I answered the question too.
Q Is there any channel being used to talk to North Korea right now? Is it just quiet on that front, or is there some -- Norwegians involved?
MR. McCURRY: No. I'm not aware of any separate, secret channel for discussion. The way that we talk with them is well known.
Q So what? You're waiting -- the U.S. is waiting for them to open the facilities?
MR. McCURRY: At the moment they've got an urgent appeal from the IAEA Board of Governors to complete the inspections. They know they face a discussion of this issue in the United Nations in the near future, so in a sense they've got the ability and the choice -- they've got the ability to make a choice and to respond to the growing concern of the international community.
Q At the worst -- according to the CIA testimony and other sources, at the worst North Korea has amassed enough plutonium to manufacture a couple of -- one or two primitive weapons. Is the United States willing to live with North Korea as a possessor of such weapons, or do we -- or is it the goal of the United States to make sure that North Korea does not become a nuclear power at all?
MR. McCURRY: Our goal, as we've stated over and over again, is a non-nuclear Korean peninsula. That's consistent with the denuclearization agreements that have been reached in the past and consistent with North Korea's obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. No change in that.
You reference assessments. You know that there are some disagreements over the assessments of the status of their program and its current capabilities or the results of that program, and I don't have anything newer than what you've heard many times before. There are different assessments within our government.
Q You said earlier that belligerent comments from North Korea are certainly not uncommon, and they are not. However, the level of these belligerent comments over the course of the last four days, beginning last weekend, are far more shrill than North Korea has been issuing in years and years. Does this not concern the United States that, for whatever reason, this particular crisis is getting hot and very, very dangerous?
MR. McCURRY: Of course, it concerns the United States when we see these types of comments. I can't tell you whether they are out of the ordinary. I think they do reflect things that we've heard in the past, but neither is the United States intimidated by the kinds of comments that we have heard. We are prepared and ready to meet our obligations to our treaty ally, and we are prepared and ready to meet any contingencies that exist. There should be no doubt of that anywhere in the world, including North Korea.
Q Let me try one more time on what we would be prepared to live with if it turns out that North Korea --
MR. McCURRY: Saul, it's not a useful line of inquiry. I don't want to be rude, but you're not going to get anywhere with that. You know what our goal is. It's a non-nuclear Korean peninsula. That's been the purpose of our diplomacy. That's the purpose of the discussions that North Korea has had with the IAEA about inspecting what they've done since the last inspection. And ultimately what we would like to do is be in a position to have diplomatic discussions with North Korea so we can resolve what's happened with their program in the past. It's not hard. They just have got obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It's not hard to meet those obligations. Those are what these discussions are about.
Q Are you able to say again, as the Secretary said Monday -- these aren't his precise words, though -- that China's cooperation out of its own self-interest can be counted on?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not sure that's exactly what he said, but I think we're working with China in a way that responds to their concerns about the need for patient, careful diplomacy. We do think that it is in their interest to seek our same goal of a non-nuclear Korean peninsula.
Q He said a little more than that.
MR. McCURRY: Given that, we think that they are in a position and will remain in a position to be helpful. We certainly would expect that.
Q Why is that in their interest, Mike, to have a non-nuclear free peninsula?
MR. McCURRY: Because regional instability or regional security concerns in that part of Asia is certainly within their self-interest.
Q Mike, has there been any contact with the Chinese since yesterday that would indicate any movement in their position on the sanctions issue? And a second part to the question: Could you assess why the United States, if it moves to that level, thinks sanctions will work on a place like Korea that barely imports anything anyway?
MR. McCURRY: Actually, I saw some coverage on the question of "would sanctions work" yesterday. I actually have someone looking at that so I can give you a little more detailed an answer.
Sanctions, clearly, are a way for the world community to express some symbolic sense of isolation. They have a political effect as well as an economic effect. That's a general statement. I'm not suggesting that that implies where we're headed on that policy. But they do have a symbolic effect, and they can be persuasive in that sense.
I'm sorry, the first part of your question, Steve?
Q Any movement from the Chinese in the past 24 hours?
MR. McCURRY: I know we've had contact with them through New York, through discussions at the United Nations. I believe there probably have been discussions in Beijing, but I don't have any formal readout. It's consistent with what you've seen them say publicly--that they have not expressed any enthusiasm about sanctions immediately. I think they have urged careful and patient diplomacy.
As I've said several times, that's the path that we're pursuing.
Q You're getting a more -- a fuller answer on the issue of sanctions? You don't know at this point whether they would have any economic impact?
MR. McCURRY: I think they would have impact. Exactly the detail of how much and how they would impact, I want to get a little ore clarity on so I can --
Q As long as you're looking at issue, can you look at the question of how effective they would be if China and Russia did not play, for some reason? And maybe even the Japanese in terms of their relative inputs?
MR. McCURRY: I can look at that question. Sanctions ordered by the United Nations would be done so, and they become mutually reinforcing --
Q Those are the ones by the United Nations. On occasion, the United States, when it cannot get something through the Security Council, goes with a more ad hoc approach and gets friends to participate rather than the world.
MR. McCURRY: I'll look at that question with the understanding that we're not implying that's a likely outcome of our diplomacy.
Q What's the status of the resolution that's at the Security Council?
MR. McCURRY: They're working the resolution and having discussions in New York. I think that they're in a timeframe. I probably incorrectly said earlier this week that they would do it sometime this week. I think it probably looks like it's more next week. I'm hesitant to putting any kind of deadline on it, but I think that they're looking at the period between the end of the month and the beginning of next month.
Q You prefer a resolution, not a Presidential statement -- is that correct? -- in terms of your tactics?
MR. McCURRY: I believe that is correct; yes.
Q But you'll take what you can get in the --
MR. McCURRY: We will take the path that we think will be most effective.
Q And it still would be characterized as a warning resolution for this --
MR. McCURRY: That's my understanding. That would be the best shorthand way of referring to it.
Q When you talk about sanctions, do you automatically mean trade sanctions, or are there other kinds of sanctions unrelated to trade?
MR. McCURRY: There are a variety of sanctions, as you've seen them imposed in a variety of settings. I think we've been colloquially referring to sanctions in the case of North Korea as being economic sanctions. But by no means have we spelled out or specified what steps we will take.
One step at a time in this case. The next step is clearly the resolution that we've been talking about related to a warning, and further measures beyond that would have to be considered later.
Q We've been talking a lot about the rhetoric of the North Koreans and the maneuvers and various things. What is the definitive American response if for some reason things kick off there? What happens? What if the North Koreans decide to go for it?
MR. McCURRY: Go for it?
Q That we go for it.
MR. McCURRY: I was just imagining that question at the Pentagon. I think it would have been phrased a lot differently, Jack.
We have very solemn treaty obligations that are in effect. The commitments that we have made and the obligations we have under treaty will be pursued by the United States.
Q Michael, on Pakistan. I'm trying to understand U.S. policy stated on the Hill yesterday, that we are now going to sell F-16s to Pakistan. Lynn Davis --
MR. McCURRY: She did a very good run-through on that, I understand, yesterday.
Q We also have sanctions on Pakistan that prevent us from selling them military -- I suppose that relates to missiles -- the loopholes are there to be taken advantage of. But in the broader sense, can you explain the rationale of those two sort of contradictory things -- that we have sanctions against selling them military items while at the same we're going to free up the sale of these F-16s and, I assume, the missiles that go along with them?
MR. McCURRY: The rationale, the theory -- you heard Dr. Davis say yesterday -- is that we're looking for a way to try to advance our larger non-proliferation goals by capping and reducing their nuclear program. That's the rationale. It's very clear.
The purpose of the sanctions, to begin with, has been to address Pakistan's nuclear program. And if there is a way to directly do that, by engaging them in the type of initiative we're discussing, that accomplishes the purpose that the sanctions are intended to fulfill.
Q So it would be fair to say that when there is a larger interest, we will discard sanctions that --
MR. McCURRY: Well, no. The sanctions are in place and in effect to deal with the -- I mean, the Pressler sanctions are in effect to deal with the nuclear program.
Q The MTCR sanctions.
MR. McCURRY: Any other arms transfers would have to be consistent with U.S. law. The Pressler sanctions are in place because of Pakistan's nuclear program.
Q Right, but I'm talking about the MTCR sanctions. I don't know that they're exactly related. But it seems contradictory to me that on the one hand we're sanctioning China for selling them missiles and on the other hand we're going to free up the sale of F-16s.
MR. McCURRY: You're making the comparison to China. I would say to you, in China, we've made exactly the same offer -- that if you can resolve the overall non-proliferation concerns we have, we can figure out a way to waive sanctions. In a sense, it's not exactly what this is. But, in a sense, we're seeking -- accomplishing our larger purpose through this initiative of addressing our non-proliferation concerns as they relate to South Asia and then using the levers that we have to try to encourage that type of discussion.
So there is a larger purpose here, which is the purpose of the sanctions, I think, to begin with.
Q Mike, doesn't that approach create a dangerous precedent in that attempting to start a nuclear weapons program or making some progress and then using that as a bargaining chip seems to be a rather effective strategy in getting with the United States, in terms of getting concessions or favors or carrots, or whatever you want to call it?
MR. McCURRY: That's the purpose of global regimes on non- proliferation that control the transfer of that type of technology, and that's why we have international safeguards against that type of proliferation activity. We do address that and we acknowledge that that is a concern, but we have to deal realistically with those programs that do exist there currently.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: You're welcome.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:28 p.m.)
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