U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Thursday, March 24, 1994 BRIEFER: Michael McCurry MEXICO Assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio/US Reaction .........1-5 -- Impact on Political Stability ................................................2 -- US Pledge of Cooperation in Investigation ......................4 US Economic Relations .....................................................................2-3 SOMALIA Agreement re: National Reconciliation Conference ............1 COLOMBIA US Temporarily Suspends Sharing of Evidence re: Drug Trafficking ...............................................................................3-4 Report US Requested Resignation of Attorney General .................................................................................................4 ISRAEL President Clinton's Statement on Jerusalem as a Final Status Issue ............................................................................5-8 CHINA Human Rights/MFN ...............................................................................9-11 IRAQ US Monitoring Troop Movements ...................................................11 NORTH KOREA Russian Support for Draft UN Resolution re: IAEA................11-14 Russian Proposal for International Conference ....................11-12 -- US View ...........................................................................................12,14 -- Participants ..................................................................................13 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 1994, 1:04 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon everybody. I'd like to start with actually two statements. First, we are saddened and appalled by the tragic and senseless assassination yesterday of Luis Donaldo Colosio, presidential candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico. Secretary Christopher deplores this act of brutality and extends to the family of Mr. Colosio and all his many friends and admirers our deepest sympathy at this difficult moment.
Mr. Colosio was a man who dedicated his public life to the people of Mexico. As a member of the Cabinet of President Salinas and later as a presidential candidate, Mr. Colosio worked tirelessly to help bring about a transformation in Mexico's economic, social, and political systems. We are confident that his death will not hinder the process of democratic reform now underway and to which Mr. Colosion was so firmly committed.
Those sentiments, the Secretary expressed this morning in a call to Mexican Foreign Minister Telos. I think you've all heard the comments that the President has made today; and, of course, the White House itself has issued a statement on the President's behalf on this tragedy.
The second statement has to do with Somalia. Some of you know that acting on behalf of other factional leaders, General Aideed and Ali Mahdi today signed a joint communique in Nairobi. The factions have agreed to convene a meeting in Mogadishu on April 15 to establish procedures for the conduct of a National Reconciliation Conference. This gathering will also consider ways of establishing a National Legislative Assembly.
According to the communique that they issued today, the National Reconciliation Conference will begin on May 15. It will elect a President and an undetermined number of Vice Presidents, and appoint a Prime Minister.
We welcome this agreement. It represents an encouraging step forward in Somalia's reconciliation process. It's also a reminder to all of us that ultimately the responsibility for the future of Somalia will be in the hands of the people of Somalia and the leaders of Somalia.
We very much appreciate the role that U.N. Special Representative Lansana Kouyate has played and UNOSOM as well in helping to mediate the agreement. Ambassador Kouyate will have our full support as he works with all the Somali parties to move the process forward in the coming weeks.
We will continue to work with Somali parties to promote reconciliation and to support the U.N.'s mission of relief, rehabilitation, and peacekeeping.
With those two statements, I'll go to any questions that Rita Beamish might have.
Q What's your assessment of how the assassination in Mexico might affect the stability, coming on the heels of the Chiapas uprising?
MR. McCURRY: The Mexican Government remains fully stable. I think, as you heard the President say, that fundamentally Mexico is in sound shape. We believe that remains the assessment that we would make of both the civility of the government and the long-term prospects for reform within Mexico itself.
Q The President mentioned something about a willingness on the part of the U.S. Government to help stabilize their markets, but the markets are closed today. Is there anything else in the works that you could elaborate on that we would be doing to help with their internal instability?
MR. McCURRY: I think the President referred specifically to some instructions that he had given to Secretary Bentsen concerning both the markets and currency, and I would really leave it up to the Treasury Department to address that. That's the steps that I'm aware of that relate to economic conditions within Mexico, and I think that would be properly a Treasury Department exercise.
Q To follow on that, Mr. McCurry.
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q There's been a lot of talk this morning about Mexico as an unstable country, in terms of economics and politics. Some analysts are recommending investors to think twice while thinking of going down to Mexico to invest there. I would like to learn a little bit more -- if you can elaborate on what the U.S. sees on Mexico in this regard?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not prepared to give advice to potential investors. I think that's something that we don't normally do here. But I can say that our economic relationship, in many ways, is defined by the work we did together on NAFTA. And as you know, NAFTA is entering into effect. It's implementation has been proceeding very smoothly.
Our view is that the tragic event of yesterday certainly does not impair the growing trade relationship that we have with Mexico and our joint efforts to improve the increased trade and economic opportunities that will come about as a result of the Free Trade Agreement.
I think over the long term, that is the framework that provides both stability and economic progress to the citizens of Mexico and also creates economic opportunities in the interests of the United States.
Q This possible change in the candidate of the ruling party generates any kind of (inaudible) thinking in the U.S.?
MR. McCURRY: How the government deals with this tragedy and what changes that holds for its formation of its own government is something that's really an internal matter for the Government of Mexico and for the PRI. It's really not our place to comment on likely changes that they might make or the need now to select another Presidential candidate. That is an internal matter for the people of Mexico and for the political institutions of Mexico.
Q You mentioned NAFTA. Some of the quick analysis that came out today was suggesting that we're not looking at the Mexico that Salinas sold this country in selling NAFTA. Any truth to that? Are people going overboard?
MR. McCURRY: I think in the long debate over NAFTA, there were very clear debates and analysis of political, economic conditions within Mexico. That was all, I think, brought before the American Congress and the American people at the time NAFTA was ratified. The fact that there needs to be economic progress and political reform in Mexico is something that was widely acknowledged during the debate here on NAFTA, and certainly the tragedy yesterday is just one of many things that do suggest that we will proceed on the path of economic and political reform.
Q Moving south on the map. There was in the last 72 hours a report from the AP -- the Associated Press -- that said that the U.S. Government was going to interrupt or stop the collaboration between the U.S. Government and the Colombian Government in the exchange of judicial information, as I said, i.e., evidence that could be used in cases that would go toward prosecuting drug traffickers. Do you care to comment?
MR. McCURRY: I had something on that, if you can bear with me. You're correct. The United States has temporarily suspended the sharing of evidence in new cases proposed by the Colombian Prosecutor General's Office until certain fundamental issues relating to the use and value of the evidence to be shared, the means and methods of ensuring full consultation and coordination in the process and the security of U.S. witnesses and their loved ones are addressed as well as the goals and objectives for plea bargaining, the interpretation and applicability of the new Colombian criminal procedure code.
We want these issues to be addressed in a manner satisfactory both to the Government of Colombia and to the United States, and we will continue our discussions with the Government of Colombia on those issues.
Q If I may follow up. There was also a rumor that the U.S. Government was requesting that the resignation from the Attorney General be requested by the Colombian Government. Do you care to comment on that?
MR. McCURRY: That, I don't have anything on. I'll take that question and check and see if that's been part of our discussions.
Q Back on Mexico. Does the Department -- has it been able to get any information that might reflect on the motives of the gunman?
MR. McCURRY: No, we don't have anything. At this point, I don't have any information at all regarding the perpetrators. We know nothing about their political motivation or political affiliation. At this point, we've not been asked by the Mexican authorities to assist in the investigation, although I think some of you are aware of the comments that Attorney General Reno made earlier today indicating that we would be helpful if so asked.
Q Mike, in reference to the assassination of Mr. Colosio and the question just asked about motivation, regardless of motivation, the political violence that is taking place in all parts of the world, I think, perhaps -- and this latest one -- might bring about some leadership from the State Department, that it should deplore political violence everywhere and maybe in some form that would indicate how the United States feels about --the people of the United States feel about violence everywhere to settle political issues.
MR. McCURRY: It's a good point, Joe. I think the United States does routinely raise its concerns about this type of violence. Political violence is something that's unknown in our own political culture. If you think back just over a quarter century ago, this country faced also the assassination of a presidential candidate that had a profound effect on our country. So we are well aware of the effects of political violence. And speaking from that own painful experience in our history, do condemn and deplore such acts of violence as they occur elsewhere.
Q Can we change subjects for a minute?
MR. McCURRY: Okay. Change of subjects. Go.
Q If everybody is amendable. Are we preparing to protest to China, Singapore, Portugal, and Poland about shipments of arms to Burma?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have anything on that. I'll check into that.
Q Thank you. The President today volunteered to the meeting with the Presidents of major American-Jewish organizations that the statement he made in October 1992, that he -- the President -- believes in a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It was big news at the White House this morning, I think. I consider it big news. Was the State Department aware that the President would make such a statement this morning?
MR. McCURRY: The State Department and I am aware of the statement that the President made at the conclusion of that meeting. I'll quote. He said, "My position has not changed on that issue" -- on the issue of Jerusalem. "My position is that the United States and other countries should refrain from intervening in these peace talks between the parties themselves. Part of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO was that the disposition of that issue would be a so-called final status issue to be resolved at the end of the talks, and I've respected that process. So I've made it clear that the United States has not changed its position."
I think that's very consistent with what you've heard here, and I don't know that that represents anything terribly newsworthy.
Q Was the President just stating his own personal preference to them? Is that what that was about?
MR. McCURRY: The only thing I'm aware of is what the President said at the conclusion of the meeting publicly. I don't have a report on what his conversation was like by the conference, but, obviously, the President has directed himself very publicly to the position that he conveyed, and it's the same one that we've conveyed over and over again.
Q Mike, the President is quoted as saying -- it's on the record -- that the campaign promise will be fulfilled in his Administration; and that this is his personal -- somewhere in my notes here, I have it -- his personal view and that of the Administration. Do you have words like that?
MR. McCURRY: No. The words are really clear. They are the ones that I just read you. That's what the President just said at the conclusion of that meeting. I'm not sure. Were you at the meeting?
Q Not at the meeting, no; but I was outside. But it's on tape. It's on tape that Lester Pollock said to reporters outside the White House after the meeting.
MR. McCURRY: Lester Pollock is a good and careful listener. I'm sure that his account is an accurate one. As I said, I think the President has said that his policy -- he's certainly reflected the United States Government view on the question that Jerusalem is a final status issue, and that's fully consistent not only with what the United States has said before and what we've said here but what the President himself has said.
You'll remember last week, at the time of the vote at the U.N. on the resolution, the President also said at that time, or the White House issued a statement, saying the President has said his position on these matters has not changed.
The President does have a view on some of these questions, but I think the important thing is that he's indicating that as these matters are negotiated directly by the parties there should be not an attempt to prejudge questions that the parties themselves will take up as final status issues. I think that's fully consistent with the view that we've often expressed here on behalf of the United States Government.
Q With deepest respect for what you are saying, the point is that at this briefing to the press, after the meeting with the President, the Chairman of the Conference of Presidents said, I think, three times that the President said that the united Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, he believes. But your statement about the conclusion of a conference probably was made later on -- let me frame the question a little bit differently.
What you were reading, I have no doubt, was made by the President. The question is whether or not he made other statements about United Jerusalem that the State Department isn't reporting now at this point?
MR. McCURRY: He may well have expressed his own private view on those questions in this meeting with these leaders. I don't want to dispute that. I just don't have a thorough account of his meeting with Mr. Pollock and others from the conference. What I do have is what the President said publicly moments ago, giving an account of the meeting that he held and his very clearly stated position which I read to you on the question of Jerusalem.
Q Mike, can you distinguish between the President's view, on the one hand, and U.S. policy on the other?
MR. McCURRY: I'm stating for you U.S. policy on the issue as it was stated by the President this morning. I'm not commenting on the President's views on some of the issues that are final status issues. That's for the President to do.
Q I'm not asking you to comment on the President's view. I'm just interested in whether the President has a view on various issues which is separate and apart from U.S. policy?
MR. McCURRY: That would be a question for the President of the United States to address. Not the State Department Spokesman. But I can properly tell you about U.S. policies and certainly comment on the President's authoritative recounting of those policies.
Q On Friday, standing where you are now, Secretary Christopher said U.S. policy on Jerusalem, as stated by this Administration, has not changed. Do you have in your book the sentence that states what U.S. policy on Jerusalem is, and just read it to us?
MR. McCURRY: I will read it to you. I will again quote to you exactly what the President earlier. "As part of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO, the disposition of that issue (Jerusalem) would be a so-called final status issue to be resolved at the end of the talks."
Q In addition to the traditional statements of U.S. policy, have said that Jerusalem should remain anointed?
MR. McCURRY: Our position on that issue, I think, are very well known, and we're not changing them.
Q Is it too much to ask for the State Department to provide a transcript of the meeting between the President and the Conference of Presidents this morning?
MR. McCURRY: It wouldn't be proper for the State Department to provide that, but I'll alert the White House that that request has been made here at the State Department and let them handle that. I'll be happy to do that.
Q We've chewed that one to death.
MR. McCURRY: I hope you have.
Q There have been times when we've been able to masticate even smaller pieces, but I'm personally not inclined to do it today.
MR. McCURRY: Thank you.
Q Are you aware that the Government of Malaysia has banned the distribution screening of the movie "Schindler's List?"
MR. McCURRY: No, I was not aware of that. That's unfortunate, but I'll look into that.
Q I had a quick on North Korea, if it's all right. Yesterday, I know you addressed the belligerent comments coming from the North. But I'm just curious as to whether there is a feeling here that North Korea crossed yet another line yesterday in issuing a warning that the United States take into account the history of the Korean war and learn a lesson from that?
MR. McCURRY: No. I think we've been commenting over the last several days about several comments of a similar nature. I'm not sure there's anything new in any of that type of rhetoric.
Q Back to Mexico for a second. One of the possible Presidential candidates talked about is Mr. Camacho, and obviously you don't want to talk about his merits as a candidate. But he's been the point man for the Chiapas talks. Would you have any comment on his handling of those talks?
MR. McCURRY: I don't think it would be proper for us to comment on what is largely an internal effort to mediate and resolve the conflict between the Government and the Zapatistas in Chiapas. I think it's widely acknowledged that that was an effective bit of mediation, but that's commentary that comes from those in Mexico who are much more authoritative.
Q (Inaudible) who is going to represent the United States at the funeral?
MR. McCURRY: I think that we've had some discussions with the Government of Mexico, and we'll wait for them to announce plans. That question may not arise, it's our understanding. I think it would be more proper for us to defer to the Government of Mexico to make announcements about what type of arrangements they're planning.
Q Change topics to China, if we can.
MR. McCURRY: There's another Mexico question.
Q You talked about political violence regarding this assassination. Is that because you're assuming it is political violence --
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q -- or have you explored any other possibilities, like, for example, drug trafficking or whatever?
MR. McCURRY: As I indicated earlier, we have no independent knowledge developed in the United States on the basis or motive for what clearly is a crime. That will be something that Mexican law enforcement officials will be investigating. We don't have any independent assessment on that, but it was an assassination of a candidate for political office. That's what I meant by political violence.
Q Mexico also. Apparently for anybody that's in Salinas' cabinet to run, anybody in the government to run for the presidency, they would have to step down six months before the election, which would, you know, cut out everybody in his government, although Camacho could still run, because he's not in the government. But do you know of any plans to change the date of the election?
MR. McCURRY: I was aware of that predicament, based on some information I'd seen today, but that's clearly not a matter that's within the purview of the United States Government to address.
Moving on -- Steve.
Q Yes. The Time's piece this morning about China. I thought there had been discussions of that whole issue of trying to at some point move around the linkage of MFN and human rights while the Secretary was in China.
Does today's report advance that any, or is that just a rehash of what was happening there?
Q Tom Friedman, rehash? (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: Yes, that's right. Tom Friedman, a rehash? I'll say it. Barrie Dunsmore said it.
It's a front-page article in The New York Times, and they usually -- you know, I don't question their editorial judgment, but I do recall --
Q I'm only asking if this presented any new facts beyond what happened in Beijing.
MR. McCURRY: I do recall some of those same points having been made in Beijing. Yes, I do. I do recall that. But, you know, catching up with the news sooner or later, no problem.
No, that's not fair, because there have been meetings subsequent to the Secretary's trip to Beijing, as you know. On that matter, let me please be careful in drawing some distinction between present tense and future tense. I think that was an article about the future tense, and maybe some day we will arrive to the future. Who knows.
But in the present tense, in the here and now, which is what U.S. policy-making is focused on, the issue is the Executive Order and the criteria in the Executive Order, and there's a unanimous view among the President's foreign policy advisers that there must be progress on the areas that are identified in the President's May 1993 order, and that we need to encourage China to make that kind of progress.
Looking down the road, into the future, really is not a worthy exercise at this point because we're focused on what has to happen between now and June.
Q Could we ask, were there some -- subsequent to the China trip, some other meetings or stronger signals that went to the Chinese from the State Department? I mean, the article mentioned we've signaled to the Chinese.
MR. McCURRY: I don't know if we've signaled to the Chinese, but we told them what we told you when we were in Beijing, which is that we do want to approach the day at which human rights and the annual review of human rights is not the centerpiece of this relationship. This is an important bilateral relationship with a major nation in Asia, and we've expressed a desire and communicated a desire to the Chinese to move that relationship beyond the narrow focus of conditions for the extension of Most-Favored-Nation status.
That's not to say that we will not continue to have a very keen interest in raising human rights issues, and it's not to say we will not continue to press the Chinese to make progress consistent with Chinese law on the issues of human rights, but we do seek some way of moving this relationship beyond that one focus. Whether or not that's possible, as I say, is a future question. It only arises if there is the type of progress between now and June that is called for in the President's Executive Order. I hope that was clear.
Q New subject.
MR. McCURRY: Howard.
Q It's been about a week since a senior official stood up there and said Iraq had moved some elite troops into the Kurdistan area. I'm curious whether in that time frame we've noticed any activity by them. Are they up to no good?
MR. McCURRY: We continue to monitor Iraqi movements in northern Iraq very, very closely. I wouldn't say that there is any change in the assessment we've provided since last week as to our understanding of those movements.
Q Mike, could we just zigzag back to North Korea for one second? There's a wire service report out this morning about a Russian proposal for an international conference to discuss the removal of all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula and some sort of safeguard procedure to verify that.
Do you have any reaction? Have we been informed via diplomatic channels that the Russians are making this proposal?
MR. McCURRY: Let me tell you a little bit about that. First of all, connected to that same initiative, there was a commitment by Russia to support the draft United Nations Security Council resolution which is now under development in New York, and clearly that's most welcome.
We think the United Nations remains the most appropriate forum for resolution of this matter, and it is the umbrella under which all previous discussions about the North Korea nuclear issue have transpired.
The North Korean nuclear program is of concern to the entire international community, and it's important that we make clear to the North Koreans the importance of complying with the terms set forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency. So we'll be consulting with our allies, in particular South Korea and Japan, as we consider this proposal from the Russians, which is to hold essentially an international conference to address the issue.
Our general view of conferences of this type, as we've expressed in the past here, is that they must be very carefully prepared in order to be successful. I think in connection with diplomatic initiatives that would be designed to address the North Korean nuclear issue, it would be very important to include some very essential elements of any solution, or at least these would be the essential elements that the United States would identify.
First, that there would have to be full adherence on the part of North Korea to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That ought to be an overall objective of these discussions.
Secondly, that North Korea should accept full-scope safeguards, as defined by the IAEA.
There needs to be, third, full implementation of the North-South Declaration on Denuclearization.
And, fourth, there needs to be a recognition that peace and security on the Korean peninsula are first and foremost a question for the Korean people to decide. Those are sort of fundamental objectives that we think should underpin diplomatic efforts related to this question.
Now, I'd make it clear at the same time that we would oppose any process that allows North Korea to refuse to accept the safeguards requirements that it's already committed to through the IAEA. We would also refuse to accept any process that allows North Korea to refuel its reactor.
We also want to make sure that any diplomatic process shows real progress on nuclear issues while the process is underway. It can't be an excuse to stand still. It also has to deal with issues like whether or not reprocessing would continue during the duration of such a diplomatic effort.
Finally, as I suggested earlier, it's very important that no diplomatic initiative undermine the existing relationship between the Republic of Korea and the United States. So that's the context, I think, in which we would evaluate any initiative put forward by Russia, such as the one that they've suggested publicly today.
Q Did they coordinate this thing with you, or did it come like several other recent initiatives, out of left field?
MR. McCURRY: We were informed of the initiative in advance.
Q You were.
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q Beyond the Russian commitment to support the draft U.N. Security Council resolution, in dealing with Russia, they have been a relatively large trading partner of North Korea -- I think below China but up there.
Have they said anything about what their attitude would be toward economic sanctions, that sort of thing?
MR. McCURRY: There have been some discussions of that issue. I think the only thing I can share at this point is that it is very encouraging that they have indicated today that they're willing to support the draft resolution now under discussion at the United Nations.
Q Mike, given that they did consult in advance about this initiative --
MR. McCURRY: I said "informed."
Q Or informed. Did they inform in advance as to why they did not include China in the list of those who might participate in this conference?
MR. McCURRY: I had thought they had included. I'm sorry, I'll check that.
Q I saw a report that did not include China. That's why I was asking.
MR. McCURRY: My understanding is that they had -- I can't actually -- I need to go back and check that. We do have a report in from our Embassy in Moscow that -- a preview of this initiative, and I'll check that. But, obviously, they have said some things publicly too.
Q Mike, did they provide any other details other than what appeared in the reporting, like the level of the conference, the duration of the conference, the dates of the conference, the venue of the conference, that kind of thing?
MR. McCURRY: I think none of those details apparently had been thought out in advance of their announcement today.
Q So one can say that we're some way away from a conference, should one actually transpire?
MR. McCURRY: I think that what we are closest to is consideration at the United Nations of the draft resolution.
Q Would it be fair to say that the United States would prefer to focus on that, rather than start talking about international gatherings?
MR. McCURRY: I think, as I said earlier, we continue to think that the United Nations is the most appropriate forum for resolution of the issue. But, as I say, we certainly will examine the Russian proposal very carefully.
Q Just to clarify, those conditions that you stated -- those number of things -- were those preconditions before the U.S. would agree to any conference, or were those things that you would expect to be the outcome?
MR. McCURRY: We think those are the central objectives that diplomacy ought to underpin as we attempt to address this issue. And if there's a diplomatic effort such as the one suggested by Russia, it ought to be in furtherance of the objectives we outlined, and it ought to be with the understanding that they not allow those things which I indicated should not happen while a diplomatic process is underway.
Q You're not saying that all those things would have to happen before you would agree to the Russian proposal?
MR. McCURRY: No. I'm just making it very clear the context in which a diplomatic effort of that nature ought to proceed, if it does proceed. It should proceed with very careful understanding of the objectives that the international community is seeking.
Now, why is that? Because everything that the United States has done on behalf of the international community to address this issue is aimed exactly at those objectives, and I think that's why we feel that the thrust of the diplomacy ought to be oriented towards accomplishing those things.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: You're welcome.
(The briefing concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
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