U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Tuesday, April 5, 1994 Briefers: Michael McCurry IRAQ Attacks of UN Personnel/Journalists/Aid Workers . 1-5 -- Report GoI Offering Bounties ................ 1,2,4-5 Status of Government Troops ..................... 2,4 Violence Against Marsh Arabs .................... 2-3 CHINA Detention of Wei Jingsheng/US Concern/MFN ..... 6-9 -- US Contacts ................................. 7-8 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Peace Efforts ................................... 9,11-13 Status of Gorazde ............................... 10-13 Ambassador Redman to Return to Region ........... 10-11,13 NORTH KOREA Terms of Third Round of Talks ................... 14-15 Discussions at UN ............................... 15 Status of Team Spirit Exercise .................. 16 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS US Monitors Discussions Among Parties ........... 16 Resumption of Talks in Washington ............... 17 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, APRIL 5, 1994, 1:06 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I'd like to start with a statement.
The United States strongly condemns recent attacks against United Nations personnel and journalists in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. This series of attacks follows reports that the Government of Iraq has offered a bounty for anyone who murders expatriates working in the north.
The most recent incident was the murder of a German correspondent for the French news agency AFP on April 3. The journalist, Lissy Schmidt, and at least one other person, her Iraqi Kurdish bodyguard, were shot to death apparently at point blank range while traveling by road in northern Iraq.
This crime was preceded by two separate attacks during the month of March on U.N. guard forces in the north in which two Czech nationals and two Austrians were injured by gunfire and medically evacuated from Iraq. In addition, two Swedish journalists were wounded last month in a car bomb explosion in the north.
The United Nations has received reports that the Government of Iraq is offering payments of bounty to persons willing to kill U.N. and other international relief workers. This bounty reportedly was raised to $10,000 on March 1. If true, such monetary inducements as well as the acts themselves are contemptible and would constitute blatant violations of the terrorism provisions of United Nations Security Council resolution 687 and 688.
The United States is working closely with the United Nations on security to prevent further attacks and to explore possible Iraqi Government involvement in these incidents.
Q Do you have any independent way to verify that there is in fact a bounty, or are you just accepting the U.N. version?
MR. McCURRY: The reports that we get are from people -- they're usually passed through local authorities in northern Iraq to U.N. workers who then relay them to us and we consider credible information. It's obviously not something we are in a position independently to verify, but we clearly take these reports with a great deal of concern and certainly are asking that the U.N. do everything possible to look into them further.
Q Do you have any assessment of why the Iraqi Government has started this campaign?
MR. McCURRY: If this is, in fact, a campaign on behalf of the Iraqi Government, it most likely has to do with the presence of the international guard forces in northern Iraq, something that clearly the government still has trouble with.
Q Did you say something about looking into improving security or taking some sort of action? What possibly could you do?
MR. McCURRY: I think within the U.N. peacekeeping operations itself and with U.N. administrative controls, there are ways they can look at the protective measures that exist for U.N. guard forces that are operating in the north. I think we have raised with other U.N. Security Council members the idea that we do need to look more carefully at the type of security conditions that exist for the guard forces that are deployed in the north.
Q Do you see this activity going hand-in-hand with the reports you made us aware of, of Republican Guard movements into the area?
MR. McCURRY: Not necessarily. There could be many other reasons why Iraq would deploy to the north Republican Guards, but it would be a source of additional concern -- the presence of troops there -- and these incidents of harassment and violence directed against the U.N. presence in northern Iraq. They were not necessarily directly related, but they are equally cause for concern, I think.
Q There was a report, I guess, from the Iraqi refugees in Iran a week or two ago of more village burnings in the south. Do you have anything on that?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have anything on the situation in the marshes in the south. We have been closely monitoring that, as well as the situation in the north, and I'll see if we can get anything further on that. There has been, I think as you know, an ongoing campaign of violence directed against those in the marshes in the south, and we've said several things on that in the past. I'll see if there's something new that we can get on that.
Q Are the Kurds helping out in any way, helping to protect the U.N. forces or the journalists?
MR. McCURRY: They are helping in connection with the U.N. guard forces that are there, and there are some preliminary reports today that there was a shooting of a European Union aid vehicle yesterday in which there were two Kurdish guards who were injured in that attack. So they help provide protection for some of the relief workers that are working in the north.
Q Could these attacks conceivably be coming from PKK rather than the Iraqis, or are you dead certain it's not the PKK?
MR. McCURRY: At this point we really don't have information about who conducted these attacks. But it is a source, as I say, of great concern to us, and something that, among other things, we need to explore the possibility of Iraqi Government involvement, but we can't say anything definitively about who conducted these attacks. We don't know.
Q Hasn't there been an increase in tensions and incidents of this type since the Security Council refused to lift the sanctions against Iraq about a month ago? Is there a link there?
MR. McCURRY: George, that is correct, and that could conceivably be a motive, that there is -- clearly Saddam does not like the presence of this international force in the north, continues to resist full compliance with the appropriate U.N. Security Council resolution, and he continues to assert things about the international presence in the north. And the fact that the United Nations has been unwilling because of Iraq's non-compliance to lift the sanctions against Iraq might conceivably explain this, but that would be asking me to explain the motives of Saddam Husayn, and clearly I can't do that.
Q Other than anecdotal sorts of things, is there a statistical summary over the last month or two -- the number of incidents of people killed, or how do you quantify --
MR. McCURRY: I don't have any quantifying numbers, Jack. I do have information to say that there's a pattern of attacks on expatriates in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. And again these all do follow the information that has come to us concerning the bounties that have allegedly been placed by Iraq on foreign expatriates.
Q You said it's hard to predict what Saddam Husayn is doing. I don't understand. Is Saddam Husayn doing this? Are you sure he's doing it, or are you not sure he's doing it?
MR. McCURRY: We are probing the possibility of Iraqi Government involvement, and certainly that is suggested by the reports that Iraq is providing bounties for the injury or killing of U.N. or other international relief workers. But establishing that as a fact is something that certainly if the United Nations could be in a position to do that by gathering additional information that would establish that was a certainty, that would be most welcome.
Q There's been no U.N. troops injured or shot at, but a couple of journalists and --
MR. McCURRY: No. There have been some. There have been Czech and Austrian U.N. guard force members that have been injured in separate incidents earlier, and then again today there are some preliminary reports coming in today that U.N. guards have also been wounded in an attack today. So we're trying to get more information on that today from the United Nations.
Q Are there any Americans in this zone at all, either in a civilian capacity or in a capacity working with the U.N.? Any military capacity?
MR. McCURRY: I'll have to check on that. I think there are, but let me check on that.
Q Do you have a recent status report on the Republican Guard deployment? Is it basically what it was two or three weeks ago when Martin Indyk and Dennis (Ross) talked about it?
MR. McCURRY: I think when we had some backgrounders here who provided some information on the movement of four battalions north -- when I asked about that today, there was no change in the status of that deployment, but there was nothing that indicated the prospects of imminent hostilities involving those units either.
Q What about other mischief, to put it politely. I guess a year ago there were the incidents where relief trucks had bombs planted on them, and that sort of thing. Is there any activity like that carried out directly by --
MR. McCURRY: I'd have to check and see if there's been things recently. As I say, there has been a pattern of things that fit with the general status of non-compliance on the part of Iraq, and there have been incidents of harassment and now much more grave violence. But I'll see if there are more recent reports of incidents like those that you describe.
Q Are there any Americans in this international protection force?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know, Saul. I think there have been in the past, rotated in and out, but I don't know if there are any currently deployed. "Provide Comfort" may have some units. I'd have to check that.
Q Do you see this as Saddam Husayn thumbing his nose at the United States and the allies?
MR. McCURRY: I see this as a frustrated and isolated Saddam Husayn who continues to face pressure from the international community in the form of the sanctions that exist on Iraq.
Q Mike, you said that the reports of the offers of Iraqi -- Iraqi offers of bounty were coming from U.N. officials, and they were getting it from local officials -- local authorities, I think you said. That presumably means local Kurdish authorities, right?
MR. McCURRY: That's correct. In the north. And those reports passed on to the United Nations by people who are considered to be credible sources of information. But again we can't -- you know, we have an inability to verify specific incidents because of the way the information comes to us and because, frankly, of the danger that those who provide the information to us face.
Q But the local Kurdish authorities certainly would have an agenda in passing that kind of information out.
MR. McCURRY: I don't want to speculate on motives of people who are passing that information on. They pass it on, and we have to evaluate it, and clearly it causes us concern.
Q But it's the Kurds who fled north, and it's the Kurds that are being protected by the United States. I mean, how could you draw any other conclusion but that they would have an agenda in discrediting Saddam Husayn?
MR. McCURRY: They might be true, and given the pattern of history, it's not unwise to assume that they are telling the truth.
Any other subjects?
Q China. Do you have anything on Mr. Wei?
MR. McCURRY: We do. I think our Embassy has been following this very closely today. They understand through their contacts in Beijing with Chinese authorities that Wei Jingsheng continues to be detained and interrogated by police who reportedly are considering new charges to be raised against him. The United States very much regrets that China has taken this step.
Our Embassy has communicated to the Chinese Government our concern over Wei's treatment. To the best of our knowledge, Wei has only exercised his universally recognized right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Q I think the Chinese are saying that he violated the terms of his parole.
MR. McCURRY: To our knowledge, the only thing he has done is to express opinions about conditions that exist within China. And, as I say, that is a protected activity, I believe, under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a declaration that China says that it adheres to.
Q What sort of impact does this specific arrest have on the whole MFN debate?
MR. McCURRY: There are factors that go into the recommendation that the Secretary will have to make to the President about the MFN decision. I think as he told you when we were in Beijing, increasingly now he is in a period in which he is evaluating the facts that exist and looking at the criteria established by the President in the Executive Order, and he'll make a recommendation to the President; but clearly among those criteria in the President's Executive Order are several that relate to matters like this.
Q (Inaudible) developments since Mr. Christopher's return from China?
MR. McCURRY: It would be hard to describe what is positive and not. There has been dialogue with China on a variety of issues that has been important, useful, you might even say positive. But we'll have to evaluate all of those things in the context of where we go as the Secretary and the President look at the decision in June.
Q As opposed to discussion, which might be positive, have there been any actions on the criteria that is set out in the Executive Order that might be positive?
MR. McCURRY: There have been some discussions that could prove useful, but I wouldn't want to inflate the amount of progress that we've seen, nor denigrate those things that are under discussion.
Q These arrests that came last week -- I guess just about the same time as the U.S. was accommodating China at the U.N. on the Korea issue -- doesn't that constitute even more of a slap in the face?
MR. McCURRY: I guess there are other ways of looking at it. There were other things happening, too. It happened at about the time that a senior official from the Government of Australia was visiting China. There were probably other things at work. I don't know the motive for the Chinese -- the Chinese in our contacts with them, other than to suggest -- as the question suggested -- that they were acting consistent with Chinese law in connection with the terms of Wei's parole, they didn't suggest any other motive.
Q New topic?
MR. McCURRY: New topic.
Q One more on that.
MR. McCURRY: One more. Yes.
Q As it's approaching the fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in two months, are you worried -- is the United States concerned that there might be a crackdown to prevent any kind of democratic activity to memorialize that event?
MR. McCURRY: I think we're aware of that anniversary, and it's clear that the Chinese authorities are aware of that anniversary. We are concerned about any activity that is inconsistent with the things that are specified in President Clinton's Executive Order which addresses freedom of expression and other human rights very directly.
Q These discussions that you mentioned, have they just been with the Embassy in Beijing and here, or have there been any higher level contacts?
MR. McCURRY: I think there has been a combination of both. I think Assistant Secretary Lord is the highest ranking official that's had any contact with a Chinese diplomat on these and related issues.
Q And was there a demarche involved or just --
MR. McCURRY: I think this was prior to the recent detention of Wei Jingsheng. There was not a formal demarche; just a discussion of related issues.
Q But now, with Wei's arrest, has there been a demarche?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know if you'd describe it as a demarche. There's been a meeting between U.S. officials and Chinese officials in Beijing in which we expressed our concern.
Q Mike, last week the World Bank put out some figures as to the cost to the American taxpayer of the lifting of MFN -- also I think to the Chinese. I was wondering if those figures coincide with the Department's own estimates as to what some of the costs might be if they have to lift it.
Q I looked at that report, Barrie, and I know that they had an estimate on the dollar impact in the U.S. I've seen some analysis that's been done within the U.S. Government, and they struck me as being similar. I wouldn't say that they were exactly the same. I think the important thing is that both our own independent analysis and then also the World Bank's analysis establishes with some certainty there would be enormous economic consequences on China if the Most-Favored-Nation status was not renewed in June, and that directly contradicts some of the impressions that the Chinese leadership shared with us.
I think by the World Bank's assessment, China would pay very, very heavily for any decision not to see MFN extended. But I acknowledge -- I think the World Bank is correct -- that there is some level of damage to the United States as well economically.
Q Has there been any progress at all on prison inspections, either by the Red Cross or by the U.S. Customs people?
MR. McCURRY: I'd have to check with the ICRC to comment further about where they are in their discussions with China.
Q And the U.S. officials who want to see these factories?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have anything recent on that. I'll check on that, Jim.
Q The list of names that the Chinese provided Secretary Christopher with on the final day of his visit, has that been analyzed and have any conclusions been drawn about the value of that information?
MR. McCURRY: It's been analyzed. I don't know if we've had a final analysis. I think the information was in some cases useful but clearly a great deal more information is needed to really understand the status of those individuals who were listed in that document.
Q And there have been press reports that the information in some cases is flawed, to say the least. Could you confirm those?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of anything that would contradict that report.
Q Has China verified for us that they are going to go to North Korea to discuss the nuclear situation?
MR. McCURRY: I think it would be more appropriate for me to leave that discussion for the Government of China. They ought to announce their own diplomatic missions, if and when they undertake any.
Q Have we discussed this with them?
MR. McCURRY: We discuss the North Korea issue with China frequently.
MR. McCURRY: Bosnia, yes.
Q Is there any change in the U.S. policy in a matter of negotiations? I mean, six months ago Owen and Vance again proposed to solve the entire problem as a whole, and the fact that Gorazde's left apart, does it mean that the U.S. is back with this idea of having an overall settlement before more than -- preferred to a settlement state by state, Bosnia and Krajina?
MR. McCURRY: It's pretty clear that we are on a path that involves first the agreement that was achieved between the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Croats and then the confederation agreement with Croatia; and then taking that step then into a discussion with the Bosnian Serbs, seeing if they could become part, some way or another, of the federation or confederation that is now projected to exist in Bosnia; and those are very much the discussions Ambassador Redman has had in the region when he was there for talks with all three sides in recent weeks.
By the way, Secretary Christopher is dispatching Ambassador Redman back to the region for additional diplomatic efforts following a call he had this morning with President Izetbegovic, in which they talked about the prospects for a peace settlement and also the situation in Gorazde.
Q Mike, one of the key parts of the plan that you have is to get the Bosnian Serbs to give up some portion of the 70 percent of Bosnia that they now hold. How does that threatening to overrun Gorazde and take even more land square and then consequently presumably drive out the people square with that plan?
MR. McCURRY: It doesn't.
Q Well, surely, it would be -- the fall of Gorazde would be a major setback for that plan, would it not?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know how it would affect the plan, because I'm not certain that there is a plan. I think there is a process underway by which the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Government are attempting to address the territorial needs that the Bosnian Government has -- the very reasonable requirements the Bosnian Government has to achieve an overall settlement -- and that may or may not involve Gorazde.
I believe it does, but, more importantly, the status of Gorazde as a U.N.-declared safe area is of very great concern, as you've heard from us in recent days. So the status of Gorazde is one that I think the Secretary himself was addressing with President Izetbegovic today.
Q Can you help unravel something that General Shalikashvili said this morning, where he said that, "It is our judgment that conditions in Gorazde do not lend themselves to the use of air power." Why not? I mean, it's a town which is being blasted on a daily basis with an offensive moving in on it. Why not?
MR. McCURRY: It wouldn't be my position here to answer a question I believe the General answered himself. I think he was asked, "Why is this situation different from Sarajevo," and he pointed out that for one thing the type of hostilities occurring are different. There are small arms units involved as opposed to heavy weaponry. That was the case in Sarajevo and apparently not the case in Gorazde. But he is certainly much more of an authority on that subject than I am.
I would just remind you once again that the General said, and I think the President said yesterday, and I hope I said clearly too, that we are watching this situation in Gorazde very carefully. And, as it stands today, we don't have a determination that U.S. air power is something that can be used effectively, but that is something that we continue to watch on a day-to-day basis; and the circumstances there could conceivably change, as I think Secretary Perry indicated on Sunday.
Q Mike, Ambassador Redman -- is he going there to attempt, I take it from your comments, to attempt to sort of broker something between the Serbs and the Bosnians relating to Gorazde?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't narrow the discussion to that. He is there trying -- I mean, Gorazde is a byproduct of a war that continues, and what the Ambassador is attempting to do is to try to get these sides in conflict into a process by which they agree to a peace settlement. That involves questions much more extensive than the current Serbian shelling of Gorazde or the Serbian military activity around Gorazde, such as it might be.
By the way, I think as the General said this morning, you need more information about the situation in Gorazde. That's something I think President Izetbegovic and Secretary Christopher agreed upon today, and certainly the visit by General Rose there in coming days could very well help clarify what the situation on the ground is on Gorazde.
Q I don't understand your earlier. Would it be a setback for Redman's efforts if the Serbs were to take Gorazde and other enclaves in eastern Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: I can't speculate what the effect of that would be, nor do I have anything that indicates to me that that is the intent of the Bosnian Serbs. What the Ambassador is attempting to do is to bring the war to an end, and how individual things affect the effort to achieve a settlement in Gorazde, in Bihac, in other parts of Eastern Bosnia and areas where fighting has occurred in northern Bosnia, in areas like Prijedor and Banja Luka, which are still subject to ethnic cleansing -- all of those things are representative of the same fact, which is that efforts have to be extensively made now to bring the war and the fighting to an end.
Q It's been known that people try to create facts on the ground, and one of the facts on the ground is 70 percent of Bosnia is now in Serb hands. And if Gorazde was in Serb hands, wouldn't that create another fact on the ground in Serbia's favor?
MR. McCURRY: I don't want to accept that that's something that's likely going to happen. I think one reason General Rose is going there is to see if they can't establish lines of demarcation and cease-fire in place on the ground now. I don't want in any way suggest that you can create a fact on the ground which then becomes part of a peace settlement. Gorazde is a U.N.-protected safe area. It has status in and of itself as a result of that designation.
Q If I could go just a step further. Perry on Sunday, when asked a direct question, "Would the United States Air Force intervene to save Gorazde," said no, and thus gave up some of the ambiguity that -- of the policy. Now you're saying that you don't know if it would be a setback if the Serbs took Gorazde, and that again adds to the --
MR. McCURRY: I mean, I didn't answer the question correctly. It would be a setback if the Bosnian Serbs continued their aggression any place in Bosnia, because it would work counter to the peace process which has had some momentum in recent weeks. So any conquering of Bosnian territory by Serbian aggression is, of course, a setback, because it runs directly counter to the peace process.
Q But it was complete, if, for example, the Bosnian enclave was no longer there, it might simplify the map as Redman and others try to figure out whether, let us say, to let the Serbs have eastern Bosnia and the Muslims to have west.
MR. McCURRY: The United States would reject that type of calculation. Gorazde's a U.N.-protected safe area. It's not a pawn in a chess game for those who are negotiating a peace settlement.
Q Mike, the action in Sarajevo followed a horrific bombing of the marketplace in which I think 58 people were killed, and that changed the calculus for many countries and made it possible for that U.N. and NATO decision to be made.
I don't want to be cynical, but is one of the differences between Gorazde and Sarajevo, (a) the fact that TV cameras are not bringing horrific pictures, and (b) we haven't had a single part of overwhelming atrocity yet to fire up opinion.
MR. McCURRY: No. Because the conditions in Gorazde have been horrible. They've been well documented, and the information that's come to us is equally compelling to pictures that would be seen on television.
Q If the suffering is equally compelling, surely the action should be equally decisive.
MR. McCURRY: That's right, and sending 800 Ukrainian UNPROFOR troops to Gorazde in an attempt to shore up the defense of that safe area might be helpful in that respect. That's something that certainly the world community will watch with great attention.
Q Did President Izetbegovic call the Secretary this morning? Did he initiate the call?
MR. McCURRY: I believe the Secretary initiated the call this morning. I think President Izetbegovic talked to Ambassador Redman last night, and the Secretary, obviously, has been in the process of being briefed on a variety of things connected to Bosnia and decided that it would be good to call the President this morning to talk not only about Gorazde but, as I say, about the overall effort to search for peace and also to indicate that Ambassador Redman would be back in the region soon for further discussions.
Q Is the U.S. making pressures on Bosnia to accept a different settlement about territories, to ease the process to end?
MR. McCURRY: No. The Ambassador's trip there is consistent with how we've outlined his overall approach. He's there in search of reasonable requirements that the Bosnian Government has in order to enter into a peace settlement with the Bosnian Serbs.
Q North Korea?
MR. McCURRY: Korea.
Q Any reaction to the North Koreans about the nuclear inspectors, and the North Korean reports of a huge infusion of new U.S. troops to South Korea?
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q No, on the troops?
MR. McCURRY: No reaction to that public statement. They make strange public statements often, and I don't have a reaction.
Q And what about, again, the call for allowing nuclear inspectors? Is that true, is that valid?
MR. McCURRY: I'm sorry. What did they --
Q Again, they're claiming that they're going to allow international nuclear inspectors. Are there any provisos on that? Do you believe them?
MR. McCURRY: They have an agreement with the IAEA that dates to February 15. Honoring that commitment would be a positive development.
Q So you don't pay much credence to it?
MR. McCURRY: They know what the actions are expected by the world community based on the statement by the President of the U.N. Security Council.
Q Mike, I know we massaged this yesterday, but it relates to Connie's question. I believe what they said was, they would allow inspectors if they could start the high- level contacts with the U.S.?
MR. McCURRY: I thought that was something close to what they said.
Q We didn't really get a clear statement. Is that something that the Administration would be willing to do, to do it simultaneously or do one first? Or is there just no jiggering of the formula?
MR. McCURRY: They know, and we have said publicly, the terms under which there would be a third round of high- level talks. No change in that.
Q Just to follow up on that, too. Apparently the Yon Hap news agency is reporting that there was a letter from the North Koreans to the United States in late March. This is a variation on the theme -- and that is, they would go forward with the inspections if the condition for the exchange of envoys was dropped.
MR. McCURRY: Right.
Q Did you get that letter?
MR. McCURRY: Sort of a different question; same answer.
Q And the answer was the same?
MR. McCURRY: Yes. We did respond to the letter, indicating nothing more than what we have set forward in the past as our previously stated position of an exchange of letters. I think there was an exchange between Ambassador Han -- or is it Deputy Foreign Minister Han -- and Assistant Secretary Gallucci in late March.
I'd reiterate that the U.S. response was very much along the lines of what we said publicly: third round of high-level talks could occur provided that there had been an exchange of envoys and a successful completion of the IAEA inspections.
Q So there's no intent on the U.S. side, at least at this point, to offer any compromise or any change in the conditions that were agreed to in New York?
MR. McCURRY: That's correct.
Q Mike, has there been any discussions started up now on a sanctions resolution against North Korea?
MR. McCURRY: I think given the gravity of our concern and the fact that the United Nations remain seized of the matter of the North Korean nuclear program, there are on- going discussions on the issue. I wouldn't want to specify what measures they're contemplating. But, certainly, the statement by the President of the Security Council did indicate that further consideration by the Security Council was, indeed, possible if necessary.
Q There was a South Korean official yesterday who made a statement to the effect that it was now in China's hands to try to convince Pyongyang to go along with the international community on this.
Does the United States feel that way -- that it's basically in China's lap to carry this forward?
MR. McCURRY: No. I think we feel that we've worked together with China on this issue and that that has been productive, but it is ultimately in the hands of North Korea to decide what further steps are taken because they are the ones who can meet their obligations to the international community and the commitments they made to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the commitments they've made to South Korea for on-going dialogue.
Q Has Japan taken any steps, which I understand they could take -- it could take -- to cut off at least some of the flow of money to North Korea?
MR. McCURRY: That has been a subject of discussion, but I don't know whether Japan has taken any steps. You have to ask the Japanese Government.
Q Has the United States asked the Japanese Government to --
MR. McCURRY: I think we've had discussions with them on that. I don't know whether we've made any formal request.
Q There's been a report in Seoul this morning that the United States Government and the Korean Government is going to announce the resumption of "Team Spirit" exercises April 15. Can you confirm that report?
MR. McCURRY: I cannot confirm that report. I know that when Foreign Minister Han was here, it remained a matter that was under discussion as to scheduling, but I'm not aware of any date planned for an announcement.
Q Can you take that question, though, as to whether or not we have made a formal request to Japan to halt the remittances?
MR. McCURRY: Okay. I'll take the question. I don't know whether I will get anything back other than it was a private, diplomatic exchange, as you know, we don't talk about. If it's any answer other than that, we will post it.
Q Mike, last week you said that the United States and the world community would embark on a step-by-step process. Last Thursday, you took the first step which was a small step for man and a small step for mankind. When do you expect the next step?
MR. McCURRY: Sometime before we land on the moon again. (Laughter)
Q Before the Chinese land on the moon.
MR. McCURRY: Other questions.
Q Any progress on the Middle East peace talks, and any announcements you would like to make about the Secretary's travel plans to that neck of the woods?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, I do have an announcement. The Secretary of State will travel to the Middle East sometime during the remainder of his term as Secretary of State. (Laughter) When we pin down the date, we'll let you know.
And as to the negotiations themselves, we continue to monitor the discussions -- the very important discussions -- between the PLO and Israel very carefully.
Lee, did you have one?
Q Basically, it was the same question. The Palestinians also claim -- some Palestinians claim that the Israelis are dragging their feet in the negotiations. What does the United States say about this?
MR. McCURRY: We don't routinely comment on the posturing of either side in the negotiations.
Q And also, do you think a pullout could be effected by April 13, the deadline time?
MR. McCURRY: It could be, but it will be up to the parties to see if they can make progress that quickly. It would welcomed if they could.
Q Any date to resume the talks here?
MR. McCURRY: No date yet. April -- it's still projected sometime this month. It's clear that these things probably follow in some type of logical sequence; and Step One, sometime before the other steps.
Q Mike, the last three murders of Israelis inside Israel and the territories by various terrorist groups, responsibility in each of those cases were claimed by groups based in Damascus. A third of those three occasions were actually carried in the official Syrian press. (A) are you aware of this? (B) If you are, do you have any reaction?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, aware of it. Two, we continue to condemn violence on the parts of all sides. It's clear that there are enemies to the peace process who operate -- sometimes operate with the assistance of others. That is a great source of concern to us.
We have raised on numerous occasions the activities of those organizations based in Damascus, sometimes operating in Lebanon and elsewhere. We've said that the enemies of peace cannot be allowed to prevail. We've raised that very directly with the Government of Syria, among others.
Q Have you raised these specific cases with the Government of Syria? And, if so, in which form?
MR. McCURRY: I would have to check and see whether we've raised these specific cases. I think we have, in general, raised the support that exists for those who operate within Israel and within the occupied territories who clearly are acting with an intent to disrupt the peace process.
I'll check and see on the three specific cases whether we've raised those.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: You're welcome.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:40 p.m.)
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