U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING JULY 11, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, July 11, 1994 Briefers: Winston Lord Christine Shelly VIETNAM/NORTH KOREA Opening Remarks by Assistant Secretary Lord ..... 1-5 Death of Kim Il-Song ............................ 5-6,12-14 Kim Jong Il ..................................... 6-7 Third Round of US-North Korean Talks ............ 7,11 Secretary's Upcoming Visit to Region ............ 8-9,12-13 Asst. Secretary Lord's Upcoming Visit to Region . 9-10 HAITI UN/OAS Observers Asked to Depart/UN Activities .. 14-16,19-21 Safe Havens ..................................... 16-19,26-28 US-Panama Misunderstanding ...................... 17-19 -- Statement by President Elect ................. 18-19 Boatpeople Interdictions/Processing/Repatriation . 21-23 MIDDLE EAST PEACE Prospects for Hussein-Rabin Meeting ............. 24-25 UKRAINE Elections ....................................... 26-27
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, JULY 11, 1994, 1:02 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm pleased to welcome Ambassador Winston Lord, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. As he has been a frequent guest here, he needs no further introduction.
Ambassador Lord will open our briefing today with remarks on his recently concluded trip to Vietnam and to Laos, and on the situation in the Korean Peninsula, after which he'll be happy to respond to your questions.
Following Ambassador Lord's remarks and questions, I'll be happy to take your questions on other subjects.
Assistant Secretary Lord, the floor is all yours. Welcome back.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I imagine your interest is focused on the Korean situation at this point. I'll be glad to make some remarks on that as well. But first let me cover briefly the trip of the Presidential delegation to Vietnam and Laos, in case you've not received a fuller briefing on this subject.
It was led by Deputy Secretary for Veterans Affairs, Hershel Gober, myself, and the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense, Jim Wald, MIA/POW Office. We did issue a statement on July 3 from Hanoi, and I'm sure they have copies here if you'd like to get that or if you haven't seen it already.
Basically, when the President lifted the embargo on February 3 and announced the agreement to establish Liaison Offices, he also announced that there would be this Presidential delegation going out to Vietnam. We thought it was also important to go to Laos given the significance of the POW/MIA issue there as well.
So there were various officials in addition to the three of us, and the delegation was accompanied by the leaders of the five largest American Veterans organizations and the Executive Secretary of the National League of Families of American Prisoners of War Missing in Action.
While we were there, we met a great many high-level Vietnamese officials. Again, I won't take up your time of going into all of them. If you want to get the full list, you can get it from this July 3 press release, but it did include the General Secretary and Minister of Defense, Deputy Minister of Interior, the Foreign Minister, and others as well as the head of the Vietnamese Veterans Association.
In these meetings, the delegation stressed that further steps and relations between the two nations depend on additional tangible progress in POW/MIA issues. We reviewed the progress to date, and we set forth some concrete proposals for future work.
The Vietnamese, in turn, pledged very warmly their intent to continue cooperating on this humanitarian issue. They listened carefully to our various proposals and said they would look to see how they could carry them out. Both sides agreed to hold technical meetings to establish a detailed work plan. They agreed, just before and in the course of this visit, to allow access to certain militarily sensitive areas, and also said we could return to any of their prisons, looking for documents that we visited before.
They were receptive to our proposals to establish special review teams within individuals ministries that would search for documents with potential relevance to POW/MIA cases.
There was also a great deal of emphasis on pulling various ministries together in our meetings, which showed an emphasis on more coordination among the ministries, all of which could be important for further progress.
There were not dramatic breakthroughs in this visit. One is at the stage now in the process where one doesn't look for that. But the mood was positive; a willingness to listen to our proposals for better implementation in the search -- the kinds of progress that I've suggested. So we thought it was a productive and positive visit.
We will be looking for further progress in the coming weeks and months.
We also received extensive briefings, both by CINCPAC and SOHI in Hawaii, and then by our Joint Task Force members in Hanoi as well as Danang. We also visited Ho Chi Min City as well as an excavation site outside of Danang.
With respect to the Joint Task Force, I think everyone, including the veterans and family groups with us, were very much impressed by the dedication and professionalism of our people in the field as well as the considerable cooperation by the Vietnamese, as I've said.
The excavation site was extraordinary. It's an example of the hard work that's undertaken by us with Vietnamese cooperation. Some of you may have seen on CNN, but there's a 75 degree angle, over two football fields long and tens of yards wide, under triple foliage canopy, poison snakes, hot weather -- you name it -- all to sift the dirt throughout this area to look for small bones and teeth, etc. So it's a rather extraordinary impression on all of us.
While we were there, we also discussed some other bilateral issues. The main purpose of our trip was for further progress on POW/MIAs, but we talked about Liaison Offices; we were resolving the last few issues. They should be established quite soon. We're looking for good property, for at least a temporary place for the Liaison Offices. We've made progress on that as well.
We talked about other matters like claims and property issues. We talked about regional security matters, Cambodia narcotics traffic, etc. But, again, the main focus was on POW/MIA, and there was full participation by the Family and Veteran Representatives in all of these plenary meetings on that subject, and they were free to express their views at all time.
We then went onto Laos. Again, our primary mission, the POW/MIA effort, and had very extensive discussions there. I first met with the Laos Foreign Minister in Ho Chi Min City. He stayed over an extra day in order to meet with me. We discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional and global issues with him, and then went on with our primary focus on the MIA questions in Vientiane after that.
I then split off from the delegation and had a working dinner in Thailand, looking forward to the Secretary's trip to Bangkok and the ASEAN Regional Forum Regional Security Dialogue later this month. When the rest of the delegation went home, I then went onto Naples and participated in the President's meeting with the new Japanese Prime Minister, and then I came home over the weekend.
So that's a quick rundown on those aspects.
Let me make a few remarks on the Korean situation, and then we can go to your questions on Korea or the Vietnam/Laos trip or anything else in the East Asia region that's of interest to you.
Again, I'm not sure how much all of you know about what's happening. Let me give you quick rundown, even though some of this may be familiar to you at this point.
First, the military situation. There's no unusual activity in that regard in North Korea; no abnormal exercises. The North Korean army seems to be busy helping get ready for the funeral preparations. American troops are not on alert.
South Koreans troops have somewhat increased vigilance but also not on official alert, although they've canceled military leaves. There's no mobilization planned. The South Korean Minister of Defense has ordered his commanders not to in any way provoke North Korea.
With respect to the North Korean domestic situation, information, as always, is extremely limited coming out of North Korea. You've seen pictures and reports of large crowds gathering in front of statutes and expressing grief, etc.
The mourning period officially begins today, July 11, Korean-time. The funeral is July 17. The North Koreans have indicated that no foreign delegations are invited. Kim Jong-Il, the son of Kim Il-Sung has been receiving ambassadors today, but I understand has not been saying too much himself. He's just been listening to their expressions.
They did broadcast on North Korean domestic radio President Clinton's condolence message, which is quite unusual.
We expect that the North's immediate focus will be on the funeral for Kim Il-Sung and succession arrangements, at least through this next week leading up to the July 17 funeral.
The Parties Central Committee and Supreme National Assembly will meet soon. We've seen reports of July 13, but I'm not sure how firm that is; and they're likely to elect a new General Secretary and President. The selection of these polls will give us some sound indications on succession and stability questions.
The most important position, as usual in a communist society, is the head of the party.
The American delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary Gallucci, went to the North Korean Mission in Geneva on July 10 and signed the condolence book, which the North Koreans clearly appreciated.
The North Korean delegation issued a press release saying it will return to Pyongyang for the funeral but adjourned the U.S.-DPRK talks and hoped they could be continued in the coming weeks at a date decided through the New York diplomatic channels. So we do expect these talks to resume some time after the funeral takes place. There was every indication by the North Korean side that this would be the case.
As I think you've already heard through Mr. Gallucci and others that while there, of course, no concrete results in the first meeting on July 8, there generally was a positive meeting, indicating progress is possible.
The North Korean delegation has left today, or leaving today, for Pyongyang and the American delegation is coming home tomorrow.
I want to emphasize the importance of the North-South dimension of this issue as well. This is, throughout, extremely important. The ultimate fate of the Korean Peninsula will be resolved between North and South, both of the general denuclearization agreement they've signed, but just as a general principle of the Korean people settling their own destiny. So that aspect remains extremely important.
We are constantly in touch with the South Koreans as well as the Japanese and the Permanent Five, briefing them in Geneva, New York, and here, etc. The Secretary, just within the last couple of hours, has once again been on the phone with Foreign Minister Han of South Korea comparing notes.
The North Koreans passed a short two-line message to the South Korean Unification Minister, Lee, "postponing" -- was the word used -- the planned July 25-27 South-North summit.
Finally, the IAEA inspectors remain in North Korea to monitor nuclear activities there.
So I hope that's helpful. It's sort of a general review, and I'll be glad to take any questions on any of these subjects.
Q Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I'd like to start with a question about -- two years ago, I believe, or so, there was reports from North Korea that Kim Il-Sung had died. Do we know -- have we seen diplomatic confirmation that Kim Il-Sung is, indeed, dead? And what can you tell us about the cause of death? Do we have any information on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We've heard reports -- that I don't believe have been confirmed -- that it was a heart attack. Obviously, it's an opaque society, but I don't think one would have any suspicion that they'd go to this length to put on a charade here with the funeral arrangements, summoning the delegations home, people grieving in the streets, naming the son as head of the funeral delegation. So I think there's a lot of very good circumstantial, overwhelming evidence.
Q Do you have an evaluation of the younger Kim? There have been an awful lot of stories about him in the media in the past few days?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: He has not met, as you probably know, very often if at all with foreign visitors. So very frankly there is not a good profile on him. You hear conflicting reports often based on hearsay of rumors. So I think one should reserve judgment. That's not meant to be an evasive answer. It's an accurate one intellectually. We just don't have a good feel for him.
The signs are that he, by being named head of the Funeral Commission, which in a communist society, is a significant appointment, it seems at least at this stage to be in a position of leadership. But I'd rather not speculate beyond that. I think we'll just have to wait and see what kind of policies he carries out.
Q Just to try to put a little flesh on those bones. Do you draw any inference from the fact that he has not in the past met with other officials -- Chinese or otherwise -- with respect to how much in control he is to be perceived to be or the extent to which he will be the face and there will be others behind the screen actually making policy?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Various speculation has mounted on that, and I don't think it's useful for me to get into that. Again, our feeling is that he has been a significant factor in recent years, even if he has not seen foreign visitors, but I wouldn't want to speculate why he hasn't done so. I would note, as I've said, he's been greeting Ambassadors, according to a report I just saw a couple of hours ago.
Q Do we know of any foreign visitors who have spoken to him at all -- seen him or spoken to him -- Kim Jong-Il?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We know of some less than exalted levels who have met, but I don't remember any sort of really high level. Of course, President Carter wished to see him when he was there, without success. But why don't we take that question and see whether we can be more precise. I'm not aware of any -- I know some foreigners have met him, but what I don't recall is at what level and when this occurred. But it's really quite rare, there's no question about it, so, Christine, if you agree, we'll take the question and try to be more precise for you.
Q I may have missed it when you were giving your rundown, but is there any feeling for when the North-South talks might be held at this point?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: No. They used the word "postpone," so clearly they didn't use the word "cancel" or anything else. Obviously, I don't think we'll know more until after the funeral is finished, even as we won't know more about the Geneva talks. So I really don't have any estimate on that.
Q What is the Administration's basic diplomatic strategy in this transition period? Are you looking for opportunities or have you already renewed offers of talks, economic cooperation, nuclear cooperation? Are you in effect trying to hold out a hand to increase whatever chances there may be of North Korea moving in our direction?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: As you know, we had one day of talks before the death overtook them and forced an adjournment is the word used by the North Koreans. We had a chance, therefore, to lay out our initial positions on this, and the Koreans had a chance to lay out their initial response and position.
So I think they already have a feel for what the prospects are or what they could be. We're now inevitably in a holding pattern. We would like to resume the talks. Mr. Gallucci has made it clear that he has heard from his counterpart that there's every indication the talks will be resumed, but there's no need nor is it appropriate during this period for us to hold out anything more specific. We'll have to wait until after the funeral arrangements and after contacts to re-establish.
Let me go over to this side now.
Q How concerned are you that the progress at the Geneva talks may slow down in result of Kim's death? Are you concerned that there may be reorganizing in their foreign policy and that may slow progress on nuclear talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Again, I don't want to mislead you with false precision here, because it is such an opaque society. But, as I said, the indications coming from the delegation leader in Geneva who is, after all, a Vice Foreign Minister and who is on the funeral committee, I believe, and therefore speaks with some authority, are that they expect to resume the talks some time after the funeral is completed.
If in fact our intelligence is correct that Kim Jong-Il has played a significant role on nuclear issues, as well as other issues, even though his father obviously was the number one leader, that would suggest possible continuity, but I really am getting in the area of speculation now. We obviously hope the talks will resume.
Q Do those other issues that he was involved in include terrorism?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I don't want to get into a checklist of all the things that were on the table.
Q Do you have any intelligence whether the younger Kim was actively involved in planning for the North-South summit which has not been put off indefinitely or what his personal attitude toward it was?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: The honest answer is no. If you felt---If one believes that he's a significant figure in the day-to-day operations in the government, one would think that he's been involved with such a major event as that. So one would assume that, but I have not absolutely proof of that.
Q On Vietnam, if the talks that your delegation held were so positive and productive, why did Christopher call off his visit?
ALL: To quote the usual phrase, "I'm glad you asked that question," because there's been a sort of mis-speculation, if I can use that word on this Christopher was never set on going to Vietnam. He is going to Bangkok later this month for regional security talks.
He has been weighing and indeed is still weighing what other stops he might make in Asia. He has a very heavy schedule of travel this entire month, so it isn't clear how many stops he can make in Asia beyond the Bangkok one.
Vietnam was one of the ones being considered, but this is not being clever or cute. He not in his own mind made up his mind. Obviously, among other things he wanted to wait to hear what I had to say, but very frankly there was no intention of going there specifically, and indeed if you recall just before he took off on his travels -- I don't know the exact date -- but when he met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was asked by Senator Helms whether he had plans to go to Vietnam. He said, "I have no plans at this time." I repeated that when I was in Hanoi.
So there's been some sort of linking as if he was definitely going to go, and then there was a disappointing trip so he's not going. I would just steer you away from that. That is not true. It's one reason I laid out some of the positive aspects of our visit. We believe Vietnamese cooperation is continuing, and the Secretary just decided, based on his overall schedule and other priorities, that he didn't have the time to go to Hanoi at this point.
Q Can I just follow? I'm paraphrasing. I don't have the words in front of me, but I think the announcement from his party in Europe said something about "not sufficient progress on the POW issue to warrant the trip now." That seems to be at variance with what you've just been saying, that they've been cooperating eagerly.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Well, I haven't seen the exact text of what he said. We're not at the stage where you get dramatic breakthroughs at any one point, so that therefore there wasn't any dramatic breakthrough to hang a trip on. But, frankly, we did not expect that, although we do expect continued progress.
So I think he is saying in effect we're going to continue on the path set by the President where progress does -- and our relations depend on progress in the MIA question. Again, I haven't seen a full text, but I have briefed the Secretary, so I know he's aware of the fact that we did have a good mood and good evidence of cooperation there, but there wasn't anything dramatic to hang a trip on. That's all.
Q A follow-up on itinerary, please. What do you plan to accomplish in your trips to Brisbane and to New Zealand? Will you prepare for a possible visit by the New Zealand Prime Minister to Washington or a visit to New Zealand by the Secretary or by President Clinton?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I'm also going to Papua, New Guinea.
Q I don't have any stations there. (Laughter)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: And I'll also be stopping in Hong Kong. This is egocentric. It's part of a trip I'll be taking after Bangkok. Brisbane -- Australia is hosting a South Pacific forum this year. It's a gathering of the key countries in the South Pacific area. We think it's an important gathering. I'm in the area anyway. I want to demonstrate American interest. Because of budget squeezes and other problems, we've been obligated to in some places scale down our profile, and I wanted to underline the importance we attach to this area, for many reasons. There are in many cases a very good record on democracy and human rights. They vote with us in the U.N. We have traditional ties with them.
So I'm going there for that conference. It's not so much an Australian-related trip, although I'll be delighted to see my Australian friends while I'm there as well.
On to New Zealand, continuing to carry out the new contacts policy we announced a couple of months ago that's already being implemented with the Foreign Minister meeting with Secretary Christopher. Admiral Larsen went there. So we, as you know, elevated our contacts above the lowly level of Assistant Secretary and in the defense and political areas, and it's part of this developing relationship with New Zealand. I wouldn't want to speculate any specific outcomes at this point.
Q So will you be preparing for this other visit that I cited?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We'll be looking with our New Zealand friends about the future of our relationship and what other visits might be appropriate.
Q What about Hong Kong? What will you be doing in Hong Kong?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: In Hong Kong, I'll be there to demonstrate American interests in Hong Kong, both material and humanitarian, and I'll be meeting with -- I believe Governor Patton may be on leave, and I'll be meeting his Deputy, a very able woman who was here a couple months ago. I'll be meeting with, I would imagine, some of the business community and some of the legislators. It will be a fairly brief stop, but we think it's an important one to underline our interest in Hong Kong and its future stability and prosperity.
Q Back on North Korea: During this interim period, will you be seeking a reaffirmation of the pledge that North Korea will freeze its nuclear program? If not, how soon after the two delegations sit back down, if they ever do again, will you be seeking that or will it be a requirement of the two delegations meeting again?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Again, we have every indication from Geneva, as reported by Assistant Secretary Gallucci, that the premise of the third round -- namely, the continuing freeze of North Korean nuclear activities -- is continuing and will continue. We have no evidence or reason to believe there's any hiatus in that, so on that basis we would be certainly ready to resume a dialogue after the funeral.
We would expect -- I mean, North Korea certainly know that that is a premise for our talks, and we see no reason to believe that this is going to be interrupted.
Q So you don't want a reaffirmation from the "Dear Leader" -- (laughter) -- of his father's pledge? I mean, it will be a new government.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Again, we have been told that they expect a continuity of policy. We were told that in Geneva. We would not mind having a reaffirmation, but, since we have no reason not to believe the clear affirmation that's been given and which allowed us to proceed to talks, we don't see any reason to have to have reaffirmation at this point. Every sign so far points to continuity.
Q Following up this point that every sign adds continuity, the younger Kim is not an entirely unknown substance to us. We have had -- we believe we have a psychological profile done by the government. He's been the heir-apparent for a long time.
Is there any message or signal that you or the U.S. Government wants to give to North Korea apart from business as usual? Is there any other message we're trying to give him at this point?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We've made it very clear, and Secretary Christopher on television yesterday and Mr. Gallucci. On the one hand, obviously, it's an opaque society, somewhat unpredictable, so we're remaining vigilant. I mean, that's only prudent.
On the other hand, we've made it amply clear that we would like to continue these talks that began in Geneva and it was a productive first day.
We also intend and are working very closely with South Korea in particular to make sure that we have the same attitude, and I want to stress the importance of the South Korean-North Korean dimension as well on this area.
Q In connection with the younger Kim, what has the South Korean leadership told you about him, and what is the South Korean press saying about him?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I think it's more appropriate to leave that to the South Koreans. But I think it's fair to say that all outsiders share the same view -- that they don't really have a particularly good feel because, as we said in the earlier question and answer, he has not met with very many outsiders. I think it's just prudent to wait and see what kind of leader he is rather than relying on rumors and hearsay, which is a good part of the background on this issue.
MS. SHELLY: Last question.
Q A follow-up on --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: The only thing is, here's where I get in trouble. I ought to call on someone who hasn't had a question, isn't that right?
MS. SHELLY: That's true.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: So I better go to you, I guess.
Q I've had a question, but --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Oh, you have. Well, wait a second. (Laughter) How about you?
Q Two brief questions. One, logistical. What stops in Asia is the Secretary considering or likely to make? Number two, former CIA Director Robert Gates today said that he would not rule out the possibility that Kim Il-Song was killed by military hardliners within Korea, objecting to what they would have perceived as a softening on the nuclear policy.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: On the first question I really can't get specific. It's sort of awkward to be debating where he might stop on the basis that he may not be able to stop there, and it looks like it's a disappointment.
So I would caution you from seeing a very extensive trip, because given his very demanding travel schedule, both before that and possibly afterwards, I don't think we'll have too much time in Asia. Obviously, he gives the highest importance to this region, as does the President, and would like to spend more time out there. That's why he has been entertaining various options. But there's been nothing chosen yet. I really can't usefully --
Q (Inaudible) date?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I'm sorry?
Q An end date, a date that his Asian trip would end?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I don't believe that we can confirm that yet. It would be at the very end of July. It's not because we're being evasive, but because there's a couple of unknowns about where he goes next, including coming back here. So it hasn't fallen into place yet. But to the extent the Press Office can be more precise, they certainly will be, but I believe that's the state of play now, isn't it? MS. SHELLY: Later in the week.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: So we'll try to get you more precise plans, but it really is a little loose-ended right now, and of course it's been complicated. He's been traveling, and so on, a lot of different events.
On the other hand, that's really speculation. We have absolutely no evidence or reason to believe that the demise of Kim Il-Song was, as the North Koreans have officially said, namely -- I believe they said heart attack, certainly natural death. So anything else is absolutely pure speculation. So I don't know what Mr. Gates was basing his speculation on. You may want to go back to him.
Q Could I ask --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Well, I'd follow my leader here.
Q One more time. You've suggested that --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: The "Great Leader" -- no, my "Dear Leader." (Laughter) I think "Great Leader" is a little more politically correct. My "Great Leader."
MS. SHELLY: Okay, last, last question.
Q Thank you. You've said that you were waiting to see if there is continuity of policy. The problem is that we don't know what the policy has been -- whether it's to go for nuclear weapons or to stall or not. So how long do we wait, or is it too cynical to suggest that the younger Kim, who I understand has something to do with this nuclear policy, may be using his father's death and the funeral to stall somewhat longer as these fueling rods cool in the cooling pond?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I think that probably is too cynical to suggest. (Laughter) Look, we don't know the decision-making in North Korea, so I don't want to be flippant here, and anything is possible. But I've already said that we believe the death -- we have no reason to believe the death is anything but natural.
If that's the case, it seems to me it's only natural that you have a mourning period, and this one is only six or seven days. It doesn't seem of extraordinary length. So I really wouldn't make that kind of connection. That does not mean anything on the positive front in terms of their absolutely intentions. That's the purpose of these talks is to determine whether they're willing to rejoin the international community and renounce their nuclear ambitions.
But I think it would be stretching it to say that this is an elaborate ruse to drag things out.
Q I don't mean to suggest it's a deliberate ruse --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: No, I understand. But you could not expect -- seriously, when you have -- this has been the only leader North Korea has had for 45 years -- whatever it is. It's a very tightly controlled society. It's a major event, obviously. This is this guy's father, after all, so you cannot expect him to suddenly be continuing negotiations in the middle of funeral arrangements. Indeed, I would say on a personal basis, I mean, July 17 is not long a mourning period. I don't know what's traditional in these situations. So I really would steer you away from that kind of interpretation.
MS. SHELLY: Thank you very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Okay. Thanks.
(Asst. Sec. Lord concluded his briefing at 1:31 p.m.)
MS. SHELLY: Other subjects?
Q Haiti's military leader has given international human rights monitors 48 hours to get out. The Special U.N. Envoy is outraged by this. What's your response?
MS. SHELLY: I have a preliminary response for you, and I understand that this issue is likely to be taken up at the U.N. this afternoon as well. We certainly condemn the illegal de facto regime in Port-au-Prince for its expulsion or its stated intention to expel the U.N./OAS human rights observers from Haiti.
The expulsion of the International Civilian Mission, the ICM, is certainly a serious escalation in the conflict between the regime and the international community.
Obviously, the regime -- the message that this sends is that the regime does not want any scrutiny of its human rights record at this juncture. Their cynical action, I think, is a clear indication that the human rights situation in Haiti is deteriorating even further.
Certainly, we salute the courage that the U.N. and the OAS human rights observers have shown. They have carried out an extremely important mission in the face of harassment and intimidation by the Haitian military.
The latest defiance of the international opinion by the coup leaders in Port-au-Prince only ensures that this treatment of their own people is likely to receive even closer scrutiny in the near future.
Q Does this have any impact on whether the United States will intervene militarily there?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not going to speculate on that.
Q What is the United States going to do about it at the United Nations?
MS. SHELLY: As I said, the news of this just came to us a short while ago. I have been told by my sources up in New York that it's likely that the move on the part of the de facto regime would come up in some way this afternoon, so I don't have details on that.
But if there is some kind of a statement or announcement coming out of there, we'll certainly report on that as well. But basically there had been some reports a few days ago that this might be coming, so I can't say that it comes as a complete surprise to us. But it certainly was our hope, given the legitimate basis for the presence of these monitors there and their being there with the express consent of the Haitian government which we recognize and certainly also for the -- given legitimate basis for their presence coming from the U.N. and the OAS, we certainly hope that the speculation that occurred a few days ago was that it was not going to result in the action being taken.
Q Filling me in on the background, as I understand it, when there was such speculation that Haiti was going to do this, the United Nations on Friday, is that right, renewed the mandate of the observers? Is that --
MS. SHELLY: I think that the mandate was coming up for renewal in any case, and my understanding is, yes, last Friday the U.N. renewed the mandate of the monitors, so I think that's correct.
Q On Thursday, Special Envoy Gray said that there was an agreement in principle with the Grenadans to accept some of these boat people. On Friday, the Ambassador at their Consulate in New York said his government had told him that morning that all they were doing was considering a request. Is there confusion here, or is there a difference of definition between agreements in principle and agreements to consider requests?
MS. SHELLY: On the issue of safehavens generally, last Thursday Mr. Gray did announce this, and my understanding was that late in the afternoon that agreement had been reached in principle, and that we are expecting to actually negotiate and sign an MOU with them, probably within the next couple of days.
As Mr. Gray said, we had been discussing the temporary protection sites with a number of governments. I can report that the MOU was signed with the Government of Dominica yesterday and possible sites for the safehaven facility are under discussion.
We do have agreement in principle with the Governments of Antigua and Grenada for safehaven sites. MOUs have not been signed in those cases, but we have dispatched some senior U.S. Government officials to the area with a view to trying to reach agreement on the details relating to those other locations.
Q I think I heard Mr. Gray yesterday on the tube refer briefly to six safehaven sites. This suggests to me that there are three more in the works. Do you know anything about that?
MS. SHELLY: I understand that a couple of the countries with which we've been having discussions are talking about the possibility of more than one location within their countries, and so I'm not sure whether he's referring to that or whether he's referring to a total of six different countries.
We have talks underway with other governments in the region. I don't want to get out in front of where we are in the process with those. I would expect in another day or so we're going to have some more details to offer about exactly which countries we're having conversations with.
But I think some of the countries where we have agreement in principle, there is a possibility of more than one site in the country, and there are other ones with which we're having discussions right now.
Q Where do we stand on Panama at this point? One guy says, "Not on your life," and the other guy says, "Well, yeah, maybe for six months."
MS. SHELLY: Panama is obviously somewhat complicated by the fact that you have a President who is there until, I believe, through September 1, and then you also have an elected President who will be coming into office at that time.
I don't want to use this occasion to rehash what happened last week. I think you're pretty familiar with what the details are. We were certainly very concerned about reports of a misunderstanding between us and the Panamanian Government. Toward that end, the Administration dispatched former Ambassador Sol Linowitz to Panama to review our relationship with Panama and the many interests that we have in common.
Ambassador Linowitz spent the weekend down in Panama. I understand he returned yesterday afternoon. He spoke with President Endara throughout the course of the weekend about ways to improve our longstanding and close relationship with Panama. That discussion certainly included the hope that we can put behind us any misunderstandings that may have arisen regarding the possibility of safehaven.
They also discussed in the context of Haiti discussions, other important hemispheric issues and specifically how our two countries can work together. So I don't have much more on that score.
I don't think that President Endara at this point feels that he can change the position that he announced. Nonetheless, given the unusual situation that we have with Panama and certainly expression of interest and support for trying to help the Haitian boat people which has come and had come last week from President-elect Balladares, he, himself, has also continued to consult on this issue, including with his own advisers and members of his political party.
I understand that he said yesterday in a press conference that if he were President, that he would be happy to accept the Haitian boat people in Panama. In that same public appearance, he identified what a couple of his concerns were. One of them is looking out for the national interests of his country which, of course, is something we would expect him to do.
But at the same time, I think he is very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Haiti, and he expressed a desire to try to respond to the humanitarian and altruistic goals which have been set by the international community.
So he addressed that. I think he also said that this issue could be revisited. He said that a number of Haitians could be granted safehaven in Panama. The details of this would need to be worked out. He put some conditions on that, such as the Haitians that were granted safehaven status should be in good health. They could remain there for up to six months, after which he would ask the U.S. to guarantee their departure.
So I think there still is a possibility over the longer term that Panama might be able to provide a safehaven capacity for us, but in terms of the immediate time frame, I think the situation is reflected by the decision of President Endara.
Q Just to follow that up, let me make sure I understand what you just said. You seem to imply, number one, that a safehaven in Panama is now not being discussed with Endara, and that that is not a realistic proposition for the remainder of the Endara term.
Is the Administration on any level in contact with President-elect Perez -- number one, is my inference correct on that? And, secondly, is the Administration in contact with Perez-Balladares about what may happen after September 1?
MS. SHELLY: We have been having contacts on the issue since -- and given the fact that there was an interim situation in Panama right now, we have had contacts, and we have said publicly that we've had contacts with both the current President and the President-elect.
I share your interpretation on the first point. I believe while President Endara stays in office, that we will not be pursuing this as a possibility. But President-elect Balladares has, I think, left the door open to this possibility once he becomes the President. So I think we'll certainly continue to be in consultation with him about that possibility.
Q So it is possible to negotiate with him what might occur after his inauguration?
MS. SHELLY: We're not negotiating with him. We've had discussions with him.
Q Where does the expulsion of the U.N. OAS human rights monitors leave the world community with respect to its ability to continue to monitor the situation there in Haiti now?
MS. SHELLY: I think that's something which is a point of great concern to us, because with the departure of the monitors, obviously it means that it's going to be more difficult to have a complete picture of what's happening.
When the Embassy indicated that it was going to have a drawdown in personnel, we had to set our priorities and determine what activities the Embassy could continue to undertake, and continuing to track the human rights situation in Haiti is something that we determine to be a very high priority for ourselves. So we have not reduced the number of Embassy staff in-country who are seeking to know what the human rights situation is and particularly to be able to track specific incidents of human rights violations.
There also are quite a few people in-country who watch and track the human rights situation. There also are the NGOs and the PVOs which are present. We will certainly continue -- the Embassy will certainly continue to work closely with them, and with the range of people who are in their network by which they try to monitor the human rights situation.
So we hope that we'll still be able to have a reasonably good picture of what is happening on the human rights front, but nonetheless our position on the monitors is certainly one which is that there could be an impact on our understanding of it. But we hope that through our Embassy efforts and contacts with the network of human rights activists, we'll be able to keep a reasonably accurate picture.
Q (inaudible) are you confirming then that the OAS U.N. monitors have left or are acceding to this expulsion order?
MS. SHELLY: My understanding is that this was conveyed to them formally this morning. I think that they are having discussions themselves -- they will have discussions in the context of their mandates by which they're there, which are basically with the U.N. and OAS decisions.
I don't have any inside track on the finality of their decisions and when they might leave. I'm not under the impression that they're leaving right this minute, but I think they'll be having consultations with both the OAS and the U.N., after which they will make announcements of their own regarding their decisions to leave.
Q Now that the agreement is signed with Dominica, how many Haitians will be able to stay in that safehaven? What's the final number?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, I don't have a final number. I'll check and see if we've got anything we can say on that later today.
Q Can we get on to the Middle East or --
MS. SHELLY: No. I think we're still on Haiti.
Q I have a follow-up, related question. Back to the U.N. monitors. The U.S. and other foreign citizens that are working on behalf of the refugees, regarding our Embassy personnel. Has there been any change in the safety status, the security of Americans in Haiti that might trigger some kind of military reaction from us?
MS. SHELLY: As to the safety situation, this is something we track extremely carefully. Our Embassy is very vigilant about the security regarding our own personnel. I'm not aware that in the last two or three days that there has been any significant change in the situation.
Q How many observers are there, and do you think their departure will have any sort of effect on the flow of refugees?
MS. SHELLY: I'll have to check on the number. I don't have that with me. I think it's really too early to tell what the impact of that will be on refugees. It's something we'll obviously watch very closely.
Certainly, the perception that the de factos are less interested in the human rights of the Haitian people will be a point of concern, and it certainly could have a negative repercussion on the willingness of people to stay in Haiti, but I think we'll have to watch that to try to see whether there's any direct impact.
Q Do you have an update on the numbers, the outflow from Haiti, and also the situation at Guantanamo?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to do that right now. Wait, wait, wait. Let me get my pieces of paper in front.
First, we'll do the interdictions and processing statistics. The Coast Guard picked up some 1,740 Haitians in 36 boats over the weekend. To break that down for you, on Friday that was 1,102 Haitians in 24 boats; Saturday, it was 242 Haitians in six boats; and on Sunday, 396 Haitians in six boats. This brings the total number of Haitians picked up since the processing facility aboard the Comfort began on June 15, to approximately 19,200.
In terms of the numbers who have -- I would just note here -- before going on to talk about the processing on Guantanamo -- of those who had been processed on the temporary protection and voluntary repatriation, out of about 4,000 interviews that have been conducted, approximately 1,745 Haitians have opted for the voluntary repatriation rather than temporary protection in a third country.
The total number of Haitians who are at Guantanamo at this point is about 15,000. There may be 15,000 -- slightly over that -- I don't have an exact number for you today.
Of those, as I mentioned, who had volunteered to return to Haiti, approximately 400 have already been repatriated and a further 800 are being returned today.
To date, no one has been repatriated involuntarily under the new policy, although I understand that there are a few cases that where final decisions have not yet been made.
Q Two things. How do you explain or comment on the slackening off of those picked up at sea Saturday and Sunday? And also, what is the total capacity at Guantanamo now?
MS. SHELLY: On the second part of your question, I think the total capacity is still approximately 15,000 although this is going up steadily. I know that there has been an effort to squeeze in as many as they can. When they increase the capacity, it usually occurs in chunks, although they do have some people rotating out and I know they've squeezed a few more in. So I think it's still approximately 15,000 with perhaps a little bit higher than that at the current moment.
I probably have seen all of the same reports and speculations that you have about what's responsible for the trend over the last few days. It certainly is a downward trend relative to where we were on this last week. I think it's pretty early to try to say whether or not this is a definitive trend or whether the trend will continue.
We do know that in terms of specific factors that there was bad weather over the weekend. That, at times, can have an impact on the timing of when different groups of people get in boats and decide to leave. But there are other reasons that are out there that people have speculated on, but, again, it's very hard to say anything categorically.
I think there are a number of different reasons that lead people to take to the sea. I think most of those reasons are still valid, which has to do with the domestic situation in Haiti.
Q What is the status of those Radio Democracy broadcasts? I think I saw video in the last several days of messages being broadcast that seemed to be messages to discourage people from going to the boats, which I thought was not going to be a subject of the Radio Democracy broadcast but seemed to be.
MS. SHELLY: Radio Democracy broadcasts have not started yet. We expect that they would start sometime within the next few days. I don't have a start-up date yet. This question did come up at one of the briefings last week and I did address that in full. At that time, I said there were other ways in which we were making domestic broadcasts that addressed specifically the issue of people and whether or not they ought to be boat people and whether or not they should be taking to the high seas which, of course, we're discouraging people from doing and trying to encourage them to apply at the in-country facilities.
So I don't have anything, really, beyond what we said on this at the middle of last week.
Q You said that the capacity of Guantanamo presently is about 15,000 people; you said there are about 15,000 people there now. Is it at full capacity?
MS. SHELLY: I understand that it isn't at completely full capacity because of the fact that some 1,200 have been moved out. As these interviews are continuing, as people are opting for voluntary repatriation, it's obviously never a static situation there. There are people who are moving, who are going through the process of being counseled by the UNHCR and then determining what they need to do.
It's something that's in flux. You can't get an absolutely clear picture at any point in time. But my understanding is that, as we had talked about a capacity of roughly 15,000 before, they have taken some steps on the ground to increase that in a temporary kind of way. So certainly the picture is one of a relatively full population there. But the capacity, we expect to be increased within the next few days to something higher than that.
Q If I could follow up on that. If we have a bad refugee day like we had last week -- several days of 2,000/3,000 people departing in one day -- where would those people go? Would they go to Guantanamo, or is there somewhere else available for them?
MS. SHELLY: At this point, of course, what we're trying to do is work up the final arrangements so that some of those who have been approved for the temporary protection, that those facilities can get up and running so we can move some of those who are on Guantanamo out.
Your question gets into -- we are managing. We have the Coast Guard cutters. They are getting picked up. Since the whole thing is a continuous flow and it requires the processing, I'm not going to say that the system is not taxed, but it's not my impression that it is anywhere near a kind of bursting point.
Q Can I ask one on the Middle East and then go back to Haiti, because Haiti could last for another half hour?
MS. SHELLY: It's kind of hard to leave and switch back.
Q They do at the White House. They switch back and forth. Is it written in stone that we can't switch back and forth?
MS. SHELLY: The will of your colleagues. Switch.
Q Thank you. On the Middle East: Do you have any observation on Arafat's return now to the area, his vows to continue to fight for independence? And also on King Hussein's now desire, or arm-twisting, whatever, to have a meeting with Rabin?
MS. SHELLY: As to Arafat's return to the region, we actually had a fair amount of guidance on that last week. I don't have that with me, so I can refer you to the Press Office on that.
Q Alright, but this time, he's now, again today, said he will fight on for independence. Do you have any comments on that?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't seen his statements, and I've long since learned not to comment on statements off the cuff that I haven't seen the text of. So that one, I'm not going comment on.
Q Is this kind of thing that would please the U.S. Government -- these statements?
MS. SHELLY: Again, I'm going to look at the full text of his remarks, and then the State Department will decide if it has something it wants to say.
Q How about Hussein?
MS. SHELLY: On Hussein, we've seen the remarks that certainly indicate that he is thinking about and talking about meeting with Prime Minister Rabin. As you know, when he was in Washington last month, he said he hoped that the opportunity would come sometime soon for meetings at the highest possible level between Jordanian and Israeli officials.
The United States has long since encouraged such meetings. Certainly face-to-face sessions of this type between top political leadership is not only useful, as far as the opportunity, but it provides for authoritative exchanges on the key issues and it also does help to generate confidence and certainly momentum in the peace process.
Q If you have response on the Arafat thing, could you fax it around to us later on, please -- put out the statement?
MS. SHELLY: I'll see what we can do.
Q Thank you very much.
Q Can I ask --
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Something more importance perhaps is the fact that Arafat is leaving people in Tunis to deal diplomatically with 47 countries, which is a violation of the May 4 agreement between Arafat and Rabin. What does the United States think of that? And I have other questions as well.
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to take that question.
Q You're going to take it?
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Will we get an answer this afternoon maybe?
MS. SHELLY: We'll try.
Q The other thing is, the Group of 7 passed some sort of action saying that the leaders welcomed the transfer of authority to the Palestinians by Israel. Who proposed this? Who started this, at the Group 7? And there are other questions related to this.
MS. SHELLY: Again, I'm going to have to take that one. I don't normally work things that the President and his party are actively working, so I don't have anything on that subject today.
Q There are also "they," which is Group 7, call for the speedy delivery of assistance to the Palestinians. Who started this? Was there a vote? Are they going to give it? Is there a tie with the boycott -- with the Arab boycott of Israel? Do they trust Arafat? Does the United States trust Arafat?
MS. SHELLY: I will see what we would want to say on that and come back to that this afternoon.
Q One quick one on Haiti. Anything new on K-16 from last week? Is that an outfit that this government endorses, is supporting with words, activities at all --
MS. SHELLY: When that question came up last week, we looked into that. Frankly, I haven't been able to pull anything together on it. It's very, very difficult for us to get information. And without at least a reasonable understanding about exactly what is involved, we have been hesitant to make a comment. So it may be that we will be able to work something up in the next few days, if we can find out a bit more. But at this point, all we have is fairly sketchy information.
Q Do you have anything on the opening of Turks and Cacios?
MS. SHELLY: I understand it's supposed to open in the first half of this week.
Q Also, could you come up with a number of Americans among these OAS and U.N. people who are going to have to leave?
MS. SHELLY: You mean within the context of the monitors?
Q Yeah. How many Americans are there in this group?
MS. SHELLY: Okay. I'll take that question also.
Q Mr. Lord said something about the Secretary possibly going to Bangkok. Will that interfere with his visit to the Middle East?
MS. SHELLY: No. First he's off to the Middle East, my understanding is, this coming weekend. After that, he'll be heading out to Asia.
Q Also, there are complaints by Arafat that his people are starving, and so on. What's UNRWA doing in Gaza now?
MS. SHELLY: I don't think that what UNRWA is doing in Gaza would be something that we would appropriately address here. I think, that, you would have to address to the U.N.
Q Christine, do you have anything on the response to the election in Ukraine?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I've got some on that. All we have so far is the preliminary results which I understand have been put out by some of the local sources here. We're still waiting to try to get official indication of what the results are.
The press reports that we've seen are simply that President Kravchuk appears to be trailing in his re-election bid to his challenger who is the former Prime Minister, Leonid Kuchma.
I understand what would be the official preliminary results are expected to be announced either later today or else tomorrow. So I think we will not have a more formal reaction about the result on one candidate versus the other until there is a little firmer picture on that.
I would just note that whatever the final result is, the United States expects that it would be able to work closely and cooperatively with the democratically elected President of Ukraine.
Q You said that the situation as far as the safety of Embassy personnel have not, to your knowledge, changed. But over the weekend we saw Marines stringing concertina wire on the roof of the Embassy. The Marine amphibious unit was also sent down there to be in the area for contingencies, including evacuation of Americans, and so on. Why are they doing all this if it hasn't changed?
MS. SHELLY: Because it is only wise to take any necessary precautions to respond to circumstances as they might evolve. I think what you're seeing is in the nature of contingency preparations in order to be prepared for any of the possible evolutions in the scenario.
We watch, obviously, very specifically, actions which might be taken or indications from whatever sources we can get them as to whether or not Americans or American dual-nationals are -- if there's any indication that they are specifically being targeted. I've not seen any information to that effect. But I think what you are seeing are the reasonable precautions that we would take to make sure that we could respond to whatever contingency might arise.
Q And a follow-up? Christine, concerning the U.S. policy, the latest policy toward Haiti -- the safehaven policy - - is there any evidence in the numbers of those Haitians going to our center in Port-au-Prince, making -- the numbers -- making applications that would show an increase there and people trying to get into the United States as the numbers of people that are getting in the boats have gone down over the weekend? Do we see something there to correspond that the policy is working?
MS. SHELLY: First of all, our policy toward Haiti is the restoration of democracy and President Aristide to Haiti. Safehavens are one way that we have in dealing with the humanitarian situation which has been created by what the military leaders and the de factos have been doing on the ground in the country.
We indicated that we felt that application through in- country processing represented a very safe way for those who feel that they have a legitimate claim to asylum or to refugee status, that that represents the best way. We've increased the number of people who are in-country and available to actually conduct those interviews.
My understanding in terms of the numbers are that there has been a slight increase in the applications in the in-country processing centers. But, again, I think it's probably a little bit too early to be able to identify a more significant trend based on the numbers of the last few days.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:03 p.m.)
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