U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING NOVEMBER 28, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, November 28, 1994 Briefers: Michael McCurry ANNOUNCEMENT Secretary's Travel to Belgium (NATO), Hungary (CSCE Summit), the Middle East, and Miami, Florida (Summit of the Americas) ..............1-2 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Contact Group's Proposal: -- Mutually Agreed Changes to the 51%-49% Map ..1-2 -- Essential Element in Negotiated Settlement ..2-3 -- Bosnia-Herzegovina Territorial Integrity ....3 -- New US Ideas ................................3 -- Lack of Progress in Negotiations ............2-3,8 -- Contact Group Meetings in Paris, Belgrade, Sarajevo ....................................8 Criticism of the US for No-US-Troops Decision/ Impact of Decision on US Influence in Europe ..2-3 Lifting of Arms Embargo: -- Allied Concerns .............................4 -- As Pressure on the Serbs ....................7 -- Unilateral vs. Multilateral .................4 Criticism of NATO Handling of Crisis ............4 NATO as Fundamental Pillar of US Foreign Policy .5 Secy Perry's "Meet the Press" Remarks re Serb Military Gains ................................5-6 Reports of FRY Help to Croatian Serbs ...........9 Proposal for Serb Confederation .................9-10 Mission of 2,000 Marines Deployed to the Adriatic ......................................10 Dole on UNPROFOR Withdrawal .....................10-11 Reports of Serbs Taking UNPROFOR Troops Hostage .11 Isolating Bosnian Serbs Economically/ Politically ...................................12 Airstrikes/Protecting No-Fly Zone: -- Parameters for NATO Action ..................15 -- Why No Attacks on Tanks/Artillery Shelling Bihac .......................................19 Dole Trip to Europe .............................17 Extending the War to Kosovo .....................17 Military Situation around Bihac .................19 Opposition to US Proposal re Bihac Exclusion Zone ..........................................20 CHINA GATT Membership Discussions .....................22 Impact of Republican Majorities in House/Senate on US Policy ..................................23 Secretary's Bilateral in Jakarta ...............23 NORTH KOREA Agenda for Next KEDO Talks ......................24
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1994, 1:06 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Hello everybody. I do have an announcement because I think some of you suspect that the Secretary of State may travel sometime soon, so I'd like to confirm that and tell you what he's going to do when.
The Secretary will depart Washington Wednesday, November 30, to attend the Fall ministerial meetings of the North Atlantic Council followed by the ministerial meetings of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the NACC. The NAC meeting will occur in Brussels on Thursday; the NACC on Friday. We expect Friday evening that the Secretary will participate in a ministerial meeting of the Contact Group in Brussels to discuss the situation in Bosnia.
On Saturday, December 3, the Secretary will be staying in Brussels. We'll probably conduct several bilateral meetings and also meetings with NATO officials. Then, on Sunday he will go over to Budapest to be able to link up with the President when the President arrives for the CSCE Summit on December 5.
Moving on, traveling backwards around the world. On Tuesday morning, December 6, the Secretary will travel from Budapest to the Middle East. After several days of travel there, with the itinerary still somewhat uncertain at this point, the Secretary will go directly from the Middle East to Miami, arriving in Miami very late the night of December 8, or possibly early the morning of December 9. Then the Secretary will be participating in meetings connected with the Summit of the Americas, returning to Washington on the afternoon of December 11.
I'm telling you all this because we have posted a sign- up sheet for those of you who are interested in applying for seats to travel with us. We'll keep that open until the close of business today. I think there's already been some contact with a lot of you on what your own individual travel plans are.
Q Very brief: The Middle East trip -- maybe I'm interrupting. In those few days, could you tell us which countries -- I wonder if Egypt is a necessary stop any more?
MR. McCURRY: It's a briefer trip. We certainly expect that there will be stops in Israel and Syria. The itinerary beyond that is not clear at this point.
Q Is that the end of it?
MR. McCURRY: That will be the end of it.
Q The end of your announcement?
MR. McCURRY: That was the end of my announcement -- a travel-log.
Q Surprisingly, can we switch to Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, you may.
Q Let me try the negotiating track, if I could, although the interest seems to be on the military situation.
There was -- some people think it's dead now -- a peace plan for Bosnia that the Serbs wouldn't accept. Is that -- I'm trying to think of the right word that you could work with. Could that be reconfigured in a way to make it more attractive, not necessarily with new concessions but pointing up the advantages to the Serbs? For instance, some relationship with Yugoslavia, etc.? Is that being done? Is that being pushed to any degree?
MR. McCURRY: The Map that you're referring to is embedded in the proposal that the Contact Group presented to the parties. The Bosnian Government accepted the Contact Group proposal and the Map embedded in it. The Bosnian Serbs did not.
We have looked for a variety of ways since then to pressure the Bosnian Serbs to accept that plan. We have always indicated that if both parties agreed mutually to changes in that Map, that would be satisfactory to us, but it would be the result of their own agreements reached jointly between both the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Serbs.
At the moment, the Contact Group proposal -- the Contact Group Map -- is the device, the pathway to which there might be a peaceful settlement of this conflict. So it is the only available avenue at the moment for discussions that would lead to a peaceful settlement of this conflict.
At the moment, our attention is directed to Bihac and the need for both a cease-fire around Bihac and ultimately a cessation of hostilities throughout the territory of Bosnia- Herzegovina. The Contact Group Map is the available avenue that is there for us to continue discussions with the parties that would bring this settlement to an end.
Q You said, and we all know, of course, that any changes would require the approval of all parties. But that's a Map.
I'm trying to find out if the U.S. is trying to do anything to entice the Serbs into releasing -- even going into a cease-fire -- but simply with the possibility that they would have a better arrangement. Because their aim, of course, is to unite Serbian communities over all sorts of lines. Is there something that they could accomplish with that Map in that respect?
MR. McCURRY: You cannot conceive of that happening without any pledge on the part of the Bosnian Serbs and ultimately Serbia itself to recognize the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that has not happened.
If that happened, that might open up a new avenue of discussion. But that's not the present situation.
Q Mike, this morning there has been what one could easily describe as an explosion of anti-American statements being made in Paris and London and New York. The U.N. -- Annan Kofi, rather, has been critical of the United States for blaming the U.N., while not being prepared to send forces. The British Defense Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, has also been critical of the United States for being unwilling to --
MR. McCURRY: Barrie, that's not accurate. I saw the remarks of the British Defense Secretary. I don't believe they were directed at the United States Government.
Q Well, there was a specific reference to a major player who was unwilling to send troops on the ground. I don't know what other country he was referring to.
Also, the French made a backhanded statement regarding American support for the --
MR. McCURRY: In the case of the British, it's a measure of our special relationship that we have; such candid exchanges with them publicly.
Q What about the French? The measure of that relationship is also unique, isn't it?
MR. McCURRY: We've had a rather different relationship with the French, but a mutually warm one. There's nothing surprising about any of these statements. They reflect European views about the conflict in Bosnia that are embedded now in months of discussions that we've had within the Alliance. I'm not aware of any comments that have been made today by our European allies that differ from the positions that they've taken publicly in the past. They remain very concerned about the status of UNPROFOR. They have troops on the ground there, so that is certainly well within their right.
Second, they remain very concerned about efforts to unilaterally lift the arms embargo on the part of the United States Government. They see that as a very perilous course, one that would lead to greater fighting and the likely outbreak of more war and expansion of the war beyond the conflicts around the Bihac area and other areas where there has been fighting in Bosnia.
So those concerns in some ways I think are very legitimate.
Q According to today's criticisms and statements and cross- statements, does the State Department now think that the crisis has uncovered a basic weakness in NATO's ability to handle international crisis?
MR. McCURRY: No. You've heard Secretary Perry address this, too. NATO has done what has been asked of it. NATO has, in each case in which there has been a request to NATO to use NATO military might to carry out the will of the international community -- in every case, they've responded effectively.
Let's remember that NATO's aims here have been to prevent this war from widening, to mitigate the violence in Bosnia; and, third, to help with the assistance of humanitarian relief to those who are suffering from the conflict in Bosnia. In that sense, NATO has been successful; and in a larger sense, UNPROFOR has been successful. The United Nations mission has also been successful.
What neither NATO nor the United Nations, collectively, have been able to do is to bring this conflict to an end. But the pathway for bringing that to an end, as we suggest over and over again, is negotiation and an effort at the bargaining table to reach some type of conclusion of this conflict -- because we do not believe and neither do I think that any of our European allies believe that there will be a settlement to this conflict that comes as a result of more fighting.
Q Let me go beyond that. Whether you call it a success or not, in achieving what has been achieved, do you think there has been cause, within NATO, an irreparable rift?
MR. McCURRY: No. There has not been an irreparable rift because NATO, as a fundamental pillar of our own strategic interest in the world -- the interest of the United States of America and stability in Europe -- remains a fundamental premise.
NATO is the most successful military alliance probably in history. It should remain so. That's one of the reasons, among many, that Secretary Christopher will be traveling to the North Atlantic Council meetings later this week, as I just announced. Because that discussion and the importance of that Alliance and the importance of U.S. leadership within that Alliance is something that is a fundamental pillar of this Administration's foreign policy as it has been for nearly forty years.
Q Mike, are the Bosnian Serbs signaling a willingness to end the conflict on their terms, according to what they brought to the Contact Group as a peace settlement?
MR. McCURRY: Not yet. Andrea.
Q What are the consequences of Secretary Perry's comment that, in effect, the war is over, that the Serbs have won? Where do we now take it?
MR. McCURRY: I've looked very carefully at what Secretary Perry said. I don't think he said that. I think he said that there's not much that you can do militarily at this point to reverse the gains that the Serbs have made through their aggression, absent a willingness on the part of the United States and others, presumably within Europe, to commit massive numbers of ground troops to reverse those gains. He was talking about the limited application of NATO airpower to reverse those types of gains that the Serbs have made.
He knows better than I do what the correct military assessment is of the current posture of the Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia, but I don't know of any reason why anyone in this building would disagree with the assessment that he gave yesterday. He was saying, as a practical matter, unless we are willing -- that is, "we" the United States of America -- are willing to commit hundreds of thousands of ground troops to reverse the gains that the Bosnian Serbs have made -- there's not much that can be done militarily to change that equation.
That's precisely why we have been trying to do everything we can do diplomatically to achieve that result, which is to force the Bosnian Serbs to give back some of the territory that they have won through aggression.
Q Given the fact that we are not willing to put the ground forces in, have we given up our ability to lead?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not sure I understand the premise of the question. In a variety of ways through addressing this diplomatically, I mean, we've made a decision not to deploy U.S. ground troops in furtherance of a military settlement to this conflict.
With that as a given, there are other ways in which the United States can help lead this alliance. We, in fact, have responded to a direct request from our European allies to enter into this negotiation and to provide leadership. That dates back to the beginning of this year when we did make a concerted effort to bring the Bosnians together with the Croats to create the federation to do the types of things that prevented the situation in Sarajevo from deteriorating further, to prevent the Bosnian Serb onslaught of Gorazde -- to do those things that have ultimately been successful as we addressed this conflict.
Those were the results of U.S. leadership. There will continue to be opportunities where the U.S. can lead in helping to address this crisis, but the military consequences of the continuation of this conflict are apparent. There's going to be ebbing and flowing, and who wins territory on the ground; and, as the Secretary of Defense indicated yesterday, the Bosnian Serbs are in a better position militarily to gain from that type of conflict.
Since they are the principal sponsors of the aggression, it makes sense for us to do everything we can to stop that type of aggression, using every tool of diplomacy that we have available.
Q But aren't our tools negated by the military facts on the ground? The map becomes irrelevant if the Serbs control 70 percent of the territory because of their primacy militarily.
MR. McCURRY: They fought an exhausting civil war there in which they gained 70 percent of the territory. They can continue to fight and continue to exhaust themselves, to continue to leave themselves outside the community of nations and to suffer the economic deprivation and isolation that that entails.
But what does that ultimately produce for the people -- the Serbs of Bosnia? It produces nothing but isolation and deprivation, and what we're saying is, through a diplomatic solution to this conflict, they have the ability to reconstruct something that once existed, which is a Bosnia- Herzegovina that is a multicultural state.
Q Have you seen any evidence that the Serbs are bothered by this isolation, or that they are not happier overrunning more --
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q What is it?
MR. McCURRY: Which is that they have not rolled out areas which they clearly militarily are in a position to roll up. The Eastern enclaves -- they are in a position to do greater damage militarily than they have done, including today in Bihac.
Q (Inaudible) Secretary Perry says that it's virtually impossible to roll back the military gains of the Serbs. Is it not then illogical --
MR. McCURRY: Steve, using military means, using airstrikes, NATO airstrikes, impossible to reverse those. It's very clear -- I mean, it is possible to reverse some of their gains, and that's through getting them to negotiate and agree to a political settlement, which is what we're trying to do.
Q If he's saying it's impossible to reverse them militarily, is there any logic then in pushing to lift the arms embargo in six months?
MR. McCURRY: It is a form of pressure -- we have suggested always, a form of pressure that a lifting of the arms embargo, a likelihood that there would be a stronger military opponent for the Bosnian Serbs is a form of pressure that might be conducive to getting them to agree to a map.
Militarily, what would that produce? It's not clear what it would produce. If we attempted to do that unilaterally, it's clear it would produce one thing, which is a much deeper, wider U.S. involvement in this regional conflict.
Q (Inaudible) because you've had senior State Department officials in Europe, I guess, last week. You've had countless meetings here and at the White House discussing the situation. Does the Administration at this point have anything new to bring forward, if not militarily, diplomatically, in the nature of the leadership you've talked about, or is it looking to the European Union or others to provide the diplomatic leadership or to provide new initiatives?
MR. McCURRY: No, we have ideas -- I mean, we have to deal with the situation that we're dealt. The situation now is one in which there aren't many options that are attractive. We have tried, and patiently as you know, through a combination of pressures, to try to bring the Bosnian Serbs into compliance with the proposal that the Contact Group of nations made to them.
That's not going anywhere at the moment. That's not to say that it is a dead letter, but there have clearly got to be some ways in which we can reinvigorate that dialogue. There are ideas that have been explored. There are some additional meetings that are going to be held on that, and I suspect that as we move towards the end of the week and get ready for a Ministerial-level meeting of the Contact Group, we'll be able to discuss more fully some of the avenues and approaches that we would take. I can't do that for you here and now, but --
Q Are U.S. officials still in Europe this week -- the top State Department --
MR. McCURRY: Terry, there was a Contact Group meeting over in Paris at some point. I think it was yesterday. There was a Contact Group meeting there yesterday. They're going to have additional discussions in Belgrade and Sarajevo, but I would point to them as being preparatory discussions for the Ministerial meeting that will be held later this week.
Q That's where we got started -- you remember, the notion of doing something in a negotiating way. You keep talking about the map, and in a sense you're talking past the Serbs' objectives, which is only partly to get as much ground as they can within Bosnia, but they also have hopes of a greater Serbia -- that's a charge phrase -- but they're talking about links to Serbs in Croatia, they're talking about links to Belgrade.
What we're driving at is the thought, the notion that there's some new way to reconfigure a peace plan that would entice them by speaking beyond the map of Bosnia. That's a kind of --
MR. McCURRY: There is not a way of enticing them with a map that goes beyond the territorial integrity of Bosnia- Herzegovina. That is a given in every formulation that's been presented by the international community. I guess the best model for that type of discussion is the one that was developed between Croatia and Bosnia and in terms of the federation that existed, so that Croatians within Bosnia could have some type of federated formula with those in Croatia.
Whether that could be an aspect of discussions between Bosnian Serbs and Serbia -- in Belgrade -- depends entirely on the willingness of, (1) the Bosnian Serbs to stop the fighting, and (2) to recognize that there is a territorial entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina that must be honored. And we haven't seen those --
Q On that point, do you have anything on the relationship currently between the Serbs in Croatia and Belgrade? Remember, the great offer by Milosevic to distance himself from the Serbs in Bosnia, but what about the Serbs across the border who are part of this --
MR. McCURRY: There's been no change publicly in that posture. Milosevic continues to indicate publicly a distance between the regime in Belgrade and the Pale Serbs. But, on the other hand, the Bosnian Serb army has made significant advances in the area of Bihac, and it's clear that they must be having some type of help.
Q Is he working with the Serbs in Croatia -- I guess that's a simple question -- against the Bosnian government?
MR. McCURRY: Are the Belgrade Serbs -- is Milosevic?
MR. McCURRY: We don't have concrete evidence of that.
Q Mike, as I understand it, American policy in the past has been to oppose the notion of a confederation between the Bosnian Serbs and the government in Belgrade. At least you certainly haven't publicly supported such a notion. I think you've opposed it. Are you saying now that that might actually be a way to deal with --
MR. McCURRY: You can't envision a discussion of that type of federation or confederation, absent a willingness on the part of the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia to cross-recognize the territorial integrity of Bosnia, and that hasn't happened. That's what I said.
Q But you do recognize that a confederation is a possibility -- a Serb confederation?
MR. McCURRY: It's possible to have a discussion on that type of issue, and indeed those have been the ideas that have circulated from the Europeans within the Contact Group. I think, as you know, that it has been discussed publicly.
Q Mike, can you address the role, the possible role of the Marines en route to the Adriatic in terms of possibly having to rescue UNPROFOR troops?
MR. McCURRY: I think Secretary Perry and the Pentagon have addressed that. It's a precautionary step that's taken so that we can fulfill the commitments that we've made to our NATO and UNPROFOR partners. They're there to handle contingencies that might arise, and it's just prudent to have them there, given some of the things that have been happening on the ground.
Q Do you have any response to Bob Dole suggesting that the U.N. forces simply be withdrawn at this point since they most recently on Friday -- since the U.N. commanders, most recently on Friday, negated a NATO airstrike?
MR. McCURRY: We continue to believe that UNPROFOR on the ground in Bosnia has made a significant difference. They have helped mitigate the violence that has occurred. Certainly, they haven't stopped it, but they've helped curb it, mitigate it, at least ameliorate some of the violence that might otherwise be occurring.
Secondly, UNPROFOR's presence has certainly helped that conflict from spreading beyond Bosnia.
And, third, they have continued to save lives. There's humanitarian assistance that continues to flow, albeit it with difficulty, but they continue to play a very important role in keeping people alive in Bosnia -- civilians, innocent civilians, who otherwise would be additional casualties to this conflict.
That seems to us to be a significant role that UNPROFOR can play. Pulling them out, particularly with winter arriving very soon, would put numerous lives at risk.
Senator Dole is free to state himself publicly on those types of issues. My guess is -- and he said so publicly -- that he will be able to gather additional facts about this as he meets with European leaders on his current trip to Europe.
But we've heard them on these subjects and understand well their concerns.
Q Mike, with hundreds of peacekeepers now being held virtual hostages, isn't there a serious, practical prospect that UNPROFOR will be withdrawn? And a second follow-up question: Is the United States prepared to commit up to tens of thousands of American troops to assist in that withdrawal?
MR. McCURRY: We have obligations as participants in various aspects of UNPROFOR and commitments through NATO that we're willing to honor, and the safety and security of UNPROFOR peacekeepers on the ground in Bosnia are among those commitments that we have made.
Secondly, as to those who are being held hostage, there are conflicting reports coming from UNPROFOR as to whether or not they're being held hostage or whether or not it's a big mistake. But there has been continual harassment and hassling of UNPROFOR units on the ground in Bosnia. That has been a fact of life for the U.N. mission's presence in Bosnia for months and months now.
That is one of the things that leads us to admire with great respect those courageous units who are attached to UNPROFOR from our European allies and others around the world -- Bangladesh, not to mention others.
Q Excuse me, my question was: Isn't there now a serious prospect that UNPROFOR will be withdrawn?
MR. McCURRY: There's been a serious prospect that UNPROFOR would have to change its deployments, because you've heard numerous troop- contributing members of the United Nations indicate that they would have to reconsider their own commitments and their own deployments as they look ahead. The United Kingdom has said that on several occasions, and that is a real prospect, and it's one that we contend with as we wrestle with the problem.
Q Mike, you are saying that the Serb fear of isolation is keeping them from taking action that they could take militarily in other regions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the same time that fear of isolation isn't leading them to negotiate a Contact Group peace plan.
What is the State Department assessment of what the Bosnian Serbs are playing out here, because the isolation isn't doing anything except perhaps keeping a few towns from falling.
MR. McCURRY: There are different assessment of what their military objectives are. Some of them -- our own assessments square with some of the things that Bosnian Serb leaders have been willing to say publicly. In the case of Bihac, there are indications militarily that their objective was the decimation of the Bosnian government's fifth corps, which is a military objective.
Politically, what is their objective in trying to gain additional territory is not clear. It's not clear what they can do. They have got a situation in which, as a result of the war, they won the territory that you would expect them to want to win as a matter of geography. What additional things they gain by continuing to fight is not clear to us.
In fact, it's one of the reasons to lead us to believe that there must be rationally some desire on the part of the Bosnian Serbs to negotiate some settlement to the conflict, because militarily and politically they don't gain much by continued fighting.
Q Mike, how is that different from saying basically to the Bosnians, "You better quit now while you've still got 30 percent."
MR. McCURRY: Because the prospect for them to regain up to 51 percent of the country has been the negotiated settlement that's been on the table for some time.
Q So when you talk about recognizing --
MR. McCURRY: And, as we've seen in recent weeks, it's not clear what capacity they have to regain that ground militarily.
Q So when you talk about recognizing the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, you're still married to the 51 percent formulation.
MR. McCURRY: We're married to an internationally recognized boundary of Bosnia. The configuration within that has been the subject of the Contact Group negotiations.
Q How much more could the Bosnian Serbs be isolated than they are now if they were to overrun the whole country? I mean, how much of a deterrent is that prospect from anything more they might do?
MR. McCURRY: What they would face in terms of increased pressure, further economic isolation, further economic sanctions that might limit their ability ever to recover from the consequences of the fighting that they have suffered as well, I would have to only guess, but I think that those are all things that they would face if they continued this aggression and continued the fighting.
At some point the world community says to them there's no possibility of you regaining membership in the community of civilized nations, and that is something that we know in the case of Serbia they aspire to. That's been a principal aim of the policy of the government in Belgrade to lift economic sanctions. Whether or not the Bosnian Serbs would feel that same pressure or not is something we continue to press and continue to try to get others within the Contact Group to consider.
Q Mike, can I ask a U.S. policy question -- I mean, what U.S. policy is. There's not much room to maneuver between 51 percent and 50 percent. Is it still the U.S. position that this Muslim Croatian confederation should control at least 51 percent of Bosnia? You can't reduce that by much to give the Serbs a little more than 49 percent. Is 51 percent a cardinal principle?
MR. McCURRY: As I said earlier, Barry, the Contact Group map is the place where the discussions are, and they are the only avenue and only alternative that leads towards the peaceful settlement that I am aware of. I am not aware of any other prospect beyond the Contact Group map that would lead to a peaceful settlement.
Q No, I understand that, but maybe made it a double question. You speak of the Contact Group -- the U.S. is one of the Contact Group.
MR. McCURRY: Right.
Q The U.S. has had its hands full, God knows, with the others members of the group, so I don't want to go down that road. That's why I asked about U.S. policy. Is it U.S. policy that 51 percent is immutable; that there is no more territory to give to the Serbs to recognize their latest gains or whatever other reasons there might be or arguments that could be made.
MR. McCURRY: When we presented the Contact Group map to the parties it was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. It did as part of the take-it-or-leave-it proposition suggest that if the parties mutually agreed to changes in the map so presented, that those would be acceptable to the Contact Group.
Q Do you have indications that the Bosnian Muslims are ready to open that negotiation?
MR. McCURRY: None, that I'm aware of.
Q I've got two questions for you, if I may, regarding China.
MR. McCURRY: We're still on Bosnia.
Q Is the U.S. going to these meetings with any new proposals?
MR. McCURRY: Not necessarily with new proposals, but with an understanding that the situation is different now than it's been, and it requires a reinvigorated effort to bring the conflict to a negotiated solution.
Q Are we going with any proposals to that end?
MR. McCURRY: We'll go with a lot of ideas to share with the Contact Group.
Q Two follow-ups, if I could, Mike. One, on the subject of the military strategy, what is the U.S. Government's assessment of the military strategy of the Serbs at this point? Are they driving offensively now to make a better settlement in this deal, or are they just going to gobble up all the safehavens, or do we know?
MR. McCURRY: I tried to address that as best I could, and I think Secretary Perry was trying to drive at that point yesterday. We don't entirely know, and it's not clear politically and militarily what the objectives are.
Q (Inaudible) UNPROFOR on the ground. What about the UNPROFOR leadership, the United Nations leadership, in a situation now, for whatever reason, that there is no way to use airstrikes to make NATO's point. So are you happy with the U.N. leadership?
MR. McCURRY: NATO remains in a position where it can carry out those missions that is asked of it by the UNPROFOR leadership. I want to make that very clear, and there have been occasions where NATO has been tasked with specific missions, and they've performed effectively.
As to what they are asked of it by UNPROFOR's leadership, UNPROFOR's leadership is dealing in a very difficult, trying circumstance with very difficult issues. So not surprisingly the relationship sometimes is difficult.
MR. McCURRY: Say again.
Q Do you wish the UNPROFOR leadership, the United Nations leadership, had been more aggressive?
MR. McCURRY: The NATO Defense Ministers, I think, were pretty clear in saying that they did think that there was more that should be done when they met in Seville, and there have been discussions ongoing since then to that end. So the answer generically is yes, but that's nothing new. That's been the view of NATO for some time.
Q Mike, you cited the dangers posed by a unilateral lift of the arms embargo. Is there any practical difference with a multilateral lifting of the arms embargo?
MR. McCURRY: Only that a multilateral lifting of the arms embargo is impossible.
Q Mike, what did you mean? Excuse me, but what did you mean before when you said that there are other possibilities besides that -- the common understanding that the U.N. peacekeepers, these hundreds of people, are hostages. You said there are other constructions, other ways to look at it. They haven't been all taken at once.
MR. McCURRY: It's not clear that they're being in a hostage --
Q Well, hostage, meaning --
MR. McCURRY: It's not entirely clear they're being held as hostages, or whether this is just a continuation of the type of harassment that UNPROFOR has faced in the past. There have been suggestions from a "reliable" local Bosnian Serb commander that it was a big mistake, and that they're going to be released. I mean, it's all --
MR. McCURRY: I'm sorry.
Q Big mistake by whom?
MR. McCURRY: A Bosnian Serb commander suggested that it had been a big mistake. They should not have been taken.
Q But from the view of the U.S. of this --
MR. McCURRY: Because, as I say, it's a pattern of harassment that has continued for some time there.
Q But from the U.S. view their plight is not reason to defer any further NATO airstrikes? Is that what you're saying?
MR. McCURRY: They have had some contact with, I believe, it's a Canadian group. There has been some contact with some of the Canadians that are being held. They have been detained since Wednesday near Ilijas, which is near Sarajevo, and they say they are being adequately treated.
Q Mike, if I could just follow up. Another point you made earlier, I think I heard you mention that the Serb objective might still be a multi-cultural state?
MR. McCURRY: No, I said that's the objective of what -- the international community is trying to bring about some semblance of reconstruction and normalization in the life of Bosnia that would return Bosnian to that type of state, and that's been the goal of the diplomacy. It's not clear that the Bosnian Serbs share that goal, obviously.
Q You've many times reiterated the Administration's position that the only way to solve this is through negotiation. Yet yesterday Secretary Perry said the military gains of the Serbs cannot be rolled back militarily. I'm asking you for some explanation here. Don't Perry's remarks embolden the Serbs, encourage them to continue fighting, and isn't he in effect telling the Bosnian Government "throw in the towel, you can't regain any land militarily." How does that help our position in the negotiations?
MR. McCURRY: You are over-reading what he said. He said that there was not a willingness on the part of the United States nor to our mind the rest of the world community -- specifically our European allies -- to commit the size force necessary to go to war on behalf of the Bosnian Government. He was making a very simple declaration, if you think about it.
He was saying the United States Government, this Administration, and obviously the last Administration, has made a determination that we're not going to enter this war on behalf of the Bosnian Government. That has been a fact of life in dealing with the conflict in Bosnian for 32 months now.
I'm not aware of any strong hue and cry, unless it's from Senator Dole, to change that position. I have not heard anyone suggest bluntly that the United States of America needs to enter this desperately complicated regional conflict on behalf of the Bosnian Government. That might change as a result of the thinking that's going on.
Q Is Mr. Christopher meeting with Mr. Dole?
MR. McCURRY: He has met with him. He met with him last week, I think, as was reported here, and we certainly will be interested in his views upon his return. I don't think there's any way logistically that they will be able to meet while they're in Europe, but we'll be very anxious to hear Senator Dole's assessment.
Q Is Mr. Dole carrying any sort of message from Mr. Christopher or from Mr. Clinton?
MR. McCURRY: No. I can't speak for the President, but I can speak for the Secretary. The Secretary has had good conversations with Senator Dole, and I think Senator Dole understands the view of the Administration on the conflict in Bosnia. I'm not aware that he's carrying any particular message.
Q Was Secretary Perry in effect telling the Bosnian Government, "Pack it up, you've lost." Is this a new message?
MR. McCURRY: No, it was not. It was a military assessment by the Secretary of Defense of the situation on the ground in Bosnia. It was a sober, candid, and we believe here at the State Department an accurate view of the situation.
Q The U.S. and the Europeans are prepared to leave with what the Serbs are doing. What about if the Serbs now decide to go to Kosovo? Extend the war outside, what will be the position of the United States?
MR. McCURRY: That is a different question. A widening of this conflict is something that we've determined is within the strategic interest of the United States that would require us to be engaged, and it's the reason why, among other things, we have U.S. ground personnel stationed in Macedonia at this very moment.
A widening of this conflict beyond Bosnia would present a much different situation, and the Bosnian Serbs are well aware of that.
Q Could the United States help to reinvigorate negotiations by accepting the European-backed idea of a confederation -- a Serb confederation if the Bosnian Serbs recognize the international borders of Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: That would be a discussion that -- we've kind of covered that already. That would be the discussion that might happen if there was a willingness on the part of the Bosnian Serbs to recognize the territorial integrity of Bosnia.
Q Just to follow up something you said earlier, you said that might change as a result of what's -- of the new thinking that's going on. Is there a possibility that the United States -- is it an option now for the United States to enter the war on behalf of the Bosnian Government?
MR. McCURRY: Oh, no. I'm not aware of any option being discussed within the United States Government. I was suggesting that those who say that we must lift unilaterally the arms embargo probably recognize that as a consequence of that the United States would become much more deeply involved in this conflict, would have to go well beyond equipping and training the Bosnian Government to provide them the kind of assistance necessary to prosecute a war; and, as Secretary Perry suggested yesterday, there are limits to what air power can do in this situation.
So ultimately you look at a situation where you'd have to commit ground troops. So all I'm suggesting is that those who take the position that we must lift unilaterally the arms embargo, that UNPROFOR must be extracted from Bosnia, and that we must let the war inflame once again, have to think through the logic of that position to the point where we look at the issue of whether or not U.S. ground troops should be committed to that conflict.
The Administration has looked at that, the President has looked at that, and as a matter of our policy from the beginning of our efforts to deal with this, we've said U.S. interests are not engaged to the point that we would commit and risk hundreds of thousands of U.S. lives to try to bring that conflict to an end by entering the war on behalf of the Bosnian Government.
There may be others in Congress who want to take that proposition. I haven't heard them do so yet.
Q Bihac has essentially been buried in this discussion and in U.S. public statements, but it's still in its death throes. Do you have an assessment of where things stand on the ground? Are the Serbs showing any inclination to halt?
MR. McCURRY: No, they continue to shell the safe area. I've seen different numbers. Our estimate is about 60,000 Muslims are trapped in the town, including some who are refugees, newly arrived, who have come from other parts of the Bihac pocket. There are, we believe, reliable reports that the Serbs are capturing villages south of Bihac and probably torching some of those villages.
We continue to get different reports on the level of fighting, on what objectives the Bosnian Serb army units around Bihac might have. There are some indications that they might plan on taking Bihac or others that their military objective, as I suggested earlier, is to try to dismember the Bosnian Government's Fifth Corps.
Q Michael, I wonder if I could take you back a few days. Last week at about this time Bihac was being threatened and there were a number of artillery and tanks sitting outside the area and firing in on the city. NATO made several different raids during the week, but at no time did it attempt to silence this artillery and these tanks. Then, by the weekend people said, "Well, they can't do anything because the people are now inside the enclave."
Why didn't NATO attack these particular pieces of aggressive weaponry?
MR. McCURRY: Barrie, under the decisions of the North Atlantic Council -- they're operating under the decisions of the North Atlantic Council -- there is not a self-declared or a NATO-declared exclusion zone around Bihac as there is around Gorazde and around Sarajevo. So they don't authority from the North Atlantic Council to conduct missions that are aimed at silencing any type of heavy weaponry in some type of radius around Bihac. That's not part of their current decision tree within NATO.
What they can do is respond to requests from UNPROFOR units on the ground. They can also enforce the "no-fly" zone and a lot of the activity, the attacking -- how do you pronounce the airfield -- Udbina - - cratering the runway at Udbina is in furtherance of the enforcement of the "no-fly" zone. So they're operating under fairly strict mandates given to them by both the United Nations but more importantly by the North Atlantic Council. Silencing all the guns within the exclusion zone is not part of the North Atlantic Council's tasking to NATO military units.
That's the precise definition. But as a broader point, again I'd go back to the central point: NATO is not going to war against the Bosnian Serbs. That's the larger reason for it. It's not the purpose of NATO war planes to enter the war to try to turn back a Bosnian Serb offensive on Bihac.
Q As I understand it, at least it was widely reported that at the NATO Council the United States did argue for an exclusionary zone. The French opposed it on the grounds that there weren't sufficient troops to patrol it and maintain it and enforce it; once again, a suggestion that if the United States is willing to participate on the ground that that might have made a difference.
But this seems to suggest that it's not the U.N. deciding whether they can or cannot attack. It's that NATO itself decided that it wasn't going to seek the targets which would have made a difference in this particular case.
MR. McCURRY: Unfortunately, I was not here to follow all of the deliberations that the North Atlantic Council had last week. I think there were internal deliberations within the North Atlantic Council about what capacity NATO would have to carry out a mission that might be assigned to it by the North Atlantic Council. There were various degrees of support for the idea of creating an exclusion zone or how to address the situation around Bihac.
There are limits, based on the current UNPROFOR configurations around Bihac, to what NATO can effectively do from the air.
Q As my final observation, when Secretary Perry said there are limits to what airpower can do, in point of fact we didn't get anywhere near those limits. That airpower could have been much more effective had there been a political will to use it.
MR. McCURRY: You guys are quoting liberally what you think Secretary Perry said. Secretary Perry said there are limits to what airpower can do to reverse the gains that the Bosnian Serbs made on the ground. That is a true fact.
He was not suggesting that in every instance NATO hasn't used every element of airpower that might otherwise be available to it. It's clear from the comments that Admiral Smith made about what their capacity would have been when they attacked the runway at Udbina. They said they could have done a lot more. They could have taken out the planes if they had wanted to, but they had a very precise and circumscribed mission that was given to them and agreed to by the United Nations.
Q In effect, with the powerlessness that NATO admits to roll back the Serbs or to hold the line, with the Muslims unable to resist the offensives of the Serbs, hasn't this conflict in effect been decided? Isn't the handwriting on the wall here? Isn't it basically militarily over?
MR. McCURRY: You're asking a specific question about Bihac and the recent fighting around Bihac? The Bosnian Government in recent weeks had made gains around Bihac. They've now suffered losses around Bihac. I would suggest the military conflict, as it continues, will ebb and flow. But I think that the capacity of the Bosnian Serbs has been demonstrated by this recent offensive on Bihac.
Q Can I ask one question on a specific proposal that Sam Nunn has made, which is to widen the exclusionary zones and enforce those aggressively with NATO airpower -- the heavy-weapons exclusionary zones, moving toward an exclusion of heavy weapons across what's left of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Would that kind of proposal be entertained in the coming days?
MR. McCURRY: The question is, would it be entertained by some of our European allies. I don't know. Maybe Senator Nunn might have magic powers of persuasion.
Q On that point, hasn't our refusal to commit troops made it impossible for us to succeed in arguing for exclusion zones? Hasn't that limited U.S. influence over this outcome?
MR. McCURRY: That is not entirely clear. It's suggested from time to time that if the United States would only put a couple hundred thousand people, or maybe even tens of thousands of people, into a peacekeeping force in Bosnia, we would then have a right to order the British and the French and others within UNPROFOR how to conduct themselves. I'm not at all certain that that is true. I think there would still be some fundamental questions about what the purpose of those peacekeepers might be. As you have heard General Rose say, and as is true, they are there to try to keep a peace settlement process underway.
They are not there, once again, to enter into the aggression on behalf of one side or the other.
It's not clear to me that if we had a substantial force committed to the peacekeeping operation there, it would change that equation one way or another.
The British and the French, as we learned last year -- as I suspect Senator Dole is in the process of learning now -- are pretty dug-in on this issue.
Q Can we come back to China now?
MR. McCURRY: Yes. Please. (Laughter)
Q U.S. and Chinese trade representatives are soon to meet in Geneva for another round of consultations or negotiations on the resumption of China's GATT membership. The Chinese have made it very clear that they are not going to make any more concessions, and for them the GATT membership is either now or never.
Could you --
MR. McCURRY: I'm not sure they've allowed the prospect of "never."
Q The Trade Minister, Wu Yi, mentioned, I think, sometime ago but not last week. Last week, she said they are not going to make any more concessions.
MR. McCURRY: I think her emphasis was on the "now," not necessarily the "never."
Q I was wondering if you have anything to say on the U.S. position for the next round of consultations and your estimate of the prospects?
MR. McCURRY: Our position is the same as articulated by President Clinton when we were conducting the meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Jakarta. We certainly want China to enter the GATT. We want China to be a founding member of the new World Trade Organization. The question is, how do you resolve the protocol issues that surround their entry and accession to GATT and their entry into the WTO. Those are the same issues.
The President pointed out that, regardless of size or stage of development, all countries that want to enter GATT or the WTO must agree to subject their trade policies to the basic disciplines that apply to the international trading system. Those are exactly the points that Ambassador Kantor has been raising in his discussions with the Chinese.
Lengthy sessions occurred in Jakarta. My suspicion is there will be lengthy sessions on December 5 when they meet again in Geneva. We will continue to negotiate and to work those issues because we do believe it is important to China, as such a large and important trading entity, to be there when the WTO begins.
Q How high is the success rate for this next round of consultations, in your estimate?
MR. McCURRY: The Chinese have made it very clear they want to resolve this issue by the end of the year. Since that is the rough timeframe in which we hope -- knock on the wood here at the podium, we've got a vote coming up on GATT ratification here in the United States, and we hope that will then trigger a series of ratifications worldwide that will help the WTO to come into being as we look to next year. That does impose a bit of a deadline and a bit of a timetable by which we would hope to resolve these issues. But we are hopeful that we can resolve these issues in a timely fashion so that China can be a founding member in the new World Trade Organization.
Q One more question on China, if I may. There have been some distinct changes in U.S. policy toward both Beijing and Taipei over this past year.
Will the Republican domination of both Houses -- the House and the Senate -- in any way affect U.S. policy toward China?
MR. McCURRY: That's not entirely clear. There will be new committee structures, new committee leadership and some of the relevant sub-committees within Congress that handle policy in Asia.
Secretary Christopher, on his behalf and on behalf of the Administration -- when we met with Chinese counterparts in Jakarta recently and in meetings we've subsequently had with representatives of Taiwan, we've indicated that the election results will not lead to any discontinuities in U.S. foreign policy, and that the fundamental premise of our policies towards China, which are based on the communiques, will continue.
I'm not aware that there's any movement within Congress, even with its new configuration beginning next year, to fundamentally alter that bedrock principle of U.S. policy towards China and towards Taiwan.
Q Mike, to follow up, can you tell us of your first- person witness at APEC concerning the bilateral --
MR. McCURRY: The travelogue, the postcard from Jakarta?
Q How about the bilaterals between China and the U.S. -- the tone and any substantive progress on security issues?
MR. McCURRY: I can only comment on the meeting that Secretary Christopher had with Foreign Minister and Vice Premier Qian Qichen. It was a very productive meeting.
There are clearly differences that do exist in the U.S.- China relationship but there's also a willingness to address those differences in a spirit of candor. That's the spirit in which the meeting occurred.
Q Also on Asia. Has an agenda been set for the next KEDO meeting scheduled in December -- a time and place? Will the Chinese and North Koreans be participating?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I know that there were some working group meetings that occurred here last week. Right, gang, peanut gallery? (TO STAFF) Did you guys do any kind of readout on those? Very brief.
We may a little bit. Check with our Press Office. They have a little bit. There was some, when I last checked on it, technical-level discussions that were going to be occurring between representatives to talk about the structuring of KEDO, leading towards more formal meetings later this year or early next year. But those discussions will continue. It's a very complex negotiation, involving strong participation by the United States, China, and Japan.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:02 p.m.)
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