U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DECEMBER 9, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, December 9, 1994 Briefers: Thomas Hubbard Christine Shelly NORTH KOREA Opening Remarks by DAS Hubbard ................1-2 Liaison Offices with US/Communications/Travel .2-5,7-9 Missile Exports ...............................4,11 Next Experts Meeting ..........................5-8 Framework Agreement ...........................6 Peace Treaty ..................................9-10 US MIAs .......................................10 Heavy Oil Shipments ...........................10 BOSNIA US Offer of Troops to Aid in UN Withdrawal ....12 Contingency Planning for Troop Withdrawal .....12-16 Fighting ......................................13 SAM Missiles/Sights/Sources ...................13,16 UN Troops Detained/Released ...................13-14 Arms Embargo/Leakage of Serbian Border ........16-18 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Prospects for Resumption of Syrian-Israeli Talks/US Role ...............................20-21 RUSSIA US Relations ..................................21-22
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1994, 1:41 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: I'd like to introduce Thomas Hubbard, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs who will brief you on the talks this week with North Korea on issues relating to the opening of Liaison Offices.
Mr. Hubbard's responsibility include relations with Korea and Japan as well as with the ASEAN countries and Burma. He has been working intensively on the North Korean nuclear issue with Ambassador Gallucci and participated in the Geneva talks with the DPRK.
Prior to his present assignment, for those of you who do not know Mr. Hubbard, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at our Embassies in the Philippines and Malaysia and has held a number of other positions in our missions in East Asia and in the EAP Bureau in Washington, including Director of our Japan Desk.
We'll follow our usual format. I'll take questions on the non- Asian subjects following Deputy Assistant Secretary Hubbard's remarks and questions. Without any further ado, I turn it over to you. The microphone's yours.
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: Thank you, Christine. As I think all of you know, the North Koreans have been here this week for expert talks on the issues involved in establishing Liaison Offices between our two countries.
These have been expert-level talks, headed on our side by Lynn Turk who works with me in the East Asia Bureau as Coordinator for North Korean Affairs, and the head of the North Korean delegation was Mr. Pak Sok-gyun, Deputy Director of the American Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pyongyang.
This is, of course, the first official North Korean delegation to come to Washington for government-to-government talks with the U.S. Government. The talks took place in furtherance of the agreement in our Agreed Framework with the North Koreans, agreed in October, that the two sides would establish liaison offices in respective capitals once expert- level talks have resolved the consular and other technical issues involved in establishing those offices.
The talks this week have been cooperative and constructive. The two sides have made substantial progress on the outstanding consular and other technical issues involved in establishing the liaison offices. The talks are still ongoing. They will conclude later this afternoon, and we expect to get something further out on the results at that time.
We do expect to conclude these talks today. The next step in the process will be a return visit by a U.S. team, again probably headed by Lynn Turk, to Pyongyang to survey possible sites for a Liaison Office and continue the discussions. We would expect thereafter a North Korean team to come back to Washington for a similar purpose.
As you know, we had a team in Pyongyang to begin these discussions back in September. Be pleased to answer any questions.
Q Sir, how has the tough stance by Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Ben Gilman and the other Republicans towards the Korea accord, demanding that they were going to have a closer insight onto the Accord and maybe attach conditions -- how is that going to affect the progress of these talks? And, if they try to attach further conditionality to the accord, will it damage the accord?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: Of course, any conditionality attached to the accord would damage our prospects for implementing it. There are a whole variety of aspects in the accord. Judging from the comments I've heard to date, the issue of liaison offices does not seem as controversial as some of the others that have been raised.
Q What were the areas of agreement and disagreement? And what the immediate results of the talks?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: We have reached agreement by and large on the consular issues involved in establishing these offices. The consular issues relate to our ability to protect American citizens who may be visiting North Korea or the North Korean ability to protect their citizens that might be visiting the United States -- procedures related to what happens when someone is arrested, what happens when someone runs into an accident, and all that.
We by and large reached agreement on these consular issues, so that our two liaison offices can function in those areas. Further technical issues involve just how do you support liaison offices? What kind of communications can they have? What kind of facilities will they have for sending pouches and for entry and exit, and all of that. We've also reached agreement on most of those issues. Property is a big remaining issue to resolve.
Q So the North Koreans have expressed a willingness to allow American tourists to go to North Korea and vice versa? That's been part of these talks?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: The talks really haven't dealt with that question. The talks have dealt more with how we would deal with them in cases where there are tourists present. For example, Americans wishing to visit the DPRK have to have visas. Once they get there, how would we ensure that they are protected under all rights given to them under North Korean law and vice versa. We haven't really talked about expanding tourism.
Q You are preparing for tourist visits -- reciprocal tourist visits, clearly?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: Certainly, those would be contemplated. I'm not aware of a whole lot of North Korean tourism in the world, and I'm also not aware of a whole lot of Americans wishing to visit North Korea as tourists. But certainly we're putting in place a framework under which that could occur.
Q Do you have a date for when the U.S. team would go to Pyongyang on site survey? And related to that, is there a time frame for opening up the liaison offices?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: No. Again, in the Agreed Framework, we undertook to establish those offices when we have resolved the consular and other technical mattes involved. I expect the team to go out some time in the first quarter of next year to Pyongyang. I would expect we would also have a North Korean team here sometime in that time frame if they succeed in resolving the issues. And finding property to set up shop and the actual establishment would follow.
Q Mr. Hubbard, what was the -- how would you describe the tone, the relations between the two expert groups? How would you describe this step as proceeding and progressing to fulfill the agreement from October? And then finally did you have any discussions at all or any insight as to the relations between North Korea and their talks with the South that might be an adjunct to this?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: As I say, the talks have been cooperative and constructive. These have been expert talks, by and large. The talks have dealt with rather technical issues, but both sides have addressed those issues with a will to get the job done and move forward with their task, and to implement the Agreed Framework.
We have taken the occasion of the presence of the North Korean representatives to raise some of the other issues that are of concern to us, and one very large issue for us is the fate of North-South discussions between the two Koreas. We took the occasion of this visit to underscore to the North Koreans the importance of North-South dialogue if we're to succeed in implementing this overall framework. Of course, the Framework calls for North-South dialogue.
Q Are there any other -- while you're on that subject, are there any other issues that you did bring up that you'd like to tell us about?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: I think we exchanged our mutual interest in implementing the entire range of issues involved in the Agreed Framework. We assured the North Koreans that we expect to fulfill that Framework, and that we expect them to do also.
We took the occasion also to begin to raise some other issues of difficulty to us -- to flag such things as their missile exports as problems that will loom as our relationship moves forward.
Q There are two issues that Mr. Gallucci wanted to address. One of them was to ensure that U.S. diplomats have the same freedom there as Korean diplomats would have here. Did you resolve that? And the other was, would they come directly through South Korea, perhaps by way of car, up to North Korea, or would they have to go through Beijing? Did you resolve those two issues?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: On the first issue, of course, our whole principle in all of our bilateral relations is reciprocity, so that we would expect to grant to the North Koreans privileges and access here that are equivalent to those that they grant us in Pyongyang.
We would, of course, like to expand the scope of those privileges and access, and I think that will be a continuing subject of discussion. But there will be reciprocity.
I don't want to get into all of the details of exactly what was agreed. As Mr. Gallucci said, we would like over time to be in a position to actually transit the DMZ -- have our people go in that way and come out that way. The North Koreans pointed out that they don't grant that right to any other country in North Korea; that they'd have to consider that very carefully. So that will go forward as an issue that is not resolved.
Q What will be the initial level of representation in the liaison offices?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: The level of representation will be the lowest allowed under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The head of each office will be known as Head of Liaison Office rather than by any other title.
Q Since you raised the issue of missile exports, did you also raise the other issues that have been listed as of U.S. concern but not part of the nuclear agreement, which would be terrorism, troops along the DMZ and human rights?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: These have not been issues for the formal discussions over the consular issues, but indeed in our various social events and side talks we've raised all of these issues.
Q I'd like to confirm if you said the Liaison Office between -- two countries will open within March next year?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: No, I didn't say that. I said I expected that in the first quarter of next year, by the end of March, that we will have sent another team to look at sites in Pyongyang; that the North Koreans will probably have sent another team to Washington to look at sites, and that at some point thereafter, assuming all issues are resolved and once we find property and are able to set them up, then we would actually establish the offices. But I'm not making any prediction as to when that would occur.
Q When do you think the next expert meeting will resume?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: In Pyongyang, sometime in the early part of next year.
Q Is all of this contingent upon the entire framework agreement coming together, or is this on a separate track? In other words, if Senator Helms and others raise objections to the nuclear agreement, would that put all this in jeopardy?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: We are determined to implement the entire Agreed Framework, and we believe we have very good answers to the questions that Senator Helms and others might ask, and that the overall agreement is in our interests and is in the interest of peace and security in the region.
The Agreed Framework itself has various time phasing for doing different things, and one of the things we said we would do was that if we can resolve the consular and other technical matters, we would move forward and establish liaison offices. So long as both sides are faithfully implementing all aspects of the Agreed Framework, I think that will take place.
Q Did they raise questions with you along the margins or in any way about this new political climate in Washington and what it would mean for the framework?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: They have expressed -- they have obviously read the newspapers. They've heard some of the questions. They, as you can imagine, are interested observers of the American political scene as it affects this Framework, we all made it very clear to them that the U.S. Government intends to fulfill the Framework and expects them to do the same.
If I could just take this opportunity. Various elements of the Agreed Framework will be implemented as they come up. But a first important aspect of that was for the DPRK to reach agreement with the IAEA on the means and methods by which they would monitor the freeze on the nuclear facilities that the DPRK agreed to freeze.
You may have noted in the wire services today that Director General Blix of the IAEA has indicated substantial satisfaction with the way the talks have gone between North Korea and the IAEA. He has indicated that they have resolved most of the issues involved in setting up their system for monitoring the freeze. They expect to have further talks in January to resolve remaining issues. I think that's very good news.
Q Has the Administration already started trying to reassure the Hill about all these issues?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: Yes, indeed. As you know, Bob Gallucci was up on the Hill for hearings the other day. We've been briefing staff, and then we're ready to talk to those on the Hill as soon as we have an opportunity.
Q If I could follow up on that. Another part of the agreement that was supposed to be implemented soon is, the U.S. is supposed to take actions on telecommunications and banking in the first three months. Did you discuss that with the North Koreans? And what can we expect on that?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: What we said actually in the Agreed Framework was that we would reduce the various economic, financial, and communications restrictions that have been placed on North Korea. We will do that. We haven't decided exactly which restrictions will be lifted exactly when. But, indeed, we will fulfill our commitment to reduce restrictions within three months of the agreement.
Q Have you agreed on just what limits there will be on the movement of diplomats in both countries?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: That's one of the issues that is coming up right now that will be discussed later this afternoon.
The North Koreans do restrict travel by all diplomats in the DPRK. We've indicated that we would like to have the ability to travel both to -- accept our responsibilities to implement this framework agreement as well as to be able to take care of Americans who might be visiting.
As I said earlier, we'll give them reciprocal access. It will not be entirely free. There will be some restrictions on it.
Q To follow. This particular visit to Washington, are there limitations? What is their reaction to being in Washington?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: I think they have found a warm welcome here. We have tried to give them a warm welcome. We've had good cooperative talks. We've had a number of opportunities to talk at social events. I will be hosting a farewell dinner for them this evening. They will be leaving tomorrow.
We've given them a chance to sightsee a bit. They've had a chance to look at some properties. We hope they will go back to Pyongyang with a good appreciation of American society.
Q How did they travel here physically? By plane, by car?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: They flew here, of course, from Pyongyang via New York. We have been giving them transportation here in Washington.
Q These are not New York-based diplomats?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: No. These are diplomats -- one New York-based diplomat is here, but the leader of their delegation and three of the other members came here from Pyongyang.
Q You said that this is the first North Korean delegation that came here for official government-to- government talks?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: That's correct. Of course, they have their mission in New York at the U.N. We've had a lot of talks with them up there. Members of their mission at the U.N. occasionally have come to Washington for things like the National Prayer Breakfast and other academic events.
There have been visitors from Pyongyang for academic events as well as part of international delegations. But this is the first time we've actually had a government-to- government group.
Q What kind of funding is needed to establish the Liaison Office? Will extra funding be requested or needed for it? And is it therefore subject to freezing if the Senate wants to block it?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: I really don't have a good answer for you on that. I don't believe we will need to go to Congress for extra funds to establish the Liaison Office. Certainly, Congress can block whatever it wishes. We think it would be tremendous mistake to block this. The liaison offices are an integral part of this Framework we have with North Korea that addresses some very serious problems.
The liaison offices themselves will give us opportunities to press issues of concern to us, as we've said, like missiles and terrorism and human rights. We think it will be good. It will serve U.S. interest to have those offices. So both in terms of the overall Framework and for the good that these offices can bring us, we think it would be a big mistake to block it.
Q You mentioned about reciprocity, the way the diplomats will be treated. If the North Koreans want to put restrictions on our diplomats, how would you go about doing that on theirs here?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: Again, I wouldn't want to try to get into the technical aspects of that. We have an Office of Foreign Missions. We across-the-board insist on reciprocity. For example, if country "X" applies travel restrictions or applies restrictions on the ability of our dependents to work overseas, we apply similar restrictions here. We have mechanisms for doing that.
Q A couple of technical questions. You talk about the minimum level under the Geneva Protocols. Could you tell us, what's that level? Also, about the restriction for physical travel in each country, what is the present limitation applied by North Korea? If that's the case of 40 kilometers, does it mean every time a U.S. diplomats want to go to Yongbyon, they will have to apply for permission to go there?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: I don't want to get into all of the details on exactly what kind of restrictions are applied. Suffice it to say that we are asking for the kind of access we believe we need to carry out the Agreed Framework as well as to protect our citizens.
In saying that, we are establishing relations at the lowest level allowed by the 1961 Vienna Convention. A key point to focus on is the fact that we will not have an ambassador. We will have a Head of Liaison Office. These will be diplomatic officials but now at full ambassadorial level.
The chiefs of the liaison offices will not be accredited by the respective heads of state as is the case with full diplomatic relations, but by the Secretary of State, in our case, and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK.
Q What's the number of people involved?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: We haven't worked out precisely the number, but it will be very small.
Q Have the North Koreans raised the issue of signing a peace treaty with the United States? Or if they have, what was your reaction to it?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: The North Koreans often raise that issue with us. Our answer every time they raise is that they should talk to the ROK about that; that they agreed in 1992 that the North and South would discuss replacing the current armistice with a peace treaty. They agreed that the armistice would remain in place until a peace treaty is negotiated.
Our position is that the North should, in the first instance, talk to the South. That's one more reason why it is so important that a North-South dialogue be started. We're prepared to be supportive but the main actors are the two Koreas.
Q Did the North Koreans ask for any special financing to purchase this mission? Or are they going to lease it, and did the U.S. say they would consider it?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: They haven't asked for it. I think it's natural that each country pay for its own diplomatic missions abroad.
Q Did the North Koreans raise any concerns or suspicions that the liaison office would be used for intelligence-gathering?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: No, I have not heard that subject at all.
Q After opening the liaison office, did the North Koreans agree that United States diplomats could cross the military demarcation line to go to Seoul?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: That is an issue that is still under discussion. That is a request that we have made. I do not expect that to be resolved at this time.
Q Republican Senators have asked about the fate of 8,000 missing servicemen from the Korean war. Was this brought up at all during the period of these talks?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: Yes. We have noted to them our concern over that issue and our wish to find effective mechanisms for resolving it.
Q Was their response sympathetic?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: The officials who were here this time, I don't think were well briefed on the subject; were not competent to address it, but they realize how important it is to us.
Q Mr. Secretary, can you share with us any updated information on the provision of the heavy oil? When is the first shipment to North Korea?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: We agreed that the first shipment would be made by January 21, 1995.
Q Specifically, before the end of this year or early next year?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: We agreed that it would be provided within three months of the signing of the Agreed Framework. That's January 21. I think it will be next year.
Q What was their response regarding the missile issue that you raised? Did they come back with a response?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: They did not. Again, I think the official who is here is not responsible for those matters. But I do expect that we will have on- going discussions of that subject.
Q What was (inaudible) question?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: Fifty thousand tons.
Q Is that the shipment on U.S. ships?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: I'm not sure.
Q Do you have an guarantees of their activities in Pyongyang?
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY HUBBARD: They will have the standard diplomatic privileges and immunities that flow from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
(Following the above briefing, Deputy Spokesman Christine Shelly continued with the Daily briefing, commencing at 2:05 p.m.)
MS. SHELLY: Questions on other subjects.
Q The KEDO talks that were scheduled to resume in --
MS. SHELLY: I'm not doing any Korea questions. You just had your opportunity to get our guest speaker, so, sorry, I can't help you on Korea.
Q Anything on Bosnia and whether -- if the U.N. were to withdraw, whether the United States would then find it logical to discuss lifting the arms embargo with the allies?
MS. SHELLY: I think first of all, as you know, Secretary Perry made some comments this morning at the Pentagon, and let me just reiterate also what has been announced and agreed at this point is simply the U.S. position regarding whether or not its own forces would participate in a NATO operation which would seek to extract UNPROFOR, should that be requested.
I would just like to reiterate that there hasn't been a decision to withdraw. This is only contingency planning at this point. And on the second part of your question, I think it's really premature to take it a step beyond that. We have always indicated through our commitments that we did support multilateral lift. As you know, we did make an effort with our allies to revisit that question recently. That possibility is, I think, still out there. But I don't have anything beyond that which has already been said to signal at this time.
Q What have we heard from the countries with troops on the ground in Bosnia in terms of their welcoming the announcement and their interest in getting their people out of there?
MS. SHELLY: I can't give you a kind of country-by- country roundup. I think I'd have to respond in general terms.
As you know, certainly from statements that the French and British had said over the last several days, there were a lot of concerns that they raised regarding their continued ability to operate there. I think the French were particularly strong in terms of suggesting that there was a need for NATO to give a very hard look at the contingency planning regarding the possibility of withdrawal of UNPROFOR troops.
I think in the most recent timeframe -- let me just make one point in passing. And that is, I don't there's any question, in the minds of the allies, that we think UNPROFOR should continue to stay. I think the very fact that we have indicated very strongly our willingness to be part of a NATO operation, in the event that they would have to be withdrawn, that that itself has provided the allies with some of the reassurances that I think they felt they needed regarding their own intentions and willingness to stay.
Certainly, their concerns about the deterioration in the security situation are very valid. I think that that's what convinced them and also other allies of the need to do serious military contingency planning. The decision in the NATO Council this morning to task the NATO military authorities with formal planning for that, I think reflects the fact that all of the allies feel that it's prudent to undertake this as contingency planning.
But I think there is still very strong support shared within the NATO Council by all of the allies that UNPROFOR continues to perform a very vital function on the ground in Bosnia, and that is certainly is the hope that the UNPROFOR countries will feel comfortable in continuing to fulfill their mission there.
Q What's the latest on the hostages?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot that's new on that. I just have a little bit on fighting and then also on the convoys and the hostages. Let me just go through that.
On the fighting situation, intense fighting continues in and around the U.N.-declared safe area of Bihac as well as in the Bosanska Krupa area.
UNPROFOR reports that three SA-2s were fired near Coralici. There are reports of Serb artillery and infantry attacks near Teslic as well as continued shelling of Sarajevo.
On convoys, a U.N. relief convoy was allowed through to the Bangladesh unit at Coralici.
I understand that the Bosnian Serbs released 27 U.N. military observers and 40 French soldiers being held around Sarajevo. But we understand that there are still well over 200 U.N. hostages in Serb detention. I've not specifically heard of any new either military observers or peacekeepers having been picked up in the last day.
Q Have we had any contact with the Serbs as to how they would react if there were an effort to evacuate UNPROFOR?
MS. SHELLY: I think at the Background Briefing at the Pentagon yesterday that question was answered.
MS. SHELLY: Right, and I don't have any further specifics on that myself.
Q When did they offer this assurance that they would let the peacekeepers withdraw? What opportunity did they have to do that between the time that the planning began and the announcement was made?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, first of all, the fact that the security situation has been deteriorating in the recent timeframe is certainly not a new development. I would expect that there have been some exchanges on this between the U.N. political authorities there and the Serb authorities as well. That's what I guess is probably the basis for the comment which was made yesterday.
I am not aware that the issue has, because of the fact that there is no request to withdraw UNPROFOR -- and, again, I stress what is being done at this point is simply prudent military contingency planning. So it's hypothetical at this stage. There may have been general discussions. But insofar the issue has not arisen, it certainly has not been put to the Bosnian Serbs in concrete form.
Q So they have not given concrete assurances, then?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware of specific exchanges on this or any specific effort to get an assurance that then can be taken as an absolute categoric assurance on the part of the Bosnian Serbs. I certainly wouldn't rule the possibility that there had been some kind of discussions on this in recent weeks. But I don't have any further details on that, and I think the appropriate place to really put that question is to the U.N.
Q Secretary Perry this morning at the Pentagon, he did not have anything in writing. But I believe he did indicate that both sides -- both of the major combatants -- in Bosnia had indicated that UNPROFOR could go freely without their interference.
There's a point here, if you can help me, Christine, to clarify. Are we talking about these contingency plans to remove everybody pretty much at one fell swoop every UNPROFOR person and their equipment? Are we talking at all about the distinction of going in and rescuing units that might be detained? Is there a distinction?
MS. SHELLY: I don't think that there is a single scenario at this point, which is what is being pursued. I think there are a number of different scenarios. Again, this is what would be prudent military planning, to try to anticipate the various ways in which operations might need to be conducted.
In that sense, it's difficult to be more specific. I think the key point is that the NATO Council this morning did formally task the NATO military authorities to undertake the necessary contingency planning. They certainly will be looking at the different scenarios in which -- again, if UNPROFOR were to withdraw -- a NATO operation would be undertaken.
But, again, I think it's impossible to predict, even for contingency planning purposes, exactly the form in which the operation itself might take. So therefore they have to prepare for a number of possibilities.
Q Did I understand you to say before -- I just a clarification -- that the U.S. decision to participate in the evacuation of UNPROFOR forces has encouraged the allies to stay?
MS. SHELLY: I think that it's our hope for the allies -- since there were a lot of expressions of concern about this, and as the situation deteriorated and as certain of the allies, I think, being more public than others about their concerns and about the possible need for withdrawal, that they were worried, obviously, regarding their own troops. If that eventuality were to arise, how exactly those troops were going to get out and whether or not NATO was -- they were going to be able to be withdrawn in a NATO-led operation.
So I think the assurance that you're getting are two- fold. The first is that the NATO Council, having tasked the military authorities - - again, for contingency planning -- the work is now officially tasked by the political authorities so that the preparations can be made.
The second point being that we were giving a very strong assurance to our allies that we will be part of that NATO-led effort should the event materialize.
Q You mentioned that SAM-2s were fired. I could hear exactly. Were those fired against ground targets or aircraft?
MS. SHELLY: I gave you the information that I have. I don't have any other details on that.
Q Can we revisit the subject of where all of these SAM missiles are coming from? There have been further reports that they may have been added to the Bosnian Serb arsenal and did not necessarily exist previously. Also reports that the Bosnian Serbs have magically been -- had plentiful supplies of fuel since their setbacks at the time of the Muslim offensive from Bihac, and also that either irregular or regular troops may have entered Bosnia from Serbia.
Again, the question: How is Milosevic behaving? Living up to our expectations?
MS. SHELLY: Anything else?
MS. SHELLY: We might be here all afternoon. Let me give you what I have on this.
On the SAM missile sites, I've addressed this, I think, just about everyday. I don't have anything new on that. But let me answer that in a more general way, which has to do with the overall question of the supplies of weapons, fuel, and other goods to Serbs in the former Yugoslavia.
There also had been -- in the context of a couple of prisoners who had been taken recently, there also are some new reports that suggests that a Serb military personnel may also be involved in the ground. So let me share with you what I've got on this, including the whole issue of the monitoring.
First, just to go back a little bit. As you know, when the Yugoslav National Army left Bosnia and Croatia in '92, it left behind a great deal of weapons and equipment that the Bosnian Serbs had been able to use.
Over the past three years, Bosnian and Krajina Serbs have obtained additional weapons, we know, by smuggling, by local purchases from war profiteers and also in direct assistance from Belgrade.
Both the Bosnian and Krajina Serbs have had large weapon inventories, including, as you know, the surface-to-air missiles for some time.
We at this point are simply not in a position to confirm reports that weapons systems have been provided by Belgrade to either Bosnian or Krajina Serbs since Belgrade cut the border with Bosnia this August.
As you know, there is the ICFY monitoring mission in Serbia- Montenegro. They continue to monitor the closure of the border -- and this is the FRY-Bosnia border, although as we have mentioned on several previous occasions, it still lacks sufficient personnel, I think, to be able to give a complete monitoring picture.
We have shared concerns about reports which we have received about violations and about gaps in the border closure with the FRY authorities, with the ICFY mission and with our Contact Group partners.
In terms of the military personnel, radical nationalist Serbs have joined -- this we know -- Bosnian and Croatian Serb forces from the beginning of this conflict, and many have continued to fight, even after the withdrawal of the regular Yugoslav army troops from Bosnia and Croatia.
There had been a report as a consequence of the two news photographers who had been held by the Serbs, suggesting that they had actually been held by Serb military personnel rather than rebel Muslim forces. We're aware of that report. Again, I don't think that it's possible for us to be able to give independent confirmation of that, but I think it's consistent with what I said before that about what we know about some of the military personnel having stayed behind.
We certainly do continue to monitor this very closely. We continue to draw any reports that we do receive to the attention of the authorities indicated. As I think you probably know, there was a second report to the Security Council that went forward this week on the closure of the border. That also references some reported violations. They also referenced their own problem with insufficient staffing.
We're going to study that report very carefully and also obviously check it against some of the reports which we have received. I understand that the Security Council is next scheduled to review the possible continuation of sanctions relief in January after the monitoring mission has been in operation for 100 days.
I can't signal at this point the position that we will take in that discussion at this time, but obviously it will be based on all of the evidence that we can pull together.
Q Christine, just to go back to the contingency planning, is it fair to say that our willingness to participate in that has patched up some of the cracks that have come out in the Alliance recently?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, I don't think I want to draw that broad a generalization on it. As I've mentioned, I think there were concerns on the part of troop contributors and particularly concerns with the deteriorating situation and uncertainty that they felt about the ability of getting their troops out if that became necessary.
I think that, at least in terms of our initial readings of this, the news, the assurances that we conveyed were certainly well and positively received by allies, and I think that that assurance does provide them an added degree of confidence, I think, about the what-if scenarios.
Q Are you concerned or worried that the U.S. announcement would build momentum toward withdrawing the peacekeeping forces?
MS. SHELLY: That is obviously also a concern that we have. We are not in any way trying to signal or suggest that we think that this is the direction that UNPROFOR should go. I think in looking at the briefings and public statements which have been made on this, which I'm not sure really have been adequately reflected in the reporting, this is again very much in the nature of contingency, and it in no way suggested, explicitly or implicitly, that we felt that UNPROFOR should depart.
As we head into the winter season when the issue of supply, obviously fuel oil and all of the other things that are necessary on the humanitarian side, it's even more pressing now in terms of the needs of the people there who are affected by this. So as we're heading into winter, the notion that UNPROFOR, which is responsible for the humanitarian assistance provision, such a withdrawal at this point in time could have rather disastrous consequences.
So we want UNPROFOR to stay. We would certainly like it to be able to effectively perform its mission and to be able to provide the stabilizing presence which we think overall it has been able to provide over the last couple of years.
Q Has there been any movement in the NATO Council about the request for new strikes against threats to air supremacy, meaning the SAM sites, the antiaircraft batteries?
MS. SHELLY: I have a little bit of information on this, but I don't have a lot. Let me just get that. On this one -- because we talked about this a little bit earlier in the week -- the NATO Council also approved the NATO military authority's recommendation that NATO operations against threats from air defenses be authorized in support of NATO missions, such as the no-fly zone enforcement and close air support; whereas before the suppression of enemy air defenses could be conducted proactively as part of an air package, like was the case in the attack on the Udbina airfield; or, obviously, reactively if NATO aircraft had been fired upon. These types of operations can be conducted independent of a package now and before aircraft are actually fired on.
But insofar as this aspect of the NATO decision gets into, as you certainly are aware, the whole issue of rules of engagement, and clearly rules of engagement are getting very directly into the operational characteristics of what NATO is doing there, and clearly no one wants that to be compromised. So this is what I can say about that decision, but I really can't go any further into it, I think, without the fear that there could be some compromise of their operational effectiveness.
Q But in general does this loosen up the authority for conducting air strikes, that there will be a looser or easier chain of command or quicker reaction to get these kinds of strikes?
MS. SHELLY: I can't respond to that in specificity. What I can tell you is I know there were discussions between NATO and UNPROFOR before this issue went to the NATO Council, and I think that the understandings about how that would be done were worked out between the two of them. But I simply don't have the details on that.
Q Could we move away from Bosnia for a moment?
MS. SHELLY: Is everybody happy to do that?
MS. SHELLY: Is that also Bosnia?
Q I have another question.
MS. SHELLY: We can move away from Bosnia and then come back to Bosnia. We don't have to totally close the floor.
Q Let me go back and revisit my previous question on Bosnia in that case.
MS. SHELLY: I'm offering to change.
Q Well, what can I do? I tell you what, I'll keep on the theme of Bosnia and hold my question on the Middle East. On the Bosnia issue, to revisit my question, the concern that I see is the contingency for rescuing units that are held hostage, so to speak, are detained -- that are currently detained or might be in the course of a withdrawal. And my question was, do you foresee or have you seen any contingency planning about United States -- like Delta Force people? Are our Airborne people going in to rescue a unit that is detained and thus drawing us into the conflict without sufficient cover? Has that been mentioned?
MS. SHELLY: That's way beyond my brief at the State Department. (Laughter) So as much as I'd love help, I think on this one I've got to know where to draw the line.
Q (Inaudible) from Bosnia.
MS. SHELLY: More Bosnia, great.
Q Can you confirm reports from the Middle East indicating that Syrian-Israeli "contacts" will be resumed in Washington sometime soon?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot on this. As I think you know, the Secretary went directly from the Middle East to Florida for the Summit of the Americas where he is with President Clinton. I also have seen that same report earlier this morning.
Anyway, I did touch base with the party to see what I could say in response to that, and what I can say is that the Secretary was encouraged by the seriousness of Syria and Israel to achieve peace. We will be following up on his trip by once again managing contacts between them in Washington in order to exchange ideas that can narrow the gaps on this track.
This, together with his trips to the region, should help pave the way to a resumption of the bilateral negotiations that will be more productive and more likely to lead to the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace.
Q Will these contacts be at the level of the Ambassadors, and will they include military experts?
MS. SHELLY: I think I'm responding in a more general way. I know that those were a couple of the points that were raised in the press item on this, but I don't have any other details at this point on exactly how that's going to be done.
Q Christine, you're saying that you will manage contacts between them? So you're saying there will be renewed contacts between them in Washington?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, as you know, we work in several different ways, several different levels on this, and one of the areas where we work is here in Washington in contacts with the parties, and there obviously is also the diplomacy conducted by the Secretary when he's out there.
So we're going to continue to do that. We'll continue to work this in the same way that we have up until the present, but as I think you also know, we do not get into the details of this in public discussion.
Q Do you have any time frame for this?
MS. SHELLY: No. I don't have any further details on this.
Q Other subjects?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q In light of the last week and a half in U.S.- Russian relations, is there any kind of review going on in the U.S. Government, the State Department, NSC, over the status of U.S.-Russian relations?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not specifically aware of any formal review. Obviously, given some of the events of the last week or so and certainly with a lot of public focus on it, I think we certainly have reflected on what all of this means for our work in our relationship with Russia and our efforts to continue to pursue issues related to the future of Europe and European security and architecture of Europe questions.
But I think, as you know, also next week there are some major sets of meetings. Vice President Gore will be leading an interagency team for the next round of the Gore- Chernomyrdin discussions. I had some details on this earlier in the week. I don't have them with me at the moment, but, if you want to get some more details on that, they're available in the Press Office.
I think that it's certainly very much our feeling that we have a lot to discuss, and any of the misunderstandings or clarifications that are now needed, as I think Secretary Kozyrev indicated, regarding the NATO Partnership for Peace cooperation agreement, we're going to work with them on that and believe that we can provide the clarifications that they're seeking on those issues.
Q Is this viewed as a serious rift or just -- I mean, how would you characterize it?
MS. SHELLY: I think we certainly would not characterize it as a serious rift. I think that we recognize that Russia wants to have their voice heard. They like to feel that they are being -- that all of their views are being taken into account as we proceed with our agenda regarding European issues.
I think that overall we share many of the same goals for Europe regarding the way ahead and some of our approaches to try to solve some of the conflicts in the region. But I think that we also have been fairly honest in knowing and saying that there are differences in approach sometimes between us. But we also believe that there's a very concerted effort on both sides to reconcile our differences and to pursue our common interests with as much unity as we can.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at 2:32 p.m.)
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