U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DECEMBER 19, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, December 19, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry NORTH KOREA Downing of US Helicopter ........................1-6 -- US Contact with North Korean Officials ......1-2,4,6 Agreed Framework ................................2-4 Status of Oil Delivery ..........................4-5 BOSNIA Former President Carter's Efforts to End Conflict ......................................6-8 RUSSIA Negotiations with Chechnya Leaders ..............8-10 -- US Concern re: Safety of Journalists .......9
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1994, l2:36 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon and welcome to the United States State Department. It's a pleasure to welcome you here today in the midst of this holiday season for our Daily Briefing.
We will now go to Mr. George Gedda of the Associated Press for our first question of the day.
Q What do you have on the downed pilot in North Korea and the efforts to release him?
MR. McCURRY: As you just heard the President of the United States say, this has been something that he has been working on all weekend as has the Secretary of State. We clearly want an early resolution of this matter and a full accounting of the incident and the return of the remains of Chief Warrant Officer Hilemon and the release of Chief Warrant Officer Hall.
This is a very high-priority matter for the United States Government, as the President has indicated, and it's something that the Secretary will continue to work on vigorously in the coming hours.
The Secretary, this morning, had a discussion by telephone with Congressman Bill Richardson who is in Pyongyang. There was not much to report from that conversation. The Congressman had not had further discussions aimed at a full accounting today. That would be today, Monday, in Pyongyang. He was hopeful that there would be renewed contact either very late in the evening in Pyongyang or sometime on Tuesday in Pyongyang. So we continue to work that avenue.
As I think some of you know, we have pursued a variety of avenues by which we might convey to the North Koreans the following message, which is that the American people are clearly very concerned about the fate of these two crewmen and, indeed, grieve over the loss of one of them; that we will be watching very carefully how North Korea handles this matter; and that the American people will, in some sense, form a judgment about North Korea, based on how North Korea responds to our repeated requests for more information and more details about the incident.
We remain hopeful that that information will be forthcoming.
We continue to urge Congressman Richardson to use his presence in Pyongyang to pursue those types of contacts.
We've also transmitted messages in a variety of other ways, via the North Korean mission to the United Nations. In particular, Ambassador Gallucci has sent a message to his counterpart -- First Vice Foreign Minister Kang -- urging the return of the remains of the one pilot and, obviously, the release of the second.
We've also informed North Korea that we regard this incident as being a regrettable one and that we cannot understand the delay that we're encountering in receiving definitive information on the incident itself.
Congressman Richardson has been in close touch by phone, as I say, with Secretary Christopher and others throughout the weekend. He's had some discussions with North Korean officials and does hope that he might be able to renew contact with the Foreign Minister tomorrow. The Congressman is delaying his departure from North Korea until he receives a more adequate accounting of the incident itself.
Q Why does it matter what the American people think about North Korea?
MR. McCURRY: Because you'll recall that in the Agreed Framework that was signed between the two countries on October 2lst, both countries expressed a desire -- based on the desire of their people -- to move towards improved relations. We think, in fact, one way in which this climate for improved relations might manifest itself is in a complete and full accounting of the whereabouts of the two pilots and the circumstances under which their helicopter was downed.
Q So this incident will have an impact on U.S.-North Korean rapprochement?
MR. McCURRY: In the Agreed Framework, as I say, there was a projected improvement of relations; and certainly a positive outcome and handling of this incident would be one way in which this movement towards improved relations could manifest itself, as I said.
Q You've indicated that you don't understand the reasons for the delay. Do you have any explanation to account for the North's behavior in this?
MR. McCURRY: We don't. In prior incidents, there's been some period before remains have been returned. You'll recall that in l977, there was an American CH-47 helicopter which strayed across the Demilitarized Zone. It was shot down. One crewman and the remains of the others were returned through Panmunjom. That return took place within a period of three days.
Certainly, just even in January, I believe, there was an incident where two North Korean soldiers drifted across the military demarcation line in a boat. This is in the waters off Korea. They were found unconscious on the southern side of the demarcation line. Immediately after that, once they were discovered, the U.N. Command informed the North Korean People's Army at Panmunjom about the condition of the soldiers. The soldiers were taken to a hospital. They were revived. As soon as they were physically able, they were returned to North Korea.
So there have been incidents in the past where these matters have been handled amicably, tragic as they are. And we certainly hope and expect that the resolution this time will follow that pattern.
Q How will this incident affect the implementation of the new Framework Agreement? There was something that was supposed to happen in the next few days or weeks.
MR. McCURRY: When the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were last at the sites, they determined that the North Korean program had, indeed, been frozen as envisioned by the Agreed Framework signed in October. All the information we have at this point indicates that the program remains frozen.
There are steps foreseen in the future as the Korean Energy Development Organization comes into being. In fact, there were good trilateral meetings with Japan and South Korea on that subject at the end of last week. We certainly desire to move forward on that program.
Ambassador Gallucci, as you know, has communicated with his counterpart. That has been the avenue by which we've held the discussions on the nuclear issue. Ambassador Gallucci has informed his counterpart of the importance of resolving the questions that we have on the circumstances of the incident involving the two pilots.
So we believe that message, probably, is rather clear to the DPRK.
Q A follow-up?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, let's do --
Q: Has there been any response to Gallucci's query, or to his sending a message to Vice Minister Kang? And has there been any other information coming from the other side?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not certain if there has been a specific response, but the Vice Foreign Minister received the message. Of course, the Foreign Ministry has been engaged in some of the dialogue that Congressman Richardson has been conducting in Pyongyang.
We certainly hope that becomes fruitful dialogue that leads to the release of the remains and the missing airman promptly.
Q Have you been talking to the Chinese on this? Have they been helping?
MR. McCURRY: We have pursued multiple contacts involving other countries that we believe might have a way that they could help us convey to North Korea the urgency of this matter.
I don't want to specify individual countries, but you can make good assumptions on the types of people we would approach.
Q I believe we have a first oil delivery coming up in early January. I think that was one of the events. Is that on track?
And then I have another follow-up on a question.
MR. McCURRY: There is an oil delivery scheduled. I'm not aware that it has been completed at this point. I don't have anything at this point on the status of the transfer of that heavy oil. It is foreseen by the Agreed Framework of October 2lst.
Q And, if I could --
Q Has it started? You sort of --
MR. McCURRY: There hasn't been any delivery.
Q But it is on track for delivery?
MR. McCURRY: There were preparations being made to effect delivery. I'm not certain if those have changed or not.
Q Is there a fellow waiting off shore, perhaps, to deliver that oil?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know the technical details. I can try to find out more about how they would affect the delivery.
Q Not technical details, but has a boat been stopped until this thing is resolved?
MR. McCURRY: I will check on that.
Q Mike, a clarification -- going back to your original statement. Has it been determined yet by our Government, or the South Koreans, if this chopper was over the DMZ? Was it in North Korean territory where it shouldn't have been?
And then I have a second question.
MR. McCURRY: The Pentagon has addressed that, Bill, in some detail. Dr. Perry has said in detail as much. We don't know for certain the circumstances under which the helicopter came down, but the Pentagon can provide you a lot more information on that. I believe they will be in the process of doing that later this afternoon.
Q What is the status of the MAC? Was there supposed to be a MAC meeting today, a Military Armistice Committee with the North Koreans, and they didn't show up. I know they dropped out of it at one point during the --
MR. McCURRY: I think there's been some contact between the U.N. side of the Military Assistance Commission at Panmunjom and the Korean People's Army. That contact hasn't been productive in attempting to resolve this incident, but the commentary coming from Korea indicates that both sides acknowledge that that matter was being handled at a higher level.
Q Mike, if it were determined that our chopper was in North Korean territory where it should not have been, would we then make a diplomatic apology to the North Koreans?
MR. McCURRY: No. It would not change our view as expressed by the President over the weekend, that the downing of the aircraft was completely was unnecessary.
Q Have people from this building gone to the U.N. to talk to the North Korean up there? Or do you know if the U.N. office has been - -
MR. McCURRY: There had been some reports that there had been meetings in New York. That's not true as far as I'm aware of. There have been some exchange of faxes and a lot of telephone calls, but I don't believe there has been any face-to-face meeting.
Q You referred to the downing of the aircraft as being completely unnecessary. As of last I knew, the United States had never said how the plane came down, whether it was downed. Was it, in fact, downed?
MR. McCURRY: It was downed. We don't know for certain how it was downed -- whether it may be a forced landing, whether it was shot down, what the circumstances were. That's among the things that we're trying to clarify in our contacts that we're making with the North Koreans.
Q You're not implying, Mike, that there was a use of force to bring it down?
MR. McCURRY: We don't know the answer to that.
Q New subject?
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q In your view, is Mr. Carter making any progress in Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: He continues to meet. We know of his itinerary. We haven't had a full or complete readout of his meetings held today. We do have some pretty good reports on the meetings he was able to hold yesterday with President Izetbegovic and others. We hope to learn more about his contacts with the Bosnian Serb leadership perhaps even later this afternoon.
Q How would you rate it so far -- the trip?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have any judgment different from the one that he's rendered himself. The former President has been circumspect about talking about the results of his trip. Until he does, I think we're not in a position to pass any judgment on it. We continue to believe if there's anything he can do to help alleviate the suffering, to help achieve some type of cease-fire between the parties and a cessation of hostilities and help move them towards implementation of the Contact Group proposal, that would certainly be a welcome step. But we don't have any information to indicate that those things have been achieved yet.
Q How do you all think of the statement that the Serbs have been misunderstood and aggrieved?
MR. McCURRY: Our view of the situation on the ground in Bosnia and how it developed and who is responsible has been covered so often here in this very room that our views on that are pretty well known.
Q Ostensibly, there was a degree of coordination between the two sides.
MR. McCURRY: Between which two sides?
Q Between Mr. Carter and the Administration.
MR. McCURRY: He's there as a private citizen. He doesn't clear his statements with us in advance.
Q It sounds like what he was saying about Cedras being an honorable man, and all that sort of line of bull.
MR. McCURRY: I didn't hear him talking about General Cedras in Bosnia today.
Q You say you did get a readout on his meeting yesterday. Are you in contact with him during this trip?
MR. McCURRY: We had contact with him yesterday. We helped facilitate, as we said we would, some of his logistics and arrangements. He did not have State Department personnel with him when he went to Pale today.
We do have Ambassador Charles Thomas, who is our representative to the Contact Group, available in Sarajevo so that we can get a quick account of anything that does develop.
Q Why did the State Department officer choose not to go on the leg to Pale?
MR. McCURRY: President Carter will address himself to that. But I believe he preferred to make the trip with his own representative, an employee of the Carter Center who is a former Ambassador. That's who he took as part of his delegation.
Q It was his decision?
MR. McCURRY: That's correct.
Q Most recently, Turkey has armed the occupied territory of Cyprus by 58 American-made tanks against the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. McCURRY: I will take the question, and we'll develop something to give to you on that. We didn't have exactly that question last week. We will look into that and provide you with something.
Q Do you have anything on the talks between Israel and Syria here in Washington?
MR. McCURRY: No. We manage contacts between the parties.
Q A question on foreign aid to the connection with the activities of the World Bank. This past year, the number --
MR. McCURRY: Pass it on as a taken question. We'll see. I'm not familiar with that. What else?
Q There were some reports in the Israeli media today about whatever it is you're managing is happening again between Israel and Syria. Has that started back up now?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not going to get into the contacts. When we described it for you earlier, we said that, as befitting our role as a co-sponsor of the process and by agreement of the parties themselves, we would manage contacts between the parties. If they choose to talk about that, they may. But we're not going to detail and elaborate on any contacts that we're managing.
Q Any comment on Chechnya?
MR. McCURRY: I've only got mostly just kind of an update on the situation. I think everyone is aware that fighting continues in and around Grozny. It is relatively intense now east and northwest of the city. We've seen the same reports you have about Russian planes bombing power lines and bridges.
There was a joint meeting of the Russian Security Council today that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin chaired. We don't have results of that meeting at this point. We're trying to find out more about that through Embassy Moscow.
I think you're aware that President Yeltsin offered to send two top officials yesterday to the Russian city of Mozdok to negotiate with Chechen representatives, including Chechen President Dudayev. But that offer was refused by President Dudayev. He wants to meet either with President Yeltsin or with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
We continue to hope that that parties will address their differences in negotiations that can help avoid further bloodshed and resolve the matter peacefully.
Q A refugee convoy allegedly was attacked by Russian soldiers. Do you have a comment?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have that. I can check into that report for tomorrow. One thing I will say we are concerned about, there have been reports that journalists who are there covering the conflict have encountered difficulties. We have raised with the Russian Government concerns about the safety of those who are just performing their duties and responsibilities.
We do, as you know, from our consular information sheet, have some advice to Americans about whether or not to travel in Chechnya and in the vicinity of Chechnya because of the conflict there. But on the other hand, we remain concerned about any reports that journalists, providing the service that they do provide to the world, would be encountering difficulties. We've inquired about that -- some of the reports we've heard -- through our Embassy in Moscow.
Q What kind of difficulties -- Russian?
MR. McCURRY: We've had some news organizations indicated that they may have encountered some difficulties covering the story. I think some of those, you've probably seen reports on already.
Q To follow, Mike, does the United States Government -- has our government expressed a recommendation or concern to the Russian leadership about this move to take Grozny? To go into the city and possibly to capture Grozny?
MR. McCURRY: We have continued to urge them to try to settle these matters peacefully and to try to avoid bloodshed, while recognizing that this is a matter that is an internal matter for Russia.
What is available to the Chechens is a democratic process by which they could address their grievances to their government. We would hope that they would do so, using the democratic processes that are available.
We would hope that both sides would work to alleviate any further conflict and any further bloodshed.
Q With regard to resolution, does this government have a role at present or anticipate a role?
MR. McCURRY: We don't have an anticipated role. We are not a party to the conflict. Again, it is a matter that the Russian Government must address, as it is an internal matter.
Q Has there been any communication from the United States to the Chechnya representatives -- perhaps via the Conference on European - -
MR. McCURRY: None that I'm aware of. The only subject -- properly, there has been some conversation as it was reported to you by the Vice President's delegation, when Vice President Gore held discussions with President Yeltsin.
Q Do you have anything on the seizure of uranium in Prague?
MR. McCURRY: No. I saw the report on that just prior to the briefing. We're checking into that. We'll try to deal with that tomorrow.
(Press briefing concluded at 12:54 p.m.)
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