U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DECEMBER 21, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, December 21, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry STATEMENTS Secretary Lauds Stewardship of Former Secretary Dean Rusk .....................................1 Pan Am 103 Bombing Anniversary ..................1-2 NORTH KOREA Downing of US Helicopter ........................2-8 -- Repatriation of Remains of CWO Hilemon ......2-4 -- Status of CWO Hall ..........................2-4 -- US Contact with North Korean Officials ......2-3 Agreed Framework ................................6-8 CHINA Status of Membership in WTO .....................8 BOSNIA Former President Carter's Efforts to End Conflict ......................................8-14 -- Agreement/Report to Secretary ...............9-11 Contact Group Peace Plan ........................10-13 Humanitarian Aid/Convoys/Flights ................11 Status of UN Peacekeepers .......................14-5 WORLD BANK Competitive Bidding Procedures ..................15-16 RUSSIA Fighting in Chechnya ............................6-17
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 1994, 12:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: I've got two statements I want to start with. The first is one that I will not read at length but I will note it. It's a statement by Secretary Christopher in memory of Dean Rusk, noting that with great sorrow the passing of his distinguished predecessor; noting his service for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The Secretary notes that Dean Rusk brought integrity, dignity, and a keen sense of history to the Department of State and to the nation. Above all else, he brought strength and steadfastness to his stewardship of American diplomacy at a time of extraordinary challenge for the United States. In a life nearly spanning the century, he served our country with remarkable dedication and distinction.
There is a longer statement that's available. It will be available after the briefing in the Press Office.
I also have a statement because today is the Sixth Anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The United States Government, once again, extends its heartfelt condolences to all the victims of that terrible tragedy. Let me also reassure you that this Administration is fully committed to securing full justice for the victims of that bombing.
We will not be satisfied with half measures. We reject Libyan offers to negotiate the extent of its compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
What is required is very clear: Libya must turn over the suspects for trial in either Scotland or the United States, end its sponsorship and involvement in terrorism and compensate the victims. It must also satisfy the demands of the French related to the bombing in 1989 of UTA Flight 772.
There is a full-page advertisement from Libya today in the Washington Post. It repeats its old offer to hold the trial of the suspects in the international court of justice. It is a diversionary effort to renegotiate the terms laid down by the United Nations Security Council.
The United States, the United Kingdom, France, others, have repeatedly rejected this proposal. We will persevere in our commitments to full compliance and justice and to keep maximum pressure on Libya. We owe the victims of the bombing of 103 and their families no less.
Q Do you have anything to say beyond what the White House said this morning about the North Korean offer to return the remains of one but not to return immediately the survivor?
MR. McCURRY: If I'm mistaken, Dee Dee has covered most of that, so you're aware of the arrangements that have been made for the repatriation of Chief Warrant Officer Hilemon's remains through Panmunjom. We welcome this humanitarian move. We urge the DPRK to fulfill its promise for the release as quickly as possible.
We will also, obviously, continue to press for the release of Chief Warrant Officer Hall. We will see how further discussions -- further meetings -- occur with Congressman Richardson now leaving North Korea through Panmunjom. The channel that will be available is through the Military Armistice Commission at the DMZ. We hope there will be additional exchanges of information through that channel that will prove useful.
Q Is there any thought to having the Congressman stay longer to facilitate your negotiations?
MR. McCURRY: No. He agreed that -- by leaving, he is accompanying the remains home. We continue to hope that the dialogue that we've had so far with North Korea and the direction that it is going would offer the immediate release of Chief Warrant Officer Hall.
Q Are you going to send somebody else over there?
MR. McCURRY: There had been some exchanges, I believe, at the level of Major General, which is a higher level than is customary at the Military Armistice Commission. This is the (inaudible) and a Major General representing the U.N. High Command. We believe that those exchanges of information and dialogue have been useful so far in providing some channel for discussion of how Chief Warrant Officer Hall might be repatriated.
Q (Inaudible) rank in the Korean People's Army?
MR. McCURRY: I believe so. I'm not entirely certain of the rank of his counterpart.
Q What assurances have you gotten that Hall is going to be released? What sort of hints or indications on timing?
MR. McCURRY: There's very little I want to indicate about the exchanges we've had on that while a missing U.S. airman is apparently in North Korea. But our contacts so far have proven useful. Certainly, we're encouraged that the remains of Chief Warrant Officer Hilemon are about to be returned accompanied by Congressman Richardson.
Q Are there indications that Hall is going to be released --
MR. McCURRY: As I say, we've had useful discussions with the DPRK. We will continue to press them to release Chief Warrant Officer Hall as quickly as possible. I don't want to characterize it beyond that at this point.
Q When you get there (inaudible) are useful?
MR. McCURRY: They've been useful. I said I don't want to characterize it beyond that and speculate on what they will lead to.
Q Mike, can you offer any explanation that you can share with us as to why they're releasing the remains and still holding the helicopter pilot?
MR. McCURRY: The North Korean Government apparently are telling us they continue to investigate the incident. They say they cannot return Chief Warrant Officer Hall pending the completion of the Korean People's Army investigation into the incident.
As I said earlier, we continue, in response, to urge them to repatriate Chief Warrant Officer Hall as quickly as possible.
Q Are these North Korean diplomats passing that message to you from the Korean People's Army? Or are these Korean officers telling you that?
MR. McCURRY: This is a combination of information coming from both the exchanges that have occurred in Panmunjom and the exchanges that Congressman Richardson has had largely with the Foreign Ministry representatives, including Foreign Minister Kim Young Nam.
Q Mike, is a completion by the North Koreans of this investigation regarding Bobby Hall, is that something that is understandable and acceptable by our government insofar as their procedure and the time required to do it?
MR. McCURRY: In urging the immediate release of Chief Warrant Officer Hall, we would certainly, by doing so, we would expect that North Korea, which possesses the information about the incident, would have had enough information to complete its investigation. Indeed, as the Secretary told you last night, we've been very candid about our own understanding of what has happened and that, we believe, should assist them in their investigation of the incident.
Q Have the North Koreans called for anymore information?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I am aware of.
Q Do we still want the helicopter back, too, or what's left of it?
MR. McCURRY: I think our most urgent request at the moment, obviously, is for the release of Chief Warrant Officer Hall.
Q What do you know at this point about Hall's condition?
MR. McCURRY: We know only what has been presented to us by representatives of the DPRK -- that he is uninjured.
Q We do not have consular contact of any kind with him?
MR. McCURRY: Having no consular officer present, it would be impossible.
Q (Inaudible) contact with him of any kind?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I am aware of, no.
Q Do we know where he is?
MR. McCURRY: I don't believe we know for certain where he is.
Q Who maintains U.S. good offices there in North Korea?
MR. McCURRY: We do not have any diplomatic office there. Indeed, that's one of the aspects, as you recall, from the Agreed Framework that is under discussion about whether or not there could be some form of Liaison Office established in North Korea.
Q Does some other country represent --
MR. McCURRY: There are third countries, and we have been in contact with other countries that we hope would both assist us if they have any information; and, secondly -- and more importantly -- helping us convey a very strong message that we would like to see the completion of the arrangements made for the return of the remains accomplished as quickly as possible and also the release of Chief Warrant Officer Hall as well.
Q Do we know at this time how the chopper went down and how Chief Warrant Officer Hilemon died?
MR. McCURRY: No, we do not know for certain. Our understanding of the incident itself was covered in the best detail we had at a Background Briefing that some of you may have attended at the Pentagon either yesterday or the day before.
By the way, the Secretary's contact on this, he started working with Congressman Richardson at about 4:00 this morning when Congressman Richardson called from Pyongyang to report on the arrangements that have been conveyed to us by the DPRK. He, I believe, talked to him several times from then on through the balance of the early morning.
Under Secretary Tarnoff, Deputy National Security Advisor Berger were also involved in some of those phone calls. Obviously, most of the apparatus of the United States Government, including the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House have been working urgently to follow up on anything that we've been hearing from Congressman Richardson.
I believe Dee Dee earlier today expressed our admiration for the very tireless and skillful work that Congressman Richardson has done in this situation. Obviously, he deserves the gratitude of the United States for the work he's done while he's been in North Korea.
Q Mike, will the first shipment of heavy oil go to North Korea as long as they hold that one pilot?
MR. McCURRY: There's no shipment underway at this point, and whatever impact this might have on the agreed framework, I believe, was covered in some length by the Secretary last night.
Q So that his threats, for lack of a better word, from last night still stand?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't describe what he said last night as a threat. I think he just gave you a practical reality and I'm not aware of any change in that, but certainly the developments today are encouraging and don't suggest that there would be any disruption in the types of relations and arrangements that we foresee under the agreed framework of October 21.
Q With whom will those relations be, Mike? I mean, who are you asking the American people to accept this rapprochement with?
MR. McCURRY: The agreed framework is signed between the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Government of the United States of America.
Q And who's the leader of that government?
MR. McCURRY: We have no reason to believe that it is other than Kim Jong-Il.
Q Is there any explanation for the fact that one pilot was killed outright and the other was totally uninjured?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have an explanation for that, and that question was asked, I believe, repeatedly when people who are much more expert than I were asked that, and I don't know that they had certain answers to that question either.
Q In view of Mr. Richardson's role so far, why not have him stay for the release of the other Warrant Officer?
MR. McCURRY: For the reason of first and most importantly that North Korea has indicated a willingness to release the body, and we do believe it's appropriate for Congressman Richardson to accompany the body from North Korea back to the United States. We think that's certainly fitting.
And, secondly, the channel that exists in Panmunjom to exchange information is one that we believe North Korea intends to use to continue our urgent discussions on the condition of Chief Warrant Officer Hall.
Q In this situation, do you believe it's possible for you to have consultation with North Korea about the opening of bilateral liaison office?
MR. McCURRY: The Secretary, I think, covered that at length last night.
Q Senator Murkowski did this morning say that he would be supportive of the nuclear framework (inaudible) once the pilots were returned. He says that also he proposed the U.S. (inaudible) suspension of the nuclear reactor talks. Is it conceivable with the return of the pilots before Christmas the (inaudible) for DPRK?
MR. McCURRY: The thrust of your question relates to the relationship between the agreed framework of October 21 and this very tragic incident which we're dealing with separately. I'm not aware that there is any linkage beyond the practical discussion that the Secretary had last night. So I'm not certain what Senator Murkowski was driving at. We continue under the agreed framework to believe that is a procedure by which we would get the opportunity in the future to determine more about the history of the North Korean nuclear program.
That is, of course, the inspection of the two special waste sites is integral to that understanding, but that is all a process that is outlined and developed under the agreed framework. We're talking here about the release of two -- one dead, one missing American serviceman -- and that is the urgent matter that we're addressing at the moment.
Q Do you have any information that would lead the government to believe that the living pilot is being questioned by the North Koreans?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of any information that would suggest that.
Q To follow Danny's question, Senator Murkowski did have a press conference this morning, and he did say that he challenged the North Koreans to allow access to the waste dumps, so that this information could be evaluated and determined about how much plutonium they might have. He I don't think got a full answer.
But what I think was being asked was is this consistent with the framework of the agreement that there might be some further negotiation, private or otherwise, to have them open up a little more in advance of this (inaudible).
MR. McCURRY: If you'll recall back to when we briefed at some length on the agreed framework, the basis by which we would learn more about the past activity of the North Korean nuclear program is foreseen in the sequence of steps that occur under the agreed framework. It is related to the process by which they discontinue their graphite- moderated reactor technology, acquire new light-water reactor technology, and the sequencing of all of that then relates to steps that the DPRK has indicated a willingness to undertake as we learn more about past activity.
Again, I would stress, as I have in the past couple of days, that based on International Atomic Energy Agency observations, everything that we've understood about the status of the current program remains the same. The current program is frozen. They are not refueling their five- megawatt reactor. There's no indication that they've changed their posture on that.
But again, these issues related to North Korea's nuclear program we feel are separate from the urgent issue at the moment about the fate of the two American crewmen.
Q Have the Chinese been helpful since you asked them a day or so ago?
MR. McCURRY: I said several times repeatedly here that we've had conversations with other governments as we've sought every diplomatic avenue to try to bring this incident to a successful conclusion. I don't want to detail the nature of those contacts.
Q Do you have anything on China's failure to gain its GATT membership by the end of the year?
MR. McCURRY: The negotiations, we believe, should continue to accomplish an objective that we have, which is to see them enter as a founding member of the WTO, but that has to occur according to negotiated protocols that are proper and consistent with the international trading order. That hasn't changed at all.
Q The Chinese Trade Minister Wu Yi yesterday accused the U.S. of intransigence in blocking China's membership. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. McCURRY: If I'm not mistaken, I believe Ambassador Kantor has responded to that, has he not? I believe he has. And I would certainly concur with Ambassador Kantor's assessment.
Q Do you have anything on the agreement Jimmy Carter announced last night?
MR. McCURRY: No, I don't. There's a little more information on it. The former President has sent Secretary Christopher a written report on his trip which details some of his exchanges and his understanding of the documents that have been agreed to. The Secretary plans to speak with the former President when the former President lands in Atlanta later this afternoon. I believe the former President then plans to go to Plains for the holidays, but the Secretary does hope to have a conversation by phone with him later this afternoon.
Again, as we said, if the agreement that has been secured by the former President leads to an immediate cease- fire on December 23 and the initiation of negotiations for a cessation of hostilities agreement country-wide in Bosnia, that would indeed be welcome.
We just at this point have to see how the parties respond, and I believe, as you know, the U.N. Special Envoy Akashi will now go to work to secure some of the details of how the agreement secured by former President Carter can in fact be implemented on the ground by the parties.
All of you are familiar with the history of cease-fires in Bosnia, and you know that that is something that we will need to monitor and watch very carefully to see if in fact the cease-fire goes into effect.
Q Mike, what status do these agreements that were signed have as viewed by the Administration?
MR. McCURRY: They are agreements between parties in conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, witnessed by a private citizen traveling as a representative of the Carter Center, obviously a well known conflict resolution institution, and witnessed by former President of the United States Jimmy Carter.
Q The United States had no hand in drafting these?
MR. McCURRY: None that I'm aware of. We took great care in cooperating with former President Carter to ensure that he understood the United States Government's views on matters central to the current conflict, and I think we have rehearsed all that very carefully for you all in the last several days, including the Secretary's observation last night that we proceed from the premise that the Contact Group proposal developed by the five-nation Contact Group and reaffirmed as recently as December 2 by the Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group remains the basis for a settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and should be the basis by which the parties attempt to bring the conflict to an end.
Q Could you (inaudible) the cease-fire. Are there some conditions attached by the Bosnian Serb side to your understanding?
MR. McCURRY: I should leave it to the parties who may have attached those conditions to address that, but we are aware of the full scope of the agreements that former President Carter negotiated, and there may in fact be additional conditions in there. I think you're beginning to see the Bosnian Government address itself to that question.
Certainly, the Bosnian Serbs might address themselves to that question, and that's one reason among many why we are suggesting it would be wise to see whether or not the cease- fire is implemented as agreed day after tomorrow.
Q But that's the point. Will the Bosnian Serbs carry out the cease-fire on their own side short of the Bosnian Muslim's pulling out of Igman, the Croats pulling out of Kupres?
MR. McCURRY: That is far from clear at this point.
Q (Inaudible) the Karadzic proposal on Sarajevo?
MR. McCURRY: Which proposal? The withdrawal from the demilitarized zone around Mount Igman?
MR. McCURRY: It is a U.N. demilitarized zone which is covered by the relevant aspects of that. It's also covered by the exclusion zone directives of the North Atlantic Council. So anything that seeks to lessen hostilities and tension around Sarajevo is welcome. On the other hand, those of you who are expert on Bosnia will suggest that another principal concern is the free movement of humanitarian convoys in that area, and the Bosnian Government, I would imagine -- I can't speak for them, but I would imagine they would suggest that their presence has helped secure those humanitarian convoy routes.
We certainly hope that the parties -- and indeed Karadzic, as you know, has stated that he acknowledges the importance of the free movement of humanitarian convoys in and around Bosnia. I believe, by the way, on that point there have been some that have arrived.
Two things: There have been some convoys that have been moving in Bosnia. Also the humanitarian airlift to Sarajevo has been successfully resumed. Fourteen U.N. military and relief flights have landed now without incident, and those are the first flights since the end of November.
Q What's the period, Mike?
MR. McCURRY: Since November 21. Or when did they land?
MR. McCURRY: Jack, I think it's the last 24 hours. It may be 48, but we can check on that.
Q First of all, do you have the papers, the actual documents, that Carter got from the different parties?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, we do.
Q Can you make them available, because we don't have them.
MR. McCURRY: As a courtesy, they've been made available to us, but the documents are in fact the custody of the parties who sign them. So I'm afraid I'm not in a position to do that.
Q So there's no way of judging whether they're being fulfilled, because you don't know what's in them.
MR. McCURRY: They are not the custody of the United States Government. We did not play a role in negotiating them. We have them as a courtesy from former President Carter, and I can only direct you to the Carter Center or to the parties themselves who have participated in these discussions. But they are not ours to release.
Q Did he ask you not to release them?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Since being brought up to date by President Carter in writing and since receiving those documents, has Secretary Christopher talked to the British and the French, and, if so, what sort of a response have they given?
MR. McCURRY: Steve, he, himself, has not had direct contact with them, because the Contact Group experts have had very good exchanges among themselves in getting further information on some of the meetings that have just been occurring. So we've had a channel and have good discussions with that.
Q One question emerging out of his trip is, what is the Contact Group plan? What is its status now? There seem to be two very differing interpretations, the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Government, and I wonder if you could clarify which of them is the operative interpretation.
MR. McCURRY: The view of the Contact Group Ministers has not changed since its most recent meeting at the Foreign Minister level December 2 in which the Contact Group Ministers indicated very clearly that the Contact Group proposal of July 1994 remains the basis for a settlement of the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Therefore, its acceptance is important, because its acceptance becomes the basis for a settlement.
But at the same time, as we have said since July of this year, we have acknowledged that the parties themselves by their mutual agreement might wish to make adjustments in the territorial configurations in that proposal; and, in any event, that the parties themselves must agree to whatever constitutional arrangements arise as a peace settlement is implemented. That has not changed since July.
It has been U.S. policy and, as far as I know, as reconfirmed by the Contact Group December 2, the position of the five members of the Contact Group.
Q How does it apply in this case? Do you require the Bosnian Serbs to accept the Map in order to go back to the table, or can they go back to the table and the Map is just one of those elements on it?
MR. McCURRY: I am not going to vary from the following formulation. They can go back to the table if they wish to make adjustments, but the Contact Group proposal is the basis for a settlement.
Q Why then is there this dispute between the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Serbs if everything is as clear as you're suggesting?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not suggesting that that's clear. I'm just saying it is the basis for a settlement; it is the basis for a settlement; and, as the parties walk around the issue of adjustments in the proposal, they obviously are taking different positions about how that document becomes the basis for a settlement. But our strongest desire is to see them in direct negotiation that can lead to a settlement that will end the conflict once and for all and stop the killing there.
Q On that point, in the Times this morning there was an interview with Karadzic in which he laid out what he would like to have as his Map, and it's quite a very different map from the Contact Group Map.
MR. McCURRY: He has said as much publicly, not only in The New York Times but on CNN and presumably other places as well. Mr. Hurst is now marking the tape to note the point.
Q Do you consider the kind of adjustments he's suggesting as within the ball park of what would be acceptable to the United States at the table -- to the Contact Group?
MR. McCURRY: The Contact Group proposal is very clear. The territorial configurations in that proposal are well known to you. Large-scale departures from that proposal being most likely unacceptable to the Bosnian Government therefore negates the possibility of mutually agreed adjustments. So I think it's pretty clear what the reaction would be to that. In terms of how the parties would view such a proposal is most likely a non-starter.
Lambros, before we go to your taken question, let's see if there are any other things today we want to get into.
Q The remake of the Map is a non-starter?
MR. McCURRY: I didn't declare it that because I can't declare it that. It's up to the parties who have to, by their own negotiations, make adjustments in the Map to make those determinations.
You will very quickly, no doubt, see what the Bosnian Government thinks of whatever territorial configuration has been proposed by the Bosnian Serb leader. Since our view is that the adjustments have to be made by mutual agreement, I think the answer is self-evident as to what the likelihood of that being an avenue for recourse would be.
Q (inaudible) thinking that the Carter mission may not accomplish that much, regrettably. If that's the case, where do things go from here? How do you get the talks going or the cease-fire going, or whatever?
MR. McCURRY: As we said earlier, we believed prior to former President Carter's trip and believe now that if the result of his trip can be movement towards a cease-fire that is, in fact, implemented, a cessation of hostilities agreement that then lasts for a period of four months in which the parties can achieve a peace settlement based on their negotiations, on the basis of the Contact Group proposal, that certainly would be encouraging. It would be the most encouraging thing that's happened in Bosnia for quite some time.
But at the same time, we are realistic enough to know that it is very wise for us to wait and see what happens as the parties address the question of a cease-fire on the day that it is scheduled to begin, which is the day after tomorrow.
Q Mike, do we still think, as Secretary Holbrooke said the other day, that the U.N. peacekeepers there should be heavied-up, beefed up, added to? Have you assessed what that aspect of U.S. policy is?
MR. McCURRY: That was a question that, as Secretary Holbrooke suggested, was addressed by the Chiefs of Defense at The Hague. The Chiefs of Defense have now met and issued a communique. They stress the importance of UNPROFOR's role in former Yugoslavia, the desirability of maintaining an UNPROFOR presence in Yugoslavia, which is a significant statement, as you know, given the speculation about UNPROFOR status within Bosnia-Herzegovina.
They didn't take any final decisions at the Chiefs of Defense level, since they need to refer it back for the recommendations of participating states. But they did indicate publicly that they would consider a variety of measures, including provision of additional equipment to enhance UNPROFOR's capabilities, provision of additional personnel, and different types of personnel and other steps that they would take to improve both the ability of UNPROFOR to resupply within its deployments and also to improve its effectiveness related to some of the work that UNPROFOR is doing on the ground.
So the Chiefs of Defense have addressed the question that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke was raising.
Q Obviously, the U.S. isn't willing to put in ground troops. Are they willing to supply some of the equipment to the U.N. troops?
MR. McCURRY: They've now outlined steps that they believe would be warranted and recommendations to capitals and whether or not nations accept them will depend on how individual nations judge the recommendations that have been developed at The Hague.
MR. McCURRY: General Shalikashvili participated in those sessions and will be returning here to review that, I assume with others within the U.S. Government.
Bill and then Lambros.
Q A question on foreign aid in connection with the activities of the World Bank. This past year, the number of complaints on the awards of the World Bank contracts has increased dramatically. They all involve Eastern Europe, and the charge is political interference by some European countries in the selection process. Is the State Department aware of this problem?
And, more specifically, what are you doing to secure the integrity of international competitive bidding financed by the World Bank which gets a lot of contributions by the U.S. Government?
MR. McCURRY: The U.S. Government has worked closely with the World Bank to establish its bidding procedures, which are open and transparent. Moreover, the Bank has specific procedures for resolving any complaints about contracting procedures and awards. We support and monitor competitive bidding for World Bank assistance projects in all regions, including those in Europe.
Q Thank you, Mike. Senator Murkowski was with Senator Simon in Beijing. He just returned and reported what he asked the Chinese regarding the naval incident back on October 27-29 -- an issue I've raised several times. The reply that he received from them was somewhat terse. They said basically, the United States navy had violated their territorial waters and their air space.
Has there been -- Question One -- any complaints to the State Department from the Chinese Government on this incident, or any kind of response to these articles and allegations?
MR. McCURRY: Bill, our guidance for several days has not changed. There has been no diplomatic contact from the People's Republic on that question. I did not, frankly, check today. Why don't we proceed on the basis that if there has been any diplomatic exchange with the PRC related to that subject, we will report it in the form of a taken question. I'm not aware of any. I haven't seen any reported. I just didn't check on that today.
Q It appears that there is a problem with their perception of that naval exercise. That's Murkowski's --
MR. McCURRY: I'll have to see if Senator Murkowski conveys that information directly to the State Department. I'm not aware that he has done so.
Q (Inaudible) bombing right now is that Chechnya -- Grozny indiscriminately. Are you seeing to this subject as a Russian internal affairs?
MR. McCURRY: We do. We see it a Russian internal matter, as we've said often here. We have also consistently expressed the hope that difficulties in Chechnya will be resolved with a minimum of violence and bloodshed. We continue to urge all sides to seek a peaceful solution to the problem.
I would suggest that the trend towards more violence in Chechnya does cause us concern.
Q They are bombing civilian targets also?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have an assessment of activity on the ground. I've got some information on fighting, but I don't have any reliable figures on Chechen losses or whether or not they include innocent non- combatants.
Q Do you mean the trend toward violence on both sides, or on the Russian side or on the Chechen side? Which do you mean -- the trend toward more violence by which side?
MR. McCURRY: There's escalating fighting there. Some of it has involved bombing, as the previous question indicated. Given our own previously expressed hope that the conflict be resolved without further violence and bloodshed, that is what thus triggers our concern.
Part of the problem here is that there have not been negotiations underway since the Chechen delegation walked out on December 14. We're not aware of any venue at this point in which the Russians and the Chechens are trying to work these problems out. This is a democracy in which the people of the Chechen autonomous republic have the right to raise their concerns within the Federation to the Central Government. That is a proper process in a democracy. Fighting and bloodshed, in our view, is not the right way to resolve that type of conflict.
Q Is it your opinion that President Yeltsin's actions, including the bombing today, are justified?
MR. McCURRY: I don't believe we've ever said "justified." We've said that he had to make a judgment based on his own understanding of the situation there and his own responsibilities to keep civil order. I don't ever think we've characterized it as "justified or unjustified," seeing it as an internal matter that must be addressed by the Russian Government.
Q There's an agreement -- the Conventional Forces Agreement which covers the movement of troops.
MR. McCURRY: Flank limits; yes.
Q I was just wondering, has there been any protest to the Russians that they have violated the agreement by not notifying the use of forces in this case?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of any protest centered on that question. You probably know that the subject of flank limits, generally, has been under very active discussion through the three-way commission that has been reviewing CFE flank limits. It will most likely continue to be under discussion, given the views of the Russian Government and given the views of the United States and others.
MR. McCURRY: I'm not declaring it, so I'm not familiar enough to know. But I imagine that's something that will be --
Q The question of whether there's a violation; and what, if anything, we're doing about it?
MR. McCURRY: I'll reluctantly take it because I'm not sure that we are the ones that can make that declaration. I'll take it as a question and see if the United States has any assessment of how the conflict in Chechnya relates to CFE flank limits.
Q You'll take the question in the Christmas spirit.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:24 p.m.)
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