U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/03/20 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, March 20, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly NORTH KOREA Selection of Officers by Executive Board of KEDO ....1-2 TURKEY Report of Turkish Incursion in Iraq ..................2-7 --Secretary Christopher Contact with Turkish FM ......2,4 --Potential Impact on Operation Provide Comfort ......4 --Possibility of Violation of International Law/ U.S./State Department Position ...................3,4- 5,11 --Possibility of Use of U.S. Arms ....................6,11 --Definition of Protected Zone .......................3 IRAQ Detention of Two Americans in Baghdad ................6-10 --Lack of Access by ICRC/Polish Authorities ..........6 --Possibility of Link to Sanctions Relief ...........7 --UNIKOM Investigation of Incident ...................9 Report of Iraqi Build-Up of Military Capabilities ....7-8 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Syrian/Israeli Talks .................................11,17,18 PLO Tunisia Meeting--Communique re: U.S. Involvement .17-18 RUSSIA Possibility of President Clinton Travelling to Moscow ...........................................12 Secretary Christopher/FM Kozyrev Mtgs. in Geneva .....13-14 --Issues to be Discussed .............................13 --U.S. Support for OSCE Mission/Role in Chechnya ...14 Chechnya --Situation Update ...................................13 --Russian Observance of OSCE Rules ...................13-14 Possibility of Sale of Russian Reactor to Iran .......14-15 NATO/EU/Russian Relationship .........................13 FRANCE Secretary Christopher/FM Juppe Mtg. in Paris .........15 --Possible Discussion of Russia's Relationship w/ NATO .............................................15-16 MIDDLE EAST Attack on Bus in Hebron ..............................14-16 JAPAN Tokyo Subway Attack ..................................16-17 --Possibility of American Casualties .................16 --U.S. Embassy Assistance ............................17 Allegation of Biological Warfare Experiments .........18,19 --Possibility of Gov't. Possession of CW Agents ......20 GREAT BRITAIN Reaction to Visit of Gerry Adams to U.S. .............19,20 Commemoration of End of World War II .................20 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Situation/Fighting Update ............................21
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, MARCH 20, 1995, 1:12 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Several times you have expressed curiosity about whether or not the KEDO had moved forward to designate senior executive officials. I'm very pleased to note that right after the briefing we are going to be posting a statement which indicates that on March 20, the Executive Board of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization -- also known as KEDO - - has selected for consideration the following individuals to be principal officers for the organization:
The Executive Director would be Stephen W. Bosworth.
The Deputy Executive Director from the Republic of Korea would be Young Jin Choi.
And a second Deputy Executive Director would be Itaru Umezu, as I mentioned, from Japan.
The Executive Board Chair has been asked to negotiate terms and conditions of employment with these individuals and to report the results of those negotiations to the Executive Board.
Ambassador Bosworth, I would note, is a former career Foreign Service Officer who, among other assignments, served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia and the Philippines and as Chairman of the Policy Planning Council. Most recently, he has been President of the United States-Japan Foundation -- this is since 1988.
Mr. Choi is a career diplomat of the Republic of Korea and is presently Director General for International Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Umezu is a career diplomat of Japan and is presently Deputy Director General of the Multilateral Cooperation Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There are additional biographic details that we have that will be in the statement, which we will post immediately following the briefing. I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q Christine, what has the State Department been telling the Government of Turkey about the Kurdish situation?
MS. SHELLY: We have reports that the Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq over the weekend in an operation directed at the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, at the camps along the Iraqi-Turkish border. The operation is reportedly supported by artillery, armor, planes and helicopters.
The Secretary was called this morning by his counterpart in Turkey. He was informed of the operation. In response to receiving this information, the Secretary expressed his very strong hope that the Turkish operation would be of limited duration and limited in scope, and that everything possible could be done to protect innocent lives.
Q Is it a reasonable expectation that that type of offensive would not bring large civilian losses; that even if you're sympathetic to the operation, that there would be a lot of people hurt who shouldn't be hurt?
MS. SHELLY: As is very often the case in that type of operation, it's very difficult at times to avoid civilian collateral damage. Certainly, we are very mindful of the fact that the PKK is a vicious terrorist organization which itself is very guilty of human rights violations.
Nonetheless, we hope and expect that recognized standards of human rights will be observed in this and all other military activities in the area. The Turkish Government has assured us that it will make that effort to try and avoid civilian casualties, and they have also informed us that the operation is taking place away from major concentrations of refugees.
Q Christine, is this supposedly a protected zone? Isn't the United States and its allies involved in trying to protect this from outsiders coming in and bombing and blowing things up?
MS. SHELLY: It is supposed to be a safe zone, as you're aware. It's not the first time that such incursions have happened. The most recent one which appears to have occurred of this size was October, 1992. When operations of this type have taken place before, the Turkish forces have withdrawn from northern Iraq relatively rapidly. We certainly hope that this will be the case this time. And even with the announcements of their own actions underway, the Turkish Government has continued to state its support for Iraq's territorial integrity.
Q If Saddam Husayn had 35,000 troops rolling into this zone in the southern part of the northern zone, would that be acceptable to the United States, saying that they were going after terrorists?
MS. SHELLY: To make the comparison between the two I don't think is a valid one. Any troop movements or concentrated troop movements by Saddam Husayn or Iraq would obviously be of concern to us. I think it's a difficult situation for the Turks. They face attacks on their own territory, and they also face all of the problems associated with PKK actions against them.
But, again, it's a situation where I think you have to couple the threats which the PKK represents with the very obvious human rights considerations as well. I'm sure that the Turkish Government will be very mindful of our views on this, as well as the views of the international community as they conduct this operation.
Q Christine, just to follow that up, isn't it really a fact that in this case the word "protection" means protection against Saddam Husayn and the Iraqi forces and not protection against Turkey?
MS. SHELLY: I don't think it's really my role to stand here and define the protection. Certainly the Iraqi actions against Kurdish concentrations of the population are also very well-known, and they're also obviously something that we consider to be another indication of the lack of respect for human rights by Saddam Husayn and his regime.
Q To follow that up, does the United States view -- take the position that it has to allow Turkish activity in the Kurdish zone as a condition for -- as a price for future Turkish cooperation in the protection zone?
MS. SHELLY: No, that would not be our position.
Q Isn't this type of incursion a violation of international law?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not a lawyer. I'd have to check and see what the lawyers would say on that.
Q It's pertinent because you're condoning it, and you could possibly be condoning a violation of international law.
MS. SHELLY: I didn't condone it. I acknowledged that it was going on, and I also stressed what we've said in response to the Turkish Foreign Minister's information being passed to the Secretary. We also are aware of the fact that operations of this type have taken place before. But I certainly don't think that what I said condoned it.
Q In his conversations with his counterpart, did the Secretary ask if they asked Iraqi permission for this incursion -- this operation?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't have any information on that specific point.
Q Is Operation Comfort affected in any way by this?
MS. SHELLY: Operation Comfort takes place in cooperation with the Turkish Government, and of course the other coalition partners. There are not any operations today as a result of the Turkish military activities in the area. We do remain concerned about the potential impact of the Turkish operations on Operation Provide Comfort's ongoing security and humanitarian relief programs.
These are concerns that we have expressed to the Turks. We have been able to confirm that the official Americans who are involved in this relief effort are safe and accounted for, and we're also seeking to contact the NGOs in northern Iraq.
Q What is your understanding of the specific reasons why this incursion took place at this size at this time?
MS. SHELLY: I think that's a question that's probably most appropriately addressed to the Turks. I don't know specifically if the Turkish Foreign Minister indicated why he felt that it was necessary to move at this precise time. But I think in any case, all of the factors concerned certainly affected the timing of the Turkish decision.
Q Did the Secretary not ask why this ally that we give millions of dollars to every year did this at this time?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have other specific details related to his conversation to share with you at this point.
Q Christine, that's germane to any legal -- any international legal question, because there is a principle of "hot pursuit," and it would be interesting and probably significant if the Turks gave some -- made out some case for provocation that they had to go across the border in hot pursuit to right a wrong.
So it isn't a Turkish question. The United States -- you say you haven't condoned this -- you're certainly very sympathetic to what the Turks have done, and again I would like to raise Sid's question. You have a legal adviser and the question would be: Are the Turks acting in compliance with international law? And, if so, how do you justify a border crossing?
MS. SHELLY: On the legal point, I don't think it's the job of the Spokesman to just offer an opinion or do an off- the-cuff on violations of international law. Let me take that particular part of your questioning under advisement, and I'll check with our legal adviser on that particular point.
Q Let me ask you something related, because there has been increasing activity by the Kurds against the Saddam Husayn Government, and that's not something that displeases the State Department, as long as it doesn't divide Iraq, as I understand it.
Does this Turkish operation -- how can this operation be kept separate from that? Doesn't this muffle what the Kurds are doing against Saddam Husayn? I mean, how can you divide that territory so neatly and approve of one thing while another thing is going on that you have mixed feelings about?
MS. SHELLY: But I haven't said that we approve that.
Q I know you haven't from the podium, but you know and I know - -
MS. SHELLY: I have acknowledged that it is going on --
Q -- that the U.S. Government approves of the Kurdish resistance, because they see that as one of the -- in fact, that's what you briefed King Fahd about, so he knows it if we don't -- because one of the things you want -- and that's part of your description, and your happy description -- the State Department's, I mean -- of Iraq being unstable. You're sort of hoping it will get so unstable that Saddam Husayn will go away, and the Kurds happen to be the cutting edge right now, even more than the Shi'ites.
Doesn't this interfere with that type of situation, which the State Department isn't unpleased with -- displeased with?
MS. SHELLY: Barry, I think that that's going to require me to take a little more comprehensive look at the Kurdish situation in the context of Iraq, so I'd like to come back to that.
Q Did the Turks use American arms in their incursion?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't have information on that.
Q Can you check?
MS. SHELLY: I'll check.
Q Because I believe under American export control conditions, there are certain things they cannot do with the American arms legally, and maybe you could get a determination whether this is the case.
MS. SHELLY: I will check into that point.
Q Christine, you said that you did not condone what the Turks are doing, but you also are pointedly not condemning it as well. Is that correct?
MS. SHELLY: What I have done is indicate to you the manner in which we were informed, and acknowledge our understanding of what it is which is going on, and also indicate the expressions of concern and hope regarding how this is handled that was relayed by the Secretary. I think that's what I would like to leave it at.
Q How would you interpret the fact that neither us nor the Red Cross nor anyone else has been able to talk with the Americans that have been held in Iraq now for a week?
MS. SHELLY: We, of course, do not have any official presence in Iraq. As far as we know, the two individuals in question are being held in Baghdad. We certainly regret very much the fact that to our knowledge the ICRC, as well as the Polish authorities -- who, I think as you know, are our protecting power in Iraq -- that they have not been provided access to the two individuals who are being held.
We think that having access to them, especially by the ICRC, is certainly well-established international practice. We certainly think it is highly regrettable that they have not let those who might seek to have contact with them have that contact.
Q Do you see any evidence that they may be trying to hold out for sanctions relief in holding these people? Other countries, including even the Pope, have said that they think it's time to lift some of the sanctions. Do we think that this may be tied?
MS. SHELLY: It may be, as far as Iraq's own thinking. They may think they might have something to gain in trying to link their release to the easing of sanctions. We've certainly seen that as one possible theory. It's certainly not our view at all. The detention of American citizens is strictly a consular matter. It should not be linked to the sanction question or any other question.
All indications surrounding the events of this was that the incident was entirely a result of innocent mistakes. We believe that it should be resolved expeditiously based on humanitarian grounds and on those grounds alone.
Q With regard to Iraq and reports specifically that Iraq is reconstructing its munitions capability, its military capability, it seems it would be a very poor time to ease up on sanctions. Does the State Department have some statement of policy with regard to this build-up of munition, or, for that matter, the attitude of the Gulf States regarding this problem?
MS. SHELLY: We have always said that we believe that Iraq should benefit from sanctions relief only when all of the U.N. Security Council Resolutions have been complied with. That is still definitely our position.
We're aware of the fact that it is not a position which is embraced by every other country, including a couple of members of the Security Council who believe that a partial compliance should or could be rewarded and that that might serve as a stimulus to Iraq to perhaps move on with compliance in other directions. We certainly don't think that Iraq's record on this is a strong one, and one in which we think we should just rely on a kind of blind trust to get them to take certain actions.
The best kind of pressure that we can exercise is one in which Iraq enjoys no sanctions relief until such time as they have complied with all of the conditions that the Security Council laid down in the aftermath of its invasion of Kuwait.
Q Does the Department see this munitions rebuilding -- rebuilding of the military capability of Iraq as ominous?
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Yes, we do. Do the Gulf States -- are they responding in a way to better protect themselves and cooperate militarily with us?
MS. SHELLY: That's a somewhat broader question. It also touches, I think, on some of the issues that Secretary Perry is currently working.
Certainly, we would like to have as much cooperation with us from the Gulf States in terms of protecting the security of the region as a whole. That's something that we have worked on rather seriously for the last few years and I'm certain that we will be continuing to work on that.
Q Christine, on another subject. What can -- go ahead.
Q A follow-up on this one. Are these two men considered to be hostages?
MS. SHELLY: They are citizens who wandered across the border and were taken over by Iraqi authorities. We're not trying to play some kind of word game here. They are being detained at this point. I think that's how I would continue to characterize them.
Q Was there anything in their behavior that the U.S. Government disapproves of?
MS. SHELLY: As I said earlier on, we believe that the crossing was an innocent mistake and that there is absolutely nothing that these gentlemen did, besides make an honest mistake, that resulted in their apprehension.
Q Were they foolish to -- is there anything that they did that they shouldn't have done?
MS. SHELLY: They obviously --
Q I mean, babes are innocent, too, but if they, like torch a house, they've done something bad.
MS. SHELLY: Barry, I don't know what you're trying to get at.
Q Well, you discourage people from going to Iraq. And then, again, American companies are permitted to do business in Iraq. So it's never been clear to me where you draw the line. This is an innocent crossing of the line -- right? -- from Kuwait?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know what you're hinting at.
Q I'm not hinting at anything. I'm asking if there's any culpability here. Did they somehow bring this on themselves by doing something foolish?
MS. SHELLY: Not based on the information that I have available.
Q Can I ask concerning the gassing in Tokyo this morning?
MS. SHELLY: Sorry, there was another --
Q Is UNIKOM at fault here?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I saw some reports suggesting that they should have been policing better at checkpoints. Again, I'm not out there. I don't know exactly what transpired. The fact that they man the checkpoints and that the vehicle got across is certainly something that merits investigation. I think that UNIKOM itself had said that they were investigating all of the circumstances regarding the incident.
The Iraqi authorities also, for their part, have said that they're also doing their own investigation for whatever that happens to be worth. But I think it's up to UNIKOM to decide whether or not they might have been lax, for example, in applying what the procedures for crossing.
Q Secretary Perry has said he doesn't want to issue any threats to the Iraqi regime at this stage. What action, if any, is the U.S. prepared to get these people back? And at what stage would action be appropriate? And how long do they have to be held before you start getting really worried about them?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not really in a position to answer the second part of your question. That's very futuristic. We have involved with the Polish authorities because they are our protecting power. We have also been working with UNIKOM and UNIKOM is also trying to secure their release. We hope also other countries that have influential relationships with Iraq will also come to the same conclusion that there is no benefit for Iraq to continue to hold these individuals, particularly given the nature of the circumstances under which they were picked up.
So we hope they will be released, and I simply at this point don't want to speculate on how long it would be before some other type of action would be contemplated.
Q Russia, or --
Q One more. Christine --
MS. SHELLY: We're going to have a long briefing today. I can tell.
Q In the matter of these two Americans who made an innocent mistake -- not in the matter of these two, but in the matter of other Americans -- do you have any reports of other Americans making similar mistakes but not having to pay for it, as it were -- not being captured? Is this a --
MS. SHELLY: Are you talking specifically about the Iraqi-Kuwait border?
Q The Kuwaiti-Iraqi border. Are there other instances that you've had or reports that you've had of Americans going to the border or even crossing the border to visit people at UNIKOM, or from other reasons, and coming back? Has this become a routine thing with Americans --
MS. SHELLY: I checked on that to try to find out if there had been any other similar types of incidents. As best as I've been able to determine, we don't have other reports of detained Americans from incidents of that type having taken place.
I can't account for every single incident that may have taken place there, but I'm not aware of similar types of incidents.
Q The Embassy advised you that it is not uncommon for Americans citizens -- for whatever reason they're in Kuwait -- to go up to the border or even to go visit friends at UNIKOM?
MS. SHELLY: The Embassy has not advised me to that effect.
Q Before we leave this region entirely, can we get you to consider taking two questions, understanding that you're the Spokesperson and you get sent out here with guidance from other people.
Number one, is it the position of the U.S. Government that Turkish troops coming into northern Iraq is a violation of international law? Does the State Department regard it as that? And, number two, you said you could not define what a protected zone is. Certainly, the Legal Department of this building should be able to define that. Could you take that as a question as well?
MS. SHELLY: I will do my very best to produce answers to those two questions.
Q Plus the question on whether or not American military equipment was being used?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I also consider that I'm on the hook for that.
Q Can you tell us anything about the Syrian-Israeli talks?
MS. SHELLY: Not a lot. I know that comes as a big surprise to you. You're expecting it to be my lead item today.
Q No, I wasn't.
MS. SHELLY: Sorry?
Q I wasn't. You're trying to keep the talks secret. I wouldn't expect you to say anything.
MS. SHELLY: As you know, from our briefings earlier, we have said we're not going to do who, what, where, when, and all of that.
I can say, which is not a lot, that the talks between the Syrians and the Israelis are beginning early this week. But beyond that, we're not going to comment on details and specifics.
Q The use of the tense -- "talks are beginning" -- are you saying that they have not yet begun?
MS. SHELLY: No, I didn't say that.
Q Are you saying that they have begun?
MS. SHELLY: "Are beginning" is not a present conjunctive?
MS. SHELLY: Yeah. Early this week. Read between the lines.
Q Even as we speak?
MS. SHELLY: Maybe, even as we speak.
Let me do Steve first.
Q Russia: On February 17, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said that President Clinton would not go to Russia so long as Russian troops were in Chechnya. Now, it appears that he will be going with Russian troops in Chechnya for the Victory Day celebration, May 9, and a consequent summit. What's changed?
MS. SHELLY: If you're referring to the summit, you're asking at the wrong place. It's a White House announcement. When we came into this briefing, I've not heard specifically that such an announcement had been made.
Q How about just going to Moscow check out spring. The Secretary of State said -- and he said it to at least two news organization -- that the President wouldn't be going there as long Russian troops were in Chechnya. Summit aside...
MS. SHELLY: Without hearing that there is a formal confirmation of this from the White House, I'm afraid that I am constrained from sort of moving into the general subject of the question.
Q Does the Secretary still believe that the President won't go there as long as Russian troops are in Chechnya?
MS. SHELLY: I think I'm going to decline to answer that. Betsy.
Q Can I follow up on that?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Can you talk a little about the Secretary's trip to Geneva and what specifically he's going to be talking to Kozyrev about?
MS. SHELLY: That one is in my jurisdiction. I'm happy to talk about that one.
Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Kozyrev will meet in Geneva, as you know, March 22-23. The meeting is part of their normal and continuing dialogue which we have with the Russians on a number of different levels and through a variety of channels. The issues to be discussed include such things as Chechnya, European security, NATO expansion, Russian arms transfers, and the nuclear reactor sale to Iran.
Should there be some kind of a formal announcement in the not-too- distant future regarding other higher-level meetings; I expect that's a subject that they might also be discussing as well.
Also, the trip includes a stop in Paris on the way out, in response to an invitation that the Secretary received from Foreign Minister Juppe. We talked on Thursday or Friday about the subjects the meeting. That's about what I have at this point.
Q When Christopher last met Kozyrev, Chechnya was a major focus. At the time, he asked Kozyrev and the Russian Government to try to quickly end the violence there and begins some sort of reconciliation talks with the Chechens. Has the United States seen any progress on these fronts?
MS. SHELLY: First of all, the most recent news about the situation is one which also gives rise to concern. There are reports that Russian forces in Chechnya are preparing for -- and may have even begun -- another offensive in the area of Argun, and against towns and villages which are in the southwest area of Grozny. That is certainly not the type of news we would welcome.
We continue to urge all the parties to do everything possible to establish a humanitarian cease-fire which then, of course, should be followed by a cessation of hostilities and negotiations for a political settlement.
I believe that the Russians indicated a few days ago that they had agreed to the permanent OSCE presence, and they also indicated their openness to a role for the OSCE in the political negotiations which would lead to a settlement. Those, of course, are favorable developments on our part, and we certainly hope that can happen as soon as possible.
I'm sure that in Geneva, when Chechnya is discussed, that the Secretary will reiterate our hope -- and certainly our very strong support -- for the OSCE mission and role, and also for their involvement in the political settlement.
We want Foreign Minister Kozyrev to do everything that he can to try to further the establishment of the cease-fire, and then to be able to move on with the other elements -- cessation of hostilities and negotiations.
Q Can you comment briefly on last night's deadly bus attack outside of Hebron, and ... I want to switch gears.
MS. SHELLY: Can we generally stay, and then I'll come back to you as soon as we switch topics again.
Q Isn't it the case that even as the Russians are welcoming an OSCE delegation, that they are violating the precepts of the OSCE? You just now mentioned a new assault apparently being planned on Argun. I don't suppose they've given advance notification of that.
Can you obtain, perhaps, a list of indications of whether they're observing the OSCE rules or not?
MS. SHELLY: I would have to look into that. I don't have an answer at this point.
Q Christine, the Iran portion of these consultations on the nuclear reactors, I understand that there's some discussion in the Department about an accommodation of Iran whereby they would -- if they were willing to ship out spent nuclear fuel, would we be willing to let that deal go ahead? Is that particular topic something that will be -- that aspect of the topic something that the Secretary will take with him to Kozyrev?
MS. SHELLY: It's not my knowledge that's under discussion with the Russians. Our position ...
Q I didn't say "under discussion with the Russians." I said discussions here?
MS. SHELLY: Are we talking about the bilateral meeting, or are you switching out of -- it doesn't sound to me like it's linked to the Kozyrev-Christopher bilateral.
Q The Iran reactor is not linked? The Russian sale of a reactor to Iran is not linked to these talks?
MS. SHELLY: We expect the subject to come up, but our position continues to be that we would like Russia to not go forward with the sale for all of the reasons that we've stated even in Congressional testimony last week.
Q My question is about an accommodation being considered here?
MS. SHELLY: I have no information to that effect.
Q You don't have any information about that even though it was talked about freely on the Secretary's aircraft?
MS. SHELLY: I wasn't on the Secretary's aircraft, and so I can't comment on things where I was not a party to the exchange.
Q Do you have any ... another subject?
MS. SHELLY: Someone else is in front of you in line.
Q On NATO, the Europeans meetings yesterday at Carcassonne?
MS. SHELLY: That's also a subject shift, isn't it? Still on Russia.
Q ... talked about a non-aggression pact with Russia by Europe. What's the American reaction to that? And does Secretary Christopher hope to reach a common ground with Alain Juppe on Russia's relationship with NATO when he meets him in Paris?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sure, as a general matter, when the Secretary meets with Foreign Minister Juppe, he likes to have as much common ground as possible, as the backdrop.
On the point about the EU Foreign Ministers statements generally regarding NATO's relations with Russia, as we have noted before, our concept for a new security architecture in Europe foresees inclusion of Russia and other important countries into a broad structure of cooperation. Enlargement of the role of Western institutions such as NATO and the EU should be accompanied by a closer partnership with Russia.
We also agree that the success of this partnership will depend on continued progress on reform and on support of international norms by Russia.
We agree that the closer NATO-Russia partnership should develop in parallel with the process of NATO expansion.
The question of the precise form and content of the Russia-NATO relationship is still being discussed within the alliance, and, of course, between NATO and Russia itself.
I don't have a specific reaction on the non-aggression pact except to note that was referenced as a possibility. At this point, since all of the different ways that this relationship might take is still under discussion. We don't have a specific comment.
Q Okay, just a brief comment on the bus attack outside of Hebron; they killed two last evening and wounded five -- especially since there was renewed optimism after the Secretary of State's most recent trip and also angry Israeli settlers have demanded that Israel break off the Palestinian autonomy talks, and they refer to themselves as "sitting ducks," saying that the government's not stepping in and not doing anything in these attacks. Can you comment on that?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything on the latter part of your question, but on the first part we condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrible act of terrorism and attempts by those opposed to the peace process to destroy it.
Q Could you give us what you know about the attack on the Tokyo subway -- chemical attack?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot of details on that so far, but let me share with you what I have.
Q We don't have a lot of details on the nature of the agent involved, and we know that the Japanese authorities are, of course, vigorously investigating, but not a lot of concrete details are out yet.
It certainly was a senseless and brutal act of violence aimed at innocent people. Our condolences go out to the victims. We have offered assistance to the Japanese Government in coping with this tragedy. Our Embassy in Tokyo and U.S. forces in Japan stand ready to help in any way that they can.
There does not seem to be any information available at this time about who might be responsible for the incident. We also have been checking to try to see whether any American citizens might have been involved. Our Embassy has been checking with the Tokyo hospitals regarding the welfare of Americans, and so far we do not have any confirmed American casualties.
Q Do you expect this to help propel the chemical weapons treaty that is sitting in the Senate these days to passage?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know if I could make any specific linkage at this point, but I think activity of this kind certainly draws a lot of public attention to the issues at question and how truly horrible any kind of use or misuse of these types of substances can be.
Q What kind of assistance is the Embassy offering?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have more specific details. I'll check and see if I can get some more for you.
Q The Palestinian Liberation Organization meeting in Tunisia over the weekend or last four or five days issued a communique and called for continuation of the peace talks but called on the United States to get involved more actively than before, and The Washington Post this morning in its editorial in proposal number four in the editorial saying that you should plunge into the peace talks more aggressively than before. Do you have any comment on the call by the PLO and possibly coming from the editorial by The Washington Post that you make yourselves more available rather than just being on the periphery like you have been before?
MS. SHELLY: First of all, I'm not going to comment specifically on the OpEd piece, because as a rule we don't comment on those pieces. And I also would reject the notion that we somehow have not been involved. We have also found the way we're involved can be most helpful if we are not out talking about how we're involved in every single way.
We have long said that we would do whatever we felt that we could to bring the parties closer together to help them as they worked through the issues. Sometimes that involves a more active posture; sometimes it involves a quieter posture.
We don't talk a lot about the different ways in which we seek to engage the parties and to move the progress along. What I can say as a kind of bottom line is that we will remain deeply engaged, and we will structure our participation in the process in a way we feel it can be the most productive.
Q There are calls inside Israel to put a halt to these peace talks while the PLO is continuing the peace talks and calling for continuation. You welcome such statements coming from the Palestinians on this matter?
MS. SHELLY: I think one thing that we've learned that it very often is not useful to comment on every particular thing that happens or every particular statement that's made by any side. When an incident of violence takes place, like the attack which took place yesterday, it very often does provoke a higher than normal level of calls from those who might have concerns about the pace of the peace process. But nonetheless, I think you have to take those statements at face value. I think that we still feel that the overwhelming sentiment, both in Israel and among Palestinians, is for peace, and that's what we're working for.
Q Christine, do you have any response to a New York Times' story last week alleging that the United States helped cover up Japanese biological warfare personnel who conducted human guinea pig experiments in China during the Second World War?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a particularly detailed comment to give you. We, of course, read the article that was in The New York Times very carefully. It is, I think, from a human point of view a frightening account, but one which certainly is very much consistent with documents which have been declassified over the years.
All of the practices that were discussed in the article are abhorrent. The records that relate to this are at the National Archives; I'm told that the records that are over there basically do corroborate the accounts which are written up in The New York Times' article.
Certainly, the Japan of today is a different Japan. It embraces values that include respect for human rights. Its an active participant with us in efforts to curb or to prevent the use of non-conventional weapons, such as chemical and biological warfare agents. Certainly their efforts today to work with us to try to prevent the spread and use of agents of that type is something that we appreciate.
Q Do you regret what the U.S. did to provide cover for those people?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not an historians, and without going and doing an encyclopedic review of exactly what transpired at this time, I don't think I would be in a position to make a judgment call about what actually transpired.
I think what did transpire relates to the records and the understanding associated with them. It is a matter of historical record, but I simply think that it's not an appropriate role for me here to get into either the reasons behind that or to take a position on it one way or the other. What happened, happened, regarding the records and the understandings, and certainly all of the subject matter is something which is abhorrent. It obviously also has attracted increased attention in the last few weeks, months, if not actually years as we have gotten closer and closer to the 50th anniversary commemoration of what happened at that time.
Q Do you have anything on the fallout of the Gerry Adams' visit from last week -- the diplomatic fallout?
MS. SHELLY: Such as?
Q Well, the British Government seems quite upset, and I'm wondering whether they've protested in some informal or formal way? Also about the handling of the visit, because apparently the British Ambassador says that he was not informed in advance.
MS. SHELLY: I don't want to turn up the gas on this one. I think we have a very good and solid relationship with the United Kingdom, and I don't think that any particular difference of view that we might have with them over one issue is going to shake the foundation of that relationship.
I think we've said many times that certainly in terms of what our broad objectives are for Ireland, that is something that we have, I think, a very strong coincidence of views. I think it's up to the British to characterize their position accordingly regarding how they felt about the handling of the Gerry Adams' visit.
But I think that the U.S. position on this through many public statements that were made last week, and by the White House, reflect the position of our Administration was in trying to play a helpful role in encouraging the participation by those who would like to find a peaceful settlement.
So I don't have anything new to provide on that score, other than to note I think that we and the British will continue to work together on many issues.
Q Did the British suggest that having Adams take such a prominent role here was an interference in their internal affairs?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything specifically I would wish to say on that point. Again, I think you should put questions about their position to them.
Q Well, I have. That's what they're saying. I'm wondering, is this what they've told you, or they're just telling us this?
MS. SHELLY: When we have exchanges with governments, by and large we tend to keep those exchanges confidential, and there is just nothing at this point that I would like to be more specific on regarding our exchanges.
Q Would you note that that was what was said?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not going to get into it one way or the other.
Q If I could follow Roy on this particular matter, from what I see in the wires, Al Gore is going to go to London, and the President is going to go Moscow, and it just seems to me that the three major powers -- three major allies should be getting together somewhere, perhaps Berlin. Why can't we work this out with the British?
MS. SHELLY: What's the issue?
Q The issue is for VE Day, coming together -- the allies all coming together in one place -- the leaders.
MS. SHELLY: The allies are coming together in a variety of different places. There are ceremonies that will be commemorating events which will be taking place throughout Europe as well as in the United States. So the problem is that some of those events are also conflicting events which make being able to do all of them in all of the different locations nearly impossible.
So we're going to participate in some, and we'll have some of our own activities here. But insofar as they involve Presidential or Vice Presidential travel, those are announcements and discussions, I think, that need to come out of the White House and not out of here.
Q Do we know if the Japanese Government holds chemical weapons agents that could be the possible source for these agents that were used in the subway?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know the answer to that. I'll be happy to check and see if we have something we can say.
Q I've got one more. I'm sorry to aggravate the war and terror issue here, but it appears that things are heating up in Bosnia, especially around Tuzla, also shelling increases in Sarajevo. Can you tell us any more at this time, Christine, about what's going on on the ground there? What do you foresee? Is the truce going to last til May 1, or is it pretty well gone?
MS. SHELLY: I think there have been some signs of deterioration, and the U.N. is reporting, I'm told, today there are heavy Bosnian Government attacks against the Bosnian Serb positions near Tuzla and Travnik. We are concerned about the continued Bosnian Serb attacks against such entities as U.N. aircraft landing at Sarajevo airport.
I understand there was a near miss mortar strike on a French C-130 which landed yesterday. Attacks certainly of this type disrupt humanitarian relief efforts and also endanger the lives of aircrews and passengers.
Flights scheduled for today had to be cancelled as a result of the Bosnian Serb harassment of the U.N. flights. Fighting continues around Bihac between government and rebel Serb forces, also aided by the Croatian Serbs.
We are certainly urging all of the parties to the conflict to resist the use of force, and we continue to believe that the conflict can only be resolved through negotiations and not on the battlefield.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:57 p.m.)
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