U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/10 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, May 10, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENT US Policy on Spratly Islands and South China Sea .......1-3 -- Disputed Claims of Sovereignty over Spratlys ........2-4 -- Actions by Claimants and Resultant Tensions .........2-3 -- Diplomatic Efforts to Resolve Dispute ...............3-4 -- Defense Treaty with Philippines .....................4 -- Vietnam's Claim & Normalization of Relations ........4-5 NORTH KOREA Reported Letter to NPT Conference President, Vote ......5 Update on Talks, Pending Response to U.S. Letter .......6 Sale of SCUD Missiles to Iran ..........................10 JAPAN U.S. Trade Talks .......................................5-6 RUSSIA Sen. Helms Remarks re Aid Ban & Iran Nuclear Sale ......6 Chechnya: Nothing New on Search for Fred Cuny ..........8 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA UN, NATO Response to Bosnian Serb Attacks on Safe Areas ...............................................7 Enforcement of UN Resolutions, UNPROFOR Role ...........7 SERBIA Report of Troop Mobilization in Vojvodina ..............7-8 CUBA Return of Rafters to Cuba, U.S. Monitoring of Returnees ...........................................8-10 IRAQ Update on Detained Americans, Visits with Spouses ......10-11 Krystosik Protests to GOI, Lack of Access to Americans .11-12 EAST ASIA Assistant Secretary Lord Travel to Region (Vietnam, Laos, ASEAN, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore) .12
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 1995, 1:16 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm going to begin by reading a statement today which is on U.S. policy on Spratlys and the South China Sea.
The United States is concerned that a pattern of unilateral actions and reactions in the South China Sea has increased tensions in that region. The United States strongly opposes the use or threat of force to resolve competing claims and urges all claimants to exercise restraint and to avoid destabilizing actions.
The United States has an abiding interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea. The United States calls upon claimants to intensify diplomatic efforts which address issues related to the competing claims, taking into account the interests of all parties, and which contribute to peace and prosperity in the region. The United States is willing assist in any way that the claimants deem helpful. The United States reaffirms its welcome of the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea.
Maintaining freedom of navigation is a fundamental interest of the United States. Unhindered navigation by all ships and aircraft in the South China Sea is essential for the peace and prosperity of the entire Asia-Pacific region, including the United States.
The United States takes no position on the legal merits of the competing claims to sovereignty over the various island, reefs, atolls, and cays in the South China Sea. The United States would, however, view with serious concern any maritime claim or restriction on maritime activity in the South China Sea that was not consistent with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The text of this statement will be available immediately after the briefing in the Press Office.
I'll be happy to take your questions on this or on other subjects.
Q From which country does this threat to the freedom of navigation arise?
MS. SHELLY: We're not suggesting that the threat is coming from any particular direction. Our statement on this is addressed to all of the claimants involved. As you know there are six different Spratly claimants. Those include China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia. Of course, there also are other interested countries in the region which are not claimant countries. Those countries, obviously, are the ones that are also very nearby.
Q Has something happened in the last couple of days that's escalated this, that's caused this statement to be released?
MS. SHELLY: As to the timing of this and why we're making the statement now, there are a couple of different factors. Although the level of tension in the South China Sea has abated somewhat in the last couple of weeks, there had been a series of unilateral actions, as I've mentioned, and reactions over the past several months which has had the effect of raising tensions in the region.
I think you're aware, because we've been asked at the briefing off and on as these incidents have taken place, of the type of thing. If I can give just a general example, there have been several incidents of firing upon and seizing of fishing vessels by any number of the claimants.
As I mentioned, this has raised tensions in the region. It's led to an increased risk which we believe exists of an accidental clash of forces, or even potentially an outbreak of hostilities.
Given the interests that we have in trying to maintain peace and freedom of navigation in the region, we felt that it was important to have U.S. views on the area and on the issues involved clearly stated.
I'd like to reiterate that we do not have a position on the legal merits of the competing sovereignty claims to the islands, but we do have a position under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea on the potential maritime claims.
Q Christine, is there anything new in this statement? It sounds like precisely the same language that the State Department has used repeatedly in the past about the Spratlys.
MS. SHELLY: We have, of course, commented on this in the past, and we've stressed several of the principles involved, one of which obviously is trying to get the nations to settle the differences through diplomatic efforts. But I think that this is a stronger statement. It's a statement which clarifies our position on the issue and also the factors involved and the types of activities, and, of course the general interests that we think are important -- obviously, the freedom of navigation -- but also it's a stronger expression of our concerns which reflects the number of incidents which have taken place since the first of the year.
This is, of course, not the first time that there have been tensions which have arisen over this type of issue and the actions which have taken place. There have been some periods of tension before, in the last few years. Of course, the sovereignty issue related to the Sea has been out there for some time. But it's mostly the pattern of the actions which have taken place most recently which led us to conclude -- and we also have consulted with the claimants -- the six that I mentioned -- and we've also consulted with the other interested countries in the region to let them know that we were going to be making a statement on this that would seek to also clarify our position.
Q You've said in the past that the United States is willing to assist in any way that the claimants deem useful. Has there ever been any interest expressed by any of the claimants in having the United States get involved?
MS. SHELLY: Some of the incidents that have occurred had been discussed with us, have been raised with us. Some of the countries, without wanting to be too specific, have sought our ideas, certainly, on how some of the tensions might be defused.
There have been a number of other regional efforts or national efforts to also try to look at the situation and defuse it. We, of course, support any diplomatic effort that would aim for a peaceful resolution of the competing claims. I think you may be aware that Indonesia, for example, in the last four or five years has sponsored a number of unofficial workshops designed to try to create a climate that is conducive to conflict resolution among the claimants. That is, of course, the type of effort that we think can be helpful to the resolution of the issues.
Whether efforts are bilateral or whether they're multilateral in nature, we would, of course, want efforts to continue in a way that would take into account all of the interests of all of the claimants.
So it's something, as I said for the reasons that are in the opening statement, in which we also feel that we have interests as well. Our desire is to encourage an active and productive diplomatic process among the claimants. It's not specifically with a view to taking some kind of unilateral action.
Q About the six countries, the only one with which the United States has a defense treaty is the Philippines. I take it that this situation is not applicable to the defense treaty?
MS. SHELLY: We do have the defense treaty, and of course the United States honors its treaty commitments. But I don't have anything beyond that related to the possible relationship of that to the maritime issues.
Q Christine, Senator McCain has cited Chinese behavior in the South China Sea. It's claims in the Spratlys is one reason why the United States should move quickly toward normalization of relations with Vietnam. Do you have any comment on the State Department's views on the outlook for growing normalization of relations?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. On Vietnam, as you know, we have one issue which is the single most important issue to us, which is as full an accounting of the POW/MIA issue as we can possibly get. Certainly, since in the last year or year and half or so, we have had intensive activity on that front. As you know also, Assistant Secretary Lord is also about to go out to Vietnam and will also be taking that up as his number one agenda item.
So that's the principal factor that affects how we proceed with Vietnam.
Certainly, Vietnam, being a claimant, is interested in a satisfactory resolution of the Spratlys claims as well. They have also participated in various bilateral discussion and regional meetings and activities that have occurred. I have not seen Senator McCain's comments, and so I would hesitate to comment more specifically on his comments except to note that I think all of the claimants have an interest in having the issues which have arisen settled peacefully.
There doesn't appear to be any of the claimants who wishes to take this on a confrontation course, despite the fact that there have been some incidents. But I think that it would simply, again, underscore Vietnam's desire to approach the issue in a way that would be satisfactory, obviously, to their own interests but also to the other countries as well.
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Have you seen the letter from the Korean representative to the NPT Conference to the President of the Conference? And what is your take on it?
MS. SHELLY: I have not. The only thing I have seen so far is just the wire service reporting on that that just came across right before we came into the briefing. I think I'm going to want to take a little bit of time before reacting to that. You have the letter?
Q I have a copy.
MS. SHELLY: You have a copy of the letter. Okay. I'll see if we can try to de-mystify that, or at least to provide you some thoughts on our reaction to it.
Q The letter is ambiguous, and maybe the translation that I have. But is it possible for a nation -- hypothetically -- is it possible for a nation to not vote on the NPT extension and still be a party to the NPT -- still be a member?
MS. SHELLY: I'd like to check on that.
Q Because that seems to be the gist of the letter, as I read it.
MS. SHELLY: I had not seen the text of the letter prior to coming into the briefing. This is obviously something that would not be very responsible of me to do off the cuff, so let me check on that and see if we can't get back to it either later this afternoon or tomorrow.
Q Do you have anything on the Japan-U.S. trade talks?
MS. SHELLY: I do not. The action on that has been over at the White House earlier today. All of the statements which have already been made by senior Administration officials ON THE RECORD, I should let those stand. If there's some particular aspect on it which relates more to the diplomatic side of that with Japan, I'd certainly be prepared to come back to that tomorrow or Friday. But at this point, since I also haven't had a chance to study the transcripts and review all the material that was covered in the question-and-answers, I think I'm just going to let it stay at the White House.
Q On North Korea, is there anything more on the talks, scheduling of the talks?
MS. SHELLY: We're still awaiting a response from the North Koreans to our latest message, which as you know, was conveyed to them on May 8. The venue and timing for the political-level talks still remains unresolved.
You may have seen a statement which came out of the trilateral meetings, which finished up in Seoul. If you haven't seen that, there was a joint press statement. I'd be happy to go through that, if you'd like. That reflected the trilateral meetings which had just finished up in Seoul. Ambassador Gallucci will be returning to Washington on Friday, May 12.
You can either get the text of that from the Press Office after the briefing, or I'd be happy to go through it now if you prefer.
Q He won't be going to Pyongyang --
MS. SHELLY: Not anytime soon, I would expect.
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Do you have any reaction to an editorial by Jesse Helms in U.S.A. Today today which says that, in his opinion, if Russia sells Iran the nuclear reactors, U.S. aid must automatically be terminated as a matter of law?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not sure that our interpretation on that would be the same as his. I think there are certain types of activities that, if they were undertaken, there would be some consequences regarding certain of the assistance programs. I don't think it's quite as simple as that, that everything automatically shuts down.
I would just say that as a short response, and I would like to take a look at the editorial and see what additional comments we would like to make on it. But I don't think it's quite as automatic as that would suggest, assuming that is the gist of what's in the article.
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Yesterday, you called for -- in the walk-through -- a more robust response from the U.N. in terms of air attacks, and so forth. Is that still the position? Precisely what should be done now?
MS. SHELLY: As you know, we had been having discussions with our allies. I think we've also been discussing the issue of response in the NATO context as well; and Ambassador Albright, up in New York, had also been having discussions at the senior-most levels.
Our position is the same position that it's been for quite some time on this, which is that the U.N. resolutions are valid, and the mechanisms for enforcement were reviewed very, very carefully, and, of course, were agreed by all of the governments concerned.
The notion that somehow to take enforcement actions aggravates the situation, I believe, is basically the argumentation of the U.N. political authorities out in the field. That may be their feeling on it. But also in the cases where there has been a more robust response, it has sent a message. It is our view that has been an inhibiting factor in terms of stopping the escalation.
We are very concerned about the potential for escalation that's out there. We continue to believe that UNPROFOR, in conjunction with NATO, can and should play an active role in helping to protect the safe areas. This includes, certainly, the activities that are occurring around Sarajevo and also the terms specifically of the Sarajevo heavy weapons exclusion zone.
We believe that the presence of a U.N. force is really critical to preventing a wider Balkan war and to averting a potential humanitarian disaster. But we also believe that a stricter and more robust enforcement of those resolutions and mechanisms for enforcement should be observed.
Q Any reports on renewed forceful mobilization in parts of Serbia close to the Danube?
MS. SHELLY: I have not seen anything on that specifically, but let me check on that and see if we are in a position to confirm that. Is there a specific area that you're --
Q In the province of Vojvodina?
MS. SHELLY: Okay. Let me check on that. I don't have anything for you on that at this moment, but I'll be happy to check.
Q In light of the meetings in Moscow, is there anything new on Fred Cuny?
MS. SHELLY: No. I don't have any news whatsoever.
Q Is there anything worth repeating concerning the Cubans who returned to their homeland about 24 hours ago?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. Let me just go through the latest information I have on that.
As you know, the Cuban migrants were returned yesterday by the Coast Guard cutter. They are on their way home from Havana to the eastern province of Camaguey.
Because of the U.S. Government's special interest in this first group of migrants being returned pursuant to the May 2 U.S.-Cuba joint statement, officials from the U.S. Interests Section will travel today to Camaguey to meet with each of them. The migrants were also given passes to visit the U.S. Interests Section so that they could make known any additional concerns that they might have.
The U.S. Government will monitor the treatment of returned Cuban migrants through contacts with various non-governmental organizations and institutions, and also through spot visits.
The Interests Section will maintain biographic information on the returned migrants in order to facilitate subsequent monitoring.
Q When you say "spot visits," do personnel of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana have the right to make spot visits? Or isn't it a question of going through the government to get permission to travel in the Cuban heartland?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have more information on how this would work, but I would not interpret what I have to suggest that somehow this is a process that's going to have to work through the Cuban Government.
My understanding is that the migrants, once they were informed about what was going to be happening procedurally, were appreciative of getting the information about what they could do and should do regarding applications to come to the United States under the normal channels which would be open to them. I think they were appreciative of that, and I think that they, by and large, also felt that it was in their interest to have this connection with the American Interests Section there; also to counter any concern that they might have had about the possibility of actions against them.
But as I think you know, we have assurances from the Cuban authorities that there will not be harassment or any other kind of prejudicial activity that would be taken against them for having departed Cuba without official permission.
We certainly expect that assurance to hold up. I have no reason to believe that those individuals who were returned would not like to be kept in contact with or checked up on potentially to be sure that, in fact, those assurances are kept.
Q Can you take the question on how such spot visits might work, whether they would be arranged through the Cuban Government or not?
MS. SHELLY: I will see if I can get more information on that. I don't know if it will be today necessarily, but we'll try to get more on how that might work. Since this is obviously also some new activities for our personnel there, I don't know in how much detail this has actually been worked out. But I'm sure the ways for being able to check up on this were, in fact, something that were discussed with the 13 returned. We'll try to provide as much transparency as we can on how that's going to work.
Q Are you going to keep doing this for other potential migrants?
MS. SHELLY: On keeping track of them?
MS. SHELLY: Of those who might be picked up --
Q Yes, for the people who are picked up --
MS. SHELLY: Yes, for those who are -- this is not just uniquely for the 13. For any further Cubans who would be picked up, rescued at sea, and then returned through the arrangement that was agreed on May 2 -- yes, it is our intention to maintain the biographic information on them and to be able to stay in touch, so that we can be sure that the Cuban Government assurances are kept.
Q Is this in some way counterproductive? The whole point of returning, as I understand it -- Cubans picked up at sea to Cuba -- is to discourage migration. If you're going to have people from the Interests Section go out and spot check on them and maybe help them fill out applications, is this an encouragement for people to keep leaving?
MS. SHELLY: You've just taken this one step further. I mentioned spot visits. I didn't say that our people were going to be helping them fill out their applications.
Our key concern on this, of course, is to make sure that the migration which does occur, occurs through the normal and legal channels, and to make sure that large numbers of Cubans are not embarking upon what would certainly be a very risky journey on the high seas in an effort to get to the United States.
We have explained to the migrants what all of the various migration options are through the Interests Section. They have written descriptions of those programs and they were certainly informed all the way along the way about what was going to be happening to them in connection with this. What we would like to do is simply stimulate the use of the legal channels and not efforts by others to try to come in illegally, which has a lot of risks and dangers inherent in it.
Q North Korea sold four Scud missiles to Iran, the CIA reported recently. Will it affect the U.S.-North Korean nuclear negotiations?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry, you're quoting a CIA report saying that North Korea sold --
Q Yes, North Korea sold four Scud missiles to Iran.
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any information on that. I'd like to check on that report before I would make any comment.
Q Do you have anything new to report on the Americans in Iraq?
MS. SHELLY: Let me just give you the latest that I have on that. There's not a lot that's new today from yesterday.
I'll just go through that. Once again, following the established pattern, Mrs. Daliberti and Mrs. Barloon met with their husbands yesterday for five hours. They plan to stay in Baghdad through tomorrow afternoon.
Their Iraqi visas, which were issued on April 29, are valid for one month. When they depart Baghdad for Amman, Mr. Krystosik, the head of the Polish protecting power for us, he will travel with them. Once they're in Amman, they will be met and assisted by U.S. Embassy personnel.
As I think you know, he's assisted them throughout their stay. An officer from the Department of State spoke to Mrs. Barloon over the weekend in Baghdad. We've also been maintaining our regular communications with the designated family members of both the Daliberti and Barloon families.
The Iraqis continue to deny Mr. Krystosik access to Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon. He continues to protest that at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. He's emphasized in the context of those demarches the importance of granting him access in light of the imminent departure of Mrs. Daliberti and Mrs. Barloon.
He's also protested the Iraqi failure to provide medical records for the two men and for the continued delay in transferring the Americans to a larger cell. Since April 18, when he was denied the scheduled visit, he's continued to press on a daily basis for access and for an explanation of the decision to cancel his previously arranged visit.
It's essential that we have regular consular access to monitor the health and welfare of these two men. I am told that Mrs. Barloon and Mrs. Daliberti do not report any changes in the health conditions of their husbands.
Q Do you have any more details on the dates of the Winston Lord visit to Vietnam?
MS. SHELLY: Sorry?
Q Can I follow up on Iraq?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, sure.
Q How far up the Iraqi food chain has Krystosik gotten with his protest? Do you know? Has he seen the Foreign Minister?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know at what level he's been seen. I'll be happy to --
Q Every day somebody tells us he's been protesting, but who has he protested to? What is his access in the Iraqi Government?
MS. SHELLY: I will check on that and see if I can find out what's the highest level to which he's been able to make his protest.
Q Also, his visits were supposed to be at weekly intervals. And then the first time that that elapsed, there was an Iraqi explanation, as I recall. Was that the one that was "technical reasons?"
MS. SHELLY: Yes, the cancellation of the visit, which had been approved for the 18th of April was -- I understand it was ascribed to "technical reasons," which were not very convincing.
Q And there's been no successor explanation to that since, I gather?
MS. SHELLY: That's my understanding.
Okay, Winston Lord's travel. Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord will visit Asia from May 13-26 to discuss regional, bilateral, and global issues with a wide range of public and private sector leaders.
As you know, he's visiting Hanoi and Laos. He's also going to be leading the U.S. Delegation to the Senior Officials Meeting for the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) May 22-24.
He's going to meet with Thai Government officials during a brief stopover in Bangkok on May 17. His May 18-19 visit to Japan will allow consultations on a broad range of issues with Japanese officials and an address to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun's Future of Asia Conference. He's also going to visit Hong Kong May 19-21 and Singapore May 24-25 to meet with host government leaders.
As I think I mentioned, the Hanoi and Laos part is May 15-17.
Q And that part will be a presidential mission, is that right?
MS. SHELLY: That's my understanding, although I'm not the one who would signal that announcement. Announcements on presidential delegations, of course, as you know, come out of the White House. I don't believe an announcement has been made yet, but I expect that there will be one prior to his departure that will designate that part of his travel accordingly.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:45 P.M.)
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