U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/15 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, May 15, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Announcement Upcoming BACKGROUNDER on Secretary's Mtgs. w/ Syrian Foreign Minister Shara .................................1 NORTH KOREA Agreed Framework: Senior Officials Talks Begin in Kuala Lumpur ...........1-4 IRAN Nuclear/Chemical Weapons Capability/ Support of Terrorism ...................................4-5 Attempts to Purchase Nuclear Power Technology from China .5 U.S. Embargo: Collins/Kornblum Mtgs. in Brussels, Upcoming U.S.-Russia Mtgs. .............................5-7 Allegation of PKK Nuclear Sales to Iran ..................7-8 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Support for UNPROFOR/Contact Group Map and Plan ..........8-10 RUSSIA/UKRAINE Search for Fred Cuny .....................................10-11 Report of new Russian Army in North Caucasus .............12 U.S./Russia, U.S./Ukraine Relationships: --Trip to Moscow/Kiev ....................................15-17 TAIWAN/CHINA Underground Nuclear Test .................................11-12 Arms Sales to Taiwan .....................................12 AEGEAN SEA Report of Request for Cancellation of Military Maneuvers .12-13 JAPAN Arrest of Cult Leader ....................................13 U.S. Seizure of Two Japanese Vessels in Pacific ..........15 MEXICO Binational Commission Talks ..............................13-14 Assassination of State Investigator of Jalisco ...........14 MISCELLANEOUS Voice of America .........................................17
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, MAY 15, 1995, 1:36 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
If we are lucky -- extremely lucky -- today, a Senior Administration Official will follow me to the podium ON BACKGROUND to discuss this morning's discussions between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Shara. I hope to do that in about 30 to 35 minutes from now, if that Senior Administration Official is freed from a diplomatic lunch that he is now attending.
So if we could defer questions on the Secretary's meeting with Foreign Minister Shara -- and indeed the Secretary's just taken a couple of your questions -- until this BACKGROUND briefing, I would appreciate it. But I'm here to answer any questions on all other issues.
Q Do you have any news to report on the North Korea front?
MR. BURNS: I do have some news to report on the North Korea front. The United States and North Korea have agreed to begin senior officials' talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, beginning on May 19. The U.S. delegation will be led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas C. Hubbard.
The primary purpose of these talks will be to resolve issues related to the provision under the terms of the Agreed Framework of light-water reactors to North Korea, and we expect that these talks will go on for several days.
In his most recent series of letters to Ambassador Gallucci, the Ambassador's counterpart, the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea Kang Sok Ju, indicated that he could not leave Pyongyang at this time for the discussions that we were trying to schedule. Kang proposed as an alternative that the two delegations be headed by officials one rank lower.
We therefore understand that the North Korea delegation will be headed by Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan, who was the second-ranking official on the North Korea delegation to the Geneva talks that had been headed by Ambassador Gallucci and the First Vice Foreign Minister some time ago.
As you will remember, Mr. Hubbard was also a senior member of the U.S. delegation to the Geneva talks and, as you may recall, Mr. Hubbard was sent to Pyongyang following the helicopter incident last January.
Q Do you have the spelling on the North Korean's name?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The Vice Minister who will head their delegation -- this is obviously transliterated -- Kim Gye -- G-y-e -- Gwan -- G-w- a-n.
Q Does Kuala Lumpur have any special significance? Why there instead of Geneva?
MR. BURNS: It is special to us because it's the place where these delegations will be meeting. Beyond that, we felt it was very important that these talks be held in a third-country capital for obvious reasons. We don't have diplomatic relations right now with North Korea. We don't have an Embassy in Pyongyang. We don't have communications there.
In the exchange of letters that went on for ten days or so, a number of capitals were proposed; and we finally settled by mutual agreement on Kuala Lumpur.
Q Nick, did you mention a date?
MR. BURNS: I thought I did, yes. May 19. These talks will begin on May 19 in KL.
Q How long the meeting --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Now long will the meeting continue? May 19 to --?
MR. BURNS: We expect that the discussions will go on for several days. I don't believe we've determined that they ought to last any specific number of days, but they will involve quite detailed and complex discussions on the provision of the light-water reactors.
Q Is there any schedule for high-level meetings with Mr. Gallucci with Mr. Kang? Is there a schedule?
MR. BURNS: Is there a schedule of meetings?
MR. BURNS: I just know that we've agreed to have the meetings. I don't know if we have a detailed schedule of their itineraries and the meetings they'll be having on the 19th. As we get closer to that event, I'm sure we can help you out.*
Q Can Hubbard and his counterpart work this out, or is this a prelude to Gallucci meeting his counterpart?
MR. BURNS: This need not be a prelude to any other meeting. Our intention in scheduling this meeting is to work out all of the problems and differences of opinion that we have right now with North Korea over the provision of light-water reactors.
We very much hope that this will be the meeting where these issues are fully resolved, and we've scheduled a meeting with that point in mind.
Q Where is Ambassador Gallucci?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Gallucci is here in the Department.
Q Another subject?
MR. BURNS: Still on North Korea? Any other -- yes, sir.
Q As you know, Mr. Hubbard agreed to a military contact in North Korea last year, last December. If they have these talks at Kuala Lumpur, do you think they can discuss the military contact with North Korea and further peace treaty?
MR. BURNS: Are you referring to the issues that surround Panmunjom and -- is that what you're referring to, other issues apart from the Agreed Framework?
*Spokesman was referring to Hubbard-Kim talks.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Hubbard is one of the senior officials in this government responsible for relations with North Korea, and so it wouldn't surprise me if he took the opportunity to discuss other issues, although I'm not aware that that's part of the official agenda. His primary purpose, obviously his overriding purpose, in traveling to Kuala Lumpur will be to discuss with the North Koreans the issues pertaining to the Agreed Framework and the provision of the light-water reactors, which is the central issue in play here in these discussions.
But it wouldn't surprise me, given his experience and given his responsibilities, were he to have on the margins other discussions. But I haven't had a conversation with him about what specifically he would be raising in that regard.
Q Nick, I understand that in the transcript of an interview that ABC is going to air tonight with Hashemi Rafsanjani "the Iranian President says that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, is not developing chemical weapons and does not support terrorism, and he challenges the U.S. Government to prove any of those charges." Would you like to have a whack at it?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to have a whack at it. That's a long list of claims, none of which in our opinion can be supported by fact. Certainly, it is, I think, objectively true to anyone who is a student of the Middle East today that Iran has been a major supporter of terrorism in the Middle East and outside the Middle East. That is just an objective fact which is accepted by the world community -- that fact. And there's a long list of terrorist organizations that are currently being funded by Iran.
On the question of nuclear weapons capability, the United States Government believes very strongly, based on all of the evidence available to us from all sources possible, that Iran has serious national designs to build a nuclear weapons capability in the near future.
Why else would Iran, in the words of Secretary Christopher, be scouring the Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union for highly enriched uranium, which we know to be a fact? Why else would they be intent on importing nuclear power technology? This is a country that supplies all of its energy through fossil fuels. So we are convinced, in the strongest possible way and with a solid base of information on the question of nuclear weapons, that they desire to have this capability, and we are determined to stop them from acquiring that capability.
Again, to just sum up on the question of terrorism, there's absolutely no doubt that they are the leading sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East.
Q Chemical weapons?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak today to the specific allegations, but I'd be glad to take that question and speak to it tomorrow after this interview is aired, if it is aired. Any other questions on Iran?
Q What about the Iranians seeking atomic plants from China? I wonder if you have a confirmation of this and whether we're talking to the Chinese about it.
MR. BURNS: Yes. When the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Qian in New York last month, he raised the possibility that China may be seeking to export nuclear power technology to Iran with the Chinese Government. We told the Chinese Government that it was a major concern of ours.
We understand that this possible sale is in the same general category of the Russia sale, that these are either promises or contracts that talk about sales in the future, not about equipment that has already been delivered, in the case of China. This issue will remain very high on our agenda with China, and we will raise it at every available opportunity; and we'll treat it with the same degree of seriousness with which we are treating this issue in our relationship with Russia.
Q Nick, on the issue of Iran and the embargo that you called for, besides Japan, which said to you that they will hold off for a while giving the loan -- over $500 million -- to the Iranian regime, do you have any other Western allies who have expressed an understanding or maybe they have done any active measures, like the measures undertaken by the United States, regarding Iran and its support of international terrorism?
MR. BURNS: I think it's well known that at least to date our European allies have not decided to take the same actions that we have taken -- that the President and Secretary of State have taken in regard to Iran. It remains our policy that it is in the interests of all of our friends in Europe -- and that includes the Russian Government -- to come to the conclusion that a nuclear weapons state in Iran is not something that any of us want to see in the foreseeable future or any time in the future in the Middle East.
Just last Friday, Ambassador Jim Collins and John Kornblum, our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, were in Brussels to brief our European allies on the President's visits to Moscow and Kiev, and they raised this issue of Iran with them. They described the conversations that President Clinton had with President Yeltsin. We're going to keep it as a long-term objective with all of our allies to convince them that this is the proper course to take.
For the time being, we are very comfortable with the position that we have taken. It is a position of leadership. It is a position that requires some sacrifice on the part of American companies to the tune of several billion dollars a year in the revenues that they will be giving up and in the contracts that they will not be able to realize in the case of Conoco with the Iranian Government.
We think this kind of cost -- and it's not negligible, and we understand it's important to these companies -- is well worth the price because the long-term benefit, if we are successful, is in isolating Iran. Sometimes countries have to step out, even alone, and take a position and hold to it; and that's what this Administration has decided to do.
Q The formulation that you used in response to the previous question, "We are determined to stop them," is, shall we say, a step beyond formulations that I had heard used previously, even by the Secretary. How is that determination going to manifest itself, aside from the appeals and entreaties and discussions with friendly countries?
MR. BURNS: We are determined to stop them. The threat is of a rogue regime that has been irresponsible in its actions towards its neighbors, irresponsibly funding the worst kind of terrorist groups in the Middle East. The threat is that that kind of state, with a radical leadership, will have possession of nuclear weapons. That is a threat that you have to treat as of vital concern.
I don't know that I'm elevating the rhetoric. I think I'm just expressing the very strong degree of determination in this government to oppose that. Right now, we think the best way to do so is to try to convince Russia and China to forgo their sales of nuclear technology and then also, at the same time, try to create an international consensus -- which will be difficult to do, but which we believe is possible to do -- around this issue in both Europe and Asia so that gradually, as we continue to discuss this as a high-priority issue, our ally governments in Europe and our friends in Asia -- and our allies in Asia -- will conclude that it's in their best interest to forgo short-term gain in order to achieve some long-term benefit.
So I'm not trying to signal anything radically different in our tactics; but I am trying to affirm that as a result of our meetings last week in Russia, we are as convinced as ever that the course we have taken is the right course.
And while we're on that subject, why don't I just say that as a result of last week's discussions between the two Presidents -- President Yeltsin and President Clinton -- this issue of Iran will remain at the top of the U.S.-Russian agenda.
President Clinton and President Yeltsin will be meeting again shortly, in about a month, at Halifax on the margins of the G-7 meeting. This issue will be on the agenda for that meeting.
Vice President Gore will be travelling to Russia at the end of June for another meeting with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. President Clinton and President Yeltsin have asked the Vice President and the Prime Minister to continue work on this issue and to report back to them. By giving this issue to them, we are by no means kicking this down the road to the proverbial "committee" in the hope that this will never been seen again or that the issue will be forgotten. That's not our intention. It has been given to Prime Chernomyrdin and Vice President Gore because they have a record of resolving a lot of complex problems, specifically in the nuclear area and on arms issues. We hope very much this will be a fruitful channel for us.
But it's going to come back, it's going to remain on the agenda. There's just no escaping it.
Still on this question?
Q On Iran. The PKK salesperson, Mr. (Inaudible) was arrested in Austria last week. He's marketing the Russia nuclear materials. In the last couple of months, we heard about the PKK -- also in a business to Russian -- running to Turkey aid and plutonium to sell to Iran. Do you have any of this kind of information?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any specific information relating the PKK to sales, in this case, to Iran.
Q Or marketing?
MR. BURNS: But it wouldn't surprise me that the PKK is receiving help from that particular state, but I have nothing specific for you.
Q On Russia. Anything else on Iran? On Russia, Nick, little reported in the press from the recent visit to Moscow, especially on the issue of Bosnia. I know there were so many other issues. But can you tell us, was progress made with the Russians insofar as addressing the military problems in Bosnia? Specifically, did you discuss with them -- was it discussed with them the matter of their threatening to withdraw their troops? I think that was predicated on several matters, but one of them was a cease-fire lapsing, which it has.
And could you then take that another step and say have you heard anything from the British and French who are meeting, I think, today -- have met already today -- on their commitment to UNPROFOR?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you I had just seen before coming out here a wire report. It quotes Foreign Minister Juppe saying that he and Foreign Secretary Hurd had a good meeting, that they discussed all these issues, and they both supported the continuation of UNPROFOR in the region. The United States supports that strongly as well.
As you know, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke was in Frankfurt last Friday for a meeting of the Contact Group. That was a good meeting. That meeting reconfirmed the Contact Group position that it is still worth talking to Mr. Milosevic about our basic offer of limited sanctions relief in return for recognition of Bosnia.
I think that meeting and the summit meetings in Moscow -- conversations between Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Kozyrev and between the two Presidents -- confirm the basic unity of the Contact Group on that plan. I'm not saying we don't have tactical differences. We certainly have tactical differences. I think some of them still remain exposed as a result of these discussions.
But we have, I think if you will, a strategic agreement in the Contact Group that we ought to continue to leave on the table the plan that has been there for a while: the Contact Group map and plan and the offer of limited sanctions relief. We haven't given up on that yet.
All of us in the Contact Group remain very concerned about the breakdown of authority both in Bosnia, particularly around Sarajevo, but also in Croatia. All of us support the continuation of UNPROFOR, and I believe that includes the British and the French.
The United States very strongly supports the French position that the mandate of the U.N. peacekeepers in UNPROFOR ought to be strengthened, that the soldiers on the ground ought to have the ability to defend themselves. We are therefore encouraged by the U.N. Secretary General's interest in reviewing this mandate. We are participating in those discussions, and we hope that they will be positive.
Q But about the issue of the Russians taking their troops out, do you have anything that you can report about what they said on that issue?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that based on the meeting that Secretary Christopher had with Foreign Minister Kozyrev on Wednesday in the Kremlin, we did not hear from the Russians that they were considering, in any serious or imminent way, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from UNPROFOR. They do have the same concerns I think that all of the other troop-contributing countries have about ways that should be worked out to strengthen the U.N.'s authority, to strengthen the ability of UNPROFOR to secure the U.N. mandates.
But I think the Russians at this point remain an active participant in the process and will continue.
Q What would it require to strengthen the mandate? Would you have to go back to the Security Council and get a new resolution?
MR. BURNS: I think it's unclear right now. Given the very serious breakdown of authority over the last couple of weeks, the most positive thing is that the United Nations Secretary General has said that he recognizes there is a serious problem. He's been conducting meetings for the better part of a week about this problem.
Suffice it to say that the United States will support whatever pragmatic and realistic options are put to us and to our allies to strengthen UNPROFOR and strengthen the ability of people to defend themselves, and that also get to the question of the usefulness of NATO and UNPROFOR working together in a more effective way to enforce the U.N. resolutions.
There was an incident about ten days ago where that clearly did not happen -- after the Serbs shelled a U.N. protected zone -- where there was no response. The United States has long believed that there ought to be an aggressive defense of the U.N. resolutions, and that continues to be our position as we talk to the U.N. and to the other Contact Group members.
Steve, you had a question.
Q What's the latest news about Fred Cuny?
MR. BURNS: The latest news is the following: I think you know that in Moscow President Clinton met with Mr. Cuny's brother and his son. Our Embassy in Moscow continues to be in regular contact with authorities both in Moscow and in Chechnya and Ingushetia and that the OSCE mission in Chechnya continues to be a very useful channel for us in trying to find out what happened to Fred Cuny.
We have seen reports that an official of Ingushetia believes that a body found in Chechnya may be that of Mr. Cuny. Officers from the American Embassy in Moscow and others in the region are looking into this report. We have an Embassy officer in Sleptsovsk in Ingushetia with Mr. Cuny's son. An associate of Mr. Cuny's and an interpreter are en route to the town Shatoy in Chechnya to follow up on these reports.
A physician requested by Mr. Cuny's family is on his way to meet these groups to assist them with the examination of the body that has been discovered.
On Saturday, May 13, a convoy tried to reach the town of Shatoy to identify the body there. The convoy was fired upon outside the village of Chiri-Yurt, which is about five kilometers southeast of another town, Novyye Atagi. These towns are important if you have a map out. If you don't have a map out, it's very confusing. I realize that.
This convoy has received assurances that it would not be fired upon from the chief of the Russian Security Service, Sergey Stepashin, and from the local Colonel, the Commander of the 324th Russian Motorized Rifle Regiment. Unfortunately, the convoy was fired upon by Russian soldiers.
Ambassador Pickering, the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, raised in very forceful terms with the Russian Security Service on Saturday this very serious breach of their assurances.
The convoy included an American citizen who was not a U.S. Government official but who is an associate of Fred Cuny. I understand that the group is now planning to make another trip to this town -- the town of Shatoy -- for tomorrow, May 16. They hope to examine the body in question and they hope to determine whether this is, in fact, the body of Fred Cuny.
At this point, I would just remind you we have absolutely no evidence that this body is that of Mr. Cuny. We are obviously going to do the best that we can to investigate this particular lead. There are a number of leads, rumors -- when we were in Moscow last week, lots of rumors -- about his whereabouts, about what may have happened to him; and we have been unable to confirm any of those stories. We continue to look into this. It continues to be a major concern of ours.
That is why President Clinton met with Mr. Cuny's family. President Clinton raised this issue with President Yeltsin directly. Secretary Christopher raised it once again with Foreign Minister Kozyrev in their own bilateral meeting on Wednesday morning in the Kremlin.
On Fred Cuny?
Q On Russia.
MR. BURNS: Any other questions on Fred Cuny?
Q Who is holding him, and in what capacity? Do you know that the body itself is being held by who -- by Chechens?
MR. BURNS: I understand that a report of a body with gunshot wounds to the head came from Ingushetia. I understand that this comes from people -- I guess you could describe them as Chechen forces who may have discovered the body and who may be in control of it. The information is rather murky.
This is just a report that it is our responsibility to follow up. Beyond that, if Mr. Cuny is still alive -- and we hope, obviously, very much that he is -- we have no idea who may be holding him. We have seen plenty of rumors about who may be holding him, but we have no specific leads.
Q Do you have anything on the Chinese nuclear test?
MR. BURNS: I do. On May 15, today, China conducted an underground nuclear test at the Lop Nor test site in northwest China.
The United States deeply regrets this action. The other nuclear powers have observed a moratorium on nuclear testing since 1992. We urge China to consider the changed circumstances of global security affecting the role of nuclear weapons, particularly in the aftermath of the very successful conference in New York last week concerning the Non- Proliferation Treaty.
All of the nuclear powers, including China, have committed themselves to achieving a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. China has stated that it is its objective to conclude this test ban treaty by 1996.
It is therefore particularly disappointing that China has not joined the testing moratorium.
Q I have another question regarding China. The House International Committee is voting on the State Department Authorization Bill, which includes a clause that says that the Taiwan Relations Act supersedes the U.S.-China communique of August 27 on U.S. arm sales to Taiwan. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. BURNS: I don't, specifically. I know that Secretary Christopher will be testifying later this week on the budget in the Senate. I've been out of town for a week, so I can't speak to where specifically that particular aspect of the legislation stands; but I'm sure it's something we can look into and get you a response on.
Q To Russia, please?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q What's the Administration's position regarding the new Russian army to be positioned in the northern Caucasus as of June 1?
MR. BURNS: Just before we left for Moscow on May 7, we saw the same press report to this effect.
While we were in Moscow, I'm not aware that our delegation was able to confirm this report. But I think it's a question that I should look into for you and see if we can get something specific for you.
Q Could I ask another question about the region, since we are there?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q There were reports yesterday from Athens that the U.S. Administration has asked both Ankara and Athens to cancel all the military maneuvers in the Aegean until some confidence-building measures can be worked out between the two governments. Is that true?
MR. BURNS: Let me look into that. I have not seen that particular report, so I will try to get you an answer on that. Our position, of course, is that both countries are valued NATO allies. We always seek to find ways to improve their bilateral relations. It is sometimes possible for the United States to help; it is sometimes preferable that the two countries work out their problems together.
On this one, I'll just try to get more specific information, if it is available.
Q Have you received any information about the planned arrest of the religious cult leader from the Japanese Government? Does it have to do anything with cooperation in its practice in the United States?
MR. BURNS: All of us here in Washington have certainly seen the press reports about the arrest of the cult figure. I assume that our Embassy in Tokyo has received word of this officially from the Japanese Government.
Needless to say, we support very much the efforts of the Government of Japan to deal with this very serious threat to security in Japan.
Q Do you have something on Mexico? Mexico and the United States will be holding tomorrow their meeting -- their 12th meeting of the Binational Commission? It will be the first one with the Administration of President Zedillo. What can we expect of it? And do you know if it's going to be complex, knowing that immigration and narcotics will be one of the priorities of the agenda?
MR. BURNS: I believe that Christine Shelly issued a statement on Friday about the Binational Commission talks. The Secretary is looking forward to them. He and Minister Gurria will be holding bilateral talks on a full range of issues on the U.S.-Mexican agenda.
I know that there will be press coverage available for the opening. There will also be a press availability that the Secretary and Minister Gurria will have at around 11:30. We'll post all this. It will also be possible for the press to cover the end of the meetings tomorrow afternoon when the joint statement and the other statements are read.
This is an extraordinary commission because it engages so many senior people on both sides. In fact, I'm not aware of any other similar bilateral commission that engages so many senior people from both governments.
We're looking forward to it. Mexico is one of the most important countries to the United States. We have an excellent relationship. We are very pleased at the cooperation that Mexico gave to the United States and to the United Nations in the recent NPT Conference in New York, and I would even say at the leadership that Mexico showed in fashioning the result that we were very glad to see last Thursday on the NPT.
Q Do you know how many Ministers are going to be on hand for that tomorrow afternoon?
MR. BURNS: I believe Christine's statement was comprehensive and all-encompassing and gave out all relevant information.
David (Johnson), do you know the exact number of Cabinet Ministers on both sides? We'll get you the specific number. If it wasn't in the statement, we'll get that to you.
Q On Mexico, if I could follow up. I asked last week, to David, about another disturbing assassination in Guadalajara. The state investigator of Jalisco, Mr. Larios I believe is his name, was assassinated. He had been, I believe, investigating the matter of the assassination of the Cardinal, and I believe there were several arrests in Tijuana. Do you have any further information as to who may have been involved? Was it the Ariano Felix cartel of Tijuana, and doesn't this continue to show us that the narco subversives are deep, bold and active in Mexico?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any specific information for you on the specific incident to which you refer. I can say that we support in the strongest way President Zedillo's efforts to deal with the problems of security and of corruption and of narcotics. He and his government and his people are making a strong effort to try to fight those problems, and we support him. That's one of the issues that will be discussed tomorrow during the Binational Commission Meetings.
Q Do you have anything on the detention of the Japanese fishermen in the Pacific?
MR. BURNS: I think I may have something for you on that. I can confirm that on May 12, Guam time, a U.S. Coast Guard patrol plane spotted two Japanese vessels fishing approximately 32 miles inside the United States' exclusive economic zone near the Northern Mariana Islands.
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter nearby caught up with the two vessels inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, and at no time did either vessel leave the zone from the first sight until the boarding.
The masters aboard both vessels signed statements admitting that they were fishing inside the area, which is off-limits to foreign fishing vessels. The two vessels were escorted to Guam over the weekend for appropriate legal action under the Magnuson Fisheries and Conservation Management Act.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been briefed and apprised of the details of these seizures. That's all I have to say on that issue.
Q One more. Something subjective, perhaps. From your experience at the NSC and recently from your eyewitness in Moscow, what, one, I guess, is the state of relations between the governments of the United States and Russia; and what is the state of the -- let's say the state of confidence of the Russian people and their government, their economy, especially the crime?
MR. BURNS: Two big questions.
Q Big questions.
MR. BURNS: Let me try to give you two short answers.
Q A short answer would be fine.
MR. BURNS: The answer to both is yes. (Laughter)
I know that the President and Secretary Christopher have returned from their trip to Moscow and to Kiev with renewed confidence in the fact that both of these relationships -- the U.S.-Russia relationship and the U.S.-Ukraine relationship -- are of critical importance to the United States.
We believe that we made very good progress in advancing in a forward, positive direction our relationship with Russia on the issue of European security, which is the core issue that was discussed at the summit; on the issue of Iran, where we had partial progress -- certainly not complete satisfaction by any means --; and on all of the bilateral issues, particularly on economics, that remain so important to our future.
On the issue of European security, I think it's fair to say that the meeting last week resolved the central problem that was at issue during the Budapest Conference last December 5. President Yeltsin has now agreed that by May 31 Russia will formally sign up to the Partnership for Peace implementing documents. That's a major step forward. We welcome it, and I would note that it now unlocks the ability of NATO and Russia to have a much more substantial discussion, long-range discussion, about the future parameters of a NATO-Russia relationship.
On top of that, we were able to get the Russian leadership to agree that the gas centrifuge project should not go forward. That was the part of the Iran deal that was most dangerous, we thought, to the Middle East, and most important in our discussions with the Russian Government. We remain very seriously committed to convincing the Russian Government over the long term to give up the idea of selling two nuclear reactors and associated software to the Iranian Government.
I would also note -- the American press did not pay a lot of attention to this -- that after three years of effort, going back to the Bush Administration but encompassing all of the Clinton Administration, the Russian Government has now reached the stage in its own economic development where it has received a blessing from the IMF to the tune of $6.8 billion.
So, in other words, Russia's economic reform program which remains firmly in place has reached the point where it should and will receive a substantial level of international assistance. This was very dramatic progress which the United States had a lot to do with through our relationship with the IMF and the World Bank and the Russian Government.
On the case of Ukraine, the President had an excellent visit to Ukraine, and he was able to confirm the two basic important facts of our relationship, and that is that Ukraine has opted to give up its nuclear weapons. The trilateral statement which is a vehicle for that is ahead of schedule in implementation, and all nuclear warheads should be gone from Ukraine by next year.
On the issue of economic reform, President Kuchma has made a major difference. That government is now committed to an economic reform program which has also received the blessing of the IMF, and Ukraine is now the fourth largest recipient of U.S. assistance.
I'd love to get into this maybe in successive days. I would defend that as a very solid record of accomplishment. I know that's at variance with some of the spot reporting that came out of Moscow last week. I would defend that as very solid, forward, positive movement in a relationship that is vital to the United States and a relationship in which both the President and Secretary believe that we must remain firmly engaged.
I'm just looking for some positive affirmation here that our Senior Administration Official is even in the building. Do we know if that's the case? (Laughter) He's in the building. There's been a sighting. Is it going to be possible for him to make his way down to the briefing room?
STAFF: I believe so.
MR. BURNS: Okay. Thanks very much. Any other questions before then?
Q The Congress -- the Senate and the House of Representatives - - some committees, they decided -- they all decided to close USIA and several other agencies. One of them is the Voice of America. Do you plan to secure the Voice of America broadcasting?
MR. BURNS: We very much support the Voice of America, its mission and the continuation of that mission, and we have communicated that to the Congress. Yes.
So if it's okay with everyone, what we'll do here is break for a couple of minutes, we'll turn off the lights, the cameras, and bring our Senior Administration Official down here ON BACKGROUND. Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:15 p.m.)
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