U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/22 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, May 22, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Statement from Secretary Christopher: Death of Les Aspin ...1 Statement re: Secretary Christopher's Travel Plans --NATO FM Meeting ..........................................1 --Signing of Agreement on Cooperation and Defense ..........2 --Policy Address in Madrid .................................2 --25th General Assembly of OAS .............................2 Announcement: Permission for President Lee's Private Visit to U.S. .......2-14 --Secretary Christopher/Chinese FM Discussion ..............12 Budget: Congressman Gilman Legislation .....................17-19 ARMS CONTROL Report of Termination of Japan's Aid to China ..............8 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Report of Israeli Reversal of Land Confiscation Decision ...14-15 Ambassador Ross' Travel Plans ..............................16 GUANTANAMO Unaccompanied Haitian Children .............................15-16 RUSSIA Chechnya: Search for Fred Cuny .............................16-17 NORTH KOREA Framework Agreement: Schedule of Meetings ..................17 Report of North Korea Seeking Alternative Energy Source ....17 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA UN Secretary General Review of UNPROFOR ....................19 Ambassador Frasure Discussions .............................19 Allegation of Iranian Arms Shipments to Region .............20
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, MAY 22, 1995, 12:59 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have a couple of announcements to make, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
First, I'd like to read a statement from Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
I am deeply sadden by the untimely death of former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. I want to express my great admiration for his many years of distinguished service to the United States. As a long-time member of the House Armed Services Committee and ultimately as its Chairman, Les Aspin made an extraordinary contribution to America's national security. As Secretary of Defense, he accomplished important reforms and was responsible for major steps to strengthen U.S. military capabilities. Les and I had a close working relationship in the time that we served together in the President's cabinet. His death deprives our nation of one of its most dedicated public servants.
That was a personal statement by Secretary of State Christopher on the death of Les Aspin.
In addition, I have a couple of statements about the Secretary's perspective travel.
Secretary of State Christopher plans to travel to Noordwijk, the Netherlands, for NATO's Spring Foreign Ministers' Meetings. On Tuesday, May 30, the Secretary will participate in the semi-annual meeting of the North Atlantic Council in ministerial session. Ministers will discuss a range of issues facing the alliance, including the status of the Partnership for Peace, the NATO-Russia relationship, and the status of NATO's internal study on its enlargement.
Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council -- the NACC -- will meet on May 31 to discuss the Partnership for Peace, developments in security, and programs of cooperation for the coming months.
The NACC includes all NATO members as well as a very large number of Central and East European states.
On Thursday, June 1, the Secretary will travel to Lisbon, Portugal to sign jointly with Portuguese Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso the Agreement on Cooperation and Defense. This bilateral accord between the United States and Portugal provides for continued U.S. access to the Lajes Air Base in the Azores and the formation of a bilateral commission to foster cooperation in defense, commerce, science, the environment, and education.
Secretary Christopher will then proceed to Madrid, Spain, later the same day. During the course of his visit on June 1-2, he will meet with Foreign Minister Javier Solana and call on King Juan Carlos to discuss European security, the Middle East peace process, and other issues of mutual concern. The Secretary will also be giving a major policy address in Madrid.
I also would like to announce that Secretary Christopher will travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 4-5 to attend the opening sessions of the 25th General Assembly of the Organization of American States. While there, he will also chair a follow-up review meeting of the hemisphere's foreign ministers to assess implementation of the mandates from last December's Summit of the Americas, which President Clinton, of course, hosted in Miami.
The Secretary will also participate in an OAS meeting of foreign ministers on Haiti and other events while in that country.
Sign-up sheets will be posted in the Press Office after today's briefing for those journalists who wish to apply for a seat to travel with the Secretary. There will be separate sign-up sheets for both of these trips.
MR. BURNS: The question was, "How about the Middle East?" I have nothing today about a Middle East trip. The Secretary has said several times that if it's helpful for him to travel to the Middle East, he will do so; but I have nothing to give you on a Middle East trip.
I do have a final announcement. I've been asked to inform you of the following.
President Clinton has decided to permit Lee Teng-hui to make a private visit to the United States in June for the express purpose of participating in an alumni reunion event at Cornell University, as a distinguished alumnus. This action follows a revision of Administration guidelines to permit occasional private visits by senior leaders of Taiwan, including President Lee.
President Lee will visit the U.S. in a strictly private capacity and will not undertake any official activities.
It is important reiterate that this is not an official visit. The granting of a visa in this case is consistent with U.S. policy of maintaining only unofficial relations with Taiwan. It does not convey any change in our relations with or policies towards the People's Republic of China, with which we maintain official relations and recognize as the sole legal government of China.
We will continue to abide by the three communiques that form the basis of our relations with China. The United States also acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China, and Taiwan is a part of China.
Americans treasure the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of travel and believe others should enjoy these privileges as well. This sentiment clearly motivated the Congress, in its recent actions, to support overwhelmingly permitting Mr. Lee to return to Cornell, his alma mater.
Secretary of State Christopher has indicated that our relationship with China and Taiwan will continue to be governed by the three joint communiques with the People's Republic of China and the Taiwan Relations Act.
It is also Secretary Christopher's view that this decision to permit a private visit does not in any way reflect a change in the fundamental nature of U.S. relations with Taiwan. We continue to maintain unofficial economic and cultural relations with Taiwan.
That concludes the announcements. I'll be glad to go to whatever questions you have.
Q Can we get a copy of the last announcement, Mr. Burns, after the briefing?
MR. BURNS: I think the last announcement is going to stand on its own. You've got my remarks on-the-record, and that forms the basis of our announcement today.
Q You won't put out -- filing break.
Q What kind of visa does the State Department plan to grant to President Lee? And what kind of courtesy does State plan to grant him when he is in the Port of New York?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. I couldn't catch the last half of your question.
Q The courtesy and the visa -- the type of visa? What kind of visa -- the transit visa or the private visit visa?
MR. BURNS: I can certainly get you specific information on the specific type of visa that's going to be issued. But as you know, our policy has been that this is a transit. In this case, it is a visa that will permit him to come to the United States in a private capacity for his express purpose of visiting Cornell University to participate in alumni activities there.
As of now, I don't have a detailed sense of President Lee's itinerary as he travels from Taipei to Cornell. That is something that will be worked out in the coming days. As that becomes available, we'll be glad to share it with you.
Q Have you informed the Chinese of this yet?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we have informed the Chinese Government of this decision. There were talks over the weekend here in Washington between senior officials of our government and the Chinese Ambassador. I believe we've also had some conversations in Beijing with the Chinese Government.
Q Up to this point, you have been talking about a transit visa. Are we still talking about a transit visa or a private visit? Does President Lee Teng-hui have to have a visa to come to this country, or what kind of arrangement are we talking about?
MR. BURNS: You're right to say this is a private visit. There are many different types of visas. So I'm hesitating just a bit to pronounce myself on that, but we can certainly get you an answer to that specific question.
Q Secretary Christopher has said many times, including in his testimony on Capitol Hill, that a visit by President Lee Teng-hui would remove an important element of unofficiality from the unofficial relations with Taiwan. By allowing President Lee Teng-hui to come to this country, are you, in fact, removing the important element of unofficiality from your unofficial relations with Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: No, we're not. In fact, as my statement indicated, our policy towards Taiwan is based on the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan. Nothing in this particular decision changes that.
Obviously, there are a number of factors in this decision. First and foremost among them was the fact that this is a private visit. It does not involve any events or activities of an official nature.
The United States Congress has indicated its view that a private visit by President Lee is consistent with our unofficial relations with Taiwan. The President and the Secretary of State believe that Mr. Lee's visit is clearly private and therefore is appropriate. Those are the factors that went into this decision.
Q In your communication with Beijing, have you received any response from the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to characterize the details of our private conversations with the Chinese Government. We normally don't do that in diplomatic practice, not, at least, in public.
I know that there were a series of conversations over the weekend, beginning on Saturday -- a number of them. We'll just have to wait and see what the Government of China's public reaction is to this.
Q Was there a negative reaction by the Chinese Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: I think I would describe it, yes, as a negative reaction. (Laughter)
Q Two questions: After all, he's the President of Taiwan -- the Republic of China. He's not an ordinary type of person. When he travels through this country, will the U.S. Government provide any protective service? And also, will there be any limit on the length of his stay? My understanding, he's allowed to stay up to six days.
MR. BURNS: As I said a couple of minutes ago, I'm not in a position now to give you our understanding of the details of President Lee's itinerary in the United States. That remains to be worked out. When it is worked out, and we have something to say on it, I'll be glad to get into the issues that you raised and give you a sense of what we think his itinerary is.
Still on China?
Q Yes, still.
Q How long will the visa be for?
MR. BURNS: That's something that needs to be worked out. That is yet to be worked out, as I understand it. Once it is, we'll let you know what the terms are.
The visa, as I understand it, has not yet been issued. It will be issued once the discussions are complete on the itinerary.
Q And to follow up, were the Taiwanese informed of this decision on Friday as the Taiwanese press indicates?
MR. BURNS: I know that this decision was made just a couple of days ago, and the negotiations and discussions surrounding it were carried out over the weekend. I think that's the most accurate thing I can say, Mark, on that.
Q As recently as several months back, Assistant Secretary Lord went to Beijing, among other things, to explain -- to reiterate, rather -- to the Chinese that this position was not under review. Can you tell us what the State Department has done to try to explain to the Chinese Government why this position is being changed, and tell us whether there's been any sort of a diplomatic nod or a dance of some sort that would indicate that this is not going to fracture relations right now between the United States and China?
MR. BURNS: As I indicated to you, there are a number of factors that went into this decision. Among them were the fact that we understood this would be a private visit. It would not have any official activities or events associated with it.
Certainly, the Administration listened to the views of Congress -- many members of Congress who were interested in this question and had quite specific views on it. And, as the President and the Secretary and other officials looked at this, it seemed that it was entirely consistent with our policy of unofficial relations with Taiwan.
So I can't really point to one factor, but I would just say there are several factors that led the Administration to take this action and to make this decision. We have had discussions with the People's Republic of China on this for some time, and I know the discussions over the weekend were quite detailed.
I would not want to anticipate what the reaction from Beijing will be. We'll just have to wait and see what it is.
Q Nick, I guess in contrast to some of your remarks up there today, Winston Lord said in multiple testimonies on the Hill in recent months that this would not be a good policy -- was not a policy shift the Administration intended to make and in fact would not be a wise policy. What has happened to change that evaluation, aside from Congress voting on a non-binding resolution?
MR. BURNS: As I said, I think this is probably the third time I've been around this one, so hopefully this can be the last time. The Administration over the last couple of weeks debated this issue, deliberated internally, reviewed all the factors surrounding the visit, I think had a chance to look in a more detailed way at the proposed itinerary. We were able to assure ourselves that this would be a purely private visit.
President Lee is a distinguished alumnus of Cornell, and I think by all accounts everyone in our government would credit him with having pursued economic reform policies and political reform policies that have certainly benefited the people of Taiwan.
When you put that together with the interests of the Congress and the opportunity for the President and the Secretary personally to review this decision, the decision was made by the President and Secretary, considering all these factors, to issue the visa.
Q Was a decision made along the high-level route like -- and in secret -- the way that the Cuba decision was made, or was it fully vetted in this building and elsewhere?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you there was a good deal of conversation and discussion throughout this building and at all levels of this building about this decision. Secretary Christopher had a meeting last week with several members of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. He heard views from mid-level and senior-level people in the Department of State, and I know he and the President were able to have the views of others around the government.
This was not a decision that was made in some kind of protective cocoon. It was a decision that was animated by the views of all the people who are responsible for China in this government. So, therefore, at the end of the day last week, putting all of these factors together and understanding in some detail the nature of the visit itself -- which is private and unofficial -- I think they felt that the most prudent course to take was to issue the visa.
Q One more follow-up on that, if I can. You indicated the decision was made essentially late last week. The White House spokesman, Mr. McCurry, suggested on -- it was well known around here -- on Friday that no immediate -- "a final decision hadn't been taken, nor am I aware that one will be taken at any time in the immediate future." How do you reconcile that statement on Friday with your statement here?
MR. BURNS: He and I said the same thing at about one o'clock on Friday, so why don't you group me with Mike McCurry on that.
Q All right. Why were you saying that on Friday as to the decision?
MR. BURNS: There are 24 hours in a day. (Laughter) As you remember, we were speaking at mid-day on Friday. There were a number of meetings that took place and discussions that took place, I'm sure, after we were both briefing, and we had not yet had the opportunity to engage in detailed discussions with the People's Republic of China -- the Government of the People's Republic of China -- which we wanted to do, and there were also discussions, of course, with Taiwanese officials.
So I don't apologize in any way for the language that either of used. We said what we knew to be accurate at mid-day on Friday, but policies evolve and decisions are made, and when decisions are made, you go on from there.
Q Follow-up. Does President Lee need a visa to come to this country?
MR. BURNS: The whole issue has been about a visa, yes. Everyone coming to this country requires a visa. He cannot enter the United States without a visa.
Q But you don't know what type of visa.
MR. BURNS: I'm going to get back to you on that.
Q Nick, also on China, have you seen a report that Japan has stopped its aid to China as a result of its displeasure with the nuclear test?
MR. BURNS: I certainly heard that report this morning and saw the announcement from Tokyo, yes.
Q Does the United States Government have any reaction to it?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have any reaction to that, no. That announcement was just made four or five hours ago, and sometimes we're very, very quick in this government. We can respond immediately to events. Sometimes we like to think about things or at least look into the specific announcements, and I believe this is in the latter case.
Q Can we go back to the previous subject for just a second?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q I know you don't probably wish to, but --
MR. BURNS: I'm glad to talk about this all day, if you'd like.
Q As in the case of another recent controversial decision and policy change, several people in the Department asked for a change of jobs in disagreement. Has anything like that happened in this case?
MR. BURNS: I think I can glean the incident to which you refer, Charlie, and I can tell you I don't believe this situation is similar at all. As I said, Secretary Christopher encouraged people from all levels of the Department to discuss this issue. And, as I said, I think it was a week ago today he had a meeting last Monday afternoon in his office to discuss this issue, as he does when major issues come up. There were mid- and as well as senior-level people involved in that meeting.
On any issue you're going to have people who agree or disagree, but I have not heard of anything similar to the incident that took place about a month ago here. I can tell you that this decision by the President and his Secretary is supported by the leadership of the Department as well as other agencies of the Government that are involved.
Q Nick, different area but under the --
MR. BURNS: Do you want to stay on China? Mark.
Q Yes, a couple. Not to be flippant, but President Lee has been a distinguished alumnus of Cornell for some time. Has this opportunity to visit come up before? Has it been discussed and rejected here in the Department?
And, secondly, does the Secretary still have full confidence in Winston Lord?
MR. BURNS: Let me go to the second question. The Secretary absolutely has full confidence in Win Lord. He is one of the most distinguished diplomats that this country has produced in the last several decades. He is one of the most distinguished members of the Department. He's a leader with great vision, and he's a fine diplomat, and there should be no indication that there is any kind of problem on that score.
And your first question, Mark, since I was so focused on the second question? (Laughter)
Q Has the issue of a visit to Cornell by the President of Taiwan come up previously, been discussed and been rejected in this Department?
MR. BURNS: This issue has been discussed for a number of months, at least since I took up my duties here -- the request for a visa for President Lee to enable him to come to this country to speak at Cornell. We have been discussing for then many months the terms of that visa, whether or not it made sense, whether or not it was in conformity to our policy of unofficial relations with Taiwan.
So I wouldn't say, at least on this current round, that it's a question of having rejected it and then changed our position. I think it's more a case of having taken several months to work through the complexities of this issue with Taiwan, with the People's Republic of China, and also here in the United States. I mean, it's no secret there's been a very active congressional debate. Many members of Congress have made their views known to officials in this government, and there has been a lot of discussion within our own government on this issue, and I talked about that -- about the types of discussion that the Secretary has had on this issue. So I would prefer to put it in that light.
Q But there were previous rounds?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me.
Q You said in this current round. There were previous rounds.
MR. BURNS: There have been rounds of discussion, that's right. There have been rounds of discussion on this.
Q Does this change in policy mean that President Lee will be admitted to the United States any time that he requests a visa as long as it's in a capacity as a private official, or is there going to be a cap? Are there going to be three visits a year? Has a decision been made on that, or is it going to be a case-by-case basis?
MR. BURNS: I think it's most accurate to say this will be done, any future requests, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We will be open to requests that pertain completely to the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan. We will, however, not approve visits which we feel are inconsistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan.
In discussing this, I'm not just talking about President Lee but about visits -- potential, possible visits -- by other members of the Taiwanese leadership.
Q Is this the case where State Department policy has just been reversed by Congress?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't characterize it like that. I tried to give you a sense of the fabric of the discussion inside the Administration, and certainly the views of Congress are important. They're always important when the Executive Branch debates policy and considers policy actions.
In view of the very strong feeling in Congress, we listened very hard to members of Congress who felt strongly about this. But in addition to that, as people began -- especially people at senior levels of this government -- began to look into this over the last couple of weeks and were assured and reassured that there was nothing in the proposed itinerary that would be contrary to the commitments we had made about the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan, I think that people achieved a comfort level and decided on the basis of those factors -- not just the sentiments of Congress -- but having looked into it themselves that this made sense, and it was the right thing to do.
That's why and how this decision was made. So it was not a case of the Administration simply reacting. It was a case of senior people putting a spotlight on the issue, looking at it, considering it carefully and making the best decision for the United States.
Q On a related subject, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took actions last week recognizing the sovereignty of Tibet. What's the Administration's response to that?
MR. BURNS: I think you know our position on that, that Tibet is part of China.
Q (Inaudible) position on Taiwan.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q I say we thought we knew your position on Taiwan. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: But everything that we've done today is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, with the Three Communiques, and with our unofficial relations with Taiwan. As you know, last year the Administration made some adjustments in our policy to allow the possibility -- our policy towards Taiwan -- to allow the possibility of senior-level transit visits, and this decision should be seen as a continuation of that process.
Policies are rarely grounded in cement for decades on end. Policies, of course, must evolve with the times. We are confident that, in taking this decision today, we have done nothing to contradict the essential importance of our relations with the People's Republic of China or the documents on which that policy is based.
Ron, you've been trying for a while.
Q When the Secretary met Foreign Minister Qian in New York, did he prepare him for this type of decision, and did they discuss the congressional push to reverse this policy?
MR. BURNS: There was a brief discussion, I think, at lunch on April 17 when the Secretary met Foreign Minister Qian about this issue. This gets back into the nature of how we characterize this. This was in another earlier round of discussion, and, as I remember, a very brief discussion. There was some reference, I think, to views both within our government and views in the Congress on this matter. And I think we heard back from the Chinese Foreign Minister, his views on the matter.
Still on China?
Q Yes, still on Taiwan. Has the State Department or any agency within the Administration reviewed President Lee's speeches or speech that he plans to make at Cornell, if he plans to make one, to make sure that it's consistent with your understanding that he won't be making any comments as the President of Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, we've just begun discussions on his itinerary, so I don't even know if the speech is written. I'm not sure we'd be in a position to do that. He obviously understands the nature of the terms of this visit to the United States, that it is private, that it is not official, and cannot be contrary to the unofficiality -- the unofficial nature -- of our relations. So I just don't think we're in a position to take that kind of action.
Q Are they going to introduce him as Lee Teng-hui or President Lee or --
MR. BURNS: That's entirely up to Cornell University. It's not up to the United States Government to make that determination. His visit is a private one. He's an alumnus. He's being honored there. He is going to make a public address there. The United States Government is in no position to try to change that event or to try to affect that event or to set ground rules for the event, besides the fact that we understand this is a private visit, and that, therefore, he will acquit himself in a private capacity.
Q Do you have any plans to send any senior envoy to Beijing to discuss the issue further directly there, or it will be handled by the Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: Not that I'm aware of. Several senior members of the Administration here in Washington had discussions with the Chinese Ambassador over the weekend. We also have a very distinguished and senior Ambassador in Beijing, Stapleton Roy, who I'm sure has been in touch with the Chinese Government.
Q Speaking of Ambassadors, I understand the U.S. Ambassador has been summoned in Beijing. Do you have any information on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't.
Q Is he allowed to meet with members of Congress?
MR. BURNS: That is a decision that members of Congress are going to have to make, not the Administration.
Q But Senator Murkowski wants also a visa for President Lee to visit Alaska, the US-ROC Economic Conference in September. Is this ruling going to have any bearing on a potential visa for that visit, which will be much more official than this one?
MR. BURNS: As I said at the beginning, we continue to discuss the exact itinerary of President Lee, and that could very well be part of it or maybe it's not part of it. We'll just have to see. We don't have a detailed sense now. We're just getting, I should say, a detailed sense of a proposed itinerary. That remains to be discussed. Once we've agreed upon a final itinerary, we'll be in a position to talk about that, but we're not right now.
Q Are you negotiating the itinerary with the Taiwanese?
MR. BURNS: We're discussing it. We're discussing it because we want to make sure that President Lee's activities here, with all due respect, are consistent with the understanding we have, which is this will be a private visit. So it's entirely appropriate for us to have those discussions, and we'll have them. And when we've completed them, we'll let you know.
Q You won't issue the visa then until after those discussions are satisfactorily completed?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, we certainly want to be assured that his itinerary conforms to the assurances we've been given, and, once we have achieved that level of satisfaction, we'll be glad to issue the visa.
MR. BURNS: We don't expect any problems along those lines at all.
Q What is the American position in these discussions? What can you tell us about the restrictions that the United States wants to place on President Lee's activities while he is in this country?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to get into the details of our discussions. But maybe for the fourth or fifth time -- then we can wrap this part of it up -- I will say we understand this is a private visit. We will issue a visa based on that very clear understanding.
Q When the senior Administration official spoke with the Chinese Ambassador, did he indicate any actions that China might take to --
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to get into the details of diplomatic conversation, except to say that I don't think there was overwhelming applause. I think they're obviously disappointed, and I'm sure we'll have further discussions.
Q Can I stay on the subject of evolving policy guidelines but in a different part of the world?
MR. BURNS: Anybody? I think we've taken care of this, haven't we?
Q Israel has apparently reversed or at least suspended its land confiscation decision. I'm curious whether you have a reaction to that.
MR. BURNS: I don't, because when I was coming into the briefing room, we were reading the same press reports that you have, but we have not had yet, as I understand it, any kind of detailed account of exactly what action may have been taken by the Israeli Cabinet and what it means.
Obviously, we have great interest in this because the United States is deeply involved, heavily, seriously involved in the peace process. We want to be helpful, so rather than get ahead of our understanding of the events, I think I'm going to let this one slide until we have a better understanding.
Q Do you think it would be good for the peace process?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, Lee?
Q If the freeze indeed turns out to be correct and holds, do you think it would be helpful to the Middle East peace process?
MR. BURNS: We didn't believe that the original decision to confiscate the land was helpful. We thought it posed difficulties. So obviously if there is now a decision to freeze that action, it would be helpful.
Q Did the Secretary talk to Prime Minister Rabin about this over the last three or four days -- some reports have said -- asking him to reconsider that decision?
MR. BURNS: At this point, Sid, I just don't want to go into the details of our negotiations, our discussions with the Israelis or others.
Q Haiti? Are we finished with the Mideast? Can I ask a question on Haiti?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q Do you have any guidance on the Haitian children in Guantanamo on their disposition? Will most or all be admitted to the United States?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do. As you know, the disposition of the unaccompanied Haitian children at Guantanamo presents sensitive issues that we're seeking to resolve in a humane manner consistent with established international practice. We sought the assistance of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other organizations. We are making case-by-case evaluations of each of these young children.
In some cases, especially where the child's parents or close relatives are in Haiti, this is likely to mean that the child will be repatriated to Haiti. In other cases, it may be that U.S. resettlement better meets the child's needs, and we will authorize U.S. entry for such children.
No child will be returned to Haiti unless the judgment is made that it is in his or her best interests. We think this procedure, which has been endorsed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, is most responsive to the needs and interests of the children.
It's a very complex procedure, of course, to track the families or relatives involved, and we are trying as best as we can, and as quickly as we can, to do that.
We are committed to ensuring the completion of the process for unaccompanied minors at Guantanamo is achieved no later than June 30. After that date, no unaccompanied minors will remain at Guantanamo.
Since February, I understand, 22 minors were found to have parents in the United States and had been paroled into the U.S. to join them; 103 of these children have returned to Haiti where they've been reunited with their families. This morning, 20, in this group, were returned to Haiti because they've been able to reunited with their families. All were escorted to their homes.
"Save the Children," the non-governmental organization, is doing follow-up visits to every child returned to Haiti. I believe now, with the departures this morning, there are 183 Haitian children left at Guantanamo.
Q Do you know if there are any plans for Ambassador Ross to go to the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: I don't. I spoke with him this morning. He's a very active diplomat. He's heavily engaged in all these issues, but I'm not aware of any plans he has to go to the region.
Q Anything new on Fred Cuny?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, there's very little new. The Russian doctor who was to perform the forensic examination of the corpse in question has still not been able to reach the town Shatoy because of fighting.
I would say, however, that earlier indications and the earlier examination that was done strongly suggests that the body in question is not that of Mr. Cuny. We continue our efforts to search for Fred Cuny who has been missing for over two months.
We have an Embassy Moscow officer in the area. I think, as I mentioned the other day, Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott met with Fred Cuny's brother, Chris, on Friday as did Tony Lake, the National Security Advisor. We are working closely with the Cuny family, the Soros Foundation, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on this effort, and we'll continue our efforts.
Q On Korea. Are the Korean talks in trouble?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't say that the Korea talks are in trouble. The Korea talks are on-going. They began, as you know, Saturday. The full delegations met this morning, Monday, May 22. The discussions were focused on the light-water reactor issue. I would describe them as frank and businesslike.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 23, there will be technical-level meetings. The U.S. side will be led in this meetings by Dr. Gary Samore. The full delegation meetings will resume on Wednesday, May 24. Our side will be led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Tom Hubbard.
Q Can I ask a follow-up on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q There was a report last week in the Wall Street Journal out of Asia suggesting that North Korea, because of this current impasse, may give up the idea of light-water reactors all together and seek an alternative source of energy. What can you tell us about that?
MR. BURNS: I saw those same reports. I think I spoke to this late last week. I don't have all the details of today's discussion. I'm unaware of any proposal like that from North Korea.
Q This morning, the Secretary had some pretty strong criticism for Congressman Gilman's legislation. Has the State Department communicated their feelings about this legislation since it's up for a vote this week?
MR. BURNS: We are in the process of communicating our views about this legislation. The Secretary certainly did so last week when he testified before the Senate Foreign Operations subcommittee. The Secretary spoke publicly this morning. I know he's in the process of drafting a letter to the Congressional leadership on this issue.
Let me just take you through a couple of our concerns. The Gilman bill, we believe, is deeply-flawed legislation that could undermine this and every future President's ability to safeguard American's security to advance our interests and to provide American leadership in the world.
It contains numerous restraints and restrictions that would do immense harm to our nation's foreign policy. It drastically reduces our resources. The Secretary made this point very strongly last week. He thought the level of funds being slated in the two budget marks for both the State Department operations and for our foreign assistance levels were simply unsatisfactory. They were simply too low to meet the minimum requirements that this country has a global power to meet its interests.
The legislation also mandates a costly and inefficient reorganization of the Executive Branch that would be very disruptive to American interests worldwide.
As the Secretary said this morning, if the bill reaches the President's desk in its current form, he, the Secretary, will have no choice but to recommend that the President veto it.
On the most fundamental constitutional grounds, the Secretary is deeply opposed to the elaborate and unnecessary restraints that this legislation imposes. If enacted, these restraints would compromise our ability to follow through on the North Korea Framework Agreement. They would undermine our effective participation and weaken our leverage in international organizations.
They would also compel changes in our refugee policy that could pose a serious threat to our borders, limiting the President's ability to respond to boat migration and possibly exacerbating the illegal smuggling of aliens into the United States.
In addition, the bill would seriously impair the President's responsibility to manage our delicate relations with China at a time of its transition in leadership.
Numerous conditions on our assistance to Russia and other New Independent States could derail our steady support for democratic and market reform in a region that remains the site of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads.
Let's not forget that in the post-Cold War era, the world is in need of strong and clear American leadership. That's certainly in the best interest of the American people. We've seen over the course of the last two and a half years, on a number of occasions, President Clinton take decisive action based on his constitutional prerogatives.
I have in mind, just as one example, the action that we took last year in Haiti that has been so positive and so beneficial in returning that country to a state of stability and to a state where they can hope for a better future. We need Presidential leadership to protect American interests, and we need resources -- and this is the point that the Secretary was making last Thursday -- to protect vital American interests around the world.
We can't have a foreign policy on the cheap. We can't have the rhetoric of strong American action around the world and not give the Executive Branch of the government the resources to back that up. So we obviously feel very strongly about this.
The Secretary has strong personal views. As he said, I think in front of Senator McConnell last week, it has not been his style in the past to use dramatic language. He is using this kind of language to demonstrate a point, that we simply have to have a better level of cooperation as we proceed over the next couple of months.
Q I would like to ask about Bosnia. A couple of questions, briefly.
Nick, last week, when Foreign Secretary Hurd was here for consultations, we mentioned that there might be some news coming from Hurd about what the French are planning to do. They've had a few days now since their government was installed. Have we heard anything from them as to their continued participation in UNPROFOR?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've heard anything definitive. As you know, the U.N. Secretary General's review of UNPROFOR continues. He is expected to issue a report this week to the Security Council. We are anxiously awaiting that report because we have very strong views about how UNPROFOR needs to be energized and strengthened in order to meet the U.N. resolutions that are at stake there.
In addition, I would just remind you that Ambassador Bob Frasure has been in the region. He's been having talks on behalf of the Contact Group with the Serbian leadership.
We are trying to do everything we can to promote a cease-fire and promote a course of action by the parties on the ground that would lead them away from what we fear may occur this summer -- that is, a wider war -- and towards a commitment to resolve their problems peacefully. This is a very, very hard thing to do, given the tremendous conflict that has raged in that area for a long, long time over the past couple of years.
Q With regard to -- go ahead.
Q With regard to that conflict, in the fueling thereof mentioned on Friday, Nick, an article that has been in the news several times, Mr. Bill Gertz alleging that U.S. intelligence is confirming the flow of arms from Iran into the island -- I think it's Kirk -- that's in Croatia, the Croatians then transshipping arms to the Bosnians. The allegation in this article is that the U.S. Government is looking the other way.
Can you state -- and besides a senior official told us that this was correct, there was Iranian arms input into the Bosnia war. Can you tell us, is this erroneous that the U.S. is looking the other way?
MR. BURNS: What I said last week and what I'll say again, our position hasn't changed; the United States does not encourage the violation of U.N. resolutions.
Q Aren't you required by law to look the other way?
MR. BURNS: I'm just going to say on this one, the United States does not encourage the violation of U.N. resolutions.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:42 p.m.)
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