U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, MAY 26, 1995, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I don't have any specific announcements to make today. I'll be glad to go right to your questions on whatever subject might interest you today.
Q Why don't we start with Bosnia.
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q The President is appealing to Yeltsin to put pressure on the Serbs. Are there any other diplomatic initiatives underway?
MR. BURNS: Why don't I do this: Why don't I take you through the U.S. Government's position as we look at events that are very fluid, very dynamic, changing rapidly; give you an indication of what Secretary Christopher has been doing this morning -- he's been quite engaged in this; and talk about a few other issues. Then we can get into specific questions.
The President took a few questions, I believe, a couple of minutes ago on this. Let me just go through the position of our government.
The United States is and remains prepared to join NATO in responding to requests by the United Nations on the ground. We support and welcome the action taken so far. We condemn the shelling of civilians by Bosnian Serbs, the violations of the U.N. resolutions, and note that NATO actions are strictly against military targets.
The situation is fluid and still unfolding. Therefore, we'll not be commenting on every development as it takes place.
But as the President said yesterday and today, "We hope that the airstrikes of the past two days will convince the Bosnian Serb leadership to end their violations of the exclusion zones and comply with the other agreements with the U.N."
Secretary Christopher has been following the situation very actively this morning. He has been on the phone twice to the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Claes. He spoke by telephone with British Foreign Secretary Hurd and German Foreign Minister Kinkel who are both in Bonn today for a meeting with their respective heads of state.
He just spoke about 45 minutes ago with the new French Foreign Minister, Mr. de Charette. Secretary Christopher also sent a message to Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev. A phone call was not possible because Mr. Kozyrev is in Minsk today at a CIS Heads-of-State meeting. The Secretary has had several meetings with his advisors today.
In his communications with his Contact Group colleagues this morning, the Secretary has communicated his strong belief that it makes sense now, given the urgency of the situation, to have a Contact Group ministerial meeting next week while the Contact Group ministers are in The Netherlands for the NATO meetings.
The urgency of the situation requires such a meeting. Our Contact Group allies have troops on the ground. I think at this point the Secretary believes that a discussion would be very useful.
We condemn, in the strongest terms, the attack on Tuzla last night that left so many people dead. We condemn the holding of U.N. officials that has taken place today.
I would just note that the Bosnian Government is cooperating with the United Nations, and there is a vast difference in the actions and behavior of the Bosnian Government as opposed to the Bosnian Serb leadership.
I'm glad to respond to any specific questions you might have.
Q Is the West prepared to accept casualties -- U.N. peacekeepers as casualties?
MR. BURNS: David, we certainly hope it won't come to that. As I said before, the situation on the ground is dynamic, it's fluid, and it's changing as we speak. Our hope is that the Bosnian Serb leadership will understand the message that was sent along with the NATO airstrikes yesterday and today. The message is that the time for war is past and the time for negotiation has come.
It is incumbent upon the Bosnian Serb leadership to make the decision that their holding of these people today is inhumane and uncivilized; that their actions last night in Tuzla go beyond the pale. There are peace plans on the table that can be the basis of discussions between the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosnian Government, and the other parties to the conflict.
Q But is there a price that you would like to state now that they would pay if any of those peacekeepers are harmed?
MR. BURNS: I don't think I want to get into that. Certainly, we just going to have to watch as the situation unfolds over the next day or two or three. We're going to remain interested in seeing if we can use our influence in whatever way to help the parties back down from the situation that they're in right now. I'm, there, referring specifically to the Bosnian Serb leadership. They should back down from their present position and their present actions. They should draw the lesson that it is incumbent upon them to turn towards peace.
Q Does the United States have anything new working with Milosevic, any new contacts? And, beyond that, is there anything from Moscow to suggest specifically what the Russians might or might not do in that regard with the Serbs proper -- the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that I have seen anything. On the second part of the question. From Moscow about Russian actions, I just would note the statement made earlier today by President Yeltsin about the initial airstrikes, the statement being that since the Bosnian Serbs didn't remove their equipment from the zones in time, the NATO action was therefore understandable.
On the first part of the question, we're just going to have to wait and see what develops, Steve.
Q Any new contacts with Milosevic then?
MR. BURNS: I believe our Charge in Belgrade had a meeting with Mr. Milosevic this morning. There is no change in the U.S. offer.
Ambassador Frasure was in Belgrade for eight days. That offer that he was discussing on behalf of the Contact Group members stands. It's on the table. If Mr. Milosevic is interested in discussing it, we'll be very glad to discuss it. But there are no plans for further discussions with him. The offer has not been changed at all.
Q This meeting with the Charge -- what did that produce, what was it about, what did Milosevic --
MR. BURNS: I think it was simply to touch base at this point about the situation on the ground. So it didn't produce any change at all in our discussions with the Serb leadership in Belgrade about the Contact Group proposal.
Q You said the Bosnian Serbs need to back down. There is every indication that they, based on the history of the last year or so, believe that if they hold firm that NATO and the U.N. will back down. What are you prepared to do to convince them that's a bad idea?
MR. BURNS: They know very well the position of the West, in general -- I would say the world, in general; that the time for warfare and violence has come to an end; that the attacks last night on Tuzla are quite despicable and must be condemned; and that the NATO airstrikes are meant to indicate that they should draw the lesson that the time has come for peace.
Q Have you had any answers from the other four members of the Contact Group? Do they agree to a meeting next week?
MR. BURNS: I think there is general agreement that there should be a Contact Group meeting. I hesitate only because we have not received a message back from the Russian leadership. Since the Russian leadership has consistently pushed for this kind of ministerial meeting, we don't anticipate any disagreement on the part of Moscow.
But the other responses -- from the French, the Germans, and the British -- were quite positive. So I believe there will be a meeting next week. We haven't decided exactly when it will be, because, as you know, NATO has other business next week to talk about the future of European security, the Russian-NATO relationship, and all of that.
Q What's cooking at the Security Council in parallel to this meeting?
MR. BURNS: There is a lot of activity, certainly, with the United Nations in Zagreb and in Sarajevo and in New York. Apart from the activity that relates to the airstrikes and the situation of the U.N. observers on the ground -- some of whom have been detained -- is the issue of the future of UNPROFOR and the study that the U.N. Secretary General had ordered. We await the results of that study.
I think we've said before quite consistently, over the last couple of weeks, the position of the United States, and that is that UNPROFOR should remain; that it should be strengthened; and that NATO and UNPROFOR should combine to defend and protect and advance the cause of the U.N. resolutions.
But there is nothing that I have heard of, Jim, in the last 24 hours about anything concrete on the study that was ordered by the U.N. Secretary General.
Q In his discussions with the other Western allies today, did the Secretary discuss a unified position, in a sense, on the Bosnian Serb threat to kill these peacekeepers if there are any further airstrikes?
MR. BURNS: Certainly, in our contacts with the German, French, and British leadership, through the Foreign Ministers of those three countries, there is agreement. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Kinkel spoke to this yesterday.
There is agreement on the necessity of the airstrikes. There is agreement that NATO should be in a position to respond to U.N. requests for action, as I said earlier. I don't want to characterize the Russian position because, again, this was a one-way communication this morning since Mr. Kozyrev was in Minsk. So I can't say that we had heard back from the Russians, specifically their views on the present situation.
Q Nick, yesterday, when asked if any U.N. personnel were to be taken hostage after the attack yesterday, you said "They'd better not do it." They have been taken hostage. In addition, the attacks on Tuzla, you've condemned and called despicable and yet you're now proposing a wait of five or six days before the ministers get together. Do you expect the U.N. personnel to be chained to these lamp posts and to the bridges until then? Is that acceptable?
MR. BURNS: Certainly not. In scheduling the meeting for next week, when all of these people, these ministers, will be together, we're certainly not saying that somehow diplomatic action will be suspended. It won't. We are very actively engaged right now in various capitals -- in Zagreb, in Sarajevo, in Washington, and in New York to try to see what we can do -- we, the United States -- and collectively what we can do with our Contact Group allies to try to help the situation. That diplomatic action will continue as long as is necessary and certainly throughout this weekend.
So we're not in any way, shape, or form suspending any action. In fact, it's been quite intense today.
Q Secretary Perry stated that he thought this would take some time -- this application of air power -- to bring about the desired effect. Does Secretary Christopher believe that, in time, these masters of retaliation -- the Serbs -- are going to respond in the way we hope they will?
And the second part of the question is, did the Bosnian Muslims conform to the edicts of UNPROFOR with regard to their weapons and return them?
MR. BURNS: There is a vast difference in the actions of the Bosnian Government versus the actions of the Bosnian Serb leadership over the last couple of days. The Bosnian Government has openly and publicly stated that it wants to comply with the directives of the United Nations, and that it wants to cooperate with the United Nations, and its actions indicate that it is doing so. That is not the case with the Bosnian Serb leadership.
Therefore, just to respond to your first question, I think it's fair to say that it is our hope that the Bosnian Serb leadership will draw the right lessons from the events of the last couple of days.
I can't say it is our firm expectation, based upon past behavior, which has been noted in some of the questions today. We certainly understand very well how they have acted in the past. The way they're acting today is beyond the pale of civilized behavior.
We're going to keep trying every way we can to convince them that it is time to cooperate with the U.N. and cooperate with the Bosnian Government in a search for peace. In saying that, we are quite mindful of the history of the last four years.
Q Nick, did you see the television pictures today of U.N. peacekeepers who have been handcuffed and put as human shields at places that the Bosnian Serbs think might be targeted?
MR. BURNS: Yes, of course.
Q What was your reaction to those?
MR. BURNS: Of course we all saw it. We are monitoring the television as well as monitoring the diplomacy.
Q What was your reaction?
MR. BURNS: I think the general reaction here in Washington is that this kind of behavior, as I said before, is despicable behavior. It is behavior that the civilized world firmly opposes. I think as people around the world -- not just people in Europe or North America -- watch this and watch the behavior, they will come to the conclusion that there has to be a change of attitude in the Bosnian Serb leadership and a change in their actions today. It's the fundamental reaction that most people had.
Q Is there any reason to think that Milosevic has any influence over events now unfolding in Bosnia, and, if so, what would you expect him to do?
MR. BURNS: That's a very good question. We certainly would expect that Belgrade continues to have influence with the Bosnian Serb leadership. I really can't discuss that in a detailed way, because we just don't know the extent at this time of the influence, but there is some influence there.
Certainly, one of the messages that was transmitted this morning by our diplomat in Belgrade was that we hope that influence will be used; that the sanctions will remain in place; that Belgrade will counsel Pale to change its behavior and change its actions and to comply with the U.N. resolutions.
MR. BURNS: Just a minute. I think Norm had a question.
Q Nick, you may have come close to answering this, but it requires a little reading between the lines, and I think I'd like to see if you can make it explicit.
Is NATO willing to conduct airstrikes and other military action that might result in the death of U.N. hostages, either by attacking targets they're chained to or by attacking with the thought that the Serbs might kill them in retaliation?
MR. BURNS: Norm, the very first thing I said, I think, was that the United States remains prepared to join NATO in responding to U.N. requests, and that's in the present tense, and it means what it means. We have said during the last 24 hours -- the President has said and the Secretary has said -- that the application of airstrikes was correct.
It was most unfortunate that NATO had to take this action in compliance with the U.N. -- most unfortunate because, of course, one never wants to resort to the use of force, but in this case it was warranted, it was correct, and it was the right thing to do.
Q Nick, when you sent the message to Kozyrev, did you send it to Moscow?
MR. BURNS: Yes. What we did, since we could not get through to the CIS meeting in Minsk, we sent a message from the State Department to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow and asked that that message from the Secretary be passed on to Foreign Minister Kozyrev; and the message was in general that we think it is now quite urgent that the Contact Group Ministers meet next week. We think there's a lot to discuss. As I said before, I can't speak on behalf of the Russian Government, but it's our expectation that the Russians will certainly want to agree to that request.
Q What is your expectation of when Christopher will actually speak to Kozyrev?
MR. BURNS: The situation being as it is, the Secretary is going to remain intensively engaged in the diplomatic process. He has been all morning. In fact, this began, unfortunately for him, at two or three this morning in the first phone calls with Willy Claes. So he was up part of the night working on this problem, and I can tell you since seven this morning has been working on this problem and still is as I'm out here briefing.
I would expect that as the situation unfolds, he will remain very much engaged with his colleagues throughout the weekend.
Q Does the United States see any increased movement along the border between Serbia and Bosnia, say increased violations of the embargo?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I don't have any information on that either way, and by saying I don't have any information, I'm not trying to lead you to -- I'm not trying to avoid the question. I just don't have any information either way about the compliance with sanctions, which I think you're referring to, on the border.
But I did say in answer to an earlier question, that one of the messages that we certainly have communicated to Belgrade, and will continue to communicate, is that compliance with the sanctions is quite essential now, considering where the NATO airstrikes hit and considering that that's a crucial line of support for the Bosnian Serbs.
Q Can you tell us whether Mr. Milosevic is responsible, generally speaking?
MR. BURNS: I'm certainly not in a position to go into the details of a diplomatic conversation of that nature.
Q Nick, can we assume at this point that there will not be any further airstrikes for the time being?
MR. BURNS: That decision is entirely up to the commanders on the ground -- the U.N. commanders and the NATO commanders on the ground. It's not a decision that's made in Washington or any other Contact Group capital. It's made by the people on the ground through the dual-key arrangement, which is well known to you.
I would just like to reaffirm what I said at the beginning, that we remain prepared to join NATO in responding to requests from the United Nations.
Q But you are in communication with those people who hold the dual keys and therefore have some impressions as to what their plans are.
MR. BURNS: We certainly are in communication. I think it would be unwise for me, however, to go into details of that conversation.
Q You haven't heard anything from Karadzic by any channel, in any way, that indicates he's gone beyond thinking about, wondering, contemplating, whatever -- however you phrased it yesterday -- about the Contact Group Plan?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have. I've just had a long conversation with the people in our building who follow the situation most closely. I don't believe we've had any communication whatsoever. I'd just like to reaffirm, though, what we've been saying for the last 48 hours, and that is that the Contact Group Map and Plan remains on the table as an offer from the Contact Group.
In our mind it is the basis for future discussions, and the key word here -- key verb -- it has to be an active verb, it has to be to accept the Contact Group Map and Plan. Any talk about considering it or thinking about it, reflecting upon it, at this point considering past practice by the Bosnian Serbs is really not useful for us, and we're not going to be responding to that in any kind of meaningful way.
Q Is there any plan for Frasure to return to the territory, or will he travel with the Secretary to The Netherlands?
MR. BURNS: I think Bob will be going with the Secretary to The Netherlands, now that there will be a Contact Group Ministerial. The Secretary has a lot of business next week in The Netherlands. He'll be working for the better part of two days with his colleagues on the issues of European security -- both the process of NATO expansion and also what we hope will be the assumption, the beginning of a Russia-NATO dialogue.
And now in addition to that, given the nature of the events in Bosnia, there will be a very heavy concentration on Bosnia throughout the meetings.
Q Will this change Mr. Holbrooke's plans next week?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that this will change Mr. Holbrooke's plans, but I don't want to speak for Mr. Holbrooke.
Q Nick, the U.S. position on this has been pretty clear, and President Clinton has said time and time again that the United States was in favor of bombing in retaliation to violation of the U.N. zones. The other allies, however, have been somewhat reticent about that. What was it that got them to turn on this? I mean, even a few days ago you had U.N. commanders on the ground who wanted the bombings and Akashi said no. What is it that has shifted the situation, and is there a determination now to stop the moves by the Serbs to violate the U.N. agreements on the part of all the countries?
MR. BURNS: I certainly don't want to speak for our allies. Let them speak for themselves. But, you know, in looking at the pattern of military activity in Sarajevo alone over the last couple of weeks, there's been one flagrant violation after another until on Wednesday for the first time, I think, in the history of this conflict since the exclusion zones were established, the Bosnian Serbs brought tanks into Sarajevo, down from the hills into the city, and fired those tanks in the city and killed people.
I think it's just the pattern of behavior over the last couple of weeks, at least from a Washington perspective, which has built up this unanimity now that action must be taken.
Q You said yesterday that they had better not take hostages. The White House said this morning that it was not unexpected that the Bosnian Serbs would take hostages as a result of that. That suggests that the United States, in supporting and going along with NATO airstrikes did that -- at least expecting that hostages might be taken. That further suggests that the United States thought about what it would do next if that happened. That speaks then to what happens next from the U.S. point of view now that those hostages have been taken.
MR. BURNS: Steve, we understand very well the pattern of past behavior on the part of the Bosnian Serbs in detaining people, in detaining U.N. personnel. We understood that yesterday. We've understood that for a long time, because that's been their pattern.
I would like to suggest that we should shift the onus of responsibility and the focus of this particular event -- taking people prisoner, detaining people, chain them to posts -- shift that focus and onus onto the Bosnian Serbs.
This kind of action should not be taken because it is beyond the pale of civilized behavior.
Q But if they do that, their pattern of behavior in the past as well as taking hostages has been to do many things, including defy world public opinion. What I'm asking is, knowing all of that and going ahead with the NATO airstrikes and supporting them and perhaps even pushing for them, what did the United States then plan contingently to do after the Bosnian Serbs did what was expected of them?
MR. BURNS: Again, this is collective action on the part of the United Nations and NATO. This is not simply a problem for the United States and the actions that have been taken over the last 24 hours are not actions by the United States. They're actions by NATO, and that's an important point of distinction to make.
We have right now, today, a fluid situation, and what I'm not prepared to do is indicate what we may do if certain things happen either in the next 24 hours or the next week, and I prefer to leave it there.
Q Nick, just to follow, if I might -- and I'm sorry to go back into this -- but, nonetheless, why did the United States Government not recommend to NATO in anticipation of these airstrikes, get the U.N. people that were observers and so easily taken hostage and the others that were in camps that could be surrounded by Serbs and get them back to safe places?
And I think I would like to follow the issue of having those observers out there around Pale, why didn't -- what are we to do? If we know these people are chained to some ammunition bunker some place, is NATO going to hold off on airstrikes there? I take it they are, aren't they?
MR. BURNS: Bill, we call upon the Bosnian Serb leadership to release the people that are being detained. It is inhumane and wrong to chain people to posts, people who are there under international supervision and international law and through the virtue of U.N. resolutions. So we call upon the Bosnian Serb leadership to release these people today, and that's as much as I've got to say.
Q Nick, you say the taking of hostages is inhumane and uncivilized. Maybe you can take this question. Is it also categorized as a war crime?
MR. BURNS: I would just keep to the statement that I've said a couple of times now during this briefing. It is clearly wrong. It's uncivilized. It's inhumane. Whether or not it's a war crime, that is for the established Tribunal -- the War Crimes Tribunal -- to adjudicate, and that's been our position all along on the subject of war crimes concerning the Bosnian conflict.
Q Just to go back to Steve's line of questioning, you seem to indicate that there is or may be some plan for some sort of unilateral U.S. action should events take a certain turn. Would you like to --
MR. BURNS: Sid, I am not suggesting that at all. I've not tried to suggest that in anything I've said today. The United States is acting through NATO and with NATO. We're the leading member of NATO. NATO is working on the ground in conjunction with the United Nations. I've not said anything, I believe, to suggest that the United States is contemplating unilateral action here.
Q Okay, this government is on the record now. There is no plan that you know of for the United States to unilaterally send troops into Bosnia to, for instance, rescue the peacekeepers or to do anything on their own that you know of?
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q What if we drop the word unilateral?
MR. BURNS: All I know is this: NATO and the U.N. are the agents of the international community on the ground in the attempt to enforce U.N. resolutions, and those two organizations are acting on behalf of the international community. I'm not aware of any unilateral activities or any activities of the nature that you suggest.
Q But you did say the U.S. is prepared to join the U.N. in response. Does that go beyond airpower?
MR. BURNS: No. Maybe it's the formulation. It just means to say that we stand by NATO and, of course, we are actively involved in the NATO efforts to respond to U.N. requests. That's all that means to say.
Q Just to go back -- this may be better for the Pentagon, I don't know -- but the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that's steaming into the Adriatic this morning, this afternoon -- was that a NATO or a U.N. request that they do that? If not, what is the intention of that?
MR. BURNS: You're exactly right. It's a question for the Pentagon and not for the State Department. We don't command aircraft carriers.
Q Defense Secretary Perry did counsel patience today in a news conference and talked about how it was going to take more than a couple of airstrikes, perhaps, to convince the Bosnian Serbs that the time has ended for warfare and for breaking U.N. mandates. He seemed to be suggesting that there are going to be more airstrikes. Should we not draw that assumption from what he said?
MR. BURNS: That is entirely up to the United Nations and to NATO, and we stand ready to support any request. But I cannot and will not indicate what NATO and the U.N. have in mind in terms of military tactics. I can't do it and won't do it.
Q Nick, do you have any indication of the nationalities of the U.N. personnel detained? Is there any evidence that they've targeted certain nationalities, avoided others?
MR. BURNS: I would refer you to the U.N. for that. I think the U.N. has been speaking from Sarajevo about that, and they're trying -- as they view the same film footage that we're watching --to ascertain the nationality of the people. I've seen a lot of reports on who these people are.
Q I have one more. Is this air action a part of a campaign to pre-empt what we have heard of a Serb counteroffensive? Is this a part of the goal?
MR. BURNS: Our overall objective -- I would just say the overall Contact Group objective -- over the last couple of months has been to prevent the outbreak of a wider war this summer in Bosnia. We've been saying for a long time now that we feared that possibility. That's why Ambassador Frasure, on behalf of the Secretary and the President, has been undertaking such vigorous actions to try to talk to the Serbian leadership in Belgrade about what we think must occur now, and that is an acceptance on the part of the Bosnian Serbs of the offer on the table by the Contact Group -- the Map and Plan.
It also entails on the part of the leadership in Belgrade, we hope, the recognition of Bosnia in return for limited sanctions relief or suspension of some sanctions. We have made every effort in good faith to try to reach out to the Serb leadership in Belgrade and to the Bosnian Serb leadership to communicate our interests in discussing these peace proposals. It's far better to engage in that type of activity than the activity of the last couple of days.
Q You talked about this a moment ago, but are you aware of any ongoing violations of the second ultimatum, the one which required that heavy weapons be removed from the exclusion zone around Sarajevo?
MR. BURNS: We have heard of such violations, both through our contacts in the United Nations and through the media, yes.
Q So is there any intention to enforce the second ultimatum?
MR. BURNS: Again, that gets back to the question of what happens next, which everybody is interested in. And what happens next will be dictated by the United Nations and NATO, working together. Certainly by the United Nations officials who are in Zagreb and Sarajevo and the United Nations leadership in New York.
It has long been our position, it is still our position, and we have restated it today -- the President has restated it today -- that we remain prepared to join with the U.N. and NATO and to give full support to any effort to protect the U.N. resolutions and to protect the role of UNPROFOR in the region.
Q Were any weapons turned over to the United Nations prior to the ultimatum, or is --
MR. BURNS: As a result of the ultimatum?
MR. BURNS: I'd refer you to the U.N. for that -- the U.N. in Sarajevo. They're really the best source for that, not me.
Q On another subject, have you seen or have you been told that the Defense Minister of China is canceling a trip to the United States?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I understand that the Defense Minister of China who was to visit here, I believe in mid-June -- 16th to 27th of June -- will now not be coming, and I'd refer you to the Defense Department for the details of his prospective visit, but we understand that the Chinese have notified us that in light of the Lee Teng-hui visa question, that the Defense Minister, Chi Haotian, will not be coming to the United States.
Q Are you familiar with the Australian report of the bugging of the Chinese Embassy in Canberra?
MR. BURNS: I am familiar with a press report on that, but I'm, of course, unable to discuss this in any way.
Q Nick, a follow up to this gentleman's question. Is there any rethinking of issuing the visa to President Lee at this point?
MR. BURNS: No, there isn't. We think it was the correct decision. We're proceeding with that visa issuance.
Q Are there any indications of any further Chinese action on this? Have you received any messages from China?
MR. BURNS: In addition to the example that was noted here of the Defense Minister, I believe I said yesterday that another senior-level Chinese official who was to have visited here to discuss bilateral issues with the Office of Personnel Management will not be coming.
As you know, there was a mid-level defense delegation in the United States on Monday when we announced our decision on the visa, and I think those are the three visits that I know of that now will not take place or have been suspended because of our action.
Q How is your work on the itinerary of President Lee Teng-hui? According to Taiwan's representative to the U.S., Mr. Lu, the itinerary has been worked out, and I've got a copy here with me. Can you confirm that the itinerary is worked out, and what do you have with you that you can share with us?
MR. BURNS: That's very interesting. I don't believe I have the same piece of paper that you have. (Laughter) So perhaps that's an unofficial paper to go along with our unofficial relationship. (Laughter)
I can tell you we've having good unofficial discussions in our unofficial relationship about this unofficial visit, and as soon as those discussions are completed, what we're going to do -- and to our satisfaction -- we're going to issue a standard visitor's visa.
MR. BURNS: Unofficially, from the American Institute in Taiwan. And we're going to do that once we're assured -- and we know we're going to be assured -- that this is a private visit and looks like a private visit. It will be a private visit.
Q Where would you stamp your visa? Will he have a passport or -- because according to Taiwan sources, President Lee Teng-hui will bring probably what they call the "head of state" travel credentials. Would you stamp the visa on that or on a passport?
MR. BURNS: Now you're testing my knowledge of consular law, which is about 10, 12 years old. We issue visas to residents of Taiwan all the time. People come to the United States, as you know. Any time a head of state of a country comes here -- in this case an official of Taiwan comes here, they have to have travel documents, and a visa has to be issued in the travel documents. Whether that's a passport or whether it's some other document, I simply don't know. But I think we can probably answer that question. It's a technical question.
Q Will he stand in the line to clear the --
MR. BURNS: Normally, when we issue visas to very important people, we don't ask them to come down to the local American Institute and stand in line, so I don't think that will be necessary. He's someone for whom we have great respect, as you know. We've said that before. He's done a very fine job in leading Taiwan to a future which we hope will be based on political and economic reform. We have great respect for him. He will be treated very well when he comes to the United States.
Now that we're on Taiwan, which is not far from Kazakhstan -- (laughter) -- let me say something about Kazakhstan which is a country near and dear to my heart, and then we'll go to other questions.
The United States warmly congratulates Kazakhstan on becoming a state free of nuclear weapons. In late April the last nuclear weapon was removed from Kazakhstani territory. Kazakhstan has fulfilled its pledge to become a non-nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty -- the NPT. It ratified the NPT during the Vice President's trip to Almaty -- Vice President Gore -- in December 1993.
I would just note this is a very significant accomplishment for Kazakhstan, for the United States and for the cause of non- proliferation, which is one of this Administration's primary foreign policy concerns.
It is certainly a significant accomplishment for the nuclear peace that we have been trying to build in the former Soviet Union. When this Administration took office, there were four countries that had nuclear weapons on their soil. Now two of those countries have rid themselves of nuclear weapons. I believe that the Trilateral Statement Understanding is carried out in full and is ahead of schedule. Ukraine will be free of nuclear weapons by the end of 1996.
I wanted to note that because we were talking about a country in the region but also because this is a highly significant development. I believe there are over a thousand nuclear warheads -- there were in 1993 -- in Kazakhstan and now there are none.
I would just also note that this process of ridding Kazakhstan of nuclear weapons was helped in very large measure -- and President Nazarbayev would be the first, I think, to give credit here -- because of the presence of the United States and because of the availability to the U.S. Government of Nunn-Lugar funds.
This is the type of issue that the President and Secretary Christopher have been talking about in recent days, pertaining to the legislation currently in the House and Senate would dramatically reduce the level of funding available to the U.S. Government for programs like this. Our argument is that for the United States to accomplish the vital interests that we have - and here is a very good example of it -- we've got to have the resources to back up our hopes and aspirations.
I'm sure there's a lot of questions on this.
Q Are the warheads now in Russia?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The process is that -- it's actually a process of reverse engineering. With the help of the United States, with Nunn- Lugar funds and with some technical assistance, the warheads are deactivated. They're removed from missiles on site, and they are transported by rail using kevlar blankets supplied by the United States and safety features upgraded by the United States to Russia, and then the warheads are fully dismantled, usually back at the plant at which they were constructed. Most of those plants are in Russia.
That is the same process that Belarus went through and the same process that Ukraine went through.
You remember the Trilateral Statement, Ukraine being the third largest nuclear power in the world in 1993 when this Administration took office. That process if far ahead of schedule. It called by the end of 1994 for 200 warheads to be transferred, and I believe over 360 -- and probably now more -- warheads have been transferred from Ukraine to Russia.
So the process is working. It's a triangular relationship where the United States, having been the intermediary in brokering all of these understandings, supplies funds to support the process.
Q Nick, do you take heart in the fact that the vote on the Hill on the foreign budget bill has been delayed?
MR. BURNS: We certainly do. It's our belief that the delay in the vote provides an opportunity for the Congress now to step back, reflect upon some of the concerns that President Clinton and Secretary Christopher have been enunciating over the last couple of days.
The concern that a great part of the legislation, in this 368-page bill and the House bill, at least, infringes upon the President's constitutional prerogatives and constitutional authorities to conduct foreign policy. And, secondly, the concern that we have, that as a great power, the United States has got to have the resources to back up its interests and to advance its interests. The resources being planned not only for Fiscal Year '96 but also for succeeding fiscal years are woefully inadequate to meet our vital national interests.
We're not talking about things that we'd like to do. We're talking -- here, in the case of Kazakhstan -- about things that we must do to preserve the nuclear peace which is one of the main benefits of the end of the Cold War. If we can't do that, if we can't defend our vital national interests that are at stake, we aren't fulfilling our obligation to the American people.
So we think that this pause, this delay, does provide that kind of opportunity. What we'd like to see happen is for the Congress to decide that it's willing to work with us in a bipartisan fashion to produce a bill that both the Administration and Congress can support.
Q Do you have any readout on the Secretary's meeting with the Japanese Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: I do. I have a very short readout. The Secretary met with Ambassador Kuriyama for about an hour this morning to discuss a variety of issues that are facing both Japan and the United States at the upcoming Halifax meeting of the G-7 countries. These included a number of the multilateral issues that will be debated, discussed in Halifax. There was a great emphasis here on the importance, in these discussions this morning, of the U.S.-Japanese partnership.
They engaged in a review of the bilateral relationship, including our security ties, the very wide range of cooperation that we have with Japan, and including the trade and economic issues.
The Secretary certainly reiterated the seriousness with which we view the outstanding trade issues. But I want to caution, there wasn't a lot of detailed discussion. There certainly was no negotiation of those issues because our respective trade ministers -- in the case of the United States, the U.S. Trade Representative -- are responsible for that aspect of that issue.
Q Is there any sense now that the trade issue will spill over into the other two categories -- security and political relations?
MR. BURNS: Jim, I'd answer that by saying that the President and Ambassador Kantor and Secretary Christopher and others have made abundantly clear our very strong concerns about the trade issues.
Secretary Christopher and others have also made clear our considerable interests in the broader range of U.S.-Japanese issues -- in our defense relationship, and in our political alliance, which spans most of the world's great issues. So we certainly place a high premium on continued cooperation with the Japanese Government on these broad range of issues.
Q Human rights organizations are reporting that the Cubans who have been returned to Cuba under the revised U.S. plan of sending people back who had tried to get out by boat, that some of these people had, in fact, been harassed, interfered with, which the Cuban Government said they would not do.
MR. BURNS: There are two issues here. I have something to say about the mistreatment of returned Cuban migrants. But let me start with Cuban political prisoners.
You remember, on May 23, there was an announcement by the French organization, "France-Libertes" that six prominent Cuban political prisoners had been released from Cuban prisons. I can tell you that those six people remain in prison, according to our information.
We have seen press reports indicating that the release of two of the most prominent prisoners of conscience in Cuba -- Mr. Arcos and Mr. Restano -- is conditioned on their exile to France.
It should be remember, and I think pointed out, that both of these individuals, along with other courageous imprisoned dissidents, have consistently refused offers of release conditioned on their exile from Cuba. Although the release of these or any political prisoners would be welcome, there should be no conditions attached to their release such as exile from Cuba or restrictions on their freedom to work for change in Cuba, which would be violations of the human rights of both individuals, and of all these individuals.
So we call upon the Cuban Government to release these six people. We call upon them to release all of the political prisoners -- and there are a considerable number of them -- in Cuban jails.
On the issue of returned Cuban migrants: We continue to hold the Cuban Government to its commitment under the May 2 Joint Statement with the United States to not harass or otherwise prejudice migrants who have returned to Cuba.
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana is vigorously monitoring Cuban compliance. The Interests Section personnel, under the leadership of our very fine Chief of the U.S. Interests Section, Joe Sullivan, have enjoyed unimpeded access to the 24 migrants returned to Cuba, to date.
The migrants themselves have enjoyed unrestricted access to the Interests Section.
I can report that two of the migrants have made credible accusations of harassment since their return. The U.S. Government takes such accusations seriously. We have expressed to the Cuban Government, at the very highest levels, our concern about what we think are credible accusations of harassment.
We're working this problem quite intensively. We intend to follow the situation of these two people very closely. I can assure you, we're not going to let this rest. We're also going to follow the situation of the others who have been returned to Cuba.
Q What sort of harassment are we talking about?
MR. BURNS: I'm not at liberty to say. In fact, I don't detailed information. I think it's a good question. We can probably get you that type of information. I just don't have it right now. But when I asked this morning, I was given this description of the situation from our Interests Section in Havana. I think we can certainly follow up on this, Sid.
Q What happens if you don't get satisfaction -- and there are continued reports -- is the deal off?
MR. BURNS: We have said since the announcement on May 2, publicly -- and we've also told the Cuban Government -- that their commitment in the Joint Statement is a very serious commitment not to harass these returning migrants. We would hold them to that commitment.
I don't think, Don, it makes much sense for me to get into a hypothetical situation and say, "If we don't succeed in our current efforts to follow up on these two cases, if we don't derive satisfaction, what we'll do..." But I can tell you, it's a very serious commitment.
As you know very well, there's a high level of concern in the Cuban-American community and in the American public at-large, that these people be treated fairly when they are returned to Cuba, as these people have been returned.
Q I'm just going back to an earlier question. Can you tell me if there has been any discussion between U.S. officials and Australian officials regarding the alleged blocking of China's Embassy in Canberra, and whether or not the United States was the recipient of sensitive information regarding trade with China?
MR. BURNS: The news report that I saw had the word "intelligence" in it. Since it did, it gave me license to say that I can't comment on intelligence information in any way; just can't do it.
Q It doesn't surprise you at all?
MR. BURNS: It doesn't surprise you that I can't comment on intelligence information? I'm not surprised that I can't comment on intelligence information.
Q What's the status on Korea, Nick?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me -- on --
Q Excuse me. On the Korean talks in Kuala Lumpur?
MR. BURNS: In Kuala Lumpur. Yes. Deputy Assistant Secretary Hubbard did not have discussions today with his counterpart, the Vice Foreign Minister of North Korea, because we understand the North Koreans requested a day of abeyance so that they could consult with Pyongyang.
We understand that the talks will resume tomorrow. I think I said yesterday that as of last night in Kuala Lumpur we had not reached any conclusions nor made significant progress, it was our delegation's view that the two sides had come to understand each other's position better and that we hoped very much this might be a basis for further progress in the days to come. That was our position as of yesterday.
There were no talks today. So our position remains the same. We're hopeful. We certainly went to those talks with the expectation that we would resolve the outstanding issue of the light-water reactors.
Q One more. North Korea has asked for rice because of a bad harvest. Do you know if the U.S. is going to become involved in supplying rice? Might that become part of this deal?
MR. BURNS: I think I saw a report on that. We've seen reports about the North Korean request for Japanese rice. We have no additional information at this point on that request, so I have nothing to say about that today.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:06 p.m.)
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