U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/30 -- DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, May 30, 1995 Briefer: Winston Lord Christine Shelly EAST ASIA PACIFIC Assistant Secretary Winston Lord's Trip to Region .........1-4 --Department of Defense East Asian Strategy Report ........1 --U.S. Position on South China Sea ........................1,12-13 --Vietnam/Laos: --MIA Information/Pledges of Cooperation ..................2 --Narcotics Control/Foreign Aid ...........................2 --Thailand: Bilateral Issues ..............................2 --Japan: Trade/Opening of Markets .........................2-3,7-9 --Hong Kong ...............................................3 --Brunei: ASEAN Regional Forum ............................3-4 --Singapore ...............................................4 NORTH KOREA Kuala Lumpur Talks ........................................4-5 Stability, Food Shortages, Diversion of Heavy Fuel Oil ....9-11 CHINA/TAIWAN Cancellation of MTCR Talks/Defense Minister's Visit .......5-7,12 Private Visit of Taiwan President Lee to U.S. .............5-6,11-15 VIETNAM Normalization of Relations Issue...........................9 CAMBODIA Cooperation with Genocide Investigations ..................13 DEPARTMENT Announcement: June 2 Press Briefing on OAS General Assembly ................................................15-16 MEXICO State Elections ...........................................16 INDIA Report of Cancellation of Kashmir State Assembly Election .16 RUSSIA Search for Fred Cuny ......................................16-17 CUBA Report of Release of Six Political Prisoners ..............17 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Dennis Ross' Trip to Region ...............................17-18 TURKEY Discussions on Operation Provide Comfort ..................18-19 GREECE U.S. Visit of Greek Defense Minister Arsenis ..............19 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Discussion of Developments at NAC Ministerial Meeting .....19 Contact Group Foreign Ministers Meeting ...................19-20 Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers ...........................20 Ambassador Frasure's Trip to Belgrade .....................21 Bosnian Serb Remarks on UN Agreements .....................21-22 Holding of UN Peacekeepers ................................22 Proposals to Reduce Vulnerability of Troops ...............22-23 Efforts to Involve Former President Jimmy Carter ..........23 CYPRUS ISLANDS Talks in London ...........................................22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MAY 30, 1995, 12:59 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department press briefing.
We are beginning our briefing today with a special guest appearance by Assistant Secretary Winston Lord, who certainly is well and favorably known to you. He has just returned from a visit to his part of the world, and he will actually talk you through it stop by stop. Without any further ado, I will pass the microphone to him; and then I will take questions on other subjects and follow our usual format after he finishes.
Assistant Secretary Lord, thank you very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Thank you very much. Thank you, Christine.
As she mentioned, I've been on a two-week trip to the Asia-Pacific region, leaving on May l3 and getting back on May 26. I'll go through it very quickly, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions on the trip or issues related to it.
There was a general purpose as well as some specific goals on this trip, and that is to continue to underline this Administration's interest in this dynamic region; and it came against the backdrop of the issuance of the Defense Department's East Asian Strategy Report, which once again reaffirmed our interest in this region and the maintenance of our force levels and against the backdrop of a new U.S. position put out here at the State Department on the South China Sea.
So I just mention those two events as further backdrop to this trip -- and in addition to specific bilateral issues always working, as we go through these countries, on the regional architecture that has been a key part of this Administration's policy toward East Asia. It may not get the headlines; but what we're trying to do on regional security dialogues, on the one hand, and regional economic work -- particularly in APEC or the other -- I think has fundamental importance for the longer term.
Again, the trip, as part of a Presidential delegation to Vietnam and Laos, headed by the Deputy of the Veterans Administration -- Herschel Golub -- and myself, and Mr. Wald from the Defense Department. I think you've seen reports of that again. I'm going to just use brush strokes in these opening remarks, but I do want to reaffirm again that we had evidence of very good cooperation from the Vietnamese on the central issue of missing-in-action information. We received pledges from the highest leaders in the government that they would continue this cooperation, and they turned over some new documents that are still being analyzed but give promise of developing new information on MIAs.
So both on the joint activities with the Vietnamese and in the unilateral efforts which we've been emphasizing as well lately, we continue to see very good progress and we have so reported to the White House and to our other superiors, like Secretary Christopher.
That was the main focus of our trip: to assess MIA cooperation by the Vietnamese and try to encourage further cooperation.
We did talk about some other issues, as indicated in the communique that was put out at the time -- regional economic and security issues, human rights, narcotics control, et cetera.
On to Laos, where again we've had very good cooperation from the Lao on the MIA question; and recently they've also increased their cooperation on narcotics control. So we had very good discussions with their leaders there, and we were able to inform them that Secretary Christopher had waived the restrictions on foreign aid to Laos that had been in evidence for two decades because they're a Communist country.
Now, we don't have an awful lot of money, as you may have noticed, in our budget for foreign aid. But what is important here is the political and symbolic move to a friendlier relationship with Laos, which I think their leadership appreciated.
I then spent a few hours in Thailand on bilateral matters, as well as getting ready for what was one of the centerpieces of my trip later on: regional security dialogues.
And then on to Japan, where I participated in a major conference hosted by a newspaper, and I laid out American policy toward Asia at that conference. It was followed immediately by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, who gave an excellent speech on the need for Japan and its own self-interest -- as well as U.S.-Japan relations and Asian prosperity and stability generally -- to open up its markets. We couldn't have done it better ourselves in any speech. It was a very eloquent statement by him, and I would commend this to everyone.
I also had a series of bilateral meetings in Japan -- again, on the one hand, emphasizing the importance of the trade area; and most specifically now, of course, the automotive sector, where the bulk of our deficit remains -- but also making very clear, as I did at the conference in my bilaterals, that security and other positive aspects of our partnership are not linked to these trade frictions. It is important to work on these trade problems, for all the reasons you're very well familiar with; and we will continue to do so. But we see our security ties and our many other cooperative elements in our relationship with Japan as being in our own self-interest, as well as Japan and the region generally, and we will continue those -- whether it's the reaffirmation of our security ties.
Joe Nye of Defense and myself have been leading continual talks on this issue with Japan, and we're looking forward to further discussions at higher levels. Whether it's the common agenda, or the environment, and many other issues -- cooperation on Korea, Cambodia, et cetera -- we have a very full and rich partnership with Japan. It remains a crucial partnership, and we are determined to maintain that partnership -- even as we have determined, as the President has stated on many occasions -- to open up Japan's market in the interests of the Japanese consumers, American exports and jobs, global prosperity in general, and the world economy.
On to Hong Kong, where once again I underlined America's interest in the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong as it heads toward the transition year l997 -- and I met with the Governor and the Deputy Governor, as well as other top Hong Kong citizens with different perspectives on the scene, as well as American business people and media. It came shortly after an important speech by our Consul General in America's interest in Hong Kong. So this was to demonstrate our continuing support for the future prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. It has to be worked out by the Chinese, the British, and the people of Hong Kong. But we have a tremendous stake in humanitarian, political, and economic terms.
Then on to Brunei, which is the host issue of regional security dialogues -- otherwise known as the ASEAN Regional Forum, which was launched last August -- last July, to be specific -- including Vietnam, Russia, and China, and a couple of other countries, along with the countries that were already discussing these issues. Secretary Christopher will be going there around the first few days of August this summer. This was a meeting at the senior officials level. My level was to prepare the way for that Ministers' meeting.
During this meeting, we came up with a Chairman's Report to the Ministers that moved this process forward. It's still in its infancy; it's at the dialogue stage. But a clear work program is laid out, including working groups to begin looking at confidence-building measures, peacekeeping, and other aspects. So we felt very good about the consensus view that this organization ought to move forward in its effort to bring greater stability to the region.
Also, during the discussions, as well as in the bilateral meetings, there were key issues discussed -- such as Cambodia and Korea, the South China Sea, Burma, and several others.
My last stop on the way home was in Singapore, where we have some bilateral problems but also a very strong partnership and very good cooperation -- whether it's access to military facilities -- and Singapore was the first country to step up after our withdrawal from the Philippines bases to help assure the American presence, something they feel very strongly in their own self-interest and the interest of stability of the region -- or our common objectives in organizations like APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum. So I had very good discussions with all the top leaders there, and then I got back over the weekend.
Let me just leave it at that. That raises certain issues. There may be others you want to touch upon, but I thought that would give you a useful framework to begin our exchange.
Q Well, Win, is there any particular reason -- while I realize you can't go everywhere -- that you didn't go to Seoul on this trip, with Korea stops?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: No, no. As you say, I can't go everywhere. I've been to Seoul, I think -- I don't have the exact figure, but four or five times in the last six months. I was there on my previous trip. So it was just a matter of how much you could do at any on time.
In addition, of course, we're in very close touch with the South Koreans with respect to negotiations in Malaysia itself. With their DCM and their embassy here, there is coordination with Tom Hubbard; and we maintain contact here and in Seoul. So there's no significance to that.
Q Can you bring us to date on that while you're here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: There's been a brief statement put out on the latest talks, Tuesday Malaysia-time, where Tom Hubbard and his counterpart met, I think, for somewhat less than hour to sort of take stock of each side's positions. There will be another meeting tomorrow. We believe that will be a larger meeting, a more plenary meeting. But I have nothing to add to what he has said. We're still exploring these issues in depth.
Q China, over the weekend, apparently had made it known that it was going to call off the MTCR-related talks with the United States. How troubling is this to you? And what's your strategy for dealing with Beijing? That seems to be in a retaliatory mood after the Taiwan decision.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: They cancelled these talks and they've cancelled some other visits, or postponed, at least, other visits and talks as well.
We, of course, regret their doing this. We don't think it's in their own self-interest. China, for example, on this issue, has an interest in checking the spread of dangerous weapons. So we think it's clearly in their interest to be discussing these issues; or in terms of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, they're the ones who would like to get our help in this field, although it's obviously in our interests commercially and in terms of safety as well.
So we do believe that the steps that China has taken are not serving its own national interests. We hope we can resume our talks and negotiations in these and other areas.
More generally, we made it very clear privately and publicly that the President's decision to admit Mr. Lee from Taiwan changes in no way our policy toward Taiwan or toward China, which continues to be governed by our recognition of Beijing -- one-China policy, adherence to the three communiques, and the Taiwan Relations Act. With Taiwan, we maintain unofficial relations. That will continue and is in way changed by the nature of this visit.
This visit will be strictly private. We've been talking to Taiwan to assure that it is a private visit and carries no official overtones. They understand that. Therefore, this is the major reassurance to Beijing. This assumes importance only if Beijing inflates its importance. Because the fact is, it changes nothing.
Q Can I just follow up? You and others have made that position very clear from the beginning and yet Beijing doesn't seem to be getting this message. Is this policy change on your part perhaps spinning out of control?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: First of all, as I just said, it's not a policy change. We've already indicated we would be prepared to entertain extended transit visits. The dividing line between extended transit and private visits isn't all that clear.
The main dividing line, in any event, is between those kinds of visits, on the one hand, and official visits, on the other. The fact is that this is in the former category, this carries no officiality. Mr. Lee will not becoming to Washington; he will not be meeting any Administration officials. We'll have someone from the private group that is set up to deal with Taiwan go out and help him in terms of courtesies, but he'll have no official meetings with the Executive Branch.
As far as where we go from here, that really is up to Beijing. We hope they'll see it's in their interest to maintain our constructive talks and negotiations in many areas. We hope that what they've cancelled or postponed will be resumed shortly and that they will not, as I said earlier, make more out of this than it deserves.
Q In the last year, the Administration has entered into this military-to-military relationship with Beijing. Do you see them withdrawing completely from that arrangement for the time being? Is that what they're saying --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: It's not clear. They cancelled their Defense Minister's visit here, which is obviously going to slow down this process. I would hope not. I would hope whatever measures Beijing has taken are temporary -- again, in their own self-interest. Clearly, it's in their interest to talk to our military as it is in our interest. We do it in terms of promoting transparency, in terms of China's strategic intentions and budget, and they can learn about our strategy. We've already had talks to this effect on both sides of the oceans. We do it because the military is an important force in China. We want to have good relations with it if we possibly can, and we do it because they play a significant role with respect to non-proliferation.
So we hope these things will continue. I have no reason to believe that China is cutting those off. They have cancelled one visit. But we do know that they welcome these military exchanges as we do, and I would expect them to continue.
Q Two visits, actually. They recalled the Air Force Chief of Staff and cancelled the Defense Minister.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: That's right. We'll have to see. I would hope and trust this is a temporary reaction and that we can resume these dialogues in the future. They're clearly in both sides interests.
Q A couple of questions on the Japanese trade sanctions, if I may. Reports here said that you found little empathy or sympathy for the U.S. moves in other capitals that you visited. Were those reports true? Were there other doubts about the U.S. policy imposing sanctions on a trade dispute?
Second, you've often said that the security and political pillars should and must be unaffected by the trade. Isn't the overall environment, overall climate affected by a fractious trade dispute? And doesn't that, in turn, finally risk affecting politics and security?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: On the first question, I had discussions with many of the officials along the stop about our trade position with Japan, including the fact that it's not linked to security and other aspects and making it very clear, which they all welcome.
I think whether it's publicly or privately, there is one clear, unanimous view among Asian and European countries, and that is Japan should open up its market further.
I think on that general principle, which, frankly, is the most important and fundamental and a strategic one, we have tremendous backing. Everyone acknowledges that Japan's market in this area and in many other areas is essentially closed and not open as it should be, in Japan's own self-interest. It's consumers have been paying for a lower quality of life because of it.
So in that strategic sense, I think we have tremendous backing around the world. Even those in Europe and Asia who have come out against our specific tactics, in terms of 301, have coupled that in almost every case with saying, "We agree with the Americans objectives and goals, we disagree for a variety of reasons with their particular tactics."
So I think we have to keep our eye on the broader picture here and not just whether our specific going forward in this way merits or gets great support. We've had some support for that and considerable criticism, frankly, because people are worried by the WTO and so on.
We've taken our case to the WTO as well. People have sort of overlooked this. It isn't just Japan that's gone to the WTO. We have gone to the WTO in terms of the broad restrictions that Japan is practicing in this area.
So I found tremendous understanding about the need to open up their market. But, admittedly, there are differences on tactics. I would just leave it at that.
With respect to the climate, our problem has been all along that if we leave these trade problems unattended -- and we're talking now about a $60 billion deficit over many years and $130 billion global surplus that Japan has with the world -- this is just unhealthy for Japan and for the world. If this is left unattended, then the climate could become poisonous.
So what we're trying to do is to stress all the positive elements. I want to reiterate that again today: all the major, good things we do together with Japan, which are really quite extraordinary, that we hope will not be affected and which we're determined to go forward with. But, at the same time, to try to treat those aspects of the relationship that are in some difficulty so that over time it doesn't begin to run this risk.
We think the risk is greater if you don't pay attention to these problems than the short-term risk of trying to get at them and solve them so that the overall relationship won't be affected.
I would point out that we've made over a dozen agreements with Japan under the Framework and outside the Framework in the last year or so. So we've had considerable success already.
But this is the major remaining area. It accounts for some $35 billion of our deficit every year.
The arguments used to be that the U.S. was doing nothing about its budget deficit; that U.S. car manufacturers were not investing in new plants, and, in particular, we're not aiming at the Japanese market and putting the steering wheels on the right side of the car; that American companies, generally, were not competitive.
None of those arguments hold up anymore. I'll go to Mr. Kantor or the automobile people for the amount of money they put into upgrading their plants, but I think it's something like $120 billion. We have many models that are suited to the Japanese market.
American companies generally are more competitive. Under President Clinton's leadership, the deficit has been going down. We see a lot of activity now on Capitol Hill to have it come down even further. The yen is at an all-time high. And yet what happens? Nothing happens with respect to the automotive sector. It just stays there at this tremendous deficit.
We're not going to focus just on the deficit. We want to open up the market, and we want to open it up for other countries as well as ourselves. Past practice has shown that when we can get it open, it benefits other exporters as well. So we're not looking for favored treatment.
Q On Vietnam, could you give us your assessment about the prospects for normal relations with them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: That, of course, is up to the President. I'm obviously not going to make any predictions on that.
I will say that his overwhelming criteria all along has been Hanoi's cooperation on the MIA question together with results achieved. The record continues to be excellent on that, as our latest trip demonstrates.
So the President will have to factor that in about future plans, but I can't go beyond that.
Q What is your recommendation on it -- you, personally?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: My view is, if I recommend something, first, I would go up the line to Mr. Christopher; and, secondly, I wouldn't do it at a press conference. I would do it privately.
Q Will Secretary Christopher go to Vietnam this year?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: That's up to the President and the Secretary. There's no plans for that now.
Q Could we revisit Korea for just a moment?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Sure.
Q There have been reports of instability in the new regime, instability at the top of the North Korean regime. I believe there has been a food shortage that the Japanese are addressing -- sending rice over there.
Could you tell us, what is your opinion about the prospects for some kind of progress in the nuclear talks and the general stability of the country? What about cutting off oil when North Korea is already apparently hurting? Is that a good idea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: If I leave out any parts of your question, let me know. I'm not being evasive, just forgetful.
First, as far as what's happening in North Korea, it is a very opaque society. It's difficult to know what happening, to be totally honest with you. Even if I did know, of course, I would be somewhat cautious because it's commenting on domestic events in another country.
There have been self-admitted food shortages. They've gone to Japan and South Korea now to try to get help on that. So there's no question, they're facing some shortages on food.
I can't get into questions of instability. We don't have overwhelming evidence of that. So I'm not quite sure what you're referring to. It is very difficult to know what's happening there.
As far as the progress of the talks, Mr. Hubbard has been at this now for several rounds. There's been in-depth explorations, but I really don't have any adjectives to hang onto it in terms of how they're doing.
Obviously, they've been serious and wide-ranging -- wide-ranging in terms of details. It's focused in terms of the light-water reactor project, which is the purpose of these talks.
So we'll just have to see. I'm not going to put any odds on the outcome. We're just continuing to work at that very seriously in close cooperation with our allies -- South Korea and Japan, in particular.
As far as oil, we're obligated under the Agreed Framework to provide heavy fuel oil, which, as you know, cannot be used for military purposes. We provided the first shipment last January. We discovered a very modest -- but nevertheless we think any diversion is serious -- a modest diversion -- not for military uses, which is impossible, but for other than the specified uses of generating heat and electricity for industrial uses.
We've told North Korea that's unacceptable. We're prepared to sit down with them and work out some mechanisms to assure there's no further diversions. Once that's been taken care of, then we would resume the heavy fuel oil shipments as part of our obligations as long as the nuclear freeze is maintained by North Korea. So far, it has been maintained. But first we've got to clear up the diversion problem.
Q Sir, do you think it would be a wise policy for the United States to offer to help North Korea with their food supply and possibly postpone this moratorium on fuel oil?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I'm not sure what you mean about postpone the moratorium. We're just not going to supply more fuel until we're sure exactly where it's going. So we're not postponing it for any tactical or political reasons. We're postponing it because we've got to know exactly -- and the Congress would want to know exactly -- what's being done with it.
I want to make clear again: it hasn't been used for military purposes. It was done for industrial purposes, but not the ones specified in the agreement. So we want to be very clear about that.
On the food, I think it's more appropriate that the neighbors of South Korea and Japan engage in this. We haven't been asked to provide food. I'm sure South Korea and Japan can step up to the plate on this. I think they've both indicated a willingness to do so.
Q Mr. Ambassador, I know you didn't go to China this time. But my question is, how did you explain to the Chinese regarding permitting a visa to President Lee. We know that weeks before -- maybe even days before -- the dramatic political decision made by President Clinton regarding this visa issue, the State Department still declared that permitting a visa to President Lee would go beyond the unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.
How are you going to explain to the Chinese that this is now the beginning of the rethinking or the restructuring of bilateral U.S.- Taiwan relations?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Let's be very candid. We had a position that we changed in terms of tactics. We believe with total sincerity -- and we made this very clear to the Chinese privately and publicly -- that nothing has changed, as I've already said, with respect to our basic policy of unofficial relations only with Taiwan, and this would be a private visit.
It is no secret that the U.S. Congress was headed toward forcing this decision in any event. So the choice we faced was, do we change our tactic with respect to allowing a visit, use the time available to constrict the nature of that visit, but reflect the overwhelming mood in Congress, while making clear to China that there's no change here, no fundamental change?
That is a course we took rather than waiting for the inevitable to happen. So I'm not going to strain your credulity by pretending we didn't make a change. Of course, we did. But it's strictly a tactical change; nothing to do with the fundamental policy, and it's over in the grey area of private and transit visits, with a clear buffer between those kinds of visits and official visits.
So we have made it clear that it's not inconsistent with our unofficial policy, and we would hope that Beijing would understand that.
Q Is there any trip planned by an Administration official to go to China and explain this to them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: To go to China?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We have on-going trips. We had a couple that were planned that were just cancelled by the Chinese -- the head of ACDA and these non-proliferation and nuclear energy talks. There are others at a working-level. I can't give you a complete checklist right now, but there's always trips going back and forth on various subjects.
These two, as I mentioned -- or three, I guess it is -- have been cancelled or at least postponed. But that's by the Chinese, not by us.
Q Another question on the South China Sea. Is the United States going to initiate any move to try to make this thing more peaceful or just state right now as urging everybody to --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We think putting out the statement itself -- which, I think you're all familiar with, was put out May 10 by Christine (Shelly) herself -- made it very clear our strong interest: it should be solved peacefully, don't use force, exercise restraint, clear interest in freedom of navigation and security in the area, and no American position on sovereignty claims. But we would take seriously and with great concern any maritime claims that conflicted with the Law of the Sea and international law.
So putting all that together in a statement, we think, is important. We have backed the principle that it should be discussed both bilaterally and regionally. It was taken up in these Brunei discussions that I mentioned.
We are, behind the scenes, talking to all the claimants and non- claimants. We talked to the key ones before we put out our statement, urging restraint and urging diplomatic solutions. We support the Indonesian workshops.
We'll continue to play a significant, diplomatic role. But, obviously, it's up to the claimants themselves primarily to solve this. We've indicated that if people want to get our help we're willing to try to be responsive. But we think it's important the claimants themselves show restraint and try to resolve these issues.
Q You mentioned that Cambodia came up during the course of your visit. What's the position of the Cambodian Government? And will they cooperate in genocide trials of the Khmer Rouge? And can they be tried without the cooperation of the --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I don't know about the specific position on trials right now. Maybe we can get you a better answer than that. I do know that they have been cooperating with the Cambodian genocide investigations. It was set up about a year ago in my bureau. We have been, with the help of Yale University and others, gathering information, interviewing witnesses, assembling documentation. We have been careful to do this with the cooperation of the Cambodian Government.
So I think it's fair to say they have been not only supportive but cooperative in that effort. I do not know their precise position on trials now, to be honest; but they have been helpful in amassing data.
MS. SHELLY: Last question.
Q The prevailing assumption is that you were the architect of the policy barring President Lee to go to Cornell for a visit. Now that this policy has been reversed, I don't know -- I wonder how you personally feel about this? Is this a defeat? Can you live with this change?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: You mean personally? Of course. In the first place, on issues this important, a lowly Assistant Secretary doesn't determine policy. Let me make that very clear.
Secondly, I supported the policy before we made this tactical change and I support it afterwards. And I do that with clear candor, frankly. I did think it was a position that was correct, to try not to blur the line between officiality and private visits, and so on.
But I also felt that with the overwhelming sentiment in Congress -- and since it was very clear this would be a private visit; not official -- we should, as the President decided, use the time to make sure to various interlocutors about the nature of this trip and to shape the trip in a way that made it very clear that it's not official.
My own view is Beijing has overreacted in terms of the significance of this. If they would not treat it so seriously, it wouldn't be such a serious issue. Because we made it very clear it does not change unofficial ties with Taiwan or any other aspects of our policy. So they shouldn't suggest that it does.
With respect to Taiwan, generally, this Administration, I would argue, has been friendlier to Taiwan than any previous Administration, strictly within the unofficial context. The review that we undertook and the changes we made last September, in terms of upgrading, particularly our commercial and economic ties and other steps we took, was the most comprehensive review since 1979. Therefore, we have been very friendly toward Taiwan in an unofficial sense, even as we maintain relations with Beijing and don't change the basic policy that has been pursued by several Administrations of both political parties and different ideological viewpoints.
Even with respect to Mr. Lee, we were the first Administration to allow a transit visit. He didn't stay as long as he liked. He was welcome to get off the airplane, as you know. He decided not to get off the airplane.
We think this has been a very friendly Administration toward Taiwan while being faithful to our commitments with respect to Beijing and trying to pursue our interests on both sides of the Strait.
So I am comfortable with our policy. It changes nothing fundamentally, and no one should interpret it that way. That is the way we will approach it.
Q May I follow-up, Ambassador? Were you fully kept of the change to come during your trip? I ask you this question because as late as Sunday, the next day the announcement was made, you were apparently interviewed by the L.A. Times in Hong Kong. You were still talking then about the transit visit instead of a private visit.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: In the first place, I was kept fully informed. I had a chance to convey my views by cable and by secure phone, and so on. Secondly, by the time I met with the President -- I forget -- it's probably in Hong Kong, at that point it was clear the decision was moving in the direction that it's come out. If you look at my transcript, I think I tried maintaining my integrity with the press, but also -- the fact we were in a transition phase and hadn't notified anybody -- to use sufficiently involved language to confuse everybody. At least, that was my purpose.
I think an extremely astute reader could probably read between the lines that something was happening. So, yes, I was fully informed; and, secondly, I tried to treat this publicly in as fair and honest a way as I could, keeping in mind the decision-making process back here and the need to notify interested parties.
Q So you already knew then that (inaudible) Taipei representative here was already notified Friday. And then Ambassador Lee of the PRC was notified the following day, Saturday? You already knew that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Without confirming your timetable, which may or may not be accurate, let me say that whatever timetable was accurate, I knew about.
(Following Assistant Secretary Winston Lord's briefing, the Daily Briefing resumed with Spokesman Christine Shelly at 1:33 p.m.)
MS. SHELLY: Thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Lord.
Let me begin the rest of the briefing with one short announcement. We will also be having guest appearances on Friday of this week at the briefing. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Alexander Watson, and U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, Harriet Babbitt, will brief the press on the Secretary's attendance at the June 4-5 OAS General Assembly and the related events which will take place in Haiti.
Following opening remarks, Ambassador Watson and Ambassador Babbitt will respond to questions from the press. We will then follow our usual pattern in taking questions on other subjects. So this briefing on Friday will begin at 12:45 p.m. in this room.
Without any further ado, I'll be happy to take your questions. That's it. Thank you very much. Gee, nice try.
Q Mexico held on Sunday elections in two states, in Guanajuato and Yucatan. Presumably, the opposition party, the PAN, won Guanajuato and the PRI in Yucatan. This means Mexico is turning into a more democratic ways. What is the position of the State Department? Is there any decision on this?
MS. SHELLY: We've only seen the press reports on the results. I think I'd like to take another day or so before I would want to offer any analysis as to what exactly that vote means. I'll be happy to see if we can work something up for you, either for later this afternoon or else for tomorrow's briefing.
Q Christine, there's a report out today that India has decided to cancel the elections in Kashmir. Is that something you can comment on?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I have a short comment on that. We have seen the media reports suggesting that India has decided to cancel the Kashmir election. We're not in a position to confirm those reports at this point.
As Secretary Christopher said last week, the anticipated State Assembly elections are important but they are only one part of the overall way to address a very difficult problem in that region.
Our long-standing position on the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is that it should be resolved through negotiations between those two countries which takes into account the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Q Fred Cuny: Update? Do you have anything new?
MS. SHELLY: I really don't. I have one paragraph which is pretty much the same. Simply that the reports that we have -- and we believe them to be reliable -- is that the Russian doctor engaged by the Cuny family has determined that the body brought to Shatoy is not Fred Cuny.
The Cuny family and our Embassy in Moscow and a number of international humanitarian organizations continue to pursue every credible lead in this case.
Q Christine, back on this hemisphere. The six political prisoners that were not released last week in Cuba are reported to have been released in the last day or so. Is that true, do you know?
MS. SHELLY: I was checking on this because, in fact, we have been tracking it virtually everyday, ever since we first got the report that the six would be released. As I think you know, there was some discussion over the conditions associated with their release and whether or not they would be obligated to leave the country.
I heard a report this morning suggesting that the six, in fact, had been released. Other than being able to acknowledge that we've seen those reports -- and apparently there have also been some televised statements down in Havana by Cuban officials to the effect that these individuals are being released because their medical condition can better be treated outside of prison -- we still, however, do not have any confirmation that the releases have actually be effected or, obviously, information regarding what conditions, if any, have actually been attached to their release.
If the release were made -- and, of course, we would certainly hope that it would not be conditional -- we would welcome it. This group, of course, does include some of the most prominent dissidents on the island. But, nonetheless, to put this in context, we would still have to consider it to be a relatively small step, considering that Cuban human rights activists claim that upwards of 2,000 people remain imprisoned for their political beliefs and others, of course, do continue to be arrested for maintaining those beliefs.
Q These six who were reported, at least to date, are those the same six people that you were talking about last week?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, as far as I know. I don't know of any difference in that. I'll be happy to check. Of course, it will be subject to our being able to confirm that in fact they were released.
Q The Middle East?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Is Ambassador Ross going this week to the Middle East or next week?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have the precise departure date to indicate for you at this point. As you know, the Secretary indicated that Dennis Ross would be traveling and he expected it would be this week. As far as I know, he is going out to the region. It will be a departure before the end of the week. I don't have the details on the itinerary yet, but I'll certainly continue checking so that we can give you more details as they become available.
Q Do you know if this time -- the Secretary will make this 13th visit to the Middle East. He only included Lebanon on his first visit. Do you expect that at this time Lebanon will be included since there's progress on Syrian-Israeli track?
MS. SHELLY: We've only talked about the trips in general terms. As you know, I don't have a formal trip announcement regarding the Secretary's travel. Since I don't have a formal announcement, I think it would not be very wise of me to get into a specific discussion of the countries he'll visit.
But at the point in time that we make the announcement about which countries he'll be visiting, I'm sure we'll be happy to take questions at that point about either the inclusion of any particular countries or possible omissions.
Sid. You had a question.
Q The Secretary's itinerary?
MS. SHELLY: We'll keep you posted. That's what my guidance says.
Q Christine, two U.S. delegations, separate U.S. delegations, are in Ankara right now discussing with Turkish officials "Provide Comfort." What is the purpose? Why are they discussing about "Provide Comfort?"
MS. SHELLY: About why two American officials, or are you talking abut embassy personnel?
Q No, no, no. From the State Department, they are in Ankara right now.
MS. SHELLY: For discussions on "Provide Comfort?"
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything specific for you on that except that we do have consultations with Turkish authorities on the operation from time to time. I assume those are part of periodic consultations which we do have. But I'll be happy to check on it and see if we can maybe come back to that tomorrow with some more information.
Q The Greek Defense Minister, Mr. Arsenis, is in Washington to hold talks with American officials. Can you tell us something about the agenda?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything with me today, but I'll be happy to try to work something up for tomorrow.
Q Would it be a safe guess that you're not taking any questions on Bosnia?
MS. SHELLY: No. I'd be happy to go through what I've got, if you'd like. I can start off by just reviewing the state of play of what's been happening out in Europe.
First of all, as you know, there have been several different meetings which have taken place. The most recent treatment of Bosnia was, of course, at the NAC Ministerial itself.
One of the things that the NATO Council did -- this is, of course, at Ministerial level -- that it did early in its meeting today -- was to actually have a discussion and review all of the latest developments in the former Yugoslavia. There is a separate stand-alone -- a NATO statement -- which we'd be happy to make available to you in our Press Office.
I won't read the whole thing, but among other things the statement condemned the escalation of violence. It condemned the shelling of safe areas and the killing and seizing of U.N. peacekeepers by Bosnian Serbs. It demanded the release of U.N. peacekeepers and observers held hostage by the Bosnian Serbs, who would be held accountable for their safe return. It supported the efforts of the Contact Group to bring peace to the area. It reaffirmed NATO's willingness to help protect U.N. forces and to enforce the No-Fly Zone and to maintain the maritime embargo. It also expressed NATO's readiness to support the reinforcement of U.N. forces in the former Yugoslavia.
The full NATO Council deliberation on Bosnia, of course, also followed a meeting the previous day with the Foreign Ministers of France, Spain, Germany, and the European Union Commissioner for External Affairs representing the Troika, and the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom and of Russia -- with, of course, Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
They met and issued a statement. I assume that you've seen that.
In Secretary Christopher's intervention before the NATO Ministerial Council this morning, he stressed the understandings that had been reached in the context of the Contact Group Ministers Meeting. The night before he stressed five points, and let me just quickly go through those.
First, he stressed that the Ministers had agreed that UNPROFOR should remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina to carry out its important mission.
Secondly, that UNPROFOR should move rapidly to reduce the vulnerability of its forces by regrouping units and avoiding activities that could unduly endanger their safety.
Thirdly, that steps to assure the freedom of movement and safety of UNPROFOR safety should be taken and that the military experts would be asked to examine the specific proposals of several of the nations -- France, United Kingdom, among others -- with a view to achieving that objective.
Fourth, there was also agreement on the need to enhance the capability and strength of UNPROFOR to assure that it can carry out its mission safely and effectively, and the U.S. intended to provide appropriate support toward that end.
And, finally, the Group agreed to continue to pursue the efforts to obtain recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Serbia and to achieve an effective closure of the border between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
So those are the main points, as I mentioned, were in Secretary Christopher's remarks this morning and were accurately reflecting the statement that was adopted by the Contact Group Ministers.
There had also been a meeting, as I think you know, earlier in the day of the EU Foreign Ministers, after which a statement had also been issued.
So I think you have three very clear actions by European and NATO authorities, and also Contact Group authorities, reflecting the thinking of the highest levels of governments .
Q Robert Frasure is going back for talks with Milosevic?
MS. SHELLY: I understand that he's going to depart tomorrow.
Q To go to Belgrade?
MS. SHELLY: Yes -- to go back to Belgrade.
Q What's he taking? What sort of offer is he taking with him?
MS. SHELLY: The general point that I've made, which is the need to continue with the diplomacy and try to get the earliest possible FRY recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and obviously also to strengthen the border closures. Those are the principal issues that he will take, and obviously also the issue related to sanctions suspension and how that's going to be treated in the Security Council. That's, obviously, also an issue he'll be discussing.
Q Recognition only of Bosnia, is that what you're saying?
MS. SHELLY: Recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Q not Croatia?
MS. SHELLY: That's the issue that he's working on at this point.
Q Is he going by himself, or will there be any other Contact Group envoys with him?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any information on that specifically, but I'll be happy to check.
Q There are so many points in these recent wires. One I heard this morning from a broadcast from Sarajevo was that the Serbs have discontinued their association with the treaty that invited the U.N. to come and be in Bosnia. They have withdrawn.
Question One: Is that correct? Have the Bosnian Serbs announced that they are no longer accepting the U.N.?
MS. SHELLY: The Bosnian Serbs -- my understanding is that they have said something to the effect that they no longer considered the various U.N. agreements to be operative. I don't have the precise language of what they've said. That is obviously a worrisome development and certainly something that we hope is perhaps more remarks associated with the heat of the moment than something that they really intend to commit themselves to.
Q Would it mandate the U.N. to be in Bosnia than be negated if, indeed, the Serbians in Bosnia said "No"?
MS. SHELLY: No. It's not up to the Bosnian Serbs to be able to pull the plug on the U.N. mandate. The U.N. mandate is something that was adopted by the U.N. Security Council, and that remains the authoritative body on mandates.
Q No. But then, finally, the U.N. authorities currently -- are they negotiating with the Serbian elements in a dialogue?
MS. SHELLY: You're talking about the Bosnian Serbs?
Q The Bosnian Serbs in Pale -- are they negotiating to get the hostages released currently?
MS. SHELLY: I think that's a question that is most appropriately directed to the U.N. There certainly have been contacts between them toward that end; that is certainly also something that you get a very strong cry from the entire international community calling for those U.N. peacekeepers who are being held to be released.
Q What is the Administration's evaluation of the recent round of Cyprus talks which was held in London?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a recent evaluation to go into today, but let me put that in the category of items. I'll check and see if we can work up something for you for tomorrow.
Q All right.
Q On Bosnia --
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q -- one of the points you mentioned was reducing the vulnerability of the UNPROFOR troops. There are reports on the ground that certain cities like Gorazde, Tuzla, and Srebrenica are now being evacuated. Does this mean that the safehavens -- Sarajevo and Bihac and others -- will no longer be in that category, or what does this reduction of vulnerability mean?
MS. SHELLY: Okay. As to the reduction of vulnerability, there are a number of specific proposals that were put forward by some of the countries that have troops on the ground. Those are proposals that will be evaluated by the NATO military authorities, and also presumably in connection with the U.N.
Also, I think, there are a number of issues which basically were reverted by NATO Ministers for further study by those who have been most directly involved in the situation on the ground. But I'm told in the context of the Contact Group discussions yesterday that there was no talk about abandoning the eastern enclaves. This is something that obviously has come up as perhaps a way to make the presence there easier to protect. But that is not an idea that is getting any serious consideration at this point. Keeping the U.N. presence there is something which is, of course, mandated by U.N. Security Council resolutions. We fully support them.
It's certainly our impression from the discussions within NATO, but also the Contact Group discussions, that there is continuing support for keeping the U.N. presence in the enclaves.
Q But, Christine, has there been any thought of getting Jimmy Carter involved in any of this now?
MS. SHELLY: Not that I have heard about.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thank you.
(The press briefing concluded at l:50 p.m.)
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