U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/06/29 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, June 29, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israel-Syria Security Talks ...............................1 --Background Briefing by Department Official on Talks .....1 JAPAN Secretary's Call to FM Kono re US-Japan Trade Talks/ Civil Aviation Dispute/US-Japanese Bilateral Relations ..1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA RAPID REACTION FORCE: US Contribution to the Force .......1-10 --Consultations with Congress .............................4,6-9 --Mission/Rules of Engagement for Rapid Reaction Force ....9 --Ambassador Frasure's Appearance Before Closed Congressional Briefing/Reported Comments re: RRF .......10-11 --Contents of Akashi Letter re: Rapid Reaction Force ......13-14 UNPROFOR: Mission/Efforts to Strengthen UNPROFOR/ Prospects for the Withdrawal of UNPROFOR ................11-13 SERBIA/CROATIA Serbian Military Aid to Bosnian Serbs/Border Monitoring/ Krajina Serb Round-ups ..................................15-17 --UN Sanctions Review/Prospects for Lifting Sanctions .....17-18 ALBANIA Reported U.S. Deployment of Drones in Albania .............13 DEPARTMENT U.S. Foreign Aid and U.S. International Obligations .......14-15 --Congressional Amendments re: Turkey/Russia ..............26-27 TURKEY Operation Provide Comfort/Costs to Turkey .................19 EGYPT President Mubarak's Statements re: Sudan and Assassination Attempt/Egyptian and Sudanese Relations ...19-20 --U.S. Offer to Egypt to Assist re: Attempt ...............20 --Ethiopia's Efforts re: Assassination Attempt ............20 CHINA U.S. Mtgs/Contacts with Chinese re: Status of Harry Wu ....20-25 --U.S.-China Consular Access Agreement ....................21-23 --U.S. Consular Officer To Travel to Xinjiang Province ....23 U.S.-China Bilateral Relations ............................22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JUNE 29, 1995, 1:01 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. It's nice to see all of you here.
I think all of you know that the President and Secretary Christopher met this morning with General Shahak and General Shihabi at the White House. Secretary Christopher has made a few comments ON THE RECORD a couple of hours ago about this meeting; and I'm pleased to say that at 2:00 o'clock we will have a BACKGROUND briefing by a well-known Administration official, who will be prepared to give you all of the facts, color, that you would like. If you'd like to know about the shape of the table and the size of the room and the color of the suits, he can go into all of that. (Laughter) He can provide extensive context.
Q What about "substance"?
MR. BURNS: And extensive substance. (Laughter)
And because I know you're all interested --
Q What about the legs of the table?
MR. BURNS: He can do that too. (Laughter)
And I know you're all deeply interested, especially in the color, which we got into deeply ourselves yesterday. So I want you all to be prepared now for that.
Second, let me just tell you that last evening, June 28th, Secretary Christopher spoke with the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Kono, who is a good friend and respected colleague of the Secretary. The Secretary and the Foreign Minister reviewed the automobile and auto parts agreement announced yesterday by President Clinton. They welcomed the successful conclusion of the negotiations in Geneva and the historic agreement to increase access to Japan for American autos and auto parts. They also welcomed the decision to open markets, expand trade and create jobs in America; and they noted that the Japanese consumer also will benefit enormously from this agreement.
The Secretary and Foreign Minister Kono also reviewed their recent discussions on civil aviation, including the two meetings in Halifax that they had during the G-7 Summit session. They agreed last night to maintain the momentum established in Halifax in their effort to resolve the civil aviation dispute between the United States and Japan very quickly.
They also agreed that senior officials would meet next week here in Washington to resolve this dispute as soon as possible, and we would anticipate that these talks on civil aviation would resume here in Washington between July 5 and July 7.
The Secretary and Foreign Minister Kono also took the opportunity of this call to review the broad aspects of our relationship with Japan. They discussed their mutual responsibility to guide this relationship and manage the overall relationship, and they agreed that they needed to remain in close contact to address any problems in the relationship and to strengthen our bilateral relations with Japan. As you know, our relations with Japan are the cornerstone of our position and policy in Asia -- and specifically in the Pacific region -- and the Secretary is committed to good relations with Japan.
Yesterday's announcement from Washington and Geneva, of course, was welcome news I think by both countries; and now we hope to build on the progress made yesterday by further progress in civil aviation.
That's all I had to say at the beginning. I'll be glad to take any questions you have.
Q Could you bring us up-to-date on the U.S. contribution to the Rapid Reaction Force?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to.
As you know, we have had a series of discussions with the Congressional leadership over the last two weeks on this issue, stemming from the request by France, Britain, and the Netherlands to have the United States help in funding the Rapid Reaction Force.
We believe the Rapid Reaction Force is an important part of the effort to strengthen UNPROFOR, which is the strategic decision that we believe must be made now by all the countries who have an interest in supporting a U.N. presence in the Balkans.
I think we've discussed before that voluntary contributions, we believe, should be the principal means of financing the Force; and the United States contribution will come specifically through several areas: through close air support, through strategic lift, through intelligence cooperation, and through equipment transfers from the United States to the troop-contributing countries.
The largest aspect of our contribution will be provided by drawing down defense goods and services under existing Foreign Assistance Act authority within a $50 million ceiling; and these drawdowns, we believe, can and will be carried out in such a way that the readiness of U.S. military forces will not be compromised in any manner.
The President yesterday notified Congress about the first $l5 million drawdown, which is comprised of $l2 million in lift and $3 million in equipment to our NATO allies, who are part of the Rapid Reaction Force. Our allies have also requested communications equipment, aircraft-survivability equipment, precision navigation, and refueling equipment and small arms to buttress the Rapid Reaction Force.
The United States will also consider, in addition to this $l5 million drawdown, a separate $l0 million drawdown of contributions of intelligence and close air support.
Now, in addition to that, we are also prepared to make a cash contribution; and the United States will cover the costs for Rapid Reaction Force troops. Those troops cover 4,500 of the roughly l5,000 troops that are expected to comprise the Rapid Reaction Force. Of that 4,500, 2,000 have already been funded under an existing assessment.
Thus, the U.S. could be asked to pay approximately $35 million -- and this is in addition to the $50 million and the $l0 million of drawdowns; this is a cash contribution of $35 million -- for the next six months for 2,000 Rapid Reaction Force troops as part of our existing commitment to the UNPROFOR mission.
The remaining troops in the Rapid Reaction Force will be covered by voluntary funding from other U.N. members.
So let me just repeat this so it's not a muddle. Let me just try to be very clear about what I've just said.
We have in-kind contributions of equipment and logistical and airlift support, intelligence communications, of $50 million and $l0 million -- of $60 million -- and we have the prospect of a $35 million cash contribution to pay for the costs of roughly 2,000 troops, of all the troops that would comprise the Rapid Reaction Force.
This is the offer that we have developed over the course of the last l0 to l4 days. It's an offer that has been communicated to the Congressional leadership and other interested members of the Congress. It's an offer that is also, of course, being discussed with our NATO allies; and it comprises our answer to the problem of how the United States can be prepared to support the Rapid Reaction Force with concrete help.
Q Is that $35 million from existing appropriations, or does he have to go back to Congress? And, if so, isn't that a nonstarter from the Congressional leaders who could stamp that out?
MR. BURNS: We have an obligation to consult with the Congress, and that's what we have been doing over the last 24 hours and we'll continue to do. We believe that we can take all these steps without Congressional authorization, that they can be taken under existing authority.
Q Nick, isn't this quite a comedown from the original $3-- to $400 million that was bruited about?
MR. BURNS: I should just caution you that when all those figures were flying around the briefings and the newspapers and the media in Europe and North America, it was not known at that time how large the Force would be -- number one -- and how much money would be required to support the Force.
We now have a rough indication that this will be a Force of approximately l5,000 people. As you know, as a result of earlier conversations between the Congress and the Executive Branch of the Administration, it became quite clear that it was not going to be possible for the United States to follow our contribution through a regularly assessed way that is normally done in this kind of operation through the United Nations. Therefore, the Administration sought another way to express our support for the Rapid Reaction Force; and we've come up with this proposal.
So I think that's about the best explanation I can give you, Judd, of why there is a difference between the figures two weeks ago and the figures that are being expressed today.
Q Is it fair to say that the U.S. contribution would amount to far lower than the usual 30 percent contribution if it were assessed in the usual way?
MR. BURNS: The White House is going to put out a very detailed fact sheet on this, and perhaps we should all refer to that when it comes out later this afternoon.
I would just note, however, that as I remember the $3-- and $400- million estimates were beyond the six-month period that we have now considered. This contribution that we have talked about today is based on our assessment of what the costs will be and what we should responsibly pay for these forces over a six-month period. Some of the inflated figures that we saw a couple of weeks ago covered costs estimated for a twelve-month period.
So I just wanted to inject that note as an explanatory note.
Q This sounds a bit inflated also. How can you be charging the Europeans for intelligence support or close air support? Would you do it mission-by-mission? It doesn't sound like a real figure?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, Roy. It's the best that we have come up as an estimate of what it will cost the United States to provide support. In operations of this kind, it is not customary to provide support that is free. Everything cost something. It cost something to send large aircraft to ferry troops. It cost something to provide certain communications equipment, military hardware, and intelligence support.
Intelligence support is not just handing over pieces of paper. It's establishing a mechanism to provide support. It does cost money. It is quite normal for countries to assess the costs of those operations and to ask that these costs be borne. That is, in fact, what we're doing here.
We've had a request from our NATO allies to provide help. We had to calculate what the cost of that help would be and what our ability was in working with the Congress to pay for that help, and this is what we've come up with.
Q Can you say where the money is coming from that's being reappropriated? In other words, from what account is coming from?
MR. BURNS: I can't say. I'm not sure that has been decided. It will perhaps be available this afternoon. If it's not, I'm sure it will be available in the next couple of days, but I don't have that information now.
Q (Inaudible) Sarajevo airlift that has not been carried out since April, for example?
MR. BURNS: I don't know, Roy.
Q Given that the Congress seems contrary on many issues to what the Administration wants to do, and thinking back to the money that was sent to Mexico in the midst of its crisis, could this be viewed as a second move by the Administration to do what it wants to do without getting Congressional approval?
MR. BURNS: We could have chosen a different path, Steve, a couple of weeks ago. We could have chosen to go to the Congress to seek authorization for a larger sum of money. The decision was made that was not going to be possible based on consultations with the Congress.
We felt very strongly that we could not put ourselves in a position to leave our allies in the lurch, and that's what would have happened if we had stood by and not provided concrete support to the allies.
The fact is -- and we've talked about this on a number of occasions -- our allies have made a commitment not only to remain in Bosnia but to strengthen their forces in Bosnia. They are NATO allies. We are pledged to support them. It would be uncharacteristic of any Administration, in the history of the last 50 years, to forsake allies who are in a very tight situation and who need our help.
The decision was made, Steve, that we had to find a way to fulfill that commitment to them, and this is the way that we found.
Q I guess I didn't put my question precisely. Is this going to be a trend for this Administration, in other words, to go to Congress, find itself blocked, and then to go to other funds and other methods of funding what the Administration wants to do?
MR. BURNS: I think it's not possible for me to answer that question. We're going to have to these situations one at a time. We took the actions that we did, in the case of Mexico, several months back because we felt that we had a vital national interest at stake in Mexico. We have very important national interests at stake in Bosnia.
First and foremost among those interests is to support allies. When we found that we could not go in a certain direction with the Congress, we discovered another way that we could express that commitment and we think it's in the American national interest to do that.
Q (Inaudible) an assessment for a six-month period. Does that mean that in six months time you'll be looking at another $60 million plus another possible $35 million for 2,000 troops?
MR. BURNS: It's hard to say what the figures will be because some of the money, of course, will go to lift, and "lift" is a one-time only expense. It's certainly not an expense that we would anticipate to recur after this initial six-month period is over.
We'll have to just assess with our allies where we are and where they are six months from now and calculate what additional assistance may be required from the United States. But I think that what we have done in announcing this decision and conveying this decision to the Congress is to indicate very clearly that we have a commitment to our allies and we're going to fulfill that commitment.
Q The prospect is that every six months you will have to essentially go behind the back of Congress to get this money, whatever the figures are?
MR. BURNS: I want to be clear about something. We're not going behind the back of Congress. We went to the Congress first before making these figures public. We have offered a detailed explanation to Congress of why, of the political rationale and the security rationale, for taking these steps and we've also offered details on how we think this operation can be funded.
We've certainly not gone behind the back of Congress. In fact, we've spent two weeks consulting with the Congress and having to delay a conversation with our allies about funding. We're now ready to proceed with that particular conversation.
Q A couple of weeks ago you were talking in terms of $200 million. I believe at that time the force level was generally being described as about 10,000 troops. So the force level is up 50 percent. At the same time, your donation is going to be down by half.
Has the Congress, in fact, hamstrung the Administration's ability to support its NATO allies in a time of need?
MR. BURNS: I don't know who is talking about $200 million. I was very careful, as Mike McCurry and others were on the record, not to use any figures. Because 10 days, two weeks ago, we did not have in our government an accurate picture of how much money this operation would cost -- the entire operation -- and therefore how much of a percentage the United States should responsibly cover.
We have done our best with our allies over the last two weeks to try to assess what the costs of the operation are and what a reasonable portion of that the United States should pay, and we've come up with the following figures -- with the ones that I've identified today.
Q Could you address that question, though?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Could you address --
MR. BURNS: The second half of the question being --
Q Has Congress hamstrung the Administration's ability to support its NATO allies at a critical time?
MR. BURNS: I don't think so. I think that Congress certainly made very clear that the Administration would not have available a normal channel to fund this kind of operation. That's clear to us and it's clear to you. So we simply found another way to do this. So therefore I don't think it's accurate to say that Congress is hamstrung, our ability to meet our commitment to our allies. But it has certainly affected it, and it made us look into alternative ways of financing this operation which we have uncovered.
Q Did they try to hamstring your efforts and you just simply found a way around it?
MR. BURNS: I think the Congressional leadership has been very clear that they did not favor a normal U.N.-assessed type operation where the United States would be responsible to cover 30.4 percent of the expenses. They made that clear publicly as well as privately to the Administration.
The reality of the situation in Congress being what it was, the Administration then sought another way to accomplish this mission, and we believe we've done that.
Q Do you have understandings from the Congressional leadership that they will not obstruct your attempt to use the money in this way?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have any understandings like that; no. I don't believe that's really consistent with the nature of our initial consultations over the last 24 hours.
I can say that I think some members of Congress -- and I certainly won't try to speak for them; they may want to speak for themselves -- do not agree that this is the way the United States should go.
I would just remind you of something I said earlier: We are emphatically behind this effort, because we've got to support our allies. The United States cannot find itself in a position of not coming through for countries who have come through for us in the past and to whose security we are committed.
Q (Inaudible) idea of the precise mission?
MR. BURNS: The precise mission of the Rapid Reaction Force -- that is, the precise rules of engagement for any number of eventualities -- has not, at least to our satisfaction, been fully defined and identified by the major troop-contributing countries. But, in general, we support the Rapid Reaction Force because we believe it will strengthen UNPROFOR.
Our strategic view of the situation in Bosnia is that at this important turning point in the situation, where the Bosnian Serbs are operating in an unfettered way and certainly in a way that's inconsistent with U.N. resolutions, the West had to make a decision to strengthen the U.N. That's the decision that was initially made at Noordwijk. Now we have taken steps to put that into practice with this announcement.
So, Roy, I think that we have no doubt that the Rapid Reaction Force contributes to the strategic objection.
Now, what happens in a specific way, when the Rapid Reaction Force and other forces in the U.N. have to respond to future transgressions by the Bosnian Serbs, that is a key question that needs further discussion and further elaboration.
As I said yesterday, we may see the answer to that question on the ground as these situations unfold.
Q Nick, did the debate and delay on finding a way to do this, did that reflect in any way confusion or heated debate or argument within the Administration as to whether this was worth the money? In other words, were there those who argued that no matter how much you spend, it's not going to do any good?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that from the very first day when we confronted the question of funding -- it was around the time that President Chirac visited Washington just before the Halifax summit -- I was not aware of any high-level disagreement within the Administration on the efficacy of putting our political and financial support behind the Rapid Reaction Force.
I think there was some discussion, maybe at mid-level of the government. Some people questioned whether it was worth going forward. But at the senior levels of the government where decisions are made, there was a resolve that we had to find a way to go forward, and we have found that vehicle.
Q There's a report today that Ambassador Frasure himself rated their chances of success rather minimally. Is it accurate that is his view, or would you like to say what your view is?
MR. BURNS: My views -- Ambassador Frasure's views on all issues pertaining to Bosnia -- Let me just enter a cautionary note here.
Ambassador Frasure briefed Congressional staff members yesterday in a closed session. I'm not going to comment on the substance of what he said in that closed session and I am not going to be responsible for press reports about what he said in closed sessions because he was not on the record, he was not on background. He was in a closed session with members of Congress. The rules pertaining to those engagements are quite clear.
Let me step beyond Ambassador Frasure's purported remarks, which I will not confirm, and say that, again, we believe that the U.N. mission in Bosnia is in a very difficult position. Its ability to carry out its mandate has eroded over the last six months.
Even with the Rapid Reaction Force, the United Nations will face a formidable challenge in trying to help end the conflict in Bosnia and to continue to provide humanitarian aid to the 1.5/2 million people who depend on it.
But we have concluded after a review of our own efforts and the U.N. efforts that it is essential the U.N. stay; and, therefore, we're going to give every bit of political support and as much concrete military support that we can to strengthen UNPROFOR. That's the decision that we've made, and we're going to stick with that decision.
Q But the real question is whether they are -- given everything that you've just now said and the facts on the ground, whether they do have more than a 10 to 15 percent chance of success.
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to get into -- I'm not a soothsayer. I'm not going to get into the practice of handicapping the chances for success of a U.N. operation. I think everybody understands that they're in a difficult position; that in many ways it is an uphill battle to try to reform the U.N. forces, to try to strengthen the U.N. forces and put them in a position where they can actually do what they're supposed to do, and that is to defend and advance U.N. mandates and U.N. Security Council resolutions.
It's not happening now, but we have concluded that the U.N. must be given the opportunity to strengthen itself so that it can fulfill those responsibilities. The answer to the question, "What should one do, because UNPROFOR appears to be failing?" is one should strengthen UNPROFOR.
Some other answers in our own political system are, "Walk away." We think if we walk away, we're going to reduce the chances for a political solution to this problem, undercut the political negotiations that Carl Bildt and Bob Frasure are working on, and we're going to increase the chances of a humanitarian disaster in Sarajevo and the other enclaves.
We think that's irresponsible, and therefore we've chosen this course.
Q You're not disputing the 10 to 15 percent assessment.
MR. BURNS: I'm not confirming it. I'm not going to talk about it for the following reasons. Somebody violated the rules that we have and the understanding that we have about closed congressional briefings, and it wasn't us. I'm not going to confirm what Ambassador Frasure may or may not have said. What I'd like to do is suggest to you that we have a very clear view, and that is that the U.N. must stay, and we hope for its success. It is an uphill battle.
Q (Inaudible) arrange for funding for the next six months. At what point will you start to consider whether there are additional funds needed for another six months, and should we assume by this six-month period having been chosen, that if the UNPROFOR isn't looking like it's succeeding in six months time, that there will be a withdrawal, and that we're talking December?
MR. BURNS: On the second part of your question, David, we're not concluding right now, certainly, that UNPROFOR is going to fail or that it has a 10 to 15 percent chance of success, and therefore we should madly plan to withdraw UNPROFOR. We're not concluding that at all.
We are hoping and betting that UNPROFOR should and will stay, and that the effort to strengthen UNPROFOR will go beyond the six-month period, and that, yes, in answer to your first question, I would say in three or four months we're going to have to sit down with our allies and assess what other assistance they require from the United States, put together another effort to fund it, and, of course, have very close and, we hope, constructive consultations with the Congress on that particular issue.
Q Nonetheless, the possibility of having to extract the UNPROFOR forces is a real one and contingency plans are proceeding in the United States, and NATO just approved a plan. In your discussions with congressional leaders and the U.S. has pledged up to 25,000 troops for that effort -- in your discussions with Congress, has the issue of funding -- U.S. contribution to withdrawing NATO troops -- UNPROFOR troops come up?
MR. BURNS: I believe in the past couple of months since the idea of a contingency has taken form, we've had general discussions with the Congress on that issue, yes. I don't believe we've had to have any specific consultations concerning financial commitments -- at least I'm not aware of them -- that have any sense of being operational, because, as you know, this is a contingency operation; and, if it should become necessary to withdraw UNPROFOR, we would certainly have those consultations with the Congress.
The President, the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense have all said publicly that we would have those consultations, because it would be under the contingency plan, identified 4104, we'd be deploying United States troops into the area, and that's a serious issue on which the Congress has a legitimate view.
But let me just be very clear, because there's a lot of talk about the contingency operation and the NATO discussions in Brussels yesterday -- NATO's decision yesterday was taken to support UNPROFOR and to encourage it to stay in Bosnia, not to begin a process of withdrawal. We are not beginning a process of withdrawal. We are beginning a process of expanding the U.N. military presence and strengthening it.
The Oplan, 4104, is a provisional contingency plan that you have to responsibly have on the books in case the worst should happen -- the worst for us being a withdrawal of UNPROFOR. But it is not operational now. It is a contingency plan.
Q Is that part of the problem you ran into in Congress? Was the sense expressed that why fund $100 million -- whatever the figure would be -- for a Rapid Reaction Force when you're just going to come back and ask for more for withdrawal later on.
MR. BURNS: I think that's a point of view that some people in the Congress put forward, yes. Other people put forward the view that -- their view, it's not our view -- that UNPROFOR was failing, and it wasn't worth trying to strengthen UNPROFOR. And, as I said -- and I don't want to repeat this ad nauseam -- we disagree with that point of view.
We disagree very strongly with it. We think it's the wrong way for the United States to go, and it would forsake our allies, which is a fundamental concern of American policy in Europe.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Okay, first, and then Charlie.
Q According to today's report, the U.S. Government next week is going to deploy kind of spy plane in an airfield base of northern Albania. Do you have any comment on that and how this deployment is connected with the Bosnian crisis?
MR. BURNS: If we were to deploy spy planes, I don't think we'd talk about it in public. I think last week we did talk about the deployment of drones to Albania. This is not new. We have had such equipment there in the past. It's not new.
Q Nick, I'd like to go back to the famous or some say infamous letter from Mr. Akashi to Dr. Karadzic, and I know you've revisited that a number of times as to the feelings of the Administration about how the letter was transmitted. But I'm interested in the contents of the letter which talked about the strengthened force wouldn't have any other rules of engagement or operation than the current UNPROFOR.
Have you -- is that still what you understand from the United Nations, from discussions with your allies? Has that changed, and do you have anything to say about the future of Mr. Akashi as the U.N.'s man in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: On the last question, no. It's not my responsibility. It's the Secretary General's.
On the first two questions, we believe that it was a mistake for Mr. Akashi to have sent that letter to the Bosnian Serb leadership.
Q (Inaudible) the contents --
MR. BURNS: And we believe that the contents of the letter do not accurately reflect the discussions that we have had about the mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force. We have had, as I think I mentioned yesterday, a lot of conversations. They have not been uniform. We've heard a variety of views about what the mandate should be, and I should remind you a variety of views from the troop-contributing countries -- not just others -- who have an interest in this; and, therefore, on the question of substance, Charlie, we think it was a mistake to have sent the letter.
We don't think it accurately represents the views of a leading member of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States. We think on the case of process, it was also a mistake. A letter of that magnitude and importance should have had -- well, we should have had the ability to have seen a draft of that letter and had the ability to comment on it. So we think it was a mistake, and we're not pleased by it. We've made those views known directly to the Secretary General.
Q Sort of keying off of Steve's question, it seems like the Administration on the funding issue really seems to be between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the generally internationalist view of the Administration is committed to engagement in international affairs and commitments to its allies, and so forth.
But it seems to be hit by a brick wall of growing isolationism, as expressed through the new Congress in its unwillingness to fund such things as the American commitment to the Rapid Reaction Force.
Wouldn't it be more important at this stage for the Administration to try to rally public opinion generally towards a commitment such as these, rather than pursue what in the long term is an unsustainable path through drawing down funds from other programs?
MR. BURNS: Thank you for asking the question and making the point, because it speaks directly to what the President was saying in San Francisco on Monday. There is a debate in this country about engagement versus isolationism, and the Administration has taken a clear view against those who would argue that it's time for America to fold up its tent abroad and return home.
We don't have that option. We're not only a global power. We're a European and Pacific power with economic, security and political interests around the globe. It's not 1898. This is not the kind of discussion we had at the end of the 19th century when it was possible for America to retreat from international engagements.
If we chose the path that the isolationists have put out for us, it would lead to our economic ruin, and it would forsake our security and political interests all around the world in the Pacific and Europe. President Clinton took this issue on directly in his address to the U.N. Commemorative ceremony in San Francisco on Monday morning.
It is also involved in our attempt to seek and receive from the Congress an adequate level of resources to fund State Department operations around the world; to fund the commitments that we have made to our allies in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, and also it gets into the question of whether or not we should stand by our allies in the Balkans at a very tough time.
When our allies encounter difficulties and when it looks -- and some people are betting that U.N. operations will not succeed, it doesn't behoove the United States to turn and run, and that's what some people are suggesting, and we reject that advice.
Q Nick, a question about Croatia. The Croatians have now complained to the U.N. specifically about equipment arriving in occupied Croatia from Serbia -- integrated units under command of the army of Yugoslavia.
Can you confirm the arrival of the equipment, and what are the implications for the maintenance of the lifting -- or the suspension of the sanctions against Serbia?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm the arrival of the equipment, but what I can do is speak to two related issues that you and others have raised over the last couple of days. One is any possible Serbian military aid to the Bosnian Serbs, and the second is to the roundup of some of the population -- the younger male population in the Krajina area.
On the first question, as you know, we are involved and take very seriously the efforts of the international conference in the former Yugoslavia to monitor Serbia's compliance with the existing U.N. sanctions. And the ICFY border monitoring mission has worked, we think, very diligently and aggressively under very difficult circumstances since last fall to verify the promise that Mr. Milosevic has made that he would seal the border with Bosnia except for humanitarian shipments.
As we've stated before, other channels of information have indicated that there has been leakage in this border operation across the Serbian-Bosnian border, despite the best efforts of the monitoring mission.
We do make an effort to look into specific allegations of leakage, and we certainly bring this to the attention of the Serb leadership in Belgrade, and it does have an effect on how we view the issue of sanctions relief.
Earlier this month, there was also the charge that Krajina Serb youths, young males living in Serbia, had been taken into custody in joint operations run by the Krajina Serb military and Serb police in Belgrade. The reports were that these youths were taken back to Croatia against their will to serve in the military of the Krajina Serb forces, and we also have noted a similar roundup that seems to have occurred in January 1994.
We have credible information that several hundred Krajina Serb youths were rounded up and sent to Croatia this month. Initially, both the officials in Knin and officials in Belgrade claimed these people were volunteers. Subsequently, we understand that Belgrade has stated that its officials were merely identifying individuals not having resident status in Serbia, and we know that the UNHCR has protested this roundup to Belgrade.
We deplore the actions of the Serb authorities who cooperated in the roundups which violate international law and the basic principles of the treatment of refugees. This represents to us a troubling indication of Belgrade's attitude toward the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Helping to round up refugees to serve in the Krajina Serb militias is not consistent with the pursuit of peace which Belgrade claims to support.
You can be assured that we are bringing these concerns directly to the attention of the Serb leadership.
Q My question really related more to the sending of apparently dozens of main battle tanks from Nis into Glina from armored personnel carriers of other equipment and of thousands of volunteers or forcibly mobilized personnel. I think that they made -- well, you must know something about this.
MR. BURNS: We're looking into them, Roy -- those allegations. We're trying to develop information that can be corroborated on them. I don't have anything to give you on that today, however.
Q Do you have anything to say about the sanctions that have now been suspended against Serbia -- whether you expect that to continue after next week, because I think it comes up for review next week.
MR. BURNS: I would certainly hope and expect that they would continue. That's our full expectation. We believe the sanctions should remain in place. I would also note that Carl Bildt, the EU negotiator, has said that now his primary diplomatic mission is to travel to Belgrade for talks with Mr. Milosevic on this issue.
Q But the thing is these allegations fly right in the face of the assurances that Milosevic is giving.
MR. BURNS: Yes, they do.
Q So don't you want to determine the facts first before you say whether you want the lifting to continue?
MR. BURNS: We have determined, I think, facts implicating the Serb authorities in a number of the actions that I've just talked bout in rounding up youths and in leakage along the Bosnian-Serb border. We think it's important that we continue to work with Belgrade on this.
We are going to enter next week's discussions with a sense of pragmatism and realism, and we certainly are not inclined to lift all the sanctions. Some countries want to lift all the sanctions. We don't. We think that some of the sanctions should remain in place because of these transgressions and because of the fact that Serbia continues to refuse to recognize Bosnia. That is the crux of the offer that the Contact Group has made to Mr. Milosevic, and that's what Mr. Bildt will be talking to him about.
Q It sounds like you're turning a blind eye to these allegations.
MR. BURNS: We're not turning a blind eye to them. We've gone public with them today. We have condemned them. We're going to bring them directly to the attention of Mr. Milosevic. He is a leading actor in the area. We want to continue to work with him but on a constructive basis, and we would like to receive some answers about these transgressions.
Q Nick, as the U.N. does join this debate about sanctions again, so are you seeking -- would the United States be willing to go along with any further easing of sanctions at this time?
MR. BURNS: It's hard to say. We're going to have to see how the discussion goes next week; what other information is developed. So I can't answer that question specifically, but I can say this. We don't support the lifting of sanctions. We support the continued maintenance of some of the sanctions, and that is what's at issue in the discussions that we've had with Milosevic over the last couple of months.
Q So despite your condemnation today and the fact that you're looking into these other allegations, you at least are considering a further easing of sanctions against Serbia.
MR. BURNS: That is something that others will raise. I don't think we'll be in a position to raise that.
Q You at least are not opposing it. You're not ruling it out.
MR. BURNS: I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not saying we support it, and it may be in the end that we don't support it. We'll just have to see how the discussions go. I'm simply trying to point out that we think that the sanctions regime and the monitoring of the sanctions have to remain in place, number one.
Number two, we don't support a lifting of the sanctions as some countries will propose as these discussions get underway, and we'd like to have a discussion with the Government of Belgrade about some of the evidence that has been uncovered about these other issues. I think that will determine the final position of the United States on sanctions.
Are we still on Bosnia? Another subject?
Q Another subject. Following your yesterday's comment, did you figure out finally how much money, if any, the U.S. Government has given to Turkey as compensation for her participation in the "Provide Comfort" operation protecting the Kurdish people of northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: No. I have not yet figured out how much money we've given. I think I told you yesterday that our support for "Operation Provide Comfort II" has been on the order of, I think, over $860 million. I would refer you to the Pentagon for a more detailed explanation of that figure. If you're really interested, we can look into this for you.
Q Nick, on Egypt, President Mubarak made a number of statements encouraging the people of Sudan to essentially overthrow their government; also, certain threats of Egyptian military action, apparently making the conclusion that the recent assassination attempt against him was fomented by the Government of Sudan.
Now, the U.S. has sent people there to help in the investigation. Are there any indications that -- any basis whatsoever -- that the Sudanese Government would have been involved in this? And is it not also the case that prior to the assassination attempt, there was a growing rapprochement between Sudan and Egypt and a meeting of the two Foreign Ministers in Addis Ababa two days before the attempt, and might this not also be a motive of forces either in Sudan or outside Sudan that wanted to break up this growing rapprochement rather than the conclusion that apparently President Mubarak has drawn, that it is the government.
MR. BURNS: It's hard for us to interpret at this point what was the reason -- what was the rationale behind the assassination attempt. We do not have any independent information that would lead us to implicate one or another of groups in the attempt to assassinate President Mubarak, number one.
Number Two: We fully stand by President Mubarak. We have a strong, friendly relationship with him. We have a continued American interest in stability in Egypt and in a close relationship with Egypt.
As to the problems between Egypt and Sudan, there have been problems between Egypt and Sudan for a number of decades. They are not new. The border dispute is a longstanding issue.
We have a very close relationship with the Government of Egypt. We have, as you know very well, had some problems in the past in our relationship with the Government of Sudan. It's not for us to interpret anymore than I have today the problems between Egypt and Sudan. We'll leave that to the Egyptians and Sudanese.
But I do want to leave you with a very strong reaffirmation of support for our relationship with Egypt.
Q What about the assistance the U.S. is giving in terms of the investigation; they sent over a crew?
MR. BURNS: As you know, President Clinton offered in a phone conversation with President Mubarak our assistance in any way, in looking into what happened in Addis Ababa. I just don't have any details on how the Egyptians have responded and whether or not there is any concrete assistance going back and forth.
The one thing I did not mention during the last couple of days which I think is worth mentioning, is that the Ethiopian Government has offered a large reward for information leading to the arrest of the terrorists. The Ethiopian Government has launched its own investigation in cooperation with the Egyptian Government.
I think we should recognize the fact that two Ethiopian security officers gave their lives while attempting to protect President Mubarak against the attack. We have offered our assistance to the Ethiopian Government as well in this attack.
Furthermore, I would just say, one of the people wounded in the attack was the head of the Palestinian Authority in Addis Ababa. In fact, the attack took place, as I understand it, just in front of the Palestinian Authority's building. An American AID official, who just happened to be in the vicinity, found the Palestinian official who was severely wounded and took him to the hospital.
That AID official, I think, showed great courage in doing that. He did the right thing. We've tried to be as helpful as we can from the first hours of this tragedy.
Q Nick, do you have anything new on Harry Wu and your exchange with the Chinese authorities?
MR. BURNS: We've had a series of meetings with the Chinese since my briefing 24 hours ago.
Yesterday afternoon, Assistant Secretary Win Lord called in the Chinese Charge d'Affaires, Zhou Wenzhong, here in Washington and expressed to him our deep disappointment with the failure of the Chinese Government to act in a responsible way in the case of Mr. Harry Wu.
Secondly, Assistant Secretary Lord reminded the Chinese of our continued interest in the immediate release of all dissidents and political prisoners from China, but specifically the case of Mr. Chen Ziming who, as you know, is quite ill and who, under any humanitarian standard, deserves to be freed.
This morning, the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Beijing, Mr. Scott Hallford, met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials in Beijing to make further inquiries about Mr. Wu's welfare and his whereabouts. I am sorry to tell you that the Chinese officials, once again, refused to give us specific information as to where Mr. Wu might be being held and detained, what the charges are against him, and to continue -- as in their words -- only consider our request for access to him.
Let me review this point because it's an important point, and I know there is some discussion in the Chinese Foreign Ministry by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman this morning on this point.
The U.S.-Chinese Consular Convention provides the following: When an American citizen is detained, the Chinese Government has the responsibility to notify the American Government within four days. The Chinese Government did that. He was detained on the 19th of June; they informed us on the 23rd. They met their responsibilities.
The State Department incorrectly said publicly on Monday that was not the case, and we have told the Chinese Government that we would correct our statement. I did that on Tuesday.
There is another part of the Consular Convention that has to be respected. That says that when the United States requests consular access to a detained American, it must be granted within 48 hours. That has not been done. It has been more than 72 hours since we asked for access. It has not yet been granted.
Therefore, we would submit that it is unambiguous and clear that China has failed to adhere to its commitments -- it's international legal commitments -- to the United States in granting us consular access. We are disappointed. This is simply unacceptable and it's unreasonable for any government to act in this way.
Let me make a broader statement. We've made clear to the Chinese Government that we have not changed our policy on China or on Taiwan, and that we will continue to pursue a policy of engagement with China. We would like to continue to build constructive relations with China. But so far the Chinese response and Chinese actions have made this effort difficult.
Positive bilateral relations are just as much in China's interest as in the interests of the United States.
We are proceeding positively on many fronts in Asia. Consider the recent, very fine progress on the Korean Accord, the Framework Agreement with North Korea. Consider the major trade agreement yesterday between the United States and Japan. Consider the upcoming regional security talks that Secretary Christopher will have in Brunei at the end of July and the beginning of August.
We would like good relations with China to be a part of this overall American approach to Asia. But this requires cooperative efforts by the Chinese as well as cooperative efforts by the United States.
Q Are you seeing the first signs of confrontation between the two countries?
MR. BURNS: What we are plainly seeing is that the difficulties in U.S.-China relations have somehow convinced the Chinese that the best course is not to have discussions between the two countries.
We would submit to the Chinese, and have submitted to them privately, that when countries have difficulties in a relationship as important as this one, it really behooves both of us to sit down and talk about them. We have proposed a number of specific ways by which that can happen, and we believe that is the most reasonable course for both of us.
Q Does the Consular Access Agreement with China specify people being detained or arrested? The Chinese, in other words -- I don't mean that to be --
MR. BURNS: It provides very specifically for people who are either detained or arrested. So Mr. Wu clearly fits into this category.
I noted this morning a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry that he's not being detained; that he's only being investigated. As far as we know, he's been asked to go a hotel. His passport has been taken away. He's not been allowed to leave that place. He's not been allowed to see American-government officials. That meets any kind of definition of someone being detained. He's certainly being detained.
What we have done is, we have sent a consular official of the American Embassy in Beijing to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, and we expect that this official will arrive on June 30, tomorrow. That person will stand by there so that when the Chinese Government tells us where in this very large province Harry Wu is being detained, that official will then go to that location and attempt to see Mr. Wu. It's a very important thing.
He's an American citizen. He was traveling under an American passport. He had been in China many times on that passport and had not had these kinds of problems. So we are simply mystified by why he would encounter such problems now.
Q Are you considering any sanctions at this time?
Q (Inaudible) by that, I mean -- you mentioned how this one official would be going, obviously, basically to look for him. What other talks do you have planned or options available to you?
MR. BURNS: What happens next is that the consular official travels to Xinjiang Province and awaits specification from the Chinese Government on where Mr. Wu is being held. We continue our efforts in Beijing and in Washington to convince the Chinese Government that there is an international agreement that is in play here that needs to be respected.
In a wider sense, we continue our efforts to speak to the Chinese about our very strong wish for good relations, constructive relations, and on-going dialogue and all the issues that are both challenges for us and all those that are opportunities for us. There are a number of issues upon which we can agree.
Q Has there been any thought given to Secretary Christopher calling his counterpart in Beijing and making that kind of high-level appeal?
MR. BURNS: We normally wouldn't discuss publicly all of the steps that we're taking to communicate with the Chinese Government. Certainly, Assistant Secretary Lord, who is on a daily basis the senior American official in charge of our China policy, has been on a daily basis engaged with the Chinese Government.
I would just note that President Clinton saw the Chinese Ambassador a couple of weeks ago in the Oval Office to discuss the state of U.S.- China relations. Secretary Christopher was at that meeting.
I'd also note that Stape Roy, an excellent American Ambassador who has just left Beijing, had a series of conversations just in the last couple of weeks with the entire range of the Chinese leadership -- including most senior officials, in both the Foreign Ministry and beyond the Foreign Ministry with the Head of State.
That has given us an opportunity to explain to the Chinese Government that the decision to issue the visa to President Lee was a decision that did not change American policy toward Taiwan or towards China, and we've made that abundantly clear.
Q Would you agree that the detention of Wu -- in particular in the last you know, in terms of recent events -- is a particularly ominous sign from where China is going in terms of the relationship with the United States?
MR. BURNS: It's a mystifying sign. We're not quite sure what it means because the Chinese in the past have been very good about adhering to international agreements, despite differences on political issues.
We have our differences that are well known. The point is, however, that when two countries agree in writing that in certain situations certain actions and responsibilities should be adhered to, we expect the Chinese Government will adhere to those agreements. We reiterate that point today.
Q You would agree it's not an optimistic sign?
MR. BURNS: It's certainly not an optimistic sign, Carol, it's a troubling sign. It's a troubling sign about the inability of the Chinese Government to communicate effectively with the United States Government, and that's what needs to happen in this relationship. We need to have effective, clear communications; and that's what we're seeking.
We are not discussing any further steps. We're not going to speculate about any possible future steps that we might take in response to this because we want to keep this discussion on a level and direct and straightforward.
Q Well, how long is your patience going to last in either waiting for the problem to be resolved or your effort to resolve this problem?
MR. BURNS: We're going to keep on the path that we have chosen, and that is to continue to remind the Chinese Government of its international obligations and remind it of its interest in a good relationship with the United States.
Q But by this year, some said yesterday, in reversing it it takes two to tango; and the Chinese aren't talking to you, except through the Charge.
MR. BURNS: We are talking to the Chinese. As I just said, the President, Stape Roy, Secretary Christopher -- everyone -- has had a number of conversations. We participated in those conversations.
We need to talk about the specific case of Mr. Wu. We need to have better conversations than we've had on that case.
Q Are we calling in the Charge on Mr. Wu?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we are. We had a conversation in Beijing this morning, and we'll continue to have conversations on this.
There is a very high level of interest in our Government. Secretary Christopher is personally following the situation of Mr. Wu. He's concerned about it. He's been in touch with a number of members of Congress about it.
In fact, when we were flying back from San Francisco the other day, there were four or five members of Congress on the plane with us, and all of them were concerned about this.
So I think it's not just the Executive Branch. I think it's the Legislative Branch in the United States that has concerns.
Q You said you weren't going to speak about future steps you may take, but that suggests that you are contemplating possible future steps in response to this.
MR. BURNS: At this point, I think I'm just going to limit myself to what I've said. If we were contemplating steps -- and I'm not aware of any specific steps that are being contemplated -- we certainly would keep that to ourselves, but I don't want to lead you in that direction.
We have a very kind of even-handed level view of the difficulty here, and that is that it's up to both of us to take steps. But I think in this case it's really up to the Chinese Government now to take some steps. We've made very clear what we want to do. It's up to the Chinese Government now to decide how it's going to respond to us.
Q Now, has any effort been made to solve the mystery, to figure out why they're doing this? Might it have anything to do with the succession struggle under way now in Beijing? What do analysts in the building believe?
MR. BURNS: I think it's clear to all that the present difficulties between the United States and China seem to stem from unhappiness on the part of China with our decision to grant a visa to President Li, and we understand that they have certainly made clear to us their dissatisfaction with that decision.
We have explained, time and again, from President Clinton and Secretary Christopher and Ambassador Roy on down, that that decision did not change our policy towards Taiwan -- which is one of unofficial relations -- nor our policy towards the People's Republic of China.
Q The representative who's going to Urumqi -- did you ask the Chinese or inform them that he was going? I mean did they agree to his trip there?
MR. BURNS: I think it is normal diplomatic practice to inform the host government of this kind of trip, and I'm sure that took place.
Q Well --
Q Thank you.
Q -- are they supportive of the trip? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I can't say. I don't have any information on that. They ought to be though.
Q Nick, another question, another subject.
Last night -- actually, early this morning -- the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the U.S. giving aid to Turkey, and we understand that the U.S. Government is not able to keep international obligations for Turkey. Do you have any reaction, and what is your plan after all?
MR. BURNS: Our plan is to meet our international obligations to Turkey. The amendment to which you refer -- the so-called Porter Amendment -- is strongly opposed by the Clinton Administration. This amendment would undermine our strategic and humanitarian interests towards Turkey.
Passage of the amendment is particularly unwise and unfortunate, one day after the Turkish Parliament agreed to approve a six-month extension of Operation Provide Comfort in the face of serious domestic opposition to that extension. Prove Comfort is the operation, as you know, in which the United States and Turkey work together to provide for security and humanitarian relief in northern Iraq.
We're going to continue to work to have this amendment removed from the bill, as the appropriations process goes forward.
I would just say it was a very active session last night in marking up a bill that pertained to State Department operations and to a number of the foreign assistance commitments that the United States thinks is in our interest to meet. We will work with the Congress constructively and openly over the next couple of months as we head towards the end of the fiscal year and the end of the appropriations process, to try to restore some of the cuts that were made last night in programs like aid to Turkey and aid to Russia and the other New Independent States that are unquestionably in the strategic interests of the United States. We feel this very strongly, but we want the Congress to know that we will work constructively, openly with them.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
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