U.S. Department of State 95/07/05 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, July 5, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENT Malcolm Rifkind Appointment as U.K. Foreign Secretary . 1 CHINA Detention of Harry Wu -- U.S. Efforts to Locate Mr. Wu. 1-13 -- U.S. Contacts, Discussion with Government of China . 2-3,5-8 -- Possible Henry Kissinger Mediation , Good Offices .. 3,12 -- Linkage of Wu Detention with Other Bilateral Issues. 4-5,9 -- Secretary of Commerce Brown Travel to China ........ 4-5,9 Alleged M-11 Missile Sale to Pakistan ................. 11-12 U.S. Proposal for Senior-Level Contacts ................ 13 IRAQ Ekeus Report on Biological Weapons Program ............ 13-14 THAILAND Effect of Ministerial Appointment on Bilateral Relations 14 -- Information on Involvement in Drug Trafficking ..... 14-17 U.S. Counter-Narcotics Effort ......................... 15,16,17 COLOMBIA Reaction to Arrest of Jose Santacruz of Cali Drug Cartel 17-18 -- Possible U.S. Extradition Request, Murder Charge .... 18 JAPAN Bilateral Civil Aviation Talks ......................... 18 CROATIA Alleged Serb Military Buildup in Krajina ............... 19 SERBIA Connection with Bosnian Serb Military Forces, Sanctions Violations ................................. 19-23 U.S. Position on UN Sanctions Review, Relief ........... 19-21 Status of Offer to Milosevic re Sanctions Easing ....... 22 TURKEY/GREECE PM Ciller Accusation of Greek Support for PKK .......... 23 Travel to U.S. of PKK-Supporting Turkish Kurds ......... 24 IRAN Rafsanjani on Relations with U.S., MidEast Peace Process 24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JULY 5, 1995, 12:59 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher welcomes the appointment of Malcolm Rifkind as Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. Secretary Christopher, of course, is well acquainted with Mr. Rifkind from Mr. Rifkind's tenure as Defense Secretary. Secretary Christopher looks forward to working with him as befits our close relationship with the United Kingdom, and he also looks forward to an early meeting.
He plans to call Mr. Rifkind this afternoon to congratulate him personally on his appointment.
George, I'd be glad to go to your questions.
Q Anything new on Harry Wu?
MR. BURNS: For those of you who were not with us on Monday, let me try to take you through the epic of our efforts to try and locate Mr. Wu. This is a very serious issue for us and to try to seek a reasonable response and a specific response from the Chinese Government.
As you remember, a consular officer from the American Embassy in Beijing, Mr. Charles Parrish, was dispatched from Beijing to the town of Urumqi in western China on June 29. Mr. Parrish was sent to this area because of information provided by the Chinese Government that Mr. Wu was being held in the town of Horgas in western China and because of information provided by Mr. Wu's traveling companion, who informed us that they had crossed into China near Horgas, and that she believed Mr. Wu was being detained there.
So we had two sources of information, but we were told separately on two occasions by the Chinese Government that Mr. Wu was, indeed, in Horgas.
So Mr. Parrish traveled to Horgas, by plane to Urumqi, 350 miles across the desert, on a 12-hour trip by taxi on Monday, only to find that Mr. Wu was not in Horgas and that the local Chinese Government officials there and the Foreign Ministry's representative in western China denied any knowledge that Mr. Wu was in Horgas.
The consul was able to stay there overnight. He has since returned -- Mr. Parrish -- to the town of Urumqi where he is awaiting further instructions from the American Embassy in Beijing. We are awaiting further information from the Chinese Government in Beijing because, as of this morning, the Chinese Government still refuses to tell us where Mr. Wu is; still refuses to tell us why Mr. Wu is being detained; still refuses to acknowledge the fact that we have a consular convention in place, which is international law, which is binding on China, of course, that would give the United States Government access to a detained American citizen within 48 hours.
I would just remind you and remind the Chinese Government here today that the Chinese Government is late by one week in meeting its commitment to give us access to Mr. Wu.
Over the last couple of days, we have taken a number of opportunities to try to convince the Chinese Government to give us the information about Mr. Wu.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher asked Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff to call in the Chinese Charge, Mr. Zhou Wenzhong, on Monday here in the Department. He was given a very stiff demarche by Mr. Tarnoff and reminded of China's international obligations in this case.
On the same day in Beijing, our Charge d'Affaires, Mr. Scott Hallford -- our Charge d'Affaires in Beijing -- raised Mr. Wu's case with the Vice Foreign Minister of China, Mr. Jiang Enzhou, and other senior Chinese officials. The Chief of our Consular Section, our Consul General, Mr. Arturo Macias, questioned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the same day about Mr. Wu.
Mr. Hallford, our Charge, has asked again to see the most senior representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that he can see about Mr. Wu's case. We are going to continue to raise this case everyday with the Chinese Government because it is inexcusable that they're holding an American citizen, and American passport-holder, without any indication as to his welfare, as to why he's being detained, or where he is. We don't understand this. It is unreasonable, it is inexcusable, and we're not going to stop our efforts to find Mr. Wu.
Q Have you drawn any conclusions about the misdirection -- if that's what it is -- to go to this town, whatever? I mean, or do you want us to draw the conclusions?
MR. BURNS: At this point, Barry, you're free to draw your own conclusions, as you always are.
Q But out there, the inferences are clear, but it would be preferable if the State Department wants to accuse the Chinese Government of intentionally misleading and causing an American diplomat to travel hither and yon on a wild goose chase, I wish you'd say it.
MR. BURNS: There are a couple of possible explanations. One is that the people who gave us this information -- and there were two people who gave us this information in the Chinese Government -- were simply misinformed or confused.
The other is that it was intentional. Right now, let's give the Chinese Government the benefit of the doubt that they were confused and they misinformed us.
But we take it quite seriously. This is not normal diplomatic practice. Our consul, Mr. Parrish, did travel a long way, very difficult conditions. But he's staying in western China because we believe -- we assume -- that Mr. Wu is being held someplace in western China. He will stay there and he will go to the next town that the Chinese Government tell us, if they do, where Mr. Wu is being held.
Q You said also that you tried in various ways to get this resolved, and you're referring only to bringing in the American diplomat. Have you tried having former Secretary of State Kissinger who apparently the Chinese still hold in high regard? Have you tried through him to get this resolved? Have you tried a Jimmy Carter-type approach? Are there other approaches you've tried that you can share with us?
MR. BURNS: Right now, we're going to continue to try to resolve this through normal diplomatic channels.
Secretary Christopher did speak to former Secretary of State Kissinger before his departure, but I believe that was before Mr. Wu's case became a problem, before he was detained. So I'm not aware of any efforts by Mr. Kissinger in that regard.
We have very fine diplomats in Beijing, and now in western China -- a very fine consular officer. We have full confidence in them. They are trying their very best, under very difficult and unusual diplomatic circumstances, to represent our country and represent the wishes of our government. But it is unequivocally clear to the Chinese Government how strongly we feel about this and what has to happen next.
This is, as I said, extremely unusual behavior on the part of a government with which we have diplomatic relations. We have not acted in a similar fashion towards them.
The relationship is undergoing some difficulties right now. I think it's clear to everybody. What we believe has to happen is that the two governments begin to talk about those differences in a rational and constructive way.
It's in China's interest to have a good relationship with the United States. These actions are inconsistent with any intention to have a good relationship with us. So it's going to require cooperative efforts by the Chinese, as well as by the United States, to have good relations.
Q But the Administration is prepared to go forward -- or is the Administration prepared to go forward with talks on other things as long as Harry Wu remains -- his situation remains unclear?
MR. BURNS: Our view is that when two countries have differences -- and we clearly have some differences; we've noted those differences on human rights; we have a difference on possible Chinese arm sales to Iran and nuclear sales to Iran. When we have differences, it's incumbent upon both countries to talk about them.
So we're not in a position right now where we want to go off canceling meetings ourselves. We're trying to get meetings scheduled. We're trying to arrange high-level contacts between our two governments because that is the way that you clarify differences and misunderstandings and that's the way you talk about them and negotiate them. That's the course that we're going to pursue.
Q So you would expect Ron Brown to go, as scheduled, to Beijing this summer?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any factor that would turn that meeting off. Obviously, we'll have to take into consideration at the time of the trip the environment that has been created by all of these incidents and whatever has happened in the future between now and then. But right now, we have no plans to turn off any of these meetings.
I would just note, since the troubles began, when the visa was issued to President Lee for his unofficial visit to his alma mater, the United States has not taken any action to cancel visits or turn off appointments or to disrupt the relationship. We've made it very clear, we have a one-China policy; that it's based and has been based since 1979 on the three communiques; that that policy has not and will not change. We've made it very clear that we'd like high-level contacts between the two governments.
Q Did Mr. Parrish determine when he went to that town whether Wu had ever been there at any stage?
MR. BURNS: I believe Mr. Parrish was told by the local authorities and then subsequently by the regional, I think, Foreign Ministry official in western China that they had no knowledge of Mr. Wu. They had no knowledge that he had ever been in that town.
Mr. Parrish did find the illusive Karamay Hotel. We had been told that Mr. Wu was at the Karamay Guest House in Horgas. There is a Karamay Hotel. Mr. Parrish stayed there. Mr. Wu was not there. The people who run the hotel were told that Mr. Wu was not there.
Q Did they give him a good room?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if they gave him a good room. It's the least they could have done for him, but I don't know if they did give him a good room.
But it's an extremely serious matter. Mrs. Wu was on CNN this morning talking about her husband's plight and her real concern for his welfare given his age and given the fact that he spent 19 years in detention in China. We have a lot of sympathy for her.
We are trying to do everything we can and to look after any lead to try to find him, but what we need is cooperation. It would be a lot easier if the Chinese Government would simply tell us where he is being held, why he's being held and to release him. That's what we want.
Q You're acting as if this is all sort of an accident along the way. It sounds like a deliberate policy by the Chinese Government to either deceive you or keep you in the dark. I don't even see how you can attribute this to confusion. It's not confusion. It's consistent - - completely consistent.
MR. BURNS: We have been talking to representatives of the Foreign Ministry, and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they may have been temporarily confused about the information they gave to us.
There may be other people who are responsible -- directly responsible -- in the Chinese Government for cases of this type. China has described this as a case where they think there are some security concerns about Mr. Wu's past activities. We're not in a position to say that we agree with that characterization, but I think we'll have to give the Chinese Foreign Ministry the benefit of the doubt. I think they are trying to keep us in the dark. They are definitely trying to keep us in the dark because they won't tell us where he is and they won't tell us what he's being charged with. There's no question about that, Roy.
Q Are we asking other countries for help in this -- other countries that may have influence over the Chinese -- to serve as an intermediary, to restate that we have a one-China policy, that they need to talk to us directly?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we've asked any other country to be an intermediary, to pass messages or to clarify misunderstandings. The fact is that the United States and China have an enormous stake in the future of our relations. We ought to be able to talk directly to each other. We ought not to need intermediaries, whether they're private emissaries or whether they're other governments.
Our government believes that there's no substitute for this kind of communication, and we're going to continue to pursue it.
Q Nick, are you -- is there some suspicion that the Defense Ministry and the Security Ministry are somehow pre-empting the Foreign Ministry in this situation? Is that what you're trying to say?
MR. BURNS: That's really something that I can't clarify for you, but the Chinese -- perhaps a spokesman at the Chinese Foreign Ministry or Defense Ministry might be able to shed some light on that. I can't.
I would just note that we assume that the relevant authority here is not the Foreign Ministry over Mr. Wu; that he's under the authority of another ministry, and that might account for some of the confusion about some of these leads that the Chinese Government has given us as to where he's being held.
Q Which ministry is that?
MR. BURNS: I'd have to refer you to the Chinese Government. I just don't know for sure, but we think it's probably another ministry.
Q Nick, do you see any legitimate reason the Chinese might have for holding Mr. Wu?
MR. BURNS: There is no legitimate reason, for the following reasons: He's an American citizen. He's traveling on an American passport. He has been in and out of China several times during the last couple of years since he became an American citizen.
He was granted a visa just a couple of weeks ago for this particular trip. If the Chinese Government had any concern about Mr. Wu or his past activities, one might have presumed they would have denied that visa. That's normal practice. That's certainly the kind of practice that we engage in when we don't want people to travel to our country, but he was given a visa.
So Mr. Wu, unfortunately, was obviously under the impression that, having been given a visa, he was welcome to travel in China. Therefore, we don't believe there's any reason for them to hold him. There is every reason to release him immediately.
Q The latest Chinese statement says that he was snooping where he shouldn't have been snooping.
MR. BURNS: It's interesting. I don't believe they've told us that, and they have an obligation to tell us that, and they have an obligation to allow us access to him, and we think they have an obligation to release him.
Q If there is no legitimate reason for their holding him, is he a hostage?
MR. BURNS: Look, you can use a number of words to describe this very bizarre situation, and you can use the words you want to use. I would just say he's a detained American at this point. I don't believe he's a hostage in the sense that that has a particular meaning; it usually is associated with groups that aren't governments.
We're dealing with a government here. We do talk to the government, and we're confident that sooner or later the Chinese Government's going to do the right thing by Mr. Wu.
Q Nick, how long are you prepared to wait or is the American Government prepared to wait? You've said that you're willing to grant them a little confusion space here. It's already been over a week by your own admission. How long are you prepared to wait?
MR. BURNS: They're a week overdue today, Charlie -- a week overdue. We asked for Consular access a week ago Monday. That normally takes up to 48 hours. Therefore, they're a week overdue, and we're going to take it on a day-to-day basis. Scott Hallford, our Charge, has tried again today to seek high-level appointments, and I'm sure he'll try again tomorrow.
I can tell you there's great, high-level interest on the part of Secretary of State Christopher, Under Secretary of State Tarnoff, Assistant Secretary Winston Lord and others in this building about Mr. Wu's case, and we're going to use every resource at our disposal to convince the Chinese Government that they have an obligation here. It's a day-to-day thing.
Q You were asked about third-party approaches. The President of China either is or will be in Europe shortly. Is there any thought of trying to get a message to him while he's there?
MR. BURNS: I certainly don't want to go into everything that we do in our private communications with the Chinese Government. I can't speak to whether or not we will seek to communicate with him. I don't think we'll be calling upon other governments.
If other governments want to raise this case because it is extremely unusual and unorthodox and unreasonable, then we certainly would have no objection to that, and other governments might choose to do that. But we're not asking for that. We're not seeking any other government to interfere or to be an intermediary, because we don't think it's necessary.
China and the U.S. have to stand on their own two feet in working out a relationship that is stable, that has some certainty to it, in which we can have reasonable discussions over differences of opinion. We clearly have differences with China on a number of issues, but we also think there are issues where our views are congruent, and we certainly both have a mutual stake in building a good relationship.
That's not going to happen if we continue to cancel meetings and avoid direct dialogue, and that's what the United States is seeking -- direct dialogue on this issue and on others.
Q Nick, the European Community announced today that it's seeking a stronger relationship with China, politically and economically. Is the timing of that announcement helpful?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't say it's unhelpful, because we're also seeking a stronger relationship with China. It's not the time to talk about retaliatory steps. It's not the time to talk about canceling meetings or advising others to cancel meetings. That's not the way to resolve this problem.
We have a serious and important relationship, and the way to face it is through maturity and through reason and through being level- headed, and that's what the United States Government is doing, and that's what our reaction has been since Mr. Wu was detained back on June 19.
Q Just to go back to Ron Brown for a second. You said that there's been no change in that plan, but that as the time approaches, you all will take another look at it, depending on events at the time?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that the Administration's attitude toward that and other high-level visits will be a function of the environment in U.S.-China relations at the time of the visit. But right now what we are saying very clearly -- and what I'm saying again today -- is that we don't think the answer to a diplomatic dispute here is to threaten to cancel this meeting or that meeting or withhold this person from a dialogue.
We think the answer -- because we've got to have a mature relationship -- is to be mature about it, and that is to discuss your differences, and that's what we intend to do.
Q But that hasn't been working, Nick, is the problem.
MR. BURNS: It hasn't worked to our satisfaction over the last week to ten days. Certainly not. But we're going to continue on this path. We're taking it on a day-to-day basis.
Q Your comments beg the question. Are the Chinese actions immature?
MR. BURNS: Mark, I think I'll just say it in a different way. We're seeking a mature relationship, a reasonable relationship. I have said, I think, that their actions are inexcusable. They're unorthodox. They're contrary to our Consular Convention, and their actions are not consistent with the oft stated view of the Chinese Government that we ought to have a stable, cooperative, strong relationship.
That's what we want to build, and that's the position that we're taking today.
Q Nick, the Chinese seem to be saying two things: Firstly, that Mr. Parrish was traveling somehow without permission. Apparently you still need permission to travel in certain areas of China. And, secondly, they seem to be making some distinction between -- on Mr. Wu's status. They say he's not been arrested. He's being questioned. While this may be a rather specious distinction, it might give them some sort of a legal loophole in the Consular agreement. How do you react to that?
MR. BURNS: There is no legal loophole that I'm aware of. It is a specious distinction. It is an unreasonable distinction. We have asked for access. We've been denied access. We've asked for the charges, and we've been denied information as to charges. If you're going to hold someone -- an American citizen -- you've got to explain to us why you're holding that person.
Q What about the other point, about Parrish's travel?
MR. BURNS: You know, Mr. Parrish was instructed by his superiors in the Embassy, and they were instructed by their superiors in Washington, D.C., to do everything they could to find Mr. Wu. So his travel and the decision to send him there was absolutely the right decision to make, because we have been told separately by two people that Mr. Wu is in Horgas.
It is the obligation of the American Government to defend American citizens when they're in trouble; to seek them out when they're in trouble; and to find them when they are missing, and Mr. Wu is missing. So, therefore, for anyone to assert that somehow it was unusual or unorthodox for Mr. Parrish to travel, that's unreasonable.
We have an obligation to protect our citizens. Mrs. Wu expects that. I think the American public expects that, and that's exactly what we're going to do, protect American citizens.
Q If this is an area that needed prior approval, and, if he did, why didn't you --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that he did. I'm not aware that he did. I know he had to travel across the desert by taxi, and I know he had a couple of conversations in Horgas with local officials and with a regional Foreign Ministry official. I'm not aware that they complained to him about the fact that he was there.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: Are you still on China?
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q Nick, I would like to hear from you about an update on the M- 11 missiles sent to Pakistan by China. Is this still -- can you give a little bit of talk to that or any further information to that?
MR. BURNS: The allegations that surfaced in The Washington Post the other day have been around for a long time -- well over a year. They're allegations that we take seriously, that are under review in this government, that have been mentioned to the Chinese Government on several occasions.
We have not determined, based on the information available to us, whether or not these actions constitute a violation either of U.S. sanctions law or of China's international commitments under the Missile Technology Control Regime.
It's a very serious accusation that's been made, and therefore there needs to be very serious and concrete factual evidence produced to substantiate those claims. If in fact we determine that that concrete, substantial factual information is present, then we will act accordingly. But we have not yet made that determination.
Q Nick, is there a problem over the definition of missiles and, you know, what falls in one category or another, whether by guile or not? Could that be the heart of the problem again?
MR. BURNS: I think the problem here is the difference between circumstantial evidence and concrete, straightforward, direct factual evidence. What China is being accused of in the papers and by some unnamed government officials is quite serious. It would lead to the imposition, if the Administration chose to go that route, to sanctions that would be quite serious; therefore we're taking it quite seriously, but we're also taking it responsibly. We're looking into the charges, and we have not yet developed information that would lead us to take the kind of action that was predicted in The Washington Post.
Q You referred before to a Christopher-Kissinger conversation. Harry Wu aside, could you give us some idea of whether the Secretary asked Kissinger to do anything to help the relationship or whatever?
MR. BURNS: I really can't, Barry. I was not part of that conversation. I understand that the Secretary had lunch with former Secretary Kissinger some time ago in anticipation of this particular trip. Then I believe that Assistant Secretary Win Lord also briefed them more recently about the state of our relations with China.
This is normal that we do that. We have great respect for Secretary Kissinger, so it's reasonable for us to do this. But I'm not aware that there's any specific request by Secretary Christopher or anybody else to Mr. Kissinger to carry messages.
Q Nick, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has accused the U.S. of politicizing the Harry Wu case, and also they have accused the U.S. of using this case to distract attention to the real problems in bilateral relations. Do you have any response to that?
MR. BURNS: We're not interested in sweeping under the rug the very real problems that we have with China. We are interested in discussing them openly, on a regular basis, and at a senior level with the Chinese Government. That is not sweeping them under the rug.
In the case of Mr. Wu, there was a way to handle this case back on June 19, and that was to release him. Or, if they had to detain him, to tell us why and give us access. The Chinese Government was the one that chose not to go that route. The Chinese Government is the one that has in effect politicized this case.
What did they expect we would do. We have a fundamental obligation to protect an American citizen. How did they think we were going to react to him being held incommunicado and to us being kept in the dark about his welfare and whereabouts. We are reacting in the way any responsible government, a democratic government, would react when one of its citizens is missing.
Q Nick, Harry Wu has been accused of using pseudo-names to get into China to conduct the so-called illegal activities. One example of the case is that on his passport his name was Peter Wu instead of Harry Wu. Are you aware of that? Do you have anything --
MR. BURNS: I'll be there's a middle name there, and I'll bet that there are a lot of people in the Chinese Government who know exactly who he is and exactly what his name is on his U.S. passport. I don't buy that.
Q Nick, one or two weeks ago you said that there was a standing U.S. proposal for senior-level contacts with China. I think you mentioned Peter Tarnoff's name. Has there been any reiteration of that proposal in this latest flurry of meetings in Beijing and Washington on the Harry Wu case?
MR. BURNS: That proposal is on the table. It's been on the table for a long time now. In fact, Under Secretary Tarnoff did have a very good series of meetings with the Vice Foreign Minister here the week before -- I think it was the second week in April -- and that was followed by the Secretary's meeting with Foreign Minister Qian in New York in mid-April. Those are the kind of meetings that we think are useful to build strong, stable cooperative relations.
The offer is on the table. I'm glad to restate it today. We'd like to have such meetings.
Q Nick, do you have anything on the report by Ekeus to the U.N. that the Iraqis have admitted that they had a biological weapons program, and they claim they have destroyed -- that they have done away with the program.
MR. BURNS: I'm aware of the statements that have been made and have surfaced in the press over the last couple of days. I also believe that our U.N. Mission, Ambassador Albright and her people, are seeking a detailed review of this from Mr. Ekeus.
I would only say this: that actions are a lot more important than words, and they speak much more loudly than words. I'd remind you that Iraq has only now admitted what was very clear to the international community all along, and that is that it had an offensive biological weapons program.
I don't know where the 17 tons of growth material have gone, and I'm not sure that Mr. Ekeus does either. That's a very important fact, as we look at the sanctions question for Iraq. I would just remind you that Iraq made a similar admission four years ago regarding chemical weapons and missiles, and yet still has not satisfied international obligations to the United Nations on chemical weapons.
So we're taking this not so much with a grain of salt as we are with a great deal of skepticism. Until we see some actions that are serious, that deal with the problem that is obviously there of biological weapons, we're not going to be very impressed by statements.
Q Switching to Thailand, do you have any -- Mr. Vatana reiterated this morning his intention to join the government in some post, possibly Interior Minister, and you said on Monday it would complicate bilateral relations with Thailand. Can you elaborate further on that? He also said the U.S. should issue him a visa if there's any substance to these drug-trafficking charges.
MR. BURNS: I know that my comments on Monday received a lot of attention in the Thai press, and I know that at least one newspaper completely distorted what I said, so let me go through what I said and reiterate it.
We do congratulate the Thai people and the Thai Government on holding a peaceful and democratic election a couple of days ago, and we do look forward very much to working with the new government and to maintaining our strong and close relationship with Thailand.
We are aware that people who have been denied visas to the United States in the past may be proposed as candidates for senior positions in the new Thai Cabinet. Inasmuch as they were refused visas to the United States because we had reason to believe that they were involved in drug- trafficking, the appointment of these individuals obviously could complicate the bilateral relationship between Thailand and the United States. That's what I said on Monday. I'm glad to say it again today.
I believe one of the reports said something much stronger, to the effect that the United States would break diplomatic relations. I did not say that. That's not the message that we are communicating. The paper that reported it had it absolutely wrong, and it's not what I just said in reaffirming our reaction to the Thai elections.
Q What is the level of information you have on these politicians that links them with drug-trafficking?
MR. BURNS: Roy, I can't go into that. We have a variety of information gleaned from a variety of sources, but I simply can't go into it.
Q How good is the information?
MR. BURNS: We stand by the information. These individuals -- some of them prominent individuals in Thai society -- were denied visas. That's a very serious matter when you deny a visa to a prominent person. We didn't do it on a lark. We did it for specific reasons. We're sure of our sources, and we stand by those decisions.
Q There are cases in the past where this has happened, and the information hasn't always proven out.
MR. BURNS: If people can present us with information that would convince us that we were wrong, we'd be glad to look at the information, but we're going to have to stand by the decisions that American Consular officers made on those particular visa requests.
Q Why not give them a visa and then arrest them at the port of entry? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: This is a problem that the Thai Government --
Q Hold them incognito. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: This is a problem that the Thai Government has to deal with, George. That would be an unorthodox way of doing business as well. Perhaps you've been listening to others in Asia recently.
Q Isn't this a strange way of affecting their internal politics? I mean, announcing that somebody was denied a visa, and therefore you don't want them in the government?
MR. BURNS: It stems, Roy, from the fact that the problem of narcotics worldwide has been identified by this Administration as one of our most important national security concerns. We take it very seriously. The drug problem is having an enormously negative effect on the young people of this country and of other countries, and we have an obligation to fight it.
When we think that prominent people who have been accused of this in the past may become senior members of a friendly government, we think it's entirely reasonable, when asked, to state our views.
Q But if you have the information and it's so solid, why not make it available so that they can contest it in public, and so that we can know exactly what this is about, rather than leaving it in this internal basis in the government and it may be true or it may not be true.
MR. BURNS: I'm sure we would have no problem in giving this type of information to the Thai Government. But to make it public would escalate the situation in a way that would not be helpful to the situation, to either country or probably to the effort to fight drugs and narcotics smuggling and trafficking.
Q It just sounds like the information that you have -- you're not that confident in it, and you don't think it will stand up to public scrutiny.
MR. BURNS: We normally don't make available -- in fact, we don't because of Privacy Act reasons, the way the U.S. visa law is written by the U.S. Congress -- we don't make information public because it is considered to be private and confidential. We have not done that on a number of issues that have come before us here in the briefing room in the last couple of weeks.
When people apply for visas, foreigners, they ought to have some assurance that the particular information given is not going to be splashed across -- at least by the government -- across the front pages of newspapers here. We also are developing information beyond the visa process. We have other ways and means to identify information about narcotics-trafficking, and we're using that information, but it's not normal for us to make that information public.
Q I was just wondering whether individuals who may be prominent politicians -- whether they have any defense against sort of semi-anonymous charges coming from the U.S. Government that are connected with a denied visa application. It's such an unusual way of dealing with foreign politicians.
MR. BURNS: These are not semi-anonymous allegations. They're being made publicly and openly by me and by others who speak for the Department. We're glad to be open about it because of the very strong concern we have in that part of the world about narcotics-trafficking.
Q Your evidence is available to them on request to be looked at? They can know who's accusing them?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. What I said was --
Q I don't say you have the natural right to a visa --
MR. BURNS: I think because we have a very strong relationship with the Thai Government and particularly with the Thai Government on the issue of narcotics-trafficking, I wouldn't imagine that we would be averse to talking to the Thai Government about these charges. But whether or not we give the information that we have to the individuals is quite a different matter -- quite a different matter.
MR. BURNS: We'll initiate it, I think, if the Thai Government is amenable to this type of discussion. I don't know if it is or not.
Q Still on narcotics, do you have any reaction to the arrest of Jose Santacruz in Colombia and to --
MR. BURNS: Yes, I think I have a short reaction to that, if I can find it. I believe he was the number three official of the Cali cartel. We were delighted, very pleased, to see that he has been apprehended, and we hope that justice now will be done; that he'll, of course, receive a fair trial, but receive the justice that he deserves.
There have been a number of good steps taken by the Colombian Government recently, of very fine steps, that speak to the seriousness of that government in fighting narcotics trafficking. Of course, we are ready to cooperate with that government, and we are cooperating in the fight against drugs.
Q Nick, on the drugs and narcotics trafficking, especially with the reference on Thailand, do you think that it has got a cohesive and coherent steps to be taken by the United States Government to combat drug-trafficking in that region, in the South Asia region, which has got a spill-over effect to other countries as well?
MR. BURNS: We have an interest in combating drug-trafficking all around the world, and we're trying very hard to do that all around the world.
Steve, did you have a question? You had your hand up.
Q David asked it for me. I was just going to expand, though, since you've recognized me. Has any approach been made by the United States Government despite lack of extradition agreements, perhaps to have a -- for the United States Government to have a crack at this guy?
MR. BURNS: The Colombian?
MR. BURNS: That's a matter for the Justice Department to speak to.
Q You're aware that he's accused by some of being responsible for the death of an American or journalist in New York?
MR. BURNS: We're aware of a number of offenses that he may have committed in the past, and it's a matter that Justice will have to look into; and, if there's any announcement from this government, it will come from the Justice Department.
Q Nick, another subject. Do you have anything on the talks between the United States and Japan on air traffic, which they're supposed to open today, I think?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The civil aviation talks between the United States and Japan began today. They began this morning. They're expected to last a couple of days. We're hoping for an early resolution of this issue. I think three days have been set aside for the discussions. The Japanese delegation is headed by Mr. Ochi, the Special Adviser to the Japanese Transportation Minister, and by Mr. Harano, the Vice Minister of Transport. The United States side is led by Deputy Secretary of Transportation Downey and Assistant Secretary Dan Tarullo.
I would just note that Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Kono talked the afternoon the breakthrough on the trade negotiations last week by Mr. Kantor and Mr. Hashimoto. Secretary Christopher and Minister Kono decided that they wanted to take advantage of that breakthrough to see if we could make similar progress on the civil aviation side, and they agreed last week that they would have the talks this week. Both Ministers, Secretary Christopher and Minister Kono, planned to stay closely abreast of these discussions and to play a role, if asked, because both have committed themselves to maintaining an even and strong relationship between the United States and Japan.
We have very, very good political and security ties, and, of course, now, as you know, we want to sort out some of the economic and trade problems that we have with Japan.
Q Who was Mr. Ochi in to see today here?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Mr. Ochi came in the building this morning. Who was he to see?
MR. BURNS: I think he was here to see Mr. Downey and Mr. Tarullo. The negotiations started this morning here in the Department; yes, yes.
Q Do you have anything on the buildup in the Krajina that I've been asking about the past week, the Serb buildup -- tanks, APCs, troops, senior officers? And also on the weekend there were a few stories about the air defense system that seems to be, according to these stories, run out of Belgrade -- the one that was used to shoot down Captain O'Grady?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any particular information, Roy, on your first topic.
On your second topic -- on your second issue -- we are concerned by the leakages in the border sanctions regime. We're concerned, as you know well, about the rounding up of Krajina youths in Belgrade to fight. We're also concerned about the whole issue of sanctions.
There is a draft resolution that would extend sanctions relief for the former Yugoslav republic that's going to come to a vote in the Security Council today.
We intend to support that resolution. It is limited sanctions relief. It's the sanctions relief measures that were put into place last fall in response to specific actions that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said it would take to break off political and economic relations with the Pale Serbs.
We think that the evidence probably now balances out in favor of extending the sanctions relief, to supporting the U.N. resolution. But I would like to add to that by saying that we are concerned about indications that Belgrade has continued its military cooperation with the Pale Serbs.
At present, we do not have enough evidence to make a compelling case for ending existing sanctions relief, but we're going to follow it closely. Some of the things that you've raised in the past week -- the allegations of military cooperation and of other extraordinary and unusual activities -- have raised concerns in Washington. If proven to be true, they would be very serious indeed.
We are going to ask the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia -- the mission there that's responsible for sanctions- monitoring -- to focus on these questions and to report expeditiously to the United Nations on its findings. As we look into this issue, I believe we have agreement among most members of the U.N. Security Council, that included in the resolution today, should be a warning to Belgrade about its military assistance to the Pale Serbs.
Q Military assistance was not included in the policy on easing sanctions? You spoke of breaking off political and economic relations between Belgrade and the Pale Serbs. Military cooperation wasn't covered in that?
MR. BURNS: No, we certainly do not expect that military cooperation would have continued. There are some allegations that it has continued, and those allegations are very serious and we're looking into them. We've asked the ICFY to look into them, especially, with an expeditious report back to the U.N.
Q Wouldn't it make some sense to hold off on extending sanctions relief until you've looked at these allegations and determined whether they're true or not?
MR. BURNS: The sanctions relief question, as you know, comes before the Council every 75 days. So what we've decided to do is to support the resolution today. If, in the meantime, we develop more information that would lead us into the direction of believing that there's been a substantial breaking of the sanctions, we'd have an opportunity 75 days from now -- which is not too far into the future -- to make those views known among the other members of the Security Council, to have a full debate before the next sanctions relief package is voted upon.
Q In 75 days, you can ship a lot of tanks, a lot of missiles, a lot of rounded-up youths in Krajina in 75 days. It might be too late.
MR. BURNS: There's going to be a warning inserted in today's resolution to the effect that that kind of thing should not happen. If it does happen and information is developed to corroborate those allegations, then it will be treated very seriously by the United States.
Q In 75 days?
MR. BURNS: When the next round comes up. It just doesn't happen in 75 days from now. The debate about this starts well before the vote.
Q Is there some sort of interim step you can take if you do firm up these allegations before the next vote?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it's possible for the U.N. Security Council to do that, but it's certainly possible for us to take interim steps if we develop this type of information.
But as I said to Roy last week, when he asked several times about this, we are pursuing these leads. We do not yet have the type of concrete information that would be desirable to make the kind of determination that would separate us from our other U.N. Security Council partners on this particular issue.
Q Stories on the radar quoted, as I recollect, NATO officials. Just what information has to be developed to make these credible enough so that the United States can act in some way in the Security Council?
MR. BURNS: Mark, I'd just remind you that most of the quotes that I saw in the newspaper accounts were anonymous quotes. They were not open quotes.
There is concern here. There was an existing air defense system that was in place in the former Yugoslavia before the Bosnian war broke out. It may be that elements of that system are still in place. We're looking into that. But I am not an expert in this particular issue and don't want to take you through the labyrinth.
I would just note that we're taking them seriously, but you do have to have a direct factual evidence of these transgressions in order to make a calculation that you're going to change your position in the U.N. Security Council. That's where we are today.
Q Nick, it is an entire month since the U.S. pilot was shot down. Surely, by this time this government must know what the connections are between the radar system, as operated out of Belgrade and controlled out of Belgrade, and that which is operated out of Bosnia -- out of Pale.
These allegations are that the system was recently upgraded. Certainly, that must be known in this government if it's known to NATO officials in Zagreb?
MR. BURNS: I'd refer you to the Pentagon on most of this because it's really the responsibility of the Pentagon to do some of this work. I think they would be willing to talk to you about this.
We're taking it very seriously. Obviously, the shootdown of Captain O'Grady revealed, perhaps, that there is a problem there, and we're taking that problem seriously.
There are a variety of ways that we can glean this information, and we're using all the means at our disposal to do so. We simply made the calculation that given where we are today, July 5, we think it's reasonable to vote to extend the sanctions relief.
However, we are urging a warning to the equipment resolution. We are noting publicly that we believe that there are problems and that we are willing to look into them and that we would like the ICFY to look into them and report back officially, as they are the body that has primary responsibility for determining whether or not there are violations of the sanctions.
Q But before (inaudible) determine, the ICFY, is whether equipment has crossed the border at the point that they are monitoring, they can't determine whether a radar system is interconnected nor whether equipment has been sneaked through some other way. If you turn it over to them, they're going to come up with the same kind of happy- news report that they did this last time.
MR. BURNS: Well, all the news is not happy. All the news is not happy. Some of the news is not good. There are a variety of allegations. You're correct in saying that the ICFY can only speak to some of them, but they can certainly speak to some of the more important allegations of significant leakages in the border regime.
Other people and other organizations have to speak to the other allegations, specifically on air defense.
Q Since there are these allegations, which you are taking seriously and are concerned about and are looking into, does the offer to Mr. Milosevic, that Ambassador Frasure has several times made to him, still stand as is? Or would you want more assurances or more information before you would make that deal with Milosevic at this point?
MR. BURNS: The offer still stands as it was when Ambassador Frasure left it on the table with Mr. Milosevic. Carl Bildt, the European Union's negotiator on this issue, has been in Belgrade; has had some significant and substantial conversations over the last couple of days with Mr. Milosevic.
We are in frequent contact with Mr. Bildt. He now is carrying the ball in these negotiations. He will report back to the Contact Group, and we're going to be very interested in his detailed report on his discussions with Mr. Milosevic.
Q Is he asked to raise these issues of sanctions violations with Mr. Milosevic, specifically the missile --
MR. BURNS: I can't account for what he did. It was obviously in our interest -- and I think in the interest of the international community -- that these issues be raised with the Serbian Government in Belgrade.
Q On the Administration's part -- you asked Mr. Bildt to raise these issues?
MR. BURNS: It's part of what would have been normal had we been conducting these particular discussions. I think the impression was that, yes, we'd like these issues raised at every opportunity with Mr. Milosevic by American negotiators or by international negotiators with whom we're working quite closely.
Q Nick, another subject.
MR. BURNS: Let me guess what it is.
Q Greece and Turkey.
MR. BURNS: Right. It has something to do with Greece and Turkey.
Q On both sides of the Aegean, tension is increasing. Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mrs. Ciller, she accused the Government of Greece giving safehaven and giving training for PKK terrorists. Today, we heard that the Government of Turkey, they diverted some file for the Greek Ambassador in Ankara for some proof.
Do you have any reaction to the going on of this kind of problem?
MR. BURNS: I would just note that the United States, first and foremost, has a long-standing and continual interest and good relations with both Greece and Turkey. They're both NATO allies.
Second: We have made very clear our opposition to the activities of the PKK, and we've made very clear our support for Turkey in its fight against the PKK.
As to the allegations that the Greek Government has been involved in activities to support the PKK, I can't speak to those. Some of the allegations that I've seen entail activities not by the Greek Government but by individual Greeks.
I can't confirm the veracity of those reports. I've seen reports that the Turkish Government has given to its allies and friends information on this issue. I'm not aware that we've received any such information yet in Washington. Perhaps it will be forthcoming. I don't believe we've received it as of this morning.
Q Also, in your past remarks, you associate with some of the Kurdish parliamentarians with the PKK, which they are working for the parliament in exile in Europe. Two of them, they are planning to visit Washington, D.C., July 17-18, I believe.
What kind of visa are you planning to issue for them?
MR. BURNS: I wasn't aware that members of the PKK wanted to visit Washington. I think if we knew that was the case, they would not get visas to travel to the United States. We have no interest in talking to members of the PKK. But I'm not aware of what specific individuals you may be talking about. I'm speaking generally to the issue of whether or not the United States Government wants to have a dialogue with them. It's probably no use in us having a dialogue with an outrageous terrorist organization.
Q You may not have even been aware of this. But Rafsanjani said in an interview Sunday that Iran remained open to -- and encouraged almost -- better relations with the United States. And at the same time was asked the question how he felt about the possibility of Syria making peace with Israel and said, if Syria wanted to do it, that's fine with him.
Did anyone take note of that? And, second of all, was there any sort of response or thought given to what he had said?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure our Iran specialists have taken note of his interview. I was not personally aware of the interview. I would say that there is a way for Iran and the United States to have better relations. That is for Iran to give us its quest to become a nuclear power and to have nuclear weapons and to give up its attempts to destabilize the Middle East peace process and to give up its active, direct, and substantial support for a number of the terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
There's probably other things that I should be mentioning. But for starters, I think they need to take positive actions on those three issues before they can hope to have better relations with the United States.
We have very serious reason to believe that their account is deficit on all three of those questions, and that their behavior is reprehensible. That belief is strongly felt, witness the decision by the President and the Secretary to go to an embargo against Iran.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:52 p.m.)To the top of this page