U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/07/19 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, July 19 l995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns UNITED KINGDOM Readout on the Secretary's Mtg with UK Foreign Secretary --Discussions re: Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Russia .....1-3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA U.S. Discussions with Allies/Others/London Mtg on Friday ..1-2,4,13-14 Reported Options/Plan by Allies for Bosnia/"Dual Key" Prospects of Airstrikes .................................1,4-5,7-8, 14-15 Status of the Contact Group/Role ..........................6-7 Progress of Diplomatic Efforts ............................9-10 Administration Consultations with Congress ................12 Prospects for UNSC Vote/Agreement .........................8-9,12-13 Status of the Safe Areas: --Offensive Against Bihac .................................2,10-11 --Defense of Gorazde Area .................................2,4,11 --Status of Dutch Peacekeepers in Srebrencia ..............7 --Status of the Ukrainian Peacekeepers in Zepa/Situation ..2,11-12,14 --Situation in Tulza ......................................11 CHINA Upcoming Chinese Missile Exercises near Taiwan ............16,19 Consular Access to US Citizen Harry Wu/Visit Denied .......17-18 Upcoming Visits to China by Former President Bush .........18 Secretary Christopher's Upcoming Meeting with FM Qian .....18-19 TAIWAN --Asst. Secretary Lord's Remarks re: Taiwan ...............16-17 INDIA Hostage Situation in Kashmir/Diplomatic Efforts ...........19-20 --US Joins Call By Western Governments for Release ........19 CUBA US-Cuba Migration Talks ...................................21
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 1995, 1:11 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon and welcome to the State Department briefing. As you know, Secretary Christopher has been intensively involved in Bosnia discussions during the last 24 hours. He had dinner last night with the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Malcolm Rifkind, for about two and a half hours. This morning they met again for an hour and a half in the Secretary's office upstairs.
I think it's fair to say that they had an excellent set of discussions, principally on the Bosnia question. They discussed their mutual goal of keeping UNPROFOR in the field and of strengthening UNPROFOR, and, certainly, the mutual interest that both of our countries have in helping the United Nations defend the enclaves and in meeting the responsibilities that the United Nations so clearly has in Bosnia.
They also discussed several options for achieving these goals. Among them, of course, as the Secretary said yesterday, is the possibility of airstrikes to deter Bosnian Serb aggression. No firm decisions have been made by the United States, the United Kingdom and France and the other troop-contributing countries. The discussions are continuing.
I think you know that the President was in touch with both Prime Minister Major and President Chirac this morning. The Secretary has also talked to the Spanish Foreign Minister, Minister Solana, to German Foreign Minister Kinkel, both last evening. Just after the meeting with Mr. Rifkind today, the Secretary talked to the Dutch Foreign Minister, Minister Van Mierlo, and he is now attempting to talk to the French Foreign Minister, Minister De Charette, in a few hours. I understand Minister De Charette is traveling outside of France, but both of them want to have that conversation.
In sum, I would say that we are moving along in these discussions. Some progress has been made. We are determined to make further progress as we look towards the London Conference at Lancaster House that will take place on Friday, but no final decisions have been made. Further work needs to be done, certainly, in agreeing on the best way to strengthen UNPROFOR and to send a message to the Bosnian Serbs that their aggression is not in their interest and that it should stop.
The two Ministers talked this morning about the situation beyond Gorazde, specifically the situation in Zepa and also the situation around Bihac. As you know, there was a very intense and strong Bosnian Serb and rebel Muslim offensive unleashed this morning against Bihac. Both Ministers talked about this. They are both concerned about it, and we certainly call upon the Bosnian Serbs and the rebel Muslim groups involved to cease and desist from this action.
I should tell you that in addition to the Bosnia discussion, Secretary Christopher and Foreign Secretary Rifkind also discussed three other issues that are very important for U.S.-U.K. relations. The first is the mutual interest of both of these men -- and they have both given speeches about it recently, the Secretary's in Madrid -- to forge a stronger transatlantic partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom, the United States and other European countries, into the next century.
Secretary Rifkind talked about some specific ideas that he has to do that, not just in the area of trade and economic cooperation but also in the area, frankly, of people-to-people contacts and legislative contacts -- contacts between the British Parliament and the United States Congress -- on all the issues with which our two governments routinely deal.
They also talked about Northern Ireland. Both men agreed that the recent incidents of violence were most unfortunate and tragic. There is a need to end the violence in Northern Ireland and to make greater progress in the talks that the United Kingdom has underway.
Secretary Rifkind reported very little progress on the issue of decommissioning. In fact, I should probably say no progress at all on the decommissioning of arms. Of course, you know that the United States' position is that we think it's very important that progress is made on decommissioning, and there have been a number of commitments made to that effect.
Finally, the two of them talked -- and I know at breakfast this morning Secretary Rifkind also talked to Deputy Secretary Talbott about this -- they talked about Russia: the importance of the United States and the United Kingdom staying in close touch on Russia; of having strong, stable relations with Russia; and in particular, since both of us are among the leading members of NATO, about the critical importance of having the Russian-NATO dialogue about the future of NATO's relations with Russia proceed in a very vigorous way this year. Secretary Christopher made an additional point, and that is that Russia's participation in the Partnership for Peace is a very, very strong element of our desire to see Russia and NATO form a close relationship in the future.
So it was a very full discussion. I think they had over four and a half hours of talks. I understand that Secretary Rifkind will be over at the White House this afternoon meeting with Tony Lake, the National Security Adviser, and Vice President Gore.
I'd be glad to take your questions.
Q Do you have anything to say about the comment by Karadzic that any aircraft, helicopters, whatever, that intercede in behalf of the Government-held areas in Bosnia would be shot down?
MR. BURNS: We've seen the comment. We were most displeased to see the comment. It is characteristic of both his attitude and his demeanor and that of the Bosnian Serb forces in general. They have no regard for international law, for the mandates of the United Nations. They have little regard for human life, and it's been most apparent in their criminal actions over the last week, their actions towards the refugees.
It's a timely comment in this sense, in a negative sense. The comment focuses on the same question that now the Western countries have to focus on -- on the question that Secretary Rifkind and Secretary Christopher were focusing on -- and it will be at the center of the London talks.
I think there is a consensus among the leading countries of the West, those that are involved in the United Nations' efforts in Bosnia, that a way has to be found to deter Bosnian Serb aggression. We have not succeeded in that effort over the last couple of years. We certainly failed in that effort last week in Srebrenica. I think there is a determination that is evident in these discussions that we've had in the last 24 hours with the French Government and with the British Government to find a way to deter that type of aggression that Mr. Karadzic was so open and brazen about in his comments this morning.
So his comments, I think, just give us a greater sense of determination that something has to be done to convince the Bosnian Serbs that it is in their interests to seek a political settlement to the problems in the area, not a military settlement.
Q Nick, just to clarify. When you say there has been no decision taken, I assume you're referring to tactics and not to strategies, because the Secretary and the British Foreign Secretary were very clear that there has been a decision taken to do something to deter Serb aggression in Bosnia.
MR. BURNS: I think based on all the contacts that both the Secretary and the President and others have had over the last couple of days, there is certainly unity in the West that there has to be some action taken to strengthen UNPROFOR and to keep it in the field, and to deter the Bosnian Serbs from continuing their military actions.
The specific question, though, that is really at the center of the discussions is how do you achieve that objective. Do you achieve it by the French suggestion that you reinforce the garrison in Gorazde? Do you achieve it by a campaign of airstrikes? There are other options that have been put out, and what I meant to say was that there was no decision on those specific tactical questions. They're very important tactical question, because they involve the military forces of each of the countries in these discussions; and that will be, I think, the focus of the London discussions.
I just wanted to give you a sense that we are moving through these issues. We have made some progress, but we have not -- I don't think the three governments have not agreed on a specific tactical road ahead. I think all of us would like to agree on a course of action. We're not there yet, but these discussions with Foreign Secretary Rifkind have been very, very helpful, and the atmosphere has been very, very good. There is a strong partnership and a strong sense of mutual interest in all these discussions.
Q Nick, do the three governments agree, though, that Gorazde must be protected and held?
MR. BURNS: All three governments -- and I think this runs through all the conversations -- want to see Gorazde defended, believe that the U.N. mandate for Gorazde is a very important mandate, and want to find a way to help the United Nations defend Gorazde.
Q And is there agreement on doing away with the dual-key?
MR. BURNS: That is a question that was touched upon in the discussions this morning, I can tell you, and that certainly will be the subject of further discussions as we get further into these issues. I think it's fair to say that the three countries and other countries -- the Germans, the Spaniards and others -- who are involved in this effort need to have an agreement on the basic approach. Then I think we will have to have subsequently an agreement on a series of questions, among them the question that you asked about, Judd. So it will definitely be looked at very, very carefully, but I can't point you in any direction right now.
Q You're not there yet.
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q I'd like to ask something else, but I'd like to follow up on that first, if I may, because Secretary Rifkind said -- I don't have his exact language in front of me; I'm sure someone else does -- on dual-key that there should be a decision made both by commanders on the ground and by those handling the use of air. It sounded as if he still wants dual-key. But perhaps you could tell us what is the American -- after four-and-a-half hours of discussions with the gentleman, what is the American understanding of the British position on that precise question?
MR. BURNS: I think it's fair to say that as a result of these discussions, neither country would like to see an exact repetition of the system that has been in place for a number of years that I think everyone admits has been an encumbrance and has been complicating the mission of the United Nations.
We have made a very strong point that if we had to do it all over again, if we had to write to book again, we certainly would not do it the way it has been constructed; and if the United States is going to deploy its military forces in any way, we certainly want to see an arrangement that will give us some flexibility and that would insure that our military forces could be effective in achieving their mission.
I think that's the message that's understood by our closest partners in NATO, including the U.K.; and I think that Foreign Secretary Rifkind and Secretary Christopher agreed that when we get to this part of the discussion, there will be a need for very close military-to- military contacts on this. It's really a question that probably the militaries can work out once there has been a broad general level agreement on the course ahead.
Q Can I now ask, you've said that the three governments that have been talking these last 48 hours/24 hours aren't at the point of a final decision. But within the U.S. Government, has the U.S. Government come to an opinion as to whether it would be wise to have helicopters used to transport troops over hostile Bosnian Serb territory or not?
MR. BURNS: We certainly have our own ideas. We worked through on our own before we had these intensive series of discussions in which we are now engaged, we've worked through a number of the options that had been suggested and a number of options that we developed. I think now that the President and his advisors, including Secretary Christopher, have determined pretty much what we think would be the best option.
But we certainly continue to be open to the suggestions of others. Since we're in the middle of those discussions, I don't care really to give too much more detail on them.
Q Excuse me if I missed this nuance. I've been away. So far you have been talking about Britain, France, and the United States. These now seem to be the core group. Does this now replace what the Contact Group used to do, or other groups? In other words, is there now a three-sided directorate? What happened to the Russians? What happened to the Germans?
MR. BURNS: Let me just try to clarify it. I think on some of the specific questions that are at issue, the tactics that could be deployed to achieve the objective of deterring the Bosnian Serbs in Gorazde and elsewhere - Bihac -- that issue has been intensely discussed among France, Britain, and the United States but not exclusively so.
The Secretary had a very good conversation with his Dutch counterpart, Minister Van Mierlo, just at noon today. He was on the phone with Foreign Minister Kinkel. As you know, Germany has deployed Tornado aircraft to the region -- to Italy -- and has suggested that those aircraft will be at the disposal of NATO.
So those countries that have troops on the ground, including Spain, are very important members of these discussions, are taking part in them; and we'll be in touch with them, I think, all the way up to and through the London Conference.
Secondly, the Contact Group continues to be the focal point of the diplomacy. As you know, the Contact Group has been in close touch with Carl Bildt, who has been negotiating with Mr. Milosevic; continues to do so. Ambassador Bob Frasure traveled out to Europe two days ago to make contact with Carl Bildt. They had a good set of discussions. He is in contact with other members of the Contact Group.
I think the diplomacy is focused there. Some of these specific military questions are focused, frankly, on those nations that will be asked to contribute to any possible further military steps. Among them are the countries that I mentioned but not just exclusively the three.
Q I'm wondering about the Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica. Are they free to leave? If they are, in fact, de facto hostages, what does that imply for the feasibility of airstrikes? And is there any thought being given to emergency extraction?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it's fair to say that they're hostages. The Dutch have made a decision to keep their 350-odd peacekeepers in Srebrenica until they can be assured that the last refugees, particularly those who were ill in the hospital and some of those who did not get out or were not forced out -- they can be assured that they're being protected, that their cases have been resolved or they've been agreed to move to another area.
The Dutch have taken that upon themselves, and then the Dutch will certainly want to announce their own decisions about when and if they leave. I can't speak for the Dutch Government in that regard, but we do admire the fact that the Dutch decided to stay and decided to meet their humanitarian obligations to try to look after the refugees. That has been very difficult for them because the Bosnian Serbs prevented them from access to the soccer stadium in Bratunac for many, many days.
I understand now that some in the Red Cross have been able to get to that soccer stadium. The Bosnian Serbs prevented them from seeing some of the victims of the atrocities that took place after the fall of Srebrenica. So we commend the Dutch for having stayed. We sympathize with the difficulties they've had in dealing with the Bosnian Serbs.
Q Does that complicate the possibility of planning for airstrikes?
MR. BURNS: As I said, that is one of the options that's being discussed. It's not the only option.
I think there is a determination to find a way to deter future aggression. That determination is very important to the effort, but it serves a very important objective, and that is that the international community has to find a way to stop the brutality that we are witnessing again today and that has been going on for quite some time now.
Q With all the discussion of more aggressive airstrikes coming about, is it your understanding that those airstrikes will be carried out outside the dual-key system? That is, you would not engage in these airstrikes unless dual-key were at least put aside?
MR. BURNS: I really can't help you too much on the issue of airstrikes. As you know, it's an option that we are seriously considering. However, it is one of a number of options. None of the countries involved have made a group decision that this is the way we should go. We're working towards a decision to take action.
But I do want to lead you away from the thought that there has been an irrevocable decision to pursue airstrikes. That is not the case.
I think we've made it very clear -- we, in the United States: Secretary Christopher on Sunday; Dick Holbrooke on Monday; at my briefing yesterday -- I think we've made very clear that we have very little regard for the future of a rigid dual-key system of the type that has been in place over the last couple of years. If the United States is to deploy military force, we would want to have the flexibility to ensure the success of any action.
So therefore we will look for ways to find that flexibility. We don't think much, frankly, of the dual-key system that's been in place over the last couple of years. It has hindered the ability of the international community to respond quickly and decisively against blatant acts of aggression by the Bosnian Serbs.
Q There is one account this morning that suggested --
Q How do you away with the dual-key? Do you have to go back to the Security Council?
MR. BURNS: Again, I think it would be unwise for me -- and I don't want to mislead anyone in this room -- to try to get into a specific discussion of what you might do.
The countries involved have not decided on a course of military airstrikes. It is being considered. It has not yet been decided.
If we get to the point where it is decided, then, of course, our militaries would get together to discuss how this would happen. In the hypothetical sense, Jim, I don't think it would be perhaps absolutely necessary to go back, no.
Q There was one account this morning that suggested that among the topics being considered are the command-and-control facilities inside Serbia. Could you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: George, if I go down that road, we're going to have a briefing that's a very detailed briefing about a hypothetical situation that may or may not occur. So I think I'm going to reluctantly refrain from going down that road.
I could just tell you that we're trying to find an effective way to influence the behavior of the Bosnian Serbs. There are very effective ways that one can do that. We're trying to find the most effective ways and then to reach an agreement in the West that we should pursue those means.
I think the Bosnian Serbs ought to understand that there is a sense of determination in the West as we consider these questions.
Q Would it be fair to -- as hypothetical as it is right now -- would it be fair to say any possible bombing campaign (a) would not be pin prick, as it has been called in the past; and (b) that it would be widespread?
MR. BURNS: Sid, again, you and George are asking good, logical questions that really cannot be appropriately answered at a time when we're in the middle of discussions and when it has not been agreed that that is the course of action that the West should take.
Still on Bosnia, before we go to China? Still on Bosnia? Steve.
Q Has the increased vocalness of the United States Government and the French Government and, to a degree, the British Government over the past several days, with these threats of airstrikes or beefing up the peacekeeping force in Gorazde, has that produced anything on the diplomatic front? Has Bildt seen any difference in attitudes of the people he's been talking to diplomatically?
MR. BURNS: To be frank, I don't think the discussion in the West of what to do has had very much of an effect on the actions of the Bosnian Serbs because they've launched an offensive this morning against Bihac, and they continue an offensive in Zepa.
I can't point to any particular progress in the diplomatic front, Steve. Mr. Bildt is actively engaged. We are actively engaged with him in discussing whether or not it's possible to get an agreement along the lines of the one that Bob Frasure tried so hard to reach a couple of weeks and months ago with Mr. Milosevic. We'll just have to see what's possible in that channel.
We would want an agreement that was in the interests of everyone concerned, including the Bosnian Government and the Western governments involved. We're not interested in an agreement for agreement's sake. I think Mr. Milosevic is aware of that.
Q I was wondering if you had anything fresh on the hostage situation in Kashmir, and if you have been able to --
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to go to Kashmir. I have a little bit on that, but maybe we could stay on Bosnia first, and then we'll go to Kashmir and China, and other issues.
Q Could you, for example, give us what you can on Bihac? How many U.N. peacekeepers are there, if you know; how many Muslim fighters are there?
MR. BURNS: I do have a little bit of information. Why don't I just go through the little that I have.
Our Embassy in Zagreb -- in Croatia -- reported this morning to the Department greatly intensified fighting around the Bihac enclave. Croatian Serbs and rebel Muslim forces launched a coordinated offensive from the north and from the southwest.
We're very concerned about the fighting. We fear it has the potential to provoke a major escalation of the conflict.
This morning two Krajina Serb infantry attacks, we understand, penetrated two kilometers into the Bihac pocket along the southwest border with Croatia.
Along the northern confrontation line, rebel Muslim forces -- these are forces hostile to the Bosnian Government -- launched a heavy artillery barrage, apparently with the support of Krajina Serb helicopters. Over 1,000 explosions were recorded since 5:00 a.m. local time this morning in addition to 400 explosions recorded last evening.
We have not seen reports of casualties although we do understand that some of the shells landed near the Bangladeshi peacekeepers who are stationed in the enclave.
I should also tell you that there was fighting reported in Tuzla, in Sarajevo, and in Gorazde. In Tuzla, there are now upwards of 42,000 refugees from Srebrenica. The Serb shelling of Tuzla ended in the death of at least one man and wounded eight. In Sarajevo, there were a number of deaths, a number of people wounded. In Gorazde, a few casualties reported.
We do take seriously this upturn, increase in the fighting and we're very disturbed about it, as was the British Government when we talked to them this morning.
It is another indication that the Bosnian Serbs don't appear to be listening to words. They appear to be acting brazenly and without any regard for the will of the international community. That really strengthens our determination to find a way to influence their behavior.
Q Is Bihac about to fall?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's the case. Bihac is fairly heavily fortified and defended by the Bosnian Government. I believe it's strongly defended.
Certainly, the fact that there's been a major offensive unleashed against it, along with the offensives in eastern Bosnia, gives cause for great concern, but I wouldn't lead you to the conclusion that we think it's going to fall, and we certainly hope it will not fall. We know that the international community has commitments to those who live inside the pocket, to do what we can to see that it does not fall.
Q Have there been any additional threats against the Ukrainian peacekeepers by the Bosnian Muslim forces?
MR. BURNS: As of last night, unfortunately, and as Lt. Colonel Coward said this morning from Sarajevo, it's an extraordinary situation where both the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Government were threatening the Ukrainian garrison inside Zepa. We certainly find that to be most disturbing and we have, we and others, have had conversations with the Bosnian Government in Sarajevo to see what can be done to relieve at least one side of the pressure on the Ukrainians who have stayed there under intense shelling and in a most difficult situation for them.
Q Nick, when the United States decides what it's willing to do in Bosnia, vis-a-vis its allies -- and, in particular, I guess, it would be this Friday -- will the Administration's decision be conditioned on or dependent in any way on what is happening in Congress? Will lack of support for any action you may contemplate make you more reluctant to contemplate that action?
MR. BURNS: We have a commitment to the Congress to consult, as you would expect in a foreign policy issue of this importance -- this level of importance -- where some of the options being considered discuss the possibility of the use of United States military force. Everyone in the Administration feels an obligation and has a commitment to consult, and that will happen.
I don't have anything that would take me beyond those consultations. I think it's a question now for the Administration, with its allies, to work out the best course of action to defend Western interests, to defend the commitments made by the United Nations to strengthen it.
When we work out that course of action, we will consult intensively and in detail with the Congress. But I'm not aware that we have any plans to subject the Administration to any further constraints or conditions. That is a question, of course, that ultimately others have to answer; not me, but that's my general sense of the situation.
Q The Secretary General of the U.N., Boutros Ghali, said about an hour ago in Geneva that whatever plan is decided upon will need a Security Council endorsement. Is that the position here in Washington?
MR. BURNS: It's hard to say. It's hard to say because we have not yet identified a common course of action. I think it is certainly possible to suggest that there could be courses of action that a group of countries could take with a collective agreement among those countries that might not have to be sent back to the United Nations for agreement or for concurrence.
Certainly, we are in this together with the U.N. I certainly don't want to set up a construct of us versus them. We want to work with the U.N., we want to support the U.N.
One of the objectives here that Britain, France, the United States, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and others agree upon is that UNPROFOR should remain. The U.N. should remain and be strengthened. But I don't think we would want to tie ourselves within parameters that would require some kind of U.N. Security Council vote. I don't think we'd want to tie ourselves to that all.
It may be that some options would demand that; it may be that some other options would not demand that. That's certainly true in the latter case, some of the options would not.
Since we haven't agreed on a course of action, it's a little bit difficult to give a definitive answer here.
Q Has there been any effort to get the Russian attitude towards, at least, what's being said in the media about the planning here in Washington and elsewhere, vis-a-vis Bosnia? What is their reaction?
MR. BURNS: We're in touch with the Russian Government. The Russian Government will participate in the conference in London on Friday. Minister Kozyrev will be there. It's a good opportunity for us to exchange views with him.
We think it's very important that all countries understand that the actions of the Bosnian Serbs over the last week to ten days -- and for the last couple of years -- cannot be allowed to go forward without some response from the West. We hope very much that the Russians will agree with that general thought and objective; and once we have decided on a course of action, they will agree that it's imperative to influence the behavior of the Bosnian Serbs. We will be making all those points to the Russian Government. Of course, our Embassy is making those points to them today.
Q It's Wednesday afternoon. The meeting in London is less than two days away. In your own words, you've said, while the allies have agreed that something must be done, a common course of action has -- we're clearly not there yet. Are you confident that on Friday a decision will be reached?
MR. BURNS: We're very hopeful, Laura, that a decision will be reached by Friday. I think there is political will among the leading Western countries to have a decisive course of action agreed upon. There's no question about that from the nature of the discussions in which I've participated this morning and my understanding of some of the other discussions that the President and others have had. There's no question there is political will.
There is no question that these are options and issues that have great consequences for each of the countries involved, including the United States, and therefore it is prudent for us and wise to take these days to have these discussions, to work through the options, and not to have left, say, a couple of days ago into one or another of them.
I think people feel that we need time to work through these issues. But I think there's also a certain sense that Friday is an important day and that we need to have agreed on a course of action if at all possible by them because we can't wait forever to make a decision. Gorazde is under threat. Zepa is in a highly precarious position, and there's now the fighting in Bihac.
So, while we want to take the time to make the right decision, we certainly feel that there has to be a decision made fairly soon. That was the atmosphere of the talks both last night and this morning between the Foreign Secretary and Secretary Christopher.
Q To that end, are there further consultations planned that you know of between now and the departure of the Secretary of State, for example, on this issue?
MR. BURNS: Steve, when I came in, I said that Secretary Christopher will be calling Minister De Charette, the French Foreign Minister, this afternoon. He's just talked with the Dutch Foreign Minister.
Foreign Secretary Rifkind is going to be over at the White House for most of the afternoon for discussions with the Vice President and Tony Lake. So, yes, the consultations will continue all day today and certainly tomorrow and Friday.
Q Nick, in these discussions with the British Government and in the telephone calls with other governments, when the U.S. has been talking about the possibility of air power, has it also suggested -- or the use of air power -- has it also suggested a mode and method in a way that the peacekeepers might be redeployed, who might be in harms way, might be potential hostages?
MR. BURNS: We have been concerned -- very, very concerned -- since before the NATO airstrikes that led to the taking of the hostages, about the exposed position of a lot of the U.N. military observers. It's our firm belief that a number of those observers -- that great care and caution should be taken in the positioning of those people. We made that point several months ago.
It's certainly a lesson that all of us should have learned from the last round of airstrikes and hostage-taking.
Q So the answer is yes?
MR. BURNS: The answer is that we think the lesson should have been learned. We are advising the U.N. and other authorities that great care should obviously be taken with these people; but that is irrespective, really, of the question of what the West might do. That's just a general concern that we have had for some time.
Q It might just be wise to give you a chance to comment, if you'd like, on the reports out of Paris where officials are talking "On Background" quite extensively about what allegedly is the Western plan. They are saying the plan is that a line would be drawn around Gorazde, and the Bosnian Serbs will be told that if they cross that line there will be airstrikes against them, and that British troops will be sent to keep open a land-supply route to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.
Are these reports inaccurate? Or are they near the mark, do you think? Would you like to say anything about it? Because they're going to run all over the place.
MR. BURNS: We know that there's going to be -- given the number of journalists and diplomats involved -- there's going to be a lot of reports coming from a lot of different capitals.
I think, David, it's just fair to say that I'm absolutely sure that there is no decision yet by the countries involved. If there are reports that decisions have been made, they're simply erroneous. We hope decisions will be made. We hope that they'll be a common course of action agreed upon very shortly. It's not the case as of 1:45 p.m. here in Washington. Just not the case.
I don't want to speculate. I've been asked not to speculate, and I won't speculate on the specific details of the options that are under discussion, I think, for obvious reasons. But thanks for asking the question, give me a chance. I appreciate it. (Laughter)
Okay, off Bosnia. We'll go to China.
Q Nick, do you have any further comment on the upcoming Chinese military exercises near Taiwan, the announcement of which has caused the Taiwan stock market to plummet?
MR. BURNS: Well, we have - we've certainly noted the recent announcement by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the PLA, of surface-to-surface missile exercises approximately 150 kilometers of north of Taiwan in the east China Sea. And we intend to discuss with the Chinese Government the purpose of these tests and length and duration of these tests and are seeking more information about the Chinese Government on them.
Q You don't have any comment directly for the Chinese authorities?
MR. BURNS: No. I think at this point, since we have very little information -- really not more than you have from press reports -- I don't think it's wise or appropriate to deliver a comment, negative or positive, on these tests. I think it's really much wiser for us to speak to the Chinese Government first.
Given the nature of how we want to deal with the Chinese, we want to deal in a very professional, stable manner. We want to give them a chance to let us know what they're doing, what the extent and duration of these tests will be, and to assure ourselves that we have sufficient information to form an opinion on them, and we certainly are not in that position this morning.
Q Have you attempted to speak to the Chinese on this already?
MR. BURNS: I believe we will be in contact shortly with them, yes, on this.
Q On the same subject, do you have any comment on the very strong protest in both Taipei and here in Washington over Assistant Secretary Winston Lord's remark about whether or not Taiwan wants official relations with the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: I wasn't aware that there was a very strong protest about anything that Win Lord had said recently. Maybe I'm behind the times. He is our senior Asia policy-maker in the State Department and I think in the government. He is one of the most respected American diplomats. He is doing an excellent job.
And I'm not aware that there's any controversy over something he said recently. If there is, maybe we can talk about it afterwards. But I'm simply unequipped to deal with the question.
Q Has the Taiwan Foreign Ministry attempted to approach AIT in Taiwan about whether or not Taiwan wants official relations with the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. That's something we can look into. I do have something -- a slightly further update on the Harry Wu situation that I wanted to share with you.
As you know, we have been seeking Consular access to Harry Wu. He is an American citizen. The Consular Convention calls for a minimum of one visit per 30 days. We think that we need more. We're asking the Chinese Government for greater flexibility.
Accordingly, an officer from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing visited Wuhan where Harry Wu is being held during the last three days, July 16 to 19. This was a previously scheduled trip. The officer requested permission to visit Mr. Wu.
After weighing our officer's request for two days, the Hubei Foreign Affairs Office in Wuhan conveyed the message that our request for the visit had been denied. Although our Embassy Officer was not permitted to visit Mr. Wu, the Hubei Foreign Affairs Office told her that the Foreign Affairs Office had been authorized to receive from her and pass to Mr. Wu a power of attorney form and an English-language reading material that he had requested and that she had brought for him.
I would just like to say that we're going to continue our efforts to have personal access on the part of our Consular Officers and other political officers and others to Mr. Wu. We think this is rational. We think it's reasonable considering the nature of this case. We're disappointed that our officer was not allowed to see him, and we will seek with the Chinese Government further access to him.
Q Nick, have you been led to believe that if this Consular Officer or this diplomat was in Wuhan, that she might be able to see Wu?
MR. BURNS: I don't know, Carol, if we had been given any signals that if she traveled there, she might be able to see him. I do know that she was in Wuhan on other business. It was a previously scheduled trip, and I think our Embassy felt that it made sense to take advantage of her presence there to try to get into the jail to see him. I just don't know if there were any advance commitments made.
Q The Chinese have already -- the Chinese have not told you, you would getting -- be allowed to have greater access, and now you're expressing disappointment that they would not allow this sort of unannounced visitor to see Mr. Wu. Why is there any surprise on your part or disappointment, because they did exactly what they've been telling you they're going to do for two weeks.
MR. BURNS: Well, you're right, Sid, that we have not been told -- promised a greater level or frequency of access to Mr. Wu. We have been told that our request for that was under consideration. We're disappointed because he is -- let's face it, this is a very prominent case and issue in U.S.-China relations. He's a prominent individual for whom we have great respect, and we want to see him released immediately.
We haven't changed our views on the Harry Wu case, and so we therefore think it is reasonable to have greater flexibility on the issue of Consular access.
Q Nick, do you have any comment on the suggestion in a Wall Street Journal article today that the Administration make use of George Bush's trip in September to China, also apparently perhaps with Brent Scowcroft, to intercede, to help aid the problems in U.S.-China relations?
MR. BURNS: I don't. I mean, considering the fact that, as you're talking about a former President and a former National Security Adviser, I really think that's a decision that the President and Secretary of State would have to make, and I've not consulted either of them on the Wall Street Journal article.
I would say that we do have a very good opportunity on August 1 to address the most important issues in U.S.-China relations when Secretary Christopher meets Foreign Minister Qian in Brunei. That's a very important meeting. I think it's important because of the troubles that we've had, the misunderstandings that have characterized a number of issues in the relationship, and Secretary Christopher is looking forward to this meeting.
I don't think it's proper to place an undue burden on this meeting; that somehow there's been some sense from Beijing that this meeting has to resolve all the major issues; that it's a decisive turning point. It's certainly a very important meeting. But there should be important engagements, meetings between the United States and China beyond August 1, and we fully expect that will take place -- that will happen.
Q Can we go --
MR. BURNS: China? Still on China?
Q Just briefly on the missile test. You said we'll be in contact shortly with the Chinese. Is there some meeting or is this just normal Embassy --
MR. BURNS: I think this will be done -- accomplished through our Embassy in Beijing. I cannot tell you exactly when and how that will happen, but I'm sure it will happen, because it's an issue that is of great interest to us.
Q Will it take the form of a protest?
MR. BURNS: I think at this point we are seeking information from the Chinese Government. Before we give some kind of public statement, either positive, neutral or negative, I think we need to find out more information about what is happening there.
Q Can we go to the hostage situation in Kashmir?
MR. BURNS: Yes, certainly.
Q My question is there is a report that the U.S. Ambassador met a politician in Pakistan and asked him to mediate. Could you name that politician, and what kind of a mediation you have requested?
MR. BURNS: Well, I've also seen the same press reports that you have, and I would just say in response to those reports that we certainly support the efforts of other countries to try to bring this terrible hostage crisis to a happy and peaceful conclusion. I would just note that Prime Minister Bhutto has already called for the release of the five Westerners who are being held hostage, who include, as you know, Mr. Hutchings - Mr. Donald Hutchings, an American citizen. So we would support the efforts of any country that can be constructive and helpful in resolving this crisis.
I want to bring to your attention the fact that last evening the State Department joined the public calls of Norway, Britain and Germany -- the public appeal for the immediate and safe release of the five men based on humanitarian considerations.
We remain hopeful that the kidnappers will heed these pleas from these Western governments and release the five hostages at once. And we are still working very closely with the Indian authorities to try to resolve this, and we have great admiration for the efforts that the Indian Government is making to resolve this crisis.
Q Have you been able to identify the captors, because they say Al-Faran doesn't exist at all and --
MR. BURNS: Well I understand that the Indian Government has made contact with the captors, and I do know that both the Indian Government and we believe that the captors are from the Al-Faran group. It is a Moslem organization that has a number of demands that it would like to be - have met.
We believe that what they've done, certainly, is the wrong way to go in trying to have their demands met; that it is simply unacceptable to take Western hostages or any hostages, and it's simply unacceptable to try to achieve political means through terrorist acts. And we call upon them to release these men on humanitarian grounds.
Q Nick, is there anything that the United States would care to negotiate with the Al-Faran group, either through intermediaries or indirect talks?
MR. BURNS: We've - Sid, I'm just going to limit myself to saying that we call upon them to release these individuals.
Q Would you like the --
Q You won't - you're not ruling out some sort of negotiation with this group or with them through intermediaries?
MR. BURNS: Since I'm not there, I'm not a party to the search effort, I'm not a party to the work that we are doing with the Indian authorities, I think it would be highly unwise for me to speculate on a question like that. All I'm saying is our message to them -- released against last evening -- is please release these men. They are innocent. They've done nothing to warrant the treatment that they're receiving from this group. They've been kidnapped. They are held hostage, and they should be released.
Q Isn't there a core policy in this government, as there has been in past governments, that there is not to be negotiations with terrorists or people who carry out terrorist acts?
MR. BURNS: There certainly is, and that certainly pertains to this situation. I understood your question maybe incorrectly to be taking me down a road where I didn't want to go, and that was to discuss some of the demands that these kidnappers have made. There certainly is a policy that we're not going to negotiate for anyone's release. That is the position we took in the case of Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon in Iraq, and the position to which we held right up through their release.
Q (Inaudible) politician which you reported here in --
MR. BURNS: I cannot, no. I simply don't know who that person is.
Q Do you have a readout on the migration talks which ended yesterday in Cuba?
MR. BURNS: George, I have a little bit of information on those talks. As you know, Deputy Assistant Secretary Ann Patterson was the lead U.S. diplomat in those talks. I know that they discussed a full range of issues. They agreed that the September 9 and May 2 accords are working. They are directing migration into legal channels while discouraging unsafe migration. I don't believe that there are any new agreements reached during the course of the last couple of days. The United States remains interested in facilitating safe, orderly and legal migration. We raised several suggestions to assure that both the United States and Cuba do everything possible to facilitate legal migration. We'll continue to discuss all these issues with the Government of Cuba.
Q Different subject. Three deputies of the Slovak Parliament representing four Hungarian minority were visiting Washington last week, and they had all the talks at the State Department. After coming back, they said, I quote: "President Clinton, Congress and the State Department are preparing to take sharper steps in the fall in order that democracy in Slovakia is maintained." They also said that there have been comments suggesting that Slovakia will be removed from the Partnership for Peace program. Have you any comment on this perhaps?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a specific comment. I can just tell you that we very much hope that reform and democracy will take hold and be the driving force behind the efforts of the Slovak people to have a better future than the past that they have had over the last couple of decades.
On these specific talks that were had, I'm just not aware of the specifics and therefore not in a position to talk about them.
Q Would you take up this question?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to have our European Bureau look into that and be in contact with you specifically, yes.
Q There has been also a statement by the United States Embassy in Bratislava to that effect today.
MR. BURNS: We'd be glad to have the European Bureau and Public Affairs Bureau look into that for you.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:01 p.m.)
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