U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/08/28 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, August 28, l995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Statement Situation in Sarajevo .....................................1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Shelling of Downtown Sarajevo .............................2-4,11 Acting Secretary Talbott/FM Sacirbey Telecon ..............1-2,4 A/S Holbrooke/President Izetbegovic Mtg.; Consultations ...2-3,9-11 Bosnian Prime Minister's Statement re: Negotiations .......3 Next Step Discussions: NATO, UN, U.S., Other Govt's. ......4-6,11 NATO/UN Defense of Safe Areas .............................4-5,8-11 --Dual Key Arrangement ....................................6-7 --Rapid Reaction Force ....................................8,11 Situation in Gorazde/Status of Peacekeepers ...............5 CUBA Private American Flotilla to Cuba .........................12-13 Cuban Democracy Act/Economic Embargo ......................13-14 CHINA Undersecretary Tarnoff's Bilateral Discussions ............14-15 --Unofficial Visits to U.S. by Taiwanese Officials ........15 --Possibility of Further High-Level Mtgs. .................22-23 U.S./China Ambassadorial, Bilateral Relations .............15-16,21 Fourth UN Conference on Women .............................16-17 Report of Harry Wu Return to China ........................21-22 Secretary Christopher, Chinese FM Mtg. in New York ........22-23 ARMS CONTROL Sale of Nuclear Reactors/Technology by Russia to Iran .....17-18 Technology Transfer from China to Iran ....................17 CONSULAR AFFAIRS Report of Radio Contact with U.S. Hostage in Kashmir ......18-19 BANGLADESH Assistant Secretary Raphel's Visit to Dhaka ...............19 IRAQ Reports of Fighting in Northern Iraq ......................19 Iraqi Defectors ...........................................19-21 SPRATLY ISLANDS Brunei Discussions Among Claimants ........................23
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 1995, 1.26 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. It's nice to see all of you here, and it's nice to be back at this podium. I have a statement to make on the situation in Sarajevo, and then I'll be glad to take your questions.
Today we have seen another vivid reminder of the brutality of the war in the Balkans. As far as we can determine, based on reports from the area and reports from our Embassy in Sarajevo, at least 33 people have been killed and more than 88 people wounded this morning when an artillery shell hit Sarajevo's main street near the central market-place.
This attack is another crime against humanity. The obvious target of Bosnian Serb shelling is once again the civilians of Sarajevo. Many of the dead were children, women, and elderly people who could not run from the danger or run for cover after the first shells hit.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms this latest outrage and will press ahead with our own determination to bring the fighting to a stop. Military pressure of this sort will not push us off the negotiating process. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is currently in Paris. He will shortly be engaged in a meeting with President Izetbegovic.
The United States also stands firmly behind those commitments made during the recent London Conference and the follow-on NATO meetings which clearly state the international community's intention to respond to attacks in Sarajevo.
Acting Secretary of State Strobe Talbott spoke this morning with the Bosnian Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Sacirbey. Acting Secretary Talbott expressed the deep sympathy of the United States Government and the American people for the people of Sarajevo. He noted for the Foreign Minister our very strong belief that the diplomacy must continue.
I would also note that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke, with whom I've just spoken, also talked this morning with Bosnian Foreign Minister Sacirbey. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke had a meeting in Paris with the French Foreign Minister, Minister de Charette; and the meeting between Assistant Secretary Holbrooke and President Izetbegovic will take place in about an hour and a half in Paris. I expect to have perhaps a readout for you later on today.
The meeting was delayed by the late arrival of President Izetbegovic in Paris today due to the tragedy in Sarajevo. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke will be, of course, meeting with the Contact Group countries and other countries tomorrow in Paris. At some point after that, will be headed to Belgrade for talks with President Milosevic.
So I'll be very glad to go to your questions.
Q Basically, technical questions. Unquestionably, the State Department says Bosnian Serbs did the shelling?
MR. BURNS: It's our very firm judgment that the Bosnian Serbs are responsible for today's outrage.
Q In the meetings with, or in at least the conversation, Strobe Talbott talked to him on the phone or met with him, because he was here last week?
MR. BURNS: Minister Sacirbey is back in the region. Acting Secretary Talbott telephoned Minister Sacirbey who was in the region, yes.
Q There have been reports that the Bosnian Government -- partly because of the shelling which is not new, is repetitive -- the Bosnian Government doesn't wish to be part of this current round of negotiations. Is that so? And if it was so, have they withdrawn that view, that position?
MR. BURNS: I would just note, Barry, that there is going to be a meeting in just an hour and a half or so between the Bosnian President and Assistant Secretary Holbrooke. We believe that discussion is important. We believe that diplomacy must go forward. Certainly, surely, the international community -- much less the Bosnian people -- should not conclude from yet another criminal attack on Sarajevo that we ought to stop talking about ways to move forward on the peace process. That is what the President and Secretary Christopher have asked Assistant Secretary Holbrooke to do, and that is to seize what we think is a window of opportunity for peace, to try to move that process forward, to try to narrow the differences between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Government on the Contact Group Map and Plan.
That is why he is in the region. He is determined to follow forward on his discussions, and he will do so this week.
Q But the Bosnians have not said anything to the effect that they've basically had it; that there isn't much to gain from these negotiations?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the statement made by the Bosnian Prime Minister, Mr. Silajdzic. I saw it on television this morning.
We obviously understand the great feeling of anger and frustration on the part of the Bosnian Government. But we conclude that we all together have to go forward with discussions towards peace. That is the point that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke will be making tonight to the Bosnian President.
Obviously, because they will be meeting, we are not in a situation where diplomatic contacts have broken off. We are not in that situation. In fact, they're going forward in Paris today. We expect they'll go forward, Barry, tomorrow.
Q Nick, the United Nations people in the region seem to have some doubt about where exactly this shell came from. You appear to have no doubts. Can you tell us on what you base your conclusion?
MR. BURNS: We base our conclusion upon the judgment of our Embassy in Sarajevo and upon discussions with others in the region, including with some in the United Nations hierarchy this morning.
We base our judgments on a variety of contacts. We have no doubt about what happened this morning. We have no doubt about the source of the attack and we condemn it.
Q Can you explain why the U.N. hasn't come to that firm judgment?
MR. BURNS: I think the United Nations has a process whereby they analyze the crater, or at least some of the craters that were produced by the shelling this morning. They are going through a rather thorough military analysis and investigation of the shelling itself.
But from what we understand, we have no doubt and we're very sure about our judgment. This was an attack by the Bosnian Serbs on innocent people in Sarajevo.
Q When you talked to Ambassador Holbrooke, did you find out what he meant when he was quoted as saying that response from NATO was up to the French?
MR. BURNS: I did talk to Ambassador Holbrooke. He had, I think, seen some of the preliminary press reports that came out of some of his discussions in Paris this morning. It's his very strong belief, as it is those of everyone else in this government, that the process of determining the next step forward is a process that both NATO and the United Nations must undertake together, and that process has started.
There have been an intensive series of discussions this morning between officials in Sarajevo, officials of NATO, of the United Nations and of various governments, including our own government. Our Charge d'Affaires, Mr. Menzies, has been very active this morning with all officials about the next steps that should be taken in response to this latest outrage.
I just indicated to you as well, Steve, that Acting Secretary of State Talbott has also been on the phone with the Bosnian Government, and Assistant Secretary of State Holbrooke has been in touch with a number of other governments as well as with the Bosnian Government. So those discussions are going forward.
Those discussions will determine what NATO and the United Nations decide what must occur next.
Q Does the London decision and the subsequent one in Brussels -- the NAC meeting -- does that automatically include Sarajevo as a grounds for retaliation -- air attacks? Isn't such an outrage -- is it included in the writ handed down by the North Atlantic Council?
MR. BURNS: As you remember, going back to the London Conference in mid-July, the London Conference met to talk about the situation in Gorazde. There was a decision made and a subsequent commitment made by NATO -- subsequent to the London meeting -- that there would be an unequivocal NATO response to any provocation, any attack on Gorazde.
Subsequent to that, NATO also dealt positively and conclusively with the subject of the other safe areas, including Sarajevo -- namely, that NATO and the United Nations would work together to defend those safe areas. There has been now an attack on one of those areas -- Sarajevo. We are now in the process of discussing with the United Nations and NATO officials what is the appropriate response to that attack. That's where the situation lies as we speak.
Q To follow up on the Gorazde situation. The Ukrainians who were the U.N. peacekeeping -- the Ukrainians who were apparently being held up there for a charge of several thousand dollars -- I believe for their lodging -- and also the attack on Friday, Nick, could you give us some update on -- are the U.N. troops being allowed to leave Gorazde?
MR. BURNS: I understand that 99 U.N. peacekeepers and medics left Gorazde last Friday. That leaves around roughly 87/88 U.N. peacekeepers remaining in Gorazde.
Q Does it appear that the Bosnian Government won't allow them out?
MR. BURNS: Ninety-nine were successfully withdrawn on Friday. I believe the plans are to draw down further from the 87/88 number. We expect that will go forward, yes.
Q Do you know if it was a matter of funds, of some bills owed?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the specific impediments to the progress on this, Bill, but I don't think that there will be any final impediments to drawing down to a very small number of people in Gorazde.
Q I'm sorry, but I need to change the subject to Cuba.
MR. BURNS: Why don't we do this. We'll stay on Bosnia and then when we've exhausted it -- it may take some time -- we'll go onto Cuba.
Q Given the international declaration, as you pointed out in London -- I believe in The Hague earlier -- and given the fact that Sarajevo is both an exclusion zone and a safe area under U.N. resolutions, is there any other appropriate response besides military action? Can you foresee any other response besides NATO or U.N. military action in this case? Is military action not a certainty?
MR. BURNS: Lee, I think for understandable reasons you've obviously asked a logical question. It's one that I would have asked had I been in your position. For understandable reasons, I think you'll appreciate the fact that I'm not going to go into a specific discussion on any of the military options that are available to both NATO and the United Nations. Those options are being discussed today, and they are intensive discussions that are taking place, but I don't want to flag publicly the nature of those discussions or what conclusions we may draw from those discussions.
But very clearly there's been a serious attack on Sarajevo: at least 33 people dead, many, many more wounded. The international community has to take that seriously, is taking it seriously, and the United States Government is certainly taking it seriously, and we're engaged in discussions as to what is the appropriate next step.
Q But there is no certainty of military action as it stands right now.
MR. BURNS: At this point, Lee, I'm not going to rule anything in and not going to rule anything out. I'm not going to engage in a discussion of what the military steps are. That would not be prudent for a variety of reasons which I think you understand.
Q But in your statement -- I mean, your remarks you are bracketing the U.N. with NATO as the decision-making power, and maybe two months ago the State Department had taken the position that -- to streamline the process and to protect civilians, that NATO -- that people on the ground could make these decisions. You're sort of saying to check with people in New York every time retaliation might be called for would be to delay action and maybe prevent action.
Is it safe to -- I mean, your reference now to U.N. and NATO as sort of equal partners suggests the State Department has spun back to the view that you need the people and you need Boutros-Ghali, and you need the U.N. Security Council and the Secretariat and the guards on 43rd Street in order to --
You told us an hour ago that the Serbs were still pounding the civilians, that the shelling was going on.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q In the process of these people being killed, is it the State Department's view that you'd need New York and the Balkans and all these different players to come aboard to do anything?
MR. BURNS: No.
Q Then what is your position?
MR. BURNS: That's not our view, and we haven't changed our position. Our position for a long time, culminating in discussions in mid to late July was that the dual-key arrangement, as it has been constructed previously, the dual-key had failed miserably, had not served the United Nations, NATO or the Bosnian people who were being subjected to these countless air raids.
So we pushed for a change, and we got it, and the change was that civilian hands were taken off the keys -- civilian hands in Zagreb and New York and wherever else they were -- and only military hands were kept on. But, Barry, it was never a process of us excluding the United Nations from the dual-key arrangement.
The United Nations has always been involved and must be involved, because the United Nations commands the troops on the ground. The process is that the U.N. military commander -- in this case General Rupert Smith in Sarajevo -- along with the American military commander, Admiral Leighton Smith, in Naples, together determine what is an appropriate military response to any situation, including the situation that has developed today.
Q (Inaudible) those folks in New York.
MR. BURNS: So I just want to be very clear about this.
Q The folks in New York don't have to say "yes" any more.
MR. BURNS: The United States objected to the fact that there were all sorts of people involved in the dual-key before, which made the dual-key unworkable and unusable. We now have a situation where only military people have their hands on the keys and that is the appropriate way to go about our business.
So we're very content with the fact that NATO and the U.N. do work together, and that is what's happening today. The NATO and U.N. people are talking about the attack on Sarajevo, what the appropriate military response should be to that attack.
Q Coming as it did a day after Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's promise yesterday that there would be severe military action and suggestions that there might be a long-term campaign against the Serbs if these diplomatic talks fail, is today's attack on Sarajevo not a test of that resolve?
MR. BURNS: We have had a resolve for some time that Sarajevo ought to be defended. That resolve was enunciated again at the London Conference by the United States after the London Conference, as we've reviewed just a minute ago, at NATO, and that's a very clear resolve.
Assistant Secretary Holbrooke yesterday was referring to the fact that we think there's a window of opportunity for movement in the diplomatic discussions. We think the Bosnian Serbs ought to grasp that opportunity quite strongly and ought to meet us half way and meet their negotiating partners half way, and he said -- and we all agree with him -- that the consequences of inaction by the Bosnian Serbs at the negotiating table aren't good for them, because inaction will mean further bloodshed. It will mean further warfare, and, if there are Bosnian Serb military offensives against Gorazde or against the other enclaves, that undoubtedly at some point along the line are going to bring NATO in, in one way or another.
That's what he said yesterday, and I would be very glad to reiterate today what he said yesterday.
Q Nick, could you bring us up to date on what heavy weapons UNPROFOR might have in the Sarajevo area? Is there an alternative other than airstrikes? Are there artillery pieces pointed at the barracks from which the Bosnian Serb shells are alleged to have come, for example?
MR. BURNS: As you know, David, the Rapid Reaction Force, the backbone of which is built of British and French contingents, has a considerable conventional military capacity in place now after a period of building up over the last two months in place in Sarajevo, in place on the Mt. Igman Road -- I believe they have a 155 mm howitzers there, and there is considerable artillery strength available to the French and British contingents of the Rapid Reaction Force in and around Sarajevo.
That is another fact of life that the Bosnian Serbs are certainly aware of and should remind themselves of today.
Q Nick, can I follow on the previous question about the statement of Ambassador Holbrooke yesterday, and what you said this morning: In terms of the plans he's discussing to try and bring a diplomatic end to this, as opposed to the incident this morning, and what he's discussing on that, what's different about the sticks he's carrying and implied military threats if the diplomacy doesn't work? What's different about the sticks he's carrying in this case as opposed to previous plans all the way back to lift and strike?
MR. BURNS: I think what's different about the situation this week and the situation, say, two or three or four months ago when American negotiators, including the late Bob Frasure, were very busily engaged in, is the fact that the situation on the ground has changed, and has changed to the detriment of the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbs in general.
The dream of a greater Serbia that was so closely felt by a lot of Serbs in the area is shattered. That dream was shattered in the Croatian offensive. There is a determination by the Bosnian people to defend themselves and the Bosnian Government to defend itself and its own people.
There has also been produced -- I think largely by the United States leadership since mid to late July -- an international determination on the part of NATO to defend Gorazde and the other safe areas from a military attack by the Bosnian Serbs. They are clearly on the defensive if you look at the broad patterns of the war that have emerged over the last couple of months, they feel themselves to be on the defensive, and I think that has armed the international community diplomatically to a much greater extent than it had before with a certain number of sticks in order to pursue our diplomacy.
But we also are offering, if you will, the prospect of peace to the Bosnian Serbs as well as to the others in the area -- the prospect that we might have a negotiated end to this settlement, and we think that the Bosnian Serbs ought to look at the results of the action on the ground over the last couple of months and determine for their own self-interest that things are not going as they had planned them, and that they ought to negotiate an end to the conflict through peaceful means and not through military means.
Q Specifically, what are those sticks?
MR. BURNS: I think the sticks are the ones that Ambassador Holbrooke was referring to yesterday in his television appearance. What he said yesterday was that he was not going to go into the specifics of what those sticks were, because they're well known, but we obviously don't want to tip our hand or go too far down the road in engaging in a rhetorical argument with the Bosnian Serbs.
What he is going to do this week, after his meeting tonight with President Izetbegovic, is consult with Mr. Bildt and Mr. Stoltenberg and the Contact Group countries and other interested countries, such as Spain, Canada and others, and he is then going to go on to Belgrade and will continue the discussions that he had some time ago with Mr. Milosevic about the essence of the diplomacy, and that is the Contact Group Map and Plan and the other ideas that the United States is bringing to that mix.
Q Nick, you're talking about the appropriate military response, and your response to that was that you would not rule anything in or rule anything out. Is it correct to assume from that statement that there is the possibility that there would not be a military response -- that would not be ruled in?
MR. BURNS: What I would like to leave you with today is the very strong impression that in response to the outrage this morning, NATO and the United Nations are discussing very intensively a broad array of options, and obviously I'm not going to be in a position, and no one else will be in a position to talk about those options until we have decided on a course that makes sense.
I think that is the point that I'd like to emphasize from our discussion today.
Q But is one of those options to do nothing militarily?
MR. BURNS: There's always the option to do nothing militarily, but that's not an option that we are -- that's not an option, I think, that anyone's decided upon. In fact, I think there's been a good deal of discussion about some of the specific options that might lead you in the other direction, but no decisions have been made. Until decisions are made, I'm just not going to be prepared to predict what course of action might result from those decisions or to announce them.
Q If everything is as indefinite as all that, what is your response to this report that there's a threat to hammer the Serbs for some six months? You know the report I'm referring to?
MR. BURNS: I've seen reports of --
Q I believe it's in one of the news magazines.
MR. BURNS: -- six months, nine months, eight months. I would just say that the Bosnian Serbs are aware that if diplomacy does not succeed, then the fighting will surely continue. That's the course that they would obviously be taking by rejecting diplomacy and that others would have to take to defend themselves, and that NATO is on the record as saying that it will involve itself in that fighting if the safe areas are threatened militarily in the way the Srebrenica and Zepa were in past months.
Q Do you regard the attack -- the shelling that occurred today as a military threat to Sarajevo?
MR. BURNS: It's certainly a threat by anyone's interpretation to the safety of civilians there and to the government there, yes.
Q Does it fit the definition that was laid out in London and following that at the NAC meeting of something that has to be retaliated against?
MR. BURNS: That's a question that is being discussed now, David, by NATO officials and by United Nations officials and it's a discussion that will continue throughout the day.
Q What is the U.S. view?
MR. BURNS: The U.S. has very firm views, and we're pressing those views with our allies. At this point I don't care to describe what we're saying to our allies, what we're saying to the Bosnian Government. These meetings are taking place as we are meeting. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke is just about to go into a meeting. I don't think it would be fair to him if I basically gave you all of his talking points before he entered that meeting.
Q Can we move on?
MR. BURNS: I think Bill has one more question.
Q Just one more, Barry. Is it the policy of the United States Government to encourage a continued cessation of hostilities in order to keep this window of opportunity for the negotiation open, and I mean specifically to restrain the U.N. from getting involved in using its artillery, say, in Sarajevo in a retaliatory fashion or for getting involved in the same way in the Dubrovnik area?
MR. BURNS: There's no cessation of hostilities, not when 33 people are dead and almost 90 wounded. We would certainly like to see a cease- fire, but there isn't a cease-fire, and so we need to deal with reality on the ground as it is.
MR. BURNS: Certainly.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: And welcome to the briefing.
Q Thank you. (Laughter) I'm here to ask you about a meeting that occurred this morning between two south Floridians who are Cuban- Americans who are leaders of a flotilla planned for next Saturday to Cuban waters and possibly into Cuban waters. Did the State Department -- what message did the State Department try to impart this morning to these two men, and do they agree to keep out of Cuban waters?
MR. BURNS: I understand that representatives of a group involved in a scheduled flotilla to Cuba, a private American flotilla to Cuba, on September 2 -- came in the Department this morning. They met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson. The State Department asked for the meeting in order to apprise ourselves of the group's plans.
You'll remember that in July there was a similar event in which a flotilla approached Cuban territorial waters. Our position remains as outlined in a statement that we released on August 8. I don't have any additional information for you, as I believe this meeting is ongoing -- the meeting that you refer to here in the Department -- as we speak now.
But certainly at the end of the statement that we issued on August 8, we said that the Department of State urges all persons who wish to travel to Cuba or to enter Cuban territorial waters or airspace to do so using safe, orderly and legal means and to avoid unnecessary risks to themselves as well as to others.
All this is now being discussed by Deputy Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson with the representatives of the groups from Florida.
Q If they do go into Cuban waters, what protection, if any, would you be prepared to arrange?
MR. BURNS: The position that we took in July is the position that we have to take now, and that is that when American citizens travel to foreign countries, however they may travel there -- whether it's by aircraft or by a vessel or overland -- once they enter the territory of another country, they are subject to the laws of that country, whatever the laws may be. If people are apprehended overseas, American Embassies and Consulates can provide certain services, which are sometimes quite limited by virtue of the situation in any particular country.
We'd just like to apprise these groups, and have done so over the last couple of months, of the fact that once they do enter Cuban territorial waters, they are subject to Cuban law.
Q So the subject of the meeting is you wanted to be apprised of what their plans are for this next flotilla and also to reiterate the State Department position that you put out in early August.
MR. BURNS: We wanted to make sure that these groups are aware of the situation in Cuba, aware of what happened the last time this type of event took place, which was in July, and aware of the possible consequences, should they enter Cuban territory.
Q Will you have a statement after this meeting today when this is wrapped up?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we'll have a lot more to say than I've already said, but we'll be glad to take any further questions that you may have. We're open for business.
Q Thank you.
Q Are you trying to discourage these groups from going?
MR. BURNS: This is a free country. American citizens, groups of Americans, can determine what they want to do, and they can say what they want to say and basically do what they want to do within the confines of our own law. As the Department of State we have a responsibility to inform American citizens of the reality that exists in countries beyond our borders, including the legal reality, and that's what we're doing today.
Q Nick, another subject. Can you bring us up --
MR. BURNS: Still on Cuba? Any more on Cuba?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. We'll go back to you in just a minute. Lee.
Q The New York Times had an article on Sunday, indicating that there's tremendous pressure from the American business community to open up relations or trade with Cuba. Is the State Department acknowledging such pressure, and what is the response to that?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to whatever pressure, as you say, is being put on the Department of State or the Administration in general. There are a lot of people in this country with a variety of views on that particular issue.
We have, however, a very firm view, and that is the Cuban Democracy Act should be the cornerstone of American policy towards Cuba, and one of the fundamental pillars of the Cuban Democracy Act is the importance of a continued economic embargo against Cuba -- the embargo that has been in place for a number of decades -- and it has been strengthened over the course of the last couple of years.
We believe that is an effective way to put pressure on the Castro regime to reform, politically, economically, to give the Cuban people a much greater measure of freedom, and that's our position. We haven't changed or deviated from that position.
Still on Cuba?
Q No, different topic.
MR. BURNS: Let me go back then to --
Q Nick, can you bring us up to date on the state of U.S.-China relations following Secretary Tarnoff's talks in Beijing.
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to. As you know, Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff had frank and constructive bilateral discussions over the weekend with officials in Beijing. These discussions were intended to improve our mutual understanding, our relationship, to narrow the differences on a number of issues and to make progress on all of them.
These meetings are part of President Clinton's strategy of comprehensive engagement with China which seeks to maintain constructive relations with a very important country.
During the August 1st meeting that Secretary of State Christopher had in Brunei with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, they agreed that it will be useful to have Under Secretary Tarnoff meet with his Chinese counterpart. So that's the background of the meetings.
As I said, they were frank and constructive talks. He had meetings with his counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Li. He met with Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian, and he also met with other officials of China. There was a very long press conference in Beijing. I believe that most of you have a transcript of that, so I don't want to go over all of the points that were made in that press conference, but let me just say we think it was useful to have these discussions.
We think it is important to have them because our two countries have a very, very broad agenda that has got to be covered on a regular basis, and we've got to make progress on all the issues that we agree upon as well as those that separate us, and there are a number that separate us, and Under Secretary Tarnoff pointed them out in his press conference.
If you have any specific questions about his meetings, I'd be glad to respond to them.
Q Yes. One thing: The Secretary has been quoted as -- well, people have disclosed that he said that during the meeting with the Chinese that while the U.S. has difficulty banning future visits by Taiwanese leaders to this country, it will, however, discourage Taiwanese leaders from visiting this country. Could you confirm that?
MR. BURNS: All I can say is to repeat what Secretary Christopher and now Under Secretary Tarnoff has said on a number of occasions, and that is that we certainly stand by the decision to grant a visa to Lee Teng-hui. We are in no mood or are not inclined to apologize for that. We've made that very clear to the Chinese leadership.
We think any future visits will obviously be unofficial visits by officials of Taiwan, because we have unofficial relations with Taiwan. They will be largely personal and infrequent, and Under Secretary Tarnoff, I think, was very clear about that in his press conference.
Q Nick, on the subject of our continuing relations with China, was there any signaling from the Chinese side that former Senator Sasser would be approved on their side as our next Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: There was a discussion -- a good discussion, an intensive discussion -- of the need, certainly from our perspective, to have Ambassadorial relations; to have Ambassadors in both countries, given the importance that we attach to this relationship.
The White House has not made an announcement as to who the next American Ambassador will be. We have, however, discussed this with the Chinese Government, as you would expect. I'm not in a position to indicate who that person may or may not be, but we hope very much we might be able to have an American Ambassador in Beijing before too long.
As for a Chinese Ambassador to Washington, there is a Chinese Ambassador to Washington. He was recalled several months ago, and I would just simply have to refer you to the Chinese Government as to whether or not that Ambassador will be returned to Washington. We certainly hope he will.
Q Nick, there's an AP wire report that indeed the Ambassador will return to Washington, but you haven't been able to confirm that?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the same wire report that you have. I think it's proper and appropriate in these circumstances to allow, in this case, the Chinese Government to speak for itself in this matter.
Q Nick, can I ask you about Mrs. Clinton's trip. It's been announced, and, despite the upswing in relations, the Administration is still getting hammered on the Hill. What is the answer to the proposition that the way to deal with China's human rights record is not to deal with China at all, or at least not to send a delegation to this international conference.
MR. BURNS: The President spoke to this over the weekend, and I really can't improve upon his remarks, but let me just try to summarize them for you, and that is that this is a conference on women. It's the Fourth U.N. Conference on Women. It's exceedingly important that the United States take part and play a leadership role. That is what we intend to do with the participation of Mrs. Clinton, with Ambassador Madeleine Albright, and Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth.
We have a large delegation going. It is clearly in our interest to be there to talk about all the issues that confront women worldwide, and that's why we're going. The decision to hold this conference in China was made before the Clinton Administration came into office. It was made, I think, in 1992 when the Bush Administration was in office. That is not a decision that the United States can do anything about. It is a fact of life.
But the fact that the United Nations is holding a conference is important, and that's why we're going. Obviously, when the American delegation has encounters with Chinese officials, a variety of issues will come up, as Ambassador Albright said yesterday on television, including very serious issues that we have concerning human rights in China and including the position of women in China.
So all those issues will be discussed, but this is first and foremost a United Nations conference on women, and that's why we're going.
Q Nick, can I ask you about a report in a British newspaper yesterday that the Russians have signed a new nuclear deal with Iran. The report says that they agreed to sell two more nuclear reactors to be installed in a place called Neka in northern Iran. Do you have any confirmation, any comment on that report?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm those reports. We have seen the reports, as have you. We can't confirm them. We don't have independent verification of them.
Let me just restate our policy. Our position hasn't changed. We oppose very vigorously, very strongly, the sale of nuclear reactors and nuclear technology by Russia to Iran. We have not come to the end of our efforts to persuade the Russians to stop these sales and stop this transfer of technology.
When President Clinton was in Moscow on May 9-10, he made this point directly to President Yeltsin.
When Secretary Christopher sees Foreign Minister Kozyrev, he makes this point and raises this issue, as did Vice President Gore when he met with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin at the end of June.
We have expert-level process underway whereby we are sharing information with the Russian Government about what we think Iranian intentions are, about their own wish to develop a nuclear-weapons capacity. We believe that Russia has every interest in seeing that Iran not develop this capacity as does the United States. It's an international interest.
We've taken the same position pertaining to China's potential, the possibility of Chinese sales to Iran. It's a very serious issue. We've not given up on it. In fact, we have raised this at the highest possible level diplomatically, and will continue to do so.
Q Nick, if the situation moves beyond this --
Q The report says that there was a secret visit -- they called it a "secret visit" -- by an Iranian nuclear delegation to Moscow earlier this month. Do you know if that is correct?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm it. I cannot confirm that for you.
Q Have you or do you plan to raise this specific report with the Russians directly?
MR. BURNS: Given the fact that we have now seen these reports in a couple of places, I'm quite sure that we will raise this with the Russian Government as part of our normal discussion of this issue with them.
Q It's more than a report now. The Minister for Nuclear Energy has held a news conference in Moscow and confirmed that Russia will provide up to four nuclear reactors to Iran. They haven't told the U.S. this before they held a news conference?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that they did, Barry. So, obviously, we're in a position where we have to talk to the Russian Government about these reports, and we will.
Q What about the Chernomyrdin -- what is it, the Chernomyrdin- Gore --
MR. BURNS: The Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission.
Q I don't know how frequently it meets. Isn't that the channel? Isn't it logical that those folks or their assistants would be told about this?
MR. BURNS: It's one of the channels that we use to raise this kind of issue. Secretary Christopher has raised it consistently. And as I said, the President has. So we're going to continue to use a variety of channels.
I can't really speak to the specifics of what you're saying because I'm unaware that we've been apprised of this latest development. We'll certainly seek more information on it.
Q There's been a report out of India that there has been radio contact with the American hostage in Kashmir, Donald Hutchings. Do you consider that to be authentic?
MR. BURNS: All I can say on that, Jim, is that we continue to believe that the responsibility for the safety of the hostages, including Mr. Donald Hutchings, the American citizen, rests entirely with their captors, the al-Faran organization.
We are working very closely with Indian authorities for the release of all of the hostages, including Mr. Hutchings. We urge again the al- Faran organization to release them immediately to end their very, very difficult and sad ordeal.
Q This radio transmission, have you had a chance to hear it first? Have your people had a chance to hear it? Do you drawn any conclusions? Is he in good health? Is he alive?
MR. BURNS: At this point, we have very strong reason to believe that he is alive. We are following up in a number of ways with the Indian Government to be helpful to the Indian Government. I don't want to say much more than that.
This is a very complicated situation. It's one in which the lives of people are at stake, including an American. I think I'm just going to let my comments rest where they are.
Q Nick, the issue of Bangladesh. Robin Raphel is planning a trip to Dhaka in the very near future. Is she taking any message? For your background -- Bangladesh is going through a constitutional crisis. And is she meeting the wife of former President Ershad? Incidentally, the President is in jail.
Will the United States Government support the release of the political prisoners, including the former President, for ensuring safe and secure democracy in Bangladesh?
MR. BURNS: Thank you for your question. Let me do this. Let me take that question and perhaps tomorrow, when we meet here, I'll be prepared to go into the details of Assistant Secretary Raphel's trip to the region, including what objectives she will have during his visit to Dhaka. Thank you.
Q Do you know anything about the flare-up of fighting over the weekend in northern Iraq? Several reports said the PKK attacked the KDP forces? Do you think this is something aimed at the (inaudible) process?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe I have any information on those reports. I'll be glad to look into them for you and see what we have to say on it.
Q Is there anything else you can tell us at this stage about American contacts with the Iraqi defector, Hussein Kamel?
MR. BURNS: There really isn't much I can say on that subject. I don't believe we've said much during the last week while I've been away. I do know what was said while I was away. I think I'm going to stay with the very constructive comments of all of predecessors and all of the podiums in Washington on that issue.
Q They promised to provide a text in his de-briefing?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q They promised to provide a text of his de-briefing as soon as you came back.
MR. BURNS: I did? I don't remember that.
MR. BURNS: I don't remember that promise. It might have been made at one of the evening events during the latter part of our trip to Asia but I've forgotten it, if that's the case.
Q You're not discussing the details of any conversations that may or may not have taken place. Do you, or does the State Department see Hussein Kamel as a potential leader of Iraq in the future?
MR. BURNS: I think that's just a question that's very hard to answer. What we hope will happen in Iraq is that a sane, responsible, and rational government will emerge to replace, obviously, the one that has been led so poorly and to such disadvantage to the Iraqi people by Saddam Hussein for so many years.
The United States believes that the Saddam regime should go, should disappear from the scene. But I'm not in a position to predict who might take his place.
Q Do you think this is a real opportunity that Saddam may be on his last legs? Is that still the analysis?
MR. BURNS: Many, many predictions have been made about the end of Saddam's regime for many, many years. So I think I'm just not going to accept the offer to predict when his regime may go. But it ought to go because it's not served the Iraqi people well.
Q Just one more on this; sorry. What role do you see Jordan playing in the next few months vis-a-vis Iraq? Do you see King Hussein decision to take in the defectors is an important switch of policy?
MR. BURNS: It's certainly an important step by King Hussein. It's a step that's admired and applauded by the United States. Jordan, contiguous to Iraq, has always been important to the situation in Iraq and will continue to be so.
Q Nick, one more question on China, if I may. Would you characterize U.S.-China relations as back on track, as Ambassador Albright said yesterday? If so, why are the Chinese sending a regional commander instead of the Defense Minister to Hawaii to participate in the activities commemorating the end of the Pacific war?
MR. BURNS: I think Ambassador Albright was correct in saying that there is certainly new momentum in U.S.-China relations in this sense: We went through a period over the last couple of months where we did not have normal diplomatic contacts and discourse with the Chinese Government because of a very unfortunate misunderstanding about the granting of a visa. We believe we're now over that to a large extent.
The Secretary had a successful meeting with Foreign Minister Qian. Under Secretary Tarnoff has now had successful meetings in Beijing. We have high-level meetings scheduled for the end of September at the UNGA when Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Qian plan to meet again.
Of course, there is a possibility of additional high-level meetings. So I think it's fair to say yes, that we have turned a corner.
But as Ambassador Albright and Under Secretary Tarnoff pointed out in their respective press appearances over the last 24 hours, there are a number of issues that separate the United States and China -- a number of concerns that the United States has about missile testing, about the possibility of arms sales and nuclear technology to Iran, and about the human rights situation in China -- that will remain important for the United States.
So we obviously are not at the point where we can say that we've resolved all problems. But we are at the point where we can say that we're talking again. That, in diplomacy, is a good beginning.
Q On China, I think I heard over the weekend somehow, some place, Harry Wu vowing to go back to China. You could say it's hypothetical. He hasn't booked a flight yet. Is that something like an anti-Castro flotilla, that you think an American citizen has a right to do? Do you want to go through that all over again?
MR. BURNS: I would just say this. Harry Wu, fortunately for him and for us, lives in a free country. Harry Wu is a free man. He is a great champion of human rights. He's a very admirably person. He's done significant work on behalf of those people in China who remain imprisoned in a very terrible situation.
What Harry Wu does in the future is up to him. Were he to ask the advice of the United States Government -- I don't believe he has asked for the advice of the United States Government since his release last week -- we would certainly have the responsibility to tell him that we think there might be great personal danger for him were he to go back. You remember that he was convicted by the Chinese last week and expelled.
I think we would just point out the obvious to him -- something he's certainly aware of himself -- that there might be a great degree of personal danger associated with any trip that he might care to take in the future.
But I will repeat, having said that, he is a free person, and thank goodness he is. We are very, very glad that he's back. He has enriched this country since he came here many years ago and we hope that he'll continue his efforts to remind us all of the obligations we have to uphold international standards of human rights.
Q Nick, if I could follow on China. In the announcement, or after the announcement that Peter Tarnoff made about the proposal that the two Presidents -- Clinton and Zemin meet -- the Chinese have had no reaction officially, had no reaction about this. Do you expect that the final decision about a summit will be made when Warren Christopher and Foreign Minister Qichen get together in late September? Will it wait until then, or is it something that you anticipate might be arranged before that time? Or do you know at this point?
MR. BURNS: Bill, let me say, first, welcome back. It's been a long time since I've seen you here. Welcome.
In answer to your question, Under Secretary Tarnoff was very careful to say that we have discussed the possibility of further high-level meetings, including any Presidential meetings, but there's been no agreement to hold them.
It is true that the two Presidents will be together in New York -- at least at the same event in New York -- in late October, but no decision has been made to schedule a meeting. That is a decision that must be made by both governments sometime in the future as to whether or not it will happen. It certainly will be one of the primary issues that Secretary Christopher and his counterpart, Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian, will discuss in late September.
Q They will definitely meet at the U.N.?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher intends to meet with the Foreign Minister in late September, when they're together at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Q Have the Chinese confirmed?
MR. BURNS: That was confirmed, I think, as far back as Brunei, when they met in Brunei on August 1.
Q Nick, does the Clinton Administration have any plans to press the diplomatic effort to stop the escalating demonstrations of military power in the South China Sea?
MR. BURNS: I think we've made clear on a number of occasions concerning the situation in the South China Sea, that we believe any differences that any of the claimants to the Spratlys, for instance, have should be settled peacefully and through diplomatic means and not through the threat of force or the use of force. We were encouraged to see in Brunei a very civil and forthcoming discussion among the claimants -- at least when some of them met together in Brunei -- and we hope that that spirit will carry on as this issue is discussed by all of the countries and claimants in the region.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:17 p.m.)
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