U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/10/19 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, October 19, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns CUBA Helms-Burton Legislation: Title III Provisions ..........1-3 Approval of President Castro's Visa .....................2 ISRAEL Legislation re: Proposal to Relocate U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem ............................3 LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS Former Senator Sasser's Confirmation Hearing on 10/18 ...4 Business Meeting of Foreign Relations Committee Cancelled .............................................4 --Ambassadorial Nomination of Former Senator Sasser .....5-6 --Other Ambassadorial Nominations .......................5-6 --START II Treaty .......................................5-6 Legislative Proposal re: State Department Reorganization ........................................7 CHINA U.S.-China Summit in New York ...........................5,9 Return of Chinese Ambassador to Washington ..............5-7 U.S. Policy re: Visas for Taiwanese Officials ...........7-9 Military Exercises ......................................8 Commerce Secretary Brown in Beijing .....................7,9-10 LEBANON Extension of Harawi's Presidential Term .................10,12 INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS 50th Anniversary of Opening of UN .......................11,13 MISCELLANEOUS Summit of Non-Aligned Movement in Cartegena .............12-13 RUSSIA Agenda for Meeting at Hyde Park, New York, on October 23 13-14 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Two Missing French Pilots in Bosnia .....................14-15 Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's Diplomatic Mission ......15 --Status of Ceasefire ...................................16 --Agenda for Proximity Peace Talks ......................16 --Agreements on Eastern Slavonia, Liaison Offices .......15-16 --War Crimes Tribunal, Human Rights Abuses ..............16,21-22 --Contact Group .........................................16 Support for Deployment of U.S. Military Forces ..........16-20 Assistant Secretary Shattuck's Trip to Region ...........21 --Human Rights Abuses ...................................21 NORTH KOREA KEDO Meeting in New York ................................22 JAPAN Review of Implementation of SOFA ........................22-23 ARMS CONTROL South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone .........................23 IRAQ Northern Iraq ...........................................23 TURKEY Human Rights ............................................23-24 JAPAN Reports of U.S. Intelligence Activities .................24 GREECE Report of NATO plan for Province of Thrace ..............24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 1995, 1:15 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Nice to see all of you. George, I'm ready to go directly to your question.
Q The Senate is about to approve a Cuba sanctions bill that was seriously emasculated yesterday. They deleted a provision which the Administration had serious objections to, and I wonder if you have any thoughts on what remains.
MR. BURNS: We're very pleased that the Senate yesterday deleted Title III from the Helms Bill, the bill sponsored by the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, on Cuba. That step eliminated one of the most serious problems of the proposed legislation.
We have continued concerns -- serious concerns -- that there are Title III provisions in the House version of this bill. This specifically would allow people in the United States who own a claim to property expropriated by the Cuban Government to sue in U.S. Courts both entities of the Cuban Government and any entity of another country -- Canada, France, or another third country -- that possess or invest in those properties.
We believe that this particular provision -- Title III in the House bill -- would create a flood of lawsuits in United States courts. It would provide a rallying point for Fidel Castro inside Cuba itself. It would increase risk to United States investors abroad from similar litigation in third countries. It would complicate the prospects for resolving the claims of those certified U.S. claimants -- those people who did have their property expropriated unjustly by the Castro Government over the last several decades.
So we believe that these Title III provisions that remain in the House version of the bill are a great obstacle towards our policy towards Cuba. We are opposed to them. We are making those points to the Congress. We are looking forward to working with Congress on this bill as it proceeds to a full vote in the Senate, to a vote in the House, and eventually and perhaps very shortly to conference.
We very much would like to see a bill emerge that would have broad bipartisan support, and certainly these Title III provisions, George, I don't think have bipartisan support.
Q How about what's left of the legislation in the Senate?
MR. BURNS: I think at this point we're going to watch what happens.
I would expect that this legislation would emerge quickly from the Senate. Then the key question will be what action will the House take and, perhaps even more importantly, what action will the conferees take when the bill is in conference? Will these Title III provisions emerge again in a conference bill? If it does, of course, I think the Administration view is well known, that we do oppose such legislation.
Q Also on Cuba, now that you have approved the visa for President Castro, can you give us any insight into what took so long? Was it connected, for example, with the maneuvering with the Senate over this --
MR. BURNS: Do you think we took an inordinately long time to make up our minds?
Q Never has so little been studied by so many -- (laughter).
MR. BURNS: With all due respect, this was a complicated business. I thought it was appropriate for the State Department to have taken the right amount of time to look at the application, think about it, think of the ramifications, and we wanted to look at all aspects of the situation surrounding the application for the visa, which we did.
When we had assured ourselves that we had sufficiently understood all aspects of the situation, we made our decision and very quickly reported to the American press corps. Let me just duly note that.
Q What were some of the aspects that you were studying?
MR. BURNS: What would Fidel Castro do in the United States? Where did he want to travel in the United States? That kind of thing. And, frankly, yes, some of the debate in this country about that question, about other questions relating to Cuba -- that was certainly a part of it.
Q Nick, going back to George's question, are you saying that without the Article III provisions you are happy with the content of the Senate version of the bill?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't want to go that far, because I think at this point -- you know, this legislation moves rapidly and the debate moves rapidly, and there are all sorts of conversations going on between the Congress and the Administration. I don't want to try to capture where we are at 1:20 today on this, because we could be in a different place in an hour from now.
We oppose the Title III provisions that remain in the House version of the bill. I think before we make any conclusive judgments in public about our willingness to support or not support, we'll want to see what's in the conference bill. That's really the bill to which we must react.
Q You're talking about proposed legislation. Without asking you for your views on the editorial side of the Jerusalem Embassy issue --
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much.
Q -- can you tell us at least where it stands on the Hill and when you expect it might come to a vote -- your best understanding?
MR. BURNS: I am not in a good position to give you an up-to-the- minute description of where it stands, Charlie; but there is a bill proposed by Senator Dole on Jerusalem that deals with the question of whether or not the United States Embassy should move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Administration has been talking to all the interested members of Congress on both sides of the aisle about this. And you were absolutely right in the run-up to your question that our views are so well known on this, it really is not worth getting into, I think, probably.
Q Specifically you don't know if it's going to be up this week, next week --
MR. BURNS: Let me look into that.
Q -- the Senate will put it off altogether.
MR. BURNS: I will be glad to talk to our legislative people and see if they can predict for you when this bill might come up to a vote.
Q You mentioned Senator Helms. Is he back holding the Sasser nomination hostage again?
MR. BURNS: I think that's a question for Senator Helms.
Former Senator Sasser had another hearing yesterday with Senator Helms. We thought that he spoke well and comprehensively about United States relations with China. We think he's a distinguished nominee, and certainly it's time in the relationship that the United States has an Ambassador in Beijing and China has an Ambassador resident in the city of Washington, D.C.
Those two things need to happen in order for us to have the highest level of diplomatic discourse on a daily basis. It's very important that that happen. This is an extremely important nomination for the Clinton Administration. I think the Senate is aware of that, and there's an important meeting coming up next Tuesday. We'd certainly hope that Senator Sasser would receive a very speedy confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
As to whether or not he's going to be held, that's really a question that I think only Senator Helms and perhaps some of his colleagues can answer for you.
Q If he got moving smartly right now, could the nomination feasibly be through and Sasser sworn in by next Tuesday?
MR. BURNS: Listen, he could be sworn in as quickly -- very shortly after being confirmed by the Senate. It would be our hope that he could participate in the meetings with the President and Secretary Christopher with Jiang Zemin in New York next Tuesday.
I don't know whether that will happen, but it's our hope that that will happen. If he is confirmed by the Senate, we will act very quickly to swear him into office.
Q Nick, Helms' office just put out a fax saying that a scheduled business meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee had been canceled until further notice. I mean, does that mean that Sasser is on hold until further notice? I just don't understand exactly the --
MR. BURNS: I know there was a business meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee scheduled for today, and that was to have taken up a number of the very important nominations that the Administration has before the Foreign Relations Committee.
In addition to that, it was to take up the vital question for the American people of the START II Treaty -- a treaty that was negotiated by President Bush in January 1993 and signed by President Bush; a treaty, Steve, that you know very well would bring the United States and Russia down to historically low levels of nuclear warheads; a treaty that as every observer -- Republican and Democrat -- will tell you is in the interests of this country to see ratified by the Senate.
This is important business, and we certainly don't want it to be held up any further by the Congress.
Q But presumably the cancellation of this meeting until further notice puts Sasser and the --
MR. BURNS: I understand that the Sasser nomination, other Ambassadorial nominations, and the START II Treaty were all on the initial agenda that we saw for this business meeting, yes. It is disappointing that there will be further delays, both on this important treaty and on important nominations by the Administration.
Q New subject?
Q No, Nick, will the lack of the presence by Senator Sasser at the U.S.-China summit in any way affect the outcome of the meeting?
MR. BURNS: No. This is a meeting between two heads of state -- between President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin. I don't believe it will affect the outcome; but I do believe it is important at this stage of our relationship with China, following the meeting, that China and the United States have the ability to talk to each other at the very highest Ambassadorial levels on a daily basis -- several times a day, if necessary.
We don't have that capability right now because the Chinese Ambassador to Washington has been away for quite some time, and we have been unable to convince the Senate that it's in our national interests to have a very speedy confirmation of Senator Sasser. So we'd hope that that could be possible as soon as possible.
Q On China --
MR. BURNS: Still on China, Sid?
Q (Inaudible) the Senate actually. Do you think that the Senate is looking at America's national security interests in taking the action they're now taking?
MR. BURNS: Look, let me take a step back and say the Senate has a right -- an obvious right, a constitutional right -- to ask questions, to move at the speed with which it wants to move. No one in this Administration is questioning the constitutional role the Senate must play in the confirmation process, or in the treaty ratification process. It's part of our system of government.
I think we do have a disagreement here on this particular treaty and on these nominations. This treaty was signed in January 1993. It is high time that it be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Ask any observer -- Republican, Democrat, Independent -- who knows something about the nuclear weapons balance between the United States and Russia -- U.S.- Russian relations. This treaty is in our national interest. It should go forward.
Ask any observer, Republican or Democrat, is it in our interests to have an Ambassador in Beijing. It is absolutely in our interest, and that's, I think, the relevant point to make here.
We're certainly not questioning the right of the Congress to ask the questions that it feels it must ask. That's separate from these other issues.
Q (Inaudible) think it's being held hostage, so to speak, for some other reason?
MR. BURNS: I think that that's a question you should address to the Congress, to those in the Congress who are taking these actions. I don't want to sit here in judgment of them on that particular basis.
Q Nick, on China, a little different subject.
Q Can we follow up on the Ambassador's situation?
MR. BURNS: Let's do that, Bill, and then we'll go back.
Q Have you heard anything new from the Chinese about when we can expect a return of the Chinese Ambassador to Washington?
MR. BURNS: We have heard that the Ambassador will be returning to Washington shortly, although I don't believe that he has yet arrived in Washington so we're looking forward to that. I would assume that he would be accompanying President Jiang Zemin to the talks in New York. We hope very much that following those talks, the Ambassador would come back down to Washington, take up residence again, and begin to deal with the State Department on a daily basis. That's in the interests of China and the United States.
Q A follow up on the same general subject. I talked to somebody on Helms' staff -- it was a brief conversation -- a little while ago. He indicated that the reason for the cancellation was lack of progress on State Department reorganization. Do you know anything about that?
MR. BURNS: I've heard reports to that, George. I don't have a first-hand account, and I don't work the legislative side of things. It wouldn't surprise me if that was one of the reasons for this.
That's an important issue -- State Department consolidation. It's an important issue for both the Congress and this Administration. It's being discussed, as you know, by the Administration with the Congress. It may, in fact, come up to a vote or a decision very shortly.
That is a separate issue, however, from the START II Treaty and from Ambassadorial nominations. We think that it can't be just politics as usual. We think that these nominations are important enough that they should be judged on their own terms and that they should go forward on their own terms.
Still on China. Then, Bill, we'll go to you.
Q You want to go on the Sasser thing?
Q Go ahead.
MR. BURNS: Please, Bill.
Q Nick, a little different subject. It's reported in the Sun this morning that Mr. Ron Brown had a conversation yesterday with President Zemin. He was bluntly told that the United States must never again allow Taiwan's President to visit the United States.
My questions are, is this an accurate report? And what more can you tell us? What's the reaction of the State Department to this?
MR. BURNS: This is an old subject, Bill, and I don't have any new answers for you. I think you all know what our policy is pertaining to visas for officials from Taiwan: the United States cannot pledge that we will never again issue a visa to an official from Taiwan. There may be cases -- they will be rare. We'll take them on a case-by-case basis. They will be personal in nature, these visits. There will be cases where we do give visas to officials from Taiwan. We've said that repeatedly. That is no mystery to the Government of China.
If asked on Tuesday, in the private discussions, we will reaffirm that policy. We're not going to change that policy.
Q It does also state in the article that the people of China, that the populace cannot understand how the United States would allow a Taiwanese leader in. This is a popular thing.
Nick, let me just ask you to comment on the fact that they're bringing this up again and again and again. Every time we talk to them, it seems to be still a sticking point with them. Do we see that?
MR. BURNS: We have a disagreement. China would like us to follow a policy where we issue no more visas. We will not do that. So we have an obvious disagreement. It does come up frequently in conversations.
However, Bill, let me just remind you that in the Secretary's last conversation with the Foreign Minister this issue receded in importance compared to their meeting in Brunei on August 1. We believe the positions of both sides are well known. This will continue to be a difference between the United States and China, but we believe we can go forward and have a good relationship with China despite this difference.
Q In reading the tea leaves, do you all make anything of President Jiang's appearance on television before a military exercise, and the kind of rocket firings they undertook in the straits between Taiwan a few months back?
MR. BURNS: There are two different situations. I did see some of the tape of the military exercises. It's not unusual for a country to have military exercises. The United States has military exercises, and sometimes our leadership use them. That's not unusual.
I think on the second part of the question, which was a little bit different, which was the exercises that were close in proximity to Taiwan, I think we've made our position on that fairly clear sometime ago. I don't really see, at least today, a connection between those two events.
Q The upcoming meeting, you don't see it?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't, at this point.
Q Nick, will the remarks by Jiang Zemin -- repeated remarks by Jiang Zemin on Taiwan have any impact on your outlook for the summit -- the success --
MR. BURNS: No. We are intimately familiar with the views of the Chinese Government on this issue, and they are with ours. Our primary goal here is to have the two leaders meet, to discuss the agenda that is critical to both countries, to move ahead in the relationship.
We're always going to have differences on certain issues. We assume that. We'll manage this difference. This difference will not destroy U.S.-China relations. It will be a part of the relationship. It will not, I predict, be the dominant part of the relationship as we move into the new year and as we move into a new century.
I think the United States and China have far too much in common, far too much that unites us than to allow this relationship to fester and to be stalled on an issue of visas. So there may be lots of talk about that issue, but don't let that deflect anyone's attention from the real issues having to do with our commercial relationship.
Secretary Brown brought U.S. businessmen with him to Beijing. He went into a great level of detail on the commercial relationship between our two countries, and he followed up on the $6 billion worth of projects for which contracts were signed last year. These are important issues. The military relationship is important. The geopolitical situation in the Pacific is important. These are the issues that are going to occupy the U.S. and Chinese leadership. I predict that the visa issue will not.
Q Nick, Secretary Brown also made comments to the effect that diatribes on human rights are counterproductive and lead to nowhere -- obviously, they led to nowhere. Is that this Administration's position?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen the text of what the Secretary (of Commerce) said. I have seen press reports based on them, so I don't want to comment on what the Secretary said.
But let me just say in general human rights will continue to be an important part of this relationship. It is raised by the President when he meets with President Jiang Zemin. It is always raised by Secretary Christopher when he meets with his counterpart.
We are the world's greatest democratic country. We have moral values that are important to the American people, that are an important part of our foreign policy, and we will not let those issues fall off our agenda with China. They will continue to be a big part of that relationship.
Q In talking about democracy, Nick, Lebanon is the only Arab country that elects a President and changes a President every six years. Today, this has changed. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Can you explain what changed?
Q They extended the term of the President and they amended the constitution, as you know.
MR. BURNS: One of the great benefits of my job is that I never have to comment on the internal political situation of any country anywhere, unless we choose to. In this case, I think it would be very dangerous for me to comment and very unwise for me to comment on the internal political situation in Lebanon.
Q Let me try it some other way. Do you think today's extension of President Hrawi is the right step towards the national reconciliation of Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, it's a decision that only the Lebanese people should characterize. I don't think it's proper for foreign governments sitting outside of Lebanon to comment on what is happening inside the country.
We have a good relationship with the Government of Lebanon. We have an Embassy there. We follow events there, but we try not to be judgmental or comment on internal political events.
Q Just a follow-up? You said it's up to the Lebanese people to decide. Do you think this was the case this time on Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: You're very persistent. I admire that persistence. This is a question for the Lebanese people, the Lebanese political system, for all people in Lebanon to decide, not for Americans to pass judgment upon.
Q One more?
MR. BURNS: If it's slightly different in orientation (laughter) -- do you have another question on the Middle East? There are lots of things on the Middle East that we would be glad to talk about, but not that.
Q Going back to the upcoming events in New York and in the interest of the most thorough coverage of the Secretary's leadership of U.S. diplomacy --
MR. BURNS: Thank you. I have the same interest as you do.
Q -- do you have yet a list of meetings he might have, people he might see, when it might happen, where it might happen, absent what the President is doing also?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary will be in all of the meetings in which the President participates. Beyond that, the Secretary will also be having a few bilateral meetings. I am not yet in a position to announce them because, in one respect, the timing has not been worked out on some of them, and others may be private meetings.
At this point, I don't believe there will be opportunities for press coverage of any of those bilateral meetings. They're really more private get-togethers than they are the kind of official bilaterals to which we are accustomed.
But I think at least by tomorrow I'll probably be able to give you a bit more detail on at least some of those meetings. He'll be traveling to New York midday on Saturday. He'll be there until late on Tuesday.
Steve, is that --
Q That's a full listing of the meetings he's going to have.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much.
Q Does he expect to see Minister Kozyrev after the statements of President Yeltsin today?
MR. BURNS: That's an interesting way to phrase the question. Putting aside the statements of President Yeltsin today, the Secretary always takes advantage of close proximity to Minister Kozyrev to try to meet him; and I would not be surprised if they did meet this weekend, although I have nothing to announce specifically because I think further works need to be done that.
But that's completely separate from the first part of your question.
MR. BURNS: Of course. It's in the same category as the question on Lebanon.
Q You commented on the Iraqi referendum. I just want to -- (Laughter).
MR. BURNS: But that was different.
Q Let me try it this way. If you gave the mark "zero" to the Iraqi referendum, what is the grade of the Lebanese (Laughter) election today?
MR. BURNS: One of the other great things about my job is that I can always decide to make exceptions to all these rules. Iraq is the best example I can think of a country which we enjoy making exceptions about.
We were glad to comment on the Iraqi referendum because they were so bold as to proclaim it as some great democratic triumph, which of course it was not.
Lebanon is a much more serious place. I just don't think it's worth your time, really, to hear my thoughts on that.
Q (Inaudible) It's serious? Can I say that?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Can you say that the election --
MR. BURNS: I said it's a serious country, a serious place. I specifically didn't want to use an adjective to describe or a word to describe the elections or the referendum of the political process, so I won't do that.
Q I rest my case.
MR. BURNS: You rest your case. Okay.
Q What's the Clinton Administration's view on the summit of the non-aligned countries that's taking place in Cartagena, Colombia, today -- well, this whole week?
MR. BURNS: I really have no comment on that. We are aware that the summit is taking place. We know that -- actually, the visa for Castro is being issued in Bogota, I believe, because of his involvement in the summit. I have really no particular comment on the summit.
Q Can I ask why?
MR. BURNS: Sometimes we want to comment on events, sometimes we don't, sometimes we don't have a lot of first-hand information. We're not a member of the movement. We don't have anybody there. In this case, I think it's probably the latter. We just don't have anyone there. We're not really in a position to comment on the proceedings.
Q Going back to next week's meetings, can you walk us through what the Administration expects to accomplish as a result of the meetings?
MR. BURNS: In all the meetings?
MR. BURNS: Every single one of them?
Q Can you just give a general overall?
MR. BURNS: Sure, I'll be glad to. There are a few major priorities here. I know that Mike McCurry and Sandy Berger are briefing right now at the White House on this. You might want to look at that transcript as well. Certainly, look at that transcript.
The President is going up to mark the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the opening of the United Nations this month. He will be giving a major speech there, which the White House will be describing for you.
The meeting at Hyde Park on Monday is particularly important because the President, since the first days of his Administration, has placed a particular emphasis -- a special emphasis -- on developing good, constructive United States relations with Russia.
There are a number of important issues that will be discussed at Hyde Park: The situation in Bosnia -- following all the contacts we've had; Strobe Talbott's visit to Moscow this week; Dick Holbrooke's visit to Moscow; Secretary Perry's discussions in Geneva with Minister Grachev -- that's an important issue.
How will Russia and NATO cooperate together both in getting to a peace agreement; and once that peace agreement has been established, ensuring the security of the peace through a military implementation force.
Second, since January 1994, the President and President Yeltsin have had a close, detailed, on-going discussion about the issue of NATO enlargement; about the future security systems that we hope will provide for peace and security in Europe. And, specifically, we would like to establish a NATO-Russia relationship that would parallel the process of enlarging NATO. That issue is on the agenda for Monday.
I think the CFE issue, in which both Russia and the United States have such a critical part, will also be discussed.
I'd refer you to Sandy Berger and Mike McCurry for more detail on the President's agenda. But certainly those three issues will be at the heart of it.
The next day the President will be meeting with Jiang Zemin, the President of China. I think we have discussed on an on-going basis for the last four or five months in this room what's at stake for U.S.-China relations: The very firmly held view by the United States that we've got to get back on the track of discussing everyday at very high levels -- Ambassadorial levels -- all the issues in the relationship. Not just the visa issue.
The President will certainly have a comprehensive agenda with President Jiang Zemin.
There are a number of other bilaterals that the President will be having, but I would leave it to the White House, of course, to discuss those meetings for you.
Q There were reports yesterday about the whereabouts of the two downed French pilots in Bosnia. Can you clear up the waters at all on that?
MR. BURNS: All I can do on that is to direct you to the statements of the French Foreign Minister who said that the excuses given by Karadzic were grotesque excuses. These are French pilots. The French Government has spoken plainly, clearly, and effectively on this issue. We would associate ourselves with the comments of the French Government. We support the French Government in its efforts to locate these two aviators
There can be no excuse given by the Bosnian Serbs that would justify holding them, in the first place, and then losing them, apparently, if you trust what they say, in the second place. It is preposterous for anyone to believe that they could be lost by the Bosnian Serb military leadership.
Q A brief follow-up. So this Administration now believes they're alive?
MR. BURNS: We hope very much that these two aviators are alive. I don't think we're in the best position to make that judgment. That's a judgment that the French Government, and certainly the Bosnian Serbs, are in a better position to make.
Q A second follow-up. There's also some reports that there may have been some sort of commando rescue of those guys, perhaps by the French, perhaps aided by the Americans. Anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: I have nothing for you on that. Nothing for you.
Q Can you tell us, are you reassured by President Tudjman that there will be no military assault on East Slavonia?
MR. BURNS: We were pleased that President Tudjman told Dick Holbrooke personally and directly this morning in Zagreb that Croatia would not resort to military force to try to regain control over the region of Eastern Slavonia.
As Dick Holbrooke said publicly this morning, there is a diplomatic process underway that provides an avenue for Croatia to achieve what it wants and, in fact, what I think most of the international community wants, and that is a transfer of authority back to Croatia -- a reversion of authority -- of the Eastern Slavonia region.
The United States has played the leading role, working with the Serbs in Eastern Slavonia, with the Croatian Government and the Serbian Government to try to draw up constitutional principles for this transfer of authority. We will continue to do that. As Dick Holbrooke said this morning, this will be part of the agenda for the Dayton, Ohio, Proximately Peace Talks that begin just a week and a half from now.
Let me just say a couple of other things about Bosnia. I had a chance to talk to Dick Holbrooke. He's on his way back from his fifth shuttle mission to the region. I think he had his 15th trip to Zagreb alone this morning.
There are a couple of important aspects to the shuttle this week that he was on, that he led. First, he was able to see, on his last shuttle trip to the region before the Proximity Peace Talks, President Izetbegovic, President Milosevic, and President Tudjman. He impressed upon all of them the need for universal adherence to the cease-fire in Bosnia. He made the comment that a cease-fire is a cease-fire is a cease-fire. You can't elect to observe certain parts of a cease-fire and not other parts.
I think it's our impression that the cease-fire continues to gain hold throughout Bosnia although there is still today continued fighting, reduced in level compared to last week but nonetheless continued fighting around Sanski Most.
Dick reviewed with all three leaders the agenda for the Dayton, Ohio talks -- territorial issues; constitutional issues; the right of return of refugees, whether they're Serbian or Muslim or Croatian; political issues having to do with the future makeup of a government, having to do with the peace, having to do with the effort to ensure the peace after a peace agreement is signed.
In addition to the agreement on Eastern Slavonia from President Tudjman, yesterday's agreement on the establishment of Liaison Offices was a small but important step forward. We are encouraged by that.
Dick also raised with all of these leaders the importance of continued adherence and support for the War Crimes Tribunal. We do not believe that we should take our concentration away from the effort to find those, whether they're Croatian or Serbian or anyone else, responsible for the brutalities, both brutalities of the last few weeks and brutalities of the last few years.
Dick gave a very strong message to all parties that the United States will continue to support the War Crimes Tribunal. He specifically raised the case of Arkan -- the criminal Arkan -- with President Milosevic. He reaffirmed the interests that the United States has in seeing that the Serbian Government stop the activities of Arkan.
Finally, I would just point to an important political fact, and that is that the Contact Group, for the first time, traveled together on the same plane to all of these meetings. Dick did not have individual meetings with these three Presidents. Carl Bildt and Igor Ivanov were with him throughout. They made the first direct flight in from Belgrade to Sarajevo together. They worked well together which augers well for the Proximity Peace Talks that we're planning for Dayton, Ohio. Because these talks will be co-chaired with Dick Holbrooke, Ivanov, and Bildt together. That's an important aspect of this.
Final point. There was a lot of talk over the last couple of days, a lot of debate on Capitol Hill. Secretary Christopher believes that this was a good beginning to our national debate about whether or not the United States should deploy military forces as part of a NATO implementation effort. He believes that the case is strong. He believes it's clear, and he believes that eventually -- and before too long -- the American people and the Congress will decide to support the deployment of American troops to the region.
We want to make sure that the debate in this country is a rational debate, a reasonable debate, and a constructive one. We would not like to see an environment created that might detract from the Proximity Peace Talks, that might lead some to believe that the United States Government, the Congress, and the American people are not united in one respect. We all want to see these peace talks succeed.
Americans, while they may differ over the issue of deployment of American forces, ought to be united in our effort and in our stewardship of the peace process to see the Dayton, Ohio talks proceed. It was not always clear from the debate in Congress over the last two weeks -- two days, excuse me -- that this was, in fact, the case. We certainly would not want to send a message to anybody overseas or any of the participants in the Proximity Peace Talks that Americans aren't united in our quest for peace.
That's a very important point that occurs to us, that flows out of a discussion on Capitol Hill over the last two days.
Q You say that you are confident that the Congress will decide to support U.S. participation. Does that mean that the Administration will go to Congress for a joint resolution or other form of literal support?
MR. BURNS: I mean to say here, Jim, that the Secretary is confident, in the wake of his four Committee hearings over the last two days, that the case that the Administration is putting forward -- and we just began that process this week -- is a compelling one, and that it speaks to our vital national interests; and it's in our interests to send American troops to take part in the effort to ensure a peace.
The Secretary said many times during the last two days that the Administration would welcome support from the Congress to deploy American troops. That was, in fact, in the opening paragraph of his testimony before each of the four Committees.
Q I know. I was asking if the Administration has now decided to go and ask for specific support.
MR. BURNS: No, I'm not making that statement this morning. I don't believe that decision has been made that we're seeking a particular resolution or a bill. We're seeking support. That means that when the time comes, and if the time comes, if these peace talks are successful in Dayton and if a peace agreement is then signed in Paris, then the United States will face the choice -- the Administration, the Congress, the American people -- do we participate in the NATO effort to enforce the peace, ensure the peace.
At that time, having seen a successful peace conference and a signing, we can't imagine that the Congress, frankly, would not come to the conclusion that having led the effort to achieve the peace, we would abandon the effort to enforce the peace.
Why would the United States use all the power and influence that we have to organize and galvanize the international community on the effort to stop the Bosnian Serbs -- as we've done over the last couple of months -- to lead the diplomatic process, and then suddenly at the eleventh hour, at the end of the game, just to walk away and say to the Canadians and the British and French and Germans, this is your business. You've now got to take the situation and enforce the peace."
We would destroy our credibility as the leader of NATO if we did that. That is the compelling argument for congressional support and American public support for this effort.
Q Nick, the Secretary thought that the case was strong and clear. It certainly didn't seem clear to a lot of the people from their questions -- to a lot of the Congressmen and Senators over the last two days that they believe the case is clear.
Does the Secretary think that the case has been made, period, or does he think that there's a lot more work that needs to be done?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary said publicly -- I believe it was in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the second hearing -- that he thought that we had begun this debate in the United States; that he very firmly believes that Congress has a right to ask questions. Congress has a right to disagree. Congress has a right to expect that the Administration will continue to make this case over the next couple of weeks -- from the President on down -- and we'll certainly do that.
But the Secretary also believes that we are making a compelling case. If you examine it on its merits and try to put aside some of the political emotions of the moment and the partisan differences, but look at the merits; look at the clear U.S. national interests in continuing a strong NATO; in preventing an outbreak, a spreading of the war in Bosnia; in seeing that our allies are supported as part of this peacekeeping force. Those are compelling national interests.
If you try to put away some of the emotions of the moment, we think that we'll be able to convince the Congress and the American people that this is the right thing to do for the future security of the United States.
That's what he means, Charlie. This is the opening of our national discussion on this. He certainly does not believe that having appeared four times, he now no longer needs to go up to Capitol Hill. He intends to maintain a very active dialogue with the Congress on this issue. This is the most important issue facing us, and this is where the Secretary is putting his time.
Q Nick, since this discussion started on the Hill during days while Secretary Holbrooke was meeting with the principals, what did he say to the principals to calm them, to assure them that the Administration was on solid ground, despite these complications?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Holbrooke certainly reaffirmed what both President Clinton and Secretary Christopher have said many times. The United States has been asked by the Bosnian Government, by the Serbian Government and the Croatian Government, not only to sponsor the peace talks here in the United States, but to play the leading role within NATO in the implementation of the military effort. That is a commitment that we take seriously.
We have made a commitment that we will be centrally involved in both the diplomacy and in both the effort to assure the peace afterwards. We have made a commitment, we'll stick to that commitment. So they can be assured that we will live by our commitment.
Q Did he tell them that the Administration -- in the Administration's view the War Powers Act would not apply in such a case?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke got into a discussion of those particular issues. But he certainly has reaffirmed the intention of the Clinton Administration to live up to its commitments, both to our allies and to the countries in the Balkans.
Q Nick, the question I asked yesterday: How can there be time for a full discussion of the issues for deliberation and consensus- building when the details of the agreement will not be completely known until after the conference -- the Proximity Talks. There will apparently be a short time in Paris, and then there's only a matter of, what, four or five days, before the implementation and the first troops to go in?
How would there be time for this country to deliberate it?
MR. BURNS: The deliberations have begun, Bill. They began, certainly, before this week, but they came into full public view this week. The Proximity Talks are ten days away. Those talks could take anywhere from one day to three or four weeks, if not longer. Then, if the talks are successful, there will probably be a period of about a week before the Paris peace conference was convened, and then there will be 96 hours after the signing of an agreement before a NATO force is entered into the area.
We certainly have enough time to discuss these issues. We know basically, Bill, what the shape of the peace will be -- basically, although not in detail. We know basically what the mission of the military force will be -- the NATO force. Secretary Perry and Chairman Shalikashvili, I think, went through that in quite a detailed way with the Congress.
There's enough time for us to have a national discussion on this and to make up our minds. The Clinton Administration has a very clear and certain idea of how we think we should proceed, and where we think we should be heading.
Q Can I ask you a specific about deployment, Nick. Deployment of troops and the strategy and the rules of engagement was discussed -- or asked about quite a bit, and there were a lot of holes in the strategy so far.
But if United States troops were on the ground in a buffer situation, in a DMZ kind of situation, and there was an artillery exchange between one party and another, would the U.S. have to respond by punishing -- being the biggest dog, you know, out there by punishing either or both sides? Would we punish the Muslims if they were involved?
MR. BURNS: It's really a question that was debated throughout the last two days. I think Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili gave complete answers to that question. You've asked a hypothetical question. I don't think it's useful to answer questions like that for the most part. I think that the Pentagon gave a very full description of what we would and would not do -- could and could not do under certain situations. That's pretty clear to me.
Q You mentioned Arkan. Did Assistant Secretary Holbrooke mention in his discussions with President Milosevic a connection between settling the Eastern Slavonian problem and the future of Arkan?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe he linked it to the problem of Eastern Slavonia. In addition to his conversation, as you know, John Shattuck, our Assistant Secretary of State, visited Zenica this week; traveled throughout western and central Bosnia; visited Knin in the Krajina region; talked to hundreds of refugees in Zenica and Knin.
He gave a press conference that I would refer you to, a press conference in Zagreb this morning. But in short, he has been able to develop and I think corroborate evidence of mass brutalities committed by the Bosnian Serbs in and around Banja Luka. The figures are staggering -- the figures that he gave to me over the phone just an hour or two ago: 6,200 refugees at Zenica; 2,000 family members of those 6,200 left behind in Banja Luka; consistent reports from a variety of refugees in Zenica of brutal killings; of systematic looting of houses; of forced expulsions of Moslems and Croats from Banja Luka.
The picture is a very grim and brutal picture of what the Bosnian Serbs, among them Arkan, did to the Moslems and Croatians around Banja Luka. In the Krajina, he visited Knin. He talked to the Croatian Government about his trip there when he was in Zagreb. We are pleased that the Croatian Government has now arrested at least 25 people who may be complicit in the crimes against the Serbian population that was forced from the Krajina region in August and September.
Assistant Secretary Shattuck is bringing back to the United States a very, very sordid picture of human rights abuses, and that's why I wanted to accentuate the point about the War Crimes Tribunal. That's why Dick Holbrooke also raised that point with the three Presidents.
Q Nick, you said earlier that Serbia should put a stop to Arkan's activities. Did we make any suggestions to Serbia how they should do that?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to go into the details of the discussion that Dick Holbrooke had with President Milosevic on this issue. But suffice it to say we raised it in a very serious and determined way.
Q The way you phrased it earlier seems to go a little bit farther than the way you've phrased it in the past about saying that they have influence. That seems to be calling for some action.
MR. BURNS: They certainly have influence, and we've called upon the Serbian Government consistently to exercise that influence for the good in Bosnia.
Q Do you have any update on the KEDO meeting in New York?
MR. BURNS: I do not have an update. But it's something, if you're interested, we can look into for you.
Q Update on the (inaudible) work team on Japanese --
MR. BURNS: The third meeting of the working group was held last Friday. We continue to review with the Japanese Government the implementation of certain aspects of the SOFA, and that work continues. But I can't point to any dramatic conclusions to that work yet. I'm sure they will be forthcoming, but we don't have them yet.
Q There's a big march happening this weekend in Okinawa. It's not going to (inaudible), but is it possible to see some kind of results by then, or, if not, when is the target for the Americans --
MR. BURNS: The work will proceed with the Japanese Government in a deliberate way so that we can tackle all the problems in a serious way. I don't know if the working group will be ready by this weekend, but I hope that the people of Okinawa understand the great seriousness with which we are studying these issues, and the great feeling of apology and shame that many Americans have about the brutal events of early September in Okinawa.
There's a great desire within this government to demonstrate to the Japanese people our respect for them, our respect for our alliance with Japan, and our wish that the United States and Japan will move forward together in our security alliance.
Q So what is the obstacle at this moment? It's been already three -- almost a month from the meeting in New York -- and it's almost a month before Clinton is going to -- the President is going to Japan. What is withholding the progress? Is it a Korean issue, that they seem to be frustrated by our talks?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there are obstacles that are blocking progress. These are complicated issues. They're important ones, and I think both governments want to take enough time to deal with them in a serious and effective way. I think we're working well with the Japanese Government on this issue.
Q Nick, has there been (inaudible) in this Administration on their stance toward the South Pacific nuclear-free zone?
MR. BURNS: I really have nothing for you on that particular issue, Sid. Nothing for you today on that particular issue.
MR. BURNS: We'll see.
Any further questions? You've been waiting. I'm sorry.
Q I have two very quick questions. Have the time and venue for the signing of the Northern Iraq Peace Agreement been decided yet?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything for you on that as well.
Q Secondly, I was wondering if you would have any comments on recent New York Times' editorial claiming that the U.S. Administration is arming Turkey's oppression?
MR. BURNS: My only comment would be that we have an alliance with Turkey. We have a good relationship with Turkey. We have a security relationship that makes sense for the American people and Turkish people, and that will continue.
We also have an interest in human rights, and we have made known to the Turkish Government on a continual basis some concerns that we've had for the human rights situation within Turkey. This is not a surprise to you or anyone else. We have a human rights report published annually that talks about this in print. But we have a good relationship with the Turkish Government.
When we have differences, we prefer to keep them private, as one normally does, in a relationship like this.
Q Did you think the editorial's characterization of the State Department's recent report on Turkey's southeast problem was accurate?
MR. BURNS: I can't quite remember exactly how the editorial depicted that problem, so I don't want to answer that question. But certainly we will continue to have a relationship with Turkey that is balanced; that accentuates the positive aspects of our security and political relationship, but that never, of course, submerges the very important emphasis on human rights that the American and Turkish peoples, I think, would agree on, that has to exist in this relationship.
Q One more on --
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q The other day the State Department promised the Japanese Government about the investigation -- alleged CIA spying. Did you respond to Japan's government already?
MR. BURNS: We never discuss allegations of intelligence activities or reports of intelligence activities. We have a wide-ranging discussion with the Japanese Government, and this week the Japanese Government has approached us about many issues, some emanating from some of the newspaper reports that go back to your question. But I have nothing further to add to that question.
Q One more on Russia?
MR. BURNS: Let's just go here. One question in the back. We'll just leave it like that, Bill, and maybe take the Russian question afterwards.
Q There are reports in the Greek press during the week that NATO developed a plan providing for the partial autonomy of the Greek province of Thrace -- western Thrace -- and do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't.
Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 2:07 p.m.)
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