U.S. Department of State 96/01/24 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX Wednesday, January 24, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Wye Talks/Composition of Delegations............1-2,20,24-27 DEPARTMENT Announcement: Initiative on Abkhazia............2 Secretary Christopher's Upcoming Travel Plans. 22-24 CHINA Reported Plans for Limited Attacks on Taiwan...2-11 Military Exercises/Taiwanese Elections........ 3-4,11 Taiwan Relations Act.......................... 4,5-6 Comments of Ambassador Sasser and former Ass't Secy of Defense Nye....................6-7 Departure of Lt. Colonel Gerdes from Beijing.. 8-9 Weapons Sales to Taiwan...................... 10-11 Ambassador's Sasser's Departure Plans..........24 NORTH/SOUTH KOREA KEDO: Financial Status/Oil Shipment............11-15 --Trilateral Talks............................ 12 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA State of Alert for U.S. Troops.................15,16,19 Departure of Foreign Forces/Prisoner Exchange..16-17,19 Training/Equipment.............................18-19 ISRAEL Case of Mr. Polaroid...........................21-22 IRAQ Sale of Oil for Humanitarian Purposes/ Sanctions....................................27-28 Colombia Possible Action by President Samper............28-29 FRANCE Nuclear Testing................................29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 1996, 1:10 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to all of you. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
The talks at the Wye Conference Centers have begun. Ambassador Dennis Ross has convened all the parties -- Syrians and Israelis -- five officials from each side, including two military officers from both Syria and Israel. If you're interested, we'll be very glad to make that delegation list available to you.
Let me just go over it in a minute. But I would just say that the United States hopes for very serious, productive and comprehensive discussions on all the issues that are currently separating Syria and Israel. As Secretary Christopher has said a couple of times this week, we are hoping for progress in this round of the talks.
We expect that the talks will continue today, tomorrow and Friday. They will recess for two days over the weekend. They will reconvene on Monday, Tuesday and perhaps into Wednesday. Following that, the Secretary will be making a trip to the Middle East after his trip to the Balkans. He'll be visiting Damascus and Jerusalem to follow up with both President Assad and Prime Minister Peres on this round of talks.
The Syrian delegation is led by Ambassador Walid al-Moualem, and he is assisted by two members of the Syrian Foreign Ministry and two generals from the Syrian army.
The Israeli delegation is being headed by Dr. Uri Savir, and, of course, he is accompanied by Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, as well as another official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Jerusalem and two Israeli generals.
The American delegation is comprised of Ambassador Dennis Ross who leads our delegation, assisted by Mark Parris from the National Security Council, Aaron Miller and Toni Verstandig of the Department of State, and Lieutenant General Dan Christman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who is well known to many of you.
I'd also like to read a brief announcement on the recent initiatives on Abkhazia. The United States welcomes the decision of the heads of state of the Newly Independent States taken during their recent summit meeting in Moscow to undertake initiatives to encourage serious negotiations towards a peaceful settlement of the separatist dispute in Abkhazia, which is a region of Georgia.
These initiatives include an embargo of military equipment and arms and a commitment to coordinate with the Georgian Government on all trade to the region as well as a three-month extension of the mandate of the peacekeeping force there.
We're also pleased that on January 12, the United Nations Security Council decided to renew the mandate of the U.N. observers in Georgia.
The United States reiterates our very strong support for the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Georgia. The United States will continue to support initiatives to encourage both the Georgians and the Abkhaz to participate in serious negotiations toward an early and comprehensive settlement of their disputes. We intend to work closely with the United Nations, with the Georgian Government, with the Russian Federation and with others towards this objective.
There should be no mistaking our very strong support for President Shevardnadze, for the Government of Georgia and our very strong support for his initiatives to try to end the problems there.
Q Nick, maybe we can deal with the China story. There's one at least in the Times where the Chinese are said to have told the United States -- the Administration quietly that China's completed plans for limited attacks on Taiwan. Do you know whether there's any basis to that account?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I am not aware of any specific Chinese assertions to the United States along the lines of those reported in The New York Times' story this morning. To our knowledge, the Chinese Government has not changed its fundamental policy of seeking a peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
It is true that China has conducted military exercises in advance of several of the elections on Taiwan, going back to 1988, and what we have noted recently from our own observation of those Chinese exercises is that they in fact continue.
But what we have seen to date does not lead us to the conclusion that China's policy has altered. We judge that at present there is no imminent threat to the security of Taiwan. We, nevertheless, are monitoring this situation very closely.
The long-standing position of the United States is that the future of Taiwan is a matter for the Chinese people themselves on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resolve. But the United States does have an abiding interest that any resolution be peaceful.
The Taiwan Relations Act states that it is the policy of the United States to "consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States".
There has been no change in this U.S. position, and the Chinese Government is quite familiar with the views of the United States, and we have reminded the Chinese Government at senior policy levels of late of this U.S. policy.
We have told the Chinese that military exercises or other intimidating exhibitions of military power are not helpful to promoting an atmosphere of peace and stability in the area. We have urged both sides to refrain from any actions which would increase tensions in the region.
Q So far as these exercises are concerned, if we drop the word "plans," in the U.S.'s analysis of these exercises, can you tell us, has there been any determination that they amount to what would be preparatory to an attack? I mean, is there a way to analyze what they're doing to probe their intentions? Do the exercises add up to something alarming?
MR. BURNS: We do not come to the conclusion that these exercises add up to a situation that would pose an imminent threat to Taiwan. The fact is, Barry, as I've just said -- but I think it's worth repeating -- the Chinese have conducted military exercises around elections in Taiwan all the way back to 1988.
As you know, earlier in 1995 when there were problems associated with the issuance of the visa to President Li Teng-hui, there were military exercises that we spoke out against at that time.
We just want China and Taiwan to resolve their problems and disputes peacefully. We don't think it is proper for either to engage in intimidating gestures toward the other.
Q Nick, two things: First on that story, The New York Times' story, comment is made that the Chinese told one of these sources that the Taiwan Relations Act -- America doesn't really take it seriously; that they are more interested in keeping Los Angeles standing than Taipei. If you could comment on that.
And, secondly, if you could sort of put into plain English what is a very ambiguous Act -- the Taiwan Relations Act. What in fact is the United States prepared to do if that Act becomes triggered by an attack?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, I can't substantiate that quote. It comes from an unnamed person in China, and the quote doesn't make a lot of sense.
Second, Sid, I chose today as part of my first answer to Barry's question to actually read, to quote from the Taiwan Relations Act, because that is, I think, the best way to describe the United States' view toward this issue.
The Act says what it does, and I'll be glad to re-read it, if you'd like. But it is meant to say exactly what it does say, and I think the meaning of this language -- some may call it ambiguous, as the newspaper account calls ambiguous -- the meaning is quite clear to the Chinese Government, as it is to us.
Q While we're on the subject, has there been any action on that transit request for the Vice President?
MR. BURNS: We are awaiting detailed information from Vice President Li about his transit of the United States. Once we receive that information, we will act expeditiously to make a decision on this request.
Q Nick, does the State Department find the continuation of those visa requests to be provocative, considering what the state of relations is with China?
MR. BURNS: We find them to be routine. They are routine matters. The fact is that the Taiwan authorities have chosen to send their representatives to many of the democratic transitions here in our hemisphere, and that is a routine matter, and it should not have any impact on U.S.-China relations.
Q At a senior level of late there had been a reminder to the Chinese about U.S. policy with Taiwan. Can you be more specific? Did the Secretary have consultations with the Foreign Minister of China?
MR. BURNS: No, the Secretary has not had a meeting with the Foreign Minister since the meeting in October. We have regular consultations with the Chinese Government, both here in Washington -- there's an Ambassador here -- and in Beijing, where we have a Charge d'Affaires, and where we will soon have our Ambassador. Ambassador Sasser will be going out in just a couple of weeks.
Certainly, this is an issue that is of great concern to the United States, and so we've taken care to make sure that our views are well known to the Chinese Government of late.
Q "Of late," meaning?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the specific date of the discussions, but you can be assured that the Chinese Government is well aware of our views on this and other issues.
Q I got the impression that there used to be a mutual defense treaty between the United States and what then was called the Republic of China and the United States. Was that rendered moot by the Taiwan Relations Act?
MR. BURNS: The Taiwan Relations Act is the operative document that describes relations between -- the unofficial relations between the United States and Taiwan. In this case I've quoted from some language from that Act, which is pertinent to the question that both Sid and Barry were asking.
Q But there is no automatic trip wire mechanism in that Relations Act as there was in the previous mutual defense treaty.
MR. BURNS: I don't remember, at least from my own history books, the specifics of the treaty that existed prior to 1979, but that is not operative, of course. What is operative in the unofficial relations with the United States and Taiwan is the Taiwan Relations Act. That is the operative document, and that does set forth parameters for the unofficial relations that we have with Taiwan.
Q I'm sorry to inflict this on everybody. Could you read that language again just --
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to. I'll be glad to quote from it. This is language from the Taiwan Relations Act, which states that it is the policy of the United States, "to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States."
Q Also in that article they mention about a strategic ambiguity, and I thought it also meant referring to the former Assistant Secretary of Defense Nye and the new Ambassador to China, Senator Sasser. Their comments are that nobody knows whether the U.S. is going to take any actions if PRC takes actions against Taiwan. But we also have David Johnson from the White House two days ago telling us that Nye never said that. So it's really getting confused.
Tell us -- is it really their personal view that nobody knows what the U.S. is going to do, or that's pretty much the official line? From now on the U.S. is going to answer that kind of question.
MR. BURNS: Well, Joe Nye is now Dean of the Kennedy School. We had a good meeting with him last Thursday when we were up in Cambridge. Whatever comments he made when he was Assistant Secretary of Defense -- of course, I just can't account for all the comments he may have made.
I don't remember the specific quote to which you're referring. I think we can clear up the misunderstanding by calling your attention to this particular language. Some may call it ambiguous. But I think the intent here and the degree of interest that the United States takes in these questions is quite apparent to all in the region, including the Chinese Government.
I think what's especially important here, in light of the story this morning, is that we have taken the time recently to remind the Chinese Government of these interests that the United States has. We are a Pacific power. We have interests in the Pacific.
We have unofficial relations with Taiwan, but those unofficial relations, especially in the non-governmental sense, trade relations with the United States are quite important to the United States.
So I think that the message that we're communicating today is quite clear to the Chinese Government.
Q (Inaudible) even though Ambassador Sasser repeated the same thing the other day.
MR. BURNS: The problem that I have here, the limitation that I have, is that I can't recall from memory everything that Senator Sasser said during his confirmation hearings or speeches or testimony that Joe Nye may have given while was Assistant Secretary of Defense and in our government.
What I can tell you very clearly is what the policy of our government is. I've given you that, and I've also told you what we've done diplomatically.
Q Would a conventional missile attack by the PLA against Taiwan, would that be a situation that would violate our vital security interests as a Pacific power? Would we intervene in some way?
MR. BURNS: Bill, what we could do is play the game, the hypothetical game, "what would happen if; what would you do if." The fact is that as we look at the situation today, in light of the story that was published in the New York Times this morning, we do not believe that there is an imminent security threat from China toward Taiwan. We are monitoring that situation very carefully.
We have talked to the Chinese Government about this situation. We do not believe that threats, acts that are meant to intimidate, or the use of military power to resolve disputes are the way to go forward. We don't believe that they are admissible in relations between countries.
We think that the way for these problems to be worked out is for the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits to work them out together peacefully -- peacefully; not through the use of military force or the threat of military force. I think we're quite clear about that.
Q Nick, Mr. Freeman is quoted here in this article as saying -- Freeman. Mr. Freeman, I believe. He says, "that there are those who assert. Some" -- he says -- "in Beijing may be prepared to engage in nuclear blackmail against the United States to ensure that Americans do not obstruct efforts by the People's Liberation Army to defend the principles of Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and Chinese national unity." Could you comment on that particular --
MR. BURNS: I can't. I think it would be unfair for me to selectively take a quote from a former official of this government and to comment on it. I don't know what else he may have said to the New York Times or other newspapers.
I would just say that the United States is on the record publicly, and certainly on the record privately, with the Chinese Government as to our views on this matter. We don't believe there is an imminent threat. I think we've made ourselves very clear here.
But the Chinese have to know that the United States does have interests in the Pacific.
Q Doesn't all this activity, the missile tests and so forth, have the effect of disrupting shipping traffic through the Straits of Taiwan which, as you said, is of vital interest to the United States, with insurance rates going up, etc.?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm just not intimately familiar with the shipping lanes, or the shipping traffic, the nature of the traffic; whether it's been interrupted in the past, a year or so during some of these military exercises. I just don't know, so it's hard for me to answer that particular question.
Q Is the U.S. asking the Taiwanese leaders what their impression of all this is?
MR. BURNS: We have unofficial relations with Taiwan. The American Institute on Taiwan, which is a private organization, as you know, does have discussions with Taiwanese authorities. Of course, those discussions cover security issues and issues like this as well as economic issues. I'm sure that those officials, private officials, have those conversations.
Q When you say the U.S. is carefully monitoring the situation, what does that mean? Can you be a little more specific?
Does that include the dispatch of the Assistant U.S. Air Force Attache, Colonel Gerdes to Guangdong to check things out?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Lt. Colonel Gerdes has left Beijing. He left Beijing last Friday at the request of the Chinese Government. I'm sure that there will be a successor to Lt. Colonel Gerdes, and I'm sure that we'll maintain a very active military attache program in Beijing.
When I say that "we're monitoring the situation," I mean that we are monitoring the situation by all the means available to the United States to do so.
Q Have you decided whether or not to retaliate for the Gerdes incident?
MR. BURNS: We continue to review this incident and the implications of this incident for U.S.-China relations. We have not determined a course of action.
I wanted to give you a chance to follow up.
Q Nick, Mr. Freeman, of course, is the main source of the New York Times story. He was a State Department official before he moved to the Pentagon.
The story says that he informed Mr. Lake of the National Security Council of the contents of his conversations with the Chinese leaders. I wonder whether he had any contact with this building -- people in this building -- and informed people in this building?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Freeman is -- you're correct in saying he is no longer an employee of the United States Government. He is a widely respected person in this building. I'm sure he has conversations with people in this building, but I'm not aware of any specific conversations that he's had.
Q (Inaudible) conference over at the White House to discuss --
MR. BURNS: A "conference?"
Q I don't want to limit it -- conference, seminar, coffee, call it whatever it want.
MR. BURNS: Seminars are held at the Aspen Institute; not the one at the Wye Plantation, the other one. We sometimes have Town Meetings. We don't have seminars. Sometimes the press is invited, sometimes the press is not invited to Town Meetings.
Q As described in that story at the NSC with Tony Lake.
MR. BURNS: If we did have meetings about this or any other matter dealing with national security issues, it's our practice not to announce them publicly. I'm not aware of what meetings were or were not held. If I were aware, I wouldn't say so publicly and you wouldn't expect me to.
Q While we're on Asia, can I ask you about another --
MR. BURNS: We have some follow-ups, Jim, and then we'll be glad to go.
Q A follow-up, actually. The other thing that Li Teng-Hui came out and said today was that he wanted the United States to continue supporting arms sales to Taiwan. What's the U.S. position, or is it the U.S. position right now that it might be better to go slow on further arms sales to Taiwan -- slow them up procedurally?
MR. BURNS: Our position is that we'll act in the interests of the United States. The United States has sold weapons to Taiwan. The Bush Administration took that decision. This Administration is taking that decision. In some instances, we deal with requests on a case-by-case basis. We don't have a blanket policy. As requests are made, requests are considered. Sometimes the requests are approved and sometimes they're not. So there's no blanket policy that I can give you on that score.
Q Is there a policy on what you can and can't give Taiwan? There have been varying interpretations of it through the years.
MR. BURNS: Yes, there have.
Q You're not allowed to give them something new, for instance, are you?
MR. BURNS: There are parameters that govern defense sales by the United States to Taiwan.
Q You have some restraints on what you can do.
MR. BURNS: There are often restraints and there are often constraints. There are parameters that are set up by Congress sometimes on U.S. defense sales.
The United States always considers its national interests when it determines whether or not to agree to every request for arms sales from any country, not just from the Taiwan authorities.
Q So you're not bound by previous provisions? One interpretation was arming Taiwan had to be gradually reduced to zero. Another interpretation subsequently was, they could get arms but they couldn't be made stronger, given more advanced equipment. You're not trying to get rid of those -- you're not talking those restraints away, are you, by any chance?
MR. BURNS: No, nothing that I said would lead me to conclude that's the case, no. I'm not trying to say that. We just deal with these requests on a case-by-case basis.
Q Nick, although there has been a long history of Chinese military exercises in the Straits of Taiwan, they are now taking place certainly more frequently and on a larger scale than ever before. Yet, you still assert there is no change in the Chinese position of peaceful negotiation.
How did you get that conclusion? Were you assured by the Chinese in private that there will be no aggression against Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to go into our private conversations with the Chinese. We do know that China has been conducting military exercises, and frequently before elections that are being held on Taiwan. That is abundantly clear to everybody. We monitor these exercises and we have conversations with the Chinese Government about them.
It is our judgment, based on all the information available to us from all of our discussions in the area as well as from other information that we look at, that there is right now not an imminent threat to Taiwan. We hope very much, and we expect very much, that that will remain the case.
Q Are you prepared to draw up any precautionary measures, contingency plans?
MR. BURNS: I know of no such exercise in the government. Were we to have such an exercise, we would, of course, do that privately and without the glare of publicity. We wouldn't talk about it if we did it, but I know of no such exercise underway.
Betsy had a question.
Q A different subject?
MR. BURNS: Jim, you had one on Asia, too. Let's stay with Asia and then we'll go back to Betsy.
Q I asked, I think on Monday, whether KEDO was running out of money and whether it could fulfill its obligation to send the February shipment of fuel. Do you have an answer?
MR. BURNS: I do have an answer. The United States has requested $22 million from the Congress for support to KEDO, much of which will be used to finance the delivery of the bunker fuel oil, the heavy fuel oil, to North Korea as part of our agreement with them pertaining to the Agreed Framework.
Unfortunately, the Foreign Operations appropriations has not come forward to the President. It has not been presented to him to sign and therefore the $22 million is not immediately available to the United States. This is an unfortunate -- unfortunate -- example of how the current budget debate and the breakdown of the budget talks is affecting U.S. national security interests. We're not happy about that.
Assistant Secretary of State Win Lord tonight, in Honolulu, begins his trilateral talks with the Vice Foreign Ministers of Japan and of the Republic of Korea. These talks were agreed to at the Osaka Ministerial by then Foreign Minister Kono, by Foreign Minister Gong, and by Secretary Christopher.
The purpose of these talks is to talk about North Korea; to talk about the operations of KEDO, to talk about the fact that KEDO does need financial support not only from the United States but from others; to talk about the implementation schedule of the Agreed Framework -- and as Assistant Secretary Lord said before leaving the Philippines, to talk abut the fact that the United Nations is concerned about the humanitarian food crisis in North Korea.
Assistant Secretary Lord was quite clear with the media that he thinks that -- and of course, he's speaking for the United States Government -- that, if indeed there is a humanitarian crisis attested to by the United Nations, all of us should be open to solutions to help people on a humanitarian basis.
In that respect, the United States has contributed $225,000 towards food relief in North Korea. We now are certainly open to further requests from the United Nations for further action from us and others.
Q If Congress doesn't come up with this $22 million, does that mean the fuel oil will not go, or will South Korea and Japan jump in and fill the gap?
MR. BURNS: The United States has responsibility for this part of the bargain. What we're hoping for us quick Congressional action to make this bill available to the President. In an extreme situation, I believe the President, on his own authority -- under 614 authority -- could possibly take some action to free up some funds. That's extreme. We would much rather work with the Congress amicably to get these funds to meet our international commitments on, arguably, one of the most important security problems facing the United States and our allies in Japan and South Korea.
That is, the situation in North Korea and the fact that the Agreed Framework is working well. The North Korean nuclear program is frozen. So it's very much in our interests to get this done.
One further note, and then I'll be glad to respond to a follow-up, and that is, Assistant Secretary Lord, if all of you had not known this, has succeeded Ambassador Gallucci as our overall coordinator for U.S. relations with North Korea.
As you know, Ambassador Gallucci now is the senior official in our government responsible for the Bosnian implementation. Since it was judged that he should not do two big jobs at once, Assistant Secretary Lord has taken over his duties pertaining to North Korea.
Q Does the Presidential authority stretch far enough to cover a $22 million --
MR. BURNS: I'd have to check with our Congressional experts on that and our budgetary experts, but I believe it would. But that's not how government should work. The Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch with a common view toward this problem in North Korea ought to be able to act together. That's where our focus lies right now.
Q Nick, the original agreement, I thought, provided for a series of deliveries.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q Unless I'm wrong -- and I could be wrong -- the U.S. was responsible for the first delivery and others were to pay for the oil for subsequent deliveries. I don't know how many deliveries there have been, but I know there's been a first delivery, at least.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q So you're saying that the U.S. is obliged to pay for these follow-on, if I can use that phrase, deliveries? We're supposed to arrange for the deliveries but --
MR. BURNS: The United States, way back almost a year ago, arranged for the first deliveries of oil. There were subsequent deliveries throughout 1995. KEDO now is the main operational body for implementation of the Agreed Framework, so the United States is not acting alone here. But we do have a commitment to finance KEDO. KEDO is relying upon the United States for this $22 million to finance its subsequent oil shipments to North Korea. That's the crux of the problem here.
Q And that's the oil?
MR. BURNS: And that's the oil. KEDO delivers the oil. KEDO is a body that is comprised of the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Australia, and others. It doesn't have its own independent appropriations. It requires funds from the United States.
Q I thought South Korea and Japan would undertake the bulk of the financial burden --
MR. BURNS: They have.
Q -- and the U.S. would get the ball rolling with the first oil delivery and then, while it's the U.S.'s responsibility to make sure the oil keeps flowing under the schedule, the others would pay for it?
MR. BURNS: There's no difference of opinion here. There may be a misunderstanding. The fact is that Japan and the Republic of Korea have been the major financial contributors to KEDO.
All of these contributions, of course, are targeted at specific programs. The United States contribution is to cover the KEDO financial obligations on the fuel oil deliveries. That's why it's important.
I guess what you're saying is, aren't funds fungible? Can't you move funds around? Well, there are major obligations that KEDO has to construct light-water reactors and to deliver fuel oil. We've taken on the responsibility to provide wherewithal to get the fuel oil delivered and we ought to be able to meet our international commitments. That's all I'm saying here.
Q But the U.S. wouldn't have this agreement falter because of a technical problem here in Washington when you have other money bags --
MR. BURNS: We certainly will not allow that to happen. I'm just making a simple point. That is that we would hope that the legislative machinery here in Washington would work more efficiently on a problem that is clearly of vital interest to the United States.
Q Just a follow-up. You said South Korea and Japan have contributed the major portion. To my knowledge, they have not made a declaration yet of how much they've declared. How much have they contributed to KEDO so far?
MR. BURNS: They are the major financial contributors. I don't have with me in my head or on paper the exact amount that's been pledged, but we'll get that for you.
Q How much oil is supposed to be delivered, and when is it supposed to be delivered?
MR. BURNS: I'll check on that for you, Patrick. You mean the tonnage, and so forth?
MR. BURNS: I don't have that with me. I'll check on it.
Q You don't know --
MR. BURNS: I'll look into it for you. Betsy, I'm sorry. You've been very patient.
We're moving to Bosnia. Any others on Korea?
MR. BURNS: Let's move to Bosnia and then we'll move back to Asia. How about that?
Q Do you have any response to the Chris Hedges article this morning saying that U.S. troops have gone n heightened alert because of the sentencing of the Sheik in New York?
Also, do you have anything more on the movement of mujehedin and other foreign troops out of Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: That story, I think, provoked a response from Secretary Perry this morning. He was on the record. He spoke to the press. I think his comments stand on their own. He said there is a heightened state of security because of some threats to our troops in the area. And -- yes?
Q I'm sorry.
MR. BURNS: No, please.
Q That's not exactly what he said. What he said was that there is no heightened state of alert. He said the "state of alert is always high."
MR. BURNS: Well, we're quibbling over words here. But in any case, the United States is aware of possible threats to our forces, and the Secretary of Defense has spoken to that. If you prefer his words to mine, I suggest you take his because he's the Secretary of Defense and I'm not.
Q But there is a difference here, Nick. You're saying there now exists a new state of alert. What he's saying is, no, there has always been this high state of alert and there's not some extra threat now.
MR. BURNS: I think we should let Secretary Perry's words speak for themselves. I'm not trying to confuse you here, Sid. There's no hidden meaning in my statement. Secretary Perry spoke to this, and let's let him speak for the U.S. Government on this issue. He's the Cabinet officer in charge on the security issues.
Q Do you have anything more on the expulsion of foreign forces, not only the mujehedin but also Russian forces that were in there as mercenaries?
Q And Americans, too.
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher called President Izetbegovic yesterday and specifically raised the very great concern that the United States has that all aspects of the Dayton Accords will be adhered to.
They talked about prisoner exchange. We are hopeful that as a result of Secretary Christopher's conversation with President Izetbegovic, there will be a complete release of prisoners -- Serb prisoners -- by the Bosnian Government and any other prisoners being held by the Bosnian Government and that that will be reciprocated by all the parties in the area.
On the issue of the mujehedin we've made clear time and again to the Bosnian Government this is a bottom-line issue for us. All foreign fighters have to leave -- whatever nationality, whatever ideological stripe, whatever their cause may be, they must leave. Adherence to the Dayton provisions is a condition for the provision of American assistance to Bosnia, specifically on equipping and training the Bosnian military forces after the six-month period is over.
Q Do you have a problem, too, on the lines where the forces are supposed to fall back to? Is there a new squabble that (inaudible) CBS --
MR. BURNS: Barry, we're relying on General Joulwan and General Nash and Admiral Smith who say that the zone of separation has been created; that there are no major problems. I think there's been some heavy weaponry left behind by all sides and that that weaponry will be destroyed if it's not released, according to the Pentagon.
Q CBS was reporting at noon that there has been no improvement on the prisoner exchange.
MR. BURNS: There has been no improvement?
Q The release isn't going forward. And also there's now a flap over the lines of the forces?
MR. BURNS: I did not see the report about the lines of the forces.
On the first issue, we are hopeful that there will be action imminent from the Bosnian Government.
Q (Inaudible) released in the 24 hours since Shattuck took it up with -- at least, 24 hours?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. There have been a trickle of people being released. There's been a trickle since the 19th of January. We would like the gates to be opened.
Q (Inaudible) that was mentioned for the release of these persons?
MR. BURNS: The deadline was Friday, January 19. They have not met the deadline. That's why we're displeased with the Bosnian Government and that's why we think the Bosnian Government should act expeditiously.
Q There's no sort of follow-on deadline that was called for?
MR. BURNS: I think Secretary Christopher made an important statement the other night which he and others have reaffirmed, and that is that if the Bosnian Government does not meet these commitments, it will not be possible for the United States to go forward with some of the assistance that the Bosnian Government is counting on.
Q When does it become -- when do these things not happen? When do things start not following on?
MR. BURNS: The equip and train cannot begin until six months after the signing of the Dayton Accords -- the six months after December 14.
Q But you can train up until that time?
MR. BURNS: The equipping can't begin until then. We have not yet --
Q The training continues?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that we have yet made a decision about which contractor will be selected to run this organization, to run this effort. If I were in the Bosnian Government, I would look very carefully at Secretary Christopher's words, that all of this, of course, is contingent upon the Bosnian Government meeting its commitments.
As a result of the phone call yesterday, we expect those commitments to be met. That's the message we heard, and now we're waiting for actions.
Q The World Bank this morning, cutting to this threat, announced a $150 million loan in assistance for the Bosnian Government. The U.S. has a third of the votes there. How does that jive with your threat?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher specifically mentioned equip and train efforts by the United States.
Q It's just equip and train?
MR. BURNS: I think what we said in general here, Sid -- and we said it yesterday and I'll be glad to say it again today -- if they want a normal, supportive, cooperative relationship, they can get that by meeting their commitments. If they don't meet their commitments, or if the Serbs don't meet their commitments or the Croatians, there will be consequences for American actions and American policy in the area.
We are accenting the negative here. I would prefer to accent the positive. There have been several hundred prisoners released. They need to release now several hundred more, and they have told us that they will do that. We're just going to have to expect and rely upon their word and the commitments they've made to us that that will happen.
We ought to just put our emphasis there. If in four or five months we're in a different position, we can talk about it.
Q But you did allow the World Bank loan to go through this morning?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I don't know anything about the World Bank loan. I don't know if the United States allowed the loan to go forward. We have a governor in the World Bank -- a United States governor. Most of these major loans do come up for a vote. I'm not familiar with the particular vote that was taken.
Secretary Christopher did not talk about World Bank loans. He talked about equip and train in his public comments on Monday evening.
Q Nick, the initial holdup in the prisoner exchange by the Bosnian Government was because they were looking for an accounting of up to 25,000 Muslims who were missing?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Is that still their stated reason for not following through?
MR. BURNS: We were quite sympathetic to that request. We feel that the Bosnian Serbs have an obligation to meet it. The International Committee of the Red Cross has set up a working group to try to compile a list of the missing and to look into specific individual cases of the missing. We think that is an initiative that makes sense that the Bosnian Government should appreciate.
Assistant Secretary Shattuck had a hand in getting that result.
Q Can I go back to the first question in this line on Bosnia and the theoretical -- our real heighten state of alert? Not only relating to Muslim fighters who may still be there but to the man identified as Kevin Holt, an American. Do you have anything on him, and how that bears on whether or not -- is he a threat to American forces there?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Perry spoke to this morning. We understand that IFOR personnel have been asked to be on the alert for a gentleman who goes by the name of Kevin Holt -- H-O-L-T -- who is reportedly an American citizen and who reportedly has expressed sympathy for extremist causes.
You know that American military personnel in the area have spoke on the record about this -- that was in the New York Times this morning -- and Secretary Perry spoke on the record about it this morning.
Q Does the State Department have any information to add to that?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we do. The information that we have is coming from the Pentagon. That's why I think the Pentagon is your best source on this particular story.
Q Do you know anything more than you did yesterday about other Americans who may have gone over there as fighters?
MR. BURNS: I don't. I asked the question. I don't know anything more if there are other Americans who are on the other side of this issue.
Q Could we change subjects?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Be glad to.
Q On the talks -- the Mideast talks?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q You mentioned that there were a couple of Foreign Ministry officials from either side. You didn't identify their expertise in water or legal matters. Can you do that?
MR. BURNS: I didn't mention anything about water matters.
Q I'm asking you. Are they just diplomats, or do they have a particular expertise?
MR. BURNS: What you have at Wye are a collection of people in each delegation. You have leaders of the delegation. In the case of Israel and Syria, both members of the Foreign Ministry.
In the case of Syria, you've got the adviser for legal affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Daoudi, and you have the Director of the Foreign Minister's private office, Dr. Wehbe. You also have two major generals -- Major General Al-Umar and Major General Khalil.
In the case of Israel, you have Dr. Yoel Singer who is the legal adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They all participated.
What's different in terms of the delegation is you have the addition now of two Syrian generals, two Israeli generals and one American general, and that was agreed to by the Secretary with Assad and Peres that he'd add the security officials. The Secretary said when he was in the Middle East that, as necessary and where appropriate, we would add other officials from time to time during these talks.
Q I think the Prime Minister of Israel said that they could talk about some of these other issues in any case, whether the so-called experts were there or not.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q What I was trying to get at was whether that was on the --
MR. BURNS: Yes, there's going to be a full range of issues discussed, and I don't believe any issues are off the table. They're all on the table.
Q What time did they begin, incidentally?
MR. BURNS: They began just close to one o'clock.
Q Just before the briefing began, there was a story that the Israelis had granted citizenship to Polaroid. I was wondering if that in any way changes the U.S. position on his release, and also have the Israelis made a formal application of any sort for clemency for him?
MR. BURNS: We don't have a particular reaction. I saw that same report. This is a matter, of course, for our own judicial system. Mr. Polaroid was convicted in the United States court of very serious charges of espionage and treason. It's up to the legal system in this country to respond to any calls for clemency or for his release. Some have been made in the past publicly, as you know, in past years. But I don't have any comment beyond that.
Q Will the United States permit the citizen papers to be delivered?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I don't know if the United States has a way to do that. I just don't know. I'd have to think about that.
Q If you acquiesce, there's a way --
MR. BURNS: Oh, you mean to physically deliver them into a United States prison.
MR. BURNS: That's another question. I don't know, Barry. I'm not familiar with the operations of the particular prison in which Mr. Polaroid is residing.
Q Are you suggesting that the Justice Department could release Polaroid without the Secretary's approval?
MR. BURNS: No. I'm just saying that he was convicted in a United States court of very serious charges, and this is a matter for our legal system. I really don't have any comment on what happened today -- the report that he has been offered or given citizenship in Israel.
Q The final decision would be at the State Department?
MR. BURNS: Not necessarily the State Department. I think a final decision of clemency is the purview of the President, but I'm not aware of any action on this on the part of anyone in the U.S. Government. I don't want to lead you astray on this. What we have today is a story out of Israel, and I'm just saying that I really don't have any reaction for you beyond describing his present status, which is he's a convicted person, and he's serving his time in an American prison.
Q Let's go back to the talks. Actually, the Secretary's travel after the talks. You said he'd be going to Damascus and Jerusalem. Are there going to be other stops in the region, perhaps Saudi Arabia and the Russian --
MR. BURNS: The Russian component.
Q -- meetings.
MR. BURNS: The Secretary's itinerary is not yet set. There will definitely be a trip to the Balkans -- to Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. There will definitely be a trip to the Middle East. I'm not yet in a position to say to which countries beyond Israel and Syria, which are certain.
We remain hopeful that we might work out a meeting with Mr. Primakov somewhere in Europe, but we have not yet come to an agreement. We're tossing back and forth some ideas on that.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Is Moscow in Europe?
MR. BURNS: Moscow is in Europe, but I would not think that a meeting in Moscow is possible right now. The Secretary's schedule is such and is so tight right now that I think we'll be looking at a very brief meeting in a third country. The problem with Moscow is that if the Secretary went there, he'd want to spend some time there, and he'd want to take care to see various people in and outside the government. He just doesn't have time, because he's got the Balkan trip, he's got the Middle East trip, and so what we're looking for, as the Secretary said two weeks ago, was a quick, informal, brief meeting some place that is convenient to Mr. Primakov and to the Secretary around this trip.
Q There's no concern that the Secretary of State going to Moscow might be viewed as some form of endorsement for Yeltsin's most recent moves?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary's objective here is to begin a working relationship with Mr. Primakov. He's looking for a way to do that, and the Secretary suggested that they have a meeting, and we're just trying to arrange it.
Q You partly answered that question, but is there any planning going on for a separate trip to Moscow by Secretary Christopher or someone like Mr. Talbott?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any trips planned by Strobe Talbott. He just came back last week from a trip to Europe where he met Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov. The President is going to Moscow in April, so it wouldn't surprise me if we considered a trip to Russia at some point before that. It wouldn't surprise me, but I know there are no concrete plans to do so yet.
We really are just trying to work out a first meeting with Mr. Primakov, and we're really focusing our energies on that right now.
I'm sorry, I've overlooked you on several occasions.
Q Could we go back to China briefly.
MR. BURNS: Sure. One more on Russia.
Q As long as everything's on the table now, can you confirm that President Yeltsin himself invited Secretary Christopher to come to Moscow for the meeting?
MR. BURNS: What I don't want to do, Sid, is go into the details of our diplomatic conversations with the Russians. I don't know what President Yeltsin has done personally or not. All I know is we're trying to work out a first meeting with Mr. Primakov, and we'll concentrate our efforts on that.
Q You know the Russians have said that.
MR. BURNS: I have not see the Russians say that. I'm unaware of that.
Q Ambassador Sasser said last week that he was going to leave for China on January 25, which is tomorrow. And I'm wondering, you've said just now that he would leave in a couple of weeks. I wonder if you could comment on the reason for the delay.
MR. BURNS: I saw Ambassador Sasser this morning, and he told me he'd be going out around the 1st of February. I don't now the specific date and, as you know, there are often a lot of preparations that people have to make before they pick their family up and move to a country like this. So I wouldn't read anything into this.
There's certainly no political reason why his trip would be delayed. There was a suggestion last week that we were going to hold him back, and that's not the case. He's going out. He'll be there very shortly. We need an American Ambassador. We haven't had one there since Stape Roy departed, and given the importance we attach to U.S.- China relations, we sought to have an Ambassador there. So he'll be out there very shortly.
Q Nick, would the Administration or State Department or Mr. Christopher like to see the Syrian and Israeli leaders -- I mean, Mr. Peres and Mr. Assad -- get together, maybe under U.S. supervision, and go directly into some horse trading on this Syrian-Israeli track?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary said during his last trip that he felt that at some point before the conclusion of an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement, it would probably make sense and probably be essential for President Assad and Prime Minister Peres to get together and talk.
As to when that happens, that's up to those two individuals. Clearly, it's not going to happen this week, and I think all of us feel -- and the Secretary and Peres and Assad feel -- that the best way to move the negotiations forward now is at the Wye talks, at the level of Moualem, Savir and Dennis Ross, with these trips by the Secretary to Wye and the Secretary to the Middle East to be the senior intermediary.
Q So the talks haven't progressed to that point.
MR. BURNS: Not yet.
Q All right. Does that mean that the U.S. approach is a summit is useful only in closing a deal that is fairly apparent by then, because, as you know, the Camp David talks -- President Carter took the incredible and successful risk of inviting the leaders of Egypt and Israel to Camp David when there was nothing near an agreement. All there was, was a Sadat visit to Jerusalem which broke the ice, essentially.
This Administration's approach is the more traditional one, just for closure -- not "just," that's important -- but for closure's sake, not to really put the deal together, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: No, that's not what we have in mind.
Q So how does the U.S. see a summit being useful?
MR. BURNS: We are at the beginning stages of a renewed diplomatic effort, I think is the most accurate way to describe where we are right now. We can't foresee the specific diplomatic timetable that would lead us to a comprehensive peace agreement. We hope we get there in 1996.
So we think it's a timetable in this year. But we don't know if a breakthrough will occur -- if it does occur -- in February, March, April or May. So, therefore, we cannot prescribe now and will not prescribe now the nature of a meeting.
We're not willing to say they should be brought in at the end or the middle. It's up to them. They'll know when it's time for them to get together, when sufficient progress is made, but it could be at the latter stages, it could be at the middle stages. It's really up to them. And it's not a decision that we can make for them.
Q Those decisions were not made by Sadat and Begin. They were invited and agreed to go. The U.S. took the initiative. So on this, too, the U.S. is looking to the two leaders to take the initiative.
MR. BURNS: Not necessarily.
Q That's what you said.
MR. BURNS: No, it's not.
Q You said you'll see when --
MR. BURNS: It's not what I said.
Q No, excuse me -- but you said, "We'll see when they feel it's time to do this."
MR. BURNS: And that, of course, as you know, is a figure of speech.
Q I know, but I'm just trying to get your game plan straight.
MR. BURNS: I know, and you're trying to get me probably to tell more than I want to.
Q No, I'm not trying to get you to commit. By no means am I.
MR. BURNS: Let me say what I want to say on this, and then we'll see if --
Q Some of you are playing summitry in the Middle East.
MR. BURNS: Let me say what we want to say, and then we'll see if you're satisfied.
MR. BURNS: We are an active intermediary in these talks. We are in the position in the Secretary's last trip and at Wye this week of offering some ideas on substantive issues and on procedural issues. Sometimes we listen to their ideas. We always listen to their ideas. Sometimes their ideas become the procedure and the substance of the talks. Sometimes we offer ideas.
I can't tell you when we will decide or the leaders will decide that it's appropriate for them to get together. That's up to all of us, but it's certainly up to them, Barry. They're the ones that ultimately have to make a decision to come to a meeting or not, and I don't know when that's going to happen.
Q Could I ask you one final factual question.
MR. BURNS: One follow-up and then we'll go to Colombia.
Q It was the Middle East. Does the United States take a position on whether Iraq should be allowed to sell this oil -- I think it's U.N. Security Council Resolution 986 -- and use that currency for humanitarian --
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Does the United States take a position now with these revived negotiations?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Which is?
MR. BURNS: We have a very clear position. Two parts. Number one: There is no question of lifting the sanctions against a country that has lied and cheated on weapons of mass destruction and hidden the truth from the UNSCOM and Dr. Ekeus, number one.
Number two: The United States has said consistently and for a long time -- and I'm glad to reaffirm today -- that if Iraq can agree to a very specific conditional sale of Iraqi oil, whose proceeds will go directly and only for the provision of humanitarian food and medical assistance to the suffering Iraqi people, then we would agree to that.
It's a test of Saddam Hussein's concern for his own people. The Iraqis are very fond of complaining that we don't care about the fact that civilians are suffering. Well, here's a way out for Saddam. If he agrees to this kind of conditional operation, then his people can be fed. If he disagrees, then he has to live with the consequences. It's his choice, but we do favor that kind of arrangement, and we're willing to work in the U.N. Security Council to move it forward -- if Iraq is willing to work. We don't know where Iraq is on this. They've talked out of both sides of their mouth on it.
Q Nick, (inaudible) said they want to move the venue out of New York City -- these negotiations -- to make it less weighted towards the American side -- the American opinion. Would you all go for moving the meeting, say, to Geneva?
MR. BURNS: That's up to Ambassador Albright to decide the U.S. position. But I can tell you this: You can have the meeting in Afghanistan. You can have it in New York. You can have it in South Africa. The essence of the conversations is not going to change. The will of the international community is strengthened that the sanctions should not be lifted.
There is no chance of getting the sanctions lifted, because they have lied consistently, and they admit that they have lied to Dr. Ekeus and the UNSCOM investigating team. So there's just no support in the U.N. Security Council to lift these sanctions. They can move their meeting anywhere they want. It won't change the outcome.
Q Yesterday, President Samper went on television and after assuring the Colombian people that he was still in charge, he held an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the question of the governability of Colombia, and there are indications that he wants to do something -- take extraordinary measures to re-establish control. What would the U.S. position be if President Samper tried to grip to say some form of military moves in order to restore what he considers governability?
MR. BURNS: We expect that the rule of law will prevail in Colombia. We expect that democratic traditions will continue in Colombia, and we would never favor any kind of effort to limit the rule of law.
In this particular case -- this particular drama -- we have said that we will not get involved, but we will expect that an extensive and thorough investigation will be conducted within the parameters of the Colombian judicial system.
Q Nick, in Peru, when President Fujimori had the auto-coups -- took over the government and fired a lot of people -- the U.S. cut all assistance, suspended all assistance. Would that be a step that this Administration would consider if President Samper took the same type of action?
MR. BURNS: I think it is not a wise course for someone like me to engage in hypothetical bantering about what we would do "if." I mean, what are you going do if this government falls. What are you going to do if this government conducts a missile test.
We have to wait and see what happens in real life on the ground, and then the United States considers its options, and we move forward. We've made abundantly clear that it's up to the Colombian people and the Colombian judicial system to work through the charges against President Samper. Once that investigation is complete and we look at the results ourselves, we perhaps will have something to say but not until then.
Q Nick, on the Colombian matter --
MR. BURNS: Quickly, because I think we've exhausted what I'm able to say on Colombia, and there is a very limited brief here, Bill, on Colombia. I said what I said two days running -- basically all I have to say on this matter.
Q I understand, but there is a mounting corroboration for Mr. Botero's witness -- that is, against President Samper. I take it there's nothing more you can say concerning that mounting witness?
MR. BURNS: No, I think we've said what we want to say on this issue, with all due respect. On this particular issue, we've said what we wanted to say.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: We have one other question. You've been very patient.
Q Nick, there was a newspaper report in Japan, saying that some leakage of nuclear substance had altered the French nuclear test site, and that the French experts had revealed that information at a recent and official (inaudible) in Washington. Do you have any information on that?
MR. BURNS: We have not detected any leaks resulting from the latest series of French nuclear tests that would endanger the air or the waters around the test site.
Q Does that mean you've detected no leaks or just not a danger?
MR. BURNS: We've not detected any leaks that would endanger the air or waters from the test site. You're right to ask that question. That's the same question I asked, and I'll be glad to go back and get a more detailed answer that answers your follow-up question.
(The briefing concluded at 2:07 p.m.)
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