U.S. Department of State 96/01/31 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, January 31, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Introduction of Visitors from George Washington. University and Covenant House......................1 Statement Regarding Sri Lanka........................1 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Secretary Christopher's Visit to the Wye Conference.. Center/Travel to the Middle East...................2-4,7 Possibility of Early Elections in Israel.............4-5 Substance of Wye Negotiations........................5-6 Air Attacks in South Lebanon.........................7-8 GREECE/TURKEY Dispute re: Islet/Withdrawal of Forces...............8-13 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Monitoring of Sites of Alleged War Crimes............14-15 BANGLADESH Elections ...........................................16 TAIWAN/CHINA Vice President of Taiwan's Request for Transit Visa .16-17 Premier Li Peng's Comments on Relations with Taiwan..17-18 Nuclear Testing in China.............................18 Relations Between the U.S. and China.................18-20 Arrival of Ambassador Sasser in Beijing..............20 JAPAN Plan by Local Government to Remove U.S. Military from.. Okinawa............................................20-21 IRAQ Re: Sanctions........................................21 Relations with other Arab Governments................22 RUSSIA Ratification of START Treaty.........................22 LIBYA Travel of Louis Farrakhan............................22-23
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, 1996, 1:25 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, and welcome to the State Department briefing. I want to welcome today 12 students from the George Washington University who are here with us. I also want to welcome some special visitors from Washington, D.C.
Perhaps some of you saw the article in the Washington Post "Metro" section last Thursday on the six teenagers from Convenant House, which is a program for youth in the District who are being sponsored for an all-expenses paid trip to London and Paris by an anonymous donor. They will leave for Europe next week. Before they went there, we thought it would be a good idea to show them first-hand how the State Department works, so we invited them here today for a tour of our Operations Center and our Diplomatic Reception Rooms and for briefings from our experts on France and the United Kingdom. They are all from Anacostia and the Ballou Senior High School in southeast. They're having lunch on the Eighth Floor hosted by Under Secretary of State Richard Moose, so you're all welcome today and we hope you have a good trip to Europe next week.
I do have a statement to make on the situation in Sri Lanka. The United States strongly condemns the bombing today in the capital of Sri Lanka -- Colombo. At least 55 people were killed and some 1,000 others injured in this contemptible terrorist attack. We extend our condolences to all the people affected by this violence and to the families of all those killed. These are the latest victims of Sri Lanka's long- standing ethnic conflict.
The United States continues to support a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka. We believe the Sri Lankan Government's wide-ranging proposals for constitutional reform constitute a solid basis for a peaceful solution to this tragic conflict.
Q The Wye talks. The Secretary stayed, I understand, nearly four hours. Any sum-up would be appreciated. But also, because one bears on the other, how does this trip look right now? Will he stop in Saudi Arabia as he was contemplating? Assuming he sticks to his schedule, what will he do with the five or six days he will be in the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: Barry, the Secretary went out to the Wye Conference Center last night and did spend several hours there.
He had individual meetings with the Syrian and Israeli delegations and then he had a joint working dinner with all the delegations, including the American delegation and he feels that he good and productive talks with them. The talks have continued today with Ambassador Dennis Ross in the Chair. I expect that they will conclude late this afternoon and we'll have some kind of a statement to make to you late this afternoon -- a statement that we will issue from the Press Office at the conclusion of the talks.
The Secretary will be going out to Damascus and to Jerusalem next week following his trip to the Balkans. I expect that we'll be arriving in the Middle East next Sunday evening.
At this time there are no plans to travel to Saudi Arabia, so the Middle East portion of his trip, which is between the Balkans and Helsinki, will be limited to Jerusalem and Damascus at this time.
I think what we'll see, Barry, is the Secretary talking personally both to President Assad and Prime Minister Peres about our evaluation of this latest round of discussions at the Wye Conference Center -- where we think this diplomatic process should go, both substantively and procedurally based on the talks that will be ending in a couple of hours on the Eastern Shore.
Q Can you imagine him having -- I don't know how many conversations can be scheduled in five days. It would seem to be enough time for at least five conversations with each of them. Is there that much to go over, or will there be down periods or there will be side trips, perhaps, to see Chairman Arafat?
It doesn't seem that the Middle East talks are at the point where some intensive shuttling will push it past the goal line. I'm just wondering what he's going to do for five days?
MR. BURNS: You're worried we're going to have too much free time next week?
Q I'm not worried about that. I'm wondering -- should I tell you what I really want to know? Why is this a time for him to spend five days in the Middle East if the talks are not at the point of a breakthrough?
MR. BURNS: I don't think anyone perceives us to be on the verge of a breakthrough. You've seen statements, I think, from all sides that testify to that. But the Secretary has said this is going to be one of his highest priorities for 1996. If you look at U.S. national security priorities, there's no question this is among the highest.
We've always thought this would be a long process and a difficult process, which would require patience and persistent diplomacy. It is worth our time and the Secretary's time to be in the Middle East for four or five days next week. There's a lot of work that he can do personally going back and forth between Damascus and Jerusalem to try to push this diplomatic process forward.
We may not be on the verge of a breakthrough but we think that with persistent influence and pushing and suggestions from the United States, we can move the process forward towards our objective, which is a comprehensive peace agreement in 1996. This will be the Secretary's 17th trip to the Middle East since he became Secretary of State in 1993.
A lot of these trips have been of this type. They have been really caught up with the day-to-day diplomacy. So we think it is time well spent, and I think at the end of the trip you'll be in a position to assess that.
Q After the last round, there was a bit of a debate as to whether the Secretary was disappointed with the way things had gone at Wye. Is he disappointed this time around?
MR. BURNS: No, I wouldn't say he's disappointed. We have had some go-around on that. If the Secretary had been disappointed by the last Wye process, then I don't know why he would have suggested to President Assad and Prime Minister Peres in mid-January that we have a second round at Wye which is now just concluding.
The Secretary felt he had a very productive evening. He thinks that the process is continuing. He's looking forward to spending time in the Middle East next week and to conducting this diplomacy himself in trips to Jerusalem and Damascus. I believe we'll be in both places a couple of times.
Q Can I just go back quickly -- I'm sorry, very quickly? Will there be any impact on his plans -- I don't mean going or not going -- but what he does there and how many times he shuttles back and forth, should the rumors today in Israel pan out that there might be early elections in May?
MR. BURNS: We've seen press reports from Israel on both sides of that issue this morning, including a press report where the Prime Minister said that he didn't think that would be the case.
I think the United States has to take a different perspective. We can't involve ourselves in the question of whether or not there should be early elections in Israel. That's not for us to decide. That's for the Israelis to decide.
The national security priority for the United States is to pursue an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement. We will do that in 1996 whether there are early elections or not. The diplomacy will continue whether or not there are early elections. Only the Israelis can decide -- in fact, only Prime Minister Peres and his associates can decide -- on the question on whether there should be elections, but we have a big role on whether there should be peace negotiations.
Right now, both Israel and Syria are telling us that they want us to be an active intermediary. They want these negotiations to continue, so that's the way we're going to proceed.
Q When it looked like the elections would be in late October -- it isn't that you've been aloof and detached from the election issue. You've had to factor it in, and you've spoken -- the State Department has -- on the record on how they feel about elections. What the State Department was saying, when the elections seemed to be scheduled for late October -- and the U.S. election, of course, in November -- that you had that much time, and it wasn't all that much time, but that was your window of opportunity.
If the Israelis move the elections up, will your opportunities be diminished? Will you simply proceed oblivious to the holding of elections? Will you await the outcome to see which government you should be dealing with? Do you care? Will it have an impact on you whether the Israeli people approve or disapprove of giving up the Golan Heights?
The elections are part of this. You can't sort of skim over it -- I don't mean you, but the State Department can't exactly be ethereal about this.
MR. BURNS: We try never to be ethereal. I don't know if you think we're being ethereal today, but we try not to be.
Barry, we take the position that it's in our interest -- in the United States interest -- to have Israel and Syria reach a peace agreement. So regardless of whether or not there are early elections, we're going to push that idea and we will remain actively involved as the principal intermediary in that process.
I'm just saying today that even if there are early elections -- and I'm not predicting that there will be -- but if there are early elections, you're not going to see a reduction in the intensity of our involvement in this process. You're not going to see the United States declare some kind of suspension in the diplomatic process. We believe that the negotiations are important enough that they should go forward.
Again, I want to repeat this in the interest that no one misunderstands what I'm saying here today. I don't know whether there are going to be early elections in Israel. That's not a decision that anybody in this government, from the President on down, can have an impact on. All we can do is do what's in the U.S. national interest.
Q The Secretary the last time talked to Mr. Peres after his visit to Wye -- did he do that this time? Did he talk to any of the parties in the region? Did he offer any American ideas or proposals to bridge the gap, especially the security issue?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary, in his two visits to Wye during this round, has offered American ideas on certain substantive issues, and that's in keeping with our role as an active intermediary. I don't believe he has been in touch with Prime Minister Peres since their last phone conversation -- the one you referred.
Q With Syria?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe so.
Q I know you're hesitant to give the substance, but can you say whether there was any progress on the two main issues -- the definition of the quality of peace or agreement on security arrangements on the Golan Heights?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I am going to refrain from getting into that simply because the negotiations are underway right now. We'll have some kind of a statement late this afternoon which will say what we and the Israelis and Syrians want to say about where the negotiations are. It's very difficult for me to answer that question given the fact that people are still talking out at Wye.
Still on the Middle East. Yes, Haim.
Q Is the Secretary happy and satisfied with the pace, the timeframe of the talks? We know that he's happy with the context, but is the pace of these talks what he expects right now?
MR. BURNS: We certainly think that both Israel and Syria are giving this serious and high-level attention. I think that's part of my definition of "pace" that it deserves. Following his last trip, there was an agreement to keep these talks going at the Ambassadorial level. We think that's appropriate.
We have been heartened to see that both sides came to this latest round of talks with a high degree of seriousness and that there have been talks both on the security side as well as political and that the security officials have been engaged in these talks. That's important. So, yes, we're satisfied with that aspect of things.
Q (Inaudible) is about the idea is that the Americans are offering if you want to do that. Could you please tell us, are these concerning the security arrangements and what the United States can do to allay fears on both sides on the security arrangements and monitoring interference and things like that?
MR. BURNS: I think I know what you're getting at. We've spoken to that many, many times, and I think we have to wait for the completion of an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement to see what requests Israel and Syria make of the United States before we can answer that question definitively.
But we've said many, many times that we will seriously consider requests made by Israel and Syria in the context of a final peace agreement -- requests made for the United States perhaps to be active in monitoring an agreement.
Q Syria -- he will be in the Middle East some five, six days. Will the Secretary on this trip see any of the opposition figures in Israel?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there are any plans to do so. I'd like to check back with the people doing the schedule. Barry, let me just pick up an earlier thought that you had, and that is that, of course, on all these trips the Secretary does take the time to see Chairman Arafat. Since he has not seen him since the Palestinian elections on January 20, I'm sure that we'll have a meeting with Chairman Arafat.
Q Do you want to get into any other side ventures? Might he stop in Egypt, as he almost always does.
MR. BURNS: All I'm prepared to say right now is that we'll be in Damascus and Jerusalem. There will, of course, be the meetings with the Palestinians. There could be other meetings, but right now I have nothing to announce.
Q Then why did he elect not to go to Saudi Arabia?
MR. BURNS: We want to have early and good contact with Crown Prince Abdullah. It just wasn't possible to work out the schedules at this point, but we'll continue our efforts to have very close conversation with the Saudi leadership.
Q When you say the leadership -- whenever he goes and whatever it is you want -- do you want to have a contact with Prince Sultan, too, or would it be confined to the Crown Prince?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary always sees a variety of officials in his visit to these countries, but certainly in the case of Saudi Arabia, including the Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Saud.
Before we get to Greece and Turkey, I just want to -- Lambros, I know that's what you're interested in -- I want to make sure that we cover all the Middle East questions first, and then we'll go to Greece and Turkey.
Q Do you have anything on the Israeli air attacks in south Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: I don't. The attacks today in south Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't, and we'll certainly look into that and see if there is anything we can say about it.
Q Would the situation in the south be one of the issues that the Secretary is going to discuss in Damascus and Israel, or it's going to be --
MR. BURNS: The issue of Lebanon itself, of course, always comes up in the context of our discussions with both the Israelis and the Syrians, and, as you know, we hope that a comprehensive Israeli-Syrian agreement will lead to an Israeli-Lebanese agreement, so that there's a truly comprehensive and thorough peace in the Middle East.
Any more on the Middle East? I should have said "welcome back," David. Nice to see you here. I haven't seen you in a long time. Any more on the Middle East? Okay, Lambros, we'll be glad to go to Greece and Turkey, right?
Q Could you please elaborate on the State Department's involvement yesterday under the auspices of Mr. Richard Holbrooke to defuse the crisis between Greece and Turkey over the Aegean?
MR. BURNS: If I could just take a little bit of issue with the way you framed your question, just in the interest of being completely accurate, this was actually not just a State Department operation yesterday. Actually, the President, President Clinton, was on the phone with --
Q (Inaudible) question at the White House, that's why I talk to the State Department.
MR. BURNS: No, understood. But President Clinton, of course, had conversations with the Greek Prime Minister, the Turkish Prime Minister and the Turkish President about this. Secretary Christopher had conversations with the Turkish and Greek Foreign Ministers. Secretary of Defense Perry, Chairman Shalikashvili and National Security Adviser Tony Lake all were involved in the effort yesterday to try to defuse this crisis.
There was at a very late hour a mutually acceptable agreement which called for the immediate withdrawal of ships, the personnel and the flags of both sides from the area. Both Turkey and Greece have assured us that the islet will return to the status quo ante.
Now we understand that Greek and Turkish forces have withdrawn, and we have monitored and we have verified that there is a complete withdrawal of Greek and Turkish forces.
This agreement, we believe, results from the common sense and the courage of both governments, and their mutual recognition that it is inadmissible for two NATO allies to risk a military confrontation, as was the case yesterday.
The United States has no position on the question of sovereignty, and we believe that both Turkey and Greece and should work together to find a solution to the problem and the other issues which divide them. We will certainly be talking to both governments on a daily basis about this, and I think that you know Assistant Secretary Holbrooke will be making a trip to the Aegean before he leaves office in late February to follow up on our concerns that the United States does continually remind Greece and Turkey of the inadmissibility of military confrontation in the Aegean.
Q The U.S. has no position on the sovereignty? What do you mean by this?
MR. BURNS: I'm saying that this is obviously the question at the heart of this issue, Lambros, the sovereignty of this island --
Q No, it's very important -- you raise a very, very important issue.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, I always try to...
Q So I repeat it. Why the U.S. Government has no position on the sovereignty of Greek territory and -- (laughter) -- that's exactly, this is the case.
MR. BURNS: I know that my --
Q No, no, no. It's very important, very important. Let me give you a question. Do you recognize the territorial integrity of Greece, the U.S. Government?
MR. BURNS: Lambros, let me just -- in the interests of being absolutely clear, let me just repeat what I said.
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States is a NATO ally with both Greece and Turkey, and we know that the question of sovereignty is at the heart of this dispute over the islet, which has two names -- a Greek name and a Turkish name -- and the United States prefers not to take a public position on the question of sovereignty.
What we prefer to do is to use our diplomatic influence with two friends to make sure that question can be resolved peacefully and amicably and without resort to military action.
Q It came to my attention that in your official exchanges here, the Department of State, from the above, that you are using the Turkish name Kardak -- K-a-r-d-a-k -- for the Greek island Imia -- I-m-i-a -- and I wondered why.
MR. BURNS: Actually, you'll be pleased to know that in the piece of paper right in front of me, we have both names, and I'm glad to even repeat them or recite them in either order that you choose. I'm glad to start with the Greek name.
There is a dispute here. There's an obvious dispute. We understand that the Greeks use one name and the Turks another. I'm looking to the Turkish journalist for support here -- to support me with you -- and we simply do not want to take a position. We're not supporting Turkey, and we're not supporting Greece. We are friends with both, and we will stand with both in an attempt to resolve this problem.
Q The point is that --
MR. BURNS: We have used the Greek name. In fact, I think Monday we only used the Greek name, and I think some Turks took us to task for that.
Q No, no --
MR. BURNS: So now we use both names to describe this.
Q Why? Why?
MR. BURNS: Because there's a dispute between two friends. We don't want to take sides publicly with one friend against another.
Q But I raised the question yesterday to Mr. Davies, the point is that you are a signatory of the Treaty of Paris, 1947, regarding the starting of war over this island, including the (inaudible). Turkey is not a signatory, so here the Department of State -- you have all the legal definition as far as the border between Greece and Turkey. So otherwise you are placing into question the border between Greece and Turkey. This is my question.
MR. BURNS: No, we're not placing that into question at all. We're telling Greece and Turkey you should not resort to a military altercation, frankly, over, as Dick Holbrooke said so well, "over a piece of territory that's no larger than this building."
What you ought to do in our message to both countries is, as Glyn Davies said so effectively yesterday, is stay calm -- right, Glyn? -- I thought it was effective -- stay calm and negotiate these differences and don't fight over them. So, Lambros, I really can't improve on the guidance that I have on what has been said by the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Assistant Secretary of State. We all agree on this, and I can't change --
Q (Inaudible) that they are challenging the sovereignty of Greece.
MR. BURNS: -- I can't change a U.S. Government position just because there's unhappiness.
Q Nick, could I break in here? MR. BURNS: Do you want to talk about Greece and Turkey?
Q Yes, same subject. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Maybe you can come to the defense of Mr. Lambros. I don't know.
Q No, I have a technical question. Mr. Holbrooke -- then you - - said that the U.S. helped monitor the withdrawal last night. Holbrooke said it was done with U.S. military aircraft. Can you elaborate on how it was actually monitored?
MR. BURNS: I can't elaborate on it. I can just say that we did monitor it through our military assets in the area, and that we are satisfied that there has been a complete withdrawal.
I should say one thing. We understand that there was, unfortunately, a helicopter accident -- a Greek helicopter accident in the process of the Greek military action. We understand the three crew members of that Greek helicopter are missing, and we certainly will give all support to the Government of Greece that we can to try to help locate those three missing crew members.
Q A follow-up. But to have this statement -- because the helicopter has fallen down in an island which is being invaded by the Turkish forces -- we're talking about the second one -- and I would like to know what is the U.S. position? Besides the Imia island -- I-m-i-a - - also the Turkish forces invaded the second one where the action has taken place. So I would like to know what is the U.S. position over the second invasion of the island?
MR. BURNS: Our position is that if there are disputes between Greece and Turkey over sovereignty, over flags, over who should stand on islands that are in some cases no bigger than piles of rocks -- that those disputes should be worked out peacefully and amicably. We're not going to take a public position.
I'm going to have to close this avenue for now, because I've now repeated myself three or four times. We're not going to take a public position on the question of sovereignty.
Q The Turks landed ten seals on that second islet as a pressure tactic against the first islet. Have you verified that those troops are gone?
MR. BURNS: We know that they're gone from the islet that was in dispute. I can take your question, Barry. I'm just now sure about that.
Q And a corollary to that is, is the sovereignty of that island something the United States takes no position on?
MR. BURNS: Let me check on that. I was referring to the island with two names.
Q Sure. That's been a center. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: The islet, I should say. It's not even an island. I think all of us agree it's not an island.
Q Well, it's an islet, and it's ten acres and seven Greek coastguardsmen landed on the island. But the Turks countered by landing ten -- the ten, I guess they're called seals, on an adjoining or -- not adjoining, nearby islet. So I wonder if that little thing is over with, and also how much of the Aegean does the U.S. not have a sovereignty position on?
MR. BURNS: Barry, we think it's a wise decision.
Q I know you believe things should be settled peacefully.
MR. BURNS: We think it's a wise decision not to assert a U.S. position on sovereignty in this particular case. Q Is it a final -- (laughter) --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe they're final status problems, unless I've missed something.
Q I mean, except for Jerusalem and a couple of islands, I'm not so sure that the U.S. doesn't have a position on sovereignty around the world.
MR. BURNS: We have a position on sovereignty on many areas of the Aegean that is quite clear, and I'd be happy to talk about it.
MR. BURNS: Yes, happy to talk about that --
Q But these are the islands that at least two NATO allies almost came to war over this while, you know --
MR. BURNS: Exactly, and that's the point.
Q Yes, and it was a big deal, and it isn't -- I don't think the deft American diplomacy necessarily forecloses a dispute some place later on.
MR. BURNS: No, but I'm glad -- I like the adjective, and I think that the diplomacy was very successful --
Q You have to come down on one side or another ultimately.
MR. BURNS: It was very successful in deterring a military confrontation yesterday, and that was our prime objective yesterday. Part and parcel of our effectiveness in working with Greece and Turkey, of course, is not to take sides publicly with one or the other.
Q (Inaudible) if we know exactly the context of the assurances by Mr. Holbrooke to Mr. Baykal, because Mr. Holbrooke raised exactly the issue about the sovereignty of some islands over in Greece, and they're talking about a kind of a package deal in the process (inaudible) he is going over to Athens and then to Ankara and then to Nicosia, including the Cyprus problem. So I would like to know what is it about this package deal he's going to present to both sides?
MR. BURNS: I hope that the Greek and Turkish Governments are now looking forward to the visit of Assistant Secretary Holbrooke. He's going to turn his considerable diplomatic skills on the problems in the Aegean.
Q Could I go to Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q There is at least one, and perhaps more, sites of alleged mass graves which is in territory which on D-plus-45, which is a few days away, the Muslims will no longer be in control of. The mass grave I'm thinking of is a mass grave allegedly containing the bodies of Muslims.
What is the U.S. position on such sites? What action should be taken, if any, to assure that evidence cannot be compromised and by whom?
MR. BURNS: You're right, David, and welcome back. The deadline for the withdrawal of military forces from areas to be transferred is D- plus- 45, which is February 3. There will then be a 45-day period, during which the entity which will take over the area will not place its military forces on that area for 45 days.
There are many sites that are of interest to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, and those sites, I think, encompass territory held by all three of the parties to the Dayton Accords. We believe that the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal investigators should have access to all these sites.
In some cases, Justice Goldstone has told us that he will not seek physical access for his investigators until there's a thaw. I mean, I'm talking now about a thaw that will come with the spring.
In the meantime, we are conducting aerial surveillance -- IFOR is conducting aerial surveillance of these sites. There are patrols, but not constant military presence at the more important sites, and we will make every effort we can to help the investigators on site and to provide security for them when they do get to these sites.
I think the larger points we made here are these: There is too much evidence. There's too much factual evidence, there's too much personal testimony, for the Bosnian Serbs or for anyone else responsible for war crimes to think that they can cover up their crimes by tampering with the sites where those crimes took place. It simply will not work.
Fifty-two people have already been indicted, and we think there's sufficient information in those indictments to lead to convictions once those people are detained. Much more information has been developed since the 52 were indicted, and more indictments will be coming down the road just in the next couple of months, according to Justice Goldstone.
So people out there who have something to hide should be under no illusion that they can hide their crimes from the United Nations and the international community.
Q Do you think IFOR is doing everything it should and that it's been authorized to do to protect such sites?
MR. BURNS: I think the best answer to that question comes from Justice Goldstone who said publicly in his visit to Washington last week that he is satisfied with the arrangements he has made with Admiral Smith for aerial surveillance, for patrols; and, when these United Nations investigators go in, then some more specific measures to enhance their security will allow them to do their job. He's also satisfied with the level of commitment from the United States, which, as you know, is the leading country in support of the War Crimes Tribunal.
Still on Bosnia before we move on?
Q If I could follow on David's question, Lord Owen was on the radio here in town this morning and asked about the mass murders. He said that he believed that most of the missing Muslim men were dead and buried. I would like to ask, Nick, what would our Department, in view of what Judge Goldstone has said and the other information that's been gathered in the last thirty-plus days -- what would this Department tell the wives, the Srebrenica wives, who rioted in Tuzla at the Red Cross about the fate of their husbands? Are they presumed dead, probably dead, possibly in concentration camps, or what? What would you say?
MR. BURNS: Of the six to eight thousand men and boys who disappeared in the days after the fall of Srebrenica in mid-July, we believe that the majority of them are probably dead. I don't know how we can come to any other conclusion. There is too much eyewitness testimony to the terrible events that took place when the Bosnian Serbs ruthlessly massacred them.
We are not sure of the exact number of dead. Some people got away and have given testimony to the United Nations, to the United States, to the International Committee of the Red Cross. But unfortunately many thousands of people appear to have been massacred, and that is why Mladic and Karadzic have a lot to answer for. They have been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal, and the crimes at Srebrenica are at the core of those indictments.
Q Nick, thank you very much. Firstly, I want to correct my name. My name is A-r-s-h-a-d. That's Arshad.
MR. BURNS: I'm terribly sorry. We always want to get those things right.
Q Nick, a major confusion being removed and resolved. I'm very happy to report to you that the major parties have accepted your reiterated statement from Monday, and in right earnest. It has cooled off the atmosphere in Dhaka, and basing on the points that have been reflected by you on Monday and up until Glyn Davies yesterday, the point thats that have been put under (inaudible) test that the U.S. urged both government and opposition to end violence and end intimidation. The U.S. would like to see fully participatory elections in Bangladesh. U.S. policy is not taking sides in the election process. And lastly, by definition, one- party election is undemocratic as a general principle and notion.
So with that, I would like you to accept -- you rightfully deserve special thanks from the democratic loving people of Bangladesh and on record the Clinton Administration, the Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphel, the great staff of the South Asia Bureau, in order to avert this confusion that has arisen somehow, and we hope that this would be a lasting solution to already that has been raised. So, Nick, if you would kindly add anything further to that, I would appreciate it. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: This is the kind of question that we like to get here. That's a very gracious statement, and I'd just like to add that Ambassador David Merrill has played a major role in this process. If I could just add his name to your list, and we're very glad that the United States has been of service. Thank you.
Q Nick, I'd like to congratulate the State Department also for taking such a long period of time to contemplate issuing a visa for Mr. Li of --
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
Q -- Vice President Li of Taiwan, and I'd like to know whether or not you have anything to announce on that today?
MR. BURNS: If you ask a nice question like that, you'll get a very good answer, or at least a clear answer.
The United States has decided to grant a visa to Vice President Li for his transit of the United States. He'll be en route to and from Haiti, where he'll attend the Presidential inauguration, and El Salvador. These transits will take place between February 3 and February 12. There will be no public activities by Vice President Li during the transits.
They are certainly consistent with our long-standing policy and with our unofficial relationship with Taiwan. I understand he'll be transiting San Francisco on February 3; Miami on February 4 en route to Port-au- Prince; on February 8, he'll return to Miami. He'll change planes en route to El Salvador, and on February 11, he will transit Los Angeles. He'll spend the night there en route back to Taiwan.
He has been informed of our decision, and he will, of course, receive the appropriate travel documents. I do want to say this is consistent with our long-standing policy, because we do have an unofficial relationship with Taiwan.
Q Nick, do we have any repercussions from the Chinese, thus far, any reaction?
MR. BURNS: No. I've seen no reaction from the Chinese Government in Beijing, and I don't believe there will or should be a reaction. This is a routine matter. There have been transits in the past. In fact, there was just a transit by Vice President Li a couple of weeks ago.
Q Have you told the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: I believe they've been informed, yes.
Q Nick, one more on China. Do you have any reaction to Premier Li Peng's hinting at taking control of Taiwan after Hong Kong and Macao? Do you have any response to --
MR. BURNS: We've certainly seen the speech given by Premier Li Peng.
In our view, China has not changed its fundamental policy of seeking a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, and we do not see any evidence to support the view that China's intentions have changed, despite the recent military actions. This is essentially what Secretary Christopher said to you last week, and we still believe this to be the case.
We did note, of course, that the speech did not include any kind of specific timetable concerning the question of reunification with Taiwan.
I can say we have not changed our policy, our long-standing policy. This is a matter for the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits to resolve themselves. Our abiding interest is that in trying to resolve these differences, that it is done so peacefully.
Q Another China question. Now that France has decided to end its nuclear tests, are you urging China to do the same? Are you talking to the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: Certainly. We believe -- the United States has stopped its own nuclear testing. We're very pleased -- very pleased -- that France has made the decision to stop the latest round of nuclear tests. We're pleased that President Chirac has come out so strongly for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. We would call upon China and all other nuclear powers to make the same commitment to a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Q A follow-up on China. Nick, I asked this question yesterday and Glyn did not have knowledge of this article. Jonathan Clark, writing in the Los Angeles Times, basically his bottom line says "The true test of whether American diplomacy deserves peace prizes lies not in settling minor civil wars" -- he was referring to Bosnia -- "but in averting war with China."
Two other articles, one in the Washington Times by Jack Payton and one in the Wall Street Journal today, basically, criticizing the American- China policy, urging changes that are more forceful in dealing with the PRC. How would you respond to these?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry that Mr. Clark, whom I do not know, was not as generous as Mr. Arshad in congratulating the United States on the brilliance of our diplomacy. I wouldn't say that peace in Bosnia is an inconsiderable achievement. I think it's a major achievement for the United States and is recognized to be such. If he wants to give his advice on China, that's, of course, his right. I haven't read his column.
I would just say that the United States and China have one of the most important relationships in the world to conduct. We're both Pacific powers. We both enter and look towards the next century with the great hope that we can have a stable relationship. It's important for all the Pacific countries that we do so and it's important for peace in the world that we do so.
It is no secret that we have our differences. What we would like to try to do in 1996, and beyond, is to manage those differences in a peaceful way that does not upset the relationship unduly, and certainly does not upset or affect unduly or negatively the relationships we have with other countries.
We've been able to work well with China on the question of North Korea. We've been able to work well with China on a number of political and foreign policy issues. We do have our differences.
The challenge for us is to try to accentuate those areas where we can achieve some common ground and to try to resolve the very serious problems we have; for instance, on intellectual property rights. Ambassador Kantor spoke to this last week with the significant problem of pirating of CDs by Chinese firms and some of those are State firms, and the specific problems that we see in human rights.
We'd like to try to resolve some of those concerns and build on the progress that we've made in other areas.
Q On those areas of intellectual property rights and human rights, what leverage does the United States have with China these days? You've given up MFN, on human rights. So how does the United States go about influencing Chinese behavior in those areas in which there are substantive differences between the U.S. and China?
MR. BURNS: China and the United States have a relationship, in some sense, of co-dependence; certainly, on economic issues. There is a large trade deficit right now between the United States and China that we'd like to do something about. But China certainly has to be concerned with maintaining its share of the American market. It has to be concerned with the willingness and the ability of American firms to invest and trade in China freely.
It's got to be concerned ultimately by the reaction of not only the American Administration -- of this Administration and Administrations to come in the future -- but also by the American Congress and by the American people. The American people believe in fair play.
China must know that we believe that all countries must honor their agreements. We had an agreement negotiated just about 12 months ago on intellectual property rights, which, as Ambassador Kantor said last week, is not being implemented fairly on the question of CDs. So if you're talking about leverage, Judd, that's leverage.
The Chinese do have to be concerned that they meet their commitments. Because if they don't meet their commitments, there will be a reaction in the United States. There are levers available to the United States Government if trade agreements are not implemented.
Q The Okinawan Government has --
Q Can I just ask one on China, real quick? I just wanted to find out - this question has been asked a couple of times. Is Ambassador Sasser on station yet in Beijing?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Sasser is due to arrive in Beijing next week. He'll be leaving the United States just in a couple of days. He'll take up his duties next week. It's been a long time coming. It's a positive development that we'll have a person of his stature as our Ambassador there. We certainly hope it will improve the communication between Beijing and Washington.
Q A follow-up on the piracy issue. Does the Department of State support retaliation against China, should China's compliance with the IPR Agreement is non-satisfactory?
MR. BURNS: That's a decision that the Administration, as a whole, will take based on recommendations, of course, by Ambassador Kantor and others. We have not yet made a decision on that. Of course, China's actions will be the primary component in our decision-making. So we're watching very closely China's actions in adherence to the intellectual property rights agreement that was made about a year ago.
Q The Okinawan Government has presented a plan to Prime Minister Hashimoto in which they would like the U.S. military out of Okinawa entirely in 15 years. He said this is going to -- that he will raise this at the April summit with President Clinton. What's the reaction from the Department? This is a pretty radical change.
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure there's been any official communication with the United States about this particular proposal by the local government on Okinawa.
I can just say that I think it is understood and accepted by both Japan and the United States that the United States should maintain a very large military presence in Japan; that that is part of our defense alliance. It's important for Japan's security, and it's by the wish of the Japanese Government and the Japanese people that we remain in Japan.
As to where our forces are stationed, that, of course, is something that we work out with the Japanese Government as part of our defense relationship. But I have no particular comment on that specific proposal.
Q The French National Assembly is calling for easing sanctions on Iraq. Do you have something on that? And is this going to be one of the issues that's going to be raised with the French during the President's visit?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Our position is that sanctions should not be eased on Iraq. Iraq is an outlaw state that has consistently lied to the United Nations and to the international community. They were developing biological and chemical arms. They wanted to have a nuclear capability. They lied to the United Nations about their programs until very recently.
Mr. Ekeus -- Ambassador Ekeus -- the head of UNSCOM, I think has now issued a public report that is damning and that certifies that Iraq cannot be trusted.
There is no support in the Security Council for this. There is no coalition of countries that can hope to give Iraq an easing of its sanctions. The only possible recourse for Iraq now is to perhaps work out a deal with the Security Council that would allow for a limited export of Iraqi oil, but whose proceeds would be specifically spent for humanitarian purchases for the suffering Iraqi population.
If Saddam Hussein really does care about his people -- he's built about 15 palaces for himself since the end of the Gulf War -- if he cares about the people who are suffering, he'll negotiate this deal with the United Nations whereby the oil proceeds can buy food and medicine for poor people. If he doesn't care about those people, then we won't have an agreement.
So the choice is up to Saddam Hussein. But there's not going to be any easing of sanctions because the United States will block it in the U.N., and it really won't even get far in the U.N.
Q Do you have anything on some of the Arab countries warming up to Iraq and wanting to resume relations and have more contacts with Saddem Hussein's government?
MR. BURNS: When we travel around the Middle East, in our frequent trips there, we hear from all Arab Governments with whom we have relations, great concern about Iraq -- great concern about the intentions of the Iraqi Government. We don't hear any wishes to warm up to Iraq, so I just don't think that's something we have to deal with right now.
Let's go to Andrey.
Q On Russia. The Duma has refused to put a deadline to ratify the START treaty. Do you have any concerns about it?
MR. BURNS: We certainly would call upon the Russian Duma to take the action that the United States Senate did last Friday night, and that is to ratify this agreement as it was signed by President Bush and President Yeltsin in January 1993. It's good for both countries. It will bring the level of nuclear weapons down to historically low levels. It will improve the nuclear balance and ensure the safety of both countries. So we call upon the Duma to ratify it as is, without conditions.
Q A Justice Department Spokesman this morning reported that Mr. Farrakhan -- Louis Farrakhan -- was under investigation by the DoJ based on press reports about his travels to Libya and meetings with Qadhafi; also based on his relations with Mr. Qadhafi. Have you any further information about the legality of his travels?
MR. BURNS: That is a question for the Justice Department because Libya is not a country that American citizens can normally travel to.
I think what is within the purview of the State Department is to remember the fact that 270 people died on PanAm 103 in December 1988; that some of them came from the U.S. Department of State -- some of our colleagues here -- whose names are etched in the plaques on "C" Street - - died in that flight. They died because Libyan agents, in the pay of Muammar Qadhafi, put bombs on that airplane and deliberately killed those people.
We owe it to the American family members of the victims to hold Libya accountable for these crimes. Qadhafi can turn over the two people responsible for the bombing of that airplane.
I think Mr. Farrakhan, as an American citizen, had an obligation when he went to Tripoli to raise that on behalf of other Americans. I don't see that Mr. Farrakhan's agenda is so important that he leaves out PanAm 103. I didn't see any mention on the part of Mr. Farrakhan about his fellow citizens who died on that plane. I think that's a great mistake on his part.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:12 p.m.)
-20- Wednesday, 1/31/96
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