U.S. Department of State 96/02/15 Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, February 15, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introduction of Diplomatic Security Agents/Honorees and. A/S Eric Boswell/Ambassador Robert Krueger............ 1-3 BURUNDI Status of Political/Social Situation.................... 4-5 PAKISTAN Shipment of Equipment Authorized by the Brown Amendment. 5 --China's Relationship with Pakistan.................... 5-7 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA US, NATO Policy re IFOR Detention of War Criminals ..... 7-9 --Detention of Karadzic and Mladic...................... 8 BANGLADESH Elections............................................... 9 --U.S. Relations with Government........................ 9-10 COLOMBIA Charges Against President Samper........................ 10 Possibility of Certification............................ 11-12 RUSSIA Presidential Election................................... 12-18 U.S. Policy on the New Independent States............... 12-13 Reform in Russia........................................ 15-17 Integration within the Commonwealth of Independent States 18 Provision of Utilities to the Ukraine................... 20-21 CHINA/TAIWAN U.S. Arms Transfers to Taiwan........................... 19,21 Chinese Military Maneuvers Against Taiwan............... 19-20 GREECE/TURKEY Resolution of Aegean Dispute............................ 20 MEXICO Peace Agreement Between Government and Rebels........... 22 Counter Narcotics Programs.............................. 22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 1996, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. It's a special honor for me today to start the briefing by saying a few words about three very courageous individuals, three of whom are standing behind me; and also to welcome Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell and Ambassador to Burundi, Robert Krueger.
The three individuals are Peter Hargraves, Larry Salmon, and Chris Reilly. For those of you who had the good fortune to join the Secretary in honoring them just about an hour ago up in the Ben Franklin Room, I want just to say a few words to you and to those of you who were not with us.
The activities of Foreign Service officers abroad are often far removed from the spotlight here in the United States and the view of our public here in the United States. It's very, very gratifying for me to be able to illuminate for you very briefly extraordinary actions by the three individuals behind me. They are agents of our Diplomatic Security Service overseas.
As you know, they were all honored with awards for valor this morning by Secretary of State Christopher for exceptional bravery in the line of duty.
Last August, Special Agent Peter Hargraves was accompanying our peace team in Sarajevo on Saturday, August 19. They were going to a meeting in Sarajevo with the Bosnian Government. All of you know what happened. You know that the armored personnel carrier fell off into a ravine more than a thousand feet, and you know that when the vehicle stopped, Special Agent Peter Hargraves ignored his own very serious injuries; and at great personal risk to himself returned repeatedly to the burning vehicle in an attempt to save the lives of the other passengers -- of Joe Kruzel, who was a friend of all of us, of Colonel Nelson Drew, and of our great friend Bob Frasure.
In June, Special Agents Chris Reilly and Larry Salmon accompanied Ambassador Krueger on a trip in Burundi. When the Ambassador's motorcade came under heavy automatic weapons fire, Special Agents Reilly and Salmon -- their rapid response saved the Ambassador and the Foreign Minister from, very possibly, serious injury or death.
The three of them were honored today. I think that they represent the best in the Foreign Service tradition. I they deserve recognition here in the United States. They very much deserve the honors that were bestowed upon them this morning.
I would ask you all to join me in a round of applause for them.
I'm going to take great pity on the three of them because they've been through a lot. I'm not going to ask them to respond to questions from all of you, and I hope you understand that. But I would like to take advantage of the presence of Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell and Ambassador Robert Krueger to ask both of them to say a few words.
AMBASSADOR KRUEGER: One cannot state as briefly as probably the time itself that elapsed under fire just what happened. But let me say that when we were going up this tortuous mountain road and there was a sheer escarpment to the right and a 200-foot drop to the left, we first thought we heard a flat tire which we probably did and we stopped. Then Chris, all of a sudden, said "It's gunfire." I could see the dust kicking up all around. I saw the windows shatter in the car immediately in front of me, so close that Chris, as soon as the gunfire started, said to the driver, "Eddie, back up," and he froze.
Chris reached across and put the car in reverse, reached across with his foot, stepped on the gas to back up. We went around and it was so narrow a passage that we were sideswiping the whole way as we went.
The car in front of us had five people. Two were killed, three wounded. In the whole event, two were killed, 13 wounded. When I looked around behind, there was Larry Salmon, leaning his long frame across from the left, with his revolver out the right window -- the only fire returning from anyone in the convoy against the attackers.
They were well trained, but they were more than well trained. In moments like that, it's only aspects of character that are built over a life-long period that really make the difference of real courage which they certainly displayed. It was because of that, I'm sure, that America continued to have an Ambassador, that Burundi continued to have a Foreign Minister, that the OAU Ambassador in our car also survived.
They are people who genuinely deserve not only this award but they deserve the appreciation of the people of this country because they are people who retain their cool under fire, and under fire were able to get us out without anyone from our group being injured, with the exception that Larry had a piece of shrapnel in his shoulder. There were an awful lot of injuries. They are a real credit to this country, and I would not do them justice if I neglected to mention that.
Thank you very much.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Ambassador, thank you. Now, I would like to ask Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell to also say a few words.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOSWELL: It's a pleasure to be here. Let me just say a word or two about the Diplomatic Security Service, which is so well represented by the three people that are behind me.
The Diplomatic Security Service, as you may know, is responsible for protecting the lives of our diplomats overseas. It is responsible for protecting our facilities and our information. It is an extremely proud service. Our diplomats are the outer edge of the defenses of the United States. The Diplomatic Security Agents are the edge of that outer edge in providing protection to our people.
We are all extremely proud of them. I was very happy to be with the Secretary of State when he made these awards this morning. There were about 250 Security Agents in the room. It was a very good moment for us, and I'm very happy to be part of their introduction here.
MR. BURNS: That concludes our very short presentation. I just wanted to thank the three Special Agents for coming. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us today. Eric Boswell, thank you.
Bill, do you have one question, perhaps? I'm going to field this question. I'm going to closely field it.
Q Ambassador Krueger and I had a moment to talk earlier. I would just like to ask about the current status of Burundi, and what you forecast for that central African area with regard to the Hutu and Tutsi animosities?
AMBASSADOR KRUEGER: Forecasting is not easy, particularly with something as troubled as Burundi. This is a very troubled land. It is a land in which there has been a slow, progressive, some would say genocide going on.
Certainly, there have been some horrendous actions going on for a very long period of time. The quantity of death itself is far beyond what the people in this country, basically worldwide, I think know.
It's a small isolated country. It's easy to be forgotten, but there are human beings there who are suffering every day. Burundi is a nascent democracy. They had their first free elections in '93. There have been opponents to democracy throughout it. In that process, democracy has been continuously eaten up by those who consider themselves superior to others.
I can't say what's going to happen. I won't forecast that. I can tell you that the majority of the people want peace. There's no question about that. There are some people in positions of power from each of the two extremes who still think that they can win and can subjugate the other. That is the problem within Burundi. It will have to be achieved within the country itself -- an attitude that will say, it is more important to work with others and to accept others as equals than it is to try to subjugate the other side.
I think the United States has done more than any other country. Certainly, the President of this country has spoken out repeatedly about human rights abuses there, far more so than any other nation anywhere.
The United States has been outspoken and has recognized these problems. But we can recognize the problems, we can work with them, we cannot solve them for them. That remains with the Burundians.
Q (Inaudible) continue to attack Americans in Burundi?
AMBASSADOR KRUEGER: It was not an attack against Americans as such. It was a resentment that the Foreign Minister and I had gone out to observe the massacres that had taken place. It was an attack on the Foreign Minister as much as it was against me. It was an attack against those who would want the truth to be reported.
As you may know, a few months later, when I was out on another occasion, three journalists were killed by a comparable group after we had been in the countryside.
MR. BURNS: I would like to put a cap on this by saying once again how proud we are of the three of you. And as a fellow Foreign Service Officer, thank you very much.
(The party departed from the room.)
MR. BURNS: Barry, I don't have any more specific announcements except to say to our colleague David Ensor of ABC, Happy Birthday. Another round of applause. (Applause)
Q What is the current status of arms shipments to Pakistan, please?
MR. BURNS: You didn't want to wish David a Happy Birthday. We'll go right to Pakistan. I knew I wouldn't get a break from you, Barry, but I didn't expect one.
What is the current status of the -- you're referring to the Brown Amendment?
Q Yes, the one-time only. Right.
MR. BURNS: Let me just remind you, the Brown Amendment authorized the release to Pakistan of $368 million worth of non-strategic military equipment that Pakistan had purchased prior to 1990, prior to the imposition of the Pressler Amendment sanctions.
It includes naval patrol aircraft, harpoon missiles, Howitzers, various spare parts and equipment, additions to certain items in Pakistan's inventory. This package excludes the F-16s which, as you know, the United States is trying to sell to a third country.
Where it stands is that the Brown Amendment was recently passed. I believe it was passed in January. It is a one-time only amendment, and we are now working with the Congress in an attempt to decide how to proceed in implementing its various provisions.
Q Are you hesitant to go ahead with this, the Administration, because of China's arms relationship with Pakistan?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't say we're hesitant. I think you've seen even in the press there's been some discussion in the Congress about this. I think we certainly want to continue our discussions with the Congress and with the Government of Pakistan. When we make a decision to ahead, we'll certainly let you know about it.
Yes, sir, you have a follow-up question?
Q (Inaudible) bought from China and Pakistan (inaudible) -- they say it is only a nuclear power plant -- the equipment is being received there. So after this, there is this flow of intelligence reports and leaks and others. Don't you think this is creating a lot of tense situation there and suspense?
MR. BURNS: You're referring now to the press reports?
Q Press reports.
MR. BURNS: About certain shipments from China to Pakistan, the ring magnets and other things?
As you know, the United States Government is concerned about those reports, and we have been looking into them. There have been some meetings this week -- high-level meetings to discuss them. We have not made a decision about our analysis of these reports and the information that we have obtained about them.
But it is a matter of very great concern, as Secretary of State Christopher said last week, and which I think others have repeated this week.
Q Well, if the reports turn out to be accurate, how would that impact on the arms shipment?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to get ahead of the story here or ahead of the people --
Q What are you required to do under the law? I mean, it's not hypothetical. Are you constrained from providing these weapons if indeed China did what the reports say they did, or is it a judgment call?
MR. BURNS: I think the law is very specific, and there are various parts of the law. There's the Glenn amendment and the Symington amendment. There's the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968. There are various laws on our books that pertain to this question, and it's a complicated question, so we're looking at all of them.
I don't want to get ahead and address a hypothetical question, however. But, obviously, Barry, there are laws here, and we follow our laws, and we are now looking at the information to see if there has been a violation of law. And, if there's a violation of law, then, of course, we'll act accordingly.
Q These ring magnets, as I understand it, are used for fuel enrichment. Is such fuel enrichment only useful in connection with nuclear weapons, or can it not also be useful in terms of enriching fuel for a peaceful nuclear energy plant?
MR. BURNS: I'm not an expert on this technology, so I don't want to give you an expert witness here. But, Jim, I think what we are looking at is the allegation that the export of certain technologies, including the ring magnets, would contribute to an effort to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability, and that is a very serious concern.
Just to go back to Barry's question, there are laws that discuss the implications for such technology transfers. So that's at the heart of the question. We have not yet made a determination as to whether or not in fact there has been a violation of the law, which goes to your question, Jim. I just can't give you a scientific analysis, though, of the use of ring magnets.
Q A question on another subject. Yesterday, Assistant Secretary Shattuck said that the United States will ruthlessly pursue Karadzic and Mladic. That seems to be a lot more proactive game-plan than what we've been hearing before, which is that the IFOR troops, if they encounter these people by chance, will detain them.
Was he signaling a change in policy, or is the old policy still in effect?
MR. BURNS: I listened very carefully to John Shattuck, and I think what he said is fully consistent with what Secretary Perry said two days ago and what other spokespeople of the Administration have said.
Let me break it down into two parts. First, I think Secretary Perry, John Shattuck and others have been very consistent. It is the duty of troops in IFOR to detain indicted war criminals, should they recognize them, should they encounter them anywhere -- on the street, at a checkpoint -- anywhere in the region where IFOR is currently patrolling. It's the duty. Secretary Perry made that clear.
Obviously, IFOR has let us know, privately and publicly, that they don't believe they have sufficient quality photographs and information on the 52 indicted war criminals to let their troops know who these people are.
Secretary Perry said two days ago that he would make sure that those photographs and any other information were in the hands of IFOR. Also, importantly, the spokeswoman for Justice Goldstone in The Hague said the same thing: that the War Crimes Tribunal would give to IFOR as much information as it needed to allow our young troops to be able to identify these people.
But what's very clear, what Assistant Secretary Shattuck and Secretary Perry and all of us have said this week, is it is the responsibility, it is a duty, to detain these people if, in fact, they encounter them. But both of them also said -- and I have said and others have said -- that it is not the central mission of the troops.
The central mission of the troops is to patrol the cease-fire zone and to enforce the cease-fire and maintain it, which is the central military mission of IFOR.
To go to the larger question, the United States strongly supports and supports unequivocally the War Crimes Tribunal in the objective of bringing each of these 52 people to trial. They have been indicted. They should be brought to trial in The Hague, and, if the prosecution is successful, they should then be convicted and incarcerated.
We have no doubt that war criminals number one and two -- Karadzic and Mladic -- are guilty of the murder of thousands of people at Srebrenica and Zepa and in other instances. It is our determination to bring them to justice.
It may not happen this week, and it may not happen next week or even any time in the next three or four months. But it will happen, and they will be brought to justice. Sooner or later they'll make a mistake and they'll end up in The Hague, and that will be a great day.
Q Going back to my basic question, the words "ruthlessly pursue" seem to go well beyond just getting better photographs and just hoping that they'll take a wrong turn some day and wind up in Bosnian territory. "Ruthlessly pursue" means something very active.
MR. BURNS: I don't think John Shattuck meant to assert a point that would change the military mission of IFOR. We are in complete agreement -- we in the State Department -- with the Defense Department and with our military leadership in the field that the primary responsibility of the troops has been to create a 600-mile zone of separation, to patrol that zone, and to maintain a cease-fire.
But they do have these additional responsibilities which they will carry out if in fact they do encounter these people. The first step is to give them the tools to do that -- the information to do that. So, Jim, I wouldn't think that Assistant Secretary Shattuck was trying to stake out new ground. But I think what he said was consistent with what all of us have been saying all along.
Q Thank, Nick. Arshad from the Daily Inquilab. The inevitable has happened. The most controversial election has been concluded. The voter list and election, according to the estimate of CNN and BBC -- the total turnout was hardly two percent. The Government of Khalid Zia is now knocking on the door of the Western powers and friends to legitimize these polls. What would be now the stand of the United States? Will the United States come forward to legitimize it -- or just see that further violence and further happenings lead to a situation where the opposition leaders has already indicated -- and if the army's (inaudible) at some point of time taking sides, the country is going to (inaudible) for a civil war and a bloody war, when democracy would simply wane in isolation.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Arshad, I think it's only been a few hours since the polls have closed. I don't believe the returns are complete, so therefore it is too early for the United States or anyone else to judge these elections and certainly judge the results of the elections. As we said before, the United States regrets very much that the government and opposition together could not produce a situation in which the elections could be fully contested.
I know that many people in Bangladesh, and I know that many people in the government and opposition believe that the elections are not the same as fully contested elections that were originally sought by all the parties. We agree with that judgment. We agree with that.
We would urge the parties now in the wake of the elections to resume their dialogue and to try to put together a political dialogue that would keep the political differences peaceful and that would avoid violence.
Q A general feeling in Dhaka is that the United States Government is aiding the Government of Khalid Zia to stay in power, even in this -- having concluded this illegitimate or illegal election. How far is that -- how do you take that, and how -- what would be your reactions to that, if the general feeling is as such?
MR. BURNS: We have diplomatic relations, as you know, with Bangladesh, and we have relations with the government. As you know, our diplomats in Dhaka have also been in contact as part of their normal duties for a long time with members of the opposition. That is the way that American diplomats normally operate overseas.
We are taking a position where, when United States' interests are engaged, we discuss and work on those interests with the Government of Bangladesh. We have not interfered in these elections. We've observed these elections with the rest of the world.
Q As you observed, your observation would be to judge properly and correctly?
MR. BURNS: As I said, I think it's too early to judge, because the polls have just closed. We're not capable of judging right now. There were other people monitoring these elections, and I don't think the time has come for us to do that.
Q Colombia. I'm sure you're aware that the Attorney General of Colombia has brought up charges against the President. Would the State Department take into consideration that fact to perhaps change its recommendation to President Clinton on the certification issue?
MR. BURNS: The United States Government has not yet made decisions on the certification issue regarding Colombia or many other governments around the world. I expect that those decisions will be taken very shortly. There are recommendations being made to the Secretary of State and to the President by a number of cabinet agencies, a number of agencies of the U.S. Government, and they, of course, take all information into account when they make their recommendation.
I would think then around March 1, Assistant Secretary Gelbard will be ready to announce these decisions, but I cannot preview the decisions for you.
Q I can understand that, but how much do you think this will weigh, one way or the other?
MR. BURNS: We said many times that we are not going to comment publicly on the charges brought against President Samper from within Colombia. We're going to await the results of the full investigation that is underway. It wouldn't be wise or prudent or fair of us to comment in midstream here.
Q Would you then say that the fact that charges have been brought up will be considered against the President? Will it be considered to say yes or no to certification for Colombia?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to anticipate the certification decision. That is a decision that the Secretary of State and the President will make -- not me -- and they'll make it based upon the recommendations of a variety of people, taking all information into account.
Q The final one -- a press report on a Colombian television network, saying that sources at the State Department had said that Colombia would not be certified as long as Samper was going to be President.
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't listen to people who don't want to speak on the record. I really wouldn't. The fact is that we have not received all the recommendations -- we here in the Department -- from the various agencies yet. They're coming in. It's a very serious decision that we need to make, not just about Colombia but about a number of other countries around the world.
I'm simply not going to engage in any speculation as to what decisions will be made, and I wouldn't encourage you to listen to people who are not central to this process and who are not willing to speak on the record about it, frankly.
Q Nick, is there a dominant or central agency in this determination? Do State and the White House -- are they the end of some sort of a chain where the judgment is made primarily elsewhere?
MR. BURNS: I can't take you through the details of the interagency process, Barry. I can just say there is an interagency process. There are a number of agencies. There's certainly Justice, DEA and Treasury and the State Department and the National Security Council all involved in this. Ultimately, the Secretary of State and the President make these decisions.
Q So there isn't a natural deference to Justice, is there? Justice Department.
MR. BURNS: It really depends on the issue, and it depends on the circumstance, but the buck stops on the President's desk ultimately on most important questions pertaining to American foreign policy. That's the way it should be.
Yes -- no more on Colombia. There is more on Colombia.
Q The last Colombian (inaudible) important factor in the certification decision.
MR. BURNS: I just said we're going to take all factors, all information, into account in making our decision.
Q Can you comment on the opening today of the Russian presidential campaign -- Yeltsin and Zyuganov announcing?
MR. BURNS: Yes. It was quite an important day in Russia. I understand that Mr. Zyuganov was named the candidate of the Communist Party, and I also know, of course, that President Yeltsin announced today in Yekaterinberg, his hometown, that he would be a candidate in the June 16 presidential elections.
I want to make it very clear; the United States, of course, has a great and vital interest in good relations with Russia, with the Russian Federation, and we have a good relationship, I think, with that country going back now over four years.
But it is not the place of the United States to intrude on this electoral process. It is not the place of the United States to declare that we are going to favor one candidate or another.
I can tell you what we do favor, however. We favor reform, and by that I mean the efforts of individuals across the political spectrum in Russia to promote democracy, to promote elections, to promote the rule of law, to promote economic reform, and to promote a Russian foreign policy that pays due respect to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Russia's neighbors and to good relations with the United States.
So the United States has interests here that are very important, but we are under no illusions that we can affect these elections, and you will not see us declaring our support for any party or any candidate.
In the case of Mr. Zyuganov, let me just say a word. As you know, those of you who looked at the Communist Party platform for the Duma elections in December and have been watching the statements of the Communist Party leadership, Mr. Zyuganov has apparently called for a referendum on the re-establishment of the Soviet Union.
Our policy -- American policy -- on the New Independent States is well known, and Secretary Christopher reaffirmed it last week in Helsinki. We support the independence of all of Russia's neighbors, including the 11 former Soviet republics which are now independent. We support their territorial integrity, and we support their sovereignty.
We would take a very dim view and would criticize most harshly any attempt to create on involuntary means, by involuntary means recreate a Soviet Union. Any type of integration efforts, whether they be economic or political, must be voluntary. They cannot and should not be achieved by intimidation or by the threat of force or by the use of force.
I think that while this is clearly a United States' view, I think this is a view largely shared in the international community.
Q But this is just a neutral position. This has nothing to do with you favoring or disfavoring certain candidates when you say that.
MR. BURNS: As I say, we have interests, and we have a relationship with Russia which is vitally important. So we will speak out on issues that are pertinent to our relationship. This issue is highly pertinent to our relationship, because the nature of our relationship with Russia is based upon certain foundations and certain assumptions to those foundations; namely, that Russia is going to be a state and a country that honors the sovereignty of its neighbors.
I think it is appropriate for us to call attention to the fact that one of the major political parties in Russia is running on a platform to somehow re-establish some kind of an association or Soviet Union. This would be a major step backwards and it would not be supported by the United States.
Q You'll make such statements from time to time as issues -- as issues -- what's the word -- get involved -- I can't think of a better word -- with American foreign policy. You'll be commenting on -- as candidates take various positions, you'll say from the U.S. viewpoint we approve of this, we disapprove of this.
MR. BURNS: I don't think so.
Q Well, you just did.
MR. BURNS: You asked me a question with future tense.
MR. BURNS: I don't think that we'll take every opportunity to comment on every political pronouncement. But Secretary Christopher will be traveling to Moscow in mid-March for a two-day ministerial meeting, and the President will be traveling to Moscow in April. We have a very active and broad relationship. So when issues come up, we're going to talk about the issues.
Q Well, what about interacting with -- I think you just said with reference to another country that the U.S. meets with opposition people, meets with government people. When the Secretary goes to Russia, will he meet with other reformers who may be candidates? Will he meet with non-reformers who are candidates, or will he meet only with government people, or do you know yet?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary has not yet signed off on his full schedule there, but I would expect that the Secretary, while he's in Moscow for two days, would take the opportunity to meet with people outside the government -- a variety of people outside the government, including people in political life. I certainly would expect that. That would be consistent with our longstanding practice not only in Russia but all around the world.
When the President was in Moscow in May, he met with Mr. Zyuganov, Yevlinsky, Gaidar, a number of others. As you know, when opposition leaders of allies of the United States visit Washington, it's our practice to meet with them, so I think we'll continue that practice, and the Secretary will on his trip.
Q You don't do it in every country. But let me ask you -- like most recently in the Middle East -- but let me ask you to --
MR. BURNS: Actually, let me just state for the record --
Q You met with opposition people in Syria or in Israel --
MR. BURNS: Well, in Syria --
Q There is no opposition.
MR. BURNS: There's not a wide spectrum in the political system there. (Laughter) But let me just say in the case of Israel --
Q You tried to arrange a meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, he was busy that night, and that took care of it.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'll characterize it for us --
Q We were there, Nick.
MR. BURNS: -- and you can characterize it however way you'd like.
Q We've been through this. You tried to arrange --
MR. BURNS: Let me remind --
Q All right, go ahead. Do it.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. Thank you. (Laughter) Last spring when the Secretary was in Israel, he met with Mr. Netanyahu. In advance of our most recent trip, last week the Secretary offered to meet with Mr. Netanyahu, and their schedules -- Mr. Netanyahu could not meet the evening the Secretary was free. The Secretary was busy the other nights, so there you have it. It was a good-faith effort.
Q All right, but let me go back to Russia.
MR. BURNS: It's consistent with our worldwide practice.
Q Yeah, I know. Let me get back to Russia. If you have an interest in reform, does the State Department have a view of the analysis that the various reform candidates should coalesce behind one reformer -- maybe not Yeltsin, but behind one and not divide the reform vote? Is that something the U.S. has a position on, that you would prefer seeing one strong reform candidate instead of two or three?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher spoke to this in December, and we have spoken to it many times since. Yes, we believe it would be advantageous and wise for the various reform parties to coalesce around a candidate in these elections. The reason for that is quite simple.
Number one, we support reform and reformers. We're not going to support individual candidates, but we certainly support that process, and we do not support the anti-reform part of the Russian political spectrum.
Second, I think all you've got to do, Barry, is look at the electoral math from December, and it's not hard to conclude that if the reformers do not unite, their chances of victory, we believe, in June will be diminished.
Q Maybe button this up. Does the Administration still believe that Boris Yeltsin represents reform? There have been a number of commentators recently who have said that they don't believe he does anymore.
MR. BURNS: Yes, I think the Administration certainly believes that President Yeltsin continues to head a government that is reform-oriented and reform-minded. I think all you need to do for that, David, is look at the policies of that government over the last four years.
As we've said many times, we believe that there are some troubling signs. We certainly felt that some of the people who had led the reform movement -- it was unfortunate that they had to leave the Russian Government in January. There are some troubling signs about Russian reform, but we will judge the Russian Government in our own relationship with it based on their actions.
When Prime Minister Chernomyrdin visited Washington two weeks ago, he, I think, very clearly assured the President and the Vice President and Secretary Christopher that economic reform would continue.
When the Secretary met with Minister Primakov in Helsinki, I think we heard from Minister Primakov some reassurances on the major outlines of Russian foreign policy, which I would refer to as a reform foreign policy on Bosnia, on the question of sanctions on Iraq and on a host of other matters.
So we'll certainly judge the government, not solely by its words but by its actions, but I don't think it's proper or even intellectually accurate to say that this government has abandoned reform, not when we see it pursuing policies that are cooperative with us on foreign policy and on economics.
Q So there are other reformers in the race, aren't there, who could carry out a reform program?
MR. BURNS: There certainly are, and we're not going to choose --
Q They don't have a track record.
MR. BURNS: Again, we're not going to say we favor this reformer or that reformer. We're just going to say that we think that the Russian people and Russia's relations with the rest of the world will be better off if reformers stay in power -- if reform continues -- and we're very clear that we don't think that Mr. Zhirinovsky's party or the Communist Party represent a future that is democratic or reform-oriented.
Q Mr. Zyuganov, in his comments, probably don't come into what you call the anti-reform -- I mean, do come into what you call the anti- reform part of the spectrum.
MR. BURNS: Let me just repeat this again, just in the interests of clarity. We're not going to choose candidates. We're not going to say we favor this person or that person, but we have always said, since the beginning of this Administration and even in recent weeks said that we support reform. But we certainly do not favor the anti-reform policy.
Let's take Mr. Zhirinovsky, for instance. That's the one person in the Russian political leadership we will not meet with, because of his reprehensible views, and Secretary Christopher will not meet with him in mid-March. President Clinton did not meet with him last May.
His platform is certainly a platform that we could not support in terms of our relationship with the future Russian Government.
Q So it's fair to say that while you don't support a particular candidate, there are candidates you do not want to see win.
MR. BURNS: I would prefer to say that there are certain platforms, and there are certain policies that we will not support. We do not support a return to communism or a return to the Soviet Union, because I don't think the neighbors of Russia support a return to the Soviet Union.
Q Nick, if President --
Q (Multiple questions)
Q (Inaudible) return to the Soviet Union, you mean under any circumstances, right? You said -- on the one hand, you said that the communist platform included a proposal for a referendum on the re- establishment of the Soviet Union, and then you said you would take a dim view of the re-establishment of the Soviet Union by force. How would you feel about a re-establishment of the Soviet Union by voluntary referendum?
MR. BURNS: We've often said it. I don't think anybody wants to see a return to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a failed system -- autocratic, brutal system. No one that I know in Washington, D.C., favors a return for the Russian people to the Soviet system.
What we've said about integration -- and, as you know, in the Commonwealth of Independent States, there have been a number of proposals put forward to more closely integrate the life of these countries, economically and politically. What we've said there is that if it's voluntary and if the countries of the CIS choose to promote their integration on a voluntary basis, then the United States cannot have an objection to that. But if it's involuntary, if it's achieved by the threat of force, we certainly could not.
We're talking about a variety of things here. In the CIS these days, they're talking about policy options to integrate or not to integrate.
The other side of the realm here is that some communists, including Mr. Zyuganov, have floated this idea of a reconstitution of the Soviet Union. We clearly do not want to see that happen, and they're different things. They're different things.
Q If Zyuganov is elected President of Russia, the United States will work with him and meet with him, and so on?
MR. BURNS: David, with all due respect, it's a very interesting question but I don't want to look down the road all the way to June and July and anticipate that. We're just going to have to wait and see what happens; wait and see who is elected. The United States, of course, will act always consistent with our national interest.
Q You want to leave open the possibility in people's minds that if he were elected President, you would not meet with him?
MR. BURNS: I'm not trying to engage in the question. Here we are, it's February 15. We have no idea what's going to happen on June 16; or if the elections go to a second round later on, a couple of weeks later in June. It's just is not in my interest to take a hypothetical question like that and try to spin out what the United States would or would not do in a certain scenario.
I think it's best to say that the United States favors a close relationship in a democratic Russia. We hope very much that democracy in Russia continues well beyond the next elections.
Anymore on Russia? You've been waiting very patiently. I'm sorry.
Q On China. Do you have any response to remarks by the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman earlier today that one of the causes for the tension in the Taiwan Straits is the U.S. arm sales to Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen the comments of Mr. Shen Guo-fang, I think you're referring to. No, I have not seen his comments so I do not wish to reply specifically to them. But I think you know under the Taiwan Relations Act, of course, the United States has always believed that it is proper and in our interest, in some cases, to promote arms transfers to Taiwan.
As you know, there are a number of different types of equipment that are being sold to Taiwan by American manufacturers and some of which are fighter aircraft. But there's nothing new in that since 1979.
It is an action and a policy that is fully consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, with the three communiques, and with American national interests. So I'm not going to apologize for them. They do exist, and they will continue.
Q Will your arms sales policy be affected by the rising tension in the straits?
MR. BURNS: No, it will not. It will not.
Still on China?
Q I have a follow-up on China. Anybody else? Yes, Nick. General Shalikashvili this morning, in a press briefing on the China- Taiwan issue, reiterated, confirmed what Mr. Joseph Nye said last week, that the Chinese -- PRC, PLA -- was not a threat to Taiwan because it didn't have the amphibious capability of projecting their forces into Taiwan.
General Shalikashvili also said that there's no special precautions being taken by the United States against a potential Chinese strike at Taiwan.
I would go a little bit further and ask, why doesn't the United States form a policy that would allow us to completely avert any kind of a military confrontation with China over Taiwan if, indeed, Taiwan is safe?
MR. BURNS: First, General Shalikashvili is far more competent than I am to talk about the issue of the capabilities of the Chinese military. He said what he did this morning, and it's fully consistent, I think, with views here in Washington.
Second, I think we've spoken very often, Bill, and don't need to reiterate at great length here our belief that China is trying to intimidate Taiwan before the Taiwanese elections. We do not believe that a Chinese attack on Taiwan is something that is being planned.
Q I'm concerned about the possibility of accident-incident; that kind of error in this calculation --
MR. BURNS: Disputes across the Taiwan Straits should be settled peacefully by people on both sides of those straits. Yes?
Q Mr. Holbrooke was in London yesterday. He met with the British Defense Secretary. They discussed certain issues. I think among the topics they covered was the Aegean issue.
Can you first tell us what did they exactly talk? And, secondly, how do you interpret the British stand on the Aegean issue, which seems to be sort of different than the U.S. stand?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a detailed report on Dick Holbrooke's discussions in London. I don't believe there are major differences between the United Kingdom and the United States on this issue, on the Aegean.
Q Do you stand by the British position that Greece and Turkey should resolve their outstanding issues by direct talks?
MR. BURNS: The United States believes that Greece and Turkey should resolve their problems peacefully, amicably, by whatever means they choose to do so, whether it's the International Court of Justice, whether it's some other form of mediation, whether it's direct talks. It doesn't really matter to us how it's done. It's fully up to them how they want to proceed on that basis. We're not going to dictate that to them. We're fully available to help if they would like us to help.
Q Nick, I want to go back to Russia for a second. In newspaper reports yesterday, apparently in the past couple of days Russia has cut off the Ukraine from its power grid, ostensibly because Ukraine was using 50 percent more than its quota in terms of power. But in light of the statements that Zyuganov was making and at least in superficial shifts in the Yeltsin Government towards the nationalist sentiment in Russia, do you see any more in this action than the Russians have said?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the specific incident to which you refer. Then again if you look back over the last four years or so, these kinds of problems are quite common because they have to do with the provision of not only electricity but gas from GAZPROM, the Russian state gas company, and oil among the CIS countries.
There are debts involved here. Sometimes when debts are not paid or when consumption is greater than anticipated, actions are taken. We have been helpful to the Ukranians and the Russians in the past in trying to resolve some of these problems, specifically on gas supplies. We just hope that these problems can always be resolved amicably, peacefully, and through discussions, which has mainly been the case over the past four years. It's not surprising, though, that this should arise because it's been commonplace, unfortunately.
Q To clarify what you have just said on the arms sales to Taiwan. I only heard you say the Taiwan Relations Act. Would those sales also be guided by the three communiques?
MR. BURNS: The sales have been taking place for a number of years. They are not unusual. It's not just the Clinton Administration that has been involved in them. It's the Bush Administration and Administrations before that.
Let me just check with our experts in EAP to give you -- if you want to get the exact diplomatic language on this, I think we can produce that for you. But I don't think you should see anything untoward or unusual in this activity. It's certainly consistent with American national interests and with our official relationship with Beijing and our unofficial relationship with Taipei.
Q Both the Taiwan Relations Act and the joint communiques with China talk about arms sales to Taiwan. Are the three communiques still in effect as far as arms sales --
MR. BURNS: The three communiques are absolutely in effect. They are the bedrock of our relationship with the People's Republic of China. You're absolutely right. I know that the third one does discuss this issue.
But if you're somehow trying to work your way through the words and determine something about policy based on the words that I use, I'd much rather refer you to the experts a couple of floors above here in the East Asia Bureau. They're be very glad to give you the specific language.
One more, Barry. Heskins is no longer with the Red Sox. He didn't do very well in his last year anyway.
Q Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan was here and (Inaudible) was here for a couple of days and met a few senior officers in the State Department, the National Security, and the Vice President. Do you have any comment on the visit and the discussions he had there?
MR. BURNS: I think he had a very good visit here. There were a number of discussions with Administration officials. I can't give you the detail on them, but certainly our South Asia Bureau, Len Scensny, could do that for you.
Q Short questions on Mexico. The first one is, I would like your comment about the first stage of the peace agreement reached between the Mexican Government and the Zapatistas, if you could compare it to other processes similar in the area? That's the first one.
The second one is, I would like to know your opinion if the State Department is satisfied or unsatisfied with the way that Mexico is conducting its drug trafficking fight?
The third one, and last, is, can you confirm if President Clinton is going to meet with the Mexican President the 23rd of this month in Tijuana?
MR. BURNS: On the third question, the White House announces Presidential meetings, so I'd refer you to Mike McCurry, the President's Press Secretary on that.
The second question: As you know, we have had a long discussion, long-term discussion with the Mexican Government and cooperative programs to try to fight the flow of narcotics both in Mexico and in the United States. It's a very important concern to both governments.
I can't anticipate, however, any decisions that you want me to talk about. That will be made on March 1.
On the first question, we're very pleased about the agreement that was reported yesterday between the Mexican Government and the rebels. We believe it's the first agreement since the uprising began in January 1994. We understand that further talks now underway with mediation by a peace commission will address other issues that were put forth by the rebels.
The ultimate goal here, as we understand it, is a comprehensive accord for peace and justice in Chiapas, and we applaud the government and applaud the rebels for this breakthrough. We hope it's a breakthrough, and we hope these efforts continue.
Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:04 p.m.)
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