U.S. Department of State 96/03/29 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, March 29, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome Visiting Indonesian Media, Japan Govt. Official and Univ of Rhode Island Students ..................... 1 Anti-Terrorism Conference in Washington, Follow-on to Sharm al-Sheikh Summit, 3/28-29/96; Background Briefing 1-2 COLOMBIA: US Reaction to Colombian Senate Vote to Remove US Ambassador Myles Frechette ........................ 2 INDIA: Statement on Murder in Kashmir of Jurist Jalil Andrabi 2-3 SOUTH AFRICA: Civil Aviation Agreement .................. 3 HUNGARY: Statement on Accession to OECD ................ 3 RUSSIA: Military Action Escalates in Chechnya .......... 3-4 RUSSIA US Contacts re Escalation of Violence in Chechnya ....... 4 Ambassador Pickering Meeting Today at Foreign Ministry .. 4-5,15-16 - Media Report Text of Yeltsin-Clinton Conversation ..... 5 TERRORISM Sharm al-Shaikh Follow Up Conference .................... 5-6 - Focus, Topics of Discussion, including Peace Process .. 5-8,11-12 - Israel Eases Movement Restrictions on Palestinians .... 6-7,10-11 - International Aid to Palestinians ..................... 7-8 - Iran Role in Terrorism ................................ 9-10,12-13 - US Bomb-Detection Equipment to Israel ................. 10-11 - Syria, Lebanon Welcome to Participate in Future Meetings 12-13 - Obligation to End Any Support for Terrorist Groups .... 13-14 Release of Annual Report on Patterns of Global Terrorism 14 Libyan Continued Support for Terrorism .................. 14 BRAZIL Status of Extradition Case of Martin Pang ............... 8-9 JAPAN JRA Member Carrying Counterfeit Dollars ................ 9 LIBYA Continued Support for Terrorism; Reports of Unrest . ... 14 NORTH KOREA Remarks on Potential End of Armistice Commission ....... 15 SOUTH KOREA President Clinton to Stop in Seoul ..................... 15 ARMS CONTROL SCC (Special Consultative Commission) Talks ............ 16 CHINA Status of Sanctions Consideration, Ex-Im Loan Decision .. 16-17 INDIA India Urges Sanctions on China ......................... 17 Murder of Jurist Andrabi in Kashmir; Military in Kashmir 17-18 - US Knowledge of Andrabi Arrest ........................ 18
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, March 29, 1996, 1:19 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, welcome to the State Department briefing. I want to apologize for the delay. I was ready to go about 35 minutes ago but we -- of course, all of us -- have a slavish dedication to the networks here and subservience to them, so I acceded to a request from the networks to delay this briefing just a little bit.
I want to welcome today four editors and journalists from Indonesia who are with us. They're here in the U.S. to study the relationship between the government and the media. So you'll see that first-hand today.
I also want to welcome Kanae Honda, a parliamentary secretary to a member of the Japanese Diet. In particular, I want to welcome six journalism and political science students from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. I guess you're over here. I assume, since you're from Rhode Island, you're Red Sox fans. Is that right? Because we're just about to start the baseball season, and I think you'll join me in predicting that the Boston Red Sox will defy the Calvinist roots of your university, the pre-destination that seems to have plagued them for the last 78 years, and they'll win this year -- the World Series; right?
Q Sports Illustrated picks the Red Sox for second.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much, Judd. You're most welcome. I have several announcements I want to go through before we begin the questions.
The first is that the Follow-on Conference here in the building to the Sharm al-Sheikh Summit is underway. As you know, it began last night. There were meetings last night after the initial plenary session, ad hoc meetings. They continued this morning in two respects. There were working group meetings on various aspects of the terrorism problem, trying to define options for how we can all ban together in the Middle East to fight the terrorist groups.
And, second, Assistant Secretary Bob Pelletreau held a general meeting with the heads of delegation to discuss all the issues of concern. That included terrorism, it included the need to continue the peace process; and also included the issue of closure and the effects of closure on the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
I think there is a broad consensus among the delegations -- the 29 delegations -- that we need to focus on the fight against terrorism as well as focusing on the need to continue the peace process.
I would expect after their working lunch, which is being held right now, they would start a plenary session at around 3:00. Following that, sometime between 4:00 and 5:00, we'll hold a BACKGROUND briefing in this room for all of you who are interested. That BACKGROUND briefing will feature senior U.S. officials who are co-chairing the meetings today for the United States.
I also want to make a very short statement on Colombia. I think all of you have seen the reports in the press about the actions of the Colombian Senate and the way they've described the behavior of our Ambassador.
United States Ambassador to Colombia, Myles Frechette, enjoys the full support and confidence of the United States Government. We will continue to rely on Ambassador Frechette to advance U.S. objectives in our relations with Colombia.
The United States has repeatedly stated its concern that the on-going criminal investigations in Colombia be fully transparent and conducted within the scope of the Colombian constitution and its legal system and that they be aggressively pursued to their conclusion.
That's the end of my statement. But my commentary is that Ambassador Frechette is a distinguished diplomat. All of us support him in this building. We don't want to leave anyone in Colombia with the impression that somehow he's not being supported. He is. He will remain there -- remain on the job -- and he's doing an excellent job.
Separately, I want to just say as well that there has been a brutal killing in Kashmir of a prominent journalist, Mr. Jalil Andrabi. The United States strongly condemns his murder. He was the Chairman of the Kashmir Commission of Jurists. He was abducted from his home in Srinagar, in Kashmir, on March 8, by unknown assailants. His body was found Wednesday morning in a river in Srinagar.
He was reportedly preparing to attend the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva at the time of his disappearance.
The United States calls upon the Indian Government to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances around Mr. Andrabi's abduction and his murder. We call upon the Indian Government to protect those who are involved in human rights work in Kashmir.
We have expressed our concern to the Indian Government, to the Indian National Human Rights Commission, and we hope very much that Mr. Andrabi's murderers will be quickly apprehended and convicted of murder.
I also want to let you know we'll be posting in the Press Office after the briefing the fact that the United States has signed a Civil Aviation Agreement with South Africa.
I believe that there was going to be some briefings on this at the White House this morning. It's a very important development. It adds to the agreements earlier this week with Japan and France on air cargo and passenger travel. I think, taken together, these Civil Aviation Agreements significantly advance the focus that we have here at the State Department on trying to assist U.S. businesses and they significantly advance the prospects for those U.S. businesses involved in civil aviation.
I also want to tell you that there's a statement in the Press Office today about the accession of Hungary to the OECD. This is an important development.
Today in Paris the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development invited Hungary to become its 27th member. This is an important milestone in the process of integrating the formerly communist countries of Central Europe into Western institutions. It's a great step forward for Hungary itself, and I think it reflects well on the economic reforms that the Hungarian Government has put into place.
Finally, I have a statement on Chechnya. In recent weeks, the level of violence of Russian military action in Chechnya has substantially escalated.
We understand that the Russian Government is considering now a new initiative. It's our hope that this initiative will focus on peaceful means to end the conflict in Chechnya as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, we continue to be appalled by the considerable loss of life and the injuries being inflicted upon non-combatants in Chechnya through the indiscriminate and excessive use of military force by the Russian military, including the use of heavy weapons against innocent civilians.
We're greatly concerned by reports that the Russian military has denied international humanitarian organizations access to the towns and villages under attack which prevents civilians from being evacuated. We're also concerned by reports that journalists, both from Russia and Chechnya and beyond, are being denied access to these regions.
We strongly urge the Russian Government to put an end to these attacks immediately. They are unworthy of Russia, and there can be no justification for them.
Q Do you have anything to say about the impact of the Russian policy in Chechnya on the upcoming meeting between the two Presidents?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States, since late December 1994, has spoken out consistently and forcefully against Russia's policy in Chechnya. We believe that there is no possibility of a militarily-imposed settlement in Chechnya. We believe that the only answer to the problems is a peaceful resolution in which both sides have to participate -- both the Chechen rebels and the Russian Government.
George, we've expressed these concerns all along. We'll continue to do that. I'm sure this will be raised in April when the meetings are held between the Russian and American delegations.
The indiscriminate use of military force, just in recent days -- and I think catalogued in a very impressive article in the Washington Post this morning -- cannot be justified. The international community does have a responsibility to speak out against this use of force against innocent civilians.
Q Nick, did the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow get called in by the Foreign Ministry today? And do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I believe that Ambassador Pickering had meetings in the Foreign Ministry today; yes.
Q What was the reason for that?
MR. BURNS: He normally visits the Foreign Ministry on most days and talks about a variety of issues.
Q Who did he visit today?
MR. BURNS: We don't normally give to the press a catalogue of who our Ambassador is meeting and not meeting. But he met with officials from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Q Did they discuss leaks of sensitive information between the President?
MR. BURNS: I feel like I'm on the stand here, but you're a very good prosecutor.
The Ambassador was called in to discuss several issues. One of them was the appearance in an American newspaper of the alleged contents of a conversation between President Yeltsin and President Clinton. Yes, he was called in to discuss that.
Q What would be -- back to this approach. Did he tell them about our free and boisterous speech and freedom of the press in this country? Or did he tell him we're trying to find how it got out and clap somebody in jail for it? Or did he take a middle position?
While you're talking about the press in Chechnya, I wonder about the press in Washington.
MR. BURNS: Let me tell you, the press in Washington is a free press. Freedom of the press has been exercised this week by a number of you. Of course, we, here in the government, have absolutely no objection to that -- absolutely no objection to journalists printing what they want to print. We can have no objection because our constitution gives journalists those rights.
Obviously, as the White House has told you, we are concerned about the problem of leaks. It is unlawful, it is illegal for an employee of the United States Government to divulge to people who are not cleared for that information outside the government classified information. That's a problem that we have to deal with here in this government. I want to put the emphasis on that part of it. As you know, there is a process underway to deal with that problem.
Q Was there an effort to link the fight against terrorism to a timetable of withdrawal in the territories under the code name "The Need to Continue the Peace Process"? After all, there is no dispute among everybody who came to this conference that the peace process should go on.
So when this issue comes up, what exactly is the content behind it?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any kind of link like that. This conference has, as its focus, the fight against terrorism, but it also has the imperative of keeping the peace process going.
I think you're right in one sense, that most people pay lip service to the goal, the objective of keeping the peace negotiations going. But that's not really good enough.
Our view is that the Israeli population has been scarred by the suicide bombings, and therefore it's incumbent upon Israel's neighbors to make some psychological, if you will, bridges to the Israeli population about their continued interest in peace -- "their" being, the continued interest of Arab countries in peace. That's one of the reasons why the Sharm al-Sheikh conference was held and that's why we're having the Follow-up Conference today.
Q What happened between 3:30 yesterday and the opening of the conference as far as the U.S. position on what should be discussed? You, yourself, told us that the issue was counter-terrorism, not easing -- not reviving the peace process, as a focus to counter-terrorism and not discussing easing the closure.
But, apparently, in that 90 minutes there was something that happened to change that.
MR. BURNS: No, Sid. That's just not right. I said on the record on Monday -- check the transcript -- on the record on Tuesday -- check that transcript -- and I said to you at roughly 2:30/3:00 yesterday afternoon that the focus was going to be on the fight against terrorism.
I also said that, of course, our interest in preserving the peace process and advancing it would come up at the meeting. Check the transcripts. So we always had that as dual objectives.
Secretary Christopher had been working for a number of days but also intensively yesterday afternoon with Prime Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat, with the Norwegian Government, to try to see if we could get an agreement on easing the closure for the Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza.
Unlike some others around the world, we don't always feel a need to stand on a soap box and say what we're going to do. We prefer to work quietly, if you will, in the backrooms of these negotiations to get things done.
The United States produced yesterday -- we got something done. It's very significant for the Palestinian population. I think our actions speak for themselves.
Q Is there any risk involved for Israel's security with what you did? In other words, are you doing some balancing here?
MR. BURNS: The Israeli Government has to be the guarantor of the security of the Israeli people. The Israeli Government has agreed to these steps. In fact, the Israeli Government will be the organization that takes these steps and implements these steps, Barry.
I assume that if the Israeli Government has agreed to them, they feel they can provide adequate security; but also meet another objective of the Israeli Government, which is to try to find a way to normalize life with the Palestinians. It's an extraordinary situation. There are reasons why these extraordinary steps have been taken by the Israeli Government.
But you've heard Prime Minister Peres say, he thinks there ought to be continued economic assistance to the Palestinians; that the European Governments that have not met their commitments, have not actualized their commitments of financial assistance, ought to do so now; and that steps ought to be taken to facilitate the entry into Gaza and out of Gaza of construction materials and food and other things that will help ease the effects of the closure.
So I think what we did was fully consistent with all the objectives that we have here: Maintain the peace negotiations, try to help the Palestinian people, and provide security for the Israeli people at the same time.
Q Nick, because of the terrorist attacks and the Israeli response to that, the problem has been somewhat concentrated. I was wondering if the United States is considering anything, aside from jawboning, as you said, calling for the Europeans to fulfill their commitments to the Palestinians, that might increase the flow of assistance to the Palestinians; somewhat alleviate perhaps the sense of suffering there and the potential for support growing for terrorists rather than decreasing?
MR. BURNS: Now is the time for governments who have committed money but haven't given it to step up to the plate and get the job done.
What we're doing, Steve, is, the Norwegian Government is calling an emergency meeting of the ad hoc Liaison Committee, which is the international organization that takes responsibility for organizing aid to the Palestinians. They will meet.
I think substantial pressure -- political pressure and other pressure -- will be placed upon those governments that have not yet made their commitments. The timing is important here.
The Palestinian people are under great pressure. They do need the help of the international community.
Q Nick, yesterday, the Palestinians -- you may have just answered the question -- the Palestinians asked for another $100 million. They spoke after we left. Is that what you're addressing there? Is that something -- was it new money? Were they asking for release of money that hadn't yet been paid up, as you say? Can you square that?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to speak for the Palestinians. I think that some Palestinian spokespeople have said they'd like additional sources of money to help them. Our position is the United States, the largest contributor of assistance, is meeting its commitments -- $500 million over five years. We're up to date on our payments. Other governments are not.
So I think, first, Sid, that's the priority. Second, if governments want to step forward with new allocations of money, that would be greatly appreciated.
Q Apparently, there have been a new round of conversations or contacts or appeals, maybe, to Brazil, relating to the case of alleged arsonist, Martin Pang, who was extradited recently to face murder charges in Seattle. What exactly has gone on over the last day or two?
MR. BURNS: I can't tell you exactly what's gone on over the last day or two. I'll have to take that question, and we can maybe help you after the briefing. But I can tell you this case was raised during Secretary Christopher's visit to Brasilia in early March.
We continue to feel this is an important case. It's a case pertaining, of course, to the Justice Department; so therefore, I can't give you detailed information in public on it.
Q At the Justice Department this morning, they said there were no more judicial appeals that could be made and that it was now an executive-to-executive type of problem where an appeal was going to be made possibly to ask for a waiver of the extradition treaty which would involve the State Department?
MR. BURNS: That sounds authoritative. It sounds like you had a good answer from the Justice Department. I'm not sure I can improve upon it, but we'll see what we can do after the briefing. If there's any more information we can give you, we'll be glad to do that.
Q Can you tell us something about a Japanese Red Army member who was carrying the counterfeit $100 U.S.? Is the U.S. demanding that he should be handed over to the FBI?
MR. BURNS: I'm unaware of this case. I don't know anything about it. We'll look into it, but I just have not heard about this case. I'm sorry.
Q This meeting -- anti-terrorism meeting yesterday and today -- did anything come out new about Iran, the role of Iran? Anything new about the (inaudible), so-called (inaudible) chemical plant?
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much. It's nice to see you here at the briefing.
I was curious to read some of the background music to the counter-terrorism conference that appeared in some of our Washington newspapers -- unnamed European diplomats complaining about the American focus on Iran. I find that very curious.
Our view is that the Europeans -- the so-called "critical dialogue" being carried on has not succeeded in any measurable way. The Europeans have said, "Let us talk to the Iranians. We can produce some good results with them." Well, Iran is supporting Hamas. Iran is supporting Hezbollah. Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons capability. Iran is an outlaw state.
I think the European Governments ought to realize that their infatuation with this critical dialogue has failed, and they ought to join the United States, which has taken a fairly bold position, that we should isolate Iran as long as Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapons capability and as long as it's a primary supporter of these organizations.
I was amazed that a European diplomat, who didn't want to put his name on the record, said in the Washington Post today that Iran is not a supporter of Middle East terrorism. I was amazed by that statement. That runs contrary to all information -- intelligence information and other -- that we have shared with European Governments. It runs contrary to logic; it runs contrary to the voluminous information that journalists have uncovered -- journalists who have been to Tehran recently. A lot of American and European journalists.
I think that's an important point to make. I can assure you that we're making that point behind the doors down the hall where the delegates are meeting.
Q Take us back to the measures the Secretary announced late yesterday to assist the Palestinians involving some movement through checkpoints. Is that to happen right away, and, if it is, will the Israelis already have in place that new equipment that was talked about at Sharm al-Sheikh and at Israel? And, you know, with Deutch and everybody present.
MR. BURNS: The intention, Barry, is that these steps would be implemented as soon as possible, I think in a matter of days. Obviously, the Israeli Government needs to meet with the Palestinian Authority to work out the exact procedures that will be followed at all the checkpoints -- at (inaudible), which is the border between Gaza and Israel, and at checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank.
I think that's logical, but the obvious intention and certainly consistent with the Secretary's conversations with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Peres, is to do it immediately.
As to the disposition of the bomb detection machines the United States has made available to Israel, let me look into that, Barry. I'm not sure that they're all operational. But, certainly, as you remember, right after the fourth bombing, we airlifted via U.S. military transport seven of those machines produced by a firm in Massachusetts, and I think they're in place, but there have been additional orders since then. I just don't know the number involved.
Q (Inaudible) Tel Aviv -- the additional equipment was to include some sort of a detection device that would vastly facilitate the entry of innocent people; they wouldn't have to go through a cumbersome, time-consuming process.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe --
Q And I wondered, you know --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that technology has yet been established. I was referring to the seven bomb detection units that were produced by the American firm. I think the other equipment needs now to be delivered to Israel but only when the money has been appropriated, of course, by the Congress for that. And we're working with the Congress right now on that.
Q Also, if you could help, I'm trying to get a sort of a -- obviously, the meeting is closed to the press except the Secretary's statement. The meeting was a counter-terrorism meeting. It's become a counter-terrorism and "let's help the Palestinians" meeting. I'm trying to get an idea, because we're not in the room, you know, how the discussion falls? Is it roughly on both subjects, or is it on the original purpose, which was counter-terrorism, which the U.S. said was the reason for calling this?
MR. BURNS: The U.S. focus is on counter-terrorism, but we've said all along -- and I'll just refer you back to my conversation with Sid -- that we also wanted the delegates to discuss the peace process issues and the closure issues. We've said that all along, but our focus has been on terrorism.
These delegations -- almost all of them -- have sent two types of people: counter-terrorism experts and diplomats. Both of those types of people are engaged in conversations, sometimes in different rooms of this conference. So I think the answer is both -- both types of conversations are proceeding. But that is consistent with what we've said all along.
Q Assistant Secretary Pelletreau refused to allow one of the working groups to be devoted exclusively to the peace process, which was requested by the Egyptians and the Palestinians.
MR. BURNS: I just don't know. I honestly don't know whether that conversation took place. I can tell you that the working groups are focusing on terrorism. The heads of delegation today in the morning had a more broad-ranging conversation about terrorism, the peace process and closure -- all three.
Q Did the working groups have specific names, or this was just sort of a general -- how many were there?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if we've named them or not. I just don't know if we've named them. I think there are three or four. But you'll have a chance to talk to some of the American officials at the conference a little later on this afternoon.
Q Nick, when the Foreign Ministers continue to deal with this issue -- maybe here or maybe in Europe -- in mid-April, will there be an effort to continue to invite the Syrians in and let them know that the door is still open, even in the latest stage of development?
MR. BURNS: The Syrians and the Lebanese are welcome. They're welcome to participate in this conference. It doesn't end today. There will be a ministerial meeting in the second half of April. Secretary Christopher will attend that meeting, where these recommendations developed over the last two days will be taken to the ministers and considered by them.
We think it was a great mistake for Syria and Lebanon to elect not to participate. It certainly wasn't in the spirit of their commitment to the peace process, and it doesn't help the situation on the ground. I think there's an ebb-and-flow quality to the Middle East negotiations.
In my own view, having just visited there, there is a need now for Arab countries to understand the psychological needs of the Israeli population. This would have been a perfect opportunity for the Syrian Government to do that. That it failed to do that is quite disappointing to us.
Q Why is Syria welcomed at a counter-terrorism conference when they permit the civilian wing of Hamas to operate in Damascus, and apparently the military wing of Islamic Jihad is giving orders out of Damascus. Why are they welcome here?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Sid -- as you know very well -- we have a problem with various aspects of Syrian policy and relations with terrorist groups, and we make that perfectly clear publicly in our terrorism report and we remind the Syrians of these failures.
Syria is part of the answer, though. Syria is an important state in the region. It is engaged in peace negotiations with Israel, and that really distinguishes Syria from Iran. Iran has spurned the peace process. Iran actively tries to subvert the peace process, and Iran is a major funder and director of Hizbollah and Hamas.
I think there are differences there, but I don't mean to shade the problems that we have with the Syrians, because they're quite substantial on the issue of terrorism. But we do think it makes sense to have them in the room.
There's no sense having Iran in the room, because not only is it disinterested, it's an active opponent of the anti-terrorism measures that we're trying now to develop.
Q You don't think Syria is an active opponent of the counter-terrorism measures you're trying to develop?
MR. BURNS: We certainly hope not. We certainly hope that Syria will do the right thing and isolate -- choke off its own harboring of some of these terrorist organizations. They have offices in Damascus and elsewhere, and we certainly hope that Syria will increase its actions to prevent terrorist acts from being carried out in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Q Have two of your participants been asked yet by the United States or anybody to do the right thing? According to State Department reports, these terrorist groups operate -- have offices in Jordan, and they're partly financed by Saudi business people. Those two countries raised their hand in that nice photo-op, deploring, condemning terrorism, although the Saudis refer to it as partly occurring in occupied territory, which was their reference to Jerusalem.
But has the U.S. asked either of these two participants, let alone trying to get Syria here, to stop what they're doing?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Certainly. The clear message from Sharm al-Sheikh and the clear message from Washington today is that all countries have an obligation to end any type of direct or indirect support for terrorist groups. That includes closing offices where they're currently open.
I think, Barry, you have to recognize that the Jordanian Government and the Saudi Government have both condemned the Hamas suicide terrorism in very strong terms. They're both down the hall, meeting. We're very pleased about that. But we do hope that they will take actions to cut off support for these groups.
And, Barry, I think the problem is wider than that. There are financial links from private individuals -- from the United States, from private individuals here that must be stopped -- and the President has given, of course -- made Executive Orders to try to cut off private American support for these groups, and that's also incumbent upon the European Governments to take similar action that the President took a long time ago -- more than a year ago -- to strengthen the international fight against terrorism.
Q Do you have a terrorism report due out soon?
MR. BURNS: We do have a terrorism report out fairly soon. I don't have a date for you, but I know that Ambassador Wilcox is preparing it, and, when we're ready to unveil it, he'll come down here, as he did last year, and present it to you.
Q It's the one that's due, I think it's April 1, but there may be slippage this year because of the shutdown?
MR. BURNS: There have been delays in all of our reports because of the congressionally imposed shutdown on federal government operations, yes.
Q In this context, have you anything on Libya and terrorism in Libya? What is your assessment?
MR. BURNS: Libya sponsored an abominable terrorist act against Pan Am and against American citizens and Europeans and others. Two hundred sixty-nine people died in a Libyan-sponsored and carried out terrorist attack in December 1988. Libya continues to harbor the two people who we believe planted the bombs.
Q More recently?
MR. BURNS: There are all sorts of reports about Libya trying to develop a chemical weapons capability. We do believe that Libya continues to have ties to terrorist organizations. Qadhafi has in a blatant fashion -- very negative fashion -- condemned the countries that met at Sharm al-Sheikh. The people who hijacked the Egypt Air plane two days ago congratulated Qadhafi for his opposition to the international fight against terrorism. I think that speaks volumes about Libya's attitude, and that's why Libya needs to be isolated, and that's why the United States is doing that.
Q Do you have anything on the unrest in Libya?
MR. BURNS: We've seen the press reports about the unrest in Libya. We've seen press reports that the Libyan army has been sent to quell the unrest, but we don't have any independent confirmation of that. As you know, we don't have U.S. Government officials present in Libya to monitor these events. So we monitor them as best we can through our allies and through other means available to us.
Q Can we switch back to Asia for just a minute. I was wondering if you have any reaction to the North Korean comments by Vice Marshal Kim that the armistice on the Korean peninsula is reaching its limit, and that it's just a question of when there will be a new beginning of military conflict?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't pay too much attention to that. The United States has a defense relationship with the Republic of Korea. North Korea's very well aware of that. I don't think there's any likelihood that war is going to break out. The situation is stable.
The Armistice Commission must continue to meet as it has since 1953. There have been various attempts by the North Koreans to try to end that commission. There have been some attempts to try to seek out some kind of unilateral North Korean relationship with the United States. We won't do that to our ally, the Republic of Korea. We're going to maintain our commitments to the Republic of Korea. So I wouldn't pay too much attention to that particular statement.
Q So the breakdown of the -- I remember the North Koreans were asking for new talks in Beijing. That was shot down in these new comments. Has this lent any kind of urgency to the situation there which would necessitate the President stopping over in South Korea?
MR. BURNS: The President, as the White House announced this morning, is stopping because he has a chance to meet his counterpart, and he has a chance to talk about the important defense relationship and economic relationship between the Republic of Korea and the United States. It's a good opportunity, and he's very glad to do that, as Mike McCurry said this morning.
Bill, I think you had a question.
Q Yes. I wanted to ask you again about this meeting with Pickering. Did he meet with Primakov, and was one of the other topics they discussed the disclosures about the missile defense talks?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Pickering did not, to my knowledge, meet with Foreign Minister Primakov this morning. He met with a lower ranking official, one of our regular interlocutors, a person responsible for North American affairs. So I can tell you that. I don't know if the Geneva talks came up in the meeting.
It wouldn't surprise me that at some point this week an American diplomat in Moscow had a conversation with a Russian official about important talks underway in Geneva. But I just can't tell you that it happened this morning, because I don't know if it did.
Q Do you have any status on the SCC meeting on this? Do you know what the status of those talks are?
MR. BURNS: I don't have an up-to-date status today on those talks, no. I don't.
Q China. Can you give us an idea of where the Administration is on the decision-making process, whether to impose sanctions and whether the Secretary has asked for a continued moratorium from the Ex-Im Bank on loans to China for businesses doing --
MR. BURNS: Be glad to. The Secretary continues to examine the options available to him on the ring magnets case. He's not yet made a decision. Once a decision is made, of course, there will have to be some conversations here in the government, and then we'll announce that decision and let you know about it. But there is no decision yet. He had a meeting on it yesterday. He continues to study it.
Q And he is on vacation next week, so presumably this decision is going to not happen then until -- for another week or ten days?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary will be taking some leave. That begins later on today. Well deserved, if you ask me, if you consider all the traveling and work he's done recently.
I don't want to lead you in any direction on the timing of this announcement. I don't want to say it's going to be three weeks from now or three hours from now. The decision will be made when the Secretary feels he's got sufficient information, and he's had sufficient time to think about it and to make the best possible decision.
The timing is something that I think we're going to have to leave aside for the time being, but I can assure you that we will present this publicly when a decision is made, and we'll bring the experts into the room, and you can talk to them when that time comes.
Q Will that happen next week?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to get into the issue of timing, because I don't want to be misleading here.
Q You're not ruling out any time -- any particular time?
MR. BURNS: I can't rule out any time from now until -- for the next minute or so into the future, because clearly a decision will be made at some point. But I don't want to forecast when that will be.
Q There is a report in a leading Indian daily -- the Indian Express -- that the State Department has responded very strongly to a demarche reportedly received from the Indian Ambassador here, urging for sanctions on China in the ring magnets. The paper said the State Department told India -- I quote the paper -- "that India should mind its business and not interfere in bilateral relations between the United States and China and the United States and Pakistan."
MR. BURNS: Well, I can tell you this --
Q Will you confirm this?
MR. BURNS: I am unaware of any kind of conversation like that, but I don't want to leave on the record somehow that we would talk to our friend India -- we would never say "mind your own business." We would listen with great respect and great attention. We'd certainly be frank in our response, but we have a good relationship with India, and I think we have an open relationship. We talk about a lot of things.
Q Go back please to your opening statement about the killing in Kashmir. The man was found floating in a burlap sack in the Jhelum River. He was quite a strong -- quite critical of the Indian security forces in Kashmir.
MR. BURNS: What was, Sid?
Q He had been quite critical --
MR. BURNS: He had been.
Q -- of the Indian security forces in Kashmir. I mean, many human rights groups have, and yourself, the United States, as well, although not quite as critical. Can I gather from your statement that you think the Indian military may have played a role or may have some direct knowledge of how this man was killed?
MR. BURNS: No. I didn't say that, and I didn't infer it, and I didn't imply it. But we are very disturbed by his murder, because he was a prominent individual who deserved the respect of all of us, and we had worked well with him.
What I did say, Sid, was that we're calling upon the Government of India to investigate this case assiduously, seriously, and to try to bring the perpetrators of this murder to justice as soon as possible. That's what we've done today. But since we don't know who the murderers are, we would not make a wild charge of trying to cast about for suspects.
We're going to wait and see how the facts present themselves, but when a prominent citizen like this is murdered -- someone who has been involved in the human rights struggle in Kashmir -- then it really is incumbent upon the governing authority to take this very seriously, to make a very concerted effort to look into the murder.
Q Do you think -- let me just -- as far as the Indian security forces' conduct in Kashmir, is that everything you would hope it would be?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm not an expert on the security forces in Kashmir. I can only tell you that it's obviously a complex situation. We do monitor events there. We've made a statement today which is quite clear in what it says, and I think I'll just limit my comments to that.
Q Just one more. There were also five or six Indian soldiers killed in a grenade attack in Kashmir yesterday. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BURNS: Violence of any kind is unfortunate. It should be deplored by all of us in the international community. We don't, obviously, support any violent means to solve the political problems, the social problems of Kashmir, and we call upon all sides to observe the principle of non-violence in the adjudication of their affairs in Kashmir. Yes?
Q Is it a fact that the State Department knew about the arrest of Mr. Andrabi four days before he was leaving for Geneva?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I can check into that for you. I just don't know the facts -- whether or not we knew about his arrest.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:58 p.m.)
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