U.S. Department of State 96/04/01 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, April 1, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Congressional Approval of the Bosnia Aid Package ........ 1 Agreement to Strengthen the Bosnian-Croat Federation..... 1 Carl Bildt's Visit to Washington ........................ 1-2 Acting Asst Secretary Kornblum to Travel to Region ...... 2 War Crimes Suspects in Custody of War Crimes Tribunal ... 2 RUSSIA President Yeltsin's Chechnya Peace Initiative ........... 2-3 IRAQ Travel to Iraq by Private American Group ................ 3-4 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israeli Prime Minister Peres Statement re: Holding Referendum Before Final Status Negotiations ........... 4-5 Islamic Jihad Claim of Responsibility for Bus Bombing in Israel Last Month ..................................... 5 --U.S. Contacts with Syria re Terrorism ................. 5 BANGLADESH U.S. View of Recent Developments in Bangladesh .......... 5-6 COLOMBIA Reported Requests for Ambassador Frechette's Removal .... 6-7 CHINA Chinese Security Officials Attempt to Cancel Non-Profit Charity Fundraiser for Orphans ........................ 7-8 Reported Plans by Taiwan for Military Exercise near China 8 -9 Status of US Determination re: Reported Chinese Export of Nuclear Technology.................................. 8,9-10 GUATEMALA Case of Sister Dianna Ortiz/Request for Documents ....... 10-11 NORTH KOREA Appeal for Food Assistance .............................. 11-12 Status of Establishing Interests Sections ............... 12 Reported U.S.-North Korea Missile Talks in Berlin in April 12 JAPAN Status of U.S. Land Leases in Okinawa ................... 12-13
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, APRIL 1, 1996, 1:14 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I just have one area to go over with you, and then I'll go to your questions. The area is Bosnia, and the topic is "Civilian Implementation."
A couple of recent developments that I think are positive that I wanted to note, to underscore.
First, we are pleased to acknowledge Congressional approval of the Bosnian aid package. We commend the United States Congress for working closely with the Administration to craft legislation to enact the Bosnian reconstruction package, a package which both responds to the great need in Bosnia and reflects the interests and concerns of the American people.
The approximately $200 million package is critical to ensuring significant progress in civilian implementation and demonstrates our leadership in bringing peace to that nation. It provides funding for reconstruction projects, demining and police training, among other things.
Second, on Bosnia: I want to take positive note of high representative Carl Bildt's, and his Deputy, Michael Steiner's work, in brokering an agreement which strengthens the Bosnian-Croat Federation. It also strengthens progress in cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal.
The agreement to strengthen the Federation contains concrete steps with specific deadlines. The main provisions call for the abolition of internal Customs duties and a pledge by the Croats to pay all taxes collected at the border with Croatia to the Federation.
The agreement between the Federation partners, we believe, signifies a new seriousness as it contains sanctions against those who refuse to comply.
Third, to note for you, if you hadn't heard, high representative Carl Bildt is in Washington. We very much welcome his visit. His visit gives us an opportunity -- an important one -- for consultations to ensure that we can build on these recent, positive steps.
Fourth -- and I'm getting to the finish here -- to let you know that Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, John Kornblum, will travel to the region. He leaves today, in fact. He'll be gone a couple of days to follow up on these successes by convening the first meeting of the Federation forum.
Finally, to note, positively, the arrival in The Hague of two Bosnian Serbs for questioning, and also the arrival in The Hague, in the custody of the War Crimes Tribunal, of General Blaskic, who has surrendered to Tribunal authorities. Both of these developments show the determination of the parties to bring war criminals to justice, and we welcome those developments.
Taken as a whole, the events of the weekend, we believe, show that with concerted effort on the part of all signatories to the agreement and all friends of peace in Bosnia in the international community, real progress towards full implementation will be made.
Q You didn't touch on Chechnya, but you covered --
MR. DAVIES: Not that --
Q Reports of resumed fighting. I suppose you're pleased that the Russians have called off the combat offensive. What is the outlook? What is the State Department analysis? Is this it? Is this peace at last?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that I would necessarily go that far. But this is a positive development. I would point you in the direction of remarks made by National Security Advisor Lake who spoke -- I actually just got the text -- to the U.S.-Russia Business Council today. He had a great deal to say about the initiative that the Russians have taken on Chechnya.
It's our view that President Yeltsin's willingness to declare a cease-fire -- a unilateral cease-fire -- in the absence of any similar commitment from the Chechen side, indicates a seriousness of intent, and we welcome it.
Up to this stage there have been really two obstacles to the resolution of the conflict there. First, of course, the Chechens insistence on independence; and, second the Russians' unwillingness to deal with Dudayev, who is the self-proclaimed leader of the rebels.
Yeltsin's initiative, we believe, addresses both of those issues. He's offered the Chechens an autonomy agreement that, in our view, is more extensive than any negotiated before between Moscow and the regions. It's a status which he himself has called close to independence. He's also -- and this a first -- proposed that the Russian Government engage in discussions with Dudayev through an intermediary.
Where we are -- the United States, in all of this -- is we want very much for the parties to the conflict to avail themselves of the OSCE's offer of assistance. There is, in fact, an OSCE assistance group which is moving into the area. We think it's important to take the OSCE up on its readiness to assist the parties in whatever capacity they find useful.
Of course, we've called on all the parties, and they know well our position, that it's important to end the fighting and o seize upon this opening to achieve an enduring settlement to the conflict.
Mr. Lake's speech, I think, goes into this in greater length and I would commend it to you.
Q Can we do Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: Pardon me?
Q We have five Americans in Iraq without authorization. Do you have anything on that?
MR. DAVIES: I'm aware that there is a group that has gone to Iraq. I think it's a group called Voices in the Wilderness, if I have it correctly.
First, again, we've been through this question of travel ban versus passport restrictions before. But just to clarify, there is no "travel ban" for travel by U.S. citizens to Iraq. There is, however, a restriction on the use of a U.S. passport for travel in or through Iraq unless the passport is amended or endorsed by the U.S. Government for such travel.
Apart from that passport restriction or requirement for a passport validation, the Department of the Treasury prohibits all travel-related transactions by U.S. citizens visiting Iraq unless specifically licensed by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
None of this precludes groups from making humanitarian contributions to Iraq. We think it's important if people wish to make such contributions, that they do so; but, of course, doing that does not require that people actually travel to Iraq. We've got a travel warning out about travel to Iraq because we think there's some danger to that kind of travel.
We don't maintain diplomatic relations with Iraq. We can't maintain normal consular protection for American citizens who travel there. So, thus, our concern.
Q What kind of penalties could they suffer?
MR. DAVIES: You would have to direct those questions to Justice and/or the Treasury Department who are the keepers of the flame on those provisions. I don't know. I can't really speculate on what is triggered if you violate those sanctions. But Treasury and/or Justice, if they're aware of this, may have an answer for you on that.
Q A different topic?
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q Shimon Peres' statement today that he will hold a referendum in Israel before proceeding onto final status negotiations?
MR. DAVIES: We consider that really an internal matter. We're not going to comment publicly on what he's done. We've also only just really taken note of that or seen the reports, so I don't think we fully have yet decided what implications are for the peace process of that action.
Q Is it a violation of the Oslo Accords? You guys are the sponsors of the peace process and you have really nothing --
MR. DAVIES: Sid, I don't know that it violates the Oslo Accords. That's a bit strong. Certainly, a bit strong for us at this stage. He's just made the announcement. We've just taken note of it.
As a general comment, I'd say it's really an internal Israeli matter, how they organize themselves to prepare for the events in coming months, so I don't have any comment on it.
Q Glyn, the United States wasn't alerted in advance to this announcement?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that we were. I do not know if we were or not.
Q Still in the Mideast?
MR. DAVIES: Sure, go ahead.
Q Palestinian Islamic Jihad has taken responsibility for the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last month. This is a group that I think the terror report suggests is largely headquartered in Damascus -- receives a lot of aid and comfort there.
Have we been in further touch with the Syrians about their activities?
MR. DAVIES: We've been in touch with the Syrians. We're in touch with them all the time about terrorism, our concern about any signs that states in the region may be providing any form of support to terrorists. They know well our policy.
I certainly don't have a report to give you on any contacts we've had with the Syrians in the wake of that revelation.
Q The terrorism report, isn't that supposed to come out today?
MR. DAVIES: I think the terrorism report comes out at the end of the month, if I'm not mistaken, and I think it will come out on time.
Q Thank you, Glyn. This is Arshad of the Daily Inquilab. Democracy being saved; the long ordeal is over. A caretaker administration is now in place. What is your reaction to this caretaker government?
Looking ahead for the next elections. Just to put it on record, the Clinton Administration deserves a special thanks from the people and the democratic-loving people of Bangladesh for the protection of democracy which the United States has so patiently proceeded in South Asia, so it has been a hallmark. The United States adds another feather in eulogizing how democracy can be encouraged and fostered for the benefit of --
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Arshad, I knew I did the right thing calling on you today, and I appreciate those remarks. That's very nice.
We did, of course, pay close attention to developments in Bangladesh recently. On March 30, the President dissolved parliament and Prime Minister Zia handed over power to a non-party caretaker administration that will oversee fresh, general elections. The United States welcomes this development very much and believes that it offers a concrete opportunity for members of all political parties to look beyond their past differences and to achieve a democratic, peaceful solution to the impasse that's gone on in that country. So we're very glad at what's happened there, yes.
Q Another topic?
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q Some political groups have requested that Ambassador Frechette be removed from his post for intervention in internal issues in Colombia. Is the State Department studying this request?
MR. DAVIES: We reacted to that last week and issued, in fact, a statement of support for Ambassador Frechette. We think he's doing a great job. He's one of our most capable diplomats, and he retains the full confidence and backing of the United States government, and as far as we're concerned he'll remain on post.
Q Glyn, if I may follow up. On numerous occasions many members of the Clinton Administration have said that they will not comment on the situation in Colombia until that situation is resolved and the investigations are carried through.
Nevertheless, this is a policy of the U.S. and the Clinton Administration. Specifically, why is it that Ambassador Frechette continues to make comments in Bogota regarding the situation, regarding the people that are the players in that whole crisis in the private sector and public sector and different people in Colombia?
MR. DAVIES: His job is to represent the United States of America in that country, and part of that job, in addition to carrying on talks with the authorities in that nation, is, of course, to express American views.
We think that the actions that he has taken are perfectly appropriate, and we back him completely. So I don't see any contradiction there at all. I mean, we've had at various points in the past things to say about the process that's occurring there.
We've tried, to the extent we can, to stay out of specific comment on specific steps that are taken. I would note that I believe the Prosecutor General, Mr. Valdivieso, is still at work on this matter. So we await the outcome of his work, and we simply reiterate that it's our view -- our strong view -- that the justice system in Colombia should deal with this in an open manner; and that if there are crimes to be investigated or allegations to be investigated, that that be done vigorously and completely.
Q China? There are reports that Chinese police broke up what was to have been a charitable fund-raising dinner with the participation of the U.S. Ambassador, a lot of U.S. corporate representatives. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: That's right. There was an effort by Chinese public security officials to, at the last minute, cancel a fund-raising banquet that was organized by a foreign-run, non-profit charity that benefits Chinese orphanages. Public security authorities claimed that the dinner was an unauthorized fund-raising event; that it didn't have the right permits.
We understand that at the last moment, a compromise was negotiated by the banquet organizers so that the dinner could proceed. Unfortunately, the keynote speaker, Amy Tan, did not speak; that was apparently part of the compromise. But more than 400 people attended the banquet, including our own Ambassador Sasser and other foreign diplomats, business people, journalists, and, interestingly, Chinese officials from a number of ministries, including the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Justice. They respectively administer orphanages and oversee adoptions.
As we've said before, we strongly urge China to expand opportunities, both for its own citizens and for foreign individuals and humanitarian organizations to help in efforts to improve conditions for orphans in China. We regret that this fund-raising event, which was meant to improve conditions for the orphans, wasn't allowed to proceed exactly as planned.
Q Was there in the end fund-raising? The report suggests that people essentially went home with their pledge money in their pockets.
MR. DAVIES: It's my understanding that they may not have proceeded as they planned, which would include actually engaging in fund-raising, and that's the shame of it -- that they were unable to carry forward with this event, which has as its sole purpose to improve conditions for orphans.
So I don't have specific details about it, but that's also my understanding, that they were unable to carry through.
Q On China, however unlikely, has the Administration reached a decision in terms of the ring magnet issue? And, secondly, the Taiwanese military is going to have another round of military exercises on and around the island of Matsu, just a couple of miles off shore from China, with live ammunition. Do you have any comment on that as well?
MR. DAVIES: Yes. On the ring magnets issue -- and I knew I'd get a question on ring magnets -- I, today, don't have anything new for you, so there are no decisions to announce for you today.
On the question of Taiwan and its military exercises, we now are seeking clarification from authorities on Taiwan, following up these reports that the Taiwan military may be holding exercises around the island of Matsu. In recent weeks, we've called on both the People's Republic of China and on Taiwan to take steps to reduce tensions in the Taiwan Strait and to resume the cross-strait dialogue that they had been engaged in but that was interrupted last June.
So in our view -- to cut to the chase -- exercises near Matsu now would not be conducive to the reduction of tensions.
MR. DAVIES: We're trying to find out now what precisely is the status. We've seen the reports, and we're asking the authorities on Taiwan through our American Institute on Taiwan what their intentions are.
Q (Inaudible) around its territorial water, just close to the island.
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, who's territory?
Q They announced that the exercise -- the military exercise would be within their territorial waters.
MR. DAVIES: I don't have specifics. I don't know if they declared an exclusion zone. I understand that one component of the exercise is to be some kind of a mock repelling of an invasion force or some such, which suggests an anti-amphibious exercise. But I don't know whether that means that they're actually going to engage their naval forces or move off of land. We don't have those details, and that's what we're trying to get.
Q If it is limited to the territorial water, would that be a legitimate exercise?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to speculate. What we need to find out first is what it is they plan to do. Also, I guess, ultimately we're not the arbiters of what is a legitimate exercise or what isn't. All we can do is pronounce ourselves on how we view it, and you've got already a preliminary reaction, which is that we don't view this as a positive development, one meant to reduce the tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
Q I'm sure you went over this last week, and I wasn't here. So forgive me. Perhaps there's nothing wrong with doing it again. What is the decision that is yet to be made about the ring magnets?
MR. DAVIES: The so-called ring magnets. The decision that's yet to be made is whether there is any violation of our law that relates to proliferation of materials that can be used to further refine nuclear matter into bomb-grade material. I mean, that's what it boils down to.
There are a number of provisions -- sections of law that apply here, and, if and when we reach a decision, what I personally would like to do is find somebody who's very conversant and can tell you exactly what all of it means -- what the implications are.
Q Are you actually able to still say -- stand there and say that there has been no decision as to whether American law has been violated or not?
MR. DAVIES: There has been no formal decision -- no formal, final determination.
Q Has there been a determination as to whether ring magnets were sold to Pakistan or not?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to get into what we've decided internally are the component parts of this decision-making process -- where we are, who's made what determinations. Obviously, a number of different government departments play in this or have a role in this. The State Department is in the lead because, ultimately it's the Secretary of State who has to decide what it is he'll recommend to the President of the United States.
But I just don't think it's useful until we've made determinations to go through the component parts of it.
Q Can I just ask, on the missile technology to Iran, what the status of that question is?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything new to report on that issue.
Q What is the status of it then?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not sure precisely where it stands, frankly. It's something I can look into for you.
Q When you say there's been no decision, you mean there's been no decision by the Secretary on his recommendation to the President, right?
MR. DAVIES: That's correct.
Q Glyn, as to the case of Sister Ortiz, the Roman Catholic nun who reports graphically of her rape and torture in Guatemala and implicates the United States diplomatic corps and perhaps other services. Has the State Department developed any sort of response to those allegations?
MR. DAVIES: Where that stands is that the President has directed the Intelligence Oversight Board to conduct a government-wide review that would include, obviously, asking questions here as well as in other parts of the government.
Of all the intelligence information related to human rights abuses involving several U.S. citizens in Guatemala, including Sister Diana Ortiz, it's our hope and, as I understand it, the Intelligence Oversight Board's hope, to complete the report in the first half of this year; so in the next three months or so, or less actually.
In parallel with the IOB review, the Department of Justice is also investigating her case. The next step then would be that the IOB would present its results to the President, and at that stage all appropriate information will be made available to both Sister Diana Ortiz and to the public.
The IOB, in the meantime, is in touch with her and is keeping her informed of progress throughout the investigation. It goes without saying -- but I'll say it -- that we have great sympathy for her, for the suffering she experienced following her abduction in November of 1989, and we continue to urge the Guatemalan Government to identify and to take appropriate action against those responsible for the crime.
Q North Korea. Apparently the North Koreans have issued another appeal for international humanitarian assistance. Do you have any response to that appeal?
MR. DAVIES: We know that there has been such an appeal, or we've seen the reports, but the U.S. Government is not considering providing any additional food assistance to North Korea at this time.
We will continue to monitor the situation. We, of course, have already made a $2 million contribution to the World Food Program's effort, as have other countries. Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland -- together, have in fact contributed a total of close to $4 million of food commodities to the WFP for distribution in North Korea.
Then other countries, including South Korea, Japan and Syria, have provided grain valued at close to $500 million directly to North Korea. But -- a long answer to a short question -- the answer to your question is we're not considering additional aid now.
MR. DAVIES: We're monitoring the situation. Much of the aid that we've already paid for has yet to reach North Korea, so I think what we want to do at this stage is continue to monitor the situation as best we can and monitor as well the impact of the aid that's now on its way to North Korea, and we hope that it will go a long way toward alleviating some of the suffering that we know is occurring there.
Q Do you have an evaluation of how much the people of North Korea are suffering?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have one to offer to you here and now. I think the fact that the United States Government went ahead and made $2 million available to the people of North Korea, through the World Food Program, is an indication of the seriousness with which we viewed the reports we were getting.
We make a serious effort to try to know what's happening in that society which is otherwise very closed to us. But there are people on the ground there who are with some of these international relief organizations and we were able to talk to them, and we'll continue to monitor what's going on there because we are, on a humanitarian basis, concerned about it.
Q When is the U.S. aid supposed to get there?
MR. DAVIES: The last I heard after the tragic sinking of the merchant vessel Chengda was that the World Food Program would move quickly, using the money from the insurance on that vessel to replace the commodities that were on board. They were looking at the end of April for getting that particular shipment there.
There's another shipment that was, I think, in parallel being loaded up and moved to North Korea that will get there earlier. I don't know exactly when that shipment will arrive.
Some of these other donations from other countries, I think those are on-going as well. But the World Food Program could probably give you specific dates as to when these ships will arrive. We hope they arrive soon.
Q Has there been any movement on the talks between North Korea and the U.S. on establishing Interests Sections in our respective countries?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything on that. I know that the talks under U.N. auspices are going to take up again at the end of this week - - the talks with the North Koreans -- under the aegis of KEDO, the Korean Energy Development Organization. I think that's the case. But I don't have anything to offer specifically about any negotiations we might be engaged in with North Korea.
Q We were talking to them. They visited here; we visited there; looked at property and there were still some things to be worked out.
MR. DAVIES: Betsy, I just don't know where that stands. I can try to find out for you. Be happy to.
Q Do you have anything on U.S. and North Korea will hold missile talks in Berlin on April 19 or 20th?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that? That the U.S. and North Korea are --
Q Will hold missile talks in Berlin on April 19 or 20th?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything new to offer to you on that. I'm sorry.
Q In Okinawa, tension is growing again because some land-lease contractors for some military leases expired and some landowners want to buy the land from the U.S. military. Do you have any concern, or do you have any reaction to that?
MR. DAVIES: We're not overly concerned. We've followed what's been happening in Japan. We remain, obviously, in close contact with the Government of Japan on the issue. Under the provisions of the U.S.- Japan Security Treaty, it's the Government of Japan -- not Okinawa itself -- that provides the United States the use by our armed forces of "facilities and areas in Japan." That's in the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.
Arrangements, therefore, for the leasing of the land in Okinawa is the responsibility of the Government of Japan. We understand that the Government of Japan has taken steps to uphold its responsibility in accordance with the court order that was handed down on March 25, and with the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.
So we are looking to the Government of Japan, and they've said publicly, they've reiterated that they want the leases renewed and they're taking action. We're going to wait and see what develops.
Anything else? No. Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:44 p.m.)
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