U.S. Department of State 96/05/03 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, May 3, 1996 Briefer: Nick Burns DEPARTMENT Foreign Service Day Ceremonies........................... 1-2 Announcement Re: Council of Americas/Secy Christopher's.. Trip to Mexico City.................................... 2-3 Statement Re: Protocol on Landmines...................... 3 Announcement Re: Agreement Concerning Assets of Holocaust Victims................................................ 3 Statement Re: Release of Documents on Guatemala.......... 4-5 Statement Re: Visa Restrictions on Liberians............. 5 LIBERIA New Visa Restrictions/Update on Fighting................. 5-7,8-9 Possible Use of Military Forces.......................... 7-8 Contact with U.S. Officials.............................. 9-10 GUATEMALA Release of Documents..................................... 10-13 GREECE/TURKEY: Proposed Troika Solution..................... 13 ARMS CONTROL: Revised Protocol on Landmines................. 13-14 CHINA Case of Chinese Dissident Liu Gang....................... 14-17,18 Unofficial Contacts Between U.S. and Taiwanese Officials. 16-18 NORTH KOREA Refusal to Allow IAEA to Sample Fuel Rods................ 18-19 POW/MIA Talks............................................ 19-20 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Palestinian-American Commission/Humanitarian Assistance.. 20-21 Final Status Talks....................................... 21-22 TERRORISM Syria: Support for Terrorism............................. 22 Comments of PKK Leader................................... 23 IRAN: Tunnel Building for Missiles.......................... 23 DEPARTMENT: GAO Report on Department Properties............. 24-25
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, MAY 3, 1996, 1:12 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing, ladies and gentlemen.
I have a number of things to tell you up front before we get to questions. Let me just proceed. I hope that you'll bear with us because we have a number of announcements to make today.
The first is to let you know -- those of you who did not attend, or weren't able to attend the ceremonies in the lobby of the State Department today -- that today is Foreign Service Day. On the first Friday of every year we honor American diplomats who are retired. We invite them back to Washington for briefings on American foreign policy.
Actually, the centerpiece of today's events, which is a day-long series of meetings, was the unveiling at 11:30 this morning of the plaque honoring those who died in the past year. That plaque, of course, rests in the lobby of the State Department.
Secretary of State Christopher and the American Foreign Service Association honored all those people -- American officials -- who lost their lives serving overseas this year. The 35 men and women who perished in the tragic plane crash in Croatia with the Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown -- they were honored this morning.
There is going to be a special bronze plaque that will be placed in the lobby listing all of their names and also it includes a quote from President Clinton, which reads:
"In their memory and in their honor, let us resolve to continue their mission of peace and healing and progress."
Also this year, and also today, Secretary Christopher unveiled the names of Bob Frasure, Joe Kruzel, and Nelson Drew, our three colleagues who were killed in Bosnia on August 19, 1995. Their wives were here today. Other family members were here today. It was an opportunity for all of us to say "thank you" to them once again.
I just want to say one word about this plaque, because I think it will give you a sense of the nature of diplomacy in the modern world. There are two plaques in the lobby of the State Department. Those plaques contain the names of all American diplomats who, since 1780 -- going back to the founding of the United States -- have lost their lives in the service of the United States.
It is a tragic irony that throughout almost all of our history, between 1780 and the mid-1960s, we lost 72 diplomats, primarily through natural disaster and disease and accidents at sea in the 18th and 19th Centuries; 72 names between 1780 and 1965.
In the last 30 years, we have lost 116 diplomats, almost all of them through acts of war -- they were caught up in wars -- or acts of terrorism. Of course, that, I think, gives you a sense that diplomacy, in the modern world, in our century, is a dangerous business. Our diplomats, who are on the frontlines overseas, as Secretary Christopher said this morning, take risks and some of them have to pay with their lives.
So I just wanted to point that out to all of you because I think that is a distinguishing feature of the work that our Foreign Service officers do overseas.
I also want to thank, on behalf of all Foreign Service officers, Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Tony Lake; his Deputy, Sandy Berger; and also the Assistant to the President, Harold Ickes, who came this morning and were with Secretary Christopher as he unveiled the plaque.
Let me also tell you that -- moving on -- Secretary Christopher will deliver opening remarks Monday morning at 9:00 a.m., of the session here in the Department, in the Loy Henderson Auditorium, of the Council of Americas. This is the 26th Annual Washington Conference of the Council of the Americas.
The Secretary will speak about our relationship with Latin America. This event is open for all of you who would like to cover it. It's open for press coverage.
Following that event, the Secretary will depart for Mexico City. He'll spend Monday afternoon/Monday evening, and most of the day on Tuesday in Mexico City for the meeting of the Binational Commission with Mexico. He'll be leading a team of 11 American Cabinet officers.
On that particular meeting, if you're interested in further insight from this building, we'll provide a Background briefing this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in my office, Room 6800 upstairs of the State Department, by a very well informed Background official, one of our experts on Mexican-U.S. issues. All of you interested in coming, please let us know if you are going to be coming. Let the Press Office know.
I also wanted to draw your attention to a statement that we are posting in the Press Office following this briefing. It has to do with the Protocol on Landmines that is now being negotiated by the Review Conference for the Convention on Conventional Weapons.
The statement that we'll be issuing after this briefing has the United States welcoming the adoption of a revised protocol on landmines by the Review Conference. We believe this revised protocol is a significant improvement over the current protocol. We believe that if it's widely observed, it's going to result in greater protection for civilians around the world who are most often the victim of landmines.
We think that this revised protocol is an important first step toward our goal, which is the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines altogether from the face of the earth.
The statement that I'm issuing goes into great detail about why we think this revision makes sense and why the specific steps that the United States supports will strengthen the anti-personnel landmine convention.
Let me also say that the United States is very pleased to understand that an agreement has been reached between the World Jewish Congress and the Swiss Bankers Association to deal with the question of the victims of the Holocaust and their survivors. These are the assets of Holocaust victims deposited in Swiss financial institutions just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.
We have been following this issue with great interest. The Department of State has been in contact, in recent weeks, with the Swiss Government on this issue through our Embassy in Bern. We've also been in touch with the Swiss here in Washington. We've been encouraging an acceptable solution to the families of those who perished in the Holocaust. I'm also releasing a statement today about Guatemala. I want to take some care to walk you through this because it's somewhat complicated.
President Clinton and Secretary of State Christopher have repeatedly expressed a strong commitment to provide public access to key documents pertaining to human rights abuses.
In accordance with this commitment, and in response to specific requests from the Congress and the American public for information concerning human rights violations in Guatemala during the period 1984-1995, the Department of State delivered to Congress this morning a set of 6,350 documents, totalling roughly 20,000 pages. These documents are from State Department files.
The documents are relevant. They are pertinent to particular cases involving U.S. citizens in Guatemala, and they were sent to the Congress by our Assistant Secretary of State, John Shattuck. They've also been made available to the next-of-kin of the victims of human rights abuses.
Beginning Monday morning, May 6, a set of the collection of these documents will be made available to all of you and to the American public. If you're interested, I would direct you to Room 1239 of our building here in the State Department; that's the FOIA -- the Freedom of Information Act office. It's the Reading Room. This public set of documents will also be provided to the Government of Guatemala.
Following the briefing today, we are releasing another document, which is a "Preface" to this collection. It explains in some detail the background of this project, the methodology that was used by the Department in searching our files for information on these human rights abuses, and it provides a brief summary of the types of documents that we are releasing.
In general, I would say that -- I know that we provided 100 percent of the documents that we found to the Congress this morning. Roughly, 92 percent of those documents will be available to the American public and the American press corps. The eight percent that's not available on Monday morning pertains to those documents that must remain classified for national security reasons or for reasons having to do with the Privacy Act -- to protect the privacy of some of the individuals involved.
The Department of State is confident that these documents will demonstrate to the Congress and the American public the efforts on our part to provide assistance to U.S. citizens who have been victims of human rights abuses in Guatemala.
As Guatemala moves towards completion of peace negotiations to end their 35-year internal conflict, we are mindful of our responsibility to work with them and to work with the American public, essentially to get to the bottom, once and for all, to the charges of human rights abuses from the 1980s and 1990s.
My final statement pertains to Liberia. As you know, we've looking at the situation in Liberia very carefully. We have United States military naval forces positioned just off the coast of Monrovia.
Effective immediately, the United States Government will bar entry into the United States of Liberian faction leaders, their families, their close associates, and others who are impeding Liberia's peace process and its transition to democracy.
This action results from the refusal of the faction leaders to heed the pleas of the Liberian people and the international community to stop the wanton fighting, the killing, and the corruption and the looting in Monrovia. They've refused to return to the peace process.
With Liberia on the verge of total chaos, it is critical that the faction leaders agree now to reinstate the April 19th cease-fire, to agree now to re-establish Monrovia as a safehaven for its one million civilian inhabitants and to agree that they will attend, on May 7-8, the emergency ECOWAS summit in Accra, Ghana, which has been called by the Ghanaian President, Jerry Rawlings.
The United States will view the refusal of any faction leader to accept these conditions as evidence of an unwillingness to support the peace process.
The United States is prepared to consider further measures to demonstrate its intolerance of the faction leaders' obstruction of the peace process.
With that, George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q Could you say who is affected by this ban -- how many faction leaders, how many family members, and so forth?
MR. BURNS: I can say this. We have been working very closely with Roosevelt Johnson. We've provided him U.S. military helicopter transport out of Monrovia this morning to Freetown. We have every reason to believe that Roosevelt Johnson will be in Accra, Ghana, on May 7-8 for this conference.
Let me, George, just review what I know of the situation in Monrovia this morning. Perhaps that would be helpful.
From reports that we've received from our Ambassador, Bill Milam, the situation in Liberia in general and in Monrovia specifically remains tense and chaotic. Faction troops are moving into the city. They're moving around the city. There is fighting. Civilians are fleeing the city, and there has been intensive fighting reported at the Schieffelin Army Barracks about ten miles from the U.S. Embassy.
We are extremely alarmed that Charles Taylor of the NPFL and his forces would consider assaulting again the Barclay Training Center and the Schieffelin Army Barracks. Both of these facilities are strongholds of the ethnic Krahn faction, the opponents of Charles Taylor. We call on all factions to refrain from further fighting, violence and looting.
As I said, we are working now with the Ghanaian Government, with other West African governments, with European governments and with international organizations to try to isolate and ostracize those factions leaders who are continuing the fighting, stimulating the fighting and rejecting the peace efforts of the West African countries.
George, I can also tell you that Ambassador Dane Smith, who is the President's Special Envoy for Liberia, will travel to the region to participate in the May 7 and 8 ECOWAS summit in Accra. We are impressing upon all these leaders, once again, that their participation there is mandatory. It is essential if they want to work with the United States, if they want to hope to have a normal relation with the United States.
Our Ambassador is remaining in contact with all of these factions leaders in the midst of all this fighting in Monrovia.
Q You still really haven't given us any way to understand the ramifications of this directive. I mean, how many people are going to be affected? Are there people -- are there Liberians like en route now who will be barred? Are there Liberians in this country who will be deported? I mean, what's the real impact?
MR. BURNS: This is a warning to those who believe that continued fighting is the answer to Liberia's problem. It's also offered as an inducement to them and as leverage against them -- but certainly an inducement to them -- to have them rethink their tactics and to agree that they should all be in Ghana on May 7 and 8.
But, Carol, specifically if we conclude -- and we have concluded -- that Charles Taylor, for instance, is trying to stimulate renewed fighting, we're not going to let him into the United States, his close associates into the United States, family members who might want to seek refuge in the United States of these people will not be allowed into the United States.
They've got to understand that we mean business here. We're going to use whatever influence we have to try to convince them that it's in their own self-interest to return to negotiations as opposed to stimulating fighting.
Q Right. So there's really no immediate impact of this.
MR. BURNS: There is an immediate impact. If anybody associated with Charles Taylor -- family member or close colleague -- tries to get a visa to come to the United States or tries to enter the United States on a visa they may hold, they're not going to be allowed to do that. That's inducement to Charles Taylor to think again about his present tactics. He's brought more fighters into the city.
As Assistant Secretary Moose has been telling you, we know that he's planning attacks on these Krahn factions in some of these military facilities, and we're not going to stand by and just watch that happen without using the influence that we have to try to affect that situation.
Q And when you talk about other potential leverages that you might have, what might they include?
MR. BURNS: We've sent fairly stiff messages to Taylor and the other faction leaders that if they hope to have a normal relationship with us in the broadest sense of the word -- but they know what the means -- they've got to understand that the time has come to talk about peace and not to continue fighting, and they understand that. But I don't want to go into any specific litany of what we may or may not do, should they continue to fight.
Q Do you rule out the use of the military forces that are on the ships offshore?
MR. BURNS: The military forces are there, as I think we've told you for several days, to provide assistance to our Embassy and our Ambassador, should the Embassy require that assistance. We're going to protect American diplomats. The other day some members of Charles Taylor's factions very foolishly attacked -- fired upon our Embassy, and our Embassy Marine guards, of course, in self-defense fired back.
Everyone should know -- everyone in Monrovia -- all these factions should know the United States will protect its diplomats and its personnel. We'll protect our Embassy, and we do have military assets offshore to back up that claim. Mark.
Q Is that all they're there for?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q That is all they are ever going to used for?
MR. BURNS: They're there primarily for that contingency, but, of course, there may be other contingencies, but I wouldn't lead you in the direction of thinking that the United States is going to interject itself militarily in this conflict.
They're there to protect American citizens and American diplomats. I do think it is significant, David, that we have decided to keep our Embassy open. We have pulled diplomats out of places in other parts of the world when there's been intensive fighting. We are mindful of their security. We're taking every precaution we can to protect them. We think it's very important to stay as long as we possibly can, because the United States can help, we think, on the margins the West African countries in their mediation efforts politically.
We also have a long historic relationship with Liberia, dating back to 1847, and we're mindful of that responsibility as well. Mark.
Q Is Roosevelt Johnson covered by the ban on travel to the United States, and did you get any indication before issuing the ban that members of Charles Taylor's family or immediate circle wanted to come here?
MR. BURNS: I think one of the reasons for issuing the ban in general and for making it public is to signal to those who we believe may want to come to the United States. If they're affiliated with these factions that continue the fighting, that won't be possible. So I think that answers your second question.
On your first question, if Roosevelt Johnson can prove to us that he is interested in championing peace as opposed to violence, then I think that perhaps this provision would not cover him, but we'll just have to see how that unfolds.
He has left Monrovia today via U.S. military helicopter. That's a good first step in the right direction. Now we hope that he and others, as well as his opponents, will show up in Accra on the 7th and 8th of May.
Q And do you now see Charles Taylor as the principal villain in the peace?
MR. BURNS: I think there are many villains in this, and I think many Liberians would agree with that statement. It's not just an American statement. There are many people who are responsible for the fighting, but certainly Mr. Taylor has not shown any inclination in recent days to take responsible steps towards peace. He seems determined to achieve his own political ambitions and political objectives by violence.
That is unfair to the people of Monrovia. That city has been destroyed over the last month, and we have got to find a way, working -- of course, following the lead of the West African countries, to use American influence to stop that.
Q Nick, are we offering Taylor and other faction leaders the same transportation options out of Monrovia to the talks?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure if that was necessary to get them to the talks, I'm sure that we'd be willing to entertain any request for transport out of Monrovia, because the important thing is to get them around a table in a West African setting with someone who has been very effective and a leader in this process, and that is Mr. Rawlings in Ghana.
He has the best of intentions. He has made a difference in the past, and we hope now he can lead the international community in making a difference next week.
Q Has Taylor been in contact with any American officials since he snubbed Mr. Moose Tuesday or Wednesday?
MR. BURNS: I know that Ambassador Bill Milam has been in touch with all the faction leaders, including Mr. Taylor. George, the first part of your question is -- I'm just trying to think about that. I'm not sure that's the correct way to say it. The problem I think that Assistant Secretary Moose encountered was that the fighting was so intensive that there were some logistical problems in just getting in touch.
But to be fair, I think that the rebel leaders could have found a way to get in touch with him and to respond better than they did, certainly. I just don't like the word "snubbed."
Q I think we were led to believe that there was a bit of a standoffishness on the part of Taylor earlier in the week.
MR. BURNS: Oh, I think there was a standoffishness, but I think there are also other factors that contributed to why there weren't any meetings on Wednesday.
Q Could I ask a question about the Guatemalan documents? Do they include the documents that Sister Diana -- Diane -- Ortiz has requested?
MR. BURNS: Yes. They included documents pertaining to the case of Sister Ortiz, to the family of Michael Devine, and the family of Bamaca as well -- you know, the interest that Mrs. Jennifer Harbury has had in those documents. But they're not limited to just those three very prominent cases of human rights abuse. They also pertain to other cases of human rights abuses that have involved American citizens or the families of people who were there.
Q And are there other sets of parallel documents from the CIA or the Defense Department that have not been released?
MR. BURNS: These are documents from the Department of State -- that the Department of State is now issuing, because we're responding to the call of the President from several months back to work with the Intelligence Oversight Board, to look into all of our files and to research our historical memories, to develop information that would be responsive to American citizens who have made these claims.
So, these are State Department documents. I know that other Cabinet agencies are undergoing the same process, but I'm not here to announce actions that they are taking. These are State Department actions on these 20,000 pages of documents. David.
Q Is there any evidence in the files that you've reviewed and are now releasing that Sister Ortiz's charge that there was an American present when she was tortured is correct, and are you releasing any information about that American? Are you releasing his or her name?
MR. BURNS: David, I don't believe there is any document that would indicate there was a person -- American Embassy official or someone related to the United States Government present at the time when she made that claim.
I do know this: We do have great sympathy for her, and we are in contact with her and to those who are advising her and supporting her, and we do want to work with her. I think these documents have to speak for themselves.
I also think it's only fair to let the Intelligence Oversight Board complete its investigation of that particular incident as well as the others before we can say anything by way of a formal response to that particular charge.
Q Nick, I'm wondering -- let me ask a more general question then. Is there anything in the files that you are releasing that the State Department feels less than happy about?
MR. BURNS: David, maybe on your specific question, I don't believe there's anything in the files that would indicate that an American official was present when Sister Ortiz was abused during her abduction.
Our responsibility here is not to worry about who's going to be embarrassed. Our responsibility is to make sure that we're working in conformance with American law and with just standards of decency. American citizens have made very serious claims about abuse, and two women have made very serious claims that their husbands were murdered by the Guatemalan military authorities.
We have a responsibility to them, and it's in that spirit that the President ordered the IOB to investigate and ordered Cabinet agencies to be forthcoming with the public. So you'll have to be the judge about whether any of this information is embarrassing, but that cannot be the primary concern of the State Department. I can tell you that Secretary Christopher feels we've got to have a very open policy and process here, and we've got to do what's right, and I think that's what we've done in releasing these documents. Judd.
Q Nick, you said that 92 percent of the total documents were released to the public on Monday morning. Are the victims and family members getting the whole thing, or is that --
MR. BURNS: Yes, we're making the relevant documents -- Assistant Secretary John Shattuck has sent each of the families a letter, detailing what we did to find the information in the files and archives here that pertained to their loved ones. He is sending them specific information pertaining to their loved ones. In addition to that, of course, we're making a copy available to the Guatemalans. There's a copy for all of you and the American public up in the foyer reading room.
So I think we've done what we can to circulate the information.
Q Has Jennifer Harbury seen everything that's relevant to her husband's case?
MR. BURNS: Everything that we have and that we can make public. That's right.
Q Nick, how many cases are covered --
Q (Inaudible) whether the eight percent that you referred to that still cannot be released to the public will be made available to the immediate families?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. I didn't know that was Judd's question. I was referring just to the documents in general. Let me check on that, but I think my understanding is that the Congress is receiving 100 percent of the documents. But for two reasons -- as I said, national security reasons and Privacy Act reasons -- some of the information, roughly eight percent, is not. But actually to be completely sure, let's take the question, and we'll get back to you after the briefing.
Q Privacy would not apply to (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Actually, in some cases it might for legal reasons. In some cases it might. So what I'd rather do in order to give you and Mark a definitive answer is to ask ARA, which I'm sure is listening or even watching, to come down after the briefing and give us a definitive answer to that question.
Q Nick, can you tell me how many cases are covered by these documents besides the three that you've mentioned?
MR. BURNS: I can't tell you the specific number, but it's a great many. But perhaps we can also ask ARA for an assessment and for that answer.
Q European Union Commissioner Van den Broek yesterday on Cyprus, he said they favored the troika approach of U.S.-European Union and United Nations. Seems like nobody is talking about intercommunal talks anymore. Does the U.S. support this troika approach to the solution of Cyprus problem?
MR. BURNS: We've had good conversations with the European Union, but we've also been talking to the Greek and Turkish communities, of course, in Cyprus and also the Government of Cyprus, and we've talked to the Turkish and Greek Governments.
What I'd prefer to do is I'll let John Kornblum, our new Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, work out an American approach to this, and then we'll let you know about it. I don't want to commit ourselves to accepting one plan or another at this point.
We've always felt that intercommunal talks would be necessary ultimately to resolve the Cyprus problem.
Q Nick, a couple of landmine (inaudible). What was -- you regard this as an improvement on the previous protocol.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q But is it as much of an improvement as the United States was pressing for? Was the U.S. in favor of a total ban -- an immediate ban or not?
MR. BURNS: David, I think that our sense of the negotiations has been that very few countries, unfortunately, would favor that kind of immediate total ban. The reality of the negotiations is that we have been swimming upstream against a number of countries that aren't interested at all in banning landmines.
So I can't say that we were effective in resolving all of the questions to our satisfaction. That rarely happens in a negotiation. But I can say that because of our influence and the work of some of our friends, we've significantly strengthened it.
Let me just give you a couple of examples of that, and this will be available to you in writing after the briefing. We think the revised protocol extends the scope of the existing protocol to include internal armed conflicts as well as peacetime, where that is relevant.
The revised protocol requires all anti-personnel mines to be detectable, using commonly available technology; therefore, all that would be produced during the intervening period. It requires all anti-personnel mines to be kept within marked and protected minefields or to be equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation features.
I mean, the problem here is that, as you know, in some places in the world -- for instance, in the Egyptian desert west of Alexandria -- there are landmines left from the El Alamein campaign that continue to kill Egyptian Bedouin in the western desert, and that's fully 50 -- more than 50 years after the Battle of El Alamein.
If now we can have all new landmines with self-deactivation devices, that is a significant improvement for future generations that have to live with this curse. I could go on, but it prohibits the transfers of prohibited mines, such as non-detectable anti-personnel mines. It prohibits the transfers of all mines to non-state entities; therefore, to guerrilla groups. It provides for regular meetings of all the countries to consider how we can further improvements to the protocol and work, of course, towards the end of these landmines on the face of the earth.
So we think we've been able to negotiate some substantial changes that strengthen the convention here, and we would, of course, support these changes as a final decision of the review conference.
Q Just for the record, was the U.S. in favor of a total and immediate ban?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we ever took that position in the conference, simply because we've had to negotiate pragmatically in this conference. We're not interested in standing on soap boxes and making speeches. We've been more interested in strengthening the protocol, and our sense, David, of these negotiations was that there was simply, unfortunately, very little support for that among the countries that have the capability to produce these landmines and use them.
Any more on landmines or are we going --
Q Anything on the Chinese dissident, Liu Gang, that has fled to the U.S.? Has the U.S. granted asylum to him?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that Liu Gang, who was, as you well know, one of the leaders of the Beijing democracy movement during the spring of 1989, is currently is the United States. He was admitted to the United States under a Public Interest Parole, pursuant to Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
This section of the Immigration and Nationality Act gives broad authority to the Attorney General to permit a person to enter the United States temporarily for emergency reasons or when it is in the public interest.
I can't, for reasons of privacy and pertaining to our law, discuss specific aspects of his case, but I can tell you that he is in the United States. I've told you the provision of the law that allowed the United States to admit him into the United States.
Q Does that mean that he can only stay here temporarily?
MR. BURNS: No, I think there may be several options available to him and his advisers and attorneys. But because that's a matter of law that needs to be adjudicated, I can't really go into that for you today.
Q Has any State Department official met with him or is going to meet him to discuss China's human rights situation?
MR. BURNS: I don't know that any State Department officials have met with him just in the past couple of days to discuss human rights. But let me say this about him: We are well aware of his actions in 1989, his actions to try to build support for democracy. We're well aware that he was one of the leaders of a movement that, of course, we felt at the time and we still feel stood for democracy; and we certainly have great respect for him.
Q If I may, one follow up. Has the U.S. Government provided any assistance in his coming here?
MR. BURNS: Have we provided assistance --
Q Yes, did the U.S. Government provide any assistance in getting him here?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, he had to petition the United States for entry into the United States, and obviously he contacted U.S. Government officials along the way, and we facilitated his entry into the United States under our law. So in that sense, yes, but I'm not able to go into any detail about how that occurred. Judd, you had a question.
Q I was going to ask you that, if the U.S. helped -- provided -- did the U.S. provide transportation?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question. I don't know, but I can certainly look into that question.
Q Could you answer the question as to whether there are meetings planned with Liu Gang?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any meetings planned with him. It wouldn't surprise me if at some point in the near future we had contact with him. He's a respected person, a respected champion of human rights. He paid for his belief in human rights and democracy quite dearly with an incarceration by the Chinese Government of more than six years. I think he's only been out of prison for six months.
We normally try to maintain contacts in China and outside of China with those who support democracy and human rights, and it wouldn't surprise me at all. But I'm not aware that there are any meetings planned today or over the weekend. I'm just not aware of that.
Still on China?
Q On North Korea.
MR. BURNS: Let's stick on China. Okay, we'll stay on China for a minute.
MR. BURNS: I actually don't know exactly how he got here. I can look into that, though.
Q Do you know how long he has been in the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: I think he was admitted just in the last couple of days, but I can check to see if we can give out the information as to when he entered the United States.
Kristin, did you have a question?
Q Have the Chinese expressed any dissatisfaction to the U.S. about the high-level meeting between U.S. Government officials and Taiwanese officials disclosed yesterday?
MR. BURNS: You're referring to the meeting in -- the unofficial --
Q Early March, right.
MR. BURNS: The unofficial contact that the United States had with a Taiwanese official in March. I'm not aware that the Chinese have expressed any unhappiness with that. I think that the government in Beijing understands that we do have unofficial contact with Taiwan. We have had for a number of years and will continue to have this year and into the future. There's nothing unusual about unofficial contacts in our unofficial relationship with Taiwan.
Q Could you confirm that meeting -- Under Secretary Tarnoff and Sandy Berger and Taiwan officials.
MR. BURNS: Can I confirm it?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I know that our Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and our Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff met on March 11 with a member of Taiwan's National Security Council. The meeting took place at a private location in New York. It was certainly appropriate, given the unofficial character of our relations between the United States and Taiwan.
In light of the tensions in the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. Government believed it was important to communicate directly and at a high level with both the People's Republic of China and with Taiwan. But I do want to emphasize that these are unofficial contacts. They don't establish any kind of formal relationship between the United States and Taiwan. That does not exist, as you know.
Still on China? I want to stay on China if you're interested. This question on China?
Q Did you bring any message from Beijing to Mr. Ding, because at that time you had a lengthy talk with Chinese high-ranking official, Liu Huaqiu.
MR. BURNS: Did we convey any message to who --
Q From Beijing or any kind of message from Beijing --
MR. BURNS: To this individual?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know. I think we had general discussions about the increase of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. It made sense for us to do that with both sides in that conflict.
Q Has the Chinese Government reacted at all to the United States admitting the dissident who is now in this country?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen any public reaction. I have not seen any private -- in our cables from our Embassy -- any private correspondence. It wouldn't surprise me if there would be some conversations perhaps in the next couple of days. I just haven't seen any reference to it.
Q Do you know if this temporary measure that allows him to be in the United States, is there a time limit to that before going to some other --
MR. BURNS: I'm not familiar actually with that aspect of our law in great detail, and so I don't know. But I would say this: Obviously, when the United States makes a decision to allow a respected individual like this into our country, we do so with great respect for him. We obviously are going to do everything we can to conform to our own law but also to be reasonable in the way that any kind of review process is carried out.
So the long and short of it is he's obviously welcome in the United States.
We're off China? Still on China?
Q On North Korea.
MR. BURNS: Let's go to North Korea. Then we'll go to the Middle East and southeast Europe and Iran. Okay.
Q Quickly, do you have any reactions or concerns about the North Korean decision not to allow the IAEA to sample the rods as they've been taking them out of the cooling pond?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I can say that canning of North Korea's spent fuel rods has now begun. This is an important step, since this fuel, if it were to be reprocessed, would produce enough plutonium for several nuclear devices. North Korea and the IAEA have agreed to procedures for IAEA monitoring of this canning process, and we understand that the IAEA would have preferred to have conducted measurements of the fuel rods prior to canning rather than after the fuel rods are eventually shipped out of North Korea.
Under the October 1994 agreement, the Agreed Framework, as you know, North Korea froze its nuclear program, and we believe that the process of implementing the Agreed Framework will completely dismantle that nuclear program. We don't believe that anything here is a violation, obviously, and the steps that have been taken of the Agreed Framework itself.
Q But the main concern, I guess, would be that there's no immediate plans to send these rods out of the country? It could be years, years, and years which would, I guess, scientifically and technically pretty much make it extremely difficult to ever determine whether or not those fuel rods had been diverted in the past.
Is there a concern that this was sort of the last opportunity to discover the past of this program and -- along those lines?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we monitor North Korean compliance with the Agreed Framework very carefully, using the most sophisticated means at our disposal. We are assured to this day that North Korea is complying with the Agreed Framework. That is a very important judgment that we need to make on a day-by-day basis, this being one of the most important security issues the Clinton Administration has dealt with over the last four years.
I would just say more specifically that under the Agreed Framework North Korea is obligated to come into full compliance with its safeguards agreement, including allowing the IAEA to take the necessary steps to determine the past history of the reactor's operations prior to delivery of key nuclear components of the light-water reactors which will be constructed by KEDO. I think that probably answers more specifically your question.
Q I understand that the POW/MIA talks have resumed in New York. Can you confirm that?
MR. BURNS: Actually, I believe that begins tomorrow. I can confirm that a delegation of U.S. Government officials, led by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs, James Wold, will meet with representatives of North Korea tomorrow -- that's Saturday -- May 4, in New York City.
They're going to discuss one issue: The return of the remains of U.S. servicemen lost during the Korean War. There are remains of over 8,100 Americans who fought in the Korean War which have never been returned or identified. This is a bottom-line issue for the United States. It's of great concern to our Administration, the Congress, and the American people. That's the sole issue for tomorrow's meeting, and that will be in New York City.
Q Has the compensation issue been resolved? The North Koreans complained they were not compensated adequately for past efforts of retrieving remains?
MR. BURNS: I believe that's one of the issues that will be discussed tomorrow, George.
I want to go to Mr. Abdul Salam first.
Q A few questions about the Middle East. The President and Chairman Yasser Arafat last week, or this week, talked about a commission, a Palestinian-American commission or committee, or something like that. What is this group's objectives? When will be functioning?
MR. BURNS: When Secretary Christopher saw Chairman Arafat a couple of days ago, they decided together that they should create this commission, as you know. What they've done is charged our senior advisors on both sides -- the Palestinian Authority side and the U.S. Government side -- to get together and work out the structure of the organization and its specific task.
But I can tell you, in general, what we want to do is make sure that the relationship we have is fully functioning and fully effective, particularly, the assistance that the United States gives to the Palestinian people -- $500 million over five years -- we want that to be expedited. We want it to be implemented effectively. We want to make sure it's continually relevant to the economic needs of the Palestinian people.
It does go beyond that, but that's the crux of the matter.
Q The impediments that the Senate, or, rather, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has been holding since December of last year -- I think, it was $13 or $17 million, and a few other things -- have these restrictions been removed as a result of the PNC decision to expunge all the actions?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that money has been unlocked. But I can tell you that the Administration believes it should be.
It's interesting that was, rightly, a lot of attention given to Secretary Christopher's shuttle mission last week. But another very significant event occurred which, in historical terms, will be one of the most significant events that the Palestinian people have ever participated in, and that was the decision to end, to obliterate that part of the covenant that called for the destruction of Israel.
Chairman Arafat, as the President and the Secretary have said, has taken significant steps forward. That needs to be recognized by the United States Congress as well as by the Clinton Administration.
Q I understand that besides the commitment by the United States to provide assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the President -- the Administration, in toto, has pledged that they will nudge the donor countries to come forward with their pledges. What are the steps that will be taken? Will it be holding another donor conference that will expedite the sending of the funds, due to the fact that the closure is still on and the Palestinian workers, which their number is 120,000 -- as Arafat said yesterday -- without jobs and they cannot go into Israel?
MR. BURNS: The President made clear this week that the United States will meet its obligations to the Palestinian people. We're going to pay the money that we have committed.
The ad hoc liaison group, under the chairmanship of the Norwegians, regularly meets to consider that issue. There are a number of countries in Europe and beyond Europe -- but many in Europe -- who have pledged money and not delivered the money, they need to pledge it. Now is the time to help the Palestinian people at this very difficult time with the economic challenges facing them.
Q There is an important thing this coming Sunday: the final talks, or the beginning of the final status talks in Egypt between Israel and the Palestinians. First of all, Israel did not make a deadline for the withdrawal of its forces from Hebron and Halhoul. There has been some conflict about this. Maybe they'll make an announcement.
What are your expectations that these knotty problems will be unknotted or resolved soon? How do you see this?
MR. BURNS: We understand the final status talks will be in Taba, in Egypt, on Sunday, May 5.
I think if you look at the last three or four months, it is a significant accomplishment that these talks are starting, considering the suicide bombings, considering the fighting in Lebanon, considering the intensity of all the negotiations on the various aspects of the Middle East peace process, I think we ought to congratulate the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority for getting to this stage. It's a very important stage. It's now up to them to work through these issues.
Q And the last question. Syria is unhappy about keeping it on the list of countries supporting terrorism from the annual report of the State Department. What can Syria do in light of -- I think it was participating in this cease-fire which has took place between Hizbollah and Israel -- what are the things that Syria should do in order to be out of that list?
MR. BURNS: Syria is unhappy. Well, there's something very simple that Syria can do. It can end its support for the radical terrorist groups that regularly target and victimize and kill innocent civilians, which are dedicated under the influence of Iran, to the destruction of the Middle East peace process.
If Syria wants to get off the list, we'll be very glad to tell Syria what it needs to do. But I think it's obvious. They've got to turn all the resources of the Syrian Government -- all of their resources -- towards peace and end their support for terrorism. That goes for Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Cuba and the others who continue to support terrorist states. It's very simply, and they shouldn't be surprised.
Q The Lebanese Ambassador said this morning that there had been efforts to get either King Hussein or Crown Prince Hassan, or both, to come here this week to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference and also to meet with Prime Minister Peres. The plans were cancelled because of the fighting in Lebanon. Are you aware of this at all?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of that, no, Mark, at all. I'm just not aware of it.
A couple more issues, and then I have one issue we need to cover before we leave. I've got another issue that no one has asked about. Maybe someone will.
Q Do you have anything on reports that Iran is digging tunnels for missiles?
MR. BURNS: That Iran is --
Q Digging tunnels to hide ballistic missiles?
MR. BURNS: I can only say that we have a lot of concerns about this. We've seen indications of possible construction of tunnels. We can't confirm what intended use the Iranians may have for these tunnels. But given the fact that we have grave doubts about their ambitions to build a nuclear capability for themselves, we're worried about this. We're looking into it. We're going to keep watching it.
Q A different subject; in this same area. Last week the PKK terror organization leader Ocalan on Kurdish TV here admitted the arrested Kurdish official in Washington is working for him.
The U.S. put Mr. Kani Xulam for passport fraud. But if I'm correct, you have a new law on the anti-terrorism subject. Under these circumstances, what are you planning to do to this individual, because he is openly involved with terror organizations?
MR. BURNS: I don't know, but I'll look into it for you. It's a good question. It's a fair question.
Just two more, and then I've got one thing to say and we'll call it a day.
Q Has the Secretary made any determination on the ring magnet transfer to Pakistan?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary has not made a determination on that issue. The United States continues to study that issue and to discuss it with the Chinese Government.
That wasn't the question that I was waiting for it.
Q Another China question?
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q The U.S. denied requests by China and India yesterday for loans at the Asia Development Bank. Can you tell us why?
MR. BURNS: I don't have specific knowledge of that decision and that action. It's a fair question. We can look into it for you.
Okay, no one guessed the question so you have stay. Patrick, since AP chose to leave, you're going to get a scoop here. George may be listening. He may want to come back.
I just wanted to say this, and I've talked to several people in the building about this this morning.
There was a very curious report this morning that the GAO is concerned that the State Department is protecting "palaces" and "beachfront resorts" and "vacant ambassadors' residences" around the world. There's a charge made, publicly by the GAO, in a major American newspaper.
They charge that we, in the State Department, are somehow keeping all these lavish buildings around the world and we're wasting the taxpayers money. This is an outrageous charge, if it weren't so -- it's comical, in one sense, because it's absolutely untrue, but it's outrageous for the GAO to say this.
Let me tell you this. We don't have any unused "palaces." We don't have any palaces. That's not in the American tradition. We don't have any "beachfront resorts." We don't have any vacant ambassadorial residences in our inventory of overseas property.
We have closed 20 consulates over the last two years, some in very historic places where we've had consulates for over 100 years, like Alexandria, Egypt, and like Bordeaux, France. We've done that because our budget is being cut and slashed by the U.S. Congress. We can't pay to keep diplomats in the field in many of these places. For the GAO to suggest that we are somehow acting recklessly or wasting money is outrageous.
Let me tell you what we have done. We have a program in place in this Administration to identify buildings that we no longer need and to put them on the open market and to sell them to the highest bidder. Our strategy has been effective.
In 1995, we sold 50 properties, and we generated $52.8 million to acquire other properties which allowed us to avoid $6 million in lease costs around the world. We have 100 properties, in addition to those properties, that are right now up for sale.
And I can tell you about the consulate in Alexandria, because the GAO charge in an American newspaper that we were using this "palace," it said, in Alexandria as a kind of "recreational spa." Actually, we have a USIA officer who lives in Alexandria and who works with the Egyptian Government and the Egyptian people, and he lives in it. I don't think we ought to sell a piece of property that is being used for a very good reason by the U.S. Government.
There is an allegation in the story that Secretary Christopher stays in this residence during his trips to the Middle East. Well, I would like a show of hands, for all of you who accompany us to the Middle East, have we ever gone to Alexandria and stayed in this palace? No.
The reason for raising this in such an aggressive way this morning is the following. The GAO has a responsibility when it goes by public, by leak or by open document, to be straight with the facts. Their facts are wrong, and I challenge them to tell us otherwise.
MR. BURNS: I have no idea. But as a Foreign Service officer I know how Foreign Service officers are living, Abdul Salam. We've got our Ambassador in Sarajevo living in his office, sleeping behind sandbags. We've had people killed overseas that we honored today. For the GAO to assert that somehow we're living lavishly overseas is outrageous.
Q Nick, have you all sought a copy of this report?
MR. BURNS: I understand that there will be some Congressional hearings next week on a variety of issues pertaining to this. We want to see the report. We want to see it. But to see it in the newspaper, ahead of the Congressional hearings with these outrageous charges, is a little bit unprecedented and we're upset about it.
Q (Inaudible) circulate these things to the agencies for comment. Weren't you given an opportunity?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if we were or not. I read about it in the newspaper. I checked with the people who are directly responsible for this piece of property and this program. I'm telling you categorically, I think we've got a case here to be a little bit upset.
So thank you very much. See you all on Monday.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:06 p.m.)
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