U.S. Department of State 96/05/14 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, May 14, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome Visiting South Korean Reporter .................. 1 Middle East Monitoring Group Meeting at State, Chaired by Amb. Dennis Ross ..................................... 1 Federation Meeting at Blair House: - Secretary's Press Statement; Background Briefing ..... 1 - Activities: Kornblum Chairs Meeting on Strengthening Federation; White House Meeting with President, VP . 1-2 - Issues: Federation Defense Law, Economic Recovery, Elections, Freedom of Movement ..................... 2-3 Secretary's Congressional Testimony 5/15 & 5/16 ......... 3 Secretary's Speech on US-China Relations 5/17 ........... 3 China's Assurances on Future Nuclear Transfers .......... 3-5 CHINA Oral & Written Assurances on Future Nuclear Transfers: - Level, Wording of Assurances, Commitment ............. 5-6,8-9 - Verification of Chinese Commitment ................... 7 Bases for U.S.-China Relationship ....................... 7-8 Effect on Bilateral Relations of IPR Violations ......... 19-20 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA/CROATIA Federation Meeting at Blair House: Defense Law; Integration of Armed Forces ................ 9 Role of Federation in Ending Conflict ................... 11-12 MIDDLE EAST Objective of Monitoring Group Meeting at State .......... 9-10 American Citizen Killed in West Bank .................... 10 Potential for Active American Involvement in Lebanon Monitoring Mission; U.S. UNIFIL Participation ........ 12 ISRAEL Reported Arrest of Potential Suicide Bomber ............. 10-11 LIBERIA Refugees: - Ghana Permits Docking of Refugee Ship ................ 13 - Relief Activities: UNHCR, ICRC, U.S. Government ...... 13-14 - Other Refugee-Laden Vessels, Sierra Leone ............ 14 - Refugee Admission to U.S.; Future Plans .............. 14,16-17 - U.S. Commitment to Ghana for Cooperation ............. 14-15 - U.S. History of Dealing with Refugees ................ 15-16 - Mission of U.S. Naval Vessels Near Monrovia .......... 17 NORTH KOREA Amb. Lord, South Korea, Japan Meeting in Cheju Island ... 17-18,20 - Discussed: Four-Party Proposal, Economic Cooperation, Food Aid to DPRK ................................... 17-18 Inducement to Bring DPRK Into Four-Party Talks .......... 18-19 Status of U.S.-DPRK Direct Dialogue ..................... 20
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1996, 1:03 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Nice to see all of you here. I want to welcome Mr. Jin Kim from Korea. He is a political reporter for a newspaper in Korea. He's in the United States to learn more about the United States and U.S.-Korean relations, and we welcome you. Thank you very much for being with us today.
I want to let all of you know that the Monitoring Group has just begun or is just now beginning its meeting here in the Department. This group is chaired by Ambassador Dennis Ross. There is a photo op -- cameras only, no questions -- that's taking place right now. If there are some results from the meeting today, I'll be sure to let you know towards the end of the day.
What we're going to do on other issues, on the Federation issue, is the following. We've had a very good start to the day. I'll tell you something about that in a minute.
The Secretary is going to be going back over to Blair House at around 3:00 p.m. for some bilateral meetings. He'll then have a statement for the press at 4:00 o'clock. That's on the record. That's open press at 4:00 o'clock. Following that, we'll come back here to this room for a briefing by a Senior Administration Official who has been at the center of the events today, who will brief you on the results of the Federation meeting.
While we're speaking about that, let me just tell you what I think has happened this morning. After you left the Secretary -- after his opening statement this morning -- John Kornblum, our Assistant Secretary of State-designate, chaired a meeting of the conferees for about 45 minutes at Blair House. He and Michael Steiner gave them our thoughts on how the Federation could be strengthened.
At that point, at the end of that session, the participants then went over to the White House. There was then a very, very good meeting with the President and the Vice President, Secretary Christopher and Deputy National Security Sandy Berger in the Roosevelt Room of the White House about all the issues that are in play here.
Following that meeting, they went back over to Blair House. They are having lunch now. They'll continue their meetings this afternoon. As I said, the Secretary will be meeting President Zubak, Vice President Ganic -- those are the President and Vice President of the Federation -- and also Foreign Minister Mate Granic of Croatia, who is here, and Foreign Minister Prlic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. That will all happen between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. He then goes on at 4:00 p.m., and then we come back here for the press briefing.
On the issues themselves, they're working on the Federation defense law. The objective here is to integrate the militaries of the two parts of the Federation. They are close to an agreement on a text, but they have not yet achieved an agreement. It's a very important issue. They've been working on it for a long time. There were meetings here at the Department until midnight last night involving John Kornblum and Rudy Perina and others, and we are hopeful that we'll be able to make progress on that issue -- but stay tuned, because progress is not assured.
Secondly, they're working on economic recovery and economic integration. They need to establish financial institutions -- a common financial institution -- and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers has been leading a working group with the Federation participants on the establishment of banking and privatization agencies, which is critical, he believes and we believe, to quicken World Bank and other international financial assistance for the Federation itself.
Another big issue this morning has been elections. This was an issue that President Clinton commented on, and that President Zubak, Vice President Ganic and others made a big point about in the meeting with the President and in the meeting with the Secretary; and that is that they need to establish, of course, the Election Commission. They need to insure proper procedures for the elections.
I know that Vice President Ganic is very concerned about the ability of people who have lost their homes, who are refugees, to vote. That has been a major concern of ours going all the back before the Dayton accords were negotiated in November.
An additional issue is the media, and specifically here to insure press freedoms throughout the coming couple of months, and hope years, but certainly in the period of the elections to insure the freedom of the press -- both the print press and the visual media -- but also assure that the various candidates for the positions in the elections have access and fair access and open access to the media.
They talked about freedom of movement. It was a very good session this morning with Secretary Christopher, and an excellent session with the President and the Vice President.
I'll be glad to take any questions on that if you have them.
I just wanted to remind you that tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. the Secretary will be testifying on Capitol Hill before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State, and this will be on the Fiscal Year 1997 budget. On Thursday at 2:00 p.m., he'll testify before the Senate Subcommittee on the same issue. Therefore, we will not be holding a press briefing on either day, but Glyn Davies and myself will be here to brief those of you who are resident in the Department.
I also wanted to remind you of the Secretary's speech on Friday. That's in New York City at 11:30 a.m., and that will focus on U.S.-China relations.
Finally, I wanted to make a comment on a story that appeared this morning in The Washington Post concerning the decision that the Secretary made last Friday on China and sanctions. We looked at this story very carefully here in the Department this morning. I've spoken to Secretary Christopher about it, and I can tell you that this story is inaccurate -- inaccurate. The story is inaccurate.
It is inaccurate because the United States has express understandings from the senior levels of the Chinese Government about nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear exports. I would just remind you that we issued a statement on Friday and the Chinese Government issued a statement on Saturday morning in Beijing; and those statements, together with the very high-level discussions that we had over the last couple of months with the Chinese Government, provide a clear and mutually understood record of Chinese assurances regarding future nuclear-related cooperation with other countries.
Let me just explain and go into a little bit of detail here. Read the Chinese statement. Specifically, it says -- and I'll quote -- "China will not provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities." This is a new and significant public commitment by China on this very important issue. It goes well beyond prior Chinese commitments, because it accepts responsibility not only to control nuclear items specifically listed on the international trigger list but also dual-use items and other forms of assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.
It is an important step forward, and that step forward was arrived at through a variety of conversations that we had with the Chinese beginning on April 29 in a very important one-on-one meeting that Secretary of State Christopher had with Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen.
It was in that meeting that we received the senior high-level assurances on these issues from the Chinese Government. Subsequent to that meeting, those assurances were repeated to us in conversations in Beijing and in Washington.
The article in The Washington Post talks about winks and nods and smiles. These were not winks and nods and smiles. These were express, clear assurances at the senior-most level of the Chinese Government to the Secretary of State.
In addition, I would tell you that the Chinese officials have authoritatively and explicitly told American officials through diplomatic channels -- beginning on April 19 and subsequent to that -- that our understanding that China's policy of not assisting unsafeguarded nuclear facilities will preclude future transfers of ring magnets to unsafeguarded facilities.
We and the Chinese were very clear that this general pledge the Chinese made in their written statements specifically includes ring magnets. That's a very important statement that I wanted to be clear about.
Moreover, the United States and China together have agreed to follow-up consultations at the expert level to build on these assurances. We told you about this Friday. Both sides believe that the consultations are important.
The final point I would make is this. There is going to be verification of this agreement, and there's going to be a big American spotlight on some of the Chinese companies that have engaged in these practices in the past. If we find that there are any violations, we'll be very quick to let the Chinese Government know that, and we will take proper action.
The Chinese understand that, they accept that, and, of course, we would accept nothing less. This cooperation that we're entering into now -- this significant step forward that we have taken with the Chinese -- comes with the understanding that the United States will be watching. I think that's an important point for the author of the article in the Post and everyone else to understand and reflect upon.
Q Nick, when you say that these assurances have come from the highest levels of the Chinese Government, are we talking Li Peng, Jiang Zemin? Who are we talking about here?
MR. BURNS: I specifically wanted to -- I talked to the Secretary this morning about his conversation on April 19 in The Hague with the Vice Premier and Foreign Minister of China -- he is a senior-level official of China -- and the assurances come from him, and they have come from a variety of other senior-level sources in the Chinese Government. I think that's about as high as you can go.
Q And apart from the statement that was issued on Saturday, are these assurances more explicit in written form -- in private diplomatic communications?
MR. BURNS: The written statement is open -- you can see the written statement. The written statement is a public statement, and you can analyze it, and you can look through it, and you can turn it upside down and look at it the way you would like.
I'm telling you that in addition to the very clear commitment made in that written statement Saturday morning -- I'm telling you today what we were hinting at the other day, and that is that there are high-level clear assurances made to us behind that written statement.
We knew what the written statement was going to be -- what it was going to say -- before it was issued. We looked at the written statement, and they looked at ours before we came out and talked about this decision on Friday.
I can tell you, Carol, that we would not have entered into this agreement -- we would not have made the decision that we did, the Secretary would not have made it -- without these private assurances.
Q But are these high-level assurances that go beyond the public statement issued on Saturday -- are they written, or are they all oral?
MR. BURNS: They're oral commitments made to us by the Government of China, but they're also commitments that were conveyed through cable traffic. So in that sense, I guess they're written as well. There is a written record of this that the historians here in the Bureau of Public Affairs will be able to talk about in ten years time or so. It's the private, diplomatic correspondence between our government and the Chinese Government.
In addition to that, and I frankly think more important to that, is the private assurances by senior government officials to the Secretary of State personally -- and that's a very important commitment.
Q It's correct, isn't it, that the Secretary tried to get the commitment on ring magnets to be put in writing and was turned down by the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: What I don't want to do, Mark, is start going into the negotiating record over the last couple of months on this and say, we wanted to get this; they wanted to get that. Every negotiation has many twists and turns. If I answered your question and went down that road, I'd be open to basically spilling my guts on what happened in the private parts of this negotiation.
Q I didn't ask you to spill your guts. I'm asking you --
MR. BURNS: You are. You are.
Q -- one discreet question.
MR. BURNS: You are -- you're asking me to go into the private negotiations. What I've done today is come out and tell you, On the Record, that we have these private assurances and that they're made at an exceedingly high level. We're satisfied with those.
We're satisfied with the deal that we got. Let me remind you of another reason why we are. Had the Secretary of State chosen the route of sanctions, for instance, on the Chinese State Company that was involved in the transfer of ring magnets, we believe to Pakistan -- had he made that decision, we subsequently would have had to have entered into a dialogue -- a political discussion with the Chinese Government -- to undo the problem. We would have asked for the very assurances that we have received in writing and orally from the Chinese Government.
So we are in a better position today than had we taken that other route. I think that's a fairly convincing point. Steve.
Q But doesn't the Chinese record on the promises of the agreement a little more than a year ago, on intellectual property rights, cast somewhat of a shadow on the Chinese preparedness to live up to an agreement?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it cast a shadow. I think it represents a challenge. That's precisely why you verify.
In the February 1995 agreement, there were explicit terms -- written terms of that agreement -- on intellectual property rights. The United States, of course, believes that unfortunately there's been massive piracy that has resulted despite that agreement. We know that because we have attempted to verify that agreement, and we have successfully verified it. That's why Lee Sands was in Beijing yesterday and today, and that's why there will be, I think, a press conference given by Charlene Barshefsky tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. because we have verified that agreement.
We've seen that there have been massive violations. We're going to take a similarly tough approach to this deal on nuclear non-proliferation. If we see any violations, we'll call them to the attention of the Chinese Government and consider the logical options open to the United States.
This is the way a tough-minded government acts with a government like the Government of China. The Chinese Government knows that we're going to be looking and watching at its performance on this agreement.
Q On a related subject. Do you have any comment on Henry Kissinger's written article that says that U.S. policy toward China is emotional and hinges on the soft-sided things like the environment -- human rights versus hard geo-political realities?
MR. BURNS: That was a very long article that I saw this morning and a very interesting article. There were a lot of points made in the article, some critical of the Administration.
Let's talk about hard and soft. I understand that nuclear non-proliferation is a soft issue, if you read the article and you listen to some other people. I don't think it's a soft issue.
Any hard-headed, pragmatic observer of global politics, going into the next century, would say that the issue of nuclear proliferation is among the most serious to the core and vital national security interests of the United States, as any other issue -- any other traditional security issue. The fact is that times have changed in the last 20 to 30 years.
These threats -- this has been a big issue in our relationship with Russia as it has been with China -- these threats are in the forefront of a hard-headed analysis of what America should worry about in the next century. So I would reject, with all due respect, that particular criticism.
Q Can I ask you a question about the Federation talks?
MR. BURNS: Does anybody else want to talk about China. I just want to stay on one subject. Okay. So everyone agrees with us on China, so we'll just go to the Federation.
Q I didn't hear that.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, David has a clarification, Jim. Then, we'll go to the Federation.
Q Are you saying -- do I understand you correctly to be saying that the wording that was actually read by the Chinese, the statement that they put out, is exactly the wording that you had agreed on them with? It was not missing --
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. I want to be very clear about this. Before we announced the Secretary of State's decision last Friday at 2:00 p.m., we looked very carefully at the statement that the Government of China said it would issue the following morning in Beijing -- Saturday morning.
They looked very carefully at our statement. We traded statements. We wanted to know what they were going to say. They said what they promised they would say.
I've told you today that our understanding of that -- and I think you'll have confirmation of this from the Government of China -- is that that statement says many things. It means that there will not be nuclear transfers to unsafeguarded countries. It means that there will be no further transfers of ring magnets. We know that those transfers took place. Those are important assurances.
I want to be clear with you. The Government of China fulfilled its commitment to us in issuing the statement that it did on Saturday.
Q You mentioned that the object on the Defense Act -- the object is to integrate the armed forces. Does that mean that the Croatians have now given up their proposal, their hopes for what amounted to a segregated armed force in which Croatians would be drafted into Croatian units, commanded by Croatians?
MR. BURNS: First, of all they haven't agreed yet on a defense law. They are attempting to agree on a defense law. The President and Vice President and Secretary pushed them very hard to move in that direction just a couple of hours ago.
Second, I don't think that all the questions about how this would work will be unveiled today, if there is an agreement. You'll have to direct some of your questions to the Federation participants.
But, in general, I can say, it means that the militaries of the two would be integrated; that there would be a single command center, a single military headquarters; that there will be a structure that would unify the two militaries. That is the objective here.
It's a very difficult proposition to achieve not only on paper but more importantly on the scene. We understand that's been a problem with past agreements that the Federation has arrived at.
Q The command structure would be integrated. Would the individual units under what's being worked out now be integrated or segregated?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if they've worked that out yet. I don't know what they've decided on that, so we'll have to wait on that until 4:00 p.m.. We will have a senior Administration official here at 5:00 p.m. to brief you. He is an authoritative person who has been involved in every aspect of these negotiations.
Q I'd like to talk about the Middle East. I was wondering if you could tell us anything about -- have the bridging proposals contained in the American working paper, and if you expect these negotiations going on downstairs to wrap up this afternoon?
MR. BURNS: I think I have the negotiating paper here that Ambassador Ross has been negotiating secretly. Would you like me to give it to you? I'm just kidding.
Q (Inaudible) been met by the Capitol, or something.
MR. BURNS: Actually, as you know, his style and our style is to work in private. That's what we're doing. He has convened the group.
As I said yesterday, we're not interested in interminable negotiations on this. We believe we've made some progress. We believe there's reason to think that we can agree rather quickly on the effective mechanisms that the monitoring group, which has already been created, would employ to stabilize the situation and to allow us to make sure that the agreement negotiated by Secretary Christopher is fully adhered to. That's the objective today.
I just don't want to go into the specifics of what Ambassador Ross is now discussing with the other four countries just below us.
Q Is there going to be a briefing after that meeting?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if there will be a briefing, but we'll certainly have something to say, whether I say it at 5:00 p.m. or whether we issue something on paper. I just will have to discuss that with Ambassador Ross.
Let me say, while we're on the Middle East, the United States was very disturbed by yesterday's shooting in the West Bank of an American citizen. It is shocking that such violence is continued by people opposed to the peace process.
This morning our Consul General in Jerusalem, Ed Abington, paid a visit to the family of the young American who was killed. Our sympathies go out to his family. There were three others injured, one of whom was injured quite seriously. We hope that person will recover.
But we are shocked at this. We deplore it. We criticize the motives of those who believe that they can interrupt the process towards peace in the Middle East. They will not succeed.
Q Another story. Overnight or late yesterday, the Israelis are saying that they captured a would-be suicide bomber who was trained in Syria by Islamic Jihad. Are you aware of that? Do you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the story. I cannot confirm that particular story. I direct you to the Israeli Government on that. I've simply seen the story. That kind of thing, unfortunately, is not unusual -- that the Israelis would have to take such actions.
Q Could I go back to Bosnia for a second?
MR. BURNS: Yeah.
Q What, in the view of the Administration, has the Federation done -- provided for -- since its inception a little over two years ago? Has it panned out, as the Administration thought?
MR. BURNS: The Federation -- the creation of the Federation in 1994 led to one profoundly important change in the calculation of war. There were three sides in the war. A three-sided war was reduced to two. That, I think, ultimately -- especially when the Bosnian Serbs were put on the defensive by the United States and NATO and others last summer, that ultimately led to the successful negotiations of the Dayton Accords.
I'm not sure the story would be the same had the war remained a trilateral war, if you will, in effect.
The fact that the number of participants were reduced was very important. The fact that the Federation was in place was an important reason for our ability to even call the countries together to Dayton, Ohio, on November 1. So it has served an extremely useful purpose in that respect.
The Federation has been a very difficult proposition. Because there have been all sorts of political and military and psychological obstacles to the union between those two entities. That is why we have quite continuously, over the last two years, brought them together -- we and the German Government -- to talk through their problems.
That's why President Clinton and Vice President Gore took the important step of sitting down with them this morning to talk about the very specific issues that currently separate them. So I don't think anyone in our government would oversell the success of the Federation because it has had a lot of problems.
I think it is certainly true that without it we might not be in a good, positive situation we're in today.
A year ago today, the situation looked very bleak; much bleaker than it is today. There was war, there was no peace, there was no prospect of the war ending. In fact, the Bosnian Serbs were on the March a year ago today. Well, that's been turned around, and I think the Federation played a part in that.
Q The Lebanon negotiations? Can you say that under no circumstances will there be American troops or government personnel on the ground in Lebanon to monitor the cease-fire?
MR. BURNS: I can certainly say I don't anticipate any American troops on the ground in southern Lebanon to monitor the agreement put in place by Secretary Christopher that prevents attacks on civilians.
There may be Americans who are involved in the monitoring group. Our Ambassadors in the region, I would expect, would be important people in the monitoring group. I don't want to get ahead of Ambassador Ross, who is negotiating this as we speak.
Q You addressed American troops. What about American Government personnel?
MR. BURNS: Until negotiations are finished, Sid, I'm just not willing to make categorical statements. Because, as you know, the United States is a member of the monitoring group. We will be active in this group and that means in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. As to who, on the part of our government, is active -- that remains to be seen. That, actually, is what is at the heart of the negotiations today -- that, and some other issues.
Q What's at the heart of the negotiations -- who will be doing the monitoring; is that what you're saying?
MR. BURNS: Sure. You have a group that is extant. You need to put in place procedures to make the work of that group successful. That's what's being negotiated. There are many thousand different questions that hinge on that proposition.
Q There are Americans in UNIFIL, right?
MR. BURNS: I don't know how many Americans are part of UNIFIL now. In the past, there have been Americans in UNIFIL; not recently in southern Lebanon, as you know, but in other UNIFIL offices in the region.
Q Is there anything you can say about the Liberian refugees?
MR. BURNS: There certainly is, and I'm glad you asked about that because that is a very grave situation still.
I can tell you that Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott spoke last night with President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana. Deputy Secretary Talbott made a very strong appeal to President Rawlings and the Ghanian Government that Ghana do the right thing and accept these poor people who have been adrift on the seas for ten days.
I'm very pleased to report this morning that President Rawlings directed that the freighter Bulk Challenge, which had been sent out to the sea again, be allowed to return to the port of Takoradi.
We understand that throughout the course of the day the many, many people on board that ship have been allowed off the freighter, and the Government of Ghana plans to move these refugees to a temporary transit site near the port of Takoradi until a more permanent site is identified.
We would like to congratulate the Government of Ghana for having acted appropriately, for having done the right thing, in a humanitarian sense, and for having upheld its own commitments to various international agreements on refugee conventions and refugee concerns.
These people spent ten days in a ship in desperately overcrowded conditions without adequate food or medical attention or sanitary conditions. A number of them were women and children.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has a large group on the scene. The UNHCR is coordinating the international relief activities with the Government of Ghana, with the Red Cross, with various non-governmental organizations.
We have informed both the UNHCR and the Government of Ghana that we are available to help both of them. We have several members of our Embassy staff from Accra on the scene at Takoradi as well as our refugee coordinator -- Jim Kelly -- for West Africa, with several members of his staff.
We're very concerned about these people. We want to do our part to help them, and we're ready to help these international organizations do the job that now must be done.
In addition to that, there are other freighters with refugees on board. There is a fishing vessel with as many as 700 people on board off the coast of Sierra Leone. The latest information that we have is that the Government of Sierra Leone has allowed this vessel to dock but has not allowed the people off the ship. Instead, the Government of Sierra Leone is asking that provisions be brought on board the ship.
We would ask the Government of Sierra Leone to do what it can to let those people off who require urgent medical attention and, in essence, to also perhaps replicate the good example today of the Government of Ghana in trying to deal with a very tragic refugee situation.
Q How would the Liberian refugees go about applying for admission to the United States?
MR. BURNS: The process of admission to the United States as a refugee is straightforward. You have to first meet with an official of an American Embassy -- and there are officials on the ground -- and you have to basically meet the qualifications to become a refugee. In general, that's fear of persecution in the country from which you are fleeing. That's a process with which we have a lot of experience. If there are people in that condition, of course, there are people -- as I said, there's our refugee coordinator for West Africa who is on the ground at Takoradi.
Q What has the United States specifically promised Ghana in terms of assistance?
MR. BURNS: We have told the Government of Ghana that in this particular situation, dealing with the freighter in question here, we are ready to listen to their request for our assistance to the Government of Ghana but also, specifically, to the UNHCR. Assistant Secretary Phyllis Oakley has had a number of discussions with the UNHCR to see what we can do to help.
We're in a position of wanting to be helpful, and we will be helpful once they tell us what the requirements are.
Q But is our offer only to give them refugee-related assistance, or have we promised Ghana some other kind of country-specific assistance?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of addition promises beyond two. One is that there are immediate humanitarian needs -- food, medicine -- that need to be met. We'll contribute to that as we can and as they request.
Two, there may be a request to look at some of these people as potential refugees to the United States. Of course, that's a legal process. I explained to Mark, in general, what that process is. We've not made any commitments as to numbers of people.
I don't believe the Government of Ghana or the UNHCR has yet gotten down to the specific task of trying to decide which countries would take how many refugees, and so forth.
Q Has the government offered Ghana, say, some foreign assistance for itself or some weapon sales or anything?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we have. I can check, but I'm just not aware we have from the conversations we've had in the last 24 hours.
Q It seems to me that Ghana has been more magnanimous toward refugees than the United States has been.
MR. BURNS: How so, George?
Q Well, when you consider that the centerpiece of this Administration's policy towards Caribbean refugees -- you know, from Haiti and from Cuba -- has been to send them back.
MR. BURNS: You're talking about Cuba. I wouldn't compare the situations in either Cuba or Haiti to the situation of Liberian refugees. If you look at the numbers, refugee admission numbers worldwide, the United States does its part worldwide, and we do a lot more than most countries. We've had a great tradition of that in this country.
The fact is we've done a lot of good for Haiti. We made the right decision in trying to stabilize the situation of the boat people, and we've made a difference in Haiti over the last two years. I think you know the situation in Cuba better than I do, and we think that the situation is best managed by the agreement that we put into place last May 2.
Q Well, you know, there are boatloads of desperate refugees from those countries who are returned, and I'm just drawing a distinction between that and what the United States --
MR. BURNS: And we've sheltered many of those refugees at Guantanamo, and we've provided for their existence, for their shelter, for their food, for their medical attention. We've tried in a minority of cases to provide for settlement in third countries. For those who have returned to Cuba, we check up on them regularly.
We have done a very thorough job in a humanitarian sense as well as in a legal sense in trying to do the right thing by the refugees in our own hemisphere. I don't know a country that's been more responsive over the last 100 years to refugees as has the United States. I think we have a good record here.
I think we also have had a right over the last week to call upon West African governments to adhere to their own international commitments on refugees.
Q How many staffers -- American staffers are on hand to process those refugee applications?
MR. BURNS: As I said, there's our Coordinator for West Africa, Jim Kelly, with several assistants, and there are a couple of Embassy officials from our Embassy in Accra. I wouldn't give you the feeling that somehow this is all going to happen very rapidly. This takes time.
I think the immediate need here is for the Government of Ghana to get these people into the temporary camp and then to a more permanent camp while their future status can be adjudicated. Whether they elect to return to Liberia should the situation stabilize there, whether they choose to try to go to a third country like the United States, that's a decision that each of these individuals must make.
It's not a question of taking people off the boat -- I know you know this -- today and then turning them around on a boat to the United States tomorrow. It's a lot more complicated than that. They have to decide what they want to do for their own future.
Q As a policy matter, does the United States feel it has more of an obligation to the Liberian refugees than to refugees or citizens of other African countries just because of our historic ties to Liberia?
MR. BURNS: When it comes to deciding on the numbers of people that you take for refugees from any given country, that's worked out here in the government, and it's worked out for a variety of reasons.
In the case of Liberia, I think we in general feel a historic responsibility, given the fact that Liberia was founded by Americans, by freed American slaves, in the 19th century. I don't know, however, Mark, if that translates into greater numbers in terms of refugees. It's mainly worked out on a regional basis. Of course, there are very important and delicate negotiations with the Congress on the numbers from each region, as you know.
Q Are there circumstances in which the U.S. military ships off of Liberia might be involved in helping the refugees move from one spot to another?
MR. BURNS: The American naval vessels off the coast of Monrovia are there to provide for assistance to our Embassy and, in the contingency that the situation should worsen in Liberia, to any possible evacuation of our Embassy or, in addition, of foreigners there.
We did our part in evacuating more than 2,500 people over the last six weeks, most of them foreigners, not American citizens. In this particular case, you had a freighter with several thousand Africans on board -- mainly Liberians but comprising various other nationalities -- you had that freighter in an Ivoirian port; you had the freighter in a Ghanaian port.
I think it was certainly just more pragmatic because the freighters were in African ports for the African countries themselves to decide that they had to step forward to help these people. Had it been otherwise, had this freighter sailed out to our vessels, then we would have been in a position of having to make a decision about what to do.
But the fact was that these freighters were never really on the high seas. They were hugging the coastline, looking for refuge from the governments involved, and fortunately the Ghanaian Government has done the right thing here.
Q If we can switch over to Korea really quickly. I was wondering if you could give us a readout on the Lord meeting in Cheju Island and particularly focus on the food aid situation and whether or not there's been a decision made on that, if it's perhaps different than the last couple of days.
MR. BURNS: Let me commend to you a joint press statement made today of Cheju by the United States, Japan and Korea on the talks that Ambassador Lord had with his counterparts, the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea. There was also a press conference that Winston gave. If you're interested, we can make the transcript of that press conference available. Some of these issues come up.
I would just say very briefly that they did discuss ways of encouraging the North Koreans to accept the four-party proposal made by President Clinton and the South Korean Government. They confirm that the United States and South Korea are prepared to brief the North Koreans jointly on this proposal. They confirm that economic cooperation with North Korea would be a natural subject of the four-party talks, and they agreed that the food situation in North Korea is serious. They indicated that the three governments -- Japan, Korea and the United States -- will keep the food situation in North Korea under continuous review.
I can say that while we have no plans to go forward with food assistance at this time, having just completed a $2 million shipment of food assistance on May 5, we understand that the situation is quite serious.
I know that the FAO and the World Food Program announced this morning a new alert on the North Korean food situation. We haven't had a chance to review their written report, but we will do so. By every indication, the situation is worsening, and so I'd repeat what I said yesterday.
While we don't have any immediate plans, we've not made any decisions to come forward with food aid, we certainly would keep all options under review. I think that's probably the best course in a situation like this, given the fact that we're dealing with a society that is not open, and it is sometimes important to verify trends that you think maybe occurring in that society.
Q Are these three parties using the food situation as one of the ways of encouraging the North Koreans to move into the four-party talks?
MR. BURNS: I think on the merits of the proposal, there is not a peace agreement in the Korean peninsula. There should be a peace agreement after 46 years, and that's in essence what the proposal is: to establish a state of peace on the Korean peninsula. That should be inducement enough.
But I did make the statement today that this situation, of course, could be part of the talks that we have when we more formally present this proposal to the Government of North Korea.
Q Let me just follow up. It sounds then that you are using food aid as something between a carrot and a stick.
MR. BURNS: I think we've been generous in food. We have not withheld food aid as a punitive measure over the past couple of months. As the situation worsened early in this year, the United States and other countries responded with food assistance to North Korea. We have no plans to continue that now, but we are open to suggestions.
So I wouldn't say it's a carrot and stick, but I think it is a part of the reality of our relations with North Korea.
Q On the trade situation with China, assuming that there is this announcement at 11 o'clock tomorrow morning by Mrs. Barshefsky, and assuming, as the Chinese have announced we can assume, that they will retaliate with sanctions of their own, is the Administration confident that the relationship with China can be kept from spiraling downward rapidly? And if you're not confident of that, where do you expect this relationship to go from here? What kind of impact do these announcements, like what's expected tomorrow -- what kind of impact do they expect it to have?
MR. BURNS: First, David, I think the facts are going to rule in this case of intellectual property rights. While I do not want to anticipate what Charlene Barshefsky will say tomorrow, I can tell you that we have an agreement on intellectual property rights. That agreement is being violated.
As the President and the Secretary of State said last week, we would like the Chinese Government to come into compliance with that agreement, and even if we have to announce punitive measures tomorrow -- even if that's the case, and I don't want to predict that's going to be the case, but let's say it happens -- there will be a 30-day period during which the Chinese could perhaps show a greater measure of commitment and of action to putting in to effect the agreement that they signed with us in February of 1995. That's the first statement that I would make.
We would hope that they would understand that we're serious here. We have to protect under international law our American manufacturers who are being ripped off in China by Chinese pirates on CDs and on videos -- products in which the American private sector has a comparative advantage worldwide, and they have a right to have their products protected.
On your larger question, I'd say this: We have a very difficult relationship with China, but it's also a very important relationship. We can't afford to allow this relationship to spiral downward. We have got to use every bit of ingenuity and every bit of diplomatic skill, as well as inducements like our right to seek punitive action under the intellectual property rights conventions.
We've got to use all those tools to try to convince the Chinese that we will meet them halfway. We do want to have a mature relationship. We want to have an economic relationship that works to the benefit of both countries, but that is fair, where the rules are respected and where treaties are respected. We certainly want to have a political and military relationship -- security relationship -- that I think speaks to the fact that we are two of the great powers of the Pacific and will be throughout the next century, and we've got to find a way to get along.
The Chinese Government has been assured time and again we're not out to contain China. We're out to work with China on these very difficult problems. Despite the fact that there's a lot of editorial second-guessing of this Administration, including this morning, we think that we have a realistic policy that has a realistic chance of making progress. But it's a long haul, and I would not expect immediate results.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, we have another question back here. I have to be fair to all journalists.
Q Come back to North Korea. Today Ambassador Winston Lord said in Cheju Island on the issue of four-party talks, he says that the United States is very reluctant to have status talks with North Korea on this issue as long as South Korea is shut out. You don't have any direct dialogue with North Korea any more on the issue of four-party talks?
MR. BURNS: Whether it's the proposals for peace in the Korean peninsula or the Agreed Framework or food, we're going to stick very close to our ally, the Republic of Korea. We're not going to agree to a unilateral channel, a single channel of communication -- Washington to Pyongyang -- that keeps Seoul out of the way. Seoul must be involved in these conversations.
The President has made that point. The Secretary of State has made that point, and Ambassador Lord made it again this morning, and it's a bedrock, very important point of principle and of self-interest on our part, and the North Koreans understand that.
(The briefing concluded at 1:47 p.m.)
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