U.S. Department of State 96/10/03 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman I N D E X Thursday, October 3, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to Visitors to the Briefing ......................... 1 A/S Moose To Brief on the Secretary's Trip to Africa ........ 1 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Prospects for the Secretary to Travel to the Region ......... 1-2 Resumption of Israeli-Palestinian Talks at Erez on Sunday ... 2-3 --Agenda/Structure/Scope/Participants in Talks .............. 3 Status of Final Status Talks/Issues ......................... 3-7,9 Call by Hamas for Full-Scale Demonstrations Against Talks ... 7-9 --Prospects for U.S. Contacts with Hamas .................... 8 IRAN Reported Iranian Statement re Export Routes for Oil/U.S. Companies and Possible Sanctions Violations ............... 9-10 IRAQ U.S. Contacts with Kurdish Factions ......................... 10,11- 12 Status of Kurdish Employees from N. Iraq .................... 11 TURKEY Reported Arrest of American Citizen For Allegedly Assisting the Kurds ................................................. 10-11 Reported Killing of Teachers by PKK Terrorists .............. 11 JAPAN U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty/U.S. Commitments re: Treaty/ Diaoyu/Senkaku Island Area ................................. 12-13 HAITI Status of Security/Stability in Haiti ....................... 13-14 Training/Recruiting for Haitian Police Force ................ 14 AFGHANISTAN Reported U.S. Meeting with Taliban/Contacts with Taliban .... 15 Arrival of U.S. Diplomat in Kabul ........................... 15 Russian Call for Meeting on Afghanistan ..................... 15-16 SLOVAK REPUBLIC Slovak Foreign Minister's Meeting with the Secretary and Deputy Secretary Talbott ................................... 16 --Discussion of Slovakia's Commitment to Democracy .......... 16-18 BURMA Visa Restrictions on Burma ................................. 18-20 Level of U.S. Drug Enforcement Assistance to Burma .......... 19 NORTH KOREA Submarine Incident/N. Korea Threats/Provocations ............ 20-21
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #158 THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1996, 1:59 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I want to welcome Mr. Ahn Jae-Hwan, the Director of Publicity and Policy at the Ministry of Information in the Republic of Korea. You're most welcome.
I also want to welcome ten Arab journalists who are here under the auspices of the International Center for Journalists. I think we have people here -- and here you're most welcome -- from I believe ten different Arab countries, including Palestinian journalists from Jerusalem; and you are most welcome here. Thank you for coming.
My only announcement is that at 3:30 this afternoon Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose is going to hold an ON-THE- RECORD briefing here in our briefing room to give you a sense of the strategy and the itinerary and the activities for the Secretary of State's trip to Africa, which as you know begins on Monday. The Secretary of State is scheduled to visit Mali, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, and Angola; and he is looking forward to that trip. In fact, he's had several discussions about that trip in the building here this morning. So that's at 3:30 p.m. That's ON THE RECORD and on camera.
And with that, George, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
QUESTION: The Secretary raised a tantalizing possibility that he might make a stop in the Middle East before going to Mali. Has his thinking advanced at all on this?
MR. BURNS: Actually, I'm looking for your colleague, who actually was responsible for raising that tantalizing possibility, but he's not here. But his associate is here.
The Secretary did raise it.
Oh, there he is. Yes. I couldn't see you back there, David.
QUESTION: Is that the question?
MR. BURNS: I think the tantalizing possibility was raised by David Ensor, but in any case you heard what the Secretary said. The Secretary believes that if he can be helpful in participating in these talks, he will do so, at any time; and when there's something to announced on that, I'm sure that we'll announce it, but I'm not announcing anything now and I'm here to brief you on any other matter. But I really can't say much more on that one, George.
QUESTION: A very good answer. (Laughter) As good as the Secretary's!
MR. BURNS: The Secretary probably did it better than I did, but I thought it was okay.
QUESTION: While you're on the Middle East, could I ask a question? On the talks opening, scheduled to open on Sunday, as I understand what the announcement was yesterday -- that, basically, it will pick up where it was -- meaning with Oslo and the various interim accords and their implementations -- does that mean then it would exclude something like the tunnel?
MR. BURNS: These talks are meant to have the Palestinians and Israelis re-engage diplomatically.
What makes these talks especially important is that they will be continuous, meaning that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat have agreed that these negotiators will stay in session until all of the issues pertaining to the implementation of the Oslo Accords are completely agreed upon, and that is a very important objective of theirs.
I thought it was especially important that President Clinton said twice yesterday that Prime Minister Netanyahu had agreed there can be no renegotiation of the Oslo Accords. Israel is committed to fulfill the Oslo Accords, as is the Palestinian Authority. That means that the accord must be fulfilled in all of its respects, and that includes of course the redeployment from Hebron.
The question is: When will that happen, and how will it happen, and what are the security arrangements that will be made to allow it to happen? But there's no question that it will happen, should these negotiations succeed, and we hope very much that they will succeed.
What is interesting about the way this decision came about is that as this was discussed over lunch yesterday there was one suggestion that these talks begin sometime next week. I think it was the wish of both the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat that they begin as soon as possible, and that's why the Sunday date was chosen.
There was also an agreement, and actually a suggestion by the two, that the United States ought to be present at the negotiating table; and that's why Ambassador Dennis Ross will of course be in Erez on Sunday afternoon.
He intends to be there for some undetermined length of time -- probably several days. He may not stay every day for the length of these talks, but the United States will be represented at the table every day. If Ambassador Ross is not there, either Ambassador Indyk or our Charge d'Affaires in Jerusalem, Ed Abington, will be there or others appointed by Ambassador Ross and the Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Excuse me? That wasn't a question. (Laughter) The question was --
MR. BURNS: I thought I answered your question, Jim. Try again.
QUESTION: Okay. Would this agenda, would this formula, exclude discussion of such things as the tunnel?
MR. BURNS: These negotiations are to fulfill the implementation of the Oslo Accords, and that is their specific task. I don't want to limit the negotiations for them, however. They're in control and in charge of the negotiations. And I assume that the Palestinians, for instance, will continue to raise issues like that that are of concern to them -- whether it's in the meeting room or on the margins of the meetings.
The United States is not in a position -- we certainly were not in a position here in Washington during the Summit -- to prevent either the Palestinians or the Israelis from raising issues of concern to them, and I assume that that holds true in the future as we participate in these talks.
QUESTION: Well, I think we should be suggesting, if I understand correctly, that by stressing implementation the final status issues are not germane to these talks and the tunnel is a Jerusalem issue and, therefore, not relevant.
MR. BURNS: Judd, it's not for the United States to be the architect of the political agenda between the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Government. It's for the two of them to decide that.
They have a series of talks on implementing the Oslo Accords, which is quite important. They have the final status talks, which we hope they will resume at some point, but that's their decision when they do that.
There are other issues in their relationship beyond those two sets of discussions, and they will raise those issues with each other when they feel it's appropriate. But it's not for the United States to say there are some issues that can be raised and some issues that cannot be raised. We are in the talks as an intermediary to be helpful to them. We certainly don't intend our presence to be in any way a limiting factor on them, so I think this is a decision that they're just going to have to make together.
QUESTION: But final status issues could be raised, and subject to these talks.
MR. BURNS: We're just going to have to see what decision they make, Judd.
QUESTION: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Dennis Ross said on television today that he was going to try to help shape the agenda.
MR. BURNS: Carol, I think we've said all along that the United States is going to -- we are an active intermediary. We were, in Washington this week. We have been for many, many years. And we'll continue to be an active intermediary.
That means that when we have something to suggest we do so privately with the parties. That happened frequently during the 48 hours of the Washington Summit. President Clinton, Secretary Christopher, and Ambassador Ross all raised ideas that were American ideas. And I think that's part of the reason why we are of value to these two -- to the Israelis and the Palestinians. But they are in charge of the negotiations. It's their negotiations; they're the ones who have to decide these questions.
So what I'm trying to do here, in response to Jim's question and Judd, is to make sure that I don't say anything that limits their ability to define their own agenda.
QUESTION: Another question. I just want to make sure I understand. You say Ross will be there for an indeterminate time but probably several days as opposed to several weeks if the talks were to last several weeks. But, you know, if he leaves or if he isn't there one day, then Indyk or Abington -- there will always be an American presence. Is that the intention?
MR. BURNS: Yes, that is the intention. I think it's a very strong wish of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
As we look at these talks, we hope obviously that they can be successful. We hope that progress can be made rapidly. And we think that in addition to the rhetoric that undergirds these talks and the words that undergird them, we're looking for results.
Results are very important -- results as quickly as they can be obtained -- by both parties. Results are the most important thing here -- not just words, not just promises, but results.
QUESTION: I think you said that this is not the reopening of the Oslo -- renegotiating Oslo again. But the presence of Ross and political leaders from both sides in the negotiations on Sunday suggests that you're not dealing only with technical issues. The door is opening the whole file of Hebron; and if you're dealing only with technical issues, why don't you leave that issue to the commanders on the field -- the Palestinians and the Israelis -- to carry out the decision to withdraw from Hebron, which was signed as part of the Oslo agreement?
MR. BURNS: I think you saw last week that with the horrific violence on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, a lot of these issues were raised to the highest political levels. Last week, the political leaders could not manage to get together to discuss them.
One of the values of the summit here in Washington was that they did. They were able to meet face to face over two days to discuss their problems and their divisions, and the challenges that remain before them. That was a concrete achievement.
I think it also is the answer to your question. The peace process is at a critical stage. It still is, following this summit.
They have been able to agree that they're going to continue to meet, and they'll meet continuously. They have renounced violence together, and they've called on the Israeli and Palestinian populations not to take to the streets and not to heed the voices of extremism. We've heard some more voices of extremism today from the Middle East. They have pledged that they will complete the negotiations. But this has to be done now at the highest political level. Because, obviously, there was a summer of relative inactivity, diplomatically, on these questions.
Lower-level people were not able to resolve the issues. The two leaders have pledged that if these discussions at Erez do not proceed in a satisfactory way, then the two leaders are going to intervene to complete the negotiations. That's a very important commitment they made to President Clinton.
QUESTION: Will the Palestinians have any kind of guarantee that any new agreement, even if it's on technical issues with the Israelis, will be carried out?
You mentioned final talks -- negotiations. They began initially on May 5; right? Then they were suspended. Again, what is the role of the United States here as a mediator? If you're going to leave these two parties alone and knowing the fact that there is no equilibrium between the two, you could have a stalemate forever?
MR. BURNS: Let's look at what we've been able to achieve in one week's time. A week ago today saw the bloodiest violence in the West Bank and Gaza in 30 years. It took 12 hours to arrange a telephone call between the leaders. There was no political movement on the negotiations. There was hostile rhetoric and confrontation on both sides.
A week later, many of the problems that contributed to the violence have not been resolved -- the issue of redeployment from Hebron; the issue of the tunnel. But what has been produced is a renewed political will among the Israeli and Palestinian leadership that they should go back to the negotiating table and turn away from the street violence and the confrontations in the streets; that together they would renounce violence; and that they would see each other as partners.
What also happened last week was the erosion of trust and credibility between the leaders of the Palestinians and the Israelis. Perhaps at Washington in their face-to-face meetings they were able to convince each other that they ought to begin to build that trust back up again. That is a very important element in any negotiation. There has to be trust and credibility across the negotiating table.
They have to see themselves as partners. Their fates are inextricably bound up by one another's. The Israelis and Palestinians will live for a long time together, sharing the historic land there, and that may have been the most important thing that was accomplished at this summit.
There's a common self-interest in both leaders working together and in getting back to the negotiating table. Frankly, I think that some of the criticism that I've heard just in the initial round of questioning, but I've certainly read in the European press and the American press, does not take fully into account the fact that, as the President said yesterday, the peace process didn't begin yesterday and won't end tomorrow. There's been a continuum, and there's a great crisis underway in the peace negotiations, touched off by the violence last week.
Before you can get to the end of the road in the negotiations, you've got to take some small steps to re-establish trust and confidence, to agree that you're going to go back to the negotiating table.
I think that's probably the most important thing that happened at Washington. We take a longer-term perspective of things, because we have a lot of experience in the Middle East. We're not going to be discouraged by the fact that they didn't resolve all of their problems.
I mean, to hear some of the protests from some governments and from a lot of analysts in Europe and North America and the Middle East, you'd have thought that the peace process had failed yesterday completely; that it was over; that there were no negotiations, when in fact they agreed to continue.
We can't allow ourselves to be brought off track by temporary problems. We've got to stay focused, and that's where Secretary Christopher is as he looks at these events.
We've been focused now for nearly four years in this Administration. A lot has been produced, and we're going to continue on that path.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the call by Hamas for large-scale demonstrations on Friday against the results of the summit?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen the full text of the Hamas statement that was released to the press in the Middle East, but I have seen excerpts from it. If this is, in fact, a legitimate statement by Hamas -- and it seems to be because they are claiming credit for it -- this is exactly the wrong advice for the Palestinian people who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and who live in Jerusalem. This is the voice of extremism that will lead the Palestinian people towards more violence, more destruction, and more confrontation.
The Palestinian people ought not to heed the advice of those who are terrorists and who are only interested in polarizing the situation. At a time like this, people have to keep focused on the long-term benefits of peace. It's hard to get to peace. It's going to be very hard to complete these negotiations at Erez. But the benefits of peace are far greater than the benefits of confrontation in the streets.
Fifty-five Palestinians died last week and 14 Israelis and nearly a thousand people ended up wounded in the hospital. Is that what Hamas wants? They want more Palestinian dead? More Israeli dead?
I think that the United States Government certainly rejects the call of Hamas, this type of extremist call for more violence and confrontation.
The summit that President Clinton just held here and convoked serve to bring the leadership of the Palestinians and Israelis together and to point them in a different direction, away from violence and towards peace. So we reject this call for violence.
QUESTION: Did Mr. Arafat promise to suppress Hamas? Specifically, was he asked to? Did he make a pledge to suppress this threat?
MR. BURNS: Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu, together, called on their populations to resist the voices of extremists like Hamas and to resist the call to take to the streets and to provoke violence. They want to keep the situation under control so that the peace negotiators have a chance to produce peace. Peace is not going to be produced in the streets of Ramallah and Nablus and Gaza and Jerusalem by violence. It's only going to be produced by cooperation and compromise by Israel along by the Palestinians -- by both of them.
QUESTION: Nick, other than your statement of rejection, are we doing anything to be in touch with Hamas in order to try to convince them to play it down?
MR. BURNS: We don't have a relationship with Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist group that is responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. We don't talk to them.
QUESTION: Would there be some benefit, though, in talking to them now at a moment when everything is on --
MR. BURNS: We have a close relationship with the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, Chairman Arafat and his colleagues.
There's been an election. There was an election in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These are legitimate political leaders. That's who we deal with.
QUESTION: Have we asked Arafat to do everything he can to make sure this doesn't boil over?
MR. BURNS: Listen, we've asked both leaders. Not just Chairman Arafat but also Prime Minister Netanyahu, who also has a responsibility, along with Chairman Arafat, to make sure that the situation remains stable and peaceful so that the negotiations can proceed and have a chance to be successful.
QUESTION: Can you address the question -- yesterday, Netanyahu talked about the structure of the talks; that there would be two sets of talks running simultaneously. One about Hebron and one about security. Is this your understanding? And exactly how do you break down the issues?
MR. BURNS: You're talking about the Erez talks --
MR. BURNS: -- that will begin on Sunday? Obviously, we're talking to the Palestinians and Israelis. We've already begun this, about the agenda and about the scope of the talks and about where the talks will head and how they'll proceed. I'm simply not ready to go into all of those details yet because they have to agree on the full basis upon which they're going to negotiate.
QUESTION: The thing about security is, is security specifically about Hebron or is it the broader security question that Netanyahu wants to discuss?
MR. BURNS: Listen, Roy, I'm the wrong the person to ask. You ought to ask the Palestinian spokesman and the Israeli Government spokesman about this.
We're there to play a role, and a very active role. But we're not there to define the limits for them. They've got to do that for themselves.
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: An Iranian official, on Monday in New York City, made an interesting statement, claiming that some U.S. oil companies are getting ready to take the Azeri oil down to Iran and carry it through the Gulf, to the West. Isn't this against the sanctions Iran? What is your reading on this transaction?
MR. BURNS: I'm just not familiar with this impending announcement or this event. I'm not familiar that it's taken place, but I can look into it for you.
Our view has been all along that there should be a fair competition to work with the Azeri Government and the littoral states of the Caspian Sea to develop the energy resources of that area. They are very rich and they're very deep. American companies are involved there.
There have been a variety of possible options about export routes. The United States has not favored those routes that would take the oil and the gas through Iran. We have favored routes that travel through Turkey and other countries. We have made that decision for sound geopolitical reasons, and these decisions were made several years ago and they're well-known to all the littoral states of the Caspian Sea.
QUESTION: Let me ask another related question. The story appeared in a daily, and it was claimed that this was a oil-swapping arrangement. And, as such, it did not violate the Iran-Libya sanctions law. Can you comment on that such swapping deals do not violate the sanctions on Iran?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any information about the specific event to which you're referring. I'm going to have maybe get a source from you and look into it before I can answer a question like that.
QUESTION: Did you schedule Barzani's delegation meeting --
MR. BURNS: I know that Ambassador Pelletreau has a recent phone conversation with Mr. Barzani and they agreed that a KDP delegation would visit Washington. I don't know if we've scheduled that specifically. I thought that visit would take place shortly, however. We can look into it for you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) invite Talabani's group also?
MR. BURNS: I know that Ambassador Pelletreau has been in touch with Mr. Talabani as well. I think we're going to take this one group at a time. We do intend to have contacts and meetings with the PUK when that's appropriate.
QUESTION: The U.S. is confirming that an American citizen has been arrested by the Turks for, they say, helping the Kurds. His name is Christopher -- it's a Polish name. I'm afraid to try to pronounce it -- Mrozowski, or something like that?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, I just don't have any information on that, but we'll look into it for you.
QUESTION: Also on northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Also on northern Iraq. Yes.
QUESTION: What's the status of discussions on evacuating the AID workers?
MR. BURNS: We're still considering the possibility of bringing out more of the citizens of northern Iraq -- the Kurds, the Assyrians, and other minority groups. We're working inside the government, looking at the possibility of talking to the Turkish Government, talking to some European governments.
As you know, we brought out the people who work directly for the U.S. Government. They're all on Guam now. There is a possibility that we might go forward with some plans but no final decisions have been made.
QUESTION: Can you give us any details?
MR. BURNS: We're looking at this in a very serious way, but we've got to assure ourselves first that there is a need for this type of action; that there is a wish on the part of the people involved to undertake this. We haven't come to the end of those discussions.
QUESTION: Change the subject?
MR. BURNS: Still on northern Iraq.
QUESTION: You said the KDP and PUK will visit Washington as separate delegations?
MR. BURNS: No, I expected the KDP to send a delegation. I expected us to have contacts with the PUK at some point when that's appropriate.
QUESTION: Does the Administration have similar contacts with other groups? For example, let's say the Turkomens. Is it conceivable that other groups might also be invited to Washington at sometime in the future?
MR. BURNS: We do carry on relations with a lot of these groups. Ambassador Pelletreau met the Turkomen leadership when he was in Ankara a couple of weeks back. I don't know that all of them will be invited to Washington, because we're able to carry on a relationship outside of Washington through our embassies and consulates.
We'll just have to see what makes sense and what transpires, but I'm not aware of any specific plans along those lines.
QUESTION: Last weekend, the killing of the three teachers in Turkey -- the PKK terrorists?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, I'm just not familiar with that specific incident. If you can give us some more information, perhaps we'll look into it after the briefing.
QUESTION: Nick, a prominent Japanese newspaper has quoted a recent Congressional report as saying that the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty covers the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands area. If military conflict erupts in that area, the United States would be obligated to assist Japan in the conflict. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: What was the source of that again, did you say?
QUESTION: It's a prominent Japanese newspaper quoting a recent Congressional report.
MR. BURNS: That would be a hypothetical situation, of course. My policy is not to comment upon hypothetical situations unless it's in my self-interest to do so, and it's not at this point.
It's a good policy. It's a very good policy. It's a very sound policy. But I can tell you -- just to be serious for a moment -- that the United States has urged all the claimants to these islands to exercise restraint. We are confident that they can resolve this issue through peaceful means.
As you know, we have a well-known position on this as well which we've repeated often from this podium and we're also repeated it to the two governments, among others.
QUESTION: But wouldn't the defense treaty tell precisely how far the defense perimeter extends around Japan?
MR. BURNS: I don't have the defense treaty in front of me, so I can't quote.
QUESTION: It's not a hypothetical question.
MR. BURNS: The way it was asked, it actually was a hypothetical question. I don't have the treaty in front of me, so I can't refer to the articles of the treaty.
Obviously, the treaty is well known to the Japanese and American Governments. I don't find any value in me trying to extend any kind of definition to the treaty to a hypothetical question about what one might do in a very unlikely scenario.
We're confident that China and Japan and the others involved in this -- Taiwan, of course -- will resolve this in a peaceful manner. All of our discussion with them would indicate to us that that's their intention.
QUESTION: Does the treaty itself cover the area in dispute?
MR. BURNS: I haven't looked at the treaty recently, so I just can't give you an answer.
QUESTION: One more follow-up, if I may. Since the death of the Hong Kong protester in the area, what has the U.S. done to try to have the situation in control?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States is not directly involved in this dispute, but we are, of course, an ally of Japan. When Minister Ikeda was here, there was a conversation about this that he had with Secretary Christopher, and the U.S. position was communicated to him.
When we have talks with the Chinese, we communicate our position to the Chinese Government, and we'll continue to do that. We are very hopeful, and indeed confident, that the parties will resolve this problem on their own peacefully without resort to the threat of force or the use of force.
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: Is there growing concern about what appears to be a deteriorating security situation in Haiti?
MR. BURNS: We've been concerned about a lot of aspects of the Haitian situation for quite a long time. That's why Tony Lake and Strobe Talbott made the trip that they made to Port-au-Prince. That's why we took the action that we did a couple of weeks back in trying to maintain security and stability around the presidency in Port-au-Prince.
We are very actively involved. We have a very active Ambassador -- Ambassador Swing. There are some ongoing concerns, but Haiti has also come a long way through its electoral process, through its new government; certainly come a long, long way from two years ago when it was run by autocrats.
So while there are continued problems in Haiti, we remain hopeful that the trends in Haiti will, in general over the long term, be positive, in terms of political stability which will hopefully provide the opportunity for economic growth and for economic stability.
The Haitian Government is a legitimate, democratic government. We feel, looking back on our own involvement in Haiti over the last two years, it was a very good decision, indeed, that the United States did what it had to do in September 1994 to help the Haitian people restore democratic rule and stability.
QUESTION: There's no need or feeling to send more security forces?
MR. BURNS: You mean troops?
QUESTION: The current situation is stable enough as it is?
MR. BURNS: We are currently recruiting a small group of police officers, American police officers -- I believe 25 police officers -- to participate in the United Nations civilian police component of the UN Mission in Haiti. They will join approximately 300 other police officers from around the world in the training and advising of the Haitian national police officers.
We've been concerned, of course, about a variety of security incidents there, and one of the answers here is to provide the Haitian police force with sufficient training in order to become a competent and stable force itself.
As you know, there's been incidents of police killings since early this year, and we want to insure that the Haitian national police is able to deal with the recent increase in killings. So we are taking that step. But these are not soldiers. These are American policemen who are going to be volunteers, and they would serve under this UN force.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about a meeting yesterday between your diplomats and the Taliban in Islamabad?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that there was a meeting between United States diplomats and the representatives of the Taliban yesterday. I'm just not aware of one. I do know that we have not yet sent the American diplomat into Kabul to make contact with the Taliban. I'm just not aware that any meeting took place.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about your contacts with the Taliban?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that we've met regularly with the Taliban over the past two years. We've also met with other Afghan groups, and we'll continue our contacts with a variety of the Afghan groups, including the Taliban, at some point in the future, so that we can best express to them our own views on the situation in Afghanistan and maintain contact with people who have influence in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: This is the last question. Russia and the Central Asian republics have called a meeting, I think on Friday, in Almaty to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. They view it very differently, I think, from the United States. Do you have any comment on their concerns?
MR. BURNS: I'm aware that the Russians and some of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States are going to have meeting. As you know, the Tajiks, of course, Kazaks, the Kirgiz, the Russians, they all have interests there -- the Turkomens.
We are urging, ourselves, the various Afghan groups to stop fighting and to work for national reconciliation. As I said the other day, we'll continue to press for basic human rights, for the rule of law, for women's rights. The United States has a long-standing interest in seeing peace restored to Afghanistan through a government that reflects the wishes and respects the basic human rights of all the people of Afghanistan. It's also important to us that Afghanistan not be a threat to its neighbors.
So these messages have been communicated to all the various groups, including the Taliban, on those occasions when we've had contact with them. As I said the other day, our Assistant Secretary of State, Robin Raphel, has had contact in the past, but I just don't have anything more specific to say in response to your two questions on that, Carol.
QUESTION: Do you think the Taliban is a threat to its neighbors? Do you have reason to think that?
MR. BURNS: I think the situation in Afghanistan remains very fluid, and it remains to be seen exactly what's going to happen throughout the country, and we'll just have to judge the various groups, including the Taliban, by their actions.
QUESTION: Secretary Christopher and Deputy Secretary Talbott met new Slovak Prime Minister today and the day before yesterday. Have you something on that? What they were talking about and about extent of United States and Slovakia with respect to NATO?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that both Secretary Christopher and Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott met with Foreign Minister Hamzik. I think he also met with Secretary of Defense Perry and I know he met with John Kornblum. The discussion centered around his new priorities as Foreign Minister of the Slovak Republic; about, of course, the question of the Partnership for Peace, and I think the Slovaks raised their interest in possible potential NATO membership.
In general, we believe that Slovakia has made substantial progress during the last three years towards entering the Western political and security and economic systems. We recognize that Slovakia has had to deal with major challenges to a new state, overcoming its communist past, dealing with severe economic problems, and we applaud many of the positive steps that have been taken. We certainly would like to see Slovakia qualify for early entrance into the various Western institutions.
As for NATO, as you know, we've not made any decisions. NATO has not made any decisions about which countries will be admitted on an early basis, and so no promises were given.
I should also say, having cited some positive aspects of our relationship with Slovakia, that the United States has been concerned during the summer months about indications that the Government of Slovakia's commitment to democracy has been weakening. The United States has made its concerns known directly to the Government of Slovakia in this visit this week and also in visits by Madeleine Albright, our UN Ambassador.
The Government of Slovakia continues to assure us that it's committed to strengthening democracy. We'd like to see that translated into solid action on the ground.
QUESTION: What are these concerns?
MR. BURNS: The concerns have to do with the treatment of several groups in Slovakian society by the Slovak Government.
QUESTION: Hungarians, among others?
MR. BURNS: There are a variety of concerns, and we've expressed those to the Slovak Government, and they know our concerns.
QUESTION: Is there some reason you don't want to tell us?
MR. BURNS: In this case, I think you can read -- if you'd like to refer to our human rights report on Slovakia, you can read chapter and verse on our views on a variety of human rights issues.
We've just had a visit by the Foreign Minister. It's been a good visit, and we did have private conversation about what's going right in the relationship, about some of our concerns. I'd rather just keep it -- limit it to what I've said today.
QUESTION: Speaking of human rights, would you deal with Burma here, or is that for the White House?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Burma?
MR. BURNS: There was a White House announcement. Do you want to go on to Burma?
QUESTION: Didn't yesterday's statement about the meeting praise the Slovaks for all of the good things that they've done vis-a-vis democracy?
MR. BURNS: I noted some of the good things that have happened, but we do have continuing concerns, especially about Slovak actions just in recent months, and those concerns will continue.
QUESTION: But it's curious that you've mentioned them today, but they were not mentioned in yesterday's statement.
MR. BURNS: I didn't brief yesterday, so I'm just giving you some information to that.
QUESTION: There's a written statement in your name, I believe.
MR. BURNS: I know that. I'm very familiar with it, and I just thought I'd give you some further information, further insights into the meeting that we had this past week. I always try to be helpful. Give you more information sometimes than maybe even you want to have. (Laughter) Sometimes less; sometimes more.
QUESTION: It's a pretty unusual step to take to exclude the leadership of a country even if there are human rights suppressions there, and I'm just wondering is there a specific legal basis for this? Is this required under some act of Congress or law or some other provision?
MR. BURNS: First of all, I think the rationale is quite clear. There was a White House statement on this, and you know the President and Mike McCurry have spoken about this. The fact is that the SLORC has consistently and fundamentally undermined the democratic political opposition in Burma, especially the National League of Democracy, and done it in a brazen, transparent way. That is quite unusual in Asia or any place else in the world.
We have very deep concerns about the direction of the Burmese Government and the policies that it's following towards its own people, including towards a Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. So we've taken this rather extraordinary step in order to express our very deep unhappiness with the policies of the Burmese Government.
The United States does not require any prior legislative or judicial authority to do this. This is a decision that the President of the United States can make under the Constitution, using his executive powers. But it is consistent with the recent legislation on Burma passed by the United States Congress on a bipartisan basis, which gave the Administration the leeway to take this kind of action -- sanctions, if you will -- should that be necessary.
I think given the fact that several hundred democracy activists, including many democratically elected legislators, were arrested and detained last week just for the sole purpose because they wanted to convene to have a meeting, that was in essence the last straw.
I think you also may have seen some of the ludicrous and outrageous charges made by the Burmese Government about the activities of the American Charge d'Affaires in Rangoon. These charges are fundamentally untrue. They're false, and they're a fabrication by the Burmese Government, and frankly it is just extraordinary to see the Burmese Government launch an attack against an American diplomat of the type that was launched against our diplomat this week.
So for all these reasons, I think the United States has just decided that if we can't have a civil discourse with the Burmese Government, we can certainly keep their officials out of our country; deny them the pleasure of visiting our cities. If they want to come on official visits to the United Nations, we'll judge that on a case-by-case basis. But they're not welcome here in the United States.
QUESTION: Nick, what is the level of drug enforcement assistance to Burma from the United States, and is there any consideration being given to cutting it?
MR. BURNS: I will have to check on the level, David. I remember several months ago we had those figures, and we actually gave them to you, and I'm sure we can give them to you by the end of the day.
QUESTION: Is there any further consideration being given to cutting it? There have also been reports that the money is not going for the purpose that it was supposed to be sent for.
MR. BURNS: I think it's certainly the will of the U.S. Congress. We've worked very closely and well with the Congress on the question of Burma that the United States should retain the option to consider other actions, should that be necessary, in order to put forward a policy towards Burma that reflects our own beliefs and our own self-interest, and that would be one of the questions that one would have to ask. But I'm not aware that any decision has been made about that.
QUESTION: Are there members of the families of the Burmese leadership who are in the United States now or who are being educated here who will have the immediate result of being expelled?
MR. BURNS: The visa proclamation that was issued this morning by the White House does not apply to diplomatic personnel of the Burmese missions in Washington and New York, and there will be occasions where the United States has an international obligation that would require the issuance of a visa, fundamentally for Burmese diplomats attending United Nations events in New York.
But it does suspend the entry into the United States of persons who are judged to be formulating or implementing policies that are impeding the transition to democracy in Burma, or people who benefit from such policies and their immediate families.
So the Department of State will be implementing this Presidential decision and order, and we will be drawing up specific guidelines. But I think we know where the lines of separation are here, and I think we'll be very careful in implementing this.
QUESTION: But my question is, are there students -- let's say Burmese students from the children of the executive branch there or the SLORC who are in this country who will now be expelled as a result of this order?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to try to, I think, survey who the likely people are in the United States presently who might fall under the purview of this decision. Immediate family means immediate family, and our Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs will be directly responsible for dealing with this question. I can't answer the question at the present time, but I'm sure we can get you an answer as we go down the road implementing this.
QUESTION: On Korea.
MR. BURNS: One more.
QUESTION: On Korea. One more time. As you know, North Korea said yesterday to retaliate on South Korea unless South Korea returned the North Korean submarine and the bodies of commanders. And North Korea ordered the United States to step aside of the incident and its future retaliation upon South Korea at the (inaudible) meeting. What is your updated assessment on North Korean threats or words, and what is your counter-measures to the threat?
MR. BURNS: North Korea is the guilty party in the submarine incident. North Korea violated the UN Armistice Commission regulation. It failed to heed a protest by the United Nations Armistice Commission on this incident. It clearly was in violation of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Korea -- South Korea. The United States stands behind South Korea foursquare, and the North Koreans know that.
While we might see some intemperate threats from time to time from Pyongyang, frankly I think the North Koreans understand that the United States has a defense commitment to South Korea which we will take very seriously.
We don't expect there to be any wider conflict. We expect the North Koreans have learned a lesson here. They understand they made a very, very grievous mistake, and we hope that we can get back to talking about our hope for a peace treaty on the peninsula. The Republic of Korea and the United States stand behind the offer to negotiate a full peace arrangement with the North Koreans.
We also, of course, are paying great heed to KEDO and to the effort to continue the freeze of North Korea's nuclear program, and it does continue to be frozen. I think the positions of the United States have been quite clear here, and the Republic of Korea has a good friend in the United States.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) proceeded to level out the watchcon on Korea, and military buildup to prevent the added provocation from North Korea.
MR. BURNS: There are American troops in the Republic of Korea, there to defend American interests in the Republic of Korea. I think the presence of those troops says enough about our commitment to the Republic of Korea.
QUESTION: What is the reaction to the new warning by the South Korean Government that a war is very possible with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: We don't believe war is likely. We think that in fact we ought to all work for peace in the Korean peninsula.
(The briefing concluded at 2:43 p.m.) (###)
-19- Thursday, 10/3/96
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