U.S. Department of State 96/10/30 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, October 30, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS 10/31 Briefing by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services Ken Hunter.............................. 1 Talks Between Kurdish Factions Commenced Today in Ankara Chaired by Assistant Secretary Pelletreau................ 1-2 Update on Iraq: Saddam Hussein's Spending Practices/U.S. Contribution to UN World Food Program Fund................ 2 Talks to Begin on Peru-Ecuador Border Dispute................ 3 IRAQ U.S. Contribution to UN World Food Program................... 3-6 U.S. Policy on Iraq.......................................... 5-6 Political Talks With Kurdish Factions........................ 6-10 Threat to Kurdish NGO Employees in Northern Iraq............. 7-8 Evacuated Kurds in Guam Coming to U.S........................ 9-10 RUSSIA Canceled Signing of Theater Missile Defense Agreement....... 10-12 Link Between TMD, START II and the ABM Treaty................ 12-15 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Speech on the Future of U.S.- Russian Relations......................................... 15 CUBA Investigation of Fernandez Pupo for Charges of Air Piracy.... 15-16 CHINA Sentencing of Dissident Wang Dan............................. 16-17 Secretary Christopher's Trip to China........................ 17 U.S. Policy Towards China.................................... 17-20, 21-22 Wang Dan an Example of Chinese Defiance of U.S. Policy....... 20-21 U.S. Policy Towards Pro-Democracy Dissidents................. 21 ISRAEL Troop Movements in Golan Heights............................. 22-24 Link Between Current Talks and Oslo Agreement................ 23-24 Update on Dennis Ross' Travel Plans.......................... 24 ZAIRE Appointment of Canadian Amb. Chretien as UN Special Envoy to Great Lakes Region........................................ 24-25 U.S. Support of UN Political Efforts......................... 25-27 GREECE Greek Foreign Ministry Official's Call for a Moratorium on Greek and Turkish Military Excercises in the Aegean Sea... 27-29 TAIWAN Alleged Meeting Between President Clinton and Taiwanese Authorities............................................... 29-30 SYRIA Suicide Bomb Attacks.in Turkey............................... 30 INDONESIA Sale of Chinese Super Puma Helicopters to Indonesia.......... 30
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1996, 1:10 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. A couple of announcements.
Tomorrow, October 31, the press, all of you, are invited to attend a briefing here in the briefing room at 9:45 a.m. The speaker will be Ken Hunter, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services in the Consular Affairs Bureau, and he will be providing details about a new 900 telephone number service available for American citizens on passport assistance and passport information.
That's a big issue. It is one of the major ways that we interact with the American public every year, passport services.
Second, I want to let you know that the talks in Ankara began today chaired by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Bob Pelletreau.
These talks, of course, are the talks that we, the Turks and the British have tried to put together to convince the two major Kurdish factions, the KDP and the PUK, that they ought to agree to continue their cease-fire, number one, and, number two, that they ought to agree to sustain political reconciliation talks in order to stabilize the situation in northern Iraq.
The Turkish Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Onur Oymen, head of the Turkish delegation, and Frank Baker of the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Ankara, head of the U.K. delegation; Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani were not at the table, but senior associates from both groups were at the table facing each other. They went on all day, both talks, and they were also joined by a representative of the Iraqi National Turkoman Front delegation.
Ambassador Pelletreau has been talking to the Turkoman population throughout this process. We thought it was important that they be represented at this meeting.
I understand the current plan is for the group to meet again tomorrow. No date has been set for an adjournment of these talks, so they are going on into the future, and we'll just have to see on a day-to-day basis how it goes.
We commend the seriousness of the KDP and the PUK in agreeing to participate in these talks. These are very difficult issues that they are grappling with, and we are mindful of that as we begin this process.
I also wanted to get back to Barry Schweid on an issue. Barry, you asked yesterday how much money is Saddam Hussein spending? This gets back to the issue of the World Food Program and UNICEF who said two days ago there is an increasing problem of malnourishment and, indeed, starvation in Iraq.
We believe since 1992 that Saddam Hussein has spent roughly between one and two billion dollars building 48 palaces and other luxury residences throughout Iraq -- 48. In addition to that, we believe he has spent untold millions of dollars, if not billions, rebuilding his army, maintaining his presidential lot and other luxury expenditures, such as these lucrative off-shore bank accounts that he and his family members have.
Now, this is an important point because we are faced with a serious question here this week. We had two agencies of the United Nations say that there is a deteriorating situation. Our point yesterday was, you need look no further than Saddam Hussein himself and his family to answer the question of why, why there isn't sufficient money in the Iraqi economy for humanitarian projects. The Iraqi government is spending their money elsewhere.
You also asked yesterday whether the United States would be contributing to the $40 million fund established through UN channels for Iraq. This is a UN World Food Program fund. It's new. We do intend to contribute $7.3 million with the caveat that this money be used to assist the Kurds in northern Iraq, in the northern zone of Iraq. And I do believe we'll be able to work out that stipulation with the United Nations. But I would draw you back, and I'd be glad to take any further questions on this to Saddam Hussein.
He's responsible. He's the leader of Iraq. If people are starving in his country; if their kids are in orphanages that don't have money, and we're very sensitive to that, he is responsible. And look where the money trail is with Saddam Hussein. Look where he is spending his money.
I have an important announcement on Peru and Ecuador. The United States congratulates Peru and Ecuador on their breakthrough agreement to begin direct talks by the end of this year to resolve their 50-year old border dispute which led to armed clashes as recently as January 1995, when more than 200 people were killed in the fighting between those two countries.
This landmark agreement between Peru and Ecuador shows that the United States and our fellow guarantor, Rio Pact guarantor partners -- Chile, Brazil and Argentina -- can work successfully together to make progress in this hemisphere on even the most entrenched disputes.
At a signing ceremony in Santiago in Chile on October 29th, presided over by the Chilean President, President Frei, the parties agreed on procedures for the forthcoming direct talks. They committed themselves to continue their talks until a global and definitive solution to the problem is reached.
Since the outbreak of hostilities in 1995, the United States has worked very carefully, closely, with Argentina, Brazil and Chile to end the fighting, to separate over 5,000 troops, to create a demilitarized zone along the disputed border; and there are U.S. soldiers helping to police that disputed border, and to launch these direct talks.
This is a very significant achievement, and we hope that this agreement will lead to a successful conclusion of this 50-year old dispute, and we hope it also will lead to a new era in that part of our hemisphere of peace and cooperation among all these states.
I would like to pay particular attention to the role of the chief U.S. diplomat in these talks, Ambassador Luigi Einaudi of the Department of State, who has worked tirelessly on this effort.
QUESTION: On Iraq; the point of the UN report, everything else aside -- I don't know if you want to put everything else aside momentarily even -- was that donations are falling short.
Does the U.S. -- even with what you say about Saddam's spending on luxuries -- does the U.S. feel that the countries should make contributions to purchase food? I know you talked the other day about food could be bought with this money he is spending otherwise. But would you encourage other nations to make voluntary contributions?
MR. BURNS: We are sympathetic to the people of Iraq who are the victims of Saddam Hussein; so, yes, the United States intends to contribute, and we would urge other countries to contribute, so that innocent people in Iraq can be helped.
I think it is important to add, again, the point that you made, Barry, just now and the point that we made yesterday; and that is that ultimately responsibility lies in the head of the country, in this case in Saddam Hussein and his family land his government.
They have the ability to import food and medicine into Iraq. They can do that from Turkey. They can do it from the United States. They can do it from any country in the world. They are not doing it in sufficient size because they prefer to spend their money on themselves. They prefer to enrich themselves.
It is very important that that point be part of this public debate about why there is a problem, why there is human misery in Iraq.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) when you said some 4,500 children a day were the point Washington is trying to make by insisting that sanctions remain on Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Sid, let's talk about -- let's not -- let's talk about responsibility here. First of all, I think that they talked about the fear that that many people could die per day. It's a very serious situation. We take it seriously. That's why we are going to contribute the $7.3 million. That's why we were the father of UN 986, the resolution that would provide further humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people.
The United States is doing what it should do on a humanitarian basis. We are responding to a humanitarian appeal here. We are not letting this go -- we are not ignoring this problem. But responsibility lies with the Government of Iraq. Just as the United States Government is responsible for what happens in our country domestically, Iraq is responsible for what happens inside that country, the Iraqi Government.
That is a commonsensical point to make, and I think there ought to be condemnation by the press corps as well as by the United Nations of the fact that Saddam Hussein is acting irresponsibly. He is letting children die because he prefers to build palaces to himself. He prefers to put millions of dollars into bank accounts for his children, his own children. He doesn't seem to care about other children, Shia's and Kurdish children. That's the point here. It's a very relevant point.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) all the problems you have had with Iraq over the last few months. Is it time to rethink our approach, the U.S. approach to Saddam Hussein?
MR. BURNS: The approach by the United States is working. Saddam Hussein is contained. He is locked in a box. He is a weakened figure, and he is a caricature of himself in many ways, He's a shadow of what he once was. The approach is working.
Therefore, we'll continue the no-flight zones in the south and the north. We'll continue to agree with nearly every country in the world that Iraq should be subject to UN sanctions. We haven't forgotten the more than 600 Kuwaitis who disappeared and have never been heard from again because of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. We haven't forgotten about his attacks on the Kurds and the Shia in the spring of 1991.
QUESTION: Nick, also on Iraq, could you talk a little bit about the change of tone here in the last couple of days where you go from really being quite cool to this whole appeal by relief organizations and questioning their figures and saying you wanted more information, and now today, you know, you are announcing money, although you are being consistent in keeping the pressure on Saddam.
But what -- I mean, what information have you gotten in the last couple of days that has made the United States take this decision?
MR. BURNS: We were not cool to the initial appeal 48 hours ago. We simply -- they had a press conference and we simply didn't want to make policy by press conference, this press conference. We wanted to make sure that we saw the material that the UN agencies were putting on the table, had a chance to talk to them about it, so that we could make a considered decision in this government. That makes sense. We did that.
And we have been -- this isn't a late conversion by us. We have been interested in this problem for a long time. We have talked about the problem of malnutrition in Iraq, and we did sponsor UN Resolution 986. So this just continues the U.S. interest in this.
I don't think there has been any kind of abrupt shift in our own policy this week at all.
QUESTION: Well, you raised concerns the other day about some of this information, some of the data they were using had come from Iraq, and I wondered whether you had gotten your own data or some other more convincing --?
MR. BURNS: We always have suspicions about Iraqi data because the Iraqis by their own admission have lied so frequently to the United Nations about this issue and also about the issue of weapons of mass destruction.
They admitted that several months ago they had lied consistently for four or five years to the United Nations.
QUESTION: And how are you confident that you are making a decision to give aid based on --
MR. BURNS: We do have faith in the World Food Program and in UNICEF. They are credible organizations. No one, I think, nobody in either of those organizations or in this government can tell you exactly how many children are at risk in Iraq; but we know enough about Iraq to know that the conditions there are appalling, the economic conditions, the conditions in orphanages. And we have a humanitarian responsibility and we'll act on it.
I will bring you back to my final point. The person who has more responsibility than anybody outside Iraq is the person who runs Iraq, and he is doing a very bad job of running the country -- it seems -- because of all these reports.
QUESTION: You said that the Turkomans are going to participate in these Kurdish talks in Ankara, who are -- (inaudible) not just a minority in Iraq anyway. I'm wondering why the U.S. Government accepted finally this Turkish demand? What is the reason? Could you explain?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I think I said before that we've been talking to the Turkoman community all along in northern Iraq. In September, when Ambassador Pelletreau saw Mr. Barzani, he also saw the Turkoman delegation there. We've had consistent talks.
They are people who are victims of Saddam Hussein as well. They live in northern Iraq. Therefore, they ought to be at the table when we discuss the situation in northern Iraq.
QUESTION: I'm wondering, Mr. Burns, who is represented in this Kurdish talks in Ankara -- the Kurdish people of Turkey who are 10 million, almost a quarter of the Turkish populations and constitute 82 percent of the (inaudible) of the southeast of Turkey?
My question is, those millions of Kurds do not have a voice and the right to be represented at these talks under the auspices of the U.S. Government and Britain?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, these talks have nothing to do with the situation inside Turkey but everything to do with the situation inside northern Iraq. This is not about the political situation in Turkey, which I think is what you're asking about. It's about what the various communities in northern Iraq can do working together to end their fighting and to produce a situation of relative calm and stability.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in Turkey, too, as we had in northern Iraq. We had millions of (inaudible) on the other side, too.
MR. BURNS: These talks are very specifically focused, and the Turkish Government has played a very positive role in them.
QUESTION: Are you in favor of an autonomous Kurdish entity in northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Are you in favor of an autonomous entity -- of a Kurdish entity in northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: For five years now we've been working to help the Kurdish people live in relative peace and stability in northern Iraq. I think that speaks for itself.
QUESTION: On Iraq. This morning, Nick, a group of international relief agencies told some journalists here in Washington that they've been calling the White House and State Department to act upon the evacuation of the 4,000 Kurds in the region. I understand there have been some talks between the State Department and these agencies at the beginning of this week.
I have two questions. First of all, can you tell us why there has been such a difference in the assessments of the U.S. Government and relief agencies there in the region about the imminency of the threats? And, secondly, could you elaborate on these talks --
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that we continue to monitor the entire situation in northern Iraq quite carefully on a day-to-day basis. We put a lot of people on this question and are looking at it. There have been some high-level discussions in the Administration about this very issue just in the last couple of days.
We have not made any decisions to evacuate any further workers from the NGO community from northern Iraq into Turkey and into Guam.
As you know, we did make a series of evacuations. Those people are on Guam. In fact, some of them are now making their way to the United States through the asylum process. We do remain concerned about the well-being of people who were affiliated with American and European organizations. We're keeping their situation under close watch. We're not aware that there's any imminent threat to these people.
We're aware, I think, of two cases of drivers being attacked; but we don't see from that, given the fact that we're talking about 4 or 5,000 people any pattern that would lead us to believe that there's a threat to this particular group of people.
Furthermore, Ambassador Pelletreau has talked to both Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani and has received concrete assurances -- specific assurances -- from them that they will be mindful to protect the security of this group of people. These people are well-known. We think that for the time being that is sufficient.
QUESTION: Nick, on this subject, how is it that Barzani and Talabani are not taking part?
MR. BURNS: When Ambassador Pelletreau talked to them last week, when Ambassador Pelletreau -- the United States successfully arranged the cease-fire in northern Iraq, Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani agreed that they would not be present at the talks; that their seconds would be -- senior members of both factions and that Mr. Pelletreau would remain personally in touch with both Barzani and Talabani as the talks proceed. I expect that will happen all throughout this week.
QUESTION: That implies that they are such blood enemies at this point anyway, they won't sit down at the same table?
MR. BURNS: I think, rather, Jim, it implies or it states that these are difficult talks. The gap between these two factions is quite large. They have ethnic, historic -- they have historic and personal rivalries, certainly.
It's our judgment and their judgment that we should start off at a slightly lower level. These are going to be very difficult talks, and we are mindful of that as we begin.
QUESTION: Nick, to follow up on an earlier point. On the people from northern Iraq who have been taken to Guam, you said that they've started making their way to the U.S. Do you have any numbers?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I understand that roughly 40 people have already arrived in the United States. Most of these are people with medical problems who required immediate medical attention that was not available at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, and some of their family members.
I understand that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has completed the asylum processing for all of these people. Remember, this group of roughly 2,100 people -- I believe it was 2,140 people -- they were employees of the United States Government. They worked for U.S. Government agencies for the last five years.
All of the asylum processing has been completed. Final security checks and arrangements for resettlement in the United States are now underway. I think as early as next week we'll see the first major group depart Guam for the United States as part of this process.
It's our view that the great majority, if not all of these people, will be accepted for asylum in the United States. But there are these final security checks that are being done right now.
QUESTION: Do you know where they're going to be taken or brought to in the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: The asylum process works -- it's a decentralized process. There are hosts that are found to receive asylees as they enter the United States. These people will go where American citizens have offered to take them into their communities and help them settle in the United States. So, all over the United States.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. Government asked any agencies to help these people with their settlement, like the Kurdish Institute which is newly established here?
MR. BURNS: The Immigration and Naturalization Service normally does work with groups as well as individuals in the United States. It wouldn't surprise me at all if a variety of Kurdish-American groups wanted to help sponsor the resettlement of some of these people, but I don't have names for you. Again, this is a separate government agency that's working on this. It's the INS, and you should feel free to contact them.
Still on the same subject? Sid, you have a question on this subject?
MR. BURNS: Same subject, yes.
QUESTION: On the eve of these talks being held in Ankara today, the PUK said that the (inaudible) Talabani met with the PKK delegation. This, of course -- (inaudible) Turkish Government as to what he's trying to do with that organization. How would you react to that?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen that statement. I was unaware that Mr. Talabani had any such meeting. In general, you know our position on the PKK. It's a terrorist organization. We wouldn't encourage Mr. Talabani to cooperate with it because the PKK has been a sponsor of terrorist acts against the government and the people of Turkey, and we're an ally of Turkey. So we have a very clear position on that.
QUESTION: Another question on the same subject. Turkish Ambassador Nuzhet Kandemir has said that his government expresses concern over (inaudible) TV which has PKK propaganda. The U.S. broadcast firms lease satellite dishes to this (inaudible) organization. What's your position on that? Can't you at least write --
MR. BURNS: I'll just have to check that for you. I haven't heard of that. I haven't heard of it. I'm just not aware of any of the specifics of those charges.
QUESTION: A different topic. There was signing schedule between Russia and the United States on Thursday in Geneva. Apparently, that's been called off. Can you say why?
MR. BURNS: Comments? Yes. This has been called off. There will be no signing ceremony in Geneva on Thursday, most unfortunately. But we will continue to work the problem.
If you'd like, I just can go through some of the background on this. As you remember, in September, when Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Primakov met, they issued a joint statement in New York concerning the demarcation of strategic and theater missile defenses. This joint statement was the product of work over many years by the Russian and American governments to try to resolve this very, very important issue.
In that statement, the United States and Russia recorded that Part I of these negotiations was related to lower-velocity theater missile defense systems. That was successfully completed during the last Standing Consultative Commission meeting which I believe concluded in June of this year -- June 1996. It was therefore duly noted in the joint statement that agreement had been reached on lower-velocity theater missile defense systems.
In addition, the joint statement of late September noted that the Standing Consultative Commission would reconvene on October 7, which it did, where the sides would conform and prepare for signature the Part I documents -- prepare for signature the Part I documents -- and begin discussions on Part II of the demarcation negotiations.
Part II refers to higher-velocity theater missile defense systems.
Finally, the statement said that by the end of October, the Part I documents would be signed in Geneva and then the SCC Commissioners would report to the governments on Part II.
They have been meeting since October 7 in Geneva. Progress was made on Part II issues, the higher-velocity theater missile defense issues. Last week, I understand that all the parties in Geneva completed the process of conforming the Part I documents and they were sent to Moscow and Washington for approval.
So as of last week, we here in Washington were under the impression that there would be a signing agreement on the Part I -- the lower- velocity theater missile defense system -- that's been such an important issue under discussion by our two governments.
Unfortunately, late last week the Russian Government introduced a series of proposed modifications to the Part I document that had been so painstakingly worked out for so many years. We believe that these modifications would, in effect, tie the entry into force of Part I to the conclusion of Part II.
So rather than going in a two-step process where you sign an agreement on lower velocity, keep working on higher-velocity theater missile defense systems, the Russians were now proposing as of late last week that we tie the progress on the first to the progress -- the signing of the first -- to progress on the second.
These proposed changes are unacceptable to the United States. They are inconsistent with the agreement reached by Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Primakov just six weeks ago.
Under these circumstances, it will not be possible to go to Geneva on Thursday and sign the Part I documents.
The Standing Consultative Commission continues to meet. We will continue to talk about this issue with the Russian Government. We hope very much that we can return to our previously agreed upon understanding that was reached by the two Ministers in September.
QUESTION: Nick, what is your understanding of why this all broke down? Is this a reflection of the power struggle in Moscow, a deterioration of central authority there?
MR. BURNS: We're disappointed by Russia's reversal of its own position late last week. I don't want to stand here and try to speculate on what internal reasons may have led to this decision. We have to judge Russia by what it says and does with us, and we're very disappointed. We're urging the Russian Government to come back to the agreement made at the highest level that these things normally go.
QUESTION: Is that a situation where the government of Boris Yeltsin has been unable to get START II through, which is arguably a very important agreement? You've now got this agreement which has fallen apart. It's not a very fortuitous trend?
MR. BURNS: START II is perhaps one of the -- it's certainly one of the major objectives of the United States in our security relationship with Russia. The Russian Government supports Duma ratification. The Duma at this point does not support its own ratification of START II.
Secretary of Defense Perry was there just two weeks ago, and he made actually a presentation to the Russian Duma and a very impressive one; and we hope that over time the Russian Duma will agree that START II ratification makes sense.
On this issue, this issue is very different. This is not in the hands of the Russian Duma. It's in the hands of the Russian Foreign Minister, and the Russian Foreign Minister made a very specific agreement with Secretary of State Christopher. We expect that should be honored.
We don't see any reason now to abruptly -- after so many hundreds of hours of negotiation, to abruptly shift gears and insist that they're not going to sign the lower velocity agreement until we conclude the higher velocity agreement. That's no way to proceed on these issues.
QUESTION: Has Primakov reversed himself, or was Primakov forced to reverse the Russian position?
MR. BURNS: I just can't answer that question. In diplomacy, the guy sitting at the table is accountable and responsible; and the guy here, in signing the joint statement with Secretary Christopher, was Foreign Minister Primakov. I just don't know what may have led -- what are the internal decisions that led to this ultimate reversal.
QUESTION: Nick, when you say there was progress in Geneva on Part II, can you elaborate on that a little bit? Was there agreement, for instance that there are high velocity systems that can be tested without either renegotiating or abrogating the ABM Treaty?
MR. BURNS: I'm not able, Barry, to take you through the details of how we've made progress. Progress has been made, but that doesn't mean we have an agreement on Part II -- on the higher velocity systems. We do not yet have an agreement on the higher velocity systems, and how that might have an impact on the ABM Treaty.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, you understand that apart from this instant dispute, there's a great body of folks out there who think the two of you together are killing the ABM Treaty, and there's another body -- contrary body -- that says, "Let's go ahead and kill it, and let's set up defenses all over the planning."
MR. BURNS: We're not killing the ABM Treaty.
QUESTION: Well, that's what you have to say.
MR. BURNS: That's the truth. We're not killing the ABM Treaty.
QUESTION: When you drew a line between Part I and Part II, it's because this Administration -- the Russians were happy to go along; they have other fish to fry -- when you drew a line between Part I and Part II, you had all the systems in Part I -- the U.S. position was -- could be tested without even renegotiating ABM, let alone doing away with ABM.
Now, Part II were things that raised questions about that. It wasn't just an arbitrary distinction. There were systems that the U.S. thought could be tested safely without a legal problem, and then there were others.
In that "others" category, have you now decided, like the Navy system or other systems, also can be tested without violating the agreement?
MR. BURNS: Barry, as you looked down the road a long time ago and looked at this entire set of negotiations, we and the Russians were clear about the distinctions between Part I and Part II. The Russians knew it and we knew it. Okay?
MR. BURNS: There was an agreement to go forward on one and to conclude one and try to go forward on another. We're just saying now, "Let's codify the progress that has already been made and continue discussing the issues that you're interested in."
Since these issues are currently under negotiation, I can't go into our negotiating position in public and tell you what we're doing, what we're not doing, what we're agreeing, what we're not agreeing to. But I can tell you that progress has been made.
QUESTION: The U.S. version of progress, as Part I exemplifies, is to find systems that can be tested with the Russians' approval. All right? When you say there was progress in Part II, the simple question is, have you subsequently found other systems that the two of you think you can test and the ABM Treaty stands tall nonetheless?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm just not in a position to tell you -- to define progress, Part II, because we're in the middle of the negotiations. Our normal response on a question like that.
Yes, sir. You want to follow up?
QUESTION: I want to follow on Russia.
MR. BURNS: Are you on ABM/TMD or another issue?
QUESTION: Let me follow this. Two points. Secretary Perry failed to sell the Duma on START II. Do you see this reaction to the theater missile treaty as some kind of indeed a negative reaction by the Russians? And, secondly, does the failure of the Perry mission to Moscow -- is that reflected in the words of Strobe Talbott, with regard to the troubles in trust between the U.S. and Russia?
MR. BURNS: First, Bill, I think you're asking good questions, but I think the first one I would just say this to that: The Russian Government agrees with the United States that the Duma ought to ratify START II. Therefore, it wouldn't make sense for the Russian Government to link the problems of ratification of START II to this particular discussion on theater missile defenses. I don't see any common sense logic that would lead the Russian Government to do that.
Secondly, I would encourage you to read Deputy Secretary Talbott's speech of last evening in New York at Columbia when he talked about the future of the U.S.-Russian relationship in a changing world, and particularly the latter part of that speech when he does talk about the fact that Russia needs to make sure it does not isolate itself in the future.
Russia needs to make sure that it works with the United States and Western Europe on these host of security questions, and that we believe that by putting in place the programs that President Clinton and NATO have suggested -- NATO enlargement; a Russia-NATO relationship, a treaty or a charter -- that we can set up a lasting, positive relationship between Russia and the United States. It's a very important speech, and I encourage you to look at the last part of it especially.
QUESTION: Do you think that Strobe is speaking to the failure of the Duma to work a deal with Mr. Perry?
MR. BURNS: I think the speech is self-explanatory, and it just accounts for the current climate in U.S.-Russian relations and what we perceive the challenges to be in moving forward in that relationship.
QUESTION: What kind of communications have you gotten from the Cuban Government regarding this gentleman who is now on trial for air piracy?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Fernandez Pupo?
QUESTION: Fernandez Pupo.
MR. BURNS: He is under indictment for air piracy. His case is being investigated by the Justice Department, and I suppose there's going to be further judicial action brought against him at some point. But it's a judicial matter, so I can't speak to that.
As for the Cuban Government, I don't believe there's been any request for extradition of Mr. Fernandez Pupo, and I would remind you that we do have an extradition treaty in place. I believe it dates back to 1904. But it has not been exercised by either the United States and Cuba, I don't believe, since the revolution of 1959.
QUESTION: Nick, on a different subject. What do you have to say about the conviction of Mr. Wang in China? Also, is that causing the Secretary to rethink his plans on going to China, as he did when Wei was merely arrested?
MR. BURNS: The United States condemns the Chinese Government's decision to sentence Mr. Wang Dan to 11 years in prison. This is an attempt to silence the voices of democracy in China. Freedom of expression is among the rights recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mr. Wang Dan and others are entitled to exercise this internationally-recognized right.
The Chinese Government charged Mr. Wang with conspiracy to subvert the government. We understand that the actions that Mr. Wang took that led to these charges included the following: publishing articles in the overseas press that were deemed objectionable by the Chinese Government; receiving donations from abroad for the provision of humanitarian relief to imprisoned and released dissidents in China; and receiving a scholarship from the University of California for self-study.
These are the charges. These are the supposed offenses that led to the conviction and an 11-year prison sentence for Mr. Wang Dan. This unjustified process of prolonged incommunicado detention, the sudden formal arrest, the quick trial that just required a couple of hours, provided Mr. Wang with very little time to prepare his defense, to consult with legal advisers.
The Chinese authorities handled this particular case in a way that clearly violated Mr. Wang's internationally recognized rights to a fair and public hearing of the criminal charges against him. You know that many of your colleagues, journalists in Beijing, and some American diplomats tried to witness the trial and were prevented from doing so by the Chinese Government. We regret the Chinese Government did not allow international observers to attend the trial.
President Clinton, Secretary Christopher and other senior American officials have consistently raised the issue of human rights with the senior Chinese leadership, and we will continue to do that. We continue to be concerned by Mr. Wang's condition. We urge the Chinese authorities to show clemency to this courageous man whose championing of democratic values has gained him deserved international recognition. We will certainly continue to follow this case very, very closely.
Sid, you've asked a further question: how will this affect the Secretary's trip. I can tell you that Secretary of State Christopher intends to go forward with his trip to China. The Secretary has raised human rights concerns in all of his meetings -- all of his 14 meetings -- with Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, and he will certainly raise our concerns about this case and others when he is in Beijing and Shanghai in mid-November.
We believe that we need to engage directly with the Chinese leadership on all of the issues in our relationship -- human rights, trade issues, political issues, security issues. We believe that isolating China -- if you look back in history when China has been isolated, we can see that there has been no positive effect on the human rights of the Chinese people.
We need to take these issues directly to the Chinese leadership, and that's what Secretary Christopher intends to do. We have a broad, strategic, very important relationship with China. We have some issues where we're working quite well together. I think Korea is probably the best example of that, where we've been together in the UN Security Council in the last couple of weeks. We've worked together on the four- party talks. We've worked together on the Agreed Framework.
There are issues where we disagree completely and human rights is one of those. All issues are on the table. All those important issues will be discussed, and the trip is going forward.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Will Secretary Shattuck go with him?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary has not decided yet who will accompany him to China in a couple of weeks' time. I suppose we'll have to make that decision in the next several weeks.
QUESTION: Have all these statements had any -- you say isolation doesn't work. Do public declarations and the President's remarks and the Secretary's remarks to the Foreign Ministry -- do they have any impact, have you noticed?
MR. BURNS: Mike McCurry answered the same question this morning, and I agree with what he said. We look back over the last couple of years, and we're very disappointed at the record of the Chinese Government on these very important human rights issues.
Responsibility rests with the Chinese Government to improve this situation. We do have a responsibility to speak up publicly when a noted champion of human rights is given such a severe sentence and when he's only been charged with the expression of his political views. We will continue to speak up publicly in similar circumstances.
QUESTION: Why not use leverage? It's clear as can be that the Chinese are eager to ship their underpriced goods produced by underpaid and in some cases probably prison labor to the United States. It's also clear that American businesses are glad to have cheap imports, which, of course, compete with American goods, which cost more because Americans are paid a living wage.
Why not use leverage? Why not use the economic -- China has recently replaced Japan as the country with which the U.S. has the largest trade imbalance. The economic benefits to China are self-evident. Why do you continue to de-link the leverage that you could apply to China? What is the point of making these public statements if pro-democracy people get thrown in jail for 11 years?
MR. BURNS: First of all, Barry, I think it is important that the United States and other countries speak up publicly and say what they think when there are these unjustifiable sentences brought against Chinese citizens solely for the expression of their political beliefs.
So I wouldn't belittle public statements. I think pubic statements are important, and you might ask the dissidents themselves -- those who have made their way to the United States and other countries -- if they think that public statements are important when this type of thing happens.
Secondly, you know very well -- and I don't need to remind you -- that both this Administration and the Bush Administration, I think, have found that the Chinese Government's record is disappointing; that attempts to link it to other issues have not worked in the past. We've gone forward in this Administration with Most-Favored-Nation status for China.
But that doesn't mean as we continue our trade relationship that we do not take very seriously and have as a prominent part of our agenda the human rights problems --
QUESTION: But President Clinton ran against --
MR. BURNS: -- the human rights problems that are abundant in China. I know what you're going to ask now. But, Barry, I think this Administration spoke to that issue back in 1994 and 1995 and this year, and we've made a decision. We've made a decision, and it's engagement across the board.
QUESTION: I say, Clinton four years ago ran against the Bush policy. He set three conditions for trade privileges. Proliferation must be restricted. Trade practices must improve. Human rights records must improve. On all three counts, I don't think you could argue that China has much to be praised for.
Then again, you still go ahead in '94, and you give them the privilege to send in their cheap goods at low prices to compete with American goods produced by American labor, some of whom actually even get union wages. Now you've had a two-and-a-half year period of testing that out, and you see the trials continue. So what's the point of making these public statements? Aren't you enhancing their prestige by Christopher going to China, and why would you do that?
MR. BURNS: Barry, would you recommend that in the wake of a sentence like this morning's sentence, the United States Government say nothing? I don't think so.
QUESTION: I didn't say that.
MR. BURNS: Well, yes, you did say that.
QUESTION: No, no --
MR. BURNS: You suggested that, and you devalued the importance of public statements. I'm here to say, once again, that the world's greatest democracy, the United States, needs to speak up when there are fundamental abridgements of human rights occurring -- this case -- in China.
That's what the American people expect of their government, and that's what we've done in this case. I think it speaks well of our government, and it speaks well of our country as a whole.
QUESTION: It may make American officials feel good to speak in Jeffersonian terms, and indeed presumably you should, this being a democracy. But why not do something more than just making statements?
MR. BURNS: I disagree with your belittling these types of public statements. I think you're off-base --
QUESTION: I'm saying it's not --
MR. BURNS: You have a right to say it --
QUESTION: I'm saying it doesn't seem to be enough.
MR. BURNS: You have a right to say it. But I think you're off-base, and I think you perhaps under-estimate the importance of public statements when they represent a country's point of view -- the point of view of our country, the United States, and obviously the point of view of the American people who believe that people like this individual, Mr. Wang Dan, ought to be free to say what they want to say, even if they live in a country like China, which is not a democracy. I think those statements are important.
QUESTION: Nick, in you sending a public message to the Chinese by your statements here and by previous statements, has it occurred to you that the Chinese may be sending a message in return by such cases as the Wang case, and that the message is one of defiance?
MR. BURNS: You're going to have to judge the Chinese Government and try to read their minds and try to analyze this as to why this decision was undertaken. It is certainly representative of the decisions that the Chinese Government has taken for a number of years. The Chinese Government has violated the human rights of many of its most noted citizens for a long, long time. It's not as if this is the first time that's happened.
But this young man, who's 27 years old, is a champion of democracy. He's somebody that we ought to stand up for publicly. I can't imagine the day, frankly, when the United States will remain silent publicly in the face of these outrageous violations of internationally respected human rights. That's why we speak up.
QUESTION: Right. I'm asking you not what the Chinese Government is thinking, but has it occurred to you --
MR. BURNS: You asked me, and I said that you're going to have to be the judge of that. I can't.
QUESTION: Yes, but has it occurred to you as part of your policy considerations that this may be a clumsy, maybe brutal way for the Chinese to send a message of particular defiance to the United States and others who raise human rights issues?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I can't judge motivations here. All we can do is judge actions, practices, what the Chinese Government does on the ground. China is isolated in the world on this issue. The vast majority of countries and people around the world do not agree with this type of action, and it's up to the United States, obviously, to say what it must on issues like this.
Jim, there are probably 100 reasons why a decision like this was taken. I don't believe you're just talking about the actions of one ministry here or one group of people. It's complicated, but we oppose it, and that I think represents our views today.
QUESTION: This is switching the subject, if I may.
MR. BURNS: You want to get off China?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MR. BURNS: Well, I think we have some other people who want to continue. Then we'll go back to you.
QUESTION: Okay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
MR. BURNS: Then we'll go back to you.
QUESTION: Would this Administration continue to encourage people like Wang, democracy activists, democracy seekers, to continue with these types of activities?
MR. BURNS: Sid, we believe, and I think all Americans have believed, for over 200 years that people all over the world should be free to say what they think and write what they think, and we, of course, encourage people to continue to be democrats and to exercise the principles of democracy.
QUESTION: Even when it ends up with such brutal response from the government where in the countries you're encouraging them to do that?
MR. BURNS: The curious inference here is that somehow then we would bear some responsibility. I'm just reading into your mind for a little bit now. Sid, I think that the responsible people here, the Chinese Government, you ought to judge them. The United States Government is doing what it can to bring attention to this problem. We think it's an important issue, and we're going to continue to speak up about it.
QUESTION: I can imagine the message as it's received there is that the United States is behind us. They think some day China will democratize, and it's been X number of years now, and it hasn't, and you all continue to encourage this, and these people continue getting pounded on.
MR. BURNS: Under that logic, then, the United States never should have said anything about Solidarity; never should have said anything about the dissidents in the Soviet Union; shouldn't talk about Aung San Suu Kyi and her struggle for human rights and freedom in Burma.
Under that logic, we might as well all just go home and never talk about any country in the world; never talk about democracy. We can't do that, because this country is a democracy, and our people -- the American people -- expect the government in Washington to stand up for democratic rights around the world, and that's the right thing to do. So we're not going to take your advice.
QUESTION: In every one of those cases, the United States has backed up its rhetoric with sanctions or actions or discussions of sanctions. It backed it up with a stick, and you all have --
MR. BURNS: Each of those cases was complicated. In each of those cases we continued the relationship with the government in question. I beg to differ on the history.
Yes. No, actually I think we were -- ladies before gentlemen. She's been waiting, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Talking about Israel now and moving on to the Israeli troop movement in the Golan Heights, for fear, they are saying, of a Syrian attack. What do you make of that, and how do you think it's going to affect the already tenuous negotiation process?
MR. BURNS: I think, as we said yesterday, there's no reason to think that there's any imminent concern, imminent cause, that would lead these two countries to a conflict. There have been military exercises on both sides of the Israeli-Syrian border along the Golan Heights -- both sides -- just in the last couple of days.
Military exercises are not unusual. Most militaries exercise and train. We are watching the situation very carefully. We're aware of high emotions on both sides of the border, certainly in both capitals -- in Jerusalem and in Damascus -- but nothing that we see would lead us to believe that there's any undue cause for concern here.
QUESTION: Nick, also on that point --
MR. BURNS: Yes, please.
QUESTION: There's nothing to worry about because of movements on the ground, but is there a reason to worry because of a possibility of miscommunication and misperception in both capitals, and was there any move on your part to translate intentions between Damascus and Jerusalem?
And another question on this Middle Eastern track. It was said in Jerusalem parliament today that the pending agreement on Hebron is an exact replica of the pre-election agreement that was on the table in the previous government in Israel. Does this mean that a lot of the American effort was focused recently on actually moving ahead towards the permanent settlement, or insuring to the Palestinian side that Hebron will not be the end of the process but rather the beginning of it?
MR. BURNS: On the second question, I can't speak to comparing the original Oslo accords versus wherever the Hebron talks stand today and whatever words are connected to the present status of those talks. I mean, that's for others to do, and we've taken a vow of silence on that. We're not going to publicly engage in trying to interpret exactly where we are.
These talks over the last three weeks have been about Hebron, redeployment of the IDF from Hebron, and associated problems -- security problems within the city of Hebron, the status of the Jewish community there, etc.
They have not been about the final status talks -- about Jerusalem and the settlers and the right of return for refugees. Those talks will occur at some point in the future when the Israelis and Palestinians decide to begin them.
Certainly, our view is that Oslo needs to be implemented fully. Therefore, the commitment to withdraw from Hebron must be met, and that's an Israeli-Palestinian decision. We believe that they'll make that decision in the next couple of weeks. We believe those talks will be successful.
They then have to decide when they go forth to the final status talks. That's their decision. But we fully expect that they will go forward in those talks because they agreed to do that. Here we, I think, agree with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat that the Hebron talks are not the end of the process; they're someplace in the middle of the process. The process goes forward beyond them.
QUESTION: On the question of translating mutual intentions in order to prevent misconception in Damascus, is there any effort on your part to make it clear?
MR. BURNS: We are obviously a friend of Israel, and we're in contact with the Syrian Government. We have contacts with both when it's useful. Sometimes we do pass messages between the governments.
I think we do understand and do believe that both governments fully comprehend how serious a situation it would be if there was a conflict around the border. It would be a catastrophic situation. Both governments are rational governments, and they understand that. We don't believe that any conflict is imminent.
MR. BURNS: They want to just continue with the Middle East.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Dennis' travel, if he decided to go back? Has he briefed the Secretary? When is he going to talk to us?
MR. BURNS: Dennis did his most important briefing today, and that was with the Secretary of State this morning. He's back in his office. He has not yet decided the specific day when he goes back.
QUESTION: Is he entertaining the notion of talking to us?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see what high-level decision is made on that issue. But I promise to you that I continue to raise it.
QUESTION: Henry had a question.
MR. BURNS: Yes, Henry.
QUESTION: The Secretary General this morning appointed a Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region. He is the current Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Raymond Chretien.
First of all, if I might ask, does he enjoy the confidence of the United States? And does that Office of Special Envoy enjoy the confidence and support of the United States?
MR. BURNS: The United States is very pleased that the Secretary General of the UN has appointed Ambassador Chretien -- Ambassador Raymond Chretien -- to this post as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region. We know him very well. He's the Canadian Ambassador to the United States. He has the highest respect of everybody in this government -- from Secretary Christopher to Under Secretary Tarnoff, everyone who has been working with him.
I understand that Under Secretary Tarnoff and others in this building -- our African specialists -- will be consulting with him personally in the next couple of days before he leaves on his month-long trip to Central Africa. He has our respect, he has our best wishes, and he will have our support in every way -- political and otherwise.
I think there's a coincidence of views here between the United States and Canada. I think both of us feel that there has to be a greater effort made by the governments in the region to stop the fighting. Both of us support the efforts of Mrs. Ogata, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, to deal with this nearly disastrous humanitarian situation.
I know that Assistant Secretary of State Phyllis Oakley and other American officials are going to be up in New York talking to Mrs. Ogata about that refugee situation. We'll stay in close touch with the UNHCR.
QUESTION: As a follow-up to that, of course, appreciating that Canada and the United States and other nations are in tune on this, it is, however, a United Nations office. A couple of requests on the part of the Secretary General of this Special Envoy, and I read them to you: "To give advice on the size and structure of the United Nations political presence which will be established in the Great Lakes region," does that give this Administration difficulty?
And, secondly, the attempts to establish a cease-fire, does the Special Envoy have unilateral action and your support to do both of those things? Or are there concerns that you would express here today about those?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't express any concerns. I think he's got a very difficult mandate and a very difficult mission ahead. He has our full support.
We would like to see a cease-fire in eastern Zaire, along the Rwandan border -- in Bukuvu, in Goma, and other places. We'd very much like to see a cease-fire, because it's been the fighting that has produced, motivated we think, over 500,000 people to leave the refugee camps and to flee in different directions. Now those people are in danger of not having adequate food and medical and water supplies to keep them going, to keep them alive over the next couple of weeks.
This is a real humanitarian crisis that we've got here. So all of our support goes to Ambassador Chretien. He will need, obviously, to figure out -- he will need to address these questions as he goes along in his mission. We will keep in contact with him and the UN as he does.
QUESTION: But given some of the difficulties that exist between the United States and the United Nations, this question of an establishment of a UN political presence in the region, isn't that difficult, to say the least? And aren't you concerned and won't you be watching that particular part of his mission?
MR. BURNS: We will have to see what recommendations are made by Ambassador Chretien to the UN Secretary General. We don't want to anticipate what his conclusions might be. We ought to give him some latitude in order to give him some time to figure out what he thinks the best solution is.
What we have said, Henry, is that the idea of some kind of regional conference to bring the warring factions together is a good one as long as the regional governments are represented and as long as the people coming to the conference are serious.
As for any kind of permanent political presence, we'll have to see what that means. But we don't start off, in looking at Ambassador Chretien's mission, with five reasons why he's not going to succeed. He's a very able, experienced diplomat. He's got the confidence of the Canadian Government as well as our government. There's every reason to think that he's the man for this job. We ought to let him go out there and see what he wants to recommend and then we'll react to it.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. contribute to an international presence in the Great Lakes region?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see what that means. I don't think that there's any serious planning underway for any U.S. military presence, if you're asking. There's no planning for that right now.
A political presence to us would mean something quite different. Perhaps we're talking about an augmented group that would be available to arrange and coordinate the humanitarian assistance. We'll just have to see what is in mind, but we don't start off with the presumption that American troops will go to Central Africa. I don't believe that's in the cards right now.
There's one more question. Africa.
QUESTION: Norway, yesterday -- the Foreign Minister of Norway has asked the United Nations Security Council to intervene militarily in eastern Zaire. Does the U.S. support that -- not necessarily U.S. troops, but if other people can do it?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see what Ambassador Chretien recommends to Secretary General Boutros Ghali. We don't want to get ahead of those recommendations.
We have said in the past, and Secretary Christopher said throughout his Africa tour, that the idea of some kind of crisis response force, manned by the African countries makes sense. It's not going to be possible to have that force ready to be of assistance in the current crisis in the Great Lakes region. This crisis points to the need, again, for an African Crisis Response Force -- a force that African countries would control; that African countries would contribute to; and that they could use along with others in the international community such as the United Nations for situations like this.
Whether or not Ambassador Chretien recommends X, Y, or Z, we'll just have to wait and see. We ought to give him some liberty and some room to take a look at the situation and then we'll respond.
QUESTION: The Greek Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Khristos Rozakis -- R-O-Z-A-K-I-S -- the so-called "Professor" (inaudible), the top advisor to the Prime Minister, the real architect of the upcoming partition over the Aegean Sea, proposed yesterday and today to Ankara a moratorium of -- an embargo on --no Greek and Turkish military exercise in the entire Aegean around the year.
Since this is unusual proposal about the Greek official is questioning the Greek national rights in the entire Aegean Sea, and since your government is mediating on the Greek-Turkish differences, may we have the U.S. position on the Rozakis proposal?
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Mr. Lambros. We'll have to take a look at Mr. Rozakis' proposal before we can present an official view in public.
QUESTION: But we need a kind of comment due to the point that some Greek professors quoted the same line when Mr. Rozakis are claiming privately in Athens that the proposed moratorium is a U. S. plan. I am wondering if the U. S. Government authorized any of those professors who haven't even the sense to promote such a plan, taking also into consideration that the Rozakis proposal already is creating an anti- American sentiment in Athens, in Greece.
MR. BURNS: Well, we don't want there to be any anti-American sentiment in Greece because we are a great ally of Greece. We are a good friend of Greece. And I think the Greek and American people, if you polled them they would say that. They like each other, and the two countries get along very well.
So, first of all, we are all for Greek-American harmony and having an excellent relationship. Second, I really do -- will need to look into this particular statement before I can give you our considered view in public.
QUESTION: Mr. Burns, in your excellent piece you wrote the other day in the last issue of the "Harvard International Journal of Press and Politics," you are saying, inter alia, quote, To be successful I have found that the spokesman must meet two requirements. First, he or she must be and be seen to speak already clearly and authoritatively for the Secretary of State." But I --
MR. BURNS: Right. I agree with myself on those words. Well put.
QUESTION: I have a complaint. In the case of Greek-Turkish relations, you are not following your own advice. Why?
MR. BURNS: Thank you for your generous comments on my article. Let me just tell you --
QUESTION: Why --
MR. BURNS: I am speaking clearly and authoritatively in saying we need to look at this before we can give you a public comment. It's a clear and authoritative statement by the United States State Department.
QUESTION: You are not following your own advice in the context of my questions.
MR. BURNS: But I am, because you wouldn't want me to mislead you. You know, we have people in this building far more expert on Greece and Turkey than myself, and you would want me to consult with them before I gave you our considered views in public and that is what I intend to do.
QUESTION: But when? That's the point -- when?
MR. BURNS: Well, I will consult with them as soon as I can and as soon as we are ready, we'll give you an appropriate response.
QUESTION: But these discussions went for eight months and there is no concrete answer from the above. This is my point.
MR. BURNS: The United States has spoken very clearly about this issue and we stand ready to help Greece and Turkey at any time, but, you know, we have talked a lot today about responsible parties. Who is responsible? It's Greece and Turkey. So you ought to address your questions first to the Greek and Turkish Governments, then to the United States Government, and I am always available to answer these questions when I can, but you need to give me a little bit of leeway on some of these statements.
Betsy. Thank you.
QUESTION: Nick, a question on Taiwan. In September of 1995, the President, President Clinton met with Lin Tai Ying, who is Finance head of a Taiwanese political party in Taiwan, at a fund-raiser in San Francisco.
While not illegal, do you think it appropriate? Does this building think it appropriate for the President to be meeting with a Taiwanese political party officials?
MR. BURNS: Well, first let me say, I have no idea whether this meeting took place. I think it is a rumor, it's an allegation. I would check with the White House on this. I cannot possibly answer that question.
Putting that question aside, is it appropriate for the United States, United States officials at whatever level, to meet with Taiwan authorities, and the answer is yes. From time to time, we have an unofficial relationship with Taiwan, but from time to time, American officials travel to Taiwan, to Taipei, and from time to time they have meetings. Larry Summers, our Deputy Secretary of the Treasury made a trip there and met with Taiwan authorities. It is not unusual.
But your first question, Betsy, is an important question. I can't answer it, and you'll have to ask the White House.
QUESTION: The White House said the meeting did take place.
MR. BURNS: Well, I was unaware of that. I didn't know you checked with the White House, but I would certainly put great stock in what the White House says.
QUESTION: Are you aware of whether the President has met with any other Taiwanese officials?
MR. BURNS: No, I am not. I think they have a couple more questions here. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Do you have any response today to Syria's suicide bomb attacks which left many civilians in Turkey? You said you were going to look at it.
MR. BURNS: Right. I don't believe that the United States is in a position to confirm the origin of these suicide bomb attacks, but I can tell you that we are very -- we certainly oppose them, and we are very concerned by them, and we hope the Government of Turkey is able to find those responsible.
QUESTION: Does the Clinton Administration concur with the opinion of the Speaker of the House and Chairman Gilman with regard to the sale -- this is an Indonesian-Chinese brokered sale of five Super Puma helicopters equipped with air-to-ship missiles manufactured by the Chinese? Should this be stopped?
MR. BURNS: This is another case where we need to check the facts first before we speak, and, you know, there have been some allegations made. We need to check into them before we can substantiate them.
QUESTION: Don't you believe, Nick, that Mr. Gilman and the Speaker know that this is a real issue?
MR. BURNS: Bill, putting that aside, you know the Speaker and the Chairman have a right to say what they want to say. You are asking us for our opinion. We need to know more facts before we can substantiate these charges.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:13 p.m.) (###)
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