U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #204, 96-12-20
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Friday, December 20, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1 Statement on the 200th Anniversary of the Establishment
of Diplomatic Relations with Naples
1-5,15 Update on the Hostage Situation at the Japanese Embassy
2-3 U.S. Security Team in Lima
3 Ecuador's Offer of Asylum to Terrorists
3-4 Japanese Role in the Hostage Situation
4 USG Meetings with Representative of Hostage Countries
14-15 Effect on American Business and Citizens in Peru/Peruvians
Living in U.S.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
5-8 Dennis Ross' Trip to the Middle East
6-7 U.S. Settlements Policy/Hebron Talks
8 Foreign Minister Mejia's Visit to the State Dept.
8 Reports of Jailed Kingpins Running Cartels from Behind Bars
8-9 U.S.-Colombia Relations/Certification of Colombia/Extradition Law
9-10 Allegations of Captured CIA Spies
10 Letter from the Govt. of Iraq to the State Dept.
10-11 Operation Provide Comfort Status
11-12 Govt. of Germany Forms Group On the Church of Scientology
12 Reports of an Imminent Announcement of a Solution to the Cyprus
12-13 Congr. Richardson's Efforts to Free Hostages/Southern Sudanese
13 Appointment by China of a Provisional Legislature in Hong Kong
14 Arms Sales
13-14 Update on the Situation in Afghanistan
14 Update on US-DPRK Talks in New York
15 Suicide of Freed AmCit Hunziker
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1996, 1:00 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I
have a press statement today, which is another in our series - I know
you're all very interested in this - "On This Day in Diplomacy." This is
very interesting. I really commend it to you.
This week, the City of Naples, commemorated the 200th Anniversary of the
establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the
Bourbon Kingdom of the two Sicilys, of which Naples was capital. In the
early days of the American Republic, this was a major diplomatic priority
for the United States to have diplomatic relations with Naples because of
the maritime traffic and because of the importance of that to the United
So this very well-written public statement gives you everything you always
wanted to know about this issue; and the major point here is that it tells
you a lot about the importance of diplomacy in our national security, which
we in the State Department never tire of telling you about. So I just
wanted to, before the holidays, offer this little present to you.
QUESTION: Might we ask who wrote it? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Yes. It wasn't me. (Laughter.) It was written by our Chief
Historian, Bill Slany, in the Office of the Historian in the Bureau of
Public Affairs. These are people who don't get a lot of press attention
but who do great work. And I wanted to call attention to this as part of
our never-ending effort to make all of you realize that diplomatic
readiness and diplomacy are really important. How's that?
A Very good.
MR. BURNS: Good. Thank you, thank you.
George. I'd be glad to go to the lesser important issues of the day.
QUESTION: Well, could you give us an update on the situation in Peru, or
do we have to go to Bill Slany for that? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: If you wanted to talk about perhaps the beginning of our
relationship with Peru, you'd go to Bill Slany. I can tell you about our
There really is nothing new to add -- at least from an American point of
view -- to what we've said over the last couple of days. We continue to be
very, very concerned by the situation of the hostages, many hundreds of
them, being held in the Japanese compound in Lima. We continue here at the
State Department to monitor this through a Task Force up on the Seventh
Floor and through the really brilliant efforts of our American Ambassador,
Dennis Jett, in Lima.
President Clinton and Secretary Christopher both spoke to this issue
yesterday. We remain in very close contact with the Peruvian Government
and with the Japanese Government and a variety of others. Our position is
that these terrorists ought to release these innocent people swiftly and
QUESTION: The team of advisors that went down yesterday. Is it correct
that they are there to advise Ambassador Jett on security for Americans and
not to consult with the Peruvian Government?
MR. BURNS: Their primary responsibility is to be available to Ambassador
Jett to advise him on the security situation. Obviously, in a situation
like this, you want to prepare to be able to handle any contingency that
would affect American citizens; and we have l0, 000 of them in Peru. So
that's the reason they were sent down, and that's why they're there; and
they're carrying out their duties.
QUESTION: If the Peruvian Government would ask, would they be available
for rendering whatever advice and assistance….?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe the Peruvian Government has asked. I think
there's been some contact with the Peruvian Government on this issue, but I
don't believe they've asked. As you know, the Peruvian Government is
handling this issue on its own, as it should. It's bearing its responsibilities.
It's also spent a lot of time talking to the Japanese Government, which is
appropriate, given the fact that this incident is taking place on Japanese
QUESTION: There is a report - I realize it may not be coming from this
building -- that Delta Force troops or others, sort of covert troops, have
gone down either within this contingent of security people or separately to
Peru to be available in case they are needed. Can you verify that or speak
MR. BURNS: I am not going to discuss any troop deployments. That's not
the job of the State Department.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. Government pass on any warnings or hints that such
a spectacular terrorist event might take place?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question. You
know we have an active watch around the world on terrorist groups and their
activities. I just can't say whether or not we exchanged information with
the Peruvian Government in advance of this hostage-taking about this
In general, I should say, this is really not the time - at least for those
of us standing up talking, representing the U.S. Government -- to try to
play the Monday morning quarterbacking role. We're giving our full support
to the Peruvian Government here to resolve this situation expeditiously so
that all these innocent people can be released.
QUESTION: Nick, there are wire reports that Ecuador has offered asylum to
the terrorists. If that did occur, can you just give us some indication as
to what the United States' reaction might be?
MR. BURNS: First of all, I cannot confirm those reports. I've seen the
same one, but I can't confirm it. You'll have to direct that question to
the Ecuadorian Government.
Secondly, I think all of us around the world who have an interest here, who
have citizens in that capital in that country - obviously, we all desire to
play a role. We all want to be helpful. We've got to allow the Peruvian
Government some room for maneuver here. We've got to allow the Peruvian
Government to have the capability to resolve this crisis, and we're not
going to be giving any free advice - certainly, not publicly - to the
Peruvian Government. We don't want to make their life more difficult.
They've got a terrible crisis on their hands.
QUESTION: In order to better understand the relationship between the
Japanese and Peruvian Governments on this, what is your understanding of
what the rules of the game are in this situation? Is it Japanese territory,
this Ambassador's residence? And, if so, does that mean that it would be a
Japanese decision as to whether there were any use of force by the Peruvian
Government or not?
MR. BURNS: I understand the Japanese do consider it to be Japanese
territory, much as the United States considers our Embassies and Consulates
overseas to be American territory.
David, I can't define whatever agreement that the Japanese and Peruvian
Governments have worked out about jurisdiction, about a clearance, about
who's responsible for the contacts with the terrorists. That's up to them,
and I don't want to prejudge that for them. I don't know what kind of
conversations they've had.
QUESTION: Is there a general kind of diplomatic practice in this kind of
MR. BURNS: I can only speak from an American point of view. I think
various countries have various interpretations of this general principle.
The United States has a very clear one about our own facilities overseas,
and that is that the United States Embassy in Lima, for instance - the
United States Embassy - is American territory. But I really don't want to
get into this in trying to interpret what the Japanese and Peruvians may or
may not have agreed upon.
QUESTION: But Japan could offer them diplomatic immunity and get them out
of there under the guise of Japanese diplomatic immunity, totally bypassing
MR. BURNS: Offer who?
QUESTION: The terrorists.
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't know about that. I wouldn't know, and I wouldn't
ascribe that motive to the Japanese Government.
QUESTION: Do you plan any meetings in Washington with (inaudible)
countries in this issue?
MR. BURNS: We've had a couple of meetings with some of the embassies here
in Washington of the countries that have been affected -- we started that
two days ago, and we've continued it - just to make sure that we keep in
contact with countries around the world to make sure we all have the same
information and we can share perspectives on this. We have a very, very
active interest in this, as you can imagine.
QUESTION: Are you saying that you've had meetings with diplomats from all
of the countries who have captives?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't say all the countries. I think some of the
countries. I don't believe we've had meetings here in the State Department
with all of them.
Ambassador Jett, of course, has been very active in Lima, talking to all of
the embassies about this issue.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how many countries, approximately, you have
contacted with this issue?
MR. BURNS: I think we've contacted in Lima a great majority of the
countries that have been affected. We've been in contact, as you would
imagine, and we've had some contact back here. I don't have an exact
figure for you, however.
QUESTION: Does that include Cuba?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know if we've had conversations with
Cubans or not. It's certainly possible. I just don't know if we
QUESTION: Are you discouraging countries from offering asylum to the
MR. BURNS: The position of the United States, when we are affected - when
there's a terrorist incident, for instance, on our soil, where we're the
primary point of contact with a terrorist group -- is that we don't offer
concessions, and our advice to foreign governments is to follow that
practice. That's our very strong view.
On the question of Ecuador, I think it just stands to reason that we ought
to let the Peruvian Government make these decisions about how it deals with
these terrorists, these killers, this nihilistic organization that has
taken these people hostage, and we ought not to try to second-guess the
government or make the life of the Peruvian Government more complicated. I
think, as the President said yesterday, probably the less said the better
about issues like this. We ought to refrain from the temptation, perhaps,
to offer a lot of public advice.
QUESTION: Could I ask on another subject? Is Dennis Ross taking anything
substantive in the way of a negotiating instrument when he goes to
MR. BURNS: I spoke with Dennis just a couple of minutes ago, and I also
spoke to Secretary Christopher about his trip. The President and Secretary
Christopher have asked Dennis to undertake this trip because they're very
concerned about the drift in the Middle East peace negotiations, and
specifically we're particularly concerned that the negotiating momentum on
Hebron itself has pretty much come to a halt. We hope that Dennis' trip
will create a new dynamic, rejuvenate, if you will, the Hebron negotiations
for the redeployment of the Israeli Defense Forces from the City of
Dennis is the primary intermediary between the two - the Palestinians and
the Israelis. He certainly has some ideas of his own - American ideas -
that he will be offering on this trip. But it's a very quick trip. He'll
be back by the twenty-fourth, by next Tuesday. I think that perhaps the
best we can hope for here is that he's able to convince Chairman Arafat and
Prime Minister Netanyahu that they've got to re-engage seriously on Hebron.
I think that's a very, very important goal. It may take some more time,
however, for any final agreement to be reached.
I want to take the opportunity to clarify some misinterpretations of the
American position that were quite evident in a couple of the major American
newspapers this morning. First, I think Secretary Christopher spoke very
clearly yesterday about our perception of where the Hebron negotiations are
and about the fact that there have been some Israeli moves in the past
couple of days that we believe now ought to be reciprocated.
It is not right to conclude from that statement, however, that somehow the
United States, and specifically the State Department, have watered down the
very clear - very clear - statements made by the President on settlements a
couple of days ago. There was an interesting juxtaposition in some of the
newspapers this morning, saying because the United States had made these
statements on Hebron, it's trying to walk away now from the statements
we've made on settlements. It's absolutely untrue.
The President of the United States spoke for this government very clearly
on Monday about our position on settlements, and, frankly, about the
problem we have with some of the decisions that have been made on subsidies,
because they effectively pre-empt the negotiations, and they make it very
difficult to achieve progress on that issue in the negotiations. These are
separate issues. They haven't been combined by us. I wanted to be
absolutely clear about that.
One of the papers, the Washington Times -- even ran the lead story in the
paper -- essentially tried to link these two issues and infer that somehow
the United States is backing down on this very important issue of
settlements, and that's not the case. The President spoke for all of us,
and we are all firmly behind the President, as you imagine.
QUESTION: Nick, though, leaving aside the linkage, which you're not going
to deal with; the issue of settlements - the President was asked if
settlements are an obstacle, and he said absolutely, absolutely. When you
were asked that question Tuesday - when you were invited to use the word
"obstacle," you declined, and I think that that has contributed to the
MR. BURNS: I did not decline. As I remember - I mean, I'll take it out
of the transcript, if you like, and read it to you. It's hard for someone
like me to improve upon the words of the President of the United States.
He's the boss. He enunciates American foreign policy. He was clear as a
bell on Monday, and everything that we've said since then stands behind him,
as you would expect. I just wanted to make that perfectly clear today.
QUESTION: Help us to understand. Is it fair to say that the U.S.
Government now calling settlements - the existence of settlements or the
Israeli subsidy to settlers -- an obstacle to peace is a ratcheting up of
the language, is it not?
MR. BURNS: I think that the real importance of what the United States has
been saying for a week now - it began late last week in this room, and it
continued, much more importantly, at the White House on Monday, and
Secretary Christopher continued it yesterday - we're concerned by actions
or statements that make progress in the negotiations more difficult. I
wanted to make that clear. It couldn't be more clear in our minds, and we
were very disappointed to see this juxtaposition, because it does not exist
- the juxtaposition to which I referred in the newspapers this morning.
QUESTION: There's been a certain amount of editorial comment in the
newspapers today I wonder if you'd like to react to. Do you disagree, by
any chance, with - I'm sure you read them - a couple of editorials that
suggested that the Administration should now get much tougher with Israel
on the subjects of settlements; that the policy of nudging Israel along
MR. BURNS: First of all, America's policy is working. Secondly, our
position on the settlements could not be more clear, and the President
spoke to that on Monday. Third, I find it very curious that editorial
writers seem to want to ditch a policy that has in four years produced more
success than at any time in the last 48 years. I find that very curious,
indeed. All you've got to do is remember where this situation was four
years ago today, before President Clinton took office in the last months of
the Bush Administration.
The Israelis and Palestinians weren't talking. There was a military
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We didn't have the September
'93 or September '95 agreements. There was no peace treaty with Jordan and
Israel. None of this had occurred.
Why in the world would we want to ditch that policy that has worked - a
very patient, clear-sighted American diplomacy. So, obviously, we don't
agree with that kind of editorial comment which, respectfully, we would say
doesn't seem to be informed by the history of the last four years.
QUESTION: The editorials, as I read them, weren't necessarily critiquing
the last four years' policy. They were saying that it is now time --
without regard to whether the policy has been right or wrong for the last
four years, it is now time to be much tougher on the issue of settlements,
vis-à-vis Israel; to call a spade a spade and tell them they cannot
have it both ways.
MR. BURNS: All I can say -
QUESTION: And I wonder what your comment is on that suggestion.
MR. BURNS: My comment on that suggestion is look at what the President
and Secretary Christopher have said over the last week. It's a very clear
enunciation of our policy, and it's the right place for us to be.
QUESTION: These ideas that Dennis is taking with him, do they go to the
process of the negotiations, or does he have some new negotiating language
that he thinks might break the logjam?
MR. BURNS: Of course, I don't want to go into the ideas, because he
hasn't arrived, and he'll want to float these privately, not publicly, but
they encompass the breadth of the negotiations in, I think, both of the
aspects that you talked about, Jim.
QUESTION: New subject.
MR. BURNS: Still on the Middle East? Any on the Middle East before we
leave the Middle East? Yes, Patrick.
QUESTION: Do you know when he's going exactly, today or tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: Dennis leaves tonight with his small team of assistants, and
he'll be in Jerusalem, I believe, tomorrow - tomorrow evening, and he'll be
coming back on Tuesday. He'll be meeting with both the Israeli and
Palestinian delegations. I want to make clear, Dennis' trip is focused
solely on the Israeli- Palestinian talks. He's not going to be going to
Syria. He won't be going to Jordan. He won't be going outside of meetings
with the Israelis and Palestinians. It's a focused trip.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister of Colombia just finished several meetings
with State Department officials. Can you tell us basically what was
discussed and where the U.S.-Colombian relationship stands? Several issues
- extradition, human rights abuses, using U.S. weapons, or allegations of
MR. BURNS: I don't have a specific report on Foreign Minister Mejia's
meetings here, but, if you're interested, we can get that from our Inter-
American Affairs Bureau. I know she's here. I know there have been
meetings, and, of course, we've got a well known policy on Colombia, which
I'm sure that our diplomats were enunciating today in the meetings. But I
don't have any specific report for you. Let's ask Tom Casey and his
associates to try to get that for you.
QUESTION: Yes, please. The Colombian Government recognized a few days
ago that the Cali Cartel leaders are threatening and bribing some
congressmen from the jail. Do you have any comment about it?
MR. BURNS: We've known for a long time that the drug kingpins, specifically
from the Cali Cartel, continue to run their drug empires from jail. These
are extremely lax prison conditions which allow criminals to run multi-
billion dollar financial empires from a jail cell, and we've repeatedly
told the Government of Colombia about it, and we expect the Government of
Colombia to take appropriate measures - tough measures - to toughen the
conditions for criminals.
The reason you put people behind bars is to make them pay a penalty.
They're not paying much of a penalty if they continue to run their empires,
earn money and set themselves up when they're released from jail.
In a few weeks, the United States will begin again our annual certification
about Colombia and other countries' performance on anti-narcotics measures,
and we're going to have to evaluate the Government of Colombia, and this
will be a factor. I can't anticipate the outcome of the decisions that the
President and Secretary-designate Madeleine Albright will have to make this
winter. But I can tell you, this is going to be an issue, and we are
looking for stronger measures by the Government of Colombia. Nothing
outrages, I'm sure, average Colombians as well as average Americans more to
see someone who puts drugs on the streets that kill kids prosper in jail -
live the high life, be able to run a drug empire from jail. It's wrong,
and it's also no way to fight the narco-traffickers.
QUESTION: Regarding to the relationship between both countries, it is
MR. BURNS: The relationship between the two countries?
QUESTION: The relationship between both countries, the U.S. and Colombian
MR. BURNS: Our relationship is what it is. We have one issue that tends
to dominate the relationship, and the fortunes of the relationship ebb and
flow, depending on how well we're doing on that issue. We can certainly
point to some efforts by the Colombian Government, and particularly by
elements of the Colombian Government over the past year to improve the
effectiveness of the Colombians in fighting narcotics trafficking. But we
are going to have to undergo this evaluation under our own law, and we hope
very much that the end result will be more positive than last years, but I
can't anticipate exactly which decision is going to be made.
QUESTION: Nick, does the U.S. Government still hold that Colombia might
MR. BURNS: We're always interested in bringing convicted drug kingpins,
narco-traffickers, to justice. When they've committed crimes in the United
States or crimes that affect Americans, it is sometimes appropriate for us
to extradite. So that's another issue in the relationship.
Yes, ma'am. Ladies first, Mr. Lambros, and then we'll be glad to go to
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the reports from Iraq in terms of
them holding allegedly CIA spies that they're going to be airing on Iraqi
MR. BURNS: We've seen the reports, and, frankly, if anybody believes
these reports, they ought to have their heads examined. Saddam Hussein has
made a history, as has other members of his corrupt regime, of lying to
their own population as well as to the rest of us around the world about
what's going on.
This is a well noted and tired propaganda ploy. We saw this authoritarian
regime, the Soviet Union certainly, practice this kind of thing. We saw
fascist regimes in Europe practice this kind of thing. There's always got
to be a scapegoat for the problems of a corrupt authoritarian dictatorship
like Saddam's. He's not accountable to his own people. He doesn't admit
that he's destroyed the country's economic base and made it an international
pariah, so he looks on the outside. What more convenient target than the
Central Intelligence Agency. This is laughable propaganda, and I'd
strongly advise you not to pay any attention to it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) any of the accusations about spying?
MR. BURNS: We don't trust Saddam Hussein; and, if Saddam Hussein wants to
parade a bunch of people in front of television cameras and say they're CIA
spies, as journalists I'd look very hard at that. I'd look very hard to
see if you can confirm any of these accusations against these poor people -
poor Iraqis. These are not going to be Americans, as far as we can tell
from the press reports. He's going to parade a bunch of Iraqi citizens.
They probably picked them up off the street and they didn't like their
looks, didn't like their politics - (laughter) - and they shove them in
front of TV cameras, and they throw them in jail to rot. It's a terrible
thing. Baghdad's a very cruel place to live these days, and some members
of the regime are even finding that out. So I would encourage you not to
trust Saddam Hussein, not to give it any credence. It's propaganda, and
he's doing this just to get attention - to divert the attention of his
suffering people - and they are truly suffering in Iraq - from his corrupt
Mr. Lambros, you want to talk about - excuse me, did you have a follow-
QUESTION: Yes, just a quick follow-up. There was a report that there was
a letter delivered to the State Department, an official letter from the
Government of Iraq. Can you tell us anything about -
MR. BURNS: I don't know anything about it, but I talked to our official
in charge of our Iraq policy. He didn't mention it to me. We communicate
with the Government of Iraq in mysterious ways. We have to send faxes to
New York which can't be read by the people in New York. They can only be
read by the ringleaders in Baghdad or the criminal gang there, and it's
very hard to know who's writing and whether it's authoritative and frankly
even when it's authoritative, they lie, as they admitted in their
conversations with Ambassador Ekeus. They said, "We've been lying for five
years about our efforts to build a nuclear weapons capability and a
chemical weapons capability. So, frankly, even if they sent us a letter,
we don't take them very seriously.
QUESTION: Are there any Kurds that helped the United States in this
lineup that they're suggesting?
MR. BURNS: I have no idea who's going to appear in this lineup. We have
no advance information. We have no diplomats in Baghdad. We just have a
lot of pity for the people who are going to be lined up, because most
likely they're innocent.
Yes, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: I have a question on Germany. According to -
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, Mr. Lambros. David would like to stay on Iraq.
Then we'll go to Germany.
QUESTION: There was a report I heard this morning on the radio - BBC, I
think - saying that Mr. Erbakan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, has
announced that Turkey will not renew the ground-based portion of "Operation
Provide Comfort"; that it is going to be allowed to expire, I believe, in
January. Is that accurate? Has the Turkish Government so informed the
U.S. that there's going to be nothing left except the overflying?
MR. BURNS: First, we are currently discussing with the Turkish, French
and British Governments "Operation Provide Comfort" - so-called "Operation
Provide Comfort." We have not yet come to an agreement with those three
governments about the future operations in northern Iraq that are designed
to contain Saddam Hussein.
But I can tell you this: I think we can confidently predict that as a
result of these negotiations, in a week or two or three, we'll be able to
announce to you that we intend, all of us, to maintain the "no-flight"
zones in the north and south. We intend to maintain the strategic
containment of Saddam Hussein, first.
Second, as you know, we had to pull out of northern Iraq a couple of months
ago most of our ground-based effort, which provides humanitarian relief -
U.S.-directed humanitarian relief to the populations of northern Iraq, Kurd,
Assyrian and otherwise. The operations to provide relief will go forward.
The United Nations and other non-governmental organizations are going to be
running relief efforts, and we are currently contributing money to them.
That will continue.
I think our great suspicion about Iraq's motives in particular will also
continue as part of this strategic deterrent effort. So I think this
report is probably a little bit ahead of the issue, because there have been
no firm decisions made, no written agreement, but I would anticipate that
those elements - the "no-flight" zones and humanitarian relief operations -
would stay in place.
Mr. Lambros, yes.
QUESTION: I have a question on Germany. According to dispatches from
Associated Press and Reuters, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in an unusual
move announced yesterday the creation of a federal government committee as
a solution to keeping people affiliated with the U.S.-based Church of
Scientology out of public jobs. And today, actually, Chancellor Kohl's
political party expelled three members. Could you please clarify the U.S.
position vis-a-vis to these actions against a religious group?
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Mr. Lambros. I understand that - I've just seen a
brief report from our Embassy in Bonn just in the last hour that the German
Government has made a basic decision to form a group to take a look at the
issue of Scientology in Germany. The report I saw was quite straightforward
but did not have a lot of detail, and it essentially said that Chancellor
Kohl and his Ministers had decided to study the issue in all of its
It did not, as far as I saw, announce any Draconian or repressive measures
against the Church of Scientology. In fact, I think the German Interior
Minister said in a press conference in Bonn two days - on the 16th of
December - that Germany would not try to shut down the Church of Scientology
in Germany, and that's good news, indeed.
As you know, the United States for four years running has had some concerns
about the treatment of Scientologists, including Americans, in Germany.
We've expressed them to the German Government. We've put it in our Annual
Human Rights Report. We've spoken about it from this podium, and we
believe that the religious freedom of the Scientologists ought to be
I think the German Government has said things this week which are positive
and has taken an action today which appears to be constructive. We need to
study it in greater detail, and that is pretty much what I have to say
about that issue.
QUESTION: One follow-up. I'm wondering if your recent established
committee on religious freedom here at the State Department will look into
this case in Germany?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if the new committee established by Assistant
Secretary Shattuck, which looks at the idea of religious freedom on a
global basis, will be concentrating on Scientology in Germany. I can ask,
but that committee is intended to represent the well known American support
for religious freedom, of whatever stripe, worldwide.
QUESTION: One question on this. According to reliable sources, your
government is ready to announce the long-awaited U.S. initiative for a
solution on the Turkish claims against Greece in the Republic of Cyprus in
the first days of January. I'm wondering if it would be unilateral or
collective announcement involving the Governments of the U.S., Greece,
Turkey and Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I'll have to check. I'm not aware of any
impending, imminent American announcement on that issue.
QUESTION: A question on southern Sudan. I understand the NGOs in
southern Sudan have reason to believe that the warlords may strike again in
the sense of capturing some NGO representatives, and they're concerned
about the precedent which was set about 10, 12 days ago by Congressman
Richardson's negotiations which in effect rewarded the hostage-takers with
rice and jeeps and so forth. The U.S. has come out with a strong stand
against negotiations concerning the events in Lima, and I just wonder what
you might have to say about the situation in southern Sudan.
MR. BURNS: First of all, George, let me just say I don't believe that
Congressman Richardson engaged in any kind of improper activity or any
activity that would be inconsistent with general policies and principles
that we have followed in the United States Government for a long, long
As you remember, he was actually basically an intermediary between the Red
Cross and other organizations and these hostage-takers, and this was an
agreement between the ICRC and Kerubino, and I think it should be seen in
that context. He was not negotiating on behalf of the United States
Government. He was not representing positions of the U.S. Government. He
facilitated the release of hostages, and he did it on behalf of an
international organization - the International Committee of the Red
So I think there's a basic difference between that situation in Sudan nine
or ten days ago and the situation today in Peru.
QUESTION: But it has the U.S. Government endorsement, because the
Ambassador was there almost as a party to what was going on.
MR. BURNS: Our Ambassador was there, because we wanted to seek the
release of the American and also the other foreigners being held, and we
did so. I'm just saying I don't equate what happened there with what's
happening now in Peru. I think they're entirely different situations.
QUESTION: Nick, tomorrow China is expected to appoint the Provisional
Legislature for Hong Kong. British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has
already chimed in with some warnings to China. Does the U.S. Government
have any words of advice for Beijing and how it proceeds?
MR. BURNS: We're aware of this very worrisome development. Let me just
say the United States supports open, accountable and democratic government
in Hong Kong. It is an essential part of Hong Kong's successful business
and political environment. The United States has frequently expressed,
both publicly and privately, our view that disbanding the current elected
legislature in Hong Kong is unjustified and unnecessary.
Assistant Secretary Win Lord made this point recently to the Chinese. He
made this point to leaders in Hong Kong earlier this month. Secretary
Christopher has made this point very clear to the Chinese leadership.
In the Joint Declaration, China made a commitment that Hong Kong's
Legislative Council shall be constituted by elections. China has said
subsequently that a Provisional Legislature will not operate for more than
one year. The United States believes a legislature elected on the basis of
open and fair elections should be put into place as soon as possible after
reversion. This would enable China to fulfill the commitment it made in
the Joint Declaration.
We believe that stability in Hong Kong's governing structures is vital to
insure the continuing growth and success and prosperity of Hong Kong after
1997. The United States will watch closely what action the Provisional
Legislature takes and how long that legislature lasts.
MR. BURNS: I don't have a copy. Those are my words. I'm not issuing a
written statement, but I've just said them, and I suppose you've all
recorded them. I hope you have. I know the cameras have recorded
QUESTION: Anything new on the situation in Afghanistan?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any new developments that would have an
impact upon the United States, except to say that we do follow events in
Kabul closely from our Embassy in Islamabad in Pakistan. We do continue to
hope that outside countries beyond Afghanistan will not try to contribute
to the instability by supplying weapons, and we seek to promote, along with
the United Nations and others, a peaceful and negotiated outcome to the
basic differences that exist among the various militia in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Could you tell us how New York meetings with North Korea is
going? How long Mr. Li will stay in New York, and is the U.S. close to
agreement on the submarine issue?
MR. BURNS: I think that the talks between the United States and North
Korea in New York that began yesterday and are continuing today have been
serious and useful. They reviewed the major issues. They include, of
course, Mr. Li Hyong Chol who is visiting New York - the North Korean
official - and they include Mr. Mark Minton, who's our Director of Korean
Affairs here in the Department of State.
We are still awaiting action by the North Koreans on some of the issues
that we've publicly identified, including the provocation of the breach of
South Korea's sovereignty in the submarine incident a couple of months
QUESTION: Do you know the schedule of Mr. Li? He will stay in New York
next week, or are you going to -
MR. BURNS: Mr. Li seems to be enjoying New York. He's been there quite a
while. I don't anticipate that he'll be coming to Washington. I think
he'll probably be spending Christmas in New York, and we will probably see
him again. He is a senior official in the North Korean Government, and
we've been able to have serious and useful talks with Mr. Li.
QUESTION: What do you think about the Chinese aggressive military and
arms sales in the Middle East, especially Iran, Iraq, Syria? They are
establishing some corporation to deal in helicopters and missiles
(inaudible). Do you have any concern on this subject, or are you just
MR. BURNS: Savas, I think we've spoken quite frequently about that issue
here at the State Department Briefing, and I have nothing new to add to
what I've said and what Glyn Davies has said many, many times. Glyn, of
course, has in a much more articulate than I could have said it, but we've
both spoken about this issue. (Laughter)
QUESTION: Nick, two questions back on Peru. First, of your group of
experts that went down there, have they advised or are they looking to ways
of suggesting for businesses - U.S. businesses working down there to scale
down their presence in Peru? How is this going to affect the warning that
the U.S. Government and the Department of State puts on Peru?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we issued the other night - two nights ago - a
travel advisory for Americans living in Peru and visiting Peru. This is a
very, very dangerous situation underway in Lima, as you know. It's an
extraordinary situation, given the number of people who have been taken
hostage and given the record of this terrorist group, which is quite
We've advised American citizens to take every precaution, to think twice
about what they do in Peru, and that's primarily the reason we sent this
team down there to help the American Embassy and Ambassador Dennis Jett
prepare for any eventuality that might involve American citizens.
QUESTION: In light of the new anti-terrorist law here in the U.S., how
would this affect alleged members of MRTA or Shining Path living in the
U.S.? Will this have any consequences?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything specific to say about that, except that
when people break our laws, they have to be held accountable for them, and
they ought to know that.
QUESTION: How long can this situation go on in Peru? I mean, they're
getting water, food. This could drag on. We could be here three weeks
from now talking about the same subject. How long do you think something
like this could go on?
MR. BURNS: No one knows the answer to that. We just have to hope and
pray that the Peruvian Government is successful in its contacts with the
terrorist, so that all these people can be released safely. That's the
primary objective here, and I think patience and vigilance are probably the
two watchwords for all of us.
QUESTION: Nick, do you know why Mr. Evan Hunziker committed suicide?
MR. BURNS: No, we do not. And let me just say, this is a private matter.
It concerns, obviously, his family. We have the greatest sympathy for his
family. We've expressed our condolences to his family. It's a very, very
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:38 p.m.)