U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #35, 97-03-11
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
Tuesday, March 11, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1 Welcome to High School Visitors from Delaware and U of Texas Law
1 International Women's Day
1-2 Travel Warning for Zaire
2 U.S.-Vietnam Debt Agreement
2 Message from Abdulsalam Massarueh, Pres. of Foreign Correspondents
2-6 U.S./International Efforts on Cease-fire Proposal, Multinational
Force, and Humanitarian Concerns
4 Role of an African Response Force in Zaire
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
6-7 Chairman Arafat's Call for a Weekend Conference on the Peace Process
7-8 Reports of a Boycott of Israeli-Palestinian Communication
8-9 Special Coordinator Cavanaugh's Trip to Europe
8 Diplomatic Discussions in Europe on Cyprus
9-11 Release of Five Impounded Montenegrin Ships
10-11 Sanctions on Serbia
11-12 FM Primakov Visit to US
11-12 President Yeltsin's Imminent Announcement of New Cabinet
12-13 US Discussions with European Governments on Turkish Membership to EU
13 Human Rights Reform Package Passed by Turkish Parliament
13-17 Status of Liaison Offices
13-14 Visit of Vice Minister Kim
15-16 US Policy on the Four Party Talks
17 State Dept.-New York City Agreement on Diplomatic Parking Tickets
17-18 U.S.-Burma Joint Opium Yield Survey
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 1997, 1:12 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to welcome
to our briefing today students from the Tower Hill School of Wilmington,
Delaware. They're here. They and their classmates are at various
departments and agencies in the U.S. Government today to try to figure out
how the U.S. Government works. We're delighted you're here today. You
must be Orioles' fans. You're from Wilmington, right? Orioles? They're
not baseball fans. Phillies or Orioles. They're on the cusp. We're Red
Sox fans here, but you're welcome already. We've already made this
decision, Judd. We're Red Sox fans.
We have another distinguished visitor. Christina Bartholomew is visiting
the Press Office. She observed how we put together our press guidance
today. She's a law student at the University of Texas.
I've got a couple of announcements for you. The first I posted yesterday,
but I wanted to draw some attention to it, and that's to let you know again
that in honor of International Women's Day, Secretary Madeleine Albright
will host a special event here at the Department at 10:30 tomorrow morning
with the First Lady, Hillary Clinton. The program will feature remarks by
the First Lady, by Secretary Albright and by Under Secretary Tim Wirth.
Secretary Albright will discuss the Administration's foreign policy goals
and objectives in promoting the advancement of women around the world, and
the First Lady will talk about the importance of the role of women in
development. As you know, the White House announced, I believe, officially
today that she'll be embarking on a trip to Africa, and that will be one of
the themes of her trip to Africa.
This is 10:30, tomorrow morning, in the Dean Acheson Auditorium.
It's open to press coverage. I'd encourage all of you who would like to
attend to attend.
Announcement on Zaire. We are issuing a travel warning to Zaire today,
which states essentially that the Department of State warns U.S. citizens
to defer all travel to Zaire due to the uncertain political and security
situation there and the potential for military and civil unrest throughout
The Department has authorized the voluntary departure of the dependents
of our American Government employees at our Embassy in Kinshasa. U.S.
citizens currently in Zaire should consider very carefully their personal
security situation and, if they deem it appropriate, to depart Zaire. If
you have any further requests for information - anyone listening to this
briefing or reading it on our Web Site - you can get that from our Web
Site or from the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Yesterday, I was asked about the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Debt Agreement -
a specific question. Just to remind you, last Friday in Hanoi, the United
States and Vietnam initialed a debt agreement that would have Vietnam agree
to repay all of its economic and social debt to the United States, which
totals approximately $145 million. This agreement implements the December
1993 Paris Club rescheduling of Vietnam's debt to other countries.
I was asked yesterday, what is the source of this $145 million debt, and
the answer is this consists of Vietnam's debt to the United States for four
USAID loans and two PL 480 loans. These were loans made to the Government
of South Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Three of the four U.S. aid loans
were made in 1960 and '61, essentially to develop physical infrastructure
projects in Saigon, and the fourth loan was made in 1973 to finance
the import of commodities from the United States. I think the two
PL 480 loans were also extended at the end of the war in 1973 and
Vietnam agreed to assume this debt of the former South Vietnamese
Government, and what's significant about it is that it helps propel us down
the road to normalization of our economic relationship with the Vietnamese
Government. As you remember, when Secretary Christopher visited Hanoi in
August of 1995, he set that as a goal for both countries. We have a ways
to go, but Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast
Asia. There is significant American commercial interests in Vietnam, and
we want to make sure that we do everything we can to normalize our
relationship with that country.
Last, I just wanted to say something personal about a good friend of ours,
Abdulsalam al-Massarueh, who is the President of our Foreign Correspondents
Association and is a great friend to all of us. He called me this morning,
and he asked me just to say a word here, which I agreed to do. He is
recovering from very serious surgery last week, and he's at home, and he
asks that I let you know that he is going to work hard for a full
recovery; that he's like to hear from as many of you who would like to
talk to him. He is at home. I can give you the phone number and
the address if you'd like to be in contact with him. He's a wonderful
man. All of us are thinking of him and praying for his full recovery.
QUESTION: Back on Zaire, a paragraph in our Zaire story says that
George Moose was at the U.N. talking to Kofi Annan, and that they talked
about the possibility of a multinational force for Eastern Zaire, and that
was quoting U.N. officials.
Do you know whether that subject is receiving much attention here in this
MR. BURNS: I can tell you, George, I just talked to the Secretary
about a half hour ago. She is working very hard on Zaire these days. In
fact, for the last couple of working days, she's had several briefings per
day on the dynamic situation - the ever changing situation in Zaire. She
has read cables from our Ambassador, Ambassador Simpson, from Kinshasa and
other Ambassadors that we have in Central Africa. She's very concerned
about the situation in Zaire.
We are working very specifically to try to achieve two important goals.
We worked with the South African Government and other governments in
Central and Southern Africa to put together the cease-fire proposal, which
is on the table, and the United States calls again today on Mr. Laurent
Kabila and his colleagues to accept this cease-fire proposal to end the
fighting in Eastern Zaire and to agree to talks with the Zairian Government.
That's the first order of business, to stop the fighting in Eastern
Zaire now that the rebel alliance appears to be just outside the city
limits of Kisangani.
Secondly, we've been very concerned about the humanitarian situation of
the nearly 200,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees who have found themselves to be
trapped in Eastern Zaire by this fighting. You know that as the rebel
forces proceeded over the last two weeks, all of the refugee camps in that
part of the country in Eastern Zaire have been emptied voluntarily. The
refugees have fled the camps because of the fighting, and they have spread
in all different directions - into isolated parts of the countryside.
We believe there is a humanitarian need - a very strong humanitarian need
- to get humanitarian food and medical assistance to these refugees. So
we've been working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
Mrs. Ogata, and the World Food Program and other non-profit organizations
to speed refugee assistance to these people. We've also appealed to Mr.
Kabila to allow these refugees some humanitarian passage towards Rwanda if
they would like to leave Eastern Zaire, to repatriate themselves as so
many hundreds of thousands did in December. We believe that Mr. Kabila
should be open to that and should make sure that his forces do not impede
the safe return of people back to Rwanda.
George, that's what's we've done. We've also had some continuing
discussions in New York with Secretary General Kofi Annan on this situation
- on the economic dimension, the political dimension, and there has been, I
think, some talk from New York about the possibility of a multinational
force. Frankly, we'll continue to discuss this idea with the United
Nations, but we think that actually what's being done now is the best way
to help the refugees and to stop the fighting - to pursue the cease-fire
proposal and to continue to encourage the United Nations to deliver this
Therefore, we are not prepared right now to sign on to a multinational
force. We'll agree to continue to discuss it if other countries wish to
discuss it. But it seems to us that the proper things are being done right
now by the United Nations and by the South African Government and by the
Zairian Government to try to stabilize the situation.
We do not believe that there is a military solution to the problems of
Eastern Zaire. We believe it has to be a political solution, and we're
relying here upon the goodwill and the political interest of Mr. Kabila to
accept this cease-fire proposal. George Moose was up in New York yesterday
for discussions on all of these issues with Secretary General Kofi Annan.
He's in Brussels today, talking to various European countries, including
the French Government, about the situation in Zaire.
We really are quite seized by this. There's a lot of attention being
paid to it, but we think in general we're taking the steps, together with
other countries, that need to be taken to bring back stability to
QUESTION: Nick, what about the idea of an African crisis response force
which the United States is still sort of kicking around? Is this situation
just too immediate to have that proposal have any impact on this at the
MR. BURNS: Yes, I believe so. The idea of an African crisis response
force, obviously, is an idea that Secretary Christopher put forward. It
received a lot of interest on his Africa trip in October. It's a very good
idea for situations like this or like the one that we faced in November and
December. But the fact is that that idea has not become reality. There is
no such force, and therefore, we must continue to rely upon the United
Nations, and in this case by the very important leadership role that
President Mandela brought to the situation.
I think the South African Government took the lead in putting together
the cease-fire proposal, assisted by the United States and other countries,
and I think the fact that an African country emerged to show the way
forward to resolve this crisis is a very positive sign, and that country is
QUESTION: Nick -
MR. BURNS: Andre.
QUESTION: Then Chirac has appealed for more pressure on Kabila, and
apparently, the French and others are getting impatient about it. Do you
have any leverage on Kabila, or how do you explain that he's not responding
to your appeals - he's not responding to any pressure from the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: I would submit, Andre, that all of us together have some
leverage -- that would be the French Government, the United States
Government, the South African Government and other friendly governments in
Central Africa. I don't think any particular country, perhaps with the
exception of South Africa, has the kind of leverage you're talking about on
its own. We need to continue to work with the French Government. We are
today. George Moose is talking to French Government officials in
We share the sense of frustration and disappointment of the French
Government that was so clearly evident in the French Government statements
today from Paris. This is a very urgent humanitarian situation for the
refugees involved. It's also a very critical political issue. Zaire is
one of the biggest and one of the most important countries in Africa. We
believe that Zaire's territorial integrity must be respected. We do not
favor in any way shape or form the dismemberment of Zaire, and we are
working to try to keep Zaire together, along with the French and the United
Nations and the South Africans and others.
So we would just join the French Government in saying all of us must do
our part, but we think we're doing the right things right now in pursuing
the cease-fire proposal and continuing the humanitarian aid.
QUESTION: Nick, several times you've said right now that you're not
prepared to sign on to a multinational force.
Do you think such a force might be useful, however, after there were a
cease-fire not to create a military solution but to preserve the peace.
MR. BURNS: We haven't made any decision inside our own government to
sign on to a multinational force, and the reason for that, Jim, is we think
actually what we've been doing for several weeks now - for many weeks now -
as you know, Vice President Gore first talked to President Mandela about
the cease-fire proposal, and that was several weeks ago. We think we're
doing the things now that make sense.
You have to ask yourself what would a multinational force do.
We do have a way to get assistance to the refugees. We do have a
political proposal to stop the fighting. Therefore, we prefer to proceed
as we are. We haven't totally, of course, turned off discussions on a
multinational force - we'll be glad to discuss it - but frankly we don't
see a need for it at this moment.
QUESTION: I know. You've said it again. So what I'm saying is that
subsequent to a cease-fire, would such a force be useful?
MR. BURNS: First, I think we have to achieve a cease-fire that's
effective and that's ongoing, and we're not there yet, and Mr. Kabila has
to give us some help in arriving at that situation.
Then we'll just have to see where we are. But I don't mean to be elusive
on this. We don't have in our back pocket any coherent, detailed plan to
insert a multinational force into Zaire. But we have great respect for the
Secretary General, and, if he wishes to continue to discuss at least the
possibility, we'll have discussions with him. But there is no active
planning in our government right now - no active planning at all - to
contribute to one.
We want to do what's effective, and we think that what we are doing right
now has the promise of being effective, but not the certainty, because
ultimately we're relying here on Mr. Kabila - Laurent Kabila - to respond
to the call of the international community for cooperation.
QUESTION: Nick, how far is the United States prepared to go to prevent
the dismemberment of Zaire?
MR. BURNS: I think that the stability of Zaire and the territorial
integrity of Zaire is a very important initiative for all of us - a very
important fact of life for all of us - all countries that have an interest
in stability in Central Africa.
In a complex situation like this, where there's fighting not just in
Eastern Zaire but in other parts, we really need to work with the parties
on the ground. We think there's a possibility of that. We don't have any
contingency planning, Carol, that would take us to a third or fourth or
fifth stage of this current crisis.
We think that the way to go, as President Mandela has led us, is to try
to work inside the country with the major political actors to keep the
QUESTION: So although Zaire is one of the two or three, I think you
said the other day, top, most important countries in Africa, and you think
its stability is critical to the region and you don't favor dismemberment
of Zaire, there really is no overriding plan or no plan as to how to
prevent its dismemberment if, in fact, the rebels are successful as they
seem to be?
MR. BURNS: I'm being very clear here in telling you that we do not
have any detailed military planning to intervene ourselves. That is not in
the cards. What is in the cards is a continued international effort to try
to use political persuasion to convince Mr. Kabila to accept the cease-
fire; then to go onto negotiations with the government and Mr. Kabila to
resolve the political problems that have produced this crisis and at the
same time deal with the humanitarian crisis.
I don't think anyone is predicting the imminent collapse of Zaire. But
anytime you have a large section of a country effectively controlled by a
rebel force, not in the control of the government, you have to be worried
about the stability of a country.
As you know, we've had some ongoing concerns about the government in
Kinshasa itself. We have had a very good relationship with the Prime
Minister - Prime Minister Kengo. We have encouraged the Zairian Government
to head in the direction of political reform and towards elections as one
way for Zaire to get a hold of its internal problems and to make sure that
various groups are being included in the national political life of the
We'll have to take this one step at a time. It's a country where we have
a great interest but where we don't, of course, have the proximity that
would encourage us to play a military role. We prefer to play a political
and economic role at the present time.
QUESTION: On another subject. Yasser Arafat says that he's issued
invitations for a conference this weekend in Gaza to discuss the latest
events in the Middle East peace process.
He says that the United States was on the list of invitees. Has the United
States received such an invitation, and will the United States attend?
MR. BURNS: We're aware that Chairman Arafat has called for a
conference on Saturday in Gaza. If an invitation is formally issued to the
United States, we'll be there. Ed Abington, who is our Consul General in
Jerusalem, who is the senior American official on the ground who coordinates
with the Palestinians, would represent the United States at a conference
We do understand the frustration of the Palestinian leadership.
They've been buffeted by some fairly significant Israeli Government
decisions over the last couple of weeks. Chairman Arafat obviously feels
the need to talk to friendly countries around the world, and that's
appropriate. If he does issue the invitations, we'll be there.
QUESTION: So, in other words, you think the conference is not a bad
MR. BURNS: We don't know much about the conference, to tell you the
truth. We'll want to talk more to the Palestinian leadership about what
they hope to accomplish, but we do have great respect for Chairman Arafat.
If he wishes to convene a group of countries, we certainly have no argument
with it, and Ed Abington will represent the United States.
QUESTION: You said, essentially, that the U.S. would be leaving it up
the Israelis and Palestinians to sort out the differences between them.
Things have deteriorated further to the point where Arafat is not taking
Netanyahu's phone calls.
Both sides, I think at this point, have called on the U.S. to step in. Is
your answer to that question the same?
MR. BURNS: I think the answer was to a different question.
It was to a very specific question, to resolve one of the sticking points
in their discussions.
In general, Howard, the United States is present talking to the Israelis
and Palestinians and carrying messages back and forth everyday of the week.
President Mubarak was just here. The great majority of the conversations
with him focused on the Palestinian and Israeli talks. Chairman Arafat was
here last week; King Hussein will be here next week.
This issue is at the front and center of American foreign policy.
The President, Secretary Albright, and Dennis Ross are all involved almost
on a daily basis on this. So there's no lack of contact and no lack of
involvement on the part of the United States. We're the crucial intermediary
We're not sure that there has been a ban on political contacts between
the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government.
You've seen the press reports that I have. I spoke with Dennis Ross this
morning and he said he's not aware that there has been a ban on contacts.
He thinks that some contacts are ongoing, which is a good thing.
We understand the level of frustration on the part of the Palestinians.
But the only way something good is going to happen is that they continue
to talk to the Israeli Government, and that's what we encourage them to
QUESTION: Are you suggesting that while Arafat may not be accepting
Netanyahu's phone calls at a lower level, there is contact ongoing?
MR. BURNS: We're just not aware that there has been any agreement
among all the Palestinian leaders to boycott the Israelis. We're aware of
contacts, and we think that's a good thing. We encourage it.
QUESTION: Which have been going on yesterday and today as far as you
MR. BURNS: That's right; that's right.
Still on the Middle East? Dimitri is next. Dimitri.
QUESTION: You have something on Carey Cavanaugh's trip in Europe?
MR. BURNS: I sure do. Carey Cavanaugh, who has been our point person
on Cyprus and other questions involving the eastern Mediterranean, is in
Europe this week. He is in Brussels. Excuse me, he has been in London and
he'll be traveling to Brussels, to Germany, to The Hague, and to Paris for
discussions with European governments on the situation in the eastern
Mediterranean. That includes Cyprus, the Greek-Turkish differences, and
other issues that we're concerned about.
QUESTION: Any discussions about Cyprus in Washington this week?
MR. BURNS: Not that I'm aware of, no. I know you asked, or someone
asked yesterday. I'm not aware of any specific, important discussions here
in Washington. Carey is on the road. He'll be in Europe for the better
part of two weeks and then be returning to Washington. He doesn't have any
plans right now to travel to the eastern Med.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the discussions between President
Clerides and Mr. Denktash under the auspices of Mr. Faisal in Cyrpus?
MR. BURNS: We're aware of those discussions. Of course, we support
any initiative that would bring parties together on Cyprus that would
encourage direct talks, that would encourage progress on these issues.
It's not just up to the United States to promote progress here. So David
Hannay, a man for whom we have great respect, is in Cyprus. He is, of
course, the Special Negotiator of the United Kingdom.
We have a very close association with the United Kingdom on this
particular issue. We encourage his efforts. We encourage the U.N.
Secretary General and his representatives to be involved.
There's more than enough work to go around.
All of us in the international community, I think, perceive that it's
time for Greece and Turkey, for the Cypriot Government and for others on
Cyprus - other parties - Mr. Denktash, to sit down and talk to each other
and to try to resolve some of these problems and make some headway.
QUESTION: A follow up?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: What do you expect about Carey Cavanaugh - this particular -
the mission? How are you going to judge if the mission has been successful
MR. BURNS: On a question like Cyprus, you may not know for a decade or
more if you're successful ultimately. The conflict has been underway now
for over 22 years.
We need to cooperate with the Europeans. We need to coordinate with the
Europeans. It's good to have several people working on the problem, but
you want to make sure they're working off the same sheet of music. His
trip has been undertaken in that spirit. When he gets back, he'll report
to the Secretary of State about what he found and what he heard.
She had a conversation on this issue with Malcolm Rifkind last evening
when he was here. It was a long discussion of the problems on Cyprus.
Both of them are committed to doing something.
Ultimately, it's not up to the United Kingdom and the United States or
the United Nations. It's up to the parties in the region to make progress,
and they can't use, as a crutch, all these international mediators for lack
of progress. Fundamentally, they've got to make a decision in the region
to makes these changes.
QUESTION: Is he carrying any message to Bonn about the Turkish entrance
to the European Union?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if he's carrying any special message. The
German Government is very well aware of the position of the United States.
Secretary Albright talked to Foreign Minister Kinkel and Chancellor Kohl
about it when she was in Bonn several weeks ago.
George, you had a question.
QUESTION: A new subject. The Serb press is carrying a story today of a
visit by a senior Montenegrin official who apparently was told during talks
here that five Montenegrin vessels which had been unable to leave U.S.
ports because of sanctions will now be free to leave?
MR. BURNS: I know I've got something on that. I'm going to search
high and low for it. Yes. I can tell you that the Prime Minister - Prime
Minister Djukonovic of Montenegro met with John Kornblum, our Assistant
Secretary, yesterday. They had a very constructive exchange of views.
We raised our concerns about the need for further democratization in
Serbia and Montenegro. We have agreed to initiate a process leading to the
release of five Montenegrin ships that were impounded as part of the
sanctions regime during the Bosnian war.
This process includes notification of other claimants. We assume it will
take about three months, this process of notification.
At that point, we hope we can be successful, perhaps, in effecting a
return of these ships.
QUESTION: Where are they?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question but I'm sure the
European Bureau does, and we can get that for you.
QUESTION: Why were they impounded?
MR. BURNS: As part of the sanctions regime.
QUESTION: What violation were they -
MR. BURNS: I don't remember the specific incident, Sid, but I'm sure
we can get you that information. I assume if the ships were impounded it
was because they were suspected of violating the sanctions regime during
the Bosnian war.
QUESTION: Another Montenegro question?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Is anybody else going to see the Prime Minister of Montenegro?
Or is Mr. Kornblum the host?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Kornblum is the highest-level official who will see
him. I believe he did see other officials in the building. As you know,
Montenegro is - we view Montenegro to be part of Serbia, so Mr. Djukonovic
is an important regional official in this case. We thought it would be
interesting and productive to have conversations with him.
QUESTION: Russia? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Does this presage an easing of American sanctions against
MR. BURNS: Oh, there's no talk in our government about easing
sanctions on Serbia because we continue to be concerned by the Serb refusal
to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal.
We continue to be concerned by the - we want to watch very carefully the
domestic situation, and we want to make sure that the opposition, as they
take their office in their municipalities, do have access to real power in
Serbia. Third, we have very strong continued concerns about the Serbian
treatment of the Kosovar population and of the Kosovo issue, in general.
So we're not anywhere close to agreeing to a relaxation of the sanctions on
Serbia - the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions.
QUESTION: The "outer wall" of sanctions wouldn't have covered this,
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: This is not something that fell into the "outer wall" of
sanctions, is it?
MR. BURNS: As you know, as a result of the signing of the Dayton
Accords, certain sanctions were lifted by the U.N. Security Council on
Serbia. But the United States has maintained the "outer wall" of sanctions,
in part, because of our concern for all the issues that I mentioned.
QUESTION: Were these ships impounded under the regime or under the U.N.
MR. BURNS: I don't think Sid was - I didn't think Sid was referring to
the ships. I thought the question was, do you favor a relaxation of the
current sanctions, the "outer wall" of sanctions? Is that what your
QUESTION: That was my question, but -
MR. BURNS: So I answered Sid's question. If you have another question,
I'll be glad to answer that question.
QUESTION: These ships were not impounded under the "outer wall" of
sanctions, were they?
MR. BURNS: No. They were impounded as part of the enforcement regime
set up by the United Nations during the Bosnian war.
QUESTION: Under which justification has the U.S. held them, lo, these
many months? And are there other ships that the U.S. is holding?
MR. BURNS: Sid, those are good questions, and I'll be glad to look
into both of them for you. I think Steve had a question on Russia.
QUESTION: I assume that you have no real comment on the wholesale
shakeup of the government in Russia because a new government hasn't really
been named. But I was wondering if the United States, in principle, had
any thoughts on this event?
And a second question: Do you have anything more on Primakov's visit -
we assume - I guess he's still coming here on Saturday to meet with the
Secretary and the President. Do you have anything more about his schedule,
press coverage, etc.?
MR. BURNS: Second question first. We expect Foreign Minister Primakov
to arrive in Washington early Saturday afternoon.
He'll meet with the Secretary and some of her advisors on Saturday.
We haven't yet figured out whether or not there will be a press event.
I'll let you know as soon as we make that decision. He'll see the
Secretary probably Saturday evening. On Monday, I expect he's going to be
at the White House for an appointment there.
Then we expect to see him along with President Yeltsin in Helsinki.
The first question, Steve, is a very interesting one. Of course, we're
not going to comment on who's in and who's out and who's up and who's down
inside the Russian Government.
But I think it's very clear. We saw President Yeltsin last week give a
speech where he very firmly reasserted his control, where he asserted a
very strong and coherent and forcefully- delivered view on the domestic
priorities of the Russian Federation and Russian foreign policy.
President Yeltsin is back. President Yeltsin has firm control of the
Russian Government. The fact that he has retained Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin and first Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais means one
thing. Russia continues to be headed in a reform direction. Economic
reform will be a priority. We hope and trust very much that relations with
the United States and the West will remain a priority. In that light, the
President and Secretary Albright are looking forward very much to their two
days with Boris Yeltsin and his advisors in Helsinki.
There's no question of what we've seen over the last two weeks, is a
resurgent, very forceful, reform-minded President Boris Yeltsin.
If that is what is happening, that's a very good thing for our agenda with
Russia which is predicated upon the closest possible political and foreign
policy cooperation and on the continuation of economic reform in Russia.
QUESTION: Nick, yesterday, we asked some press report about Washington
sent some demarche to some embassy in Europe to assist the Turkish case.
Do you have anything on this subject?
MR. BURNS: I do know that a number our embassies in Europe - a number
of our embassies - our Ambassadors and other senior officials have spoken
to European governments quite recently under instructions from Washington
to reaffirm the very strong views of the United States.
Turkey is a European country. Turkey has its roots in Europe.
Turkey's security is based in Europe, and Turkey's future, we believe,
ought to be grounded in Europe.
We very strongly believe that the Customs Union between the European
Union and Turkey is a good, positive thing for both.
We strongly believe that the European Union should allow for the
possibility of Turkish membership in the future.
Secretary Albright, when she went through her six-country tour of Europe
two weeks ago talked about this at every stop. We don't always see eye-to-
eye with the European governments on this. We don't have a vote in the
European Union nor do we seek one.
But we very respectfully submit to our European friends that they must
strategically think of Turkey as a European country and not send negative
signals to Turkey - some of the kind of signals that we've seen emanating
from European governments over the last couple of weeks.
QUESTION: Nick, do you have any new doubts - concerns - about the future
of the Customs Union? I think yesterday you talked as though you hoped
that the Customs Union would hold together. Are there any new emerging
realities that we don't know of?
MR. BURNS: No. In fact, when Sir Leon Brittan and Hans van Mierlo
were in Washington several weeks ago to talk to the Secretary, they
reported that the Customs Union actually had proceeded quite well.
That's a good thing.
In this regard, I think there's something that we need to say about the
recent actions of the Turkish parliament. There was a new human rights
reform package passed by the Turkish parliament last week. This package
includes a reduction in pre-trial detention periods, early access to an
attorney for accused, the return of some offenses now within the purview of
the state security courts to the jurisdiction of regular penal courts.
We think that this passage, of the human rights package by the Turkish
parliament last week, is an important step forward in improving Turkey's
human rights performance. We think that rapid and effective implementation
of this new law will bring Turkey's human rights picture more into line
with its clear international obligations.
We hope the European governments will take note of the fact that the
Turkish Government promoted this human rights package. Mrs. Ciller worked
on it very hard, and that the Turkish parliament has now passed it. That's
an important consideration.
European governments often raise human rights concerns. Turkey is now
trying to do something about it. We think we should give the Turks high
marks for this effort. Now we need to see the implementation.
QUESTION: On North Korea. The newspapers in Seoul are reporting that the
United States and North Korea have reached agreement on Liaison Offices.
Do you have anything on that? And do you have anything to say about Vice
Foreign Minister Kim's visit in Washington?
MR. BURNS: We have not reached an agreement with the North Korean
Government to establish by a date certain the Liaison Offices. That
remains an objective in our relationship but we've not yet reached that
Mr. Kim - Kim Gye Gwan - continues on his private visit to Washington. I
know that Mark Minton, who is our Office Director for Korean Affairs, will
be meeting with some of Mr. Kim's associates today - in particular, Mr. Li
Gun, who is the Deputy Director of the American Affairs Bureau in the North
Korean Foreign Ministry. They'll be meeting this afternoon here at the
They will be discussing bilateral issues, including some of the technical
issues related to the establishment of the Liaison Offices, but we've not
made an agreement, as far as I know - and I'm pretty sure about this -with
the North Koreans to establish these Liaison Offices on a certain date.
It's an objective. We want to meet that objective, but other things have
to happen first.
QUESTION: So it's not a wholly private visit if some of his associates
are meeting at the State Department.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: It's not a wholly private visit if some of his associates are
meeting at the State Department?
MR. BURNS: Oh, my goodness, you know, we had Secretary Rifkind here of
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on a private
visit. We had Foreign Minister Pangalos here on a private visit. They
both saw the Secretary of State. There's nothing illegal in our
Constitution about meeting foreign officials if they're on a private visit.
Chuck Kartman had many, many hours of discussion with Mr. Kim Gye Gwan last
week, and we see no reason to have further meetings this week. He's
welcome in Washington on a private visit, but I think we'll be meeting with
his associates, not him, on these particular issues.
QUESTION: Would you talk more about the technical issues which blocked
the opening of these offices?
MR. BURNS: I'm not an expert on liaison offices. Perhaps I ought to
become one. But, obviously, when you - we don't have diplomatic relations
with North Korea. We talk to them up at the U.N. We do want to establish
these liaison offices. There are all sorts of issues that have to be
resolved - very practical issues - about money and purchasing office space
and observing city and federal regulations to do that, and it's that kind
of thing that we talk about.
But I will tell you this, George. The ultimate agreement to establish the
liaison offices is obviously going to be part of a broader picture, and
that is how are we doing with the North Koreans on our agenda with them.
Are we moving forward on the Four-Party Talks. Are we moving forward on
other issues. Are we having a good discussion of all these issues.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to say the U.S. is holding off on formally
agreeing to liaison offices, using such technical quibbles as renting
office space, until it sees that the peace talks are moving in a direction
you want them to move? Can we turn this around and say one is being held
hostage to the other?
MR. BURNS: We're not holding anybody hostage here, Barry.
QUESTION: You expect them to go apace, don't you?
MR. BURNS: In general, I can say this: The development of our
relationship with North Korea is going to be a function of the development
of relations between South Korea and North Korea. So if relations between
South Korea and North Korea do not proceed - in fact, if they recede -
there are going to be problems in the U.S.-North Korean relationship. But
if there's progress, on the one hand, there can be progress on the other,
and I think that's very clear to the North Koreans. But no one's holding
You buy an office or you rent an office, you've got to go through the
paperwork . All of us have to do that in our own life.
QUESTION: North and South Korean objectives - bite my lip - are not
always entirely in sync, are they? So you're giving South Korea a veto,
aren't you, on U.S.-North Korean relations?
MR. BURNS: No, we're simply following the right policy here - our policy
- which is we're trying to achieve the peaceful reunification of the
Koreas. We're trying to maintain stability in the most heavily fortified
military area in the world along the DMZ, and we're trying to work with the
North Koreans to bring them along; to maintain the Agreed Framework, which
is being maintained; to convince them to join peace talks to end the Korean
War, to provide for stability in the peninsula; to make sure that we're
responsive to the food problems in North Korea. That's our agenda with
Our agenda with South Korea is very different. We have a defense
commitment to South Korea, and we almost always see eye-to-eye on the
really big issues. We sometimes have minor disagreements, but we do with
any country. So there's a very big difference in the two relationships,
QUESTION: I know, but they have to be satisfied on the way the peace
talks are going for the U.S. to move ahead and open and establish more
formal diplomatic contact with North Korea.
MR. BURNS: I don't want to speak specifically to make these linkages that
you want me to make, but I can say in general again that the future of our
relationship with North Korea - the U.S. relationship - will be dependent
upon the future of South Korea's relationship with North Korea, but that
makes sense. You wouldn't leave an ally out in the cold. We've always
worked with South Korea. We met with the South Koreans, together with the
North Koreans, last week. We always brief the South Koreans after any
discussions with the North Koreans. We brief the Japanese as well. We're
partners with the South Koreans and Japanese in this effort to bring
stability to the Korean peninsula.
QUESTION: The clearest indication, though, would be if they said to the
Four-Party Talks, right?
MR. BURNS: I'm not drawing any specific linkage here, and I'm not
describing any hostage relationships. I'm just saying there's a
fundamental principle here, and I've recited it three times, and we're
going to continue to follow that principle.
QUESTION: The clearest indication of contacts between North and South
Korea would be if they took part in the Four-Party Talks, is that fair to
MR. BURNS: That would be enormously positive. After the briefing last
week, we think we made a very good proposal to the North Koreans. We hope
that Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan will take this proposal back to his
superiors in Pyongyang, and we hope very much that they'll accept this
proposal. If they do, I think they'll find that there is positive
development in the relationship with the United States.
QUESTION: Did they ask for - you said money is one of the issues -
technical issues. Were they a victim of sticker shock when they started
looking around for properties here and asked for help?
MR. BURNS: I think a lot of people are victims of sticker shock when they
come back to Washington from living overseas - not just North Koreans but
Americans. It's a very expensive city in which to live, but, hey, that's
the reality. You want to have a liaison office, you want to have an
Embassy, another country, a consulate, you live in the United States,
fairly high prices in Washington, D.C. Great city services, too.
QUESTION: High rent.
MR. BURNS: High rent. No roads. Potholes. I drove over a pothole today
that my car could have been buried in that pothole. But that's not - in
Boston, Massachusetts, we don't have those problems where I come from
QUESTION: They don't have a pitcher either.
MR. BURNS: I'm just filibustering.
QUESTION: Senior U.S. officials have described the main impediment to
opening liaison offices as the North Koreans' unwillingness to allow us to
resupply or to supply our mission in certain ways. The military is
apparently insisting on certain routes for resupply. Is that something
that's now been resolved with the North Koreans?
MR. BURNS: There are a variety of issues. Obviously, the diplomatic -
the time-honored diplomatic principle of reciprocity is very important in
the establishment of relations - any kind of relations between countries,
and reciprocity usually governs when you talk about these logistical
arrangements. We got into that issue yesterday afternoon. I hope you all
paid attention to Ambassador Bill Richardson's press conference with Mayor
From now on, foreign diplomats who work in New York City must pay their
parking fines. We have some countries -
QUESTION: Or else what?
MR. BURNS: We have some countries - or else their registration for their
cars is taken away, and they'll be driving in violation of New York City
QUESTION: They'll be driven in bigger limos.
MR. BURNS: It's a very serious offense, Barry.
QUESTION: Can't they get drivers?
MR. BURNS: I think I told you when we got into this issue a couple of
months back in late December, there are some countries that have 10- 11,000
parking tickets. We expect foreign diplomats who are resident in our
country to obey our laws. That's what we do in Washington, D.C. We expect
the foreign diplomats here to observe laws, and, when American diplomats go
overseas, if they have parking violations, they have to pay them. That's
what we tell our own diplomats. I've never received a traffic offense, so
I can't tell you how it feels. (Laughter) I think we've reviewed this
QUESTION: Is there a plan for Chuck Kartman or any other officials to go
to Korea in April - to North Korea in April to discuss opening the liaison
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any such plans. I can look into that. We
haven't announced anything. I'm just not aware of it at all.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR. BURNS: Ron has one more.
QUESTION: I understand the U.S. and Burma are starting an opium survey
together. Is this going to help Burma's drug certification record?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I can tell you that in November 1996, the Burmese
Government agreed to undertake a joint opium yield survey with the United
States Government. This would be the third survey conducted, and this
would provide us with a useful way to measure the production of opium in
Burma, Burma being one of the largest producers of opium in the world;
Burma being a major violator of international narcotics agreements.
So this yield will help us to understand the dimensions of the problem in
Burma. It will be led by American narcotics experts. It does not involve
any assistance whatsoever to the Burmese Government, and it does nothing to
take away our very great concern about the gross and negligent treatment of
narcotics by the military dictators who rule Burma. They are producing
narcotics which are poisoning people in Asia and in Europe and all the rest
of the parts of the world, including North America, and we're very
concerned about it.
QUESTION: So it doesn't matter whether they do it or not, it doesn't
affect their lack of certification.
MR. BURNS: It's not going to help them. The only thing that's going to
help Burma get off the decertification list is if they stop growing opium
and having the government subsidize it and look the other way when the drug
lords try to export the opium and other drugs from Burma.
(The briefing concluded at 1:55 p.m.)