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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #35, 97-03-11

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


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

ZAIRE 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

CYPRUS 8-9 Special Coordinator Cavanaugh's Trip to Europe 8 Diplomatic Discussions in Europe on Cyprus

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 9-11 Release of Five Impounded Montenegrin Ships 10-11 Sanctions on Serbia

RUSSIA 11-12 FM Primakov Visit to US 11-12 President Yeltsin's Imminent Announcement of New Cabinet

TURKEY 12-13 US Discussions with European Governments on Turkish Membership to EU 13 Human Rights Reform Package Passed by Turkish Parliament

NORTH KOREA 13-17 Status of Liaison Offices 13-14 Visit of Vice Minister Kim 15-16 US Policy on the Four Party Talks

DEPARTMENT 17 State Dept.-New York City Agreement on Diplomatic Parking Tickets

BURMA 17-18 U.S.-Burma Joint Opium Yield Survey


DPB #35

TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 1997, 1:12 P. M.


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 country.

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 1974.

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 building?

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 humanitarian assistance.

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 Zaire.

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 present time?

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 South Africa.


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 Brussels.

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 country together.

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 country.

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 like this.

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 idea?

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.

Yes, Howard.

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 country.

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 do.

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 know?

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?


QUESTION: What do you expect about Carey Cavanaugh - this particular - the mission? How are you going to judge if the mission has been successful or not?

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?


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 Serbia?

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, would it?

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. sanctions?

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 was?

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 point.

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 State Department.

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 anyone hostage.

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 them.

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, right?

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 say?

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. (Laughter)

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 anyway.

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 Giuliani.

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 laws.

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 record before.

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 office?

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.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:55 p.m.)


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