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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #35, 99-03-22

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


850

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Monday, March 22, 1999

Briefer: James B. Foley

NORTH KOREA
1,2		US to provide an additional 100,000 tons of food aid, per
		  WFP appeal.
2,3		There is no link to talks on suspect underground
		  construction site.
1,2		Humanitarian needs are dealt with on their own merits.
1,2,12		Report of willingness to lift sanctions wildly premature.

FRY (KOSOVO) 3 US estimates FRY has 40,000 army and police units in Kosovo. 3 Over 10,000 Kosovar Albanians were displaced this past weekend. 4,5,6 Amb. Holbrooke in Belgrade to present Milosevic with stark choice. 4,5,6,7,9 To date, no sign of Serb willingness to agree to Contact Group peace plan. 8 Albania has requested a meeting with NATO's NAC; it's being considered. 9 NATO said on Jan. 30 it would act if FRY forces widely repressed Kosovars.

UN 10,14 No decision yet on China resolution at Human Rights Commission meeting.

CHINA 10,13 Investigation on-going with regard to possible espionage activities in US.

LIBYA 11 US continues to look for hand-over of Lockerbie bombing suspects.

RUSSIA 5,6,12 PM Primakov's visit will cover wide range of bilateral issues.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 12,13 Violence not the answer to problems of Palestinian people, region in general. 13 Chairman Arafat to meet Secretary Albright tonight, President Clinton tomorrow.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #35

MONDAY, MARCH 22, 1999, 1:45 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: I need a textbook definition: Do we have a quorum in the absence of the Associated Press? Point of order.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: Oh, we do? George, you've changed places; still on the left side of the hemisphere.

I have a few announcements I'm going to post: one, on behalf of the chairman of the Monitoring Group in Lebanon; second, on the legislative elections in Togo. Thirdly, I'd like to announce that in response to the UN World Food Program's December 1998 appeal for humanitarian aid for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the US Government has decided to provide additional humanitarian assistance in the amount of 100,000 metric tons of food aid, to help fill the remaining 209,000 ton shortfall in donations.

Chronic food production shortfalls have resulted in widespread starvation and malnutrition in the DPRK. Based on its recent nutritional survey and crop assessments, the UN has concluded that the food situation remains dire. This US Government assistance, sourced from PL 480, Title II, Emergency Food Aid and 416 B, Surplus Agricultural Commodities, will be provided to the World Food Program for distribution to the DPRK. Commodities for this contribution will include corn-soy blend and corn.

As in the past, US assistance will be targeted at North Korean civilians, who are most vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition caused by the food crisis, including children in nurseries, schools and orphanages, pregnant nursing women, handicapped people and hospital patients. To monitor the contributions, in order to assure they're used for their intended purpose, the World Food Program continues to maintain a staff of 46 food monitors in six offices throughout North Korea.

The US will continue working with the World Food Program and US private voluntary organizations to further enhance the effectiveness of food aid distribution in the DPRK.

Finally, on the same general subject, I'd like to inform you that at 3:00 p.m., just a little more than an hour from now, US officials will provide a background briefing on the pilot agricultural project that we announced on March 16 in our joint statement with the DPRK.

QUESTION: How come the United States isn't providing the full amount? Why did you arrive at 100,000?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we will, as with previous appeals, actively encourage contributions from other donors with the objective of fulfilling this appeal in a timely manner. We have this outstanding request for 206,000 tons. We are going to meet almost half of that; and, indeed, I would expect that the World Food Program may be launching another appeal for food assistance sometime in the spring. We would expect to respond to that, as on similar occasions.

QUESTION: But I mean, you didn't really answer the question. What's the reason we're not --

MR. FOLEY: No, I did answer it. I indicated we're going to be encouraging other governments also to contribute to the World Food Program. The United States, as I said, is a substantial contributor to World Food Program appeals. I think we're the largest contributor; and we are proud of that because there is, obviously, a very dire humanitarian situation. We don't link our food aide to other considerations -- to political demands or things of that nature -- but we do respond to the need. On the other hand, we should not be the only government in the world providing such aid. We provide a substantial amount. You can expect that we will continue to respond positively to World Food Program appeals, but we should not be the only donor. Sid?

QUESTION: You sort of just answered it, when you said you don't link your food aid to political --

MR. FOLEY: Right.

QUESTION: But I was just going to say, coming right on the heels of the agreement from Kumchang-ni, so it seems to be a link.

MR. FOLEY: There is no link. We've made that clear, I don't know how many times, that we respond to the World Food Program. Their appeal did not come last week or the week before. The appeal was in December.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. FOLEY: And we're responding now to that appeal, and we expect to respond to future appeals. But we have consistently made clear that there is no linkage; that this is food aid that we provide in response to a specific humanitarian need, and in response to specific appeals from the World Food Program. It is not linked to other issues. In other words, it would be provided for humanitarian reasons, regardless of other considerations. I think that's pretty clear.

QUESTION: Did the food aid issue come up in last week's talks?

MR. FOLEY: I believe that, in the context of all similar talks, the North Koreans raised their food requirements or needs in this area. We responded to them that we do not accept linkage between this humanitarian issue and other issues, and that we would deal with the World Food Program on the basis of their appeals.

QUESTION: Since former Defense Secretary Perry has said publicly that that is one recommendation he's considering making to President Clinton -

MR. FOLEY: Which?

QUESTION: Linking aid to policy goals.

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that he said that. I've not seen that.

QUESTION: He said it; he said it in the presence of myself and about 12 other reporters.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I can only state to you that the policy of the US Government is.

QUESTION: Fine. It's not - for the purpose of stating that, it's a preamble to my question. Why is it that the United States does not link food aid to political demands? What's the rationale?

MR. FOLEY: The rationale goes beyond and transcends the Korean issue. We don't make this a political consideration anywhere in the world, because we believe that humanitarian needs have to be addressed on their own merits. People around the world are victims, through no fault of their own, of acts of nature, of misdeeds of their governments, forces beyond their control; and they ought not to be punished for those factors. So it's a global and consistent policy, not to link the provision of humanitarian assistance to political considerations.

QUESTION: Kosovo. If we go over to - what does the Department see as the current situation? Is everybody going to leave? The current situation with regard to Serbian troops in the province of Kosovo, and what are the activities of those troops; how many troops are over the limit?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, could you repeat that last part of the question?

QUESTION: How many troops now does Yugoslavia have over the limit in Kosovo?

MR. FOLEY: What I can tell you, Bill, is that we estimate that approximately 40,000 army and police forces are now deployed in and around Kosovo. That's the figure that we understand, and reinforcements continue to move in. FRY army and Serbian special police forces continue military activities and actions in the central Kosovo region of Drenica, burning villages and driving villagers from their homes.

In terms of the humanitarian situation, the Yugoslav military operation in Central Kosovo has over the past weekend displaced over 10,000 people. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 100,000 have fled their homes since the first of this year; and between 70,000 and 75, 000 of those have fled their homes in the six weeks since the beginning of negotiations at Rambouillet. Many of them remain in the open in the Cicavica Mountains, which still have several inches of fresh snow.

Non-governmental organizations have evacuated 95 percent of their expatriate staff; nevertheless, the UNHCR and the NGOs continue to seek out the displaced, and provide them with relief supplies in areas not cut off by the fighting. Obviously, with the number of displaced persons mounting, the harassment of humanitarian organizations increasing, and their human resources diminishing, relief is reaching a declining proportion of those in need.

QUESTION: Has a full-scale offensive begun?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it's very clear that there are widespread military actions on the part of the Serb police and VJ army units taking place. This is both disturbing and unacceptable to the United States and the international community. That's why Ambassador Holbrooke is currently in Belgrade, to test whether President Milosevic is willing to reverse course now at the 11th hour and allow for a peaceful solution of this conflict; because the consequences of his failure to reverse course are severe, and he will bear responsibility for those consequences.

QUESTION: Jim, the head of the Balkan Action Council, Jim Hoopers,* said his understanding, from talking to people in this building, was that Holbrooke essentially has no instructions to give him maximum flexibility. Are you able to address what his instructions may or not be?

MR. FOLEY: No, no, of course not. But what I can tell you is what Secretary Albright announced yesterday, that he's going - and as she repeated today - he's in Belgrade to present President Milosevic with a stark choice. Either he accepts the Contact Group peace plan, which includes a NATO-led implementation force, number one; and number two, halts the military actions and comes into compliance with his commitments from last October, or else - the "or else" being he will face the full consequences of NATO military action. Beyond that, I'm not going to comment on his meeting in Belgrade, which as I understand, has just begun.

QUESTION: Could I follow up? Is Jim O'Brien with him?

MR. FOLEY: I believe he is, yes.

QUESTION: And is he - he's an expert at the technical side of negotiations. Is there a likelihood of technical revisions to the interim agreement?

MR. FOLEY: Look, I'm not going to comment on Ambassador Holbrooke's meeting in Belgrade. The fact is, until now we've not seen any movement on the Serb side, lo these many weeks of negotiations. So your question is very hypothetical. What we're looking for is a "yes" - a "yes" to the proposal of the Contact Group, which went through refinements and was agreed recently by the Kosovar Albanians. It's a document that provides a better future not only for the Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo, not only for the Serbs in Kosovo, but for the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a whole. They have an opportunity to step back from the precipice, to see peace in their country, and to see the prospect of stability for the first time in many years.

Our point is that a NATO peace implementation force will provide peace and security for all the peoples of Kosovo, and will grant the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia a different and a better future. President Milosevic ought to see it, in the interest of his people if he cares about his people, to make that choice. If he continues to proceed in the direction he's obviously going in, with the military campaign on the ground and the refusal to accept the terms of the Contact Group peace proposal and political settlement, then he will bear the responsibility for the severe consequences that will ensue in the event of NATO military action.

QUESTION: One more. Where's Jamie Rubin?

MR. FOLEY: Where's Mr. Rubin?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. FOLEY: I believe he's en route to Washington.

QUESTION: Jim, just to clarify -- the Secretary was asked this this morning - is Ambassador Holbrooke's meeting with Milosevic the absolute last diplomatic effort, the last effort before there would be NATO action?

MR. FOLEY: Well, of course, I'm not in any kind of a position to talk about the timing of military action. That is so for obvious reasons. I believe that all officials, not only in the United States but in Europe, I think this morning at NATO as well, have indicated that this is a last effort. I think Secretary General Solana used that term, and we don't hesitate to use that term, either.

President Clinton was clear on Friday. He stated that the Serbs have already crossed the threshold, in terms of their military actions on the ground, also in their -- thus far -- clear-cut rejection of the Contact Group peace plan. So the predicate for NATO action is there, but Ambassador Holbrooke is in Belgrade to see whether President Milosevic, in view of that prospect, is willing to reverse course. We felt it was the responsible thing to do, to go the extra mile without any optimism, but with, obviously, a sense of responsibility. The President and Secretary Albright asked Ambassador Holbrooke to undertake this mission.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- Secretary Albright said that timing would depend upon Holbrooke's visit as well as the situation on the ground, which you're now saying is even deteriorating since it was from Friday. How much does Primakov's visit come into play in the timing of this attack? In other words, if NATO wanted to go ahead tonight or tomorrow, would they go ahead despite Primakov's scheduled visit tomorrow?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think you should know very well I'm not going to answer any question about the timing of military action; except to say that NATO will act at a time and place of its choosing, based on the requirements and the situation on the ground. There are no extraneous factors involved in that decision-making.

Obviously, with Ambassador Holbrooke in Belgrade, we want to see whether this last hope is realized, whether President Milosevic, contrary to all indications thus far, actually reverses course 180 degrees and opts for peace. But if he does not, the consequences are clear. I'm not going to specify anything having to do with timing.

QUESTION: But more along the lines of does Primakov have anything to - in other words, is he not a factor in --

MR. FOLEY: I think I just answered that question.

QUESTION: Some of the reports this morning spoke of Holbrooke seeking a cease-fire in Kosovo. I wondered how the United States and NATO would react if Mr. Milosevic offered a cease-fire and just a cease-fire.

MR. FOLEY: Look, I've not seen that report, number one. Number two, I'm not going to talk about Holbrooke's meeting; it's just started. But I refer you to what Secretary Albright stated yesterday: we're looking for two things, not one thing. We're looking for an end of military activity and a return to compliance with his October commitments, and we're looking for a "yes" to peace - in other words, a "yes" to the Contact Group peace plan.

QUESTION: The State Department has said in the past that they're looking forward to working with another leader, as opposed to Saddam Hussein. Is there something going on here in Yugoslavia? I mean, are you working opposition groups to see if there's someone else, besides Milosevic, that you can work with?

MR. FOLEY: Well, certainly our hope is that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia joins the march of history. They've been on the outskirts of history these past ten years. It's almost as if the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the transformation of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union from communist dictatorships to democratic systems, has left the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia untouched.

Certainly, long-term, if not shorter, the sooner the better, we believe the transformation of the FRY into a functioning and flourishing democracy will serve the interests not only of the people of the FRY but of peace and stability in that region.

Now, it is a fact that President Milosevic is president of the FRY. He commands the army and the ministry of interior police forces. He has authority, therefore, to implement command decisions and agreements with those institutions. So we are meeting with him now to persuade him to do the right thing, and issue the right commands to those institutions. But we make no bones of the fact that we believe and support the forces of democracy in the FRY. We have tried to help the independent media, labor unions and other democratic forces. Certainly, we believe that long-term, that is the solution to the problems and challenges facing the people of the Balkans.

QUESTION: Jim, I think I know what you mean, but let me just pin it down. You say you're looking for a "yes" from Milosevic, and it has to be a "yes" in totality. He can't say, yes, we agreement except we don't like paragraph 6 or paragraph 7.

MR. FOLEY: Well, I've been pretty clear thus far, Jim, in not being drawn out about his meeting in Belgrade, which has just started. I've also been clear in pointing you to Secretary Albright's statement yesterday, in which she indicated that the purpose of Ambassador Holbrooke's visit is to obtain President Milosevic's reversal on two questions: one, the peace agreement, which he must accept; and two, the military activities, which he must bring to an immediate halt. Beyond that, I have no comment.

QUESTION: The Holbrooke visit aside, I think what you're saying is that the time for diplomacy and negotiation is finished, and now it's crunch time, as you put it the other way. It either has to be a yes in toto or the bombs start.

MR. FOLEY: Well, we can stand here for many, many minutes and hours if you'd like. I'm not going to be drawn out on the question. It is crunch time; I agree with you. He's gone there at Secretary Albright and the President's direction, to try to obtain a yes to the peace plan, as well as an end to the military activities.

QUESTION: Do you know what the Secretary meant when she said, in reference to Americans, when she said she owed it to the Americans who would be involved to go this last mile -- or whatever it is - this last effort to persuade Milosevic to make the right decision? The peacekeeping force is not the issue. Now, does she mean Americans in any bombardment; is that what she means?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, yes. I think that's clear. NATO is poised to conduct air operations over the FRY in the event that we don't see a dramatic change in the prevailing circumstances, and that's what she was referring to.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- part of that?

MR. FOLEY: Of course.

QUESTION: Okay, can I ask you this? The President took no questions. He made reference to civilians -

MR. FOLEY: I haven't seen his statement.

QUESTION: Well, this is what he said. He said that the refugees, one out of eight Kosovar residents have been displaced. They're going to other places, other countries. He spoke of - without using the word spill-over - spill-over of fighting. I don't understand if the US is preparing now to take on the role of protecting civilians outside of Serbia if they're pursued by Serbian forces. I mean, what is it that the Administration fears the Serbs might do beyond the border; and what is it that you're prepared to do about it?

MR. FOLEY: Well, of course, you've been here many more years than anyone else, and you know how we feel about hypothetical questions, but let me try to help, nevertheless.

QUESTION: The President mentioned it. It's not my -

MR. FOLEY: We have indicated - let me answer it this way, Albanian today - the government of Albania - requested a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO to discuss Kosovo under Article VIII of the Partnership for Peace agreement with Albania. NATO is currently considering the request. We understand that Albania is concerned about the spill-over problem that you're talking about - the spill-over of violence into their territory, and coping with a possible influx of refugees. We have expressed our support for the government of Albania during this critical time. We have urged their restraint in the face of possible Serb provocations, and we've also expressed our willingness to help them cope with the possible influx of refugees.

We have reiterated our belief that any move by President Milosevic to expand the borders of the conflict in Kosovo would have grave consequences. That applies to other neighbors of the FRY as well.

QUESTION: What does Article VIII do?

MR. FOLEY: It enables a member of the Partnership for Peace to seek consultations with the North Atlantic Council.

QUESTION: Another Kosovo question, having to do with NATO air power. With the increase in the Serb ground activity, with the displacements that are going on of the Kosovar Albanians, Jim, do you believe, or is there any indication - can you even respond to the subject - air power would first and wisest be applied to the Serb activities in Kosovo? Is this correct, or can you comment on this matter at all?

MR. FOLEY: Well, it's very difficult -- I appreciate your acknowledging that - for us to talk in any explicit terms about the nature of any military action. What we have stated is that we hope - obviously, in the first instance, that the very real prospect of NATO military action will have a sobering impact on President Milosevic, and that he will reverse course. That's why Richard Holbrooke is in Belgrade right now. But the purpose of military action, should it come to that, is to deter the Serbs from launching a massive military offensive. It's to achieve, through military means, or through military action what was not achieved through diplomacy; namely, to severely impede and damage and undermine Milosevic's capability to further repress the Kosovar Albanian population.

QUESTION: Can you consider what is now in place as far security for the ethnic Albanians -- does the United States consider that a security guarantee to the Kosovars?

MR. FOLEY: I don't quite understand the question.

QUESTION: Is there a US or NATO security guarantee to the Kosovar Albanians at the moment, if they are attacked?

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, the technical answer to your question can be found in the NATO decisions of January 30, which indicated, under one circumstance, that if Milosevic was widely repressing the people of Kosovo that NATO would act. That's apart from the negotiations aspect, and you're very familiar with each of these considerations. So in that respect, the answer is already on the record; and the President indicated on Friday that indeed the Serbs have already crossed that threshold. So that's the precise answer.

But let me answer a little bit more philosophically. The very reason the international community has been so engaged on Kosovo over the last year, is precisely to try to bring this suffering to an end, which has continued to intensify. The international community believes, for a number of reasons -- first of all because of our humanitarian concerns -- that we have to bring this conflict to an end; but there are larger political and security considerations at play, too. We don't believe, as we've stated, as Secretary Albright has stated, that there are natural borders to conflict in the Balkans. We believe - and this relates to Barry's earlier question - that this is a conflict that could very well spread, if it's not contained, and if it's not brought to an end. So there are all kinds of considerations that go behind our willingness to, first of all, engage in this intensive diplomatic activity which produced the Contact Group peace plan, and produced one party's agreement to the plan, and to marry that diplomatic effort to the credible threat of military force.

QUESTION: I was asking about the other side of it, and you kind of answered with grave consequences with reference to the NATO actions. We understand; for months we've been hearing about a spill-over concern. What we're trying to find out - and I think you just about answered it is, will the US and/or NATO, which, in a sense, is the same thing, take it upon themselves or itself to extend their protective cover, protective umbrella over the Albanian civilians, particularly, to other countries? Will the US feel that it has the right or the authority to defend them or to keep Milosevic at bay by bombing or doing something else if they attack them in Albania or Macedonia or Greece or Turkey or in Australia? I just don't know where the US --

MR. FOLEY: I'd just refer you to my statement. I'm not going to be able to be specific.

QUESTION: I mean, it's a reach but it's --

MR. FOLEY: We made very clear to Milosevic --

QUESTION: It's an extraordinary issue.

MR. FOLEY: First of all, we've made clear our concern that the conflict of and by itself may spread.

QUESTION: That we know, but what are you going to do about it if it does?

MR. FOLEY: We've also warned Mr. Milosevic not to deliberately spread it, either. I think I was clear on that.

QUESTION: New subject. China -- Geneva: Has there been a decision yet made on any kind of a sponsorship of a human rights condemnation of China in light of the fact that it began today, didn't it?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, as far as I know, we've not made a final decision in that regard. Obviously, we're going to be pursuing our human rights concerns, including on China, at Geneva. But I have nothing to announce today.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - decision?

MR. FOLEY: I would expect that's sort of a sarcastic question on your part, but I don't have an exact time for you. I would expect that we'll have a --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. FOLEY: Sid, this is something that we're --

QUESTION: That was Sid's question; that was Sid, not me.

MR. FOLEY: I know who it was.

QUESTION: Are you expecting to make -

MR. FOLEY: I'm not giving you an exact time.

QUESTION: But you said you expect to make the decision prior to Premier Zhu's visit.

MR. FOLEY: I am not aware of the precise answer, but I believe it's being worked on very assiduously, even as we speak.

QUESTION: Jim, on Friday Fox News reported that according to US intelligence and military sources, that the Chinese may have stolen nuclear technology from US labs during the Clinton Administration and that the Administration was aware of this. A couple of questions for you, if you can answer. Do you know if the Secretary was aware of these allegations and if she brought them up in any way or talked with the President about them? Do you know if the Secretary has talked about these allegations to the Chinese? And how concerned are you?

MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, let's just put this under the general topic of allegations of Chinese espionage generally. That is something that, indeed, we have raised with the Chinese and we have made very clear our utter opposition to such activities, and our expectation that the Chinese will obey our laws in the United States and that we will react very strongly. But the more fundamental answer to your specific question is that there's an investigation underway, and it's under CIA direction. I believe there's also a separate body which is looking at the whole matter. I'm certainly not aware of the results of an ongoing investigation. I think we're going to have to await that investigation before we can respond to such specific inquiries.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up, though? Was the State Department aware of - before these reports came out - of an ongoing investigation involving allegations during the Clinton Administration?

MR. FOLEY: Well, you're talking about Department of Energy labs.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. FOLEY: They have certainly very much tightened up their procedures over the last year since some of this activity came to our attention. But I'd have to refer you to them in terms of any specific indications of that nature. But there is an investigation or a damage assessment, if you will, being undertaken by the CIA, and I would refer you to them. I doubt whether they're speaking publicly about an investigation that's not complete.

QUESTION: Let me just ask, finally, can you say when the US took this matter up with the Chinese and expressed concern and asked the Chinese to cooperate with US investigative -

MR. FOLEY: Well, I believe that the Chinese Ambassador was received at a fairly senior level in the Department last week. I believe we'd also had diplomatic contact with them on this subject previous to that. I don't have the date.

QUESTION: You've probably had time to have a close look at the Lockerbie proposals which the bureau produced, and also received briefings from the Saudis and the South Africans. What conclusions have you now come to? How confident do you feel that the Libyans will make good on this promise?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think you won't be surprised with my fundamental answer, which is that we want to see the suspects transferred to The Netherlands for a Scottish trial. That's really the only thing we're looking for. So if you ask me, does this latest indication on Libya's part that they intend to transfer the suspects -- is this a good thing, I can really only answer that when we see whether they've actually transferred the suspects. It would be imprudent, given past practice, to be optimistic in advance of that happening.

I will say that this is perhaps the first time that the Libyans have indicated a specific date; because according to the letter they sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations, they're committing to hand over the suspects on or before April 6. So that's precisely what we're looking for: the hand over of the suspects on or before April 6. We certainly salute Secretary General Annan and also President Mandela and the Saudi authorities for their efforts to persuade Mr. Qadhafi to make good on his obligations in this regard.

QUESTION: There was a report in one of the Japanese wire services yesterday, I think, which said that the US Government is considering lifting sanctions in North Korea, in exchange for cooperation in the missile talks. I was wondering, first of all, whether that report is accurate; and second, if it is, what level or type of cooperation would we be looking for in that kind of arrangement?

MR. FOLEY: First of all, I've not seen that report. Secondly, that's wildly premature. What we need to see is our concerns, on a broad range of issues, addressed by the North Korean authorities. We hope that it will be possible to achieve satisfaction of our concerns. We have missile talks later this month. I believe we have Four-Party Talks next month in Geneva. We have a range of concerns with them. But we have stated, since the time of the Agreed Framework, that as those concerns are addressed we look to undertake reciprocal measures, and to work towards better relations, and ultimately addressing the sanctions issue as well. This is a report I've not seen, but it's certainly very ahead of it's time.

QUESTION: On Primakov, could you just set up his trip - the importance of his trip - to the United States to, I would presume, improve relations? Also, he's looking for assistance from the World Bank, and on Thursday, he signs an agreement with Gore. Could you just set up his trip?

MR. FOLEY: Briefly. Secretary Albright spoke to that from this podium a few hours ago. Prime Minister Primakov is traveling to the US March 23 to 26 for meetings of the Gore-Primakov Commission, and for a private visit to New York City. He'll, of course, be meeting with the IMF and other organizations.

During the Commission meetings, the US and Russia will cover a full range of Commission issues from business development to environment to space cooperation. This will be the 11th session of the US-Russia Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation; the first one between Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Primakov. Beyond that, he will be meeting with IMF Managing Director Camdessus while the Prime Minister is here in Washington. The IMF and the government of Russia are focusing on what still needs to be done to make Russia's 1999 budget realistic. Russia needs to address this and other fundamental economic policy challenges it faces, which includes stabilizing the exchange rate, fighting inflation and restructuring the banking system, as well as legislative, regulatory and judicial reforms, which will improve the climate for investment.

QUESTION: Jim, Chairman Arafat is due here soon for talks with the Secretary and the President. Do you have any comment on a speech he made last Friday in Ramallas, when he spoke to his Fatah group and he talked about waging battle against any person or persons who tried to prevent the Palestinians from declaring a state on May 4?

MR. FOLEY: I've not seen that comment, and I'd hesitate to analyze or respond to a statement I haven't seen. Certainly, any indications that anybody - and I'm not saying he did, because I haven't seen the speech - that anybody's suggesting that violence is an answer to the problems the Palestinian people face, or the problems that all the peoples of the Middle East face, is very misguided. Again, I'm not comment on his remarks; I haven't seen them. But we all know that the only progress that's ever been achieved has been achieved at the negotiating table. The United States is very committed to the Middle East peace process. We think that's the avenue for addressing the legitimate security needs and political rights of the Israeli people, as well as the political aspirations of the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: On the same thing, is Arafat still meeting the Secretary tonight?

MR. FOLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: And that's here?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have the exact location. It's tonight. And he's meeting with the President tomorrow.

QUESTION: Will there be any event on that of any kind?

MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't anticipate it.

QUESTION: On the record? Off camera? What kind of coverage?

MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't anticipate it.

QUESTION: Nothing up there?

MR. FOLEY: No.

QUESTION: You're not sure if it's here, even?

MR. FOLEY: I don't have the exact location.

QUESTION: Could you get that for us, please?

MR. FOLEY: I can check on it.

QUESTION: In case we want to hang outside the door.

MR. FOLEY: I'll check on it. Bill, is this a motion to adjourn?

QUESTION: This may be, but don't adjourn yet. Let me ask - Jim, can you make any comment about the Chinese Government comment about the Los Alamos scientist that allegedly was involved in espionage? The Chinese say this man is perfectly innocent and that they never would involve themselves in - the Chinese would never involve themselves in taking secrets from the United States. It sounds like a bit too good to be true.

MR. FOLEY: First of all, I can't comment on that particular individual. I believe he was terminated by Secretary of Energy Richardson. He has spoken to that, and I have nothing to add from my perspective here at the State Department.

But in response to a more general question, I mangled my answer, as Matt helpfully pointed out, twice on Thursday, I think. Let me try it again. It's not unusual for governments to deny involvement in activities of that nature. We wouldn't expect differently, but we still don't tolerate it.

QUESTION: Yes, they did rather embrace this fellow as their brother - this particular guy from Los Alamos, whose name I can't remember. But it sounds like they went a little bit overboard on that. Okay.

QUESTION: The UN Human Rights Commission, I believe opens today in Geneva. Do you have anything at all on what you're going to do about China or Cuba?

MR. FOLEY: I just got that question. We haven't made that decision yet.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

(The briefing concluded at 2:25 P.M.)


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