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U.S. Department of State 96/04/10 Daily Press Briefing
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U.S. State Department Directory
U.S. Department of State
96/04/10 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Wednesday, April 10, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 1996, 12:09 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I had hoped to get out a little earlier because, out of respect to the family of Ron Brown, we don't want to, of course, brief at 1:00 today. So this briefing will have to be a little bit abbreviated. I do want to finish before 1:00.
I did want to get out, though, and tell you two things.
The first is that Secretary of State Christopher, in addition to a meeting with Foreign Minister Qian Quichen on April 19th in The Hague, in addition to attending the meetings in Moscow on the 20th and 21st of April, he will then, after the conclusion of the events in Moscow on the 21st of April, travel to Luxembourg on the evening of the 21st so that on the morning of the 22d, in Luxembourg City, he will attend the Follow-Up Ministerial Meeting to the Summit of the Peacemakers -- the Sharm al-Sheikh summit.
This is a long-anticipated meeting. It stems from and flows out of the meeting that we had here in the Department two weeks ago at the Ambassadorial level. The purpose is to look at the specific recommendations that have been developed by the Ambassadorial-level experts and to decide what next steps we should take to help Israel and the Palestinian Authority and others to fight terrorism. So that's April 22nd in Luxembourg City.
I assume that those of you who will be meeting the Secretary in The Hague on the 19th will want to come all the way through with us. We'll then come back to Washington on the evening of April 22nd. That's Monday evening.
I'll be glad to answer questions.
Q: Do you expect the same representation, pretty much, you've had in the last two meetings?
MR. BURNS: We do.
Q: In other words, what, 28 --
MR. BURNS: Twenty-nine countries and organizations have been represented. We expect that the same group of countries will be there. Obviously, if other countries in the region, including those who have decided not to attend in the past, want to come, if they change their mind -- I'm thinking now of Syria and Lebanon -- they're most welcome to attend.
Q: I think I remember you didn't invite Syria to the Experts Meetings because you thought they're unlikely to be there?
MR. BURNS: The door is open to Syrian and Lebanese participation.
Q: But you're not writing them a letter of invitation?
MR. BURNS: I don't think so. I think they know the address if they'd like to attend; they know the phone number.
Q: Just for clarification -- the evening of the 19th will be in The Hague?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The plans are that the Secretary's meeting, I think, will begin mid-to-late afternoon with Foreign Minister Qian Quichen. I would expect that would go several hours. We'll then obviously have some kind of press opportunity following that. I think we'll stay in The Hague on the 19th; probably leave for Moscow the morning of the 20th. I don't have specific times, but that's the general notion here.
Q: You've got no indication from Syria and Lebanon that they're changing their minds; right?
MR. BURNS: No, no indication whatsoever. The second thing I wanted to do was to give you an update on the situation in Liberia. I had hoped to do that an hour ago.
I apologize, but I've just been on the phone with our Ambassador, Bill Milam, in Monrovia, and upstairs at our working group.
I have a statement to make, and then I want to take your questions.
Given the unsettled conditions in Monrovia -- in Liberia -- the United States Government is conducting an evacuation of American citizens to Freetown in Sierra Leone and to Dakar, in Senegal. Our first priority is the evacuation of American citizens.
We are assisting the nationals of other countries on a space-available basis. As you know, we've had many requests from foreign governments to assist their citizens.
Once we've evacuated all non-official Americans who wish to leave, we will evaluate the situation and make a determination regarding our own official presence.
Our current plan, of course, is for the Embassy to stay open during the evacuation. They're working very, very hard at helping the American citizens.
The United States Government continues to call upon the contending factions to cease fighting, to restore law and order, to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and to assure the safety and security of Liberians and members of the international community.
We're consulting with governments in the region, asking that they use their influence with the faction leaders to restore calm.
Yesterday, the United States joined with members of the United Nations Security Council in passing unanimously a Presidential statement calling on the Liberian factions to stop the fighting and honor the Abuja peace process or risk losing the support of the international community. This situation is a tragedy for the Liberian people who so desperately want peace.
We therefore urge the faction leaders in Monrovia and throughout Liberia to adhere to the Abuja peace accord and to move forward with the mobilization and disarmament.
I can tell you a couple of things based on what has been happening here at the Department and out in Liberia this morning. Secretary Christopher, as you know, is back from his trip to California where he gave his speech on the environment. He was briefed on the situation this morning.
He was, of course, kept fully briefed on this during the last several days. He'll maintain a very close watch on this situation.
The Department is maintaining a full-scale, 24-hour working group upstairs on the Seventh Floor. It's led by two Deputy Assistant Secretaries of State: For African Affairs, Prudence Bushnell, and Bill Twaddell.
Assistant Secretary of State, Pat Kennedy, who is the Acting Undersecretary for Management this week, is also participating in that working group and playing a major role in it.
I can tell you that they're doing an excellent job.
They're keeping in touch with the families of Americans here, keeping in touch with the Embassy there, and very closely in touch with the Pentagon.
I just spoke with our Ambassador, Bill Milan, who, of course, is in charge of our operations in Monrovia. It's a very difficult situation. He reports that the situation this morning and this afternoon in Monrovia is tense. It continues to be chaotic.
We have seen the reports of a cease-fire. Frankly, Ambassador Milam reports that we cannot judge the cease-fire has taken hold throughout most of the city. He has still heard and seen -- members of the Embassy community have seen gunfire and fighting this morning. There may be a de facto cease-fire that has taken place near the Barclay barracks, so in a limited area.
We hope very much that reports of this cease-fire will, of course, be able to be judged to be accurate as the day continues and as we head into the night there. We are calling upon the factions to stop their fighting, to remove the pressures they've put on Liberian citizens and on the foreigners living there and especially on the 450 Americans there.
Our priorities right now are to assist the American citizens. To date, we have evacuated 168 people. Of those 168 people, 54 are American citizens. When American citizens reach the United States Embassy, which is the point of departure for the evacuation, they are put on helicopters for either Freetown or Dakar.
As soon as Americans arrive at the Embassy, they'll be taken care of and they'll be evacuated. We do have a sizable number of Americans who have not been able to make it to the Embassy compound. We are in touch with a great majority of those people. We believe that all of them are safe. We have no reports of any injuries, any casualties among American citizens, but we're keeping closely in touch with them and we're monitoring the security situation on a minute-by-minute basis as you would imagine.
When these helicopters leave the Embassy compound, if there are spaces available -- and there have been on all the flights -- we are filling those spaces with foreigners. We have many requests from foreign governments to do so and we have honored those requests as best as we can. We'll continue to do that on a space-by-space basis. Obviously, we're going to give priority to American citizens.
So that's a brief report on the situation. Barry, I'll be glad to go to whatever questions you have.
Q: A couple of quickies. You say these other Americans have not been able to get there. Is it because of the fighting or just a matter of logistics?
Liberians: Have you gotten any request for evacuation from Liberians, and would they be welcome on these evacuations?
MR. BURNS: In answer to your first question, Barry, this is not a forced or mandatory evacuation. Should American citizens wish to stay -- and I imagine some will probably wish to stay -- they can stay. We're not ordering them to leave but we're making it possible for them to leave if they wish to do so.
I think most of them who wish to leave but have not left have problems in getting to the Embassy compound.
Q: Because of the fighting --
MR. BURNS: Because of the fighting.
Q: -- or other?
MR. BURNS: Because of the fighting, because of the security situation. There is fighting throughout the city.
It's intense in some places. Obviously, people are safer sometimes staying in their homes or staying where they've assembled rather than trying to make the trek to the Embassy. We understand that.
There is a system, a telephone system and a radio system, by which we can keep in touch with most Americans.
I can't say all Americans. We are using that system. Of course, we're using VOA and any other facility we can to get the message out to Americans that if they can make their way safely to the Embassy, if they judge it to be safe enough to do so, they are welcome to come to the Embassy and we'll be glad to facilitate their departure.
Q: (inaudible) Liberians are welcome aboard, and have they asked? Have any of them asked?
MR. BURNS: Actually, I think most of the requests that we've received are from foreign governments. I can tell you that we have airlifted out of Monrovia at least seven Egyptians. These numbers are going to change. A group of Filipinos, British citizens, and citizens of Australia, Italy, Ireland, Greece, South Africa, Canada, France, Guinea, Sweden, Germany, and Ghana.
These numbers are changing. One-hundred sixty-eight people have been evacuated; 63 of whom were just evacuated just in the last hour by helicopter. Of course, this helicopter shuttle continues. So these numbers are going to grow throughout the day. As there are spaces available, and if there are foreign citizens who make their way to the compound, we will accommodate them on these flights.
Q: Two questions. Do you have an estimate of how many Americans would like to come to the Embassy and are prevented to because of the fighting? And, secondly, will the U.S. security forces go and get them out of wherever they are and bring them to the compound?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I don't have an accurate number of how many Americans may be out in the suburbs or in other parts of Monrovia wishing to come to the Embassy. I don't want to be misleading. I don't have an accurate number for you there.
On the second question, as you know -- and I'm going to leave most of the details here to the Pentagon on the military side of things -- we have re-enforced the Embassy, of course, with some people -- military personnel -- who have been flown in from Freetown. We believe there is adequate security at the Embassy. I don't think that we're at the point where those people will go into the city in search for American citizens.
The fact is that while this is a chaotic and tense situation, there have not been attacks on Americans as far as we know. We believe that all Americans are safe and we want to make sure that they remain safe. That is our priority right now. Our priority and Ambassador Milam's priority -- and his Embassy has done an outstanding job -- is to make sure that we meet our responsibilities to American citizens.
Q: Can we take a filing break?
MR. BURNS: I note there's a filing break by the wires.
Q: What are your plans for the Embassy as far as staffing it?
MR. BURNS: Right now, Ron, our priority is to meet the needs of the American citizens, the non-official Americans -- private Americans who are in Liberia. As you can imagine, we think there are roughly 450 Americans in Liberia. Fifty-four have come out. That leaves us with just under 400. That's going to be our priority. As long as this evacuation continues, we're obviously going to have a fully open and aggressive and energetic Embassy there.
We're going to monitor the security situation on a day-by-day basis, and I just think we'll take it one day at a time.
Q: Nick, Pentagon officials have been saying that Americans aren't really lining up to be evacuated. There doesn't seem to be a clamoring to get aboard the choppers, and the percentage of Americans, (inaudible) foreigners, would seem to underscore that -- those who have left.
Do you have a sense of how many would go if they could?
MR. BURNS: No, I think it's a difficult question to answer. But I think you do need to take account of the fact that there is fighting in the streets. It's a dangerous situation. There are people being killed in the streets of Monrovia, and American citizens who are living in outlying areas or living in suburbs where they don't currently have access to the Embassy have to judge for themselves the security risk of trying to travel to the Embassy.
We are in touch with them. We'll give them whatever advice they need. But I think that accounts, in my own mind, for a large reason why we haven't seen all 450 Americans line up at the Embassy for evacuation.
I also know, as well, that there are a sizable number of people in that 450 who also have Liberian citizenship, who may be longer-term residents of Monrovia, and there may be reasons why they want to stay. But I do think you have to take account of the security situation first and foremost.
Mr. Lambros, we're going to keep on this before we go to the breakfast with Prime Minister Simitis.
Q: A couple of questions. Are any other countries conducting any evacuation operations?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that there are any other countries conducting evacuations. I think the United States military is the only military force present that's currently evacuating people. That's why we have responded as we have on a space available basis to the requests by many foreign governments to lift their nationals out of Monrovia.
Q: And one question. You mentioned talking to neighboring countries. Do you believe that any of the neighboring counties had a role in fomenting the uprising?
MR. BURNS: No. In fact, the situation is sufficiently opaque that I think it's a little bit risky to perhaps trace the specific reasons for all of the fighting.
I mean, we do know that there is a dispute about the status of the government minister, and that led to at least part of the fighting. But there may be other reasons for some of the other fighting, and I wouldn't trace it to neighboring states. No, I wouldn't do that at all, Jim.
Q: On a point of clarification, you made a reference to people being evacuated not only to Freetown but also to Dakar.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q: But no one's being evacuated directly to Dakar, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: They're going to Freetown and from there to Dakar, and some of them, I believe, are already making plans for international flights out of Dakar airport.
Q: Nick, forgive me, I stepped out. This may have come up, but, if it hasn't, have any third countries indicated an interest in trying to evacuate their own personnel themselves? Have you been approached by any country?
MR. BURNS: We're not aware of any attempts by other countries to bring in their military assets to evacuate. No, I'm not aware of it.
Q: Could you bring us up to date on the situation at the U.S. housing compound?
MR. BURNS: At the housing compound or at Greystone? The housing compound?
Q: Yes. Aren't Greystone and the housing compound the same thing?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Glyn says yes. Glyn has been into this more than I have.
I talked to Ambassador Milam about Greystone, which is a facility very close to our Embassy. He estimates that there are roughly -- and this is a rough estimate -- 15,000 people there. They are Liberian. We are trying to work with the authorities now -- as we can work with the authorities in a very difficult situation -- to provide them with food and with water, which they need.
We obviously hope that the authorities will do what they can to secure those people and to give them what they need to subsist. What we're hoping for now is that our own remonstrations and those of Liberia's neighbors and those of the international community will convince these factions to agree to a cease-fire, which we do not yet see occurring, and to allow people to return to their homes and to return to a state of peace and stability. That's the objective here, George, diplomatically.
So we obviously are concerned about the people there, because they are in our facility. But we think it's going to be up to the authorities to try to get them the food and the water they need to subsist.
Q: Are there any Americans at this compound there?
MR. BURNS: We're not aware of any Americans there, no. In fact, we don't have American Embassy personnel there. I believe we have some of our Foreign Service Nationals at that compound. We have 38 Americans in Liberia, and they are at the compound. They're not at that facility.
Q: So, Nick, there's no attempt to bring in food or bottled water by the choppers when they are coming back to pick more people up?
MR. BURNS: There is an attempt to try to get supplies to our Embassy compound and supplies to Greystone, two separate U.S. Government facilities, but that's using resources within Liberia itself. I'm not aware of any large-scale effort to bring in --
MR. BURNS: -- some food for the Embassy people, but not for the 15,000 at Greystone.
Q: Did that rather large crowd of people break into that compound, or was the door opened? Were they allowed in?
MR. BURNS: Glyn tells me -- Glyn's been monitoring this very closely for several days -- that they were allowed in to the compound by our Embassy.
Q: Are they then part of any one particular faction, or are they just people fleeing the fighting?
MR. BURNS: I don't think we can answer that question right now. I think they're innocent civilians who have been caught for the most part in the cross-fire.
I want to make sure we've answered all the Liberia questions, Mr. Lambros, before we go to Greece and Turkey.
Q: Have they, during this evacuation, remained over at Greystone? There was some concern for security reasons that some of these people might try and move into the Embassy compound.
MR. BURNS: There's been no indication -- no evidence of that. The Embassy's secure. We've got adequate security at the Embassy, and I think all factions are aware of that in Monrovia. We certainly call upon the factions to respect the rights of all people in Liberia -- Liberians and foreigners -- to leave, if they wish to leave.
We certainly hope that this ultimately leads to an end to the fighting and to a return to the Abuja peace process.
That is where this situation must head. Beyond the work of trying to facilitate the departure of Americans and insure their safety, we are thinking diplomatically here. That's why we worked in the U.N. Security Council yesterday.
We've also been in touch with all the neighboring states of Liberia, including those most prominently involved in the West African effort, and we are using all the diplomatic resources we can to try to end this fighting.
Q: Nick, just to expand on Greystone, are the 15,000 camped out in large open spaces? Are any of them in housing, or is it a situation of both?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check for you, Charlie. I think we can get an answer for you from our Embassy, but, not having been there, I'm just reluctant to answer that question.
Q: (Inaudible) the 15,000 has been stable since like Monday. Are Liberians still free to enter the compound, or are they being prevented from entering?
MR. BURNS: Glyn says that they're going back and forth, but I think 15,000, obviously, George, is a great number. I'm not aware that the compound could probably hold a lot more than that.
Q: But that is the number the Ambassador used two days ago.
MR. BURNS: Yes, I talked to the Ambassador about 45 minutes ago, and he said that there were roughly 15,000, he would estimate. He said he hadn't been over personally, because obviously he has been supervising the evacuations from the Embassy compound, but that his estimate based on the work of our FSNs, our Foreign Service Nationals, was roughly 15,000.
Another subject. Okay, Mr. Lambros is first.
Q: Do you have any result on today's breakfast between Secretary of State Warren Christopher and the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Konstandinos Simitis?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I'm happy to report that Secretary Christopher had an excellent breakfast this morning with Prime Minister Simitis and Foreign Minister Pangalos and others -- a very good discussion about the U.S.-Greek relationship, the importance of that relationship; about Greece's interest to work to reduce tensions with Turkey; about a follow-up to some of the discussions that the President had yesterday on the Imia/Kardak problem. I think you know very well what the President said on that yesterday.
There was a long discussion about Bosnia and about how the United States and Greece could work together more closely on all the various Bosnian problems; and also a long discussion about the Balkans in general -- about Albania, about other countries in the Balkans; with Greece, of course, being a Balkan country, has very close ties with some of these countries, and there are things that we can do together in the Balkans beyond the Bosnia problem, we hope, to bring stability and greater economic progress to that area.
So a very good meeting. They touched a wide range of subjects, and the Secretary regrets that he had to miss the meeting yesterday because of his speech in California, but was happy to have had the opportunity to see the Prime Minister this morning.
Q: What did they say on the Imia issue exactly?
MR. BURNS: What they said exactly was exactly what was said yesterday. We didn't deviate by one word from what was said yesterday at the White House. If you're interested in that, I would just -- the major conversation, of course, took place between the President and Prime Minister Simitis, and I'm sure that Mike McCurry and David Johnson briefed you in full on that.
Q: The Washington Post reported today that President Clinton endorses World Court venue for the ownership of the Imia dispute. Could you please clarify, is this process finally was proposed by the Greek Government or by the U.S. Government due to the fact that on February 12, when President Clinton addressed a message to the Greek-Americans, stated that only the ownership of Imia should be addressed to the International Court of Justice, as it was proposed by the Greek Government.
The next day, however, as you remember, Mr. Burns, the Simitis Government denied. Let us know then what if true today.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I'm going to take the wise course here and just point you to the President's good remarks on this -- very clear remarks -- yesterday in the Oval Office about our position and in a subsequent briefing by the White House.
Q: White House Spokesman Mr. McCurry stated yesterday after the meeting between President Clinton and the Prime Minister, Mr. Simitis, the President said: "The U.S. favors having the ownership only question of the islet referred to the International Court of Justice," and also that, "President Clinton felt enormous encouragement that the Prime Minister of Greece is discussing that publicly now."
My question is, what happened to the sovereignty of Imia, and if Mr. Simitis and Mr. Pangalos during today's meeting with the Secretary of State, Mr. Christopher, protested finally your well known decision not to recognize Greek sovereignty over Imia since February 1.
MR. BURNS: They had a very good discussion this morning that built on the progress made yesterday, and I just want to leave it there, Mr. Lambros. The President was very clear about this yesterday, as was the White House in the press follow-up.
Q: And the last one --
MR. BURNS: I should also tell you there was a good discussion of Cyprus --
MR. BURNS: A very good discussion of Cyprus, and our Special Ambassador, Mr. Beattie, was there at the breakfast table, and he reported on his plans, of course, to make a trip to the area. John Kornblum was there, our Acting Assistant Secretary of State. I think you'll see the United States very active in the Cyprus problem in the future.
Q: The last question on Imia -- the last question.
How your government endorses this process on Imia, which in the final analysis may be redrawing the Greek-Turkish borders in southeastern Aegean prior to the delimitation of the continental shelf, which is against the international law and international practice.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I think you've exhausted my knowledge of the problem. I've said all I can say about Imia and Kardak, and I want to leave it where the President had it yesterday.
Q: Assistant Secretary Kornblum will be going to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Beattie is going to be doing that. I think --
Q: The following month --
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Kornblum would like to go very much, but I think he has not set a specific time for his travel.
Q: So there is no initiative for Greek-Turkish relations. It's the well known initiative, if and when it takes place, on Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: As the President said yesterday, the United States remains very much interested in the resolution of the Cyprus problem. We're going to devote a lot of resources to that. We have two Ambassadors who work full-time on that, and then we also have, of course, Ambassador Richard Boucher in Cyprus itself.
So we've got a lot of people devoted to this problem. I know that Mr. Beattie will be making a trip, and I think that Mr. Kornblum will be going at some point, but I don't have any dates for you on that.
Q: He's going for Cyprus or Greek-Turkish --
MR. BURNS: He'll obviously want to talk, in addition to Cyprus, about other issues on the Greek-Turkish relationship, but also our bilateral relationships with each country.
Q: After the White House, Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Simitis, prepare a press conference at some hotel, and he claimed that he submitted a three-step plan to approach two countries to come closer -- Greece and Turkey -- and he said that the American side endorsed this plan. I believe this morning also this plan will be discussed at the breakfast.
Do you have any --
MR. BURNS: There was a very good discussion of Greek-Turkish issues this morning, led by Secretary Christopher. National Security Adviser Tony Lake was also at this breakfast. He participated in this aspect of the discussion. It's obviously our hope that when the Greek and Turkish senior officials meet, they will, of course, talk about the variety -- the range of problems that right now divide Greece and Turkey, and that, I think, was a good result of the meetings here in the last two days.
Q: The problem is the three steps is bringing three conditions under the dialogue, and the Turkish side, they always said that without the conditions, we are ready to speak about -- with the Greek side. And this is the conflict of the two countries approach to the solution.
MR. BURNS: I think what I'd like to do is leave it to the Greek and Turkish Governments to define exactly what the stages of whatever process will unfold. I just want you to know that both Secretary Christopher and Mr. Lake this morning fully supported the idea that Greece and Turkey would engage in discussions to resolve not only the Imia/Kardak problem but other problems in the relationship.
We want the situation to go in that direction, because we have good relations with both countries.
Q: Iran arrested four Turkish diplomats, claiming that they are spies. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I have seen the press reports. I will look into that. I don't believe we have anything developed today, but we'll look into that for you.
Q: Also on Iran, there's a story this morning which says that Iraq is selling oil via Iran, in violation of the U.N. embargo.
MR. BURNS: I have nothing for you on that. I've seen the story, but I don't have anything to give you today on that one. We'll look into it, George.
Q: You are looking into it.
MR. BURNS: We will, of course, look into that. Any time we see reports of violations of international agreements or U.N. regulations, we look into them, and, if we find anything, we might let you know. We might not.
Q: Wait a minute -- speaking of violations. Is there any decision --
MR. BURNS: Alleged violation.
Q: Alleged violation.
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that the Secretary -- I was with him the last two days in California. I was with him this morning. He continues to look at this matter. He has had a number of meetings on it, but he has not yet made a decision. When he makes a decision and when we've informed the Chinese Government of our decision, we'll be very glad to let you know as well.
Q: (Inaudible) make up his mind before April 19?
MR. BURNS: George, we're going to have to take this one day at a time. I don't want to say yes or no. He is looking at information as it comes in. There are discussions that have been underway in Beijing, of course. There are discussions here in Washington between Chinese and American officials, and he obviously needs to evaluate all that information. He'll be the one to decide when the best time for that decision is, but I don't want to --
Q: Are you opening up the possibility that he will perhaps talk this over with Chinese Foreign Minister before making a decision?
MR. BURNS: There's a possibility he could make a decision before April 19th; there's a possibility after April 19th. I'm ruling everything in -- every conceivable option in on that. I just don't want to try to speculate when that decision might be made.
Q: Japan -- Okinawa?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q: There are reports both in Japan and the United States that the U.S. has agreed to redeploy military to make them less public, I guess would be the fair way of saying it, on Okinawa; to move some troops to Japan -- the home islands -- but not to reduce the total number of troops in Japan.
Does the Department think that this would diffuse the crises that arose, that stems from the rape of the Okinawa school girl and put U.S.-Japan relations back on an even keel?
MR. BURNS: I don't think there's any crisis about the Okinawa situation. I think that the tone and tenor of the crisis as passed, but I think there is a mutual commitment by both countries to work on this issue.
Obviously, in advance of both Secretary Perry's visit there this weekend and President Clinton's next week, I really don't want to say anything more than that. We'll be discussing it. It will be an issue both this week and next week when the President arrives. I would leave any substantive comment to the President on this.
Q: (inaudible) prelude to a new security arrangement, or is that --
MR. BURNS: We're working on a number of issues in the runup to the President's visit, but I just don't want to get into them substantively at this point.
Howard, did you have a question?
Q: Yes. I'm curious whether there's anything new along the Israel-Lebanon border? Any situation update?
MR. BURNS: We're looking at it very closely, as you would imagine, given our interests in both Israel and Lebanon. We've been in touch with all parties, as normally happens. I don't have anything new beyond what I think Glyn (Davies) told you yesterday. And that is, very unfortunately Hizbollah fired a large number of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. It's very unfortunate that they did that. We hope very much that will not be repeated and the situation can return to one where the residents of northern Israel don't have to live in bunkers, and sleep in bunkers overnight. They can live freely as they should be allowed to live freely.
Q: North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q: Do you see any progress on North Korea?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that we did not detect today any incursions into the buffer zone and the DMZ. There haven't been any since April 7. Obviously, we would call upon the North Koreans, as we have done in past days, to adhere to the 1953 armistice and to all the conditions and requirements and responsibilities of that agreement.
We hope very much that there will be no further incursions -- illegal incursions.
Q: North Korea. I think it was a U.N. report that was out today that describes the food situation in the country as worse and calling upon international organizations to step up on the donations. Do you have anything more on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any new information. We are monitoring the food situation.
Q: I know the rice shipment was delayed because of the sinking of the ship. The rice is due sometime this month, but is there any consideration --
MR. BURNS: There's a replacement shipment that's on its way. I don't believe it's -- we don't have any reports it has actually reached North Korea. Glyn says the end of April for that replacement shipment.
We're monitoring the food situation carefully because we do believe that it's critical. As you know, we have contributed in the past. I have nothing to give you by way of new food shipments by the United States. But, of course, we're always in touch with the international organizations that have responsibility for that.
Any other questions? Mr. Lambros, this is not an Imia/Kardak, is it?
Q: Some questions for you that pertain directly. I need a personal answer from you?
MR. BURNS: Okay. One question.
Q: Senator Specter of Pennsylvania, by resolution, advances both governments of Greece and Turkey to be bound by the decision of International Court of Justice on Imia.
Since this advise is related with your policy, vis-a-vis Imia, could you please clarify, if such a court -- decision will be applied also to the rest of the hundreds of Greek islets into the Aegean Sea?
MR. BURNS: That question is up to the Greek and Turkish governments to decide; not the United States. Thank you.
Q: (Inaudible) February lst, you said here, "The U.S. does recognize Greek sovereignty as you look at the map -- the current map of Greece -- with the exception of a few tiny islands -- in this case, a tiny island -- that is no bigger than the Department of state." It is still valid, this statement today?
MR. BURNS: I stand by my February 1st statement.
Q: Excuse me?
MR. BURNS: I stand by my February 1st statement. I never like to repudiate myself at the podium unless it's absolutely necessary. It's not necessary today, fortunately.
Q: Nick, has the Secretary made a decision on rings?
MR. BURNS: We dealt with that. No, he is not.
Q: I have one other question. Yeltsin today made a comment about countries should keep their nuclear weapons on their own territory. What do you make of that?
MR. BURNS: It's hard to know. We've seen the wire reports. We haven't seen the full text. Often times in a situation, it's best to check the full text -- to see the context before you comment.
I can just say this. I think one of the major achievements of the last four years is the fact that Russian nuclear warheads and all nuclear weaponry is currently on Russian soil. It's been withdrawn from some of the other successor countries of the Soviet Union -- from Kazakstan, Belarus, and Ukraine. That's a tremendous accomplishment made possible, in large part, because of the United States.
So we would certainly just congratulate the four of them -- the four countries -- for this historic drawdown both in the level of nuclear weapons, but in this case, reducing the number of countries that have nuclear weapons from four-to-one.
Q: But his point seems to be there should be some commitment from the United States.
MR. BURNS: That's why I want to see the full text of his remarks, to check exactly what was said and in what context and what other prescriptions may have been put forth.
Q: It wasn't raised in Moscow with the Secretary?
MR. BURNS: It was not raised with the Secretary at Moscow, no.
Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 12:44 p.m.)