U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #56, 97-04-16
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Wednesday, April 16, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1 Welcome to Visiting Students to the Briefing
1,7-8 Trilateral Talks in NY /Possible Four-Party Talks
7 Upcoming Missile Talks/Bilateral Talks
1-2 Fire at Hajj Pilgrims Camp Outside Mecca
2,4-6 U.N. Human Rights Resolution on China
2 Secretary Albright's Comments in Address at Naval Academy
11 Secretary's Comments re Tibet in Address at Naval Academy
3 Visit of Paraguayan President to Everglades/Discussion of
4 Release of Department's First Annual Environment Report
4 --Secretary Albright to Introduce Report on April 22
3-4 Improvement in Security Situation
3-4 Lifting of Ordered Departure for U.S. Dependents
4 Lifting of Travel Advisory
4 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Marks 10th Anniversary
6-7 Reported Arms Transfer/Sales to Iran
8-9 Reports Israeli Arms Merchant Supplying CW Components to Iran
13-14 Reports of Possible Iranian Involvement in Khobar Bombing
9-10,13 Secretary to Attend Reversion Ceremonies in Hong Kong
9 --Prospects for Further Travel in Region
12-13 Possible Visit to U.S. by C.H. Tung
9-11 Human Rights in Burma/Possibility of Further Sanctions
9-11 --Secretary's Comment's in Address at Naval Academy
11-12 Cohen-Feinstein Legislation re Burma
13 Honduran Supreme Court Denies Extradition for Francois
15-16 Possible Nominees for Ambassadorships
16-17 Efforts to Fight Narco-Traffickers
17-18 UN Secretary General's Call for Peace Talks
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 1997 12:40 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I
want to welcome to our briefing today eight students with the Congressional
Youth Leadership Council, and their sponsor -- welcome. I also want to
welcome some foreign service nationals who are here visiting the United
States. These are the people who really make our embassies work overseas.
And I'm particularly pleased to welcome three individuals from Central Asia
-- Hadia Nazirova, from Tajikistan; Nikolay Savitsky of Kyrgyzstan;
and Arkady Divinsky of Kyrgyzstan, as well. I've had the pleasure
of visiting both of those countries. They're wonderful countries, and we
commend you for the work you do for all of us in the State Department.
We're very glad you're here.
I had a conversation with Chuck Kartman, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State, who's up in New York, meeting with the North Koreans and South
Koreans. He took a break in the meetings to call, and he said that the
talks were underway, on a trilateral basis. They're going well. We're
certainly encouraged by the first few hours of the talks, and we hope very
much for positive results from these discussions.
I would expect that when the discussions end this afternoon, there might be
some press opportunities. There will certainly be a statement from the
United States. I believe, the North and South Koreans will be making
statements, as well, today. So I'd encourage you to keep abreast of that. I
don't have anything to report more specifically because these talks are
underway. But we're encouraged by the early progress that has been made.
And again, we hope very much that as a result of these talks, North Korea
will decide to agree with the four-party proposal, agree to peace talks
with the United States, South Korea and China. That's a very important
development. I'll be glad to take any questions on this.
We do have a statement today about the terrible tragedy in Saudi Arabia.
The United States government was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic
fire that claimed the lives of so many Hajj pilgrims at a camp outside of
Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. The fire broke out as more than two million Muslim
pilgrims were preparing for prayers, prior to the culmination of the Hajj --
when Muslim pilgrims travel from Mina to Mount Arafat, the site of the
prophet Mohammed's last sermon.
The United States Government, on behalf of all Americans extends our
condolences to the victims and their families. As custodian of the two holy
sites of Islam, the Saudi government fulfills an enormous responsibility of
the annual Hajj. And it does that with great resolve and great skill. And
while we're confident that the Saudi Arabian government is fully prepared
to respond to the needs of the many thousands of people who are injured,
the United States certainly stands ready to respond to any request for
assistance by Saudi Arabia, by any of the countries who have Hajj pilgrims
at that site.
I wanted to make one comment, if I could, on yesterday's vote in Geneva at
the U.N. Human Rights Commission. We've reflected on yesterday's events
with some care here in the State Department. And I must say, we continue to
be deeply disappointed that a majority of the Commission's members voted to
foreclose debate on the subject of human rights in China.
As Secretary Albright said last night in her speech to the midshipmen in
Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy, we want to congratulate, first and
foremost, the government of Denmark for its leadership on this resolution.
The people of Denmark and their leaders have a very distinguished history
of acting courageously in defense of human rights. And the Danish people --
the Danes distinguished themselves during the Second World War in
protecting the Danish Jews. Denmark has stood up again on this effort to
further express -- to further support freedom of expression and human
rights in China and around the world. Denmark has been true to a very
important international principle, and that is the universality of
human rights all over the world.
The Chinese government's human rights practices are a legitimate topic for
debate and for discussion in the UN Human Rights Commission. Indeed, China
is the only country whose human rights record is regularly exempted from
discussion at the Commission. The United States believes that threatens to
undermine the Commission at a time when multilateral discussions of human
rights ought to be growing, not limited in the international community. The
fundamental purpose of the Human Rights Commission is not to pass
resolutions, but to advance the cause of human rights in a broad setting.
And through our efforts and those of our allies, at this year's Commission,
we have continued to cast a spotlight on China's human rights performances.
I would just suggest very humbly that perhaps the press has a responsibility
to look at yesterday's vote in a real-life context. And here is what I mean
by that. The real losers in the vote were China's 1.2 billion people. The
organization created to discuss their problems, living in an authoritarian
society, that organization failed China's people yesterday. Despite what
some commentators and some journalists are calling a Chinese tactical
victory yesterday, I suspect this might be a Pyrrhic victory because all of
the controversy surrounding this vote only served to cast international
attention on China's human rights record, which is very poor.
There is a very big problem that the world has to look at. Denmark stood up
for the principle of human rights, as did the United States. We regret very
much that other democratic countries, especially many in Europe, chose not
to stand up yesterday. The United States will continue to discuss human
rights in China. It will continue to be at the forefront of our relationship
with China and will continue to discuss all the other issues that make up
the complex but very important U.S. relationship with China.
Now, I have a couple of other things I just wanted to go over with you
today. A very interesting visit by the Paraguayan President, Wasmosy. He
arrives in Miami tomorrow morning. He's going to tour the Everglades and
the lower Mississippi River with our Undersecretary of State, Tim Wirth and
with the Army Corps of Engineers and with the National Park Service. And we
hope this visit will highlight for President Wasmosy and his delegation how
the Corps and other American organizations are repairing the environmental
damage caused by many of our own civil construction projects in the
Everglades and in the lower Mississippi region.
President Wasmosy is a professional engineer, and he is the architect of
the five-nation Eidrovia Project, which is a 24-hour, all-season waterway
from Bolivia through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, to the Atlantic Ocean.
The United States government shares the concerns of many environmentalists
that the civil works related to the project could cause serious environmental
damage to the Pantanal -- the world's largest wetland area. We hope that
this visit will give President Wasmosy a firsthand look at how he might,
working with other Latin leaders, be able to control and limit the
environmental damage that this proposal will certainly lead to.
We have invited him in a very positive spirit, hoping we can work together
because environmental issues continue to be among the most important that
we address, and certainly one of the newer priority international concerns
of American foreign policy.
I also want to note that in 1996 the State Department, as you know, under
Secretary Christopher's leadership, launched an initiative to integrate
environmental objectives into the mainstream of our foreign policy.
Secretary Albright believes very strongly in that. As part of this effort,
the State Department will release, for the very first time, on April 22nd ,
which is Earth Day, a report entitled, Environmental Diplomacy: The
Environment and U.S. Foreign Policy. This report will outline our global
and regional environmental priorities and describe the steps that we're
taking to address them.
It is unlike the narcotics report and the human rights report. It doesn't
grade countries, individual countries on their environmental practices. It
outlines our own environmental agenda, and how we're working with other
countries. That's why I thought that President Wasmosy's visit might be of
interest to some of you who have an interest in Latin America and in the
environment. Now, to honor Earth Day and to celebrate the first release of
this report-which we hope will be an annual report -- Secretary Madeleine
Albright will come down to the briefing room at 12:30 p.m. on April
22nd to introduce this report. She will be followed by Undersecretary
Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary Eileen Claussen, who will brief you on
the outlines of this report. It will be available in the Press Office on
April 22nd. It's available on the Internet at the State Department website,
www.state.gov, and I would commend it to you.
Two other items. This will interest those visitors from Tajikistan. The
State Department has lifted the February 20th order requiring embassy
dependents to leave our embassy in Tajikistan. There has been significant
improvement there in the security situation there in Dushanbe, adequate to
permit return to Tajikistan of family members of American employees. We are
also lifting the travel advisory to American citizens. A new consular
information sheet will soon be released to reflect this change.
And last, we've talked a lot about missile proliferation and problems of
some countries exporting missiles to countries, rogue states that shouldn't
have them. Well, ten years ago, April 16, 1987, the United States and its G-
7 partners announced the formation of the Missile Technology Control Regime
that would restrict transfers of nuclear capable missiles and related
technology. Since April of 1987, 21 additional countries have joined the
MTCR. And several others have adhered unilaterally to MTCR guidelines. Over
the course of the last 10 years, the MTCR guidelines and its annexes
have become the international standard for responsible missile-related
export behavior. There has been very important progress in elevating the
attention that this issue is given. In fact, President Clinton has deemed
it one of the great threats to the security of the American people --
missile proliferation. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary, the United
States would like to salute the Missile Technology Control Regime as an
outstanding example of international cooperation that has helped to make
the world safer for all people.
At the same time, a lot of work remains to be done. We face the challenge
of extending export controls to all potential suppliers and transshipment
points and of eliminating missile programs of concern. The United States'
national security interests, therefore, demand that we continue to place a
high priority on curbing global missile proliferation. And we certainly
want to work with all of our partners to do that. We're posting a statement
on this today.
QUESTION: Nick, on the human rights point, this is the seventh consecutive
year, isn't it, that China has managed to avoid being branded a human
rights violator? I just wondered, you know, what new strategy could the
U.S. have up its sleeve? And frankly, did the U.S. fail to -- the U.S.
tried very hard, or did it try and couldn't move such countries as France
on a moral issue? And there were other allies there, even Canada,
which made a big point of going to Cuba to try to promote human rights.
What went wrong? Wasn't it a high priority issue for the U.S.? And what's
with the allies?
MR. BURNS: It has been a very high priority issue for the United States.
We began formal discussions in January with the 53 members of the UN Human
Rights Commission, on this particular resolution, the resolution on
Human rights in China, as I said, will remain at the center of our
relationship with China, and the Chinese government knows that.
What went wrong? Failure of will on the part of the member states of the UN
Human Rights Commission to recognize that the largest country in the world,
which has a significant set of human rights problems, ought to be a subject
for discussion. It's supremely ironic now -- I understand they have
criticized Indonesia today. And there has been criticisms of Iraq, which is
very much deserved, and very strong vote today to condemn the human rights
situation in Cuba.
And that I think deserves some mention. In fact, we hope that the Cuban
government will take notice of the deplorable state of human rights in
What went wrong at Geneva? You will have to ask those governments that
chose not to step up to the plate -- if they know baseball lingo -- or just
to step up, stand up and be counted. I think that's understood in any
But as I said, Barry, the big losers are the more than a billion people who
have to live under an authoritarian regime which denies basic civil and
political liberties. It is tragically ironic that the very organization for
which all of us around the world pay tax dollars to support can't even
discuss the largest human rights problem. And that's the whole reason for
this Human Rights Commission.
QUESTION: The big winners -- the big winners seem to be the industrialists,
the capitalists, who have a great influence on U.S. policy, but not to the
extent that you step away from the human rights issue. But in other
countries, the economic interest seems to be so strong that the human
rights concern is submerged. Isn't France about to walk up with some
incredibly huge contract from China that might have been jeopardized if
they took a moral stand?
MR. BURNS: Well, see, the United States prefers to think of our own
national interests in an all-encompassing way. We have commercial interests
that are very important to us in China. We pursue them and we expect that
American firms will be treated freely and fairly as they compete with
foreign companies in China. But we also have interests on military security
issues in the Pacific. Secretary Albright talked about them last night at
the Naval Academy. We have issues -- concerns about human rights,
too. We're a country that prefers to put all of our interests on the table
and discuss them with another country.
Now, some other countries might want to subordinate human rights to
commercial interests. That's their choice. We don't adopt that policy
because we think that does not serve our own national interests. We're a
country founded on the principle of human rights. So we're going to be the
last country in the world to ever deny the primacy of human rights
internationally. We will never deny that. And that's why we will continue,
whether it's in Geneva -- which doesn't appear to be a very good venue --
we'll continue in other cities, like Washington, D.C., Beijing, to talk
about human rights with the Chinese government. Yesterday's vote will not
deter us from keeping these issues at the center of our relationship.
QUESTION: Do you know that the French and also other Europeans, like
Germany, are not discussing human rights violations with the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: No, listen, I didn't name any names today, and I'm not going
to do that. I named one country -- Denmark, because Denmark deserves praise
because it stood up for European, Western democratic values -- universal
We hope that all countries will continue to press China for a better
performance on human rights so that the people of China can have a much
greater measure of political freedom. But those countries have to determine
how best to do that. We think we know -- that is to work privately with the
Chinese; but also, when the annual time comes to debate a human rights
issue in Geneva, to stand up to be counted. That's the view of the United
QUESTION: Could I ask you a question about -- you mentioned missiles.
Have you seen the report in your least favorite newspaper that Russia is
selling Iran anti-aircraft --
MR. BURNS: You mean the Cuban State Daily? You mean the organ of the
Communist Party of Cuba? That's my least favorite newspaper -- Castro's
hand-picked journalists who write glorious things. Oh, The Washington Times,
okay, I'm sorry.
I've seen a report by Bill Gertz today, yes, and let me just say this. Let
me just give you a little background here. At the September 1994 summit
when President Yeltsin visited President Clinton at the White House,
President Yeltsin pledged, at that memorable press conference in the East
Room, that Russia would not enter into new arms contracts with Iran; that
Russia would close out existing contracts within a few years. The details
of that commitment were finalized in a meeting a couple of months later in
early 1995, between Vice President Gore and the Russian Prime Minister,
At the time the agreement was reached, Russia advised us that one kilo-
class submarine was expected to be delivered to Iran and other old
contracts, such as those involving tanks, would be fulfilled. The
deliveries under the contracts in the pipeline, the Russians said, would be
concluded in a few years and did not involve any new weapons systems. And
that's the critical point here. The United States agreed that some existing
contracts could be fulfilled, but no new contracts.
Prior to the signing of that agreement with Russia, the United States
assured ourselves that the transfers contemplated under the agreement would
not provide Iran with any new military capabilities; that they would not
alter the regional balance of power in the Middle East; or compromise the
ability of the United States and our allies to protect our mutual
interests. For instance, any transfers to Iran of advanced anti-aircraft
missile systems, such as those, such as SA-10s or SA-12s, would provide
Iran with dangerous new capabilities, and would certainly violate the 1995
Now, we've continued to discuss this issue with the Russian government, at
almost every major Russian-American summit. And I can tell you, based on
those meetings, based on our conversations with the Russian government at
the very highest level, based on all the intelligence information available
to us, all the information available to us, the United States does not
believe that Russia has transferred to Iran advanced missiles. And that's
Now, there are press reports that we see in the Russian press and now in
the American press; so we'll continue to discuss this issue with the
Russian government. We'll want to be assured of Russian government
compliance with the 1995 agreement. But I want to be clear, the United
States does not believe that Russia has transferred the missiles talked
about in The
Washington Times story to Iran.
QUESTION: There's a difference between sales and actual transfers. Has
there been a sale, or discussion of a sale?
MR. BURNS: We do not believe there has been a sale. We do not believe
there has been a transfer of any kind of those weapons -- the shoulder-
fired, anti-aircraft weapons that Bill Gertz talked about in his story this
morning; and that's our position.
QUESTION: Or discussion of a sale?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Or discussion of a sale?
MR. BURNS: Well, I mean, now you're asking me to prove almost the
impossible -- has any Russian ever talked to any Iranian about a possible
sale? I don't know the answer to that question. There have been a lot of
press reports that that has happened, that there have been some conversations.
I cannot confirm that. I don't think I'm in a position to say no Russians
and Iranians have never discussed it. But I am in a position to say, no
sales, no transfers.
QUESTION: Can we go back to two days ago, unless you covered it at the
beginning of the briefing, on the reports of North Korean missiles being
MR. BURNS: Ah, yes --
QUESTION: It was Monday, we had -- you couldn't validate the report. You
couldn't authenticate the reports then. Do you know more now than you did
MR. BURNS: I do not know more. I cannot confirm the deployment of that
missile that the Japanese and others have been worried about. But I can say,
Barry, we're sufficiently concerned about North Korea's program -- missile
development program, and reports of transfers -- that we have scheduled on
May 12th and 13th in New York these missile talks with the North Koreans.
And I'm sure that this issue will be raised by Chuck Kartman in our
bilateral talks on Friday, when they're held with the North Koreans.
QUESTION: On North Korea, could you just -- let me try this one on you.
You say that there may be briefings later today about the talks that are
going on in New York. But things seem to be going well so far. Can you tell
us that you do not yet have an answer from North Korea as to whether
they're willing to join the four-party talks?
MR. BURNS: Well, I can tell you this, and I just had a brief probably
five-minute conversation with Chuck Kartman -- he had just left the
negotiating room -- that the first couple of hours of discussions were
quite positive and encouraging.
We do not yet have any agreement that can be announced. Certainly, I think
the discussions need to go on for several more hours up in New York before
we will know if we have a final agreement that can be announced. And that's
why I just wanted to tip you off. Obviously this is a very important story,
and if the trends are positive and if there is an agreement, obviously
we'll have an announcement to make this afternoon.
QUESTION: Is that because the North Koreans have come back with more
questions about exactly what the ground rules would be in such talks?
MR. BURNS: David, I don't know the answer to that question. Chuck just
told me that there are number of issues that he felt he had to go over with
the North Koreans and the South Koreans. And he thought that would take
until 5:00 or 6:00 this afternoon. Now, what I would expect -- if those
talks are successful -- if they're successful ultimately, I would suspect
that Chuck would have something to say in New York, that Secretary Albright
would have something to say here, perhaps in a prepared statement.
And that I'm sure the North and South Koreans will make themselves
available to the media.
But I do want to caution you, there is no -- we haven't concluded these
discussions. But Chuck reports that they have -- that they are encouraging,
that there have been some positive things happening. And I think you have
seen some positive statements by Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan, as he entered
the meeting today. He said he thought they would be positive talks today.
So all that is looking up. But we have to wait a couple more hours to see
how this is consummated.
QUESTION: I'd like to go back to Iran and arms. An Israeli arms merchant
has been arrested allegedly for supplying chemical weapons components to
Iran. And the arrest was supposedly or said to be at U.S. urging. And the
issue is also said to have come up in meeting between Clinton and
Netanyahu. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't, Howard. It's the first I have heard of that. I'll be
glad to look into that for you. But I will say this. We have a standard
when it comes to Iran. We don't believe that any country in the world, or
any private manufacturer in the world, ought to add to Iran's military
capabilities with conventional missiles or related technology; with
chemical or biological missiles; and obviously, with any nuclear technology.
That is why we have consistently opposed many of the programs that China
and Russia have underway that are to assist the Iranian nuclear power
program because we don't want any training or any related civilian
technology to give Iran a lead in developing military technology. So we
have zero tolerance when it comes Iran and its own military capabilities.
Sid -- by the way, Sid, I was remiss. I should have welcomed you back
formally. Congratulations to you and your wife and your son. Mia Isabella ,
I believe, she has a beautiful name. I'm glad you're back with us.
QUESTION: We've gotten calls and announcements, thank you.
MR. BURNS: That's terrific.
QUESTION: On the same report, several Israeli papers, radio, says that
the man was arrested after the U.S. pressured Israel to do so; that the
information about his location and activities was provided by the United
States. Can you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Yeah, again, this is the very first I have heard of this
myself. I will check -- it's a legitimate question. I'll check into
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: On China, Secretary Albright last night mentioned -- and many
administration officials have mentioned recently with regard to China --
U.S. cooperation in developing peaceful uses of nuclear energy in that
country. There are presently a number of restrictions on some of the
exports of the nuclear -- the U.S. nuclear industry to countries like
China. I know General Electric has been talking with China about doing some
exports but some of the laws in the U.S. have got to be revised. I was
wondering, are you looking and reviewing the laws that now exist in the
light of collaborating with countries like China in the peaceful development
of nuclear energy?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any review of our laws. I think we have the
proper laws in place. And the United States Government observes those laws.
The problem on proliferation matters, in general, is that we need to ensure
implementation of a variety of countries around the world.
QUESTION: Nick, is the Secretary considering wider Asia travel related to
her Hong Kong event July 1st? You know, she is constantly asked about Asian
-- always points out she hit Asia on her first trip, which is unusual or
unprecedented in that -- no it isn't to Europe-centered foreign policy. Is
this an occasion for her to go to Asia, and would China be considered as a
stop, or does Hong Kong sort of negate that?
MR. BURNS: She has not made any decisions about whether or not she'll
stop in Asia before she goes to Hong Kong or after. But just to review,
because we did this very late last night, Secretary Albright has decided to
go to Hong Kong for the reversion ceremonies on June 30-31. Let me just
review briefly why she's doing that.
She was invited by the United Kingdom and China, jointly. It is obviously
an event of major historic importance in Asia. She was encouraged by all
senior members of Hong Kong's political community, and all the leading
democrats, to visit Hong Kong for reversion in order to support those who
want to see democratic rights maintained. This visit will afford her an
opportunity, publicly and privately, to speak about the importance of
maintaining the assurances in the 1984 Sino-U.K. Agreement; the assurances
of Hong Kong's autonomy, the continued autonomy, continued way of life, and
the observance, of course, of its political and human rights of all the
citizens of Hong Kong. So that is why she is going to Hong Kong.
And she'll be making some decisions, I would think in the next month or so,
about whether or not there is any other travel to Hong Kong. She met with
Martin Lee the other day. And when she asked the question on Monday
afternoon, "Should I go to Hong Kong?" He said, "You must come to Hong
Kong." And that was really the view as our consulate surveyed the
political landscape in Hong Kong of all the major political actors in
Hong Kong. It is a very, very important event.
QUESTION: Speaking of the Secretary's speech yesterday, she mentioned
further restrictions on U.S. investment in Burma. I thought the U.S.
government had done just about everything possible. There's more to be
MR. BURNS: Well, first of all, thank you, Jim. I would commend to all of
you the Secretary's speech last night. It was her first major full-length
speech on Asia policy. This is an Asia week because we've got the North
Korea talks going. We had the food aid decision yesterday. We had the China
human rights resolution. We had the speech. The speech is available at
QUESTION: Will you deliver it, if we ask?
MR. BURNS: No, I won't do that for you, Barry. We can talk about the Red
Sox or anything else, but not the speech. I would draw your attention to
those remarks on Burma. The United States has not made a decision about
whether or not we should invoke the sanctions provided for in congressional
legislation last year. But yesterday's language was the toughest yet by any
senior administrative official in warning the Burmese military dictatorship
that should the human rights condition of the Burmese people not improve,
they are looking sanctions squarely in the face.
And Secretary Albright said it more eloquently than I just did, and I would
refer you to her language, but that's the message. It is a little shot
across the bow to remind them that there is this weapon available to the
international community, certainly to the United States. We continue to be
dismayed by the treatment, discriminatory treatment, by the Burmese leaders
of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy and all the other
democrats in Burma.
QUESTION: Let's follow that up for a second. Since you say human rights
are universal, and U.S. concerns with human rights are also universal.
Would it be too much to infer that shot across the bow of Burma might also
be applied in certain cases to China?
MR. BURNS: Well, you know, there isn't, as far as I'm aware, any
sanctions, legislation, that senior members of Congress have proposed for
China. There is for Burma. And we have, of course, universal principles
that we adhere to across the board, but you have to look at the tactics of
trying to change a government's behavior from country to country.
Now a bunch of military dictators, like those in Rangoon, we think might
sit up and take notice if the largest and most important country in the
world, the most powerful country in the world, presents that threat to
them. And we hope this will moderate some of their behavior, which has been
quite disappointing in recent months.
QUESTION: And you think China would not sit up and take notice?
MR. BURNS: China is a different kettle of fish altogether. It is what it
is. It is the biggest country in the world. It is a Asia-Pacific power. We
have an engagement strategy with China and human rights is a big part of
that. But we do have different strategies for different countries; and I
think we'd be foolish not to. It wouldn't make much sense to have one
strategy -- one set of tactics, excuse me, for all countries of the world.
We have a certain policy that we implement to affect the behavior
of the Cuban government. We have another policy for Cuba, China, and one
for Burma; but the principles remain constant.
QUESTION: Do you have a Tibetan autonomy policy? Yesterday in the speech,
she made a strong pitch that the Chinese treat the Tibetans with higher
regard for their cultural differences, for their, you know, for their own
ways. And the sentence ends very gracefully with the phrase, "inside,
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: So the U.S. view of Tibet is as an integral part of China?
MR. BURNS: That's right. Tibet is part of China. But what concerns us
about China's treatment of the Tibetan population is that we would like to
see the religious, cultural and spiritual traditions of Tibet continued.
And we'd like to see tolerance by the government of China for those. We
certainly would like to see an openness by China to speak to the Dalai Lama
and others about this.
QUESTION: You're not challenging the control of China of Tibet?
MR. BURNS: Tibet is part of China.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Burma for a second? It seems to me there is a
law on the books, it's not just language from senior congressional figures -
- there is the Cohen-Feinstein --
MR. BURNS: The Cohen-Feinstein legislation, right.
QUESTION: --which Clinton helped negotiate --
MR. BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: --and signed --
MR. BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: Right, which calls for a ban on American private investment to
Burma under certain conditions.
MR. BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: Which this department believes have been met, as I understand
it, and in inter-agency discussions has been overruled. Can you comment on
MR. BURNS: That's a provocative question, Mr. Erlanger, but let me just
state the department's position. You're right, you're absolutely right.
There is a law on the books, and the law says that if certain standards --
if certain criteria are met, one must go toward sanctions, one must adopt
sanctions. The State Department, as well as the entire United States
Government has not yet made the decision that we ought to go toward
sanctions. That is a decision that the President must make, can only make,
with the advice of the Secretary of State and others in the U.S. Government
-- the National Security Council. The President hasn't made that decision.
But in asserting her point of view last night, Secretary Albright made it
abundantly clear to the Burmese military leadership that this is a
possibility, a strong possibility, should the human rights situation there
QUESTION: Did not the passage of the law -- it wasn't very long ago --
make that point of view more clearly and forcefully to the Burmese people?
I mean, they're waiting for the government to act or not to act. The shot's
been fired across their bow a long time before.
MR. BURNS: Well, in international politics, language is important. And
what you say and how you say it is important. The fact that the Secretary
of State, in a major policy speech, used language that was tougher and more
direct than any other -- used by any other administration official, in my
view, I think is significant. It's meant to send a signal, and we hope that
signal is understood. Yes.
QUESTION: At the risk of covering ground we may have covered already
today, have we discussed Chee-hwa Tung's decision to cancel his visit
MR. BURNS: We have not.
QUESTION: Can we? What's the American government's reaction to that?
MR. BURNS: Well, we were apprised by Mr. Tung that we would not be able
to visit the United States before reversion occurs. We had hoped that he
might be able to visit Washington for discussions here with our senior
policymakers. We will, of course, rely upon our Consulate General Richard
Boucher to be in close touch with him and the other leaders of Hong Kong --
Martin Lee and other democratic leaders -- up until reversion and after.
And we certainly would have preferred that he could have come, but we
understand the reasons why he cannot.
QUESTION: Can you explain what those reasons are, as far as you
MR. BURNS: I think you ought to look at his own public statements, and
you ought to ask him. I don't mean to speak for him.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the American government?
MR. BURNS: I think he's terribly pressed. I mean, he's got many, many
affairs to attend to attend to, great responsibilities and very little time
before Hong Kong reversion. And I think he feels that his place is in Hong
Kong. But, please, you should look to him give the official explanation,
not to me. But that was our understanding of his decision.
QUESTION: Obviously, the Secretary of State hopes to meet with him during
MR. BURNS: : Well, she has not yet decided on her schedule. But obviously,
I think she'll want to meet with a representative cross-section of the Hong
Kong leadership. And I would expect there to be some meeting with
But she hasn't made -- you know, she hasn't been advised what the options
are for her schedule. She just made the decision about 36 hours ago that
she'd be going.
QUESTION: The Honduran Supreme Court has turned down the U.S. request for
extradition of Michel Francois. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: : I was not aware of a decision. I'll look into it, Ron, try
to get you an answer.
Mr. Eicher, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Burns. This morning, the National Council of
Resistance for Iran held a news briefing here in Washington, ratified or --
excuse me -- confirmed the reports in The Washington Post this past weekend
concerning the activities of the -- of the national -- excuse me -- the
activities of the Iranian government in ordering various types of terrorist
Now, their spokesman, Anasoudi Chitsas told us today that they can verify --
and they call upon their track record as being a very good track record --
through sources in the Iranian government, verify that Mr. Khomeni, Mr.
Rafsanjani were involved in ordering the Khobar bombing. And the cite also
that mister -- General Sharif was the operational chief for that bombing.
And they linked -- they also linked him.
They sad that their sources --
MR. BURNS: : Let me just -- maybe we can cut this short just a minute.
MR. BURNS: : I think I know where you're heading.
QUESTION: I'm getting to it.
MR. BURNS: : You're getting to it? I think I know where you were heading -
- what is my comment on these reports? My comment is that as Secretary
Albright said, I think just yesterday, in answer to a question, we have not
yet completed our investigation of the Khobar bombing with the Saudi
Authorities. And until we do, we're not going to have very much to say
publicly. But we are going to make sure that we never rest until these
people are caught because they killed 19 Americans.
QUESTION: Nick, she also said that their evidences and such were to be
shared with Western intelligence or to be shared with U.S. intelligence --
MR. BURNS: : And I don't speak for U.S. intelligence agencies.
QUESTION: I understand that. But --
MR. BURNS: : Thankfully.
QUESTION: Nonetheless, they have -- okay, I'll leave it -- I'll leave it
MR. BURNS: : Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: They think they have ratified --
MR. BURNS: : I admire your forbearance in this matter. But I really have
very little to say beyond what I have said for about a year now, nine
months now on this issue.
MR. BURNS: : No, no, that's not -- Mr. Lambros, you'll have to delete
that remark from your honorific, please.
MR. BURNS: : I just want to be commissioner of baseball, Mr. Lambros.
That's my really -- they pay a million dollars a year and a lifetime pass
to any major league stadium.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it won't be (inaudible.)
MR. BURNS: : Well, and all you have to do is be objective among the
various teams. And I can be objective, right. The Yankees, Red Sox. That's
the job I want, Mr. Lambros, baseball commissioner. Can you lobby the
powers that be in New York about this?
QUESTION: Yes, we need you here, not over there.
MR. BURNS: : Yes, but that is in the United States -- it's the American
national pasttime. It's New York -- that's part of the country.
QUESTION: Prague --
MR. BURNS: No, Mr. Lambros -- that's the job I want, Mr. Lambros,
baseball commissioner. Can you lobby the powers that be in New York about
QUESTION: We need you here, not over there.
MR. BURNS: That is in the United States. It is the American national
pastime. It is New York. That is part of the country. (Laughter.)
MR. BURNS: No, Mr. Lambros, baseball commissioner. Anyway --
QUESTION: Any comment on reports that John Negroponte will be your next
Ambassador to Greece? And I'm wondering, Mr. Burns, why Greece does not
deserve a better ambassador than Mr. Negroponte? (Laughter.)
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, now you said --
QUESTION: I'm not going to proceed.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, you've got my Irish up. Mr. Lambros, let me make
a few comments. The answer to the first question is, no, I cannot comment
on the press reports concerning our next ambassador to Greece. I'm sure
that the President will make an excellent choice. And when the President
has made it, and when he's ready to announce it, he will do so; not
Second, John Negroponte, and I'm not speaking about him in relation to
Greece, is a great American. He's a fine diplomat. He's one of our finest
and most senior foreign service officers, and I really personally object to
your characterization of him. I really do, seriously.
QUESTION: The Baltimore Sun -- he has --
MR. BURNS: Oh, I wouldn't believe everything you read in The Baltimore
Sun, with all due respect to The Baltimore Sun. I've responded consistently
over a year to these charges in The Baltimore Sun. They are without
foundation. He's a very distinguished individual who's had an outstanding
career in the State Department. He's served Republicans and Democrats. And
I really object to peoples' names being dragged through the mud like
QUESTION: What about his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, that's ancient history. That's ten years ago. And
we've had special prosecutors in this country, and we've had court trials,
and Ambassador Negroponte is an honorable person who has had an honorable
career and he does not deserve this. And I'm not going to answer any more
questions on it.
QUESTION: Nick, do you know about the unfavorable ruling at Tegucigalpa?
Do you have something, a reaction to that?
MR. BURNS: I was just asked, and we're going to try to get you guidance
on this this afternoon. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: My name is Max Londonio, from Colombia, not Columbia University.
MR. BURNS: That's okay.
QUESTION: I'm a visitor journalist working with EIR Magazine. I'm a very
active in the fight against drugs, and I've been endorsing the Clinton
Administration policy. I did receive death threats related to my attacks
and denunciations to some -- government. I'm very concerned because of
recent statements of American Ambassador to Colombia, Myles Frechette, who
has insisted once more that there is no link between the guerrillas and the
narco-traffic activities. Nevertheless, General McCaffrey and Robert
Gelbard has been telling that there is actual link.
So my concern is how is it possible that Mr. Frechette is endorsing new
negotiations for peace, recently proposed by the Samper government with
these narco-terrorist groups? Because openly Mr. Frechette said that both
he and -- both the Americans and the Europeans are in favor of this peace
or democracy. So how is it possible seeing that this is an open -- this is
in opposition to the Clinton Administration policy? I mean, it is clear
that the British policy has been to endorse Samper government, but this is
not the case with the Clinton Administration.
MR. BURNS: First of all, thank you for your question. And obviously we
applaud you for your efforts to fight narcotics trafficking in Colombia. We
share your concern that everything must be done by the Colombian government,
the responsible authority in Colombia, to fight the narco-traffickers; to
arrest them and prosecute them; and to send them to real jails where they
serve real prison sentences. And Ambassador Frechette has been an
outstanding American ambassador in Bogota. And he is fully in line with our
policies and with General McCaffrey's policies, and those of the President
on this issue. I don't see any distinction between what he has been
saying and what General McCaffrey has been saying.
QUESTION: Yes, but these negotiations with the terrorists, I mean, they
are linked to -- I mean, they are involved in drug trafficking, so you have
a dual policy. Do you have some sense behind --
MR. BURNS: You know, the current Ambassador Frechette has earned many
distinctions. He has been pilloried in the Colombian press because he
stands up for the certification process, and he's been heavily criticized
by the narco-traffickers. So, therefore, I think you can just rest assured
that the is representing American interests very effectively there; and he
understands, as do we, that every effort must be made by the United States
to press the Colombian government for a much better performance on
Mr. Lambros, no more aspersions on the character of American diplomats,
QUESTION: (Inaudible) attributed to you a statement by which you
expressed displeasure at Athens' decision not to recall its ambassador from
Tehran on the Mykonos case in Germany. Could you please confirm it?
MR. BURNS: : I didn't express displeasure. I simply noted that as of
Monday, Greece was the only country that had not withdrawn its ambassador,
but it has now done so. So congratulations to the Greek government for
having withdrawn its ambassador from Tehran. We think that's a -- we
support very much the Greek government decision, which is fully in line
with the rest of European Union.
QUESTION: Have we discussed Zaire, too? Excuse me, but have we discussed
MR. BURNS: : No, but there is an important issue to be discussed, a
QUESTION: Well, if I could just ask here, what's your government's
reaction to Secretary General Kofi Annan's call for Laurent Kabila and
President Mobutu to meet? Do you want to see that happen?
MR. BURNS: : We'd very much like to see that happen. That's a step in the
right direction down the road towards a transition to democracy away from
dictatorship. We understand that President Mandela is meeting with Mr.
Kabila today in Cape Town. And we also understand the representatives of
the government are en route to Cape Town.
We hope very much that the South African government, along with the United
Nations, with Mr. Sahnoun might be able to put together these peace talks.
We want to see an end to the fighting. And if the UN and the South Africans
can engineer a real cease-fire, that will be a tremendous political
achievement. And the South African government has already distinguished
itself in these negotiations.
Second, we certainly want to see this transition. We want to see politicians
grouped together in supportive elections so that the Zairian people can
decide. And third, I do want to call you attention to the continuing
humanitarian problems in Eastern Zaire. We understand now that discussions
are still underway between the UNHCR, the government of Rwanda and the
rebel alliance on whether or not the 80,000 to 100,000 Rwandan Hutu
refugees can be successfully repatriated.
There is one glimmer of hope today. And that is that the UNHCR announced
today that it hoped that the first airlift of Rwandan refugees might be
launched on Friday. And that would bring out the first 80 children from the
refugee camps south of Kisangani. People continue to die in these refugee
camps from starvation -- malnourishment and starvation. Cholera has broken
out. The United States has put money at the disposal of the United
Nations to fly the people out.
We continue to await the decision of the government of Rwanda to allow
women and children, at least, to be evacuated from the refugee camps so
that their lives may be saved. And we commend the United Nations for its
leadership. And we ask the Rwandan government to please consider this
urgent humanitarian appeal. And we hope that Friday that airlift can begin.
This airlift will be massive. They hope to bring out 20,000 to 30,000
people by air and the rest overland -- the rest of the total group of
80,000 to 100,000 from Kisangani to Goma into Rwanda. It's a very, very
Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 1:27 p.m.)