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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #60, 97-04-22

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>


1307

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Tuesday, April 22, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

ANNOUNCEMENTS
1         Secretary Albright's Testimony Before the Senate Armed Services
            Committee

BURMA 1-5,6 Sanctions/Human Rights Abuses/U.S. Investment in Burma 5 Relationship with ASEAN Countries 5 Possible Discussions by U.S. Delegation in Europe

IRAQ 6-7 Violation of No-Fly Zone/Distinction Between Religious and Military Issues 7 Possible Issue for UN Sanctions Committee

AFGHANISTAN 8 Discussions with the Taliban

EUROPE 8-9 Trip of Peter Tarnoff, Special Advisor to the Secretary 20-21 Secretary Albright's Meeting with EU Commissioner Van den Broek 20,21-22 Visit by Romanian Foreign Minister/NATO Candidacy

NORTH KOREA 9-12 U.S./ROK/DPRK Talks in New York 12 Comments by Mr. Hwang Concerning DPRK Missile Capability 12-13,14 Upcoming Missile Talks in New York 13 Food Aid by Japan

WESTERN SAHARA 13 Appointment of Former Secretary of State James Baker as Negotiator

RUSSIA 14-15 Status of Romanov Jewels

ZAIRE 15-16 Situation Update/Possibility of Meeting Between Mobutu & Kabila 17 Reported Atrocities by Rebels

CHINA 17-19 Visit to U.S. by Dalai Lama


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #60

TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 1997 12:50 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: I want to thank Tim Wirth and Eileen Claussen for taking the time to come down today. They've both been exemplary in leading us on these issues. Tim, thank you very much, Eileen.

Would you like to proceed with the briefing now?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. BURNS: Okay, good. Let me just go into a couple of things with you. First, Secretary Albright will be testifying tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen on the Chemical Weapons Convention and other issues. That's in the Hart Building, Room 216. I know that's open to the press, and we'll see you there.

Second, I thought perhaps I could give you some additional information on the Burma issue that would help to fill that out for you. I also, of course, have some information on the situation in Iraq today, and the situation in Zaire, which is quite worrisome. We can go through those issues.

Let me just provide some background information that would help to fill out a little bit of what the Secretary just announced. Since September 30th, when President Clinton signed into law the Cohen-Feinstein Burma Sanctions Provisions as part of the Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 1997, the conduct of the military dictatorship in Burma, the SLORC, has been quite reprehensible.

The consistent pattern of human rights abuses have continued. Let me give you some specific examples. The arrest of more than 100 persons for political protest, and several hundred people - if not more - remain in detention. These are political prisoners. The monitoring, restrictions and harassment of the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and personal harassment of her. The sentencing of 34 members of the National League for Democracy to prison sentences. This is all the more ironic in that these are the people who were elected in the last free elections. That election, of course, was repudiated by the military dictators. The closure by the SLORC of most universities in Burma since the end of last year, in response to the student protests on the streets of Rangoon. The assault by the Burmese army against the Karen National Union Forces, which caused up to 18,000 Karen to flee into Thailand - the vast majority of them civilians, including women, children and the elderly. Thousands of civilians were forcibly conscripted to serve as porters for the Burmese army in its offensive.

So we have been watching all of these events. The Burmese Government has built for itself a notorious, a notorious record of human rights violations. We had hoped that the threat of sanctions might induce them to modify their behavior. We had hoped that all of the international attention on them, the fact that we had raised this with all of our ASEAN partners might serve to help convince them that they ought to improve their human rights situation. But it did not. That is why the President made the determination that he did.

Now, I expect that an executive order, implementing this decision, will be issued shortly. We will, of course, ensure that any regulations will be consistent with our international obligations. I believe it's the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control that will take the lead within the Administration in drafting that executive order. We hope to have that order ready for issuance very soon.

I think you know that U.S. investment in Burma is approximately $240 million. That's according to Burmese Government statistics. The bulk of the investment is in the oil and natural gas sectors. The executive order will prohibit new investment in Burma by U.S. persons. The denial of U.S. investment, we think, will send important messages. Of course, as the Secretary said, we'll continue to consult with our ASEAN partners and other nations that have an interest in this.

I would point out that many nations have already joined us in our arms embargo against Burma, including most of the European countries with which we deal, Canada, Australia and Japan. The European Union and Japan limit their assistance to Burma to humanitarian aid. As you know, the United States, of course, does not encourage American - had not encouraged until this decision by the President - American investment. We don't have OPIC or Ex-Im support, and we regularly try to limit or even block Burmese access to support from the international financial institutions.

So I wanted to give you just a little bit more background to fill out that story. I will be glad to talk about that issue or any other issue that you have on your mind.

QUESTION: Nick, will you take questions on Burma?

MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to. George, do you want to start? Ron?

QUESTION: Do you know of any plans by any American to invest in Burma? In other words, does this legislation stop anything that you know of?

MR. BURNS: Oh, I think there are many American companies that have shown an interest in Burma. There are a few large companies that have major investments there. As you know, this legislation, this executive order, will speak to new investment. But it will be specific, and it will make impossible any new U.S. corporate investment in Burma.

QUESTION: Nick, UNOCAL was in a joint venture with TOTAL. Doesn't this mean just that the new investment will be laundered through Paris?

MR. BURNS: No, I don't expect so. I think I'd refer you to a lawyer on that first, Norm, to be specific. But I think the intent of the law is to block any new U.S. investment by American corporations. That is going to severely limit the participation by American companies in economic investment opportunities in Burma. It's also going to send, as the Secretary said, a very strong signal.

QUESTION: So the executive order isn't signed. When is it going to be signed?

MR. BURNS: Soon.

QUESTION: Soon, I mean, like this week or --

MR. BURNS: It has to be drafted. The drafting process has to finish.

QUESTION: So it could take a while.

MR. BURNS: But not very long.

QUESTION: So American companies are on notice today that if they want to deal with Burma, they better do it quickly, right? (Laughter.)

MR. BURNS: No, I don't think that's the case. I don't think it's going to be possible for some CEO to get in a corporate jet and fly to Rangoon and ink a deal tomorrow. I think that would be entirely inconsistent with what the Administration is announcing today, and would certainly violate the spirit of it. I don't believe anyone's going to try to do that, Carole. I think the game is up on Burma. Burma is a bad place for business. It has been for a long time, and now it's going to be a very bad place for business.

QUESTION: The point is that, today, to invest in Burma today, it is not illegal under U.S. law.

MR. BURNS: Once the executive order is issued, it will be illegal. But I cannot imagine that any credible company would seek to fly out in the dark of night and slip in under a curtain that is rapidly descending. I just don't believe that corporations want to have that stigma attached to their name. I don't believe boards of directors or shareholders would want to have the program that would come with that kind of -- I just don't believe it will happen, Carole. We're not worried about it.

QUESTION: Why didn't you just hold the announcement until you had the executive order signed?

MR. BURNS: Well, the President had made the decision. We felt it was important to announce it to send a signal to the Burmese. It's often the case where you announce something and a couple of days later the executive order is issued. It's not going to be long at all; it'll be very quick.

QUESTION: Do you have any approximate dollar figure of the amount of business that Burma potentially was going to have in the near term?

MR. BURNS: I do not, I do not. But now the word is out, I think, to American companies. I think this may have some impact on others as well - that it's a bad place to do business. I just don't have figures, though. Sid.

QUESTION: Nick, on the UNOCAL joint venture, the initial investment is whatever it is, but there will have to be subsequent money to nurture that investment, to build infrastructure, et cetera. Is this ruling going to prevent UNOCAL from going forward from this point?

MR. BURNS: You mean to add to its investment?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. BURNS: Yeah. What I'd like to do is take that question. It's an excellent question. We asked that question before we came down here. We need to seek some legal advice. But it's a very good question. Yes.

QUESTION: Is this being done under (inaudible) authority? And also is this going to affect subsidiaries and or affiliates of U.S. companies?

MR. BURNS: I'm going to refer you to the executive order once it comes out. Let's let the executive order be drafted, finished, signed and issued. When it is, we'll be glad to answer those specific questions.

QUESTION: Do you know if this is going to affect - lots of companies have subsidiaries, for example, in Singapore that operate in Burma. Can you give us an idea if this is going to affect them?

MR. BURNS: You know, I don't want to put myself in the position of answering questions that are legal in nature because I'm not a lawyer, thank goodness. I prefer to let a lawyer do that. We will even bring a lawyer up here to answer those questions, if you'd like. But let's let the order be drafted.

It's very clear the President and the Secretary of State are sending a signal to Burma that its human rights situation is woeful and reprehensible and ought to be cleaned up. The other signal is to American firms that Burma is now out of bounds for American investment. That's very clear.

QUESTION: This won't affect the ability companies to repatriate profits into the U.S., will it?

MR. BURNS: Again, those are very specific technical, legal questions, which I am going to leave to the lawyers. Tom.

QUESTION: I think it's been apparent for some time that whatever countries in Europe may do, ASEAN is not going to follow the United States down this road with Burma. In fact, I think they're about to invite Burma into membership, if they haven't already done so. How are you going to balance the equities over there so that you don't wind up with a confrontation with another group of allies and have to send Stu Eizenstat out there? (Laughter.)

MR. BURNS: He's a very talented guy, and he has now diminished our problems with the Europeans and refocused all of us on Cuba. So maybe the same thing will happen here.

We have had a very active discussion, diplomatically, with the ASEAN countries and the ASEAN partners, such as Japan, and we hope very much to continue that. We will have an opportunity to continue that with Japan this week when the Prime Minister visits.

I can't point to any leading member of ASEAN or any major country in Asia that has taken - or that is considering investment sanctions of this kind. There are times when the United States needs to stand up and say a situation in a country is so reprehensible and human rights are being violated by such a broad degree that we have do something about it, and ask other countries to reflect on their own responsibilities.

We've taken that position with Iran. We take it now with Burma. But we will be very aggressive, obviously, in talking to our Asian and European allies and partners about this issue and hope that they may follow suit.

The fact is that there is a great democratic leader in Burma. There were free elections in Burma. It was all overturned by a bunch of military dictators, and their repression has increased over the last year or so. Something had to be done to respond to that, and this is the option that we have selected. We think it's in our own best interests to do this. Yes.

QUESTION: The delegation in Europe, talking about Iran, any plans for them to also bring up Burma?

MR. BURNS: Well, Peter Tarnoff, the special adviser, is in Paris today talking to the French Government. He was in Bonn last night and early this morning. His agenda is really Iran, and the team with him are Middle East experts. I'm sure that if questions are raised about this, he is perfectly capable of answering them. Our ambassadors in all of those countries will be asked to go in and talk to host governments about why we have undertaken this initiative. We hope that the European governments will now reflect on their responsibilities in this important question of Burmese human rights violations.

George.

QUESTION: You said you had something on Iraq. Could you share it with us?

MR. BURNS: I'd be very glad to do that, yes.

QUESTION: When Senator McConnell wanted to have immediate sanctions against Burma last year, the Administration said that unilateral sanctions were not the best way to go. Is that inoperative now?

MR. BURNS: Inoperative? Well, I mean, what we had wanted to do was to see if the threat of sanctions through Cohen-Feinstein and the repeated public statements, including one just made by the Secretary in Annapolis last week, would have an effect on the SLORC. They didn't, because the repression intensified. So obviously we've now drawn our own conclusions that we have to take dramatic and tough action against them.

George, on Iraq. You've seen the President's comments this morning before his departure for North Dakota. We just wanted to add to that the Iraqis know what should have happened here. Iraq should have taken its wish to give pilgrims the right to go to Mecca and Medina and come back -- they should have taken that to the UN Sanctions Committee. Had they done so, they would have been heard and a way would have been found to allow the Iraqi pilgrims to exercise their responsibilities, their religious responsibilities.

But we want to reiterate very firmly today that Iraq cannot change the military status quo of the no-fly, no-drive zone which has been established in Southern and Northern Iraq, and established in support of UN Security Council resolutions. What Iraq seems to be doing is engaging in a high-wire act of political provocation. They are trying to pick a fight. They are trying to elicit support on an issue, and they are confusing religion and politics.

The United States, which is a multi-religious country -- which has many millions of Muslims as citizens in our own country -- will be the first country in the world to defend the right of Muslims to observe their religious practices. We're also going to be the first country in the world to defend the right of Iraq's neighbors not to be attacked.

So if Iraq thinks that by pushing its nose under the tent, as it has done, they can seek to build up any kind of military capability in the north or south, it is sadly mistaken. Any type of military provocation, distinct from what we have seen - which are civilian flights now, with civilians on them, at least - any type of military provocation, of course, will not succeed because the United States and our allies will continue to enforce the no-fly, no-drive zones.

Saddam Hussein learned that lesson in September of last year, in the fall of 1994 and he certainly learned in 1991. He shouldn't test the resolve of the United States. But we want to make that statement so it's absolutely clear that we intend to continue to enforce the no-fly, no drive zones. We are a democratic country with liberal traditions. We, obviously, are not going to take any negative actions against pilgrims because we respect their right to visit the holy places and the holy cities. But we certainly will draw the line in enforcing the no-fly, no-drive zones in the north and south.

That is a very important distinction that we wanted to make today about this, and shame on Iraq. Shame on the Iraqi Government for using innocent pilgrims as political pawns. That's exactly what is happening here. Let's not anyone be fooled by what Saddam Hussein is trying to do. Steve.

QUESTION: Nick, as you bring these two issues - and that is the political provocation and military provocation side by side in your words here, I wonder if there is any evidence of one being related to the other. In other words, has this so-called political provocation been a smoke screen for signs of military provocation?

MR. BURNS: We're not aware of any, and let's be clear. The travel of civilian Muslims does not represent any kind of challenge to the no-flight and no-drive zones. If Saddam Hussein thinks that this is a challenge to the no-flight zones, he has got to be smoking something. He's got to be kidding himself. It's not.

Everyone recognizes this to be a religious right, to travel. Since the end of the Gulf War, Iraqi Muslims have been able to travel to Mecca and Medina. They've done it successfully every year. This is clearly a political point that he is trying to make, and we think unsuccessfully.

So we drawing that line, Steve, between the religious issue and the military issue, and he should not be fooled about our resolve on the military issue. We see no indication right now that he is building up his forces in either the north or south. But we are watching every day, and we will see if he tries to do that.

QUESTION: Nick, do you intend to go back to the Security Council now after this second violation and try to get another statement of condemnation or something?

MR. BURNS: Well, I don't know if this is a situation for the Security Council or the Sanctions Committee. It appears to be an issue for the Sanctions Committee. The Sanctions Committee writes the rules and implements the rules that govern the behavior of Iraq and the rest of us as we try to implement the UN sanctions.

Saddam Hussein wants to relieve his country of the effect of the UN sanctions. He wants to weaken the international coalition. He wants to drive a wedge between us and our partners. He's not going to succeed. He's not going to succeed. The military containment of Saddam Hussein will continue.

QUESTION: North Korea?

QUESTION: Hajj.

MR. BURNS: Any more on the Hajj? Yeah, the Hajj.

QUESTION: Yes, the King of Saudi Arabia and also the Turkish Prime Minister and Chechen leader, they accept the Taliban leader in Mecca they meet with together. Do you have any reaction? Do you have any concern about this one? Because no one recognized the Taliban group as the ruler of Afghanistan.

MR. BURNS: I see no reason why we would criticize meetings or conversations. The United States has met with the Taliban many times and will continue to do so. So I don't think we're in a position, without even knowing the basis for the meeting, what was discussed, to be critical of it.

Our own position is that we will continue to talk to the Taliban. But we do not recognize the Taliban as the legally constituted government of Afghanistan. Nor do we recognize the other militia or factions as the representative of the people of Afghanistan or the government. We will deal with all the factions. We hope that the assistance - the military assistance to them from outside of Afghanistan will stop. In every meeting that we have with the Taliban, we raise directly with them their treatment - their very poor treatment - of their own people, including their uniquely horrid treatment of women and girls, and the discrimination that they practice against women and girls. We won't fail to raise that issue.

QUESTION: Nick, staying in the same area. Do you have any comments on reports published about Iran searching to get the leadership of the G-77 Group in the General Assembly of the United Nations?

MR. BURNS: No, I don't have any information on that.

QUESTION: Will you take the question?

MR. BURNS: We, of course, would not want to see Iran play any kind of a leadership role because of its own policies, with which we disagree very strongly. Betsy.

QUESTION: You are not aware of this in the United Nations?

MR. BURNS: I just haven't heard of it. I'll have to check with our experts and see if we can get you an answer. But I haven't heard of it.

QUESTION: It's published in the U.S. News & World Report this week.

MR. BURNS: Which I have not read cover to cover, yet. But I'll seek to do that

tonight. Betsy.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how Tarnoff's trip is going? What reception he is receiving?

MR. BURNS: I think quite splendidly, actually. Let's see, he has been in The Hague for a meeting with Hans Van Mierlo, in Bonn, now, in Paris. He'll be on to London, then come back tomorrow and report to the Secretary and to others in this building.

We're very hopeful that the European Union will now reflect on this opening that we all have to re-engineer a common policy against Iran that will be more effective in presenting Iran with a strong international coalition.

QUESTION: Can you give us some indication on how the substance of the meetings is going?

MR. BURNS: I really can't. I have not had the opportunity to speak to Peter himself, or to other members of his delegation. I just have sketchy reports on what they are doing. But this trip was taken with great purpose, and that was to have the closest possible consultation with the Europeans.

Carole?

QUESTION: North Korea.

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: What's the story with the talks? The South Koreans have left?

MR. BURNS: Inconclusive is the word of the day. Yesterday the word was muddle. Today the word is inconclusive.

QUESTION: What is your strategy?

MR. BURNS: Here's our strategy. Let me just tell you how I think things went. We think that the United States and South Korea had useful talks with the North Koreans over the past week on the four-party peace proposal. As you know, we had hoped that the North Koreans would come to New York and accept the proposal itself. That did not happen. Differences remain between, on the one hand, the U.S. and South Korea; on the other hand, North Korea.

Because those differences remain and apparently will not be closed quickly, I understand that the head of the South Korean delegation has left town. We are committed to continue to remain in New York at the working level - that is, the level of our own office director, Mark Minton, a very important person in our policy. He will continue, the three sides will continue to consult in New York to hope to resolve the impasse, the remaining issues.

The important point for the North Koreans to understand is, our offer of peace negotiations remains on the table. It's a North Korean decision as to whether or not they want to pick up that offer and accept it. So the ball's in their court, and the ball will remain there until they tell us otherwise.

In the meantime, I can tell you that the North Koreans continue to make clear to us the severity of the food situation, the need for international assistance. We explained to the North Koreans that we have contributed $25 million in the latest appeal by the World Food Program, and that we will continue to consider other requests for humanitarian assistance. But we cannot accept that the issue of food should be a precondition for discussions on the issue of peace. That wouldn't make sense from a North Korean perspective.

It's been 43 years since the Armistice was signed. If the peace talks continue to go rather slowly, why in the world would we want to link food aid to those talks, which will, we think, proceed in a plodding fashion? It's on our interests and theirs to get the food aid there as quickly as possible. That's one of the reasons that we don't link the two. Now, I can tell you that in addition to remaining in New York meeting at the working group level, we are having a meeting today on our own, a bilateral meeting between the United States and North Korea. We are being led by Mark Minton, our American foreign service officer in that meeting.

We are discussing the search for the American remains from the Korean War, the missile non-proliferation issues, technical problems involved in the establishment of liaison offices between the United States and North Korea. We also look forward now to the missile proliferation talks, which we expect to have in just a couple of weeks. So we continue to have a relationship with North Korea. We'll continue to meet in New York; and the offer's on the table. It's their choice.

QUESTION: A couple of follow-up questions. What was your rationale for going ahead with the bilateral meeting, even though the North Koreans failed to give you an unambiguous response on the peace talks?

MR. BURNS: Because we've never tied issues like food assistance - we certainly wouldn't tie the American remains of the 8,100 missing in action from the Korean War, or the agreed framework - we wouldn't tie any of that to the political talks.

We have fish to fry with the North Koreans. We've got business to do - agreed framework, remains of Americans, food assistance, other issues that have an impact on stability in the Korean Peninsula. We're going to go forward and continue talking. At the same time, our offer is out there. If they want to take it, that's great.

QUESTION: Actually, your officials have said in the past that the pace and the sort of quality of the development of a relationship with North Korea would, in fact, be dependent on a North-South dialogue. And so it sounds to me as if you're - in order to show good faith with the North Koreans or to keep them talking on the peace talks, that you're willing to go forward with this bilateral talk, even though maybe in the past, you wouldn't have agreed to do that.

MR. BURNS: No, that's not true in this sense. We have said that the pace and scope and breadth of the relationship will be dependent on the North's talks with South Korea. You see at what level we're talking - we're talking in New York, not Washington -- we're talking at the office director level, not the assistant secretary level, not, needless to say, the secretary of state level. We do not have a normal relationship. We don't have formal diplomatic relations. We don't have missions in each other's countries, not bilateral missions.

So our relationship with North Korea will continue to be severely circumscribed until they can demonstrate that they are interested in a mature, responsible relationship with South Korea. But talking today makes sense. We've been talking with the North Koreans for decades about these issues.

QUESTION: A few more questions. In order to get a firm, formal response from Pyongyang now, will the South Koreans - the senior negotiators from South Korea have to come back and meet in New York? Or do you anticipate that there would be something --

MR. BURNS: At this point, whenever the North Koreans want to come forward and accept the offer, as long as the United States and the Republic of Korea are together. We never negotiate this issue without the Republic of Korea. I'm sure we'll find out a way to arrange a meeting. That's not he problem. The problem is not the shape of the table or who's there. The problem is the North Koreans are not ready to pull the trigger on the four- party talks.

QUESTION: All right, so if the North Koreans walked in today and said to Mark Minton and his South Korean counterpart, we are ready to accept the talks, that would be an appropriate venue? And that would be it?

MR. BURNS: I don't imagine that that's what they'd do. They seem to always want to negotiate those high political issues at a higher political level, at the level of deputy foreign minister. I imagine if they had something to say definitively that had no pre-conditions to it, that would probably happen at a higher level. But if it didn't, and if we thought it was authoritative, of course, we would go forward. Process is not the problem. The problem is getting a clear answer out of Pyongyang. That's the problem. Betsy.

QUESTION: Nick, might there be any way that this country could assist the North Koreans in getting food that would allow them to go forward with these talks? I mean, they seem to be saying, we - you know, they are holding out this carrot - well, not really a carrot, I guess. They are saying, we need more food. You are saying, it can't be linked. So is there any other way that you all are looking into that could give them a surety of food that they require, without linking it to these talks? Any kinds of loans in international organizations? Any other kinds of mechanisms that would allow this to go forward?

MR. BURNS: You know, the North Koreans are just going to have to trust us and the international community that we mean well here. We've already responded to the food appeal by the United Nations World Food Program. We are the leading country -- $25 million since February alone. We have met every appeal over the last two years. Surely that is good faith and evidence of good faith. But why would we want to link food aid to talks that are moving at the speed of molasses? There is an urgent humanitarian need to get the food there quickly. Our ships are already on their way and will be arriving next week and the following week, the first tranche of American aid.

Why in the world would we want to turn those ships around and say, no, you can't dock at Nampo; you can't unload your food until the four-party talks, or the agreement is consummated? That doesn't make any sense.

The North Koreans simply need to understand that we will come forward with our food aid no matter what happens in the four-party talks. They have not agreed to the four-party talks. The food aid is still coming. That's evidence of good faith on the part of the United States.

QUESTION: I'm not saying that they should be linked, Nick. I'm suggesting that possibly the solution -- that we should maybe more directly address the problem that they have with the food and try to enlarge the places that they go to seek it, and seek other mechanisms to try and get it, rather than simply through the UN and the United States.

MR. BURNS: There is no problem in the amount of people, the number of organizations, or the willingness of countries to help on the food problem. There is a severe food shortage. A lot of people, a lot of countries are willing to help, led by the United States. We're going to prove our bona fides on the ground, and that is what the North Koreans will see.

But we do not accept pre-conditions in these talks, nor should we. That would not be a good idea. David.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the reports from South Korea that Mr. Hwang has indicated that North Korea has both missile and chemical capability to reach Japan? And secondarily to that, could you bring us a little bit up to date on the nonproliferation - the missile nonproliferation talks?

MR. BURNS: I can't speak to Mr. Hwang's charges because I just haven't heard him make them. I've just seen press reports. But in general, we are concerned about the development of North Korean missiles which we think could have a very, very negative impact on some of our neighbors in North Asia. We have made that known publicly before and privately to the North Koreans. That's why we are having missile talks in a couple of weeks in New York.

We hope and trust that North Korea will decide to meet the international guidelines that almost all countries agree to that restrict the development and the use of missiles and missile technology. It's very important if North Korea wants to be treated and seen as a responsible member of the international community.

QUESTION: Who's going to lead those missile talks in New York?

MR. BURNS: The talks will be led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bob Einhorn, who's our resident great expert on missile proliferation issues.

QUESTION: Do you have a firm date for those talks?

MR. BURNS: I believe we announced them for May 16th. Isn't that right? May 16th.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BURNS: Excuse me? God bless us, did I say that? Well, whatever I said stands. We can probably even check that in the course of this briefing. We made the announcement last week.

QUESTION: Have the North Koreans said they're going to show up?

MR. BURNS: The North Koreans.

QUESTION: They said they were going to show up Wednesday.

MR. BURNS: You know, you have to say this for the North Koreans, they're interesting. They're an interesting negotiating partner. You're never quite sure who's going to be where. The North Koreans have told us that they will be in New York, that they have agreed to these talks. We fully expect them to be there.

QUESTION: And they've told you that since these high-level talks were indefinitely suspended?

MR. BURNS: Well, we agreed on the proliferation talks before they even arrived last week for the political talks. They've given us no indication that they would not come to the missile talks. We're sure they'll be there. Yes.

QUESTION: The Japanese Government today, because of this drug shipment from North Korea and also the kidnapping cases, has indicated that they may not provide aid to North Korea. Any reaction to that?

MR. BURNS: Well, I haven't seen the Japanese Government's statement. I would rather see it first and read it and think about it before we have a reaction. Of course, we have Prime Minister Hashimoto coming later this week. There will be ample opportunity to comment on those issues.

Can I just say one thing before we get too much off track? I want to go to the Western Sahara and just say that the United States very much supports the Secretary General Kofi Annan in his efforts to help reach a settlement in the Western Sahara. We support any steps that might prompt the parties to the dispute to accelerate their efforts to resolve this conflict.

Secretary General Annan has selected former Secretary of State James Baker to be his negotiator and special representative to resolve this longstanding problem now, which is over two decades old. Secretary Baker was an extraordinarily successful secretary of state. He's a man of great skill. He is held in the highest respect by all of us here in the State Department, that includes our Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. We think this is an excellent appointment. We know that Secretary Baker is on his way today to the Western Sahara, and we wish him well. He has every support from the United States in this effort.

The missile talks will be held on May 12th and 13th. George and Ron, you've got better memories - you have lost fewer brain cells than I have, put it that way, which is not surprising.

QUESTION: Different area - art and Russia. Russia's getting very upset about the Corcoran Gallery's exhibit. The Russian Minister of Culture is on his way to Washington, as we speak.

MR. BURNS: My goodness.

QUESTION: -- with a delegation. Are there any plans to talk to him in this building? And do you still feel that this is not a diplomatic incident of any kind? What can you tell us?

MR. BURNS: Well, I was not aware that the Russian Minister of Culture was coming to Washington. Let me just check that with our Russia experts. He is? Sometimes I find out more from the press than I do from some of our experts in this building. Sometimes I feel that they don't want me to know these things. Who knows? But in any case, that's interesting. We'll have to corroborate that information.

We still see this as a contractual problem. That's what it comes down to. You've got lawyers who are looking at this issue. Our advice is, the lawyers ought to lock themselves in a room and come up with a solution, because this poor couple has parked their truck in front of the Corcoran now for what, six days? Thank goodness they have a refrigerated truck to help preserve these priceless artifacts. But this poor couple has to sit in the streets of this city and have Russians in front of them and Russians behind them and Andrea with her camera and all sorts of things happening to them. I'm not sure which is a greater challenge, but all sorts of things happening. Meanwhile, the good citizens of Houston and Memphis and San Diego don't have the opportunity to see these priceless objects from the Czarist era.

We just hope that the lawyers who wrote the contracts will just decide -- we're going to pull an all-nighter, get into a room together -- do whatever they have to do, resolve it, and emerge and say we've got a solution. It's a contractual problem. The State Department has chosen not to believe that this is a problem of international diplomacy. It's not. The State Department has had very little role in this, nor should we. It's an issue of contracts. If we got involved, all we'd end up doing is talking to lawyers, which is not always a very happy pastime; and the lawyers would point to their respective interpretations of the contract. So we hope that the contractual dispute can be resolved.

U.S.-Russian relations will survive the impasse of the Corcoran, the showdown at the Corcoran. We will survive this issue. It is not an issue of war and peace; it's an issue of art. Let's keep it all in perspective, even though I know it was on nightly news and it is all over the newspapers.

QUESTION: Were you able to determine whether the cars blocking the truck are violating DC law?

MR. BURNS: That's a very interesting question. The guidance that I have says the following: We are not aware of any allegations or complaints that laws have been violated. (Laughter.) I don't know. Were they watching Andrea last night? Andrea was very tough, I thought. She was good. She was very good, very good.

QUESTION: They haven't been feeding the parking meters.

MR. BURNS: See, Andrea was very tough with them, I thought. Andrea is a very good reporter.

In any event, it is for the appropriate DC law enforcement authorities to determine whether any laws have been violated and, of course, to enforce that. The State Department does not monitor the meters and we're not responsible for parking violations. I mean, it is rather extraordinary that you would have all these cars parked on the street for six days. I have never tried that, and I wouldn't. But, anyway, so I guess we're not competent to address that question. You might be referred to the competent legal authorities, the city government of the District.

QUESTION: It would appear to a citizen of Washington, DC, that these Russian diplomats are getting immunity from parking tickets while they are in the process of blocking these people from leaving.

MR. BURNS: You know how the system works. The system works when the local police - DC, New York, Chicago, whatever - report traffic violations or parking fines to us. That's when we take action. We don't go out and give the tickets, as you know. State Departments officers don't do that.

QUESTION: Maybe you ought to discuss with the DC police why they're going so easy on these people.

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any discussions. I have very spare and carefully written guidance on this issue. (Laughter.)

In answer to your challenging question, all sorts of people have cleared it and I have duly presented it to you. I just consider to believe that this is a artistic contractual dispute, but not a matter of high policy that should affect the relationship between Russia and the United States.

QUESTION: What about Zaire?

MR. BURNS: Yes. Well, the situation there is still quite worrisome. We have seen that President Mobutu's son has said that President Mobutu will not be able to attend the talks engineered by the United Nations and the South African government in Capetown. But we understand that neither the South African Government nor the United Nations have heard formally from the Zairians that Mobutu will not show up.

Therefore, we hope very much that it might still be possible for a meeting to be arranged between Mr. Mobutu and Mr. Kabila. If health is a problem, then perhaps another location can be worked out that would be more convenient for President Mobutu. But we think every effort should be made to arrange a meeting. We think it is quite important. Without a meeting, there is very little prospect, we think, of a cease-fire or agreements on any kind of transitional political arrangements that would lead Zaire out of chaos away from civil war. So that is our comment on the political side.

Now, the streets of Kinshasa appear to be quite quiet today and we have not taken any - we have not made any change on the status of our own embassy employees. What is extremely disconcerting, of course, is the situation of the refugees up near Kisangani. The United States is extremely concerned about the plight of anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 Rwandan refugees who are spread out in makeshift camps along the Kisangani-Ubundu railroad. Their repatriation has been put on hold. Access to them by the United Nations relief workers has been impeded by the rebel alliance, following three days of violence against the aid convoys, against the United Nations aid workers, and against the refugees themselves.

Yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Ogata, issued a statement calling upon the rebel alliance to allow aid workers to resume their relief authorities among the refugees and to allow the airlift to begin. Today, the United States issues its own statement, its own plea, of support for Mrs. Ogata and the United Nations and we urgently call upon all parties to work together to bring about the safe and speedy return of the Rwandan refugees from their camps. We have seen evidence of cholera, malnutrition, starvation and, by UN accounts, death by starvation, disease and malnutrition in these specific camps. Surely a way can be found to bring these people to the safety that they deserve to be in.

Now, we understand that President Bizimungu of Rwanda, in a conversation with the United Nations yesterday, agreed that the airlift should begin as soon as possible, from Kisangani into Rwanda. And as you know, the United States made available three weeks ago yesterday, I believe, $3 million to finance the airlift. This will be a massive airlift of up to 30,000 people, the rest by land. It's urgent. It is an urgent humanitarian priority and we call upon all parties to allow it to happen, specifically the rebel alliance.

Any further questions on Zaire? Dimitris, one on Zaire? Andre?

QUESTION: Yes. The rebel alliance is claiming that the Chinese military advisors are helping Mobutu only. Do you have any evidence of that or did Kabila provide any evidence of that in your contact?

MR. BURNS: That seems like a fantastically improbable story. We see no evidence of that. The rebel alliance ought to concern itself with helping the refugees. We see no evidence of that whatsoever.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- atrocities attributed to the rebels?

MR. BURNS: Roy, there have been consistent reports about those atrocities, by the way, for over the past month. These atrocities took place, we believe, in territories that were liberated, or so-called, by the rebel alliance and held by them. The United Nations sent a special representative to the area. He has made a report. He is still reporting, to the United Nations. I am not sure the United States is privy to everything in that report, but we certainly believe that an effort should be made internationally to find out who murdered the people who were savagely killed and to bring those responsible to justice. And there should be no stone unturned in that effort.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- back to Kabila on that point recently?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Has the U.S. Government gone back to Kabila?

MR. BURNS: We have regular contact with Mr. Kabila, both through American diplomats in Goma and other places, and direct contact from Washington. We have raised this issue with him, yes.

QUESTION: Will the Secretary meet with the Dalai Lama?

MR. BURNS: I expect the Secretary will meet with the Dalai Lama. She intends to do so. He is obviously a very important religious figure representing Tibetan Buddhists. Of course, you know our position that the religious freedoms and liberties of a Tibetan Buddhist ought to be respected as part of the unique cultural and religious heritage of Tibet. She expects to do so. I understand that that will probably happen tomorrow and I will have further detail for you on that later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Do you think the Chinese government will know through this body now or you have -

MR. BURNS: What was the word? The Chinese will - excuse me?

QUESTION: Do you think the Chinese government will know, through this podium, now about this meeting with the Dalai Lama or -

MR. BURNS: Oh, no, I believe that our embassy in Beijing informed several days ago the Chinese foreign ministry that we would be seeing the Dalai Lama. He is a respected figure in the United States. We are a country that believes in religious freedom so we will be seeing him this week. This is nothing new or unusual. I know that President Bush and President Clinton have both met with the Dalai Lama in the past while they were both - while President Bush was in office. I expect that there will be meetings at the White House, as well, and I believe the White House will have something to say about that.

QUESTION: Nick, since he is here tomorrow, what would you like to see the Chinese do specifically regarding Tibetans?

MR. BURNS: Sid, I would just refer you to our human rights report. We have a lengthy section in there on Tibet. Generally, we think that people ought to be free to practice their religions and not have the governments breathing down their necks telling them what to believe and what not to believe or telling them who should be their leaders and who should not be their leaders. We believe in complete religious freedom in our country and there has obviously been considerable attempts by the Chinese to impede ordinary religious freedom by the Tibetan Buddhist community for a number of decades, including involving the issue of the Panchen Lama and other issues.

QUESTION: What about the Chinese - I mean, can you address the level of brutality they have used against the Tibetans in repressing their religion?

MR. BURNS: I would refer you to our human rights report, which is the most specific and authoritative recitation of the problems that we see in China's treatment of the Tibetan Buddhists.

QUESTION: Nick, the Dalai Lama represents more than just religious faith. He is also the temporal leader of the Tibetan people. And I'm wondering if you could please talk about the U.S. Government's position vis-a-vis his position as a political leader and the right of Tibetans to follow him as a political leader.

MR. BURNS: Well, I think you know our position. We consider Tibet to be part of China. That has been the position of the United States well before the Revolution of 1949, by the way. We see the Dalai Lama as, obviously, a person of high moral authority, someone who deserves the respect of many people around the world, and as a religious figure. I don't believe that the discussion will involve - well, from our part, I don't believe that the discussion will be on political issues as much as religious issues because that seems to be the point of greatest concern here.

QUESTION: One of the things that the Dalai Lama, in fact, is proposing is autonomy, at least for the Tibetan people within Tibet. I am wondering what the position of the United States Government is vis-a-vis political autonomy for the Tibetan people.

MR. BURNS: We consider Tibet to be part of China -- I want to be very clear about that - and have for many, many, decades. That position hasn't changed and it will not change. The issue here is one of religious freedom, which is a very important issue, and that will be the basis of our discussion with him.

QUESTION: But the Dalai Lama has dropped the demand for independence. He acknowledges that same position. He was just talking about autonomy for the Tibetan people, not independence. And I am wondering what position the United States has on that.

MR. BURNS: The United States hopes that the Chinese government will be open at some point in the future to a dialog with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhists. We think that is very important, and that would be the arena to work to address any kind of political questions. We have a relationship with the Peoples Republic of China. We have a one-China policy. We respect the territorial integrity of the borders of China and it is not for the United States to comment on issues of political autonomy within China.

It is appropriate, we think, to comment on issues of religious freedom or political dissidence or human rights. And I think there is a difference in our discussion of all these issues and I wanted to be very clear about what the difference is.

QUESTION: Is there going to be press availability with the Secretary and the Dalai Lama? And, if not, why?

MR. BURNS: I don't expect there to be a press availability. This will be a private meeting. The Secretary ordinarily, and almost exclusively, has press opportunities with people who are either her counterparts, foreign ministers or prime ministers or, in some cases Presidents or heads of states of country. You normally do a press conference when you want to talk about the bilateral relationship or a multilateral relationship.

When we meet with respected figures like the Dalai Lama, it is more to make sure that he understands our views, we have a chance to understand his and get the benefit of his views, and I don't think it would be in this case appropriate for us to schedule a press conference. He is free in our country to say whatever he wants and to hold his own press conferences here in Washington.

QUESTION: Without denigrating you at all, don't you think the words -

MR. BURNS: Always a good policy. I support that policy of non-denigration of the spokesman. That's a good policy.

QUESTION: Don't you think the words you have just said are strong, would carry more weight if it came from a U.S. official standing next to the Dalai Lama? And, apparently, there won't be any U.S. official standing next to the Dalai Lama in a photograph during his visit.

MR. BURNS: I'm sure that if you asked the Secretary of State at any of her press opportunities in the future - and there will be many, countless of them with you where she answers your questions - if you asked her a question she would say pretty much what I said, because I take my cues from her. I discussed with her yesterday the issue of the Dalai Lama's visit and what would be appropriate for us to say publicly. I am following her lead on the issue, so if you asked her the question she would be very glad to respond to it.

So we're not afraid of speaking about this issue, Sid; very glad to speak about it. I stand up here every day to take the questions and she stands up several times a week to take your questions, and that will continue. You can ask her anything you like.

QUESTION: Yeah, sure, but she won't be standing next to the Dalai Lama.

MR. BURNS: No, she won't because, Sid, again, you know, let's be fair about this. The Secretary presents herself to the press frequently and she does so almost exclusively with her counterparts. The Dalai Lama is a religious figure. She is a political diplomatic figure.

Dimitris.

QUESTION: I have a question. Yesterday Secretary Albright met with Hans Van den Broek, the European Commissioner for external relations.

MR. BURNS: Yes.

QUESTION: First, do you have any read-out of the meeting? And, also, according to a press release form the European Union delegation in Washington, among the agenda was Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. Do you have any details on that?

MR. BURNS: Yes, I do. The Secretary had an excellent meeting with Hans Van den Broek, the EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, yesterday. They discussed a number of issues.

First, they discussed Iran. They discussed the EU and American approaches to Iran in light of the Mykonos verdict following up, of course, coinciding with Peter Tarnoff's travel in Europe. Second, they discussed the current status of the many issues in the Aegean. They agreed on the need to keep Turkey facing westward. They agreed on the need to make sure that Turkey feels that it is a part of the West; that it is invited to participate as a member of the West in various fora. They agreed that all of the regional actors -- Greece and Turkey, Cyprus - have a self-interest and responsibility to try to make progress on these issues this year.

The Secretary is very interested in this part of the world, in Turkey, in Cyprus, in Greece, in all of these countries. She mentions it frequently in her private conversations. She pays a great deal of attention to this and she, of course, raises this issue with a lot of her European interlocateurs. They also talked about the plans of the European Union and the United States to cooperate in building new security structures for Europe, as we did 50 years ago with the Marshall Plan. They also talked, of course, about some of the issues currently on the U.S.-EU agenda. It was a very good meeting.

She also had an excellent meeting with the Romanian foreign minister yesterday afternoon. That conversation focused almost exclusively on European security issues, the question of NATO enlargement, Partnership for Peace, Romania's wish to be part of the efforts to make one Europe. She was very complimentary of Romania's participation in Albania, in the current force, and in Bosnia as well.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Do you know if Mr. Van den Broek gave a report to the Secretary on the European Union initiative right now, the ongoing initiative on the Greek-Turkish disputes?

MR. BURNS: Yes, they did discuss our respective diplomatic efforts to try to make progress in Cyprus and on issues between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, which are very important.

QUESTION: Do you support this initiative by the -

MR. BURNS: We support all the initiatives. We support the effort by all countries in Europe and in North America to make progress, but the responsibility rests with Greece, Turkey and Cyprus and the others who are involved in this dispute, in these various disputes.

QUESTION: Was there anything about Helms-Burton?

MR. BURNS: I think there was a brief discussion of that. I would consider that a bilateral issue between the U.S. and EU. We're doing quite well on that. The EU dropped the WTO complaint and we now are both focusing on Cuba, which is where we should be focusing.

Sonia.

QUESTION: Could I follow up on the Romanian minister's visit? He spent several hours here yesterday in this building.

MR. BURNS: Yes, he did.

QUESTION: And I believe he is back here today. Is there a sense that now after talks with the foreign minister that Romania is a good candidate for early acceptance in NATO?

MR. BURNS: The United States has not publicly indicated at any time in any way which countries we are supporting for early membership. We won't do that until we have met with our NATO partners sometime in May or June to reach a consensus decision. We have avoided the temptation that other countries have succumbed to, to publicly declare our support for this or that country.

Romania has made enormous strides in its political and economic reforms. It has been a very good partner of the West and of NATO and Partnership for Peace. It has proven itself, I think, as a responsible country, in Albania and Bosnia. Secretary Albright said that we have a deep sense of friendship and partnership with Romania. We certainly want Romania to be part of the process of putting Europe back together again.

She did indicate to Minister Severin that no decisions have been made by NATO on which new countries would be taken in, nor by the United States internally in our own government, and that that process would unfold much closer to the Madrid Summit of July 7th and 8th. It was a very, very supportive, and very good meeting, but I don't want you to take away from this any indication that we are supporting Romania, we're not supporting Romania. We've not made that decision.

QUESTION: Given that there are no definite results yet, has his visit in any way advanced the thinking on these issues here? Of what use were they?

MR. BURNS: The visit was of enormous use, a very constructive and useful visit in allowing us to exchange views and in gaining a greater appreciation of the position of Romania on a variety of European security issues. That is why you have meetings, and this one was a particularly productive one. Minister Severin is a very impressive man, but I can not answer the question of whether they are closer or farther from the goal of NATO membership.

Thank you.

(The briefing ended at 1:45 p.m.)

(###)


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