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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #75, 98-06-23

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

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


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, June 23, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1		Release of Records re Murders of US Religious Workers in El
1		Latvian Parliament Amends Citizenship Law

CHINA 1-4 Radio Free Asia Correspondents' Visas Rescinded / Press Contingent Covering President's Visit / Regulations for Airlines re Documents / Jamming of Radio Free Asia and VOA

IRAQ 4-5 UNSCOM Finds Traces of Nerve Gas / Issue of Sanctions / Surveillance Results

PERU 5 Possible Pardon for AmCit Lori Berenson / Trial Should Be in Civilian Court

COLOMBIA 5-6 Update on Former Pres Samper's Visa 10 US Support for Peace Process With Guerrillas / US Role in Counter-Narcotics Efforts

MEXICO 6 Update on Governor Villaneuva's Visa / US Arrest Warrant for Mexican Banker

KOREA 6-7 North Korean Submarine Caught in Net and Sinks in South's Waters 10 Submarine Issue Raised at Panmunjom Talks

SERBIA (KOSOVO) 7-9 Amb Holbrooke's Mtgs with Dr. Rugova and Pres Milosevic, Travel Plans / Secretary's Contacts with Russia and UK / NATO Planning Continues / Contact Group Requirements, Mtg in Bonn / Amb Gelbard's Involvement / NATO Options

RUSSIA 9 Issue of India, Pakistan in Secretary's Call to PM Primakov

SWITZERLAND 9-10 World Jewish Congress Talks With Banks re Holocaust Assets ---


DPB #75

TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 1998, 12:55 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. We have two statements we'll be posting after the briefing. The first relates to the release of a number of records on the case of the religious workers who were murdered in El Salvador. The second relates to the Latvian Parliament Citizenship Law.

Mr. Schweid, let's start with you today.

QUESTION: Well, the President has - and so has Speaker Gingrich - spoken on the Chinese revoking or pulling the visas of those three Radio Free Asia journalists. But I wondered, on a couple of things, did the State Department try to do anything on their behalf? And is it true that one cannot get into China without a visa? Is there any way they could have gotten around this and proceeded?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to this issue, we were informed over the weekend by the Embassy of China that the Chinese Government rescinded the visas of Radio Free Asia correspondents, one of whom is a regular at our briefing. This is a regrettable decision. We did protest this decision both here and in Beijing, and are encouraging the Chinese Government to reverse it.

With respect to the visa issue that you describe of the plane, we were under a legal obligation, based on international aviation agreements, to inform the carrier, Cathay Pacific, that these individuals did not have valid visas. So that is the reason why the press charter carrier, Cathay Pacific, needs to bring in people who have valid visas.

QUESTION: On that, does this in any way cast a shadow over the trip?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say the following - there are more than 250 members of the press corps that have received credentials from around the world - literally thousands of news media representatives will report from China during the trip. The Chinese Government has opened up their country to a larger and more varied press contingent than ever before. Regrettably, the goodwill that China would have earned within the international press corps for this new openness in general now will be significantly undermined by this decision.

As far as the broader construct of the President's trip, let's bear in mind that the substance of the work that the President is seeking to pursue there relates to matters like weapons proliferation, human rights progress, trade and other subjects. And that work will go on, and the test of the success of the summit will come both in the substance that is worked on, as well as the wide array of activities the President is going to be participating in throughout China over this lengthy period.

QUESTION: But Jamie, you're not saying that just because they've accepted 250 press - members of the press corps it's okay to deny the other three? It seems as though - I'm just unclear on a little bit of what you say.

MR. RUBIN: I think I was very clear to the contrary. I said that this had happened - that there was going to be a large press contingent going to China, and that they opened up their country to a larger and more varied press contingent than ever before. That is a fact. Regrettably, the goodwill they would've earned has been undermined. We don't think it's okay, and I said in answer to the first question that we protested this decision, and explained in answer to Barry's question why the visa charter company needed to know what visas were in existence prior to the plane leaving.

QUESTION: What reason did the Chinese give, if you can tell us?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the reason.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any violation --

MR. RUBIN: And frankly, there is no good reason for it.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any violations of Chinese law that these three reporters may have --

MR. RUBIN: I think it's our view that there is no good reason for this denial.

QUESTION: Does the State Department see this as a violation of the freedom of the press? And there was an occasion - I'd like to follow up, if I could.

MR. RUBIN: This act, which makes clear the limited nature of press freedom in China, should be no surprise to any one of you in this room. If you take a look and read the documents that we put out, you've seen that we have talked about the lack of press freedoms in China for some time and this is another on the list. Did you have a follow-up?

QUESTION: I did, myself, witness the press representative of Mr. Qian Qichen at one time showing prejudice toward employees of Radio Free Asia - an aversion toward those people as they tried to interview him. So I would say is it possible there might be some prejudice involved here?

MR. RUBIN: Again, it is our view there is no justified reason for this denial.

QUESTION: Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't one of these reporters, Arin Basu, traveled to China with the Secretary?

MR. RUBIN: You'll have to check with her; I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Has she ever - do you know if she's ever traveled on the Secretary's aircraft? I mean --

MR. RUBIN: It's certainly not in the time that I've been here, but if it was prior to that I'll have to get that for the record.

QUESTION: Jamie, are you saying that Cathay Pacific refused to board these people on the grounds that they did not have -

MR. RUBIN: No. It' s not a situation of a confrontation of the kind that you're describing. There are rules and regulations. When we take all of you on the plane, we have to make a judgment in advance about whether when we land that all is proper. So the requirements - the regulations - stipulate that the charter company needs to have the visas for all those who are supposed to be on the plane, because the international regulations, pursuant to international aviation agreements, require us to inform the carrier, Cathay Pacific, if certain individuals did not have valid visas.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know, are these journalist visas, or is there just a generic visa?

MR. RUBIN: You're entering into a field that I am unfamiliar with on the specific technicalities of this, which I will be happy to get you further information. I suspect the White House has been answering questions on this during the course of the morning. I just don't know the answer.

QUESTION: Free speech issues aside, the question comes up, are people with this agency legitimate journalists, and are the visas restricted to journalists? I don't know.

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the technical answer to the question.

QUESTION: Did the Chinese explain why they granted the visas and then rescinded them by remote control?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: And some of the people at Radio Free Asia say that Ambassador Sasser in Beijing has never been terribly enthusiastic about Radio Free Asia.

MR. RUBIN: It's the Administration's policy, the President has made clear, the Secretary has made clear, to support Radio Free Asia. Ambassador Sasser is a member of this Administration, and is therefore supportive of the Administration's policies.

QUESTION: As far as you know, are the Chinese still jamming Voice of America and Radio Free Asia broadcasts?

MR. RUBIN: There have been incidents to that effect. I will try to get you for the record some detail on what the pattern has been.

QUESTION: Other than the protests, are you contemplating anything else in terms of a response? Any other action that they might --

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, what we're trying to do through this trip is promote as much as possible in China the information that will come with the kind of presence that President Clinton will bring. We are not in a situation where they're coming here; there would be a proportionality. So I'm not quite sure what you're suggesting, but I'm not aware of any other --

QUESTION: Can we ask you about the Iraq nerve gas situation? The President, again, has made a statement that seems pretty clear now that the UN inspectors found traces of nerve gas. I wonder if you could jump ahead a little bit to Thursday, when the sanctions issue comes up. Do you expect, in light of this report, any serious opposition to extending sanctions?

MR. RUBIN: I would be stunned if any country, in the light of these new apparent deceptions on the part of the Iraqis, even suggested that now is the time to be suspending or lifting the sanctions regime. This new apparent evidence makes clear what we've been saying for some time - that Iraq has a continuing policy of deceiving UNSCOM about its abilities and its activities in the weapons of mass destruction area, and that apparently Iraq attempted to deceive the UN inspectors about its ability to weaponize the nerve agent VX. It is another in a long series of examples of Iraq's program of deceit, and demonstrates clearly for all to see why the sanctions must remain in place. The reason why sanctions still are in place is because of Iraqi deception and denial.

I suspect, in light of this fact and in light of the broad array of evidence of non-cooperation, no serious country will propose the lifting of sanctions at this time.

QUESTION: You're confirming, then, the report in the Post that there was ample evidence that nerve gas had been inserted into these capsules?

MR. RUBIN: How many times did you hear me use the word "apparent," Jim?

QUESTION: Yes, but you're not denying it. You're saying that when the Council sees this apparent evidence, you'd be stunned if anybody voted to suspend.

MR. RUBIN: I could simply say no comment and wait until Thursday; would that be more helpful for you?

QUESTION: Well, the inference you're giving us, that we're taking is that you are confirming it.

MR. RUBIN: I said the word apparent six times for a reason, Jim. You can draw your own conclusion.

QUESTION: The Iraqis are fairly nimble on this subject, as you know - not only there, but in the UN -- that almost esoteric argument that the information - I think you know what I'm getting at - the information gathered by UN inspectors is really supposed to go strictly to the UN, and if American U-2s are used, still the information is not to be given to the United States, it's to go to the UN. They're liable to raise this argument again - that somehow the rules have been bent a little and the US has been given the results of the surveillance. Do you have any interest in getting into that issue?

MR. RUBIN: The Iraqis always seek to find a procedural excuse to try to mask the substantive deception that they are undertaking and the substantive facts that UNSCOM's investigations uncover and the substantive conclusions that UNSCOM has reached of a program of deception and denial. That is what will be persuasive to serious members of the Security Council.

I'm not saying that Iraq may look for ways to divert attention from the reality of its program of deception and denial across the board, including, apparently, with respect to this VX gas. But what I am saying is that it shouldn't matter if they try to use such diversionary tactics to any serious country trying to protect the world against weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: New subject - the new Prime Minister of Peru apparently is considering or may offer a pardon to Lori Berenson on the grounds that a non-Peruvian can't be tried for treason, which would certainly make some sense. Do you have any comment?

MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Jett paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister on June 19. It was a protocol visit, in which a wide range of bilateral issues were discussed, including the matter of Lori Berenson. It is our view that we are concerned over the lack of due process in military trials of civilians accused of terrorism in Peru. We have urged the government of Peru, both publicly and privately, to try Lori Berenson in a civilian court with full due process, so that her guilt or innocence can be proven. With respect to what the future may hold, that is a decision for the government of Peru to make.

QUESTION: Consular officials are saying there seems to be some suggestion she is having some circulatory problems.

MR. RUBIN: Right. We've met with her regularly. I'm not aware of any new health status; but we can try to get you an answer on that.

QUESTION: It's on visas, but in the same continent. You promised to tell me the situation of Samper's visa - what's going to be his future in terms of his visa?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to that issue, that we fulfill our promises here, visa revocations are based on a finding of ineligibility under the Immigration and Nationality Act. As in any other case, a finding of permanent ineligibility is not altered by the fact that the applicant no longer holds public office.

QUESTION: And the Mexican governor visit? (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: You're into visas today.


MR. RUBIN: Let's go to visa issue number three. The governor Villanuevo -- I didn't do that right - so how do I do that?

QUESTION: Villaneuva. Remember Pancho Villa?

MR. RUBIN: Villaneuva has a valid US visa and we are not in the process of revoking it.

QUESTION: And there is a report by the Mexican Government saying that it was a criminal guy who committed a big fraud in Mexico; he was a banker, Cabal Peniche. The Mexican Government says he was living in the United States for a year, giving into information to this government. Do you have any response to that?

MR. RUBIN: He is the subject of an arrest warrant in the United States, and you'll have to check with the Justice Department for more detail.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Off visas.

QUESTION: On to submarines - the South Korean-North Korean submarine incident - anything to throw in the mix there? They appear to have - do you think it's a provocation? Can you confirm that the - do you believe that the North Korean submariners are now dead?

MR. RUBIN: According to our embassy in Seoul, a North Korean Yugo class submarine, which is capable of carrying up to ten persons, became entangled in the nets of a South Korean fishing boat just inside Republic of Korea territorial waters off its east coast at 4:30 p.m. local time yesterday. South Korean naval vessels and a helicopter were called to the scene and began to lash the submarine to a warship to tow it to the nearby port of Donghae. At 1:30 p.m. June 23, that's today, as the salvage team began to maneuver the sub into port, it sank 100 feet under the water, about 250 meters from the port. The South Koreans are making efforts to raise the submarine and determine the state of the crew and the vessel.

We continue to be in close contact with South Korean officials regarding this incident; and until we have more facts, it would be difficult to comment. It's really a question that is in South Korean hands. It was raised yesterday at the meeting of the officers - the American raised the issue. But for now, we have to wait and get all the facts.

QUESTION: Panmunjom - is that where it was at?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, more on this?

QUESTION: You don't know whether it was a provocation - I mean, you don't know that it was --

MR. RUBIN: The facts that we know I've reported to you. Until we know more facts we'd prefer not to comment.

QUESTION: Have you heard from Richard Holbrooke? Has he gotten to Belgrade; and specifically what can you tell us about his mission?

MR. RUBIN: As a matter of fact, I did hear from Ambassador Holbrooke just a few minutes before he entered his meeting with President Milosevic. He had already had a meeting with Dr. Rugova. Later today, Ambassador Gelbard will be going to Europe - going to Germany and to Brussels, and also be meeting with Dr. Rugova. We are clearly pursuing a serious diplomatic process; we're in an intensive phase. Secretary Albright spoke today to Foreign Minister Primakov, as well as Foreign Minister Cook, about the steps that we are taking and that Ambassador Holbrooke is pursuing, as well as what the future might hold.

NATO is, on the other track, pursuing an accelerated military planning process. This week we would expect them to narrow the military options and begin to try to flesh them out. Therefore, it should be evident to all that the accelerated military planning continues. So we're operating on two tracks - the diplomatic track and the military planning track.

Ambassador Holbrooke has just begun his meeting with President Milosevic. I think the goal of this diplomacy, which is what we are trying to advance is very simple. It is to prevent the fighting in Kosovo from spreading into a general war that could seriously affect US national interests. This fighting has been going on for some time. We don't expect to solve it overnight. We expect that with continued effort, we can do as best as we can.

He will be going to Pristina, I believe, tomorrow, and then returning to Belgrade for a final meeting with President Milosevic on Thursday morning. He also met with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, who was in the region talking to officials as well. We are coordinating closely with the Contact Group countries on the diplomatic monitoring efforts, which we are going to try to pursue jointly - that is Contact Group countries as well as perhaps other from the OSCE. We'll get together and develop a diplomatic monitoring mission so that experts can get access to the region, make independent judgments as to what's going on there, and be in a position to report to us what's going on there. So the Contact Group has laid out a series of requirements for a serious discussion. Ambassador Holbrooke is trying to advance that goal.

QUESTION: Would you call this a variety of shuttle diplomacy that Mr. Holbrooke is engaged in?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm sure you can come up with your own leads. Exactly what you want to call it, I'll leave to you. But let me say it's an intensive diplomatic effort involving Ambassador Holbrooke, involving Ambassador Gelbard and involving, on the other track, an accelerated military planning in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

QUESTION: Jamie, Holbrooke is not going to be going to the Bonn meeting on Thursday; is that correct?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know that there is a definitive meeting scheduled of the Contact Group. They often don't materialize until the end; and I think different people are going to be in different places. But he is --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: I don't think that's been finalized; I just asked Ambassador Gelbard that. Ambassador Holbrooke will not be in Bonn, he will be in the field during that period, Wednesday.

QUESTION: Go ahead, Sid.

MR. RUBIN: Everybody's so polite today.


QUESTION: Is Holbrooke planning to go to the Contact Group meeting?

MR. RUBIN: I think I just said no to that.

QUESTION: And can you give us more details on his talks with Rugova? It was in Skopje then and --

MR. RUBIN: Yes. He had an intensive discussion with Dr. Rugova on what we are trying to pursue. I'm not going to get into the details of those discussions, but obviously the topics are ones that you would expect.

QUESTION: Can you say that the military planners are nearly done with that part of the work, and that they're now moving to a decision-making phase?

MR. RUBIN: No. I said that they are narrowing the options and fleshing them out as part of an accelerated contingency planning that is going on in NATO.

QUESTION: You're not trying to - then I'm reading too much into your comments. You're not trying to signal, for instance, to Belgrade that you guys are getting close to finishing up your planning for a military option?

MR. RUBIN: Well, with each passing day the military planning gets closer to completion. So what I'm suggesting is that during the course of this week we would expect the planning - there were several options being looked at, a wide variety of options -- and they are being narrowed to options that those planners believe are more appropriate, and then those remaining options will then be fleshed out. I am not signaling that we are on the verge of a decision, but I'm trying to give you an accurate representation of where things stand.

QUESTION: Some options have been discarded, though?

MR. RUBIN: That happens every day - there are always options. Governments try to examine as broad and array of options as possible and then narrow those options so that decision makers, when the time comes, can make decisions from a menu larger than 12.

QUESTION: And can you say - I'm sorry - just one more. On what basis are the options being called? In other words, if you're able to narrow options, then you are nearing an objective, you're nearing a goal for their --

MR. RUBIN: I think in the original planning call by the NATO defense ministers, they spelled out the objective. I'll be happy to get that document for you rather than repeating it and getting a word or two wrong.

QUESTION: A slightly different question, do you have the same subject?

MR. RUBIN: This is like -- "Alphonse Gaston" -- Nobody wants to go first.


QUESTION: In her discussions - in her conversation with Minister Primakov, did the Secretary raise the issue of India and Russian cooperation with India on nuclear plants?

MR. RUBIN: I would be surprised if it didn't come up in some form or another. I know the focus of the conversation was on the subject of Kosovo.

Boy, they're thinking alike; they're polite to each other - it's a credit to your profession.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the resumption of talks here today, I believe, between the World Jewish Congress and the Swiss Banks?

MR. RUBIN: I have very little information on that. It's a subject where we're prescribed from giving out any significant information because of the court order. But I will try to get you at least some procedural details after the briefing.

QUESTION: On Colombia, the President-elect has just said that he would like to see the United States playing a major role in this fight against narco-trafficking - participating in the negotiations with the guerrillas. Is the United States ready to increase any kind of economic support to his government to fight narco-trafficking in the way the United States wants to see this fight?

MR. RUBIN: We understand that President-elect Pastrana expressed interest in US involvement in the Colombian peace process during a press conference yesterday. We are prepared to assist the government of Colombia in its efforts to search for peace. We are prepared to discuss this and other issues with President-elect Pastrana in the coming days. We stand ready to assist in encouraging and supporting a peace process in Colombia. Obviously, it is up to the government of Colombia to determine what role it foresees for other countries in these negotiations.

With respect to the fight against drugs, we do want to cooperate more closely with the government of Colombia - I said that yesterday. When we get to a point where we have greater contact with the new leadership, then we will be in a position to discuss details. But we're hopeful that we can turn over a new page in US-Colombian relations and vastly improve not only the fight against narcotics traffickers, but also the whole array of US- Colombia bilateral issues.

QUESTION: Going back to North Korean submarine case, Radio Pyongyang broadcast that one of their small subs was disabled and floating on the sea. My question is, is the US - do you have any separate information directly from North Korea through general-level talks conducted in Panmunjom?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe we received much new information from that meeting. The facts that I've told you about come from our embassy in Seoul, through their contacts with the South Korean Government.

QUESTION: How about their representative in New York?

MR. RUBIN: We're not at that stage yet.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RUBIN: Short and sweet.

(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)

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