1 Release of Records re Murders of US Religious Workers in El
1 Latvian Parliament Amends Citizenship Law
1-4 Radio Free Asia Correspondents' Visas Rescinded / Press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
4-5 UNSCOM Finds Traces of Nerve Gas / Issue of Sanctions /
5 Possible Pardon for AmCit Lori Berenson / Trial Should Be
in Civilian Court
5-6 Update on Former Pres Samper's Visa
10 US Support for Peace Process With Guerrillas / US Role in
6 Update on Governor Villaneuva's Visa / US Arrest Warrant
for Mexican Banker
6-7 North Korean Submarine Caught in Net and Sinks in South's
10 Submarine Issue Raised at Panmunjom Talks
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
9 Issue of India, Pakistan in Secretary's Call to PM Primakov
9-10 World Jewish Congress Talks With Banks re Holocaust Assets
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 1998, 12:55 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
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
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by the Embassy of China that the Chinese Government rescinded the visas of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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
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
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
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
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 --
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
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
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
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
QUESTION: A slightly different question, do you have the same subject?
MR. RUBIN: This is like -- "Alphonse Gaston" -- Nobody wants to go
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
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
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.)