U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #76, 98-06-24
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Wednesday, June 24, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Croatian Refugee Return Plan
1 Lebanese Monitoring Group
1-2 Alleged Remarks Made by McCurry on Vetoing of Sanctions re
1-2 Albright's Remarks before the Asia Society Technology to
Iran and Sanctions
11 No Linkage Between IMF Loan Reactor Deal in India
11 Russia's Plan to Deal with Financial Troubles
2 Recovery of Encryption Devices and Missing Circuit Board
From an American Satellite Mounted on a Chinese Missile
2 Details on Intelsat Satellite and its Encrypted Information
2 Issue of National Security and the Loss of the Circuit
3-4 Questions on the Whereabouts of the Circuit Board
3 State versus Commerce and the Issue of the Circuit Board
10 Rumors SecState Will Wear White Upon Arrival at Tiananmen
4 Referendum for the West Bank and Delays
5 Views Expressed by Saeb Erakat
5 Remarks Made Stating that NATO is Shifting Tactics on
5 Contact Group's Demand for Withdrawal
5 Reports of Ambassador Holbrooke's Convoy was Fired Upon
6 Issue of Dialogue in Light of Milosevic's Crack Down
6 Rugova's Meetings with Gelbard and Holbrooke
6 Exaggerated Reports that Holbrooke Meet with KLA
7 Ambassador Holbrooke's Informal Talk with UCK Soldiers
7-8 Possible Formal US Contact with UCK & KLA
8 Definition of Terrorists Groups, Terrorists Activities and
8 Milosevic's Crack Down
9 Percentage of Control in the Province by the KLA
9 Radicalization of the KLA
9 Whereabouts of the Minister of Fisheries of Cuba
10-11 U.S. Assessment of New President/British to Send an
11 U.S. Ambassador Talks with Abubakar
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 1998, 12:50 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. It is close to an on-
time performance, but not close enough; we will continue to try harder.
I have a statement we'll be posting after the briefing on Croatian refugee
returns and the Lebanese monitoring group which met at the UNIFIL
headquarters in Lebanon to consider a violation complaint. With that, let
me go to your questions.
QUESTION: Before we get on with the big picture, let's take care of a
little puzzlement. McCurry, explaining why the President vetoed the
sanctions, brought Albright into it and suggested that this was not a good
time to sanction Russia because of the opening to Iran. Is that driving
you? Can we expect that US policy will be influenced until you get an
answer from Iran or some action from Iran? I don't get it.
MR. RUBIN: I spoke to Mike, and he did not say that. Secretary Albright's
recommendation for the veto, like others in the Administration, was not in
any way based on the discussions that she had in her speech last week
before the Asia Society.
What she talked about is a long-term process, by which we would hope to
improve relations with Iran, concomitant with their making changes in these
policies of concern to us. She also made clear how critical it is that we
stop the transfer of ballistic missile or other weapons of mass destruction
technology to Iran; and that has not changed.
The reason the President vetoed this bill - at least with respect to the
reason Secretary Albright recommended the veto, which I can speak to, and
the White House would have to speak to the President's actual statement -
was on the merits. The merits are both we and the Congress want to do all
we can, all we can to prevent Russia or any other country from providing
assistance to Iran. We think this bill's rigidity, inflexibility and
lowering of the standard for what would require sanctioning - namely,
simply saying that credible information exists rather than a conclusion had
been reached - would open the door to a whole series of sanctions
at the very time that the Secretary and the President are trying
to make clear and hope Congress understands that these series of sanctions
proposals coming out of the Congress harm our ability to conduct foreign
policy, tie the Secretary's and the President's hands behind their back and
make it harder to achieve the objective.
So Mr. McCurry did not say that, and any suggestion that our policies with
respect to stopping the transfer of weapons of mass destruction technology
to Iran have changed are wrong.
QUESTION: They made - who knows how they read it, but the argument for
vetoing is fairly sophisticated. The net result is leniency toward Russia
and leniency toward Iran.
MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, we don't see that at all. We see the bill's
lack of flexibility and the bill's lack of subtlety as creating situations
where you would have to sanction entities without knowing what really was
going on; and that is not a serious way to do business. That's the reason
for the veto; it has nothing to do with the desire that Secretary Albright
and the President stated to overtime improve relations with Iran.
QUESTION: New subject -- I'll try to go back to something that we've
hammered away, I know many times, but I'll try at you again. The Chinese
rocket that crashed in February 1996 - evidently in the House Committee
hearing on this yesterday, some new matters came up. And there seems to be
a circuit board that's missing from the American satellite that was mounted
to the back of this Chinese rocket. What is the State Department doing to
look into the missing circuit board? And is this something that the
Secretary might take up in her visit to China?
MR. RUBIN: This is a very complex issue, and there has been testimony on
this yesterday on the Hill and there will be further testimony today; so I
will be limited in what I can say about it. There have been four failures
of Chinese launches of US built satellites. Two of the satellites did not
have any encryption devices on board. In one of the other two cases the
devices were recovered and returned to the US.
In the other case, the Intelsat failure in February 1996, the command
process or boxes as a whole were recovered, but not all of the circuit
boards which contained the encryption information, which is used to send
coded operating instructions to the satellite once it is in orbit. In this
case, the encryption involved embedded single-chip devices that are unique
for this particular satellite. Moreover, this encryption system used older
algorithms that are no longer used in newer satellites. Therefore any loss
of the chips and associated encryption algorithms would have had only
minimum impact because the Intelsat satellite used these old keys which are
not unique. There is some chance that a third party could examine recovered
devices to gain some knowledge, but we believe the impact on national
security would not be significant.
With respect to what happened to them, we do not believe that the loss of
this device places at risk any government communications over communications
satellites. Our requirement was to assure that the control of the satellite
remain protected to prevent denial of service. The loss of this particular
device at the time of launch, therefore, had no consequent risk to other
communications or control of other satellites.
We do not know, as I understand it, what happened and where this is; but
certainly in the course of the technical discussions that are ongoing
between us and the Chinese in the satellite launch area that are pursuant
to the various licensing, we will want to find out what happened to this
chip. But again, the context is that we don't believe it had a significant
impact because it was older technology; but we will continue to try to get
to the bottom of this. Those who are expert in this very technical
area can try to get more information to you later in the day.
QUESTION: Two things - do you believe - some officials have said that
they believe the Chinese Government has the circuit board. Does the State
Department believe this?
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to take that for the record.
QUESTION: Have you taken up this at all with the Chinese? Evidently when
the crash occurred, they barred US officials from coming into the site, and
all that was recovered was the --
MR. RUBIN: This has been gone over in extensive detail on the Hill in
public testimony; and I will try to get transcripts that lay out the
details of the situation. Let's all remember and let's bear in mind that
the process that is ongoing here involves, in general, technology where we
are talking about communication satellites; we're not talking about the
technology that is used by American military satellites. The encryption
device involved here is decades old, and even if reverse-engineered, would
only tell somebody where we were decades ago.
QUESTION: You're using the term lightly. You're not ruling out that the
Chinese took the board.
MR. RUBIN: I'm not ruling anything out. We know that it wasn't there;
whether it was destroyed or whether it was removed is - (inaudible) -
QUESTION: By a third party.
MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that.
QUESTION: So it's possible, then, that the Chinese could have it. They
just haven't, perhaps, turned it over to --
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'd rather get you an answer from the technical
experts. This is a highly technical field.
QUESTION: Just one more, if I may, on the purview of State versus
Commerce in this - I understand that the State Department oversees the
export of the board only, while the Commerce Department, once the board is
mounted, in a situation like a satellite and becomes a part of a bigger
unit, Commerce has purview and regulates this and is responsible for
overseeing how it's used. Why is it that we have that distinction between
State and Commerce? Why wouldn't you just follow the --
MR. RUBIN: Well, there are a whole series of technical reasons for this
that I'd rather have the technical experts get into.
QUESTION: Have you asked the Chinese if they have the board?
MR. RUBIN: I think maybe you see now that there's public testimony going
on. These are highly technical matters, and I'd rather have the technical
experts get into a subject where there's been an enormous amount of
misinformation in the press, an enormous amount of exaggeration. Rather
than letting that go on, the hearings are going on, and the people who are
expert in this highly arcane field are in the best position to answer these
QUESTION: Does the US support the West Bank referendum --
MR. RUBIN: Sorry, but did you want to --
QUESTION: I was going to change the subject.
QUESTION: Oh, go ahead, please, please.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MR. RUBIN: "Alphonse and Gaston"
QUESTION: Is the US in favor of this referendum for the West Bank that
seems to be gaining momentum?
MR. RUBIN: It is up to the Israeli Government to determine its own
internal procedures. Our emphasis remains in the need for rapid progress to
reach agreement on implementing the further redeployments and other steps
agreed to in the interim agreement.
Clearly, anything that would delay implementation of a breakthrough would
not benefit the parties of the peace process. I know there are some legal
issues at play here, where some think this is or isn't related to the
implementation of Oslo. It's our view that the work that we're doing - that
is, to try to talk to the parties to get an agreement on the further
redeployment, on the necessary security measures that need to be taken by
the Palestinians - is the work that needs to be completed if we're going to
be able to have a breakthrough. To the extent that any delay is involved,
we obviously wouldn't want to see delay at a time when it's been too long
since we've been able to put the peace process back on track.
But with respect to any internal political conclusion as to what the best
way to demonstrate support for it, it's really up to the Israeli Government.
QUESTION: I guess it's one more stage in a long, drawn-out process; is
MR. RUBIN: I'm saying if it --
QUESTION: With a little difference to it --
MR. RUBIN: If it involves significant delay of any breakthrough, that
would be of concern to us; but it's not obvious that it would, because the
problem right now is substantive in not having the breakthrough.
QUESTION: The Palestinians weighed in with their - there are reports out
that Erakat --
MR. RUBIN: Yes, Saeb Erakat has expressed these views before -- that
because the Palestinians have agreed to, in principle, to our ideas, that
we should somehow announce the initiative. We're aware of those views, but
we think our goal is not announcing some sort of inability to break
through; our goal is to try to make the breakthrough. And we think that in
trying to produce a breakthrough, it wouldn't be helpful at this time to
take that step; and so we're not going to do so. We're going to continue
to work on getting the peace process back on track through discussions. But
if we conclude that is not possible, then that would be a different
situation and we would say so.
QUESTION: On Kosovo -- two things. First of all, it would appear that at
least NATO - the body of NATO -- has shifted its tactics in starting a
dialogue between Belgrade and the ethnic Albanians. Solana through his
spokesman said today that Rugova - Dr. Rugova - to begin talks with
Milosevic without conditions. Can you comment on that?
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that quote, so I will not comment on a quote I
haven't seen. But it's our view that the work that Ambassador Holbrooke has
been doing in the field and that Ambassador Hill will be doing as he leaves
and the work that Ambassador Gelbard has been doing -- who also met with
Dr. Rugova in Brussels - is all designed to create the conditions for a
successful negotiation. Clearly, the Contact Group has made a demand that
the withdrawal of forces that weren't in Kosovo to places where they came
from and the cantonment of forces that were in there is the kind of
step that will be conducive to a successful discussion.
I do not know what Secretary General Solana said. I don't believe that view
is one that is different than the other Contact Group countries, with the
possible exception of the Russians. What we're saying is that for
negotiations to succeed - for us to have a real dialogue - the principle
problem has to be turned around; and that principle problem, is the problem
posed by the crackdown of Serbian forces.
Let me say in that regard, there were some reports earlier in the day that
Ambassador Holbrooke's convoy was fired upon. I just spoke to him about 45
minutes ago, and he said that neither he nor Ambassador Hill heard any
shots or were aware of any shooting near them and there was no action of
any significance that he saw in a real-time basis. They obviously saw the
results of some military action that involved devastation to certain towns.
But they did not believe they were in danger, nor did they hear any
of the shooting.
QUESTION: So whether Solana said it or not, the position of the
Administration remains that Belgrade must withdraw its regular army troops
and canton its paramilitary police units as a condition for beginning
MR. RUBIN: No, I never said that; and let me try to say it as clearly as
I can. There have been discussions going on throughout this period. We want
those discussions to intensify and become continuous so that we can solve
this at the peace table rather than the war table.
To do that, to have success in those negotiations, we believe the principle
problem is what Milosevic has done in the area of the crackdown. Rugova has
met with Ambassador Gelbard today; he met with Ambassador Holbrooke
yesterday. He and Ambassador Hill and the Albanians that are part of this
negotiating team have been working with Ambassador Hill all the way through,
and Ambassador Hill has been in touch with the Serbian authorities. So
there's been a continuous negotiating process that is ongoing.
The problem is, to have success in those negotiations, to really get down
to solving the problem, dealing with the need for enhanced autonomy and
solving problems, rather than just meeting, we believe that the Albanian
authorities are justified in having the view that it is wrong for them to
be talking while President Milosevic's forces are cracking down on the
So this isn't a situation where there are preconditions to talks, but
rather a situation where, in our view, there are necessary conditions for
QUESTION: Is it your position, Jamie, that Rugova should stop the talks
MR. RUBIN: Well, there are talks going on; I don't see the distinction
you're making. We've been talking to them; they've been talking. As far as
the direct negotiations are concerned, there were some meetings. In order
to have additional meetings be successful, we believe there needs to be a
change in the military situation on the ground.
Because I don't believe they've said they'll never talk again until x, y or
z happens. So it isn't a preconditioned stand-off, to my understanding.
QUESTION: Also on Mr. Holbrooke, apparently he had direct contact today
with the KLA. As far as we know, that would be the first time that you
brought them into the process. Can you comment on that? And is Holbrooke
trying to put together a joint delegation for these negotiations, which
would include the KLA and the more moderate --
MR. RUBIN: Right, I think the idea of a first contact is a vast
exaggeration from someone on the ground who observed the fact that
Ambassador Holbrooke ran into some fighters, who had KLA patches, who were
randomly located in a particular city, who he talked to. If we're talking
about the first political contact between that entity and the United States,
I can assure you it wouldn't happen on a random basis, based on Ambassador
Holbrooke running into somebody on a particular street corner. So this
has been wildly exaggerated by people in the field.
He did speak to a soldier who had a UCK patch, who described to him the
local situation. He was on a fact-finding tour, trying to figure out what
went on, and spoke to some of those who were in a position to provide facts,
or at least their interpretation of facts to him. So I would regard it as a
wild exaggeration that we've now had the first political contact between
the KLA and the United States and that we're about to set up a joint
QUESTION: Okay, so, as you say, he happened upon someone with a KLA patch
while he was walking through the street, and he --
MR. RUBIN: Well, now you're making a mockery of it; and I'm not trying to
QUESTION: No, no, I'm just trying to --
MR. RUBIN: Sid, let me be very clear on this. He was traveling in the
region, going to a fact-finding tour. He happened upon soldiers who had UCK
patches, and talked to them for 20 minutes; this is what he told me. But
then some of the initial reports suggested this was a political discussion.
It was not a political discussion; it was Holbrooke hearing from a
particular fighter what went on in a particular situation, with no reason
to believe that soldier, or whatever one calls him, was a leader of the
UCK who was in a position to discuss the positions of the UCK. It
was a complete fact-finding situation.
QUESTION: Okay, so, then, at this point, the Clinton Administration does
not think it's the time to contact, at a political level, the guerrillas.
MR. RUBIN: We have said, and I'll repeat today, at the appropriate time
we believe it would be important to be in contact with all elements of
Kosovar Albanian society.
QUESTION: On that subject, is the State Department clear on where such a
leadership resides? Where is the UCK leadership located?
MR. RUBIN: If we were in a position where we wanted to have contact with
them, I suspect it would not be that hard to try to identify someone to
talk to. How much control that person would have, et cetera, is a different
matter. And how we would be able to do that, of course, is a subject that
doesn't lend itself to public discussion. At the appropriate time, if we
decide to have such contact, we're confident that we would be in a
position to do so.
QUESTION: It goes without saying, you don't think the KLA has a seat at
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this - we think that we need to deal with the
whole array of Kosovar Albanian society. The Kosovar Albanian society has
been radicalized in recent weeks as a direct result of the stupid mistakes
of President Milosevic in alienating the Kosovar Albanian population, and
generating greater and greater support for them by this crackdown.
Yesterday, I believe, Dr. Rugova and Mr. Bukoshi and others talked about
the need to bring the KLA into their political umbrella. We don't have a
problem with that; frankly, we think that's fine. The issue is, first, what
will President Milosevic do to create the conditions necessary for
successful negotiations; second, how to ensure that if we got an agreement,
or were on the verge of getting an agreement, or saw the possibility of an
agreement, that we could be confident that the Kosovar Albanian side
could deliver. That is a problem that we frankly welcome the opportunity
to have to deal with because it would entail a fundamental change in the
policies of Belgrade.
QUESTION: Is the KLA a terrorist organization in the US view?
MR. RUBIN: No, we have never said that.
QUESTION: I didn't say you did; I was asking.
MR. RUBIN: No, we've never said that; we don't regard it as such.
QUESTION: But you did accuse them of terrorist acts.
MR. RUBIN: The definition of a terrorist organization is a very complex
subject that requires an elaborate legal justification. Because a
particular group of people might include people who did something that we
would consider a terrorist act does not make the organization a terrorist
organization; and we don't believe it is.
QUESTION: So attacks on Serbian civilians, if they happen, are not
necessarily proof it's a terrorist organization?
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: A random act of --
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: Can you address that? There was a report about the KLA not
being the friendly guerrilla group that it seems to have been painted.
There are reports that they are pulling elderly Serbs out of their houses
and shooting them in the head, for example. Can you address that? Perhaps
that Mr. Milosevic is somewhat justified in some of this thinking.
MR. RUBIN: We don't believe there's any justification for President
Milosevic's decisions to crack down in dramatic ways, using modern military
equipment and sweeping away whole towns and killing people broadly and
driving refugees out of whole regions of Kosovo. The fact that there are
incidents that we condemn does not justify a wildly disproportionate, and
frankly, self-defeating, response on the part of President Milosevic.
All he's done with these responses is further alienate the Kosovar Albanian
population and become, as I've said before, the recruiting chairman for the
KLA. Because with every time he wildly overreacts and stupidly overreacts,
he is just making it harder and harder for the situation to be resolved in
a way that would be in the interest of the Serbian citizens living there
and the former Yugoslavia as a whole.
QUESTION: So would you - I'm sorry to drag this out, but does it appear
that the more radical Kosovars are also engaged in ethnic cleansing? You
commented on what would --
MR. RUBIN: I have no specific information on the veracity of those
QUESTION: Isn't it in the report that the KLA now controls - I'm not sure
-- 40 percent of the province?
MR. RUBIN: Right, I mean, clearly they are operating there. What
percentage they control would be not a subject that I could give a quick
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the situation had become radicalized, so
obviously you see the KLA as expanding its reach.
MR. RUBIN: This port that it has amongst the population - let's bear in
mind that Dr. Rugova received overwhelming support in referenda and other
political activities there; and what we're saying is that his moderate
peaceful approach to this problem, which is, in our view, the right
approach, is weakened and Serbia's interests are weakened when wildly
disproportionate crackdowns occur and the public, or the citizens, or the
Kosovar Albanians in the region become radicalized. As far as how much
territory the KLA controls -- whether that's gone up and down in recent
weeks -- I'm just not in a position to comment at this time; other than to
say that obviously they're operating there.
QUESTION: But the KLA's ranks are growing?
MR. RUBIN: We are not in a position to publicly detail the enrollment of
the KLA. We are in a position to talk in general terms that the population's
radicalization - that is, where the average Kosovar Albanian is increasingly
less supportive of peaceful ways to resolve this problem - is a direct
result of President Milosevic's activities, and that political support for
radical positions is growing due to his crackdown.
QUESTION: Jamie, is the Contact Group meeting, then, arranged for
MR. RUBIN: Bob Gelbard did not tell me that. I think the idea of a
Contact Group was always a little bit dicey on where everyone was going to
be. But I don't believe there's a significant meeting tomorrow of those
QUESTION: There's a news report and also rumors that the Minister of
Fisheries of Cuba has just renounced to the government, and he's on his way
to Miami or he is already in Miami.
MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that.
QUESTION: On China?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. I'll try to answer the question, but in general, for the
next week, I think you'll understand that most of the answers belong with
the very large party traveling to China.
QUESTION: This is in the area of shooting down rumors and speculations.
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: There's some reports out there that the Secretary plans to -
don't laugh - plans to wear white when she's in Tiananmen Square, which, in
China, is a symbol of mourning. Can you address that in any intelligent -
in any way?
MR. RUBIN: This came up on a tv show on Sunday where she was asked about
it and she thought that was an interesting idea. We'll have to see what she
QUESTION: But seriously --
MR. RUBIN: I am being serious.
QUESTION: So she's considering wearing it?
MR. RUBIN: I'm just - well watch the tv and keep your eyes glued on the
Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Can we put in for color tvs as an expense item?
QUESTION: Black and white will do.
QUESTION: Jamie, if she does wear white, is that going to be a political
MR. RUBIN: I think it'll be something you'll have to ask the party in the
QUESTION: Nigeria - what's you assessment of what the new military leader
has done there so far? And the British, I believe, are going to send an
envoy out there; do you support that? And is there any thought of doing
likewise from here -- for example, by reviving the Pickering mission which
MR. RUBIN: The first answer is so far, so good; that there have been
signals that this General Abubakar wants to get the army away from its role
as acting outside of civilian rule of Nigeria. He has released prisoners;
we've welcomed that. There is some suggestion that he will release
additional prisoners, and we would welcome that.
Our ambassador had a very good exchange with him last week, talking about
these matters. We're hoping for the best in terms of the decisions that he
and others make there. We want to see a return to civilian rule; we want to
see all the steps taken, including the return of the - the release of
prisoners, the permission for opposition parties to operate, free media, et
cetera - all that goes with a successful election. We have talked about
that possibility of Ambassador Pickering going, and I wouldn't rule it out;
but it's not scheduled to my knowledge at this time.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. RUBIN: One more, yes.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about the talks in Moscow between the IMF
and Russia for the release of the loan. I was wondering if there had been,
in your mind, any linkage with the reactor deal with India?
MR. RUBIN: No, there is no linkage with the reactor deal. We were
encourage by much of what we have seen thus far of the plan that President
Yeltsin announced. The plan is broadly consistent, with the positive
measures President Yeltsin has supported for some time to address Russia's
fiscal imbalances and lay the foundation for growth and prosperity for the
Russian people. Cutting spending, collecting taxes, adopting tax reform,
for example, are key measures are governing the international financial
institutions have encouraged. We'll have to see how things play out between
the executive and legislative branches.
(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)