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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #31, 00-04-10

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>


1234

U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Monday, April 10, 2000

Briefer: James P. Rubin

NORTH KOREA / SOUTH KOREA

1-7 Republic of Korea and Democratic People's Republic of Korea Summit Scheduled June 12 through 14 / Direct Dialogue is Central to Peace and Stability on the Korean Peninsula.

NORTH KOREA 4 U.S. Concerns About the Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs / Implementation of Agreed Framework / Missile Talks Planned in the Future.

5 North Korea High Level Visit to U.S.

7 U.S.-North Korea Relations / Removal from Terrorism List

SOUTH KOREA 3 U.S. Deployment of Forces and Troops and Equipment in South Korea justified by the Historical Situation

PERU 7 U.S. Notes that National Elections Conducted Under Orderly Conditions

GREECE 8 U.S. Congratulates Prime Minister Simities on His Reelection Victory

GEORGIA 9 U.S. Congratulates President Sheverdnaza on His Reelection / OSCE and Council of Europe Indicated Serious Irregulatories in the Conduct of Elections.

CHINA 9-10 Chinese Ambassador Briefed at State Department on the CIA Report and Actions Taken by the CIA.

MEPP 10-12 Prime Minister Barak to Visit Washington, D.C. / Bolling Talks.

11 Syria Track. 13 Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon.

ISRAEL/CHINA

12 Sale of Arms to China / Support of Chinese Military Developments.

BOLIVIA 15 State of Emergency Announced by President Hugo Banzer.

CUBA 15 Impact of Elian Gonzalez Case on U.S.-Cuba Relations.

RUSSIA (CHECHNYA)

15-18 U.S. Deeply Concerned about the Credible Reports of Gross Human Rights Abuses Committed by Russian Forces in Chechnya.

RUSSIA 17-18 Lower House of Duma Voting on the Start II Treaty / American Citizen Remains in Custody

19 of the Russian Federal Service / Foreign Minister Ivanov Visit

BOSNIA 19 Municipal Elections

FRY 20 U.S. Organizing Protecting Power Arrangements in Belgrade


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #31

MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2000, 12:55 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to today's briefing here at the State Department. Unfortunately, today I can not say that it's an on-time performance, and I really have no excuse for that. So let me just go right to a few statements that we'll have to start with, given the developments in various parts of the world.

First, on the meeting between South Korea and North Korea, Secretary Albright warmly welcomes the announcement that the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will hold a summit June 12th through 14th. Secretary Albright spoke to her counterpart, Foreign Minister Lee of South Korea, early this morning to convey our strong support for this meeting, which we believe will be a history-making event.

Direct dialogue between the South and the North is central to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. President Kim Dae-Jung's leadership and encouragement for engagement, for a dialogue between the United States and North Korea, and for the efforts that Japan has made to have a dialogue with North Korea, has opened the door for this important step.

The United States has long worked in favor of achieving such dialogues, which are envisaged as part of the process that former Secretary Perry outlined. The United States, South Korea and Japan have consulted closely to achieve a coordinated policy in pursuing our common concerns, including on the issues of weapons of mass destruction and medium- and long-range missiles. We look forward to continuing discussion with our allies on that.

Maybe we could stay on that and then move to other subjects, if anybody has any questions.

QUESTION: One last thought, sort of half answer the -- (inaudible) - from here - from there where - you're not going to call off your missile defense program if they agree to curb their missile program. You see other threats out there. But what dividends do you see coming? You refer to peace on the peninsula. Could you be a little more specific about your aspirations here?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Clearly, the ultimate way to achieve peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, which has long been a goal of the United States and our South Korean allies as well as Japan, is an improved relationship between North and South. And that has been central to our understanding and our objectives is to get that kind of long-term answer to the stability and problem on the Korean Peninsula.

In the meantime - and coincident with that goal - we've had some specific concerns about the weapons of mass destruction programs, leading to the Agreed Framework, and the discussions we've been having on seeing that that Agreed Framework is implemented, as well as on the export and deployment and production of medium- and long-range missiles, which has led to a number of discussions we've had with North Korea and we still are planning to schedule another round of missile talks led by Bob Einhorn.

QUESTION: What about the proposed high-level meeting here in Washington involving a North Korean official?

MR. RUBIN: We see both of these efforts as coincident. Ironically, last week, one of the criticisms we were facing was what have we done to promote North-South dialogue. Clearly, there is now a prospect for a level of North- South dialogue that has not occurred in a long, long time.

So our view is that we will continue to pursue our track of this policy. And the beauty of the coordinating mechanism between us and South Korea and Japan is that we can do all those in sync, and every step we have taken in our discussions with North Korea have been designed to increase the chances that the leaders of North and South and the officials of North and South will have a dialogue. So we see ourselves operating on a parallel effort and we will continue to pursue our effort just as we, in close coordination with South Korea, are hopeful that their effort will bear fruit.

QUESTION: Would it be timely for think tanks to begin setting up seminars on the end of North Korea's isolation? Looking back at what's happened over the last year or so, are they coming out? Are they now joining the world, do you think, or is it a little early to make that judgment?

MR. RUBIN: Maybe I will have more to say about what think tanks should do in about three-and-a-half weeks.

QUESTION: I'm just curious. Earlier today, the language from this building was a tiny bit different. You said - unless I totally screwed it up, which is a possibility - you said "could be an historic event" and now you're saying, "will be an historic event." Now, has something happened in the last three hours to go from - I mean, obviously, just the fact that they're meeting together is historic in itself. But the idea was that there would be something historic that would come out of it or could be earlier. And now it's "will" be.

QUESTION: He's going to call it a setback.

QUESTION: US policy on Korea fails - (laughter).

MR. RUBIN: It could be a setback.

You have a keen ear but I wouldn't read anything into it.

QUESTION: I thought of my other question. You've mentioned all the things you would like to see North Korea do --

MR. RUBIN: And it may be more the mistake of the officials you might have been talking to at that hour of the morning, rather than your inability to listen clearly at that hour of the morning.

QUESTION: Fair enough. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You've mentioned some of the things you would like to see North Korea do. Since you're looking into the future on that side, why don't we look into the future a little bit on the US side. The US has done a few things on the peninsula. Land mines are all over the DMZ. There are troops, thousands of troops, that haven't been home in 50 years. Of course, it's their grandchildren who are there now, but it's a 50-year. Jimmy Carter momentarily thought of removing troops when the walls caved in on him, as when Mansfield talked about troops in Europe.

MR. RUBIN: A lot of history packed into that question there.

QUESTION: Well, I'm trying to explain, there's a reason behind this question.

MR. RUBIN: There's clearly a place for you at that think-tanker meeting.

QUESTION: Not yet. No, I won't even go there in three and a half years.

But the US has done some stuff out there that, you know, some people would call provocative as well, like putting thousands of troops there, placing land mines all over the place and making it impossible to sign on to a total ban on land mines. Could this, in any way, influence US behavior as well as North Korean behavior?

MR. RUBIN: From our standpoint, our deployment of forces and troops and equipment in South Korea was justified by the historical situation there. That remains our view. I'm not aware of any changes in those plans. North Korea has sought to discuss this issue. Obviously, we'd be prepared to discuss any issue, but there's no planning, to my knowledge, to change our force posture there.

Obviously, if there was a full-fledged peace on the Korean Peninsula, that would have an impact on anything we do, but I'm not going to speculate about that hypothetical future. When I say a history-making event, to have Kim Dae-Jung, the elected leader of South Korea, meet with the leader of North Korea is, I think, by its own sake, a history-making event. Whether it will achieve history-making results is something that I don't care to speculate on two months in advance.

QUESTION: Would you review the bidding for us? Even given all of this - and it appears to be very cheerful news - what concerns does the United States continue to have about North Korea's ballistic missile proliferation?

MR. RUBIN: I think I indicated in the statement from Secretary Albright that we would continue to pursue our common concerns regarding weapons of mass destruction and making sure that the Agreed Framework is fully implemented and pursuing our bilateral effort to get missile talks with North Korea scheduled - and they've indicated they are prepared to schedule them - so that we can deal with the concerns, the very real ones we have, about not only the development and production in North Korea of their own missiles but the potential for those missile systems being proliferated and spread to other countries.

So we have profound concerns in the area of proliferation, including weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, and we will continue to pursue those. Those are concern that we and South Korea and Japan share.

QUESTION: Do you see any movement at this point from North Korea that they're listening to this or prepared to curb their activities?

MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly in recent months there have been indications of that. We've had a statement by North Korea that they would not test a long- range missile pending the continued work together with us to improve relations, and there has been no such test and they have indicated they intend to stand by that statement.

In the meantime, we have indicated we would want to formalize that process through this high-level dialogue that we are trying to put together. So there have been, on the nuclear front, obviously dramatic actions taken beginning in 1994 that protected the United States and its allies and South Korea from the rather frightening prospect of North Korea armed with dozens of nuclear weapons.

Similarly, on the missile side, we have moved to try to limit the potential threat through the ways I just mentioned.

QUESTION: Aren't you concerned about the timing of the announcement, only three days away - general elections is only three days away, and there is an argument that this announcement and the summit meeting is a political maneuver which is argued by the opposition party. And if you look at the two announcements on both sides, there are conflicting issues. North Korea argues that this was made at the request of South Korean president; on the other hand, South Korea argues that this is made at the invitation of Kim Chong-il.

Were you aware of the facts and when were you informed about the scheduled meeting?

MR. RUBIN: We have been in close consultation with the South Korean Government, and we warmly welcome this announcement. I don't care to get into greater detail about our consultative process but we have been in close consultation with the South Korean Government throughout this process.

With respect to the timing of the announcement with respect to South Korean elections, I suspect that you would get an answer from the officials in South Korea. That is not for me to speculate on from here.

With respect to the facts in the different but quite similar statements, we're aware of that, yes.

QUESTION: Are there arrangements already with South Korea on a readout or is it just something you would normally expect?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, we have been in close consultation with Japan and South Korea in the course of this issue, both before, during and after meetings. Wendy Sherman has logged a lot of miles, traveling to South Korea and Japan and vice-versa, to ensure a close consultation occurs before, during and after these meetings.

In addition, there are going to be some preliminary discussions, as I understand it, between the North and the South to set up this meeting, and those are expected later this month.

QUESTION: In making the summit realized, what is the role of the United States? What has the United States done and --

MR. RUBIN: What's the role?

QUESTION: -- to make it something realized?

MR. RUBIN: What I said in response to one of your colleague's questions is that every step we've taken in our bilateral discussions with North Korea - and you're familiar with the numerous contacts we have had with North Korea - have been designed, all of the steps, with the idea in mind of promoting a North-South dialogue, hopefully at the highest possible levels that is appropriate. So we have been involved in the beginning in urging and pushing and recognizing that, in the absence of a North-South dialogue, that the long-term question of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula cannot be resolved in a positive way.

QUESTION: In regards to the high-level meeting here in Washington, is there any hope that that would occur within a certain time frame, within six months, within this year?

MR. RUBIN: We continue to believe that both we and North Korea want to have that visit take place. We've had no indication they don't want that visit to take place and we are continuing to pursue that visit.

QUESTION: The discussions that are going to take place later in the month, does the US intend to participate or have they been asked to participate?

MR. RUBIN: No, these are bilateral meetings, and a bilateral meeting is what we are talking about here. But just as we have had bilateral meetings with North Korea that have been preceded and followed by extensive consultation between us and South Korea and North Korea, you can assume that that kind of process will take place.

I assume you don't want to ask about - is it about North Korea?

QUESTION: North has been very active with their diplomatic activities the last couple months. They've opened their diplomatic relations with Italy and they have resumed with Japan. So I'm just wondering about what do you see this North active diplomacy the last couple months?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to speculate as to what their motives are. North Korea is a very opaque society, and I think anyone who states with great wisdom the intent of North Korea, I think is not being particularly prudent in their analysis.

From our perspective, what's important is that any openings that do occur with us, with South Korea, with European allies, all take into account the very real and serious concerns we have about North Korean actions, and that all of those openings are designed to promote the kind of changes that are in our national interest. So I described in reference to one of your colleague's questions steps that were important on the Agreed Framework and what it did for the national security of the United States and its allies and the world in stopping the potential danger of a nuclear-armed- with-dozens-and-dozens-of-weapons North Korea.

Similarly, in recent months these openings, as you described them, have been occurring coincident with the steps that I described on the missile side. So what's important here from our standpoint is that any improved relations North Korea has with the outside world will come as North Korea's actions are increasingly consistent with the norms of the international community.

QUESTION: A similar question but it had a little bit more to do with why you think they would be making - why you think Kim Chong-il, after six years as his country's dear leader, would decide that the time is right now to begin rapprochement with the South.

MR. RUBIN: Well, there have been North-South agreements before. In 1991, there was a very important attempt. So as I understand it, the previous leader was working on a North-South exercise prior to his death. So there is not anything dramatically new about a leader of the North being prepared to work seriously with a leader of the South, in the sense that that's happened before, it's been discussed before. But what will be new is that it will actually occur at this level with an elected leader, Kim Dae-Jung, who has made it a point of pursuing engagement with North Korea as one of his stated policy objectives.

So with respect to why Kim Chong-il has done this, I suspect that you and your network may have a more clear opportunity to ask him that question than we will.

QUESTION: You said a few weeks ago that North Korea was a possible candidate for removal from the terrorism list if they met certain conditions. Are they any closer to meeting those conditions? Do you see any prospect of that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we had a meeting with them. Mike Sheehan, our Counter- Terrorism Coordinator, had a very extensive discussion with North Korean counterparts in New York, I believe, in which he laid out what steps needed to be taken for North Korea to meet the appropriate standards to remove themselves from the list. We have not seen implementation of those points at this time, but we certainly hope that happens - and the sooner the better.

QUESTION: What kind of an inference will these inter-Korean summit talks give on the relationship between United States and North Korea, whether these inter-Korean summit talks improve the relationship between United States and North Korea or to suspend the relationship between United States and North Korea?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we believe and have operated under the assumption that we can work to achieve our objectives with North Korea in sync with South Korea and Japan having discussions with North Korea. That is the premise of our policy. That's why this trilateral working group has been set up so that Japan and North Korea can talk, South Korea and North Korea can talk, the United States and North Korea can talk, because we have a mutual set of concerns. We are all democracies, we have very strong defense and security ties and, because of those links, we are able to pursue a common agenda in our discussions with North Korea. And so far that has been, in our view, the appropriate way to go.

QUESTION: A different subject?

MR. RUBIN: Well, before we do that, let me - I have a couple more statements that I hope you'll bear with me. It's just one of those days. I try to avoid this when possible.

The United States notes that the voting in Peru's April 9th national elections was conducted under orderly conditions. Despite reports of irregularities, which are still being evaluated, the government of Peru, the various parties and the domestic and international observers, all worked to ensure a peaceful and orderly vote.

We note that the government of Peru undertook some steps late in the campaign to address deficiencies and abuses documented by the Carter Center and others. Nonetheless, the people of Peru went to the polls and carried out - following an electoral campaign that was carried out on an uneven playing field.

We urge the government of Peru and Peru's elected authorities to take every possible measure to ensure that the next round of voting fully meets democratic standards of openness, transparency and fairness. The legitimacy of the next president is at stake.

As we have said from the outset, we remain neutral on whichever candidate is ultimately elected in a free and fair process.

Unfortunately, if there is no more, I do have a statement that we are going to put out both on the Congo and on Sierra Leone after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay, well, since you went to Peru, that was just one of a spate of elections over the weekend. Maybe we can get them all over with in one fell swoop here. Greece and Georgia.

MR. RUBIN: Let's let our friend in the back ask the Greece question.

QUESTION: Any comment for the next prime minister of Greece, Kostis Simitis, who won yesterday with a weak majority?

MR. RUBIN: We congratulate Prime Minister Simitis on his reelection victory yesterday. We note that his political party and the main opposition party both supported closer integration with Europe and economic reform, policies which we believe are important to the future of Greece. We wish the new government success and look forward to sustaining our friendship and close alliance with Greece, deepening our bilateral partnership and bolstering cooperation across the board.

The President sent a congratulatory message to Prime Minister Simitis and the Secretary has also been in touch with her counterpart, George Papandreou, earlier today.

QUESTION: Mr. Rubin, Ambassador Nicholas Burns stated today that this is for the first time since World War II that the US was not an issue in the campaign. Do you know what prompted Nicholas Burns to make such a statement since he is your representative in Athens?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to ask him what prompted him to make such a statement. But, as a journalist, I am sure you wouldn't want to deter ambassadors from answering questions they're asked.

QUESTION: He's the representative of the US Government in Athens, and what prompted him to make such a statement?

MR. RUBIN: But I'll have to ask him what prompted him to make such as statement. But I encourage you to pick up the phone as well. I know you and he had a special relationship.

QUESTION: One more question. Based on Mr. Nicholas Burns' statement, may we assume that this is also for the first time since World War II that the US did not interfere with the Greek elections?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: It's a matter of the record.

MR. RUBIN: The answer to your question is contained in its flawed premise.

QUESTION: Can we get Georgia? And then I want to ask my original question. What I wanted to ask in the first place was about China.

MR. RUBIN: We'll get to that. On Georgia, the United States congratulates President Shevardnadze on his reelection. We look forward to continuing our close cooperation in the next five years as Georgia continues to build a democratic, market-oriented state.

The OSCE stated that considerable progress is necessary for Georgia to meet fully its commitments as a participating state of the OSCE. Both the OSCE and the Council of Europe indicated serious irregularities in the conduct of the elections, including instances of ballot-stuffing, media bias and lack of transparency in vote counting and tabulation. While Georgia has made strides in democratic and free market reforms, this election highlights the challenges that Georgia still faces as it develops strong democratic institutions. It will be important for Georgia to continue to work with the OSCE and the Council of Europe in further building a democratic future.

QUESTION: Is this the first time since independence that the US hadn't interfered in the Georgian - (laughter)

I wanted to ask about China. You know, the Chinese have said that the latest round of firings and reprimands are not sufficient, and I'm just wondering what you make of that. And can the Chinese expect to get any more, or is this as far as the US is going to go on this?

MR. RUBIN: Well, on Saturday, Under Secretary Pickering briefed the Chinese Ambassador here at the State Department on the report by the CIA and the Director of Central Intelligence's actions. Our Embassy in Beijing today also informed the Chinese Government of the report and the actions taken by the CIA.

With respect to their statements on this matter, let me simply say we believe that the investigation reported to the Chinese in June 1999 by Under Secretary Pickering and the CIA's recently concluded accountability review have been thorough and complete, and we have followed through and implemented fully our commitment to the Chinese to brief them fully on the results.

QUESTION: In other words, no matter how much more they yell and scream, there isn't going to be anything else? This is it? I mean, the case is closed now, according to Washington?

MR. RUBIN: From our perspective, we briefed them on what happened. We conducted a thorough accountability review to determine the procedures used. We've now - and the CIA has put this out in great detail and I'm not going to review all of that - steps that need to be taken to prevent this kind of thing, specific disciplinary measures, and these are the actions that we said we would follow through on. We have now done so.

QUESTION: There is, though, an impression that all this is giving that the firing took place at the request of the Chinese - and the reprimands. I mean, is that a misimpression?

MR. RUBIN: Well, you're obviously asking the wrong person because the person who made this decision is the Director of Central Intelligence. But I can not imagine that our actions were directed from outside. We took the actions that we thought were appropriate based on the facts of the case, the accountability review, and the appropriate steps of the CIA Director.

QUESTION: In other words, all of this would have happened if the Chinese hadn't made it a major issue?

MR. RUBIN: Well, if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bicycle. I can't answer a hypothetical question like that. What I can tell you is what we did and what steps we took and why we took them. And beyond that, speculating on what parallel universe we would be operating in if something else had happened, I just can't answer.

QUESTION: With the Prime Minister of Israel is coming here tomorrow for a quick visit and you have talks going on at Bolling, what's your current evaluation of the pace of those talks? Is Israel pulling back fast enough? Arafat had some negative things to say over the weekend.

MR. RUBIN: Well, some have suggested that these are a waste of time or there's no progress being made. Frankly, that is not our assessment. There are gaps, but on issues this profound and negotiations this difficult, gaps are to be expected. And both sides are making real efforts to move forward, in our view, and they're engaged in serious and intensive discussions. And we believe they've gotten off to a good start.

We expect to discuss with Prime Minister Barak efforts to accelerate and intensify these efforts so that we can achieve a framework agreement as soon as possible and conclude an agreement on all the permanent status issues by September 13th of this year, which is a formidable challenge.

QUESTION: Well, maybe he overstated, in your view. But he - Arafat - says it's a waste of time. You say, you know, you're going to look at ways to accelerate. So they're not really moving at the pace you'd like, are they?

MR. RUBIN: Frankly, it is not our assessment that they are a waste of time.

QUESTION: No, I know that.

MR. RUBIN: The objective is a formidable challenge to meet the objective of a September 13th agreement. And in order to meet that challenge, we think it's appropriate to pick up the pace by accelerating these talks through discussions with Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat. Nevertheless, we believe these talks have been important, have been serious and have been substantive.

QUESTION: He also - I wish I brought the quote. You know, it was an all- purpose quote. He called it a waste of time but he also characterized Barak in a - he didn't use the word intransigent or whatever the Arabic word for intransigent is but he suggested Arafat is - I mean that Barak is holding back, is not giving, is not conciliatory. Is that your estimate of Mr. Barak?

MR. RUBIN: Our view has been that both sides would do better focusing their efforts on the discussions in the peace talks, rather than commentary about the other side and that this is not a public relations exercise; this is a serious peacemaking exercise.

QUESTION: Somewhat on the same area, when Barak is here, do you anticipate discussing with him this split that you have with Israel on selling of weapons technology to China?

MR. RUBIN: We have been profoundly concerned about a particular issue related to the sale of certain aircraft systems to China. That is an issue of concern to us. We have a very close relationship with Israel, a very close defense relationship. And I would therefore be surprised if this issue was not discussed at a series of meetings that Prime Minister Barak has here in Washington. I don't intend to predict where and to what extent it's discussed at any particular meeting, but I would expect it to be discussed.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that very briefly? What is your opinion or what is the Department's thinking if some members of Congress follow through on their threat to withhold aid to Israel on this -

MR. RUBIN: We don't think it's appropriate to tie this issue to foreign aid. We have said that last week and that remains our view.

QUESTION: Is it in a more general sense, what is the most that could be accomplished there? And also there is some new talk out of Syria or at least the biographer of Hafez Assad about a possible middle ground for dealing with the Sea of Galilee issue.

MR. RUBIN: Could you repeat the first part? I kind of missed the first part.

QUESTION: What is your general take on Barak's sudden announcement of a trip here?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it is something we have been discussing with him so we don't consider it sudden from our perspective. We think it's important, as I said, to accelerate the process and look for ways to do that, so we think it's appropriate.

With respect to Syria, we have not heard anything from Syria at this point that we believe could address seriously the remaining gaps. We will stay in contact with Syria through diplomatic channels to see if there are ways to overcome those gaps.

With respect to Mr. Seale, I don't have any comment on his particular proposal.

QUESTION: How do you assess Simon Peres assessment of what was repeated where he says the season is dead for peace with Syria?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think that's our assessment. "Dead" would not be a word that we would agree with. You know, there is a lively process of commentary in that part of the world on developments. We try to keep things as even-keeled as we can, and we don't agree with that assessment either.

Obviously, there are formidable gaps and we worked very hard to try to see if there are ways to overcome them. And if we thought the prospects were dead, we wouldn't be staying in touch with the Syrians to try to see whether there are ways to overcome the gaps.

QUESTION: About the radar, the Prime Minister is going back to the first ever visit by China's President to Israel. Their eight-year relationship has been most manifest by arms deals. How does the US feel about these strengthening of ties between Israel and China, particularly if it results in Israel selling some of its know-how to China?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we have long had concerns about Israel and other countries supporting Chinese military developments. That is a matter of concern to us, whomever the seller is and so, clearly, we have concerns about this particular sale. And we have a very active dialogue with Israel and we have discussed these matters in the past and we intend to continue to discuss them vigorously.

QUESTION: On Syria, you said that you have not heard anything from Syria that would address the gaps remaining. There is a report out of Israel that Syria did deliver a tough-line reply last week, a follow-up to the Geneva meetings, in which they actually retracted some of the concessions from Shepherdstown. Have you received any such document?

MR. RUBIN: Obviously, I wouldn't comment on the specifics of any diplomatic discussion, nor would I care to comment specifically on that report. But I think what I said answers the question, which is on Friday we had indicated or were prepared to indicate that Syria has responded to ideas presented by President Clinton, but I am not going to go into details in substance.

From our standpoint, we have not heard anything that, in our view, could address seriously the remaining gaps. But we will continue to see if there are ways to overcome the gaps. Beyond making those general characterizations, I don't think it would be appropriate to go into more detail.

QUESTION: You said on Friday you were going to say that, if you had been asked, that the Syrians had responded. Were you also at that point going to say you had not heard anything?

MR. RUBIN: No, I was going to say we were studying it.

QUESTION: Now you've studied it and the point comes up --

MR. RUBIN: Now you know how hard we worked this weekend.

QUESTION: So Syria's response that you got was not - was not enough to --

MR. RUBIN: We have not heard anything from them that could address seriously the remaining gaps. But we will continue to see if there are ways to overcome the gaps.

QUESTION: Okay, now you said --

MR. RUBIN: Please, there are some others.

QUESTION: In the words you just used, you said "ideas presented by President Clinton." Were they Clinton's ideas or the --

MR. RUBIN: I never said the ideas presented by --

QUESTION: "Syria has responded to ideas presented by President Clinton."

MR. RUBIN: You must have been quoting someone else because I didn't say that.

QUESTION: You didn't say, "Syria has responded to the ideas"?

MR. RUBIN: Oh, this thing in - the ideas - what he was presenting was Prime Minister Barak's ideas, okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jamie, this response by Syria, was it in writing or was it over the telephone and --

MR. RUBIN: I am not going to be able to get into the specifics of that other than to say that we still believe that there are gaps and we are going to continue to work to see if we can overcome them. We have been in contact with Syria. They have sent us some additional proposals and I have indicated our view of that.

QUESTION: I believe another issue that will be discussed is the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. Can you say how the US views this and what the US can do to help try and maintain stability in the region given this development?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. We have been in close contact with the Secretary General, with the Israelis, all with the same objective, which is that we are going to do what we think we can do to support the full implementation of Resolution 425 of the UN Security Council; and we expect all parties to do the same, to cooperate and consult in such a way that the Israeli withdrawal can be safe and orderly.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on that and say what you think you can do?

MR. RUBIN: We are going to continue to work on that. We don't think it's quite ripe for elaboration at this time.

QUESTION: If I could get back to the Syrian response?

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Was there any difference in that proposal, in the counterproposal, than what President Assad had said to President Clinton, or was it merely a reiteration of what he had said?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is there were differences. But I think what's fair to say is we have not heard anything from them, anything from them, that could address seriously the remaining gaps.

QUESTION: Did you regard this response as them playing the ball back from their court into your court?

MR. RUBIN: I am not going to psychoanalyze the Israeli and Syrian tennis game. What I'm telling you is what has happened. And as far as what we heard, we have not heard anything that could address seriously the remaining gaps.

QUESTION: Are you going to respond to this response of theirs?

MR. RUBIN: We are going to stay in touch with the parties to see if there are ways to overcome the gaps.

QUESTION: Jamie, your study that went from "we're studying it" to "we didn't find anything new in it," did that involve conversations with the Israelis or was that a purely American study?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think the Israeli factor was particularly germane. I can't rule out that they were contacted, but that wasn't the issue.

QUESTION: Last week, the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Ecevit, had a political setback on the constitutional change and extension of the term of President Demirel. Do you have any comment on the subject?

MR. RUBIN: That's an internal political matter and it is not appropriate for us to discuss.

QUESTION: Several Turkish commentators, they said that the US supports the Motherland Party leader, Mr. Yilmaz.

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check that for you.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments or reaction about the situation in Bolivia?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. On that subject, let me say that public order is returning to Bolivia after President Hugo Banzer announced a state of emergency early on Saturday. This action is permitted by the constitution. The president acted after several days of protests in some of the major cities. The most serious protest occurred in Cochabamba, protesting a planned 35 percent hike in water rates. Protests by police officers in La Paz ended on Saturday when the government announced a 50 percent increase in police wages. A curfew is in effect in most of the country and public gatherings are strictly limited.

QUESTION: There is also a demand from people who were used to cultivate coca that the situation is worse because they don't get any help from the government, that it was supposed to support changing cultivation in coca to other crops. Have you seen any misuse of the funds by the government of President Banzer that the US has given to that country?

MR. RUBIN: I am not aware of that, but I will have to check that very carefully for you and get you a considered answer from the Department.

QUESTION: Have there been any meetings scheduled between Cuban and State Department officials? And on the remaining 22 visa applications, any movement on that or any sense, now that the father has been here for a few days, that there would be some more flexibility on granting further visas if it made him more comfortable, if it made him more willing to stay in the country during possible appeals processes?

MR. RUBIN: I am not aware of the current back-and-forth in terms of meetings. But with respect to the visas, obviously we did issue the visas last week and we have indicated that the remaining 22 are under review. They remain under review. The visas remain under review but we do want to do whatever we can to be helpful in this matter.

QUESTION: Is there ever a point at which they will be flat out rejected or can they be under review indefinitely?

MR. RUBIN: I am sure in the history of visas, there have been rejections.

QUESTION: Jamie, as this winds down or winds along - maybe it's not down but winds along, can you assess any impact that the case of Elian Gonzalez has had on US-Cuba relations? Has it changed anything or does it stand alone?

MR. RUBIN: I think all this speculation about the effect on US-Cuba relations is just that, speculation. From our standpoint, we continue to pursue what we think is right in our policy towards Cuba and we don't see any reason why this will change anything.

QUESTION: On to Chechnya. Last week, Strobe Talbott appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Mitch McConnell and Patrick Leahy. And all the senators were asking him repeatedly was, "Did the Russians commit war crimes in Chechnya?" And he agreed, in view of their interest, I guess, to study the matter. He ducked the question there.

So do you have a conclusion to that question or an answer to that question?

MR. RUBIN: No, when Deputy Secretary Talbott has something to communicate back to the Senate, I think he will do that to them first before reporting it through the media. But with respect to our position, we are deeply concerned about the credible reports we have seen of gross human rights abuses committed by Russian forces in Chechnya. We have raised our concerns privately with the Russians and we have called on the Russians to undertake a credible and transparent investigation that will meet international standards to answer the very questions that have been raised that are legitimate questions.

In our view, these abuses raise fundamental questions about Russia's commitment to international humanitarian law, and we believe there should be a credible investigation that will meet international standards. And that is what we have been urging very strongly, both here and in our discussions with Russia and in the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

QUESTION: So on the issue of whether these are actively violations is just - is that still under study then or what? What is the status?

MR. RUBIN: As far as what our internal processes are, I am not in a position to comment. I think that, in response to a number of your questions and a number of other questions in recent months, I have indicated our profound concern about these issues and that they raise questions about Russia's commitment to international humanitarian law. I focused in particular, I believe, in response to your question about the treatment of refugees during conflict and the specific international law that applies there.

But, from our standpoint, the best way to deal with a situation this tragic and this horrible is for there to be an independent investigation done that meets international standards. And that is what we have been calling for both here and in our discussions in Geneva.

QUESTION: In Geneva, in fact, there is a proposal for an international investigation as opposed to an internal one. Where does the US stand on that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we and many countries, including Indonesia, have been supportive of a domestic investigation that met international standards, so it is not one or the other. What is important to us is that the standards of fairness, objectivity and credibility are met, not so much of whose name it's under.

So if a domestic, independent investigation that met international standards were agreed upon, we would think that would be an important step forward.

QUESTION: But if not, then - or let's just say in general, in the case of Indonesia, the UN threatened, basically, and I think set up an independent inquiry. I don't think they have done that in this case. And that was with US support. And then the Indonesians did their own thing.

Is there some reason why you don't want to follow a parallel course this time?

MR. RUBIN: We have been consulting actively with the Europeans and others to try to promote just this objective that you and I are discussing. Our priority at the UN Commission on Human Rights and elsewhere continues to be on finding the most effective way for Russia to act in compliance with its commitments and act towards the objective of an independent investigation that meets international standards.

They have taken a number of steps forward in recent weeks but there are still a number of important steps we want to do. So in Geneva we are focused, with our European allies and others, on what's the best way to get the objective met of an independent investigation with international standards.

QUESTION: Final question is that McConnell had some kind of a document which indicated - which was purported to be an internal Russian document that suggested that there was really a plan to empty the mountainous parts of Chechnya of bandits, terrorists, in fact everybody living there. Did anybody determine whether this was actually an authentic document?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know whether the status of that document, whether it was transmitted to us. Maybe it was at the hearing. But I will - I don't know whether the actual document was transmitted to check its authenticity and try to examine its significance here at the Department. But, obviously, if we had such a document, we would want to do that.

QUESTION: Any reaction on the lower house of the Duma scheduling a vote on START II for Friday?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding on that was that there was an indication that the Russians were moving forward, that the committee had favorably reported the START II treaty. We think ratification of START II will be a very, very important step to protect the future of all of us in promoting comprehensive, concrete arms control measures. And it will not only be important for its own sake, but will open up the possibility of accelerating discussions on even deeper cuts in strategic nuclear arms that we believe could advance our security and the security of the Russians.

So the sooner the Russians act in their own self-interest to ratify START II, the safer we will be, the Russians will be and the world will be.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that, if I could?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary believe, as Mr. Talbott has forecast, that this could happen, the Duma could act to ratify START II, before Mr. Ivanov comes to New York at the end of the month?

MR. RUBIN: Well, Deputy Secretary Talbott was indicating what the Russians have indicated to us, their hope for that. So, clearly, today's developments are a step in that direction, towards early ratification of the START II treaty which we think will be an historic day in the history of arms control

QUESTION: Jamie, do you have anything more today on Mr. Pope, the American who is languishing in jail in Moscow?

MR. RUBIN: The short answer to that is yes, but I am just trying to get my hands on it.

For the record, it was not in Red 2.

QUESTION: What is Red 2?

MR. RUBIN: It's a secret.

QUESTION: Well, you just blew it, didn't you?

MR. RUBIN: I'll show you after the briefing.

Mr. Pope remains in the custody of the Russian Federal Security Service, although he has not yet been formally charged with any crime. This morning, Monday, April 10th, a consular officer from the US Embassy in Moscow visited Mr. Pope at Lefortovo Prison. This is our second consular visit with Mr. Pope since he was detained last Tuesday. During today's visit, Mr. Pope told our consular officer that he is both physically and psychologically well.

QUESTION: Jamie, how long can people be held in Russia without charges?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know. I will have to check the Russian - applicable Russian law.

QUESTION: Is the US at all concerned that one of its citizens hasn't been charged and has been in prison for almost a week?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think under Russian law, there is a period of incarceration that, when you're under investigation, that precedes formal filing of charges. We have been visiting him. Let's bear in mind that American citizens, when they travel abroad, are subject to the laws of the countries in which they travel and, to the extent that I am aware, the Russians are not acting inconsistent with their own laws, which are the laws that American citizens are subject to if they don't have diplomatic immunity when they are traveling to Russia. That is one of the risks of travel.

And so we recognize and we try to alert American citizens that when they travel abroad, there are often different legal structures than the one we would expect here, where you would be charged much more quickly. But I will check the applicable law for you.

QUESTION: Since you issued a statement last week condemning the violence in Zimbabwe and suspending aid there, the situation seems to have gotten worse. I am just wondering if the US is contemplating any other actions, punitive, toward the government there.

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check that for you. I don't have any new - I mean, remember, this is an issue that is very emotional and I wouldn't make a causal link between our statement and the developments there in Zimbabwe

QUESTION: No, no --

MR. RUBIN: Other than to say --

QUESTION: I'm just saying that, since you've done that, the situation has gotten worse, not because of what you said.

MR. RUBIN: Another failed policy. Let me check what our thinking is on that and try to get back to you.

QUESTION: My question actually is on the Bosnia elections, unless you addressed this in your statement. There have been statements by people on the ground quoted as saying that the arrest last week of Krajisnik was undoubtedly a factor in the overwhelming support for the SDS in the Republika Srpska. How do you address that?

MR. RUBIN: Our reading of that is completely the opposite. I read some wire reports of that. Dodik received very strong support, better than expected. And you know that his views have been different than Krajisnik and some of his supporters. Our view was that the real troublemakers did not play a particularly prominent role in this election and saw as a result of the arrest they would be better off keeping a low profile.

So I know that there was one or two wire reports written that, way but our assessment was frankly quite different. And perhaps I can get someone who is more familiar with the actual contours of the political parties there and the course of the election in the last week to answer that question in greater detail.

QUESTION: Back to Russia for a moment?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there anything you can tell us about how it will change the content or nature of Foreign Minister Ivanov's visit should the Duma ratify --

MR. RUBIN: Yes. One issue is the sequencing of START II and START III. First of all, obviously, ratification of START II would be a big step forward for US-Russian relations and would make it possible for us to pursue on a different structure START III discussions because, to date, they have been called discussions and they have been limited in their formality by the fact that we are committed to only negotiate a formal agreement following the ratification of START II. So if START II were ratified, there would be a boost to the prospects for moving on START III because the discussions could be moved from discussions to negotiations.

QUESTION: Is that it?

MR. RUBIN: That's a lot in this business.

QUESTION: There is a report out of London this morning, which I am wondering if you could either --

MR. RUBIN: I'd be happy to bat. This sounds like a softball; give it to me.

QUESTION: -- that secret meetings have begun with US diplomats in order to try and return a presence to the embassy in Belgrade.

MR. RUBIN: Right. There are no such secret meetings to return American diplomats to Belgrade and reports to that effect are flawed in the extreme. However, we have been discussing through third parties, and have been doing this for some time, trying to work out protecting power arrangements for the Russian - I'm sorry - for Belgrade here in Washington and for us in Belgrade. That is the kind of arrangements when you don't have diplomatic relations and when you're not doing what the report said you're doing, who will monitor and watch over your property in various capitals. And that has been going on through third parties for some time.

Perhaps there may have been some crossed wires in the elaborate system that creates these reports and that might be the explanation for it. But if that's not the explanation, then the report is just plain wrong.

QUESTION: Is there some - who are you trying to get now?

MR. RUBIN: We are discussing with a number of countries the appropriate way to proceed and we don't think it's appropriate to discuss that publicly. You may remember in the past, there were certain countries that I referred to.

QUESTION: Was it the Swiss?

MR. RUBIN: Whatever.

QUESTION: Last year.

MR. RUBIN: Right, but --

QUESTION: Would there be a US presence, actually diplomatic presence, under this?

MR. RUBIN: No. That's what a protecting power as opposed to an interests section - a protecting power means somebody else is your presence, not US diplomats.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - called Fail Safe?

MR. RUBIN: I did happen to watch that, but that would be a personal matter.

(The briefing concluded at 1:55 p.m.)


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