|Thursday, 20 February 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-09-06
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
September 6, 2001
QUESTION: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can at the top, I'd just like to tell you that the Chinese Foreign Minister will come to visit us in Washington on September 20th and 21st. He will have meetings with the Secretary of State and other senior officials on September 21st. It's a chance to talk about bilateral and regional issues and an opportunity to continue to try to build a constructive relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China.
That's my only brief announcement, and I would be glad to take your questions on this or other topics.
QUESTION: I'm going to segue into -- as far as the Shanghai, about the American Ambassador not showing up, presumably boycotting or protesting -- on the action of First Boston -- can you deal with it?
MR. BOUCHER: I am limited to what I can say about any particular company. I would say that Ambassador Randt did not attend this dinner in question. I don't think I have anything more to add on that.
We are looking into the facts of the situation, as far as the position the Chinese have taken on financial services companies. We are concerned about the matter. We have already raised it with the Chinese Government.
MR. BOUCHER: So?
QUESTION: Well, his non-attendance at this dinner was not related to the issue involving financial services?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that.
QUESTION: Then can you say that it was related to that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that either.
QUESTION: Would you?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I would. I'm just not going to get into this too much in this forum. I would say that we are concerned about the position the Chinese have taken vis-à-vis several financial services companies, and that there was a dinner that the Ambassador did not attend. But I'm not going to try to explain that in any more detail in a public forum at this point.
QUESTION: Is there a theme here so far as the way they treated all these companies? Is it related to Taiwan?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen reports before relating to financial services companies and Taiwan, and it is an issue that we have raised with the Chinese, and we want to continue to find out from them what their policy is and to continue to discuss this.
QUESTION: By the way, is the post -- the US -- I don't know what he's called -- he's really the Ambassador, but we have some circumlocution -- the top American in Taiwan; is that post vacant now?
MR. BOUCHER: The Director of the American Institute in Taiwan?
QUESTION: Because he -- the current occupant has been named to another post.
MR. BOUCHER: Ray Burghardt. I don't know exactly where he is, whether he is here or in transit. But I will check.
QUESTION: But do you happen to know if a choice has been made for a replacement?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of.
QUESTION: Or whether he has a vast CIA background that displeases the State Department for some reason?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if any choice has been made on a replacement, and therefore I don't know of any background of anybody who has been chosen. I will try to check.
QUESTION: Will the September 21 meeting with Minister Tang and Secretary Powell be an opportunity to discuss concerns again about the CMEC Corporation and these alleged transfers to Pakistan?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it will be a chance to discuss any number of issues on the US-China agenda, the cooperation that we have on issues of trade, the cooperation we have with the United Nations or on regional issues, things like Korea. Also, I'm sure missile defense will come up. Also, I'm sure issues in proliferation, nonproliferation efforts, will come up. The understandings of last November that we reached with the Chinese remain important to us, and we want to see those implemented. We always talk about human rights and other things as well, so there will be a great number of issues that will be discussed. Similar to the Secretary's discussions in Beijing.
QUESTION: Can I follow that up and dig just a little deeper? With typical Chinese exquisite coordination, both in Shanghai -- both in Beijing and in Washington, they denied that the company had done anything wrong, and the denial here was accompanied by a Chinese official's statement that they had asked the United States -- insisted the United States produce evidence that the company was violating the November agreement by proliferating. They claim they had done a thorough search of bills of lading and everything.
Have you been asked for evidence, and do you intend to provide them with whatever they mean by "evidence"?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, in some of these matters we are not able to go into any particular detail with you or with others because of the nature of the information we might have. We said that this Chinese company had transferred Category II items under the Missile Technology Control Regime. I don't know if the Chinese addressed that question in their statements. But certainly for a number of months now -- as we said, we talked to them in June, we talked to them during the Secretary's visit, we talked to them on August 23rd during the missile talks with the Chinese -- we have been looking on their side for some information about what these companies were doing and some detail on what was going on. And in the absence of that kind of detailed information, we felt it necessary to proceed with the sanctions. So I tend to think that that's the way to characterize the situation. We have not received that kind of information from the Chinese.
QUESTION: This official told us that the papers had been handed over specifically to Vann van Diepen and that he took them and said he would look through them and get back to them on it. So you don't know for sure whether those papers ever really did change hands? The Chinese investigation and what they said -- copies of these memos?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what particular papers there might have been. I think it is safe to say that we didn't have a satisfactory response, and that is why we felt we had to go ahead with the sanctions.
QUESTION: Can I (inaudible)? Was Ambassador Randt told not to attend this dinner by this building?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't go into any particular detail on the attendance of --
QUESTION: Is there going to be a meal between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Tang when he's in town, or is it just a -- is there like a working lunch?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have the full schedule yet. We are just announcing it. We will have meetings with him on September 21st. If you remember last time, I think they had lunch together. I am not sure what the schedule will be this time.
QUESTION: Do you care to consider this visit by Minister Tang the beginning of this consultation on the missile defense things that we heard about last weekend?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, much of what you heard about last weekend in the newspapers is wrong, so I would invite you to look at what you heard about yesterday or the day before in the White House statement, which was right. (Laughter.)
So if we start with that premise that what you heard about from the White House is right, I would say that what the White House said was that we have been and will continue to consult with the Chinese on the US missile defense program; it was not a threat against China; that we are not intending to sanction any kind of Chinese buildup or nuclear testing, but that we did intend to continue to talk to the Chinese about the missile defense program and the reasons that we felt it was necessary to produce stability.
That is a process that has proceeded from earlier this spring, when we had a delegation go out and talk to the Chinese. Several subsequent discussions with the Chinese, including the Secretary's visit in August, when if you remember at the lunch that he had with Foreign Minister Tang there, they spent most of that time discussing the missile defense program. The Chinese were interested in hearing from us about it.
And we will continue those discussions with the Chinese, with the Foreign Minister when he comes, and with experts as appropriate.
QUESTION: May I ask you, please, if this visit will be the format for dealing with the human rights exchange that the Secretary urged when he made his visit, because this Chinese official -- some of us were privileged to hear yesterday -- said that --
MR. BOUCHER: I was -- I didn't have the privilege to listening to an anonymous Chinese official yesterday, so I'm not quite in a position to comment on everything he may or may not have said.
QUESTION: All right, I understand.
MR. BOUCHER: So let's ask a question that doesn't require me to know what the gentleman might have said.
QUESTION: No, that's not the point -- it was sort of explaining --
MR. BOUCHER: Or who he was.
QUESTION: -- of explaining that the Chinese are saying that that exchange will occur pretty soon, and I wondered if it's going to be separate, there will be a separate Chinese group talking to the US about human rights, or if it will be in the context of this Foreign Minister visit.
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if we have a date yet for that. The normal parlance that we use is, first of all, the Secretary always talks about human rights when he talks to the Chinese, so human rights is certainly part of their discussion. But when we talk about a human rights dialogue, we are talking about experts, the Assistant Secretary for us, normally the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs, takes that from our side generally, or is a participant from our side.
So that would be a separate meeting. Whether it occurs simultaneously with the Foreign Minister's visit, or at some other time, I will have to check.
QUESTION: Back to the missiles, can you tell us if you would expect there to be a continuation or more talks on the November non-proliferation agreement? And I have a follow-up after that.
MR. BOUCHER: I think I just said that we do look forward to implementation by the Chinese of the agreement. If so, we would do our part under that agreement. The goal of this process is to get the Chinese to bring their system and their actions under control, along the standards of missile technology control regime. That is still a very important goal of ours, and we will continue to work with the Chinese and try to do that.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on that. How do you expect the Chinese, or why do you expect the Chinese to continue on this when they claim that because of these sanctions now, you have effectively blocked the issuance or processing of these licenses for satellites, which was linked originally in November to the non-proliferation deal?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, I think that's a fair question.
MR. BOUCHER: No, the answer is, in November of 2000 when we announced these understandings and agreements, we also announced that we would waive any sanctions on satellite deals that were caused by Chinese actions to that point.
We have now felt it necessary to impose sanctions on a Chinese company and a Pakistani entity because of certain transfers that occurred after November 2000. That does prevent -- that does mean we are not at this point issuing waivers for satellite launches by the Chinese or the Chinese to bring themselves into compliance with the November 2000 understandings.
Were we to get the kind of information we seek, the kind of commitments we seek and, above all, the kind of action we seek in bringing China up to the standards that the international community applies to missile sales, then we would presumably be in a position to move forward on the satellite part of this, too.
QUESTION: Well, just one more. Then if the waiver no longer exists with regards to the satellite licenses, the Chinese have not yet built a missile control technology regime and they, according to your information, one of their companies have sold missile technology to the Pakistanis, is there in fact even a deal in effect at this point? Is there still an agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, there are still understandings on what we should be doing, but there was also the understandings that we would both proceed along the lines that we had laid out. It's getting implementation of that agreement that is the problem, not the kind of understandings we reached.
QUESTION: One issue on the satellite launches from China, could you first explain, what is the link between the Chinese company and the Chinese launch industry. I gather that there is -- you have sort of connected what CMEC does to the broader issue of using Long March rockets.
Could you perhaps describe the connection there?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'll leave it to China experts and missile experts to give you that kind of detail. I am not here to give a presentation on the Chinese missile industry, as much as I have enjoyed my visits to Long March factories in the past.
QUESTION: Just to clarify something else, is it fair to conclude then that currently there are several satellite license applications that have been pending here at the State Department? Are all of those then on hold until this issue is resolved?
MR. BOUCHER: If you'll look at the US law, and I think it is the Helms Amendment -- I don't have the piece of paper with me, but there is US law that, in terms of these kind of sanctions, which makes it -- precludes US cooperation with Chinese satellite launches when you have these kind of sanctions. So that would have to be waived were we to have enough reason to go ahead.
QUESTION: Richard, you seem to be avoiding one of the subjects, and maybe if I phrase it in a different way then perhaps it makes sense.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I've probably answered it clearly.
QUESTION: How long do the Chinese have to comply with the November agreement before you agree to lift the waivers? Because this is not something they can undo. They can't get this material back from the Pakistani company. So how long do they have to comply before you then start -- lift the waiver -- I mean, renew the waiver?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I evaded that question yet because I hadn't been asked it yet, but now that I have been asked it --
QUESTION: Now I'll evade it.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can be quite that specific. The goal is to bring the Chinese into compliance with this. I am not in a position to specify exactly what actions they might take with regard to particular transactions or entities. But it is important for us that the Chinese, as they agreed in November of 2000, institute a system of controls on missile exports that is comparable to the standards that the rest of the world uses and, second of all, bring the practice of their firms into compliance with those standards. That remains the goal that we have with our policy, and that is what we will try to accomplish.
QUESTION: I wonder if I can touch on your answer. Would you have any reaction to the attacks on small children in Belfast over the last few days? And is there any way that you can describe or characterize Mr. Haas' visit next week to Britain and Ireland?
MR. BOUCHER: On your first question on the attacks on small children, I would say it is despicable. We are deeply disturbed by these reports that there has been increasing violence in Belfast -- the killing of a 16-year- old boy, recurring images of young schoolgirls having to run a gauntlet of hate. We find this all despicable.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the threats against the young girls and their families by paramilitaries, and we call on all sides to show restraint during this time, ask that the party leaders publicly denounce the continued violence. We also call on those leaders to demonstrate their continued commitment to the peace process with both words and actions.
As for Ambassador Haas' next trip to Northern Ireland, I don't have any information. I'll have to check and see.
QUESTION: I just had a question on if you have a schedule yet for Secretary Powell's doings at the United Nations. Do you know when he'll be going up?
MR. BOUCHER: He'll be going up with the President and he'll be there during that week. I don't have an exact schedule of meetings or time yet.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Northern Ireland for a second? Granted, you said -- and I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that you said that the US finds it despicable. But do you see -- the attacks on the children -- but do you see any broader implication for the peace process in these acts of hurling of abuse and bombs?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose the broader implication that we would see would be that there is no alternative to peace, that to have a stable and healthy society you need to have peace. And we will continue to try to help them achieve that goal, that these kinds of events and actions are not an alternative that anyone should have to live with.
QUESTION: To the Middle East. With respect to also the conference that occurred in Durban, South Africa, there still seems to be no letdown, or as you say "calming" of the situation. There have been some bombings, and also some retaliation by the Israelis.
Were we justified in leaving the conference when we did? And NGOs are there and some other governments. Are we relying on those governments to also make our State Department and official commitments known?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I think it is important to keep the two things you are talking about separate. We didn't leave the conference because there is violence in the Middle East. We left the conference because it was heading in a direction that we thought perpetuated some of the attitudes of discrimination, perpetuated some of the attitudes about Israel that we did not agree with and that we have worked hard to eliminate from the UN system in the past. And I think many of you have read the document itself and saw the phrases being used.
And yes, you're right, as far as we see it, not much of that has changed at the conference. And that is why we are no longer there.
In terms of the situation in the region, the violence has continued, and we have made very clear that we do oppose the Israeli policy of targeted attacks. These attacks don't help the efforts to reestablish direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. They don't help the effort to halt the violence and terror, and they don't help restore a political process that could be based on trust, confidence and the implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects.
We have condemned the terror in all its aspects, in the strongest possible terms. We have consistently called upon the Palestinians to do all they can to prevent the suicide bombings, the mortar attacks and the shooting incidents that have continued. Again, we would say both sides need to recognize that down this path of escalation and retaliation lies disaster. We have consistently urged and continue to urge both sides to take immediate steps to restore an atmosphere of calm, work towards a resumption of direct dialogue.
In that regard, I would probably note the Secretary has talked in recent days several times with Foreign Minister Peres. He spoke yesterday with Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat to look to the prospect of their meeting, to discuss with them how it can be made productive and useful, and to get us back on a path where we can see ourselves, where we can see the parties take steps against the violence and implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
QUESTION: Are you guys hopeful, or you think that they actually may meet? Is there some reason that you think that they might? And was that the only reason that he called?
MR. BOUCHER: In several of his discussions with Israeli Foreign Minister Peres, he has talked about the conference in South Africa, as well as the prospects of a meeting. Certainly we have always believed in direct dialogue.
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that -- no, I don't have any particular information on the when, where and how; that is for them. Our discussions with them have been to say that this could be useful. It is important to make it useful. And let's talk about how it can be useful in terms of getting the violence down and getting back into the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
QUESTION: When did he speak to Chairman Arafat? You seem to imply yesterday.
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday.
QUESTION: It was yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday, yes.
QUESTION: Did he talk about the Durban conference with Mr. Arafat at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not really sure. Let's see if I have that here.
QUESTION: Okay. And on the Durban thing, I know you are trying to keep them separate --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure.
QUESTION: -- but it's hard to keep them separate. What does the United States think of the compromise language proposed by South Africa on this? And if this language was approved, would you perhaps reconsider your withdrawal from the conference?
MR. BOUCHER: We have said quite consistently, we appreciate the efforts of South Africa, we have appreciated the efforts that others have made, for example the Norwegian Foreign Minister; the Secretary General of the United Nations. I don't have any responses to hypotheticals at this point. Since our departure, we have seen another couple days of the same kind of insistence and arguing, and we will just have to see how this turns out.
QUESTION: Do you have any evidence at all of Iraq's Syrian military cooperation? There has been a lot of talk and rumors perhaps. Have you been in touch with Syria recently about this?
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't know at all. I hadn't seen the rumors and talks. I hadn't asked about it; I'll check.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Durban, which is why I wanted to clarify -- your Consul General, has he kept to the rule of not even going inside the meeting room, not sitting in the chair?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we are not there. In fact, we -- our Consul General, who was on the list for the conference, advised the conference secretariat to stop processing the US application for credentials because the United States was withdrawing its application.
So I guess we had submitted originally an application for credentials that hadn't been acted on so we could have some people there, and we have now just pulled that out. And we have nobody requesting accreditation at the conference right now.
QUESTION: But he himself, right?
MR. BOUCHER: He is in Durban, and obviously he is still following events there and reporting back to us.
QUESTION: Right, right. But is he accredited to the conference?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- at this point, we have withdrawn the US application for credentials, because we were -- that means we are out of there.
QUESTION: So those that were already issued have been --
MR. BOUCHER: Had not been formally approved and authorized, I suppose, is the answer.
QUESTION: -- shredded or something.
MR. BOUCHER: But whether he has actually been on conference grounds to talk to the delegations, find out what's going on, I don't particularly know. But he is certainly not there sitting in the chair representing the United States, participating in the conference, negotiating text, or otherwise representing or attending on behalf of the United States.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the discussions with Peres and Arafat for a moment? Did the Secretary offer to host a meeting between them or anything like that?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Not that I -- can I say no? Yes, I can say no.
QUESTION: Another one on this one. I see that Congressman Conyers has been writing to the Secretary of State on a subject dear to our hearts, the question of the Arms Export Control Act, and got an answer saying pretty much what you say.
Can you tell us, have there been any other letters from Members of Congress on this? Is there much demand for an explanation from Congress on it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I see all the letters. This is the only one I am familiar with. The Secretary did write to Congressman Conyers, I think about two weeks ago, actually. It was during the recess. I'll double-check and see if we have any --
QUESTION: The Under Secretary says that the Department has been monitoring Israeli actions. What exactly does he mean by that? I mean, is this sort of -- does that just mean you read the wires and put them in files, or does it go beyond that?
MR. BOUCHER: He means what I mean when I say it. As you know, I have always said that we continue to monitor this area; we continue to urge the Israelis to exercise restraint. We have a variety of contacts, means, people and others who can help us follow the situation out there, in addition to the amount of time and attention we obviously pay to the wire services.
QUESTION: Any plans for the Secretary to meet with Arafat at the UN?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing that I -- I have nothing one way or the other at this point.
QUESTION: You may not go for this, but what would -- (laughter). It's very doubtful, but if you are monitoring Israeli actions and what they have been using, the US-supplied weapons and equipment for does not rise to the level of where you would make a complaint or a report to Congress about it, what would cross that line? It is hard to see. They are using them now, but I don't understand what then would broach this threshold, really.
MR. BOUCHER: It is a non sequitur to say what would cross that threshold would be an action that crossed the threshold. We have obviously paid close attention and watched this area through the past. It has been a part of US law for a long time. I don't want to speculate or give a list of hypothetical actions that one could carry out that would not been seen as self-defense, but I think the point is we have not made such a report.
Now, I don't want to detract -- I think we are wrong in pushing this into a legalistic discussion of US law. We have made quite clear that we are opposed to the policy of targeted killings. We have made quite clear that we are opposed to the use of heavy weaponry in these circumstances, particularly in populated areas where the risk of innocent casualties is very high. We have made clear that we think that the process of escalation and response needs to be broken and that the parties need to work very hard to get back to security cooperation, as we have made clear we think the Palestinians have a strong responsibility to stop terror and to take actions that prevent terror.
So everything that we have done in sort of the policy terms and the discussions has been to try to move the process, move the situation away from this kind of escalation and retaliation, to move it away from these kind of attacks, as well as to -- by stopping the terror and getting the parties back into cooperative security arrangements. So for us it has been a matter of policy, a matter of a focus of our diplomacy and how we work this, not so much a legalistic question of a particular standard in US law.
QUESTION: If you have made clear your opposition publicly, it obviously hasn't worked. So why would you be against what I think amounts to just not -- why would you continue to send a stream of spare parts for the heavy weaponry that you oppose the Israelis using in these instances? And that is what the Arms Export Control Act would do. Why is it such a difficult decision, it seems?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say clearly that the United States knows that Israel has legitimate needs for self-defense. The United States has been a partner with Israel in its defense, although we may be opposed to certain actions that Israel carries out, so we have made that clear too.
Teri, you had more?
QUESTION: I just wanted ask, do you know if the Congressman was speaking on behalf of any kind of group or caucus within Congress, or did it appear to you to just be an individual letter?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I don't remember the incoming letter or whether you said that or not.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, any comment on Mr. de Soto's statement the other day for the resumption of the Cyprus talks September 12th, which however were turned down immediately by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I would just say that we believe that all the parties need to do their maximum to support the UN's good offices' mission. The United States continues to support fully the UN Secretary General and his Special Advisor, Mr. de Soto.
QUESTION: Any change in your policy for a bi-zonal and bi-communal Republic of Cyprus?
MR. BOUCHER: We support the efforts that the United Nations is making in that regard.
QUESTION: Can I move to Colombia, please? Not really move, but just subjects. (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to check that with the family.
QUESTION: Medellin is pretty nice right now.
QUESTION: I'm sure you've seen the reports that the crop coca production in Colombia has spread now beyond the Putumayo region and into other parts of the country. And in light of Secretary Powell's trip there next week, is this something that perhaps would cause the US to question whether or not the money that is being spent under Plan Colombia is being used properly, because part of the purpose obviously was to try to cut down on the production?
MR. BOUCHER: I would not say that. I would put it this way: that it is important to us that our support for President Pastrana's Plan Colombia be effective, and we are always working with him and the Colombian Government to make it effective. His efforts obviously are in the forefront of the anti-narcotics effort, as well as the search for peace in Colombia. We will be going down to express support for those efforts, as we did during the visit of Under Secretary Grossman and his interagency delegation.
The Administration has promoted the Andean Regional Initiative so that we do deal with the drug problem in particular on a regional basis, that we deal with it in all its aspects of cultivation, as well as finding alternate crops and things like that, in order to avoid on a regional basis this kind of spread of pushing it out of one area and finding it come up in other areas.
QUESTION: How much of the $1.2 or $1.3 billion has actually been spent and been disbursed, and do you know how many of the Hueys and the Blackhawks have actually gotten there? Is that something --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I don't have numbers there to tell you. I'll try to find some.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I am surprised that our Greek colleague didn't move further north when he asked about Cyprus. But earlier today the Macedonia parliament, no doubt acting directly on the urgings of yourself and Phil and other American officials, approved this package of reforms. What do you have to say about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me, first of all, say that we certainly welcome the Macedonian parliament's decision to pass what was the first vote on the implementation of the framework agreement. We are pleased by this step. We commend, first of all, Macedonia's legislators for the positive vote for peace and we look to continuing constructive debate as implementation moves forward.
I would also commend President Trajkovski and the party leaders of Macedonia for their positive role in concluding and presenting the agreement to the parliament. We encourage all of Macedonia's political leaders and its people to help build on this momentum for peace and to move forward with the next steps.
QUESTION: As far as the sanctions on the Chinese and Pakistani companies are concerned, number one, is there any reaction from those countries or companies? And number two, if they don't stop, you think it can go beyond from companies to the countries?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as reactions from those countries, some of you seem to have spoken to an anonymous Chinese official. That may count. I'll have to check if we have heard anything officially back from them, but certainly I think they have had some statements to make.
And as far as the future of this, I think the only way I can say it is that we intend to follow US law and we'll do so in the future if we need to.
QUESTION: I have one again about Macedonia. What do you think about the proposal of President Trajkovski for UN to return back in the country after NATO finishes the mission?
MR. BOUCHER: He has raised the issue with us, I guess with the United Nations, and the United Nations is looking at it. That's about all I have at this point. We don't have a complete reaction.
QUESTION: And what about the security situation now when NATO leaves?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, not an issue that we have any decisions on. It is an issue that we will continue to discuss with our allies and with parties in Macedonia.
QUESTION: It was reported the other day in Washington Post that President Bush made a commitment to President Boris Trajkovski of Skopje that the name will be called "Republic of Macedonia". Any change in your position vis-à-vis to the FYROM's name?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new on that. You might check with the White House, but I'm not aware of anything new.
QUESTION: What does the United States consider the country to be called, then?
MR. BOUCHER: The official name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at this stage. It has been an issue of discussion.
QUESTION: I have a new subject, if that's all right. I read your statement on Belarus yesterday, but you didn't address one fairly important issue, I suppose, for this building, which is that President Lukashenko has threatened to throw your Ambassador out after the elections.
QUESTION: Presuming he wins.
QUESTION: Assuming he wins, which he clearly thinks he will. Do you have any comment?
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, it's so tempting, but I think I'll just have to say that's hypothetical. That would obviously not be a very wise move. Ambassador Kozak represents the United States and represents US policy. Our policy is to support the independence, integrity, and we hope democracy, of the New Independent States, or the states that used to be part of the Soviet Union.
We have talked very much about our concerns about the situation in Belarus, and we would hope that they would adopt the path of prosperity, peace and democracy that others have adopted in the region.
QUESTION: New subject. On North Korea, do we have any reaction to imminent resumption of North-South dialogue, and have we heard anything from the North Koreans?
MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new for our part from the North Koreans. As far as resumption of the North-South dialogue, this is good. We are pleased to see the developments, encouraged to hear that they have agreed to hold ministerial talks in Seoul on September 15 to 18, I think it is. It is a very positive development. We think that inter-Korean dialogue is the key to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, and I think the President made that clear in his statement in June.
QUESTION: Change of subject. On Afghanistan, could you bring us up to date on what our diplomat is doing there? I understand that Afghanistan has now said that this more lenient law on foreigners potentially proselytizing doesn't apply in this case, and I wonder if that is something they have conveyed to Mr. Donahue or what we are hearing directly from them.
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any particular information on the legal aspects of this situation. We have --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, here is what we know. Let me tell you what we know. The supreme court continues to review the files on this case against the eight expatriate workers. Although we understand the courtroom is closed to outsiders, our understanding is no witnesses have been called. Reportedly, any decision by the court will be reviewed by the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Obviously we would call upon the Taliban to make sure that any proceedings are open and fair.
The parents of two of the American detainees were taken today to visit their relatives, able to meet with them for about an hour. The detainees remain in apparent good health, but consular officers have requested that a doctor from the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed to see them to deal with general health issues.
Contrary to some of the earlier media reports, the detainees remain in the same detention center where they have been for several weeks. They had not been moved apparently, and they said that they have received no information about their case or the impending trial.
The US, the German, the Australian consuls met today with the chief of protocol in the Taliban ministry of foreign affairs, Mr. Afghani. This is the first meeting with a Taliban official in eight days. While the meeting was cordial, we were not able to learn anything new about disposition of the case. We will continue our efforts to meet with Taliban authorities to discuss the trial.
Yesterday, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, and the German and Australian chargés sent a letter to the Taliban through their representative in Islamabad. The letter asks for a commitment from the Taliban that the detainees would have legal representation and interpreters at the trial, and that consular access would be resumed. So far, there has been no response to the letters.
Our concerns remain for the welfare of the American citizens and that they be treated fairly and in a lawful manner. We want to see this case resolved as soon as possible.
Our consular officials from the United States, Australia and Germany, and the relatives that remain in Kabul -- their visas permit a stay of two weeks, until September 11th. Consular officials are also seeking an extension of this permission to stay.
QUESTION: You said -- was it one letter or three letters? And did you say it was the ambassadors of the three countries? I know you said US ambassador, but was it the ambassadors of the other two countries, or was it --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's one letter from the three of them. It's the US Ambassador and the Chargés d'Affaires from Germany and Australia -- Chargés d'Affaires, plural -- the Chargés d'Affaires of the other two countries.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Taliban threat to ban foreign airlines from flying over the country?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen it. I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. As I say, it's because they don't have -- they can't maintain a flight control system because of sanctions. Do you know whether any American airlines fly over Afghanistan?
MR. BOUCHER: It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but I'd have to check and see if there any reality to this.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction -- back to the case of the aid workers -- that apparently the penalty in Afghanistan for proselytizing is hanging?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I was asked -- the first question on this subject was do we have any clear reading on what the penalties are that they are being charged with, and at this point we don't really have any information one way or the other on what the charges and penalties might be.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about this idea of an exchange of the prisoners? Is there anything on that? I understand the Taliban may have rejected this idea completely.
MR. BOUCHER: What idea?
QUESTION: One of Sheikh Omar's wives offered to exchange -- the US gives the Taliban --
MR. BOUCHER: And the Taliban has rejected her idea?
QUESTION: I don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: I am more confused knowing something about this than I was when I didn't know anything. (Laughter.) Let me check and see if there is anything we want to comment on in there.
QUESTION: I guess you could say that the United States would not engage in this kind of exchange of --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what "this kind of exchange" is. We are trying to define what the situation is. Until I know what the situation is, I can't say that --
QUESTION: There was an on-the-other-hand, but --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate. You haven't told me anything -- I've got to find out something before I can comment on it. That has generally been my practice to get the facts before I speak. I know I don't always follow it, but I try when I can.
One more on Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Just to follow, Richard, let me put it in a different way. If in any way, directly or indirectly --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me put my answer the same way, then.
QUESTION: Directly or indirectly for Taliban made any kind of demand? Because one official was quoted as saying that West should recognize Taliban and also there should be leniency on their sanctions at the United Nations.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have seen various statements about the UN sanctions or otherwise. In our view, that is not related to this matter. We are concerned about the welfare of our citizens. We think we deserve the consular access, that they deserve to be treated fairly, and that this matter needs to be resolved quickly. That is not related to anything else.
QUESTION: This Saturday, our Secretary will celebrate 50 years anniversary of San Francisco Treaty of Peace with Japan, but some American group of former prisoners of the war has placed a protest and these veterans are pursuing financial relief for having been enslaved by Japanese companies in wartime.
So what is our State Department policy on this, and does the Secretary has plan to raise this issue at the meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka this Saturday?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that our position on this, the one that we have stated in the past, that I think the Secretary stated when he was in Tokyo, if I remember the location correctly, we certainly are aware of the hardship that many of the people went through during the war, but we believe and have stated in court that the treaty 50 years ago settled these claims and therefore there is no particular basis to pursue these claims. We have made that point, I think, in court documents before.
It has come up in the discussions between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Tanaka, but that is quite a clear position that the United States has taken.
QUESTION: Senator Danforth is off to Sudan. What will -- will he be entering into discussions between the North and South there to stop some of the troubles that have occurred over a number of years?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I am not sure he is quite on the airplane yet. He will obviously look at how he proceeds. And he said, if I remember correctly, he said himself he looked forward to discussing this with people in the United States, people in Europe, with neighboring countries and others who have been involved in the search for peace as he enters into this new position.
There's three fundamental objective to his role: one is to end the killing by reaching a just and lasting peace; two, to ensure that needy Sudanese who are affected by the war and drought are assisted; and third, to bring an end to Sudanese support for international terrorism. Those have been important tenets of US policy and our Special Envoy Senator Danforth will help us proceed, particularly with regard to the peace situation.
I would note that we will have for you, I think after the briefing, some information on additional aid assistance programs that we are going to support for Southern Sudan in the area of education and agriculture. So we are moving forward on all the various fronts, including this appointment of a special envoy this morning to work on the -- to see what the United States might do on the peace --
QUESTION: Can I follow up? Your third point maybe is the answer, but has the US come to a position on the UN sanctions? I remember a few weeks ago you had decided that they weren't giving haven to the people suspected of trying to assassinate the Egyptian president, but their general stand on terrorism was still a matter to be looked at.
Has the US concluded that their record is still blotchy and it's not time to lift sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: There are, I think, two aspects to the sanctions and terrorism. There's US sanctions and UN sanctions. In terms of the United Nations, I know there has been some talk of the Government of Sudan asking next month for the lifting of the sanctions. We would have to look at that if they made the request. At this point, it would be hypothetical.
In terms of the overall discussion and dialogue on terrorism, particularly that which would relate to the US designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, I would say that we have had a counter-terrorism dialogue with Sudan for over a year, that we have made some concrete progress on some key issues of concern to the United States, including the presence of some anti-American terrorist groups in Sudan, but Sudan remains designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and it will remain that way until we are satisfied that they are completely out of the terrorism business.
QUESTION: Those two categories of sanctions don't necessarily go hand in hand.
MR. BOUCHER: They don't necessarily have to go together, yes.
QUESTION: On that, Richard, the President, Senator Danforth and you just mentioned now other neighboring countries working -- I believe that Kenya and Egypt were actually specified by name. And maybe this is just kind of too detailed for a domestic audience, that they wouldn't want to say others, but I mean, is the US still open to the IGAD process? You have been quite frustrated by it. You have been quite frustrated by its failure to accomplish much of anything in the past. Is that something that is still a - -
MR. BOUCHER: One of the tasks that I am sure that Senator Danforth will undertake will be to talk to all those, including the people involved in the IGAD process, who have been involved in the search for peace and look at how these processes could be used, how they could -- you know, what is the best way that we could all look to move forward and whether the United States could be helpful in that role.
So we have not changed our position on any particular process. We are now appointing somebody who can work with all these people, look at the various processes, look at the US role, and see if there is some way of reinvigorating them so that we can have a more successful search for peace in Sudan.
QUESTION: The Egyptian-Libyan initiative has come back again, and it looks like there might be a meeting based on it. Does the United States take a position on that particular initiative, and do you see it as less worthy than the IGAD process?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't believe we have tried to evaluate various initiatives for their worthiness. We certainly have supported the IGAD process. We have supported the efforts of some of the neighboring states. But I don't have any particular comment on this other initiative.
QUESTION: You've supported half of the Egyptian-Libyan plan.
QUESTION: Could I ask that another way? Do you think that any initiative to solve the conflict in Sudan, to end the conflict in Sudan, must include a self-determination element for the South?
MR. BOUCHER: What is the document called -- the Statement of Principles?
QUESTION: The Statement of Principles does contain that.
MR. BOUCHER: It does contain that. We have supported the Statement of Principles. It contains language on self-determination, the possibility of self-determination and the possibility of how the process might work, and we have continued to support the Statement of Principles.
QUESTION: Do you have any non-anodyne details of the meeting this morning between Deputy Secretary Armitage and the Minister for Okinawa, or was it just a frank, cordial discussion?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any particular, insightful, exciting rundown of the meeting for you. I'll get you one, though.
QUESTION: I have one more, just about Iraq expelling these UN workers. And now today apparently up in New York they are saying that these guys are -- well, I don't know if they are all men, but whoever they were -- were spies for the US. Nothing?
QUESTION: Are they spies?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that. This is a bad step, Baghdad's expulsion of five UN humanitarian officials. It undermines UN humanitarian efforts trying to help the Iraqi people, it obstructs the UN Oil-for-Food programs that try to help the Iraqi people, and it demonstrates once again that Baghdad is willing to manipulate the needs of their own people in order to escape its firm obligations to the international community.
QUESTION: Back to the question with Korea, earlier you said you were planning, I believe, a September or October 18th meeting, and over the weekend the cabinet in South Korea resigned. Was there any linkage to the --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we said we were planning a --
QUESTION: Or they were.
MR. BOUCHER: They were. That they are planning a September 15th to 18th meeting with the North and South.
QUESTION: Any linkage to what has gone on between North Korea and China to have caused all that? And what is your reaction to that?
MR. BOUCHER: You can go analyze South Korean politics for me. I don't think I'm going to do that from here.
QUESTION: I almost forgot to ask you for a response to Mr. Chernov's comments carried on the front page of -- I believe it was the New York Times this morning. Basically, the Russian -- the Post, sorry. The Russian missile -- arms negotiator basically ruling out the possibility of any deal with the United States before November, which isn't quite the message we were given from an unnamed senior administration official yesterday.
Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have to really stick with what is clear and what the basics are here. President Bush said in Ljubljana that Russia is not our enemy, that we will continue to seek to work with Russia to develop a new framework that reflects the cooperative relationship that is based on openness and mutual confidence.
The President and his national security team have emphasized that we will move forward with a program to counter new threats, one that is not directed against Russia. So we are looking for Russia's cooperation. We welcome Russia's cooperation. We welcome President Putin's recognition that US missile defense is not intended to undermine Russia's national security.
We will continue to work with the Russians on a resolution of this issue. We are engaged in intensive consultations with senior Russian officials on missile defense and a new strategic framework, and these consultations will continue in the coming weeks. We will have experts-level meetings with the Russians next week in London. Under Secretary Bolton will have some meetings with his Russian counterpart, and Foreign Minister Ivanov will be here September 19th, and I am sure he and the Secretary will continue their discussions of missile defense as well.
QUESTION: So it would be fair to say, then, that you did not share Mr. Chernov's pessimism?
MR. BOUCHER: I did not, no. [End]
Released on September 6, 2001