U.S. State Dept. Daily Press Briefing 22/02/00
ANNOUNCEMENTS 1 Briefing by Under Secretary Pickering on Trip to Latin America 1 Release of Annual Human Rights Report, Thursday, February 25
IRAQ/UK 1 Reports of Iraq Defector in London
SERBIA 1 Reports of Serbian Troops on Kosovo Border 8-9 Situation in Mitrovica/Additional KFOR Troops
CHINA/TAIWAN 1-4,10-13 China's "White Paper" on Taiwan/Possible Use of Force
CUBA 4-6 Cuban Diplomat Ordered to Depart US/Cuban Refusal 5-6 Reported Link Between Cuban Diplomat Case and Elian Gonzalez Case
CHILE 6-8 Status of Declassification of US Documents Related to Pinochet
VIETNAM 9 Reported Foreign Ministry Criticism of Senator McCain
IRAN 9-10 Iran Elections
OPEC Secretary Richardson Travel/Meeting with OPEC Countries
RUSSIA 14 Concerns about Human Rights Situation in Chechnya 15-16 Visit of Russian Security Council Secretary Ivanov
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 16-17 Egyptian President Mubarak's Visit to Lebanon 16 Ambassador Ross in Region 16 Status of Tracks
SOUTH KOREA 17 US-South Korea Meeting in Hawaii
MONGOLIA 17-18 Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB # 13 TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2000 12:40 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Two notices. One is that Under Secretary Pickering will be briefing this afternoon about his trip to South America, including Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil; and, also, that we will be releasing the Human rights reports on February the 25th and we will be making arrangements to try to have those reports released in as equitable a manner as possible, for those of you have been here in the past.
Well, I think you will recall that last year, it was a completely equitable release with no advance copies to any journalists that I'm familiar with, which was a pleasant change for some of you from the years before. So what I think we'll try to do is repeat our happy performance from last year.
With those comments, let me go to your questions.
QUESTION: Have you seen the report about the Iraqi defector who showed up in London and apparently knows an awful lot about Iraq's chemical weapons system?
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that report.
QUESTION: If you come up with something --
MR. RUBIN: I'll look for it. We did not see that this morning, and we'll check that. We're always ready, willing and able to try to develop information with respect to what weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein's regime has and has been hiding.
QUESTION: On another subject, have you seen the report, corroborated apparently by NATO Secretary General Robertson that Serbian troops are gathering on Kosovo's borders?
MR. RUBIN: We have been checking that this morning. I don't have information to corroborate that report. We are monitoring that situation very, very closely, and we certainly would be prepared to respond if Serbian forces made the great mistake of trying to interfere with KFOR operations. So that is our view. I do not have information at this time to suggest there is some massive buildup, but we are going to be monitoring it closely.
QUESTION: Jamie, do you have a response to China's White Paper that was issued yesterday warning Taiwan that, if it didn't reunify soon, it would use military force?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that it's a very long and careful examination that needs to be done of a document this long and significant. We do note with concern China's statement in this document that an indefinite delay in cross-strait negotiations would be a reason to use force. The threat of the use of force to resolve the Taiwan question is contrary to the commitments contained in the communiques that form the bedrock of our policy. In our view - in our very clear view - issues between the two sides should be resolved peacefully.
So we reject the use of force or the threat of the use of force as a way of resolving the Taiwan question. We believe the issue must be resolved peacefully. And as a result of this document, we have communicated to China, both in Beijing and will in Washington today, our view and the importance we attach to urging China as well as Taiwan to refrain from actions or statements that increase tensions, make dialogue more difficult to achieve and, instead, to take steps that would foster dialogue, reduce tensions and promote mutual understanding.
Obviously, it is up to China and Taiwan to determine what is the basis for dialogue, but we certainly have an abiding interest in the peaceful resolution of differences between China and Taiwan.
QUESTION: Do you think the statement in and of itself makes a future dialogue more difficult between the two? Do you think that China would do well to retract its latest statement?
MR. RUBIN: We do regard this particular formulation as a new formulation, and we find it an unhelpful formulation. We believe the threat of the use of force is counter-productive to creating an atmosphere for cross-strait talks to go forward. There are a number of statements in the document that include a variety of elements of China's policy, including - and I think this is worth pointing out - their stated interest in peaceful reunification and cross-strait dialogue.
So this is a new formulation. We think it is counter-productive to the purpose of achieving a cross-strait dialogue that can resolve this issue peacefully. That is why we find it unhelpful, and we will certainly be making our views known to the Chinese.
QUESTION: You mentioned that earlier. Has there been any communication in Washington today? Does Secretary Albright plan on meeting with the Chinese ambassador, or what?
MR. RUBIN: In Beijing, we have begun the process of communicating our views, and I would expect us to do that here today. And I can't give you more details on that other than to say that I think there will be communication here today, and perhaps after the briefing I can give you more on that.
QUESTION: Strobe Talbott was in China last week, wasn't he?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: This subject came up?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, Strobe Talbott and Deputy Secretary Talbott's delegation discussed Taiwan in a number of different fora. The subject was discussed extensively. He reiterated the policy that I've laid out for you and made very clear our position that a resolution of this issue must be done peacefully. He urged restraint and encouraged efforts to move the cross-strait dialogue forward. So this issue was discussed with his interagency delegation in a number of different meetings.
QUESTION: Was he told of this White Paper?
MR. RUBIN: He was not. His delegation was not told of the White Paper in advance.
QUESTION: Doesn't this indicate then that he failed in his efforts to -
MR. RUBIN: I know there is nothing you like better than being able to put that in your lead, but the United States has had a different view from China on the question of Taiwan for a long, long time, and the fact that in a series of meetings Deputy Secretary Talbott was not able to overcome decades' worth of US-China differences on exactly how to proceed on Taiwan shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Clearly, the purpose of this mission was not to resolve the Taiwan question; the purpose of this mission was to increase the level of dialogue between the United States and China that had been interfered with as a result of the mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy, to improve military-to-military discussions, and which the primary focus of the trip was on national missile defense. Taiwan obviously plays an important role in that question because the Chinese have expressed quite clearly their concerns about theater missile defense for Taiwan and their concerns about national missile defense in general. And it is primarily in that context that the bulk of the discussions of Taiwan took place.
QUESTION: Do you see this, then, as a reaction to - did this new formulation - I mean, can you say, are you disappointed that the Chinese, after this visit, which obviously they were discussing some critical issues with which they disagree, but instead of not doing anything and just kind of keeping their policy on Taiwan the same, instead decided to come out with what you said was a new formulation, which was much more aggressive?
MR. RUBIN: Right. I think one should not exaggerate the significance. If we're going to be very straightforward and candid in our analysis of what is new and what is not new, I think one should be careful not to exaggerate the significance of this. We've had much worse periods on this question in the past. This is a new formulation. We find the formulation troubling. We don't find it particularly helpful. We've made our views known in Beijing. We'll make our views known in Washington shortly. I've made our views known publicly.
So that is the context in which this document came out. It's not a document that was prepared overnight in response to Strobe Talbott's mission; it was long in the works and it has a number of elements to it, including an extensive discussion of peaceful unification.
QUESTION: Jamie, do you see it then - you say it's been in the works for a while - as a reaction to Lee Teng-hui's state-to-state comments last fall? Do you see it as a warning to Taiwan voters ahead of next month's presidential elections? What's your interpretation?
MR. RUBIN: Well, in terms of the timing of it and the intent of it, I really would prefer not to speculate. That is obviously something that only the Chinese themselves can know, so I would not be prepared to speculate on that. But certainly with respect to the words and their significance, we do have a view.
QUESTION: China has not only threatened military action, but made military movements before, before Taiwanese elections. What would happen as a result of not only Chinese threats but any Chinese military movements or actions?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have a long-standing policy in this regard. And that is, based on the Taiwan Relations Act, we would consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means a threat to the peace and security of the western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the President and Congress will determine any appropriate action by the United States under the circumstances.
QUESTION: On the Cuban statement -
MR. RUBIN: I think they want to stay on this.
QUESTION: Kind of related to this, there was a report in a German magazine over the weekend about a plan, a Chinese military plan that envisioned war, a fighting conflict with Taiwan but also with the United States. I'm wondering if you've seen that or have any -
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that report and I have no particular comment on it, but we can check it. Certainly everybody does contingency plans. That's what militaries do.
QUESTION: On this Cuban statement that they will not withdraw the diplomats expelled last Saturday --
MR. RUBIN: Yes. With respect to that question, let me say that on Saturday we summoned the acting head of the Cuban Interests Section and requested the withdrawal of a member of Cuba's Interests Section within seven days. After the Cuban Government responded that it would not withdraw the diplomat voluntarily, we informed the government of Cuba that this diplomat has now been declared persona non grata and is ordered to depart the United States territory no later than 1:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time next Saturday.
We expect that the Cuban government will abide by standard diplomatic practice as outlined in the Vienna Convention and that the diplomat in question will depart the United States by the deadline. It would be highly unusual for a state to refuse to remove a diplomat under these circumstances. Under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, Cuba must either recall the diplomat in question or terminate his functions.
Speculating on what your follow-up question might be, let me say should this diplomat fail to depart the United States by that time, he will no longer enjoy the privileges and immunities conferred by the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and will become subject to the laws of the United States. We will no longer recognize his authority to perform functions in the United States for the Cuban Government.
QUESTION: Does that mean you're going to arrest him?
MR. RUBIN: He would be subject to our laws and, if there were grounds for his arrest, he would be arrested.
QUESTION: Everyone is subject to our laws and what would be different about -
MR. RUBIN: No, I believe that you're quibbling and I don't understand the intent. The Vienna Convention affords diplomatic immunity and privileges to diplomats by which they can exercise immunity from certain domestic laws. If we believe they are in certain circumstances, then we expel them if they won't submit to the jurisdiction of our laws.
By removing his immunity and his privileges, he would have no recourse to that immunity should he be arrested or subject to any other aspect of American law. So that is the distinction between being a diplomat who has been declared persona non grata and being a diplomat who is not and who is, if you don't leave the United States
QUESTION: Which aspect of US law do you foresee him being subject to?
MR. RUBIN: Well, as you know, I don't speak to domestic law enforcement but, obviously, we had grounds for our demand that he leave the country in seven days and those grounds would be such that he would be subject to our laws. And all I'm saying is that if they do not choose to honor the Vienna Convention's normal rules and practices, I'm simply stating the legal reality that, as of Saturday, he would be no longer able to exercise diplomatic privileges and immunities.
QUESTION: Has there ever been an incident that you're aware of --
MR. RUBIN: Nobody can remember such a case.
QUESTION: What does the State Department believe this individual's relationship may have been with the INS officer who was charged with spying and the grandmothers of Elian Gonzalez?
MR. RUBIN: That is something that has to be addressed by the INS. We do believe that there are grounds to make the decision we made, and discussing those grounds publicly we think would be unwise at this point.
QUESTION: Is there a link between the two?
MR. RUBIN: I've really said as much as I can on this.
QUESTION: How about this -- the Cuban Government says that this is all just a smoke screen to cover up the whole Elian Gonzalez case.
MR. RUBIN: I can certainly say the Cuban government's claim that this is a smoke screen to cover up the Elian Gonzalez case is utter nonsense. We don't take actions like this without the evidence to back them up.
QUESTION: Generally, in cases of people being PNGd, you say who he is. In this case --
MR. RUBIN: Generally, we have. We don't generally do it one way or the other. We try to be careful. In certain cases, we have. It is not our practice as a matter of practice to name diplomats who are being asked to leave the country. That name often comes out but it is not something we make as a matter of practice and, in this case, we have chosen not to name the individual.
QUESTION: You don't identify people who are being expelled?
MR. RUBIN: Well, if you say I should check that, I will check that back. But what they told me is it is not our practice to name diplomats who are being asked to leave the country. And if that isn't correct and it is our practice, in this case we have chosen to not implement that practice.
QUESTION: Tomorrow you'll have a billboard up outside with the guy's name on it.
But you can say, though, who you informed, who you told this to, right?
MR. RUBIN: The Cuban Government.
QUESTION: Yeah, but who?
MR. RUBIN: I think I indicated the acting head of the Cuban Interests Section. Do we have that name? Is that the right name? Felix Wilson.
QUESTION: When did the Cuban Government say that they will not withdraw the diplomat?
MR. RUBIN: Later that day.
QUESTION: Last Wednesday, The New York Times editorial complimented Secretary Albright on her openness in following President Clinton's order to disclose information about the murder of two Americans in Chile --
MR. RUBIN: I missed that editorial. It's rare that I see such a thing, so I'm surprised I missed it. I'll have to read that.
QUESTION: I'll quote it exactly. MR. RUBIN: You could quote the whole thing if you wanted to. But let's save your colleagues that. Why don't you --
QUESTION: Well, the verbatim is: American intelligence and military officials may have encouraged General Augusto Pinochet's security forces to round up Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi even though it was clear that the two men, like thousands of Chileans who were arrested during the same period, were likely to be mistreated if not killed. It is now time for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon to follow Mr. Clinton's order and the example of openness set by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Do you know whether Secretary Albright has had any success in persuading her colleagues at the Pentagon and the CIA to follow her example of openness?
MR. RUBIN: Very well formulated question.
We certainly have tried here at the State Department to be as open as possible in the declassification of documents from this period. There is an interagency task force that is designed to deal with this very issue. The other agencies will obviously have to speak for themselves. I can certainly say that we - Secretary Albright enjoys a very good working relationship with Director Tenet and has been encouraged by his willingness to try to deal with these problems.
Without speaking for another agency, it is not as easy for other agencies sometimes to make the decisions that this agency has made but we certainly are determined to be as open as possible in this regard.
QUESTION: On that, and I would just make as an aside, speaking of editorials, the lead editorial in today's Washington Post looks like it could have been written by you.
MR. RUBIN: I was sorry I hadn't come up with that phrase "sanction sanctimony."
QUESTION: On The New York Times editorial that she's referring to, and the stories that it was based on, I was under the impression that these documents were actually released in October.
MR. RUBIN: There is a set of documents.
QUESTION: Are there new documents?
MR. RUBIN: How many sets now? One full set and there is a second one coming. There is a regular process by which these documents are declassified. Some of the groups who get access to them then complain that there are certain things that are redacted or additional documents have not been provided on a timely basis. So it is not a one-time process; it is an ongoing, rolling process. But I'll get you the dates on when the document - I believe there have been two times when we've made available a set of documents, but I'll check that for you.
QUESTION: And the last one?
MR. RUBIN: I'll get you the dates after the briefing.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Kosovo, please?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell me what involvement there has been by this building in the recent problems in Mitrovica?
MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright has spoken today, I believe twice, to the UN Secretary General's Special Representative Kouchner. She has had a number of internal meetings on the subject. She has been in touch with her counterparts in other governments. It was certainly a major topic of discussion at the inauguration and the meeting she had with Mr. Thaci on her most recent trip. So she has certainly been involved.
Obviously, it's a very different situation, and we want to do what we can to try to calm the situation and to try to encourage the establishment of a civil society in that part of the world. That's why we've contributed so many police forces and why we continue to urge the UN and the leaders involved to try to deal with the legitimate grievances but make sure that those legitimate grievances are not dealt with in violent ways.
Today, Mitrovica is calm although the underlying tension remains. We continue to call upon all parties to cease violent acts and confrontations and seek a political solution to legitimate grievances. It is up to the leaders and the people there to understand they must abandon the hatreds and animosities of the past. KFOR has provided additional troops to Mitrovica. UNMIK is doubling the number of police assigned to Mitrovica, including about a hundred Americans.
We welcome the deployment of additional forces, and we call again on the international community and those countries supporting KFOR to give full support to the police force there through contributions of both personnel and funds. So that is something I know the Secretary has been following very closely.
QUESTION: Is it the opinion of this government that the government in Belgrade, in addition to collecting forces in a threatening way, has also been trying to undermine and exacerbate the situation there.
MR. RUBIN: We do believe that the Milosevic regime has every interest in trying to keep things as tense as possible in Kosovo. Extremists on both sides have sought to exploit recent events. And we certainly have our reasons to believe that Milosevic does try to keep the pot stirred in Kosovo; that he benefits from and has made a career of benefiting from ethnic animosities and ethnic tension; and it's something he stokes up when he thinks it will be in his interest.
QUESTION: What did the Secretary ask Thaci to do, and do you feel that he is not complying but is helping in her --
MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly the Secretary laid out the broad goals that we have for Kosovo and the importance for its leaders to encourage peaceful resolution of disputes, to encourage the avoidance of violence and the kind of criminality that we've seen in parts of Kosovo. I think she made very clear to him that the international community is concerned about the way in which some Albanians have exploited the absence of Serb forces to the detriment of Serbs living in Kosovo. And that is a matter of great concern to us and we think that all the leaders of Kosovo, Albanians, should do more to prevent that kind of violence.
Having said that, it's also true that Mr. Thaci is the only one who has gone to Mitrovica and tried to calm the situation while other leaders have not done so. So I think she certainly wanted him to do more but she also recognized that he has some - has, in many cases, done what Mr. Kouchner has asked him to do in these circumstances.
QUESTION: You said before that you have reasons to believe that Milosevic is keeping the pot boiling. How does he do that or how do you think he does that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, he certainly has ties to - the Serbs have ties to some of the extremist Serbs who are in Kosovo in terms of funding, in terms of trying to - we've seen in many cases, Belgrade-inspired attempts to discredit moderate Serbs in Kosovo who were willing to work with the UN. So there have been a number of indicators that have led us to that conclusion.
QUESTION: Thank you. Have you seen this report that Vietnam has criticized John McCain for claiming he was tortured in the "Hanoi Hilton." Apparently, the foreign ministry has put out a statement. I was wondering if that has come through here.
MR. RUBIN: I try to avoid engaging in the political debate other than to say that obviously all of us, the Secretary recognized the great contribution to America that John McCain made during Vietnam.
QUESTION: Iran. There was a story today in USA Today, actually, saying that the US was weighing ways to reward the Iranian people and especially the reformers who were elected for their votes and there were several options listed. I am wondering if you can tell us if that's correct.
MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly the elections in Iran are historic. The final results are not in. The Iranian people have, however, demonstrated a powerful desire for change. They have called for freedom and the rule of law in their own country and openness and engagement with the rest of the world. We welcome this development and applaud Iran's effort to further institutionalize democracy in that country.
At this point, there are many questions about what this election might mean for Iranian foreign and domestic policy. It is clear that the new parliament will enjoy a decisive popular mandate. It is our hope that this mandate will set Iran on a course towards a more constructive and a new role in the region, one which eventually leads to Iran's full political and economic reintegration into the international community. The Middle East is changing rapidly, and Iran certainly has a role to play.
For our part, we would like to see a change in specific policies of concern. They relate to Iran's attitude towards the Middle East peace process, they relate to the seeking of weapons of mass destruction and the support for terrorism. Those are the kinds of issues that are of particular concern to us.
It will be some time before the popular will expressed in these elections will be translated into concrete policies. For example, the runoff will take several weeks and then their new parliament won't take office until several weeks after that. We will follow these developments very closely and make any appropriate responses based on what we think will best promote the prospect for dealing with our concerns and dealing with Iran's potential role in the Middle East.
QUESTION: You don't want to say specifically what kinds of things you think --
MR. RUBIN: I certainly don't make it a practice of speculating on what we might do.
QUESTION: Well, no, I mean - but as - all right.
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Does that mean you have no response Khatami's brother, who was a leader of one of the pro-reform parties who suggested that the US stop engaging only in words and engage in actions as well, including the lifting of sanctions against Iran?
MR. RUBIN: Well, all I can say to that is that we have been prepared to have a dialogue with Iran in which we could lay out our concerns and they could lay out their concerns, a dialogue based on mutual respect between our two countries. And if they have issues of concern, they can bring those to the table; if we have issues of concern, we can bring those to the table. That is our view and, at this point, we have taken a number of steps in recent years to try to signal our willingness to try to engage Iran.
Secretary Albright indicated a willingness to develop a road map to normal relations, but at this time I'm not going to speculate as to what we might do, especially in light of the fact that there are some weeks before the runoff elections and some weeks after that before the new power arrangements would be developed as a result of the seating of the new parliament.
QUESTION: Going back to China and Taiwan, if and when such a communication takes place here in Washington, possibly at the level of Secretary of State --
MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't expect it at the Secretary of State level.
QUESTION: I see. How strong a message does he or she convey to Chinese side?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think that I indicated some concern on our part regarding certain statements as counter-productive and unhelpful, and that is a level of public comment that those of you who follow these things closely can judge for yourself. I think you can certainly assume that the private comment - private barometer would be at least as strong.
QUESTION: On the same subject, you just said the Chinese statement on Taiwan is counter-productive; in fact, earlier you said troubling.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: Not helpful. I wonder, in the light of that, if the US Government is prepared to take another look at your own policy towards China and also Taiwan, especially in the fields of arms sales to Taiwan, you know, beefing up Taiwan's defense capability. There was a story some time ago that the administration was currently debating the sale of Aegis destroyers and other sophisticated items to Taiwan and apparently, according to this story, the administration is disinclined to approve the sales.
So I wonder if in light of this latest development the administration will take a more favorable position with regard to those proposed sale items.
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that we have, I think, been second to none in our support for Taiwan in the world, and the Taiwan Relations Act codifies a level of support that is unique in the world. We believe that support has made a difference, as recently as 1996, and so nobody should doubt our willingness to act in our own national interest.
And the decisions about arms sales are not something we make based on daily commentary out of China; they are based on a whole set of objective criteria as to what is appropriate and they are based on the three communiques. This is a complex calculus and it doesn't jump up and down on one day based on particular words in a communique or - sorry, in a White Paper. It's based on a strategic judgment about what is appropriate for the defense of Taiwan, considering the rather strong support and rather unique support the United States has provided in the past.
So I'm sure you are accurately describing various accounts in various publications, and I'm sure there are some in this government and in Congress and in other governments who may have opinions that differ on particular points, but there is no consideration being given to a change in our Taiwan policy, and we remain fervently against and in opposition to the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act which we believe will harm our national interest by jeopardizing an arrangement that has served us extremely well.
QUESTION: In other words, this will not change your opposition to the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act pending before Congress?
MR. RUBIN: I think I said that as clearly as I've said anything in this room. Yes.
QUESTION: You know, speaking of elections, the Taiwan presidential election is coming up next month and there are three candidates really competing neck-and-neck. And one candidate who has taken a very clear position pro-Taiwan independence, and it's likely that he might get elected. Should that happen, would that further complicate US policies towards Taiwan and China? And should that happen, would the US be comfortable enough to live with that?
MR. RUBIN: I don't intend to speculate on what would or wouldn't happen if particular candidates are elected or not elected by either interfering with that process, which we certainly support Taiwan's democracy and the importance that it attaches to the will of the people, and that's something extremely important to us. And we, therefore, don't think it would be appropriate for me to intervene in any way by making some particular comment about a particular candidate.
QUESTION: Jamie, I don't want to belabor the point but I just want to make sure I'm crystal clear on your --
MR. RUBIN: That's what we aim for: crystal clarity.
QUESTION: -- on the Department's interpretation of this White Paper. As far as the State Department is concerned, China's latest White Paper does not change the equation between China and Taiwan and does not make Taiwan more vulnerable to military attacks from China?
MR. RUBIN: No, I didn't say anything close to that so I'm glad you asked the question. I was asked a specific question whether we were more or less likely to approve a particular arms sale as a result of this document. And I said that the decision about arms sales is a complicated calculation and isn't necessarily affected by any one statement in a White Paper.
I also said that we thought that this White Paper, in certain respects, was unhelpful and counter-productive, and we intended to tell the Chinese so. So those are the two points that I've been trying to make during the course of this briefing, and that's about as far as I can really go.
QUESTION: So no final determination has been made as to whether or not it has affected or potentially affects Taiwan's --
MR. RUBIN: Well, right now it's a piece of paper so, I mean, you can't make a --
QUESTION: It's a policy. It's a government policy.
MR. RUBIN: But it's still something that privately they have indicated in the past this view that they're not going to wait indefinitely. So the fact that it's been articulated publicly does not necessarily mean it's going to change anything in practice. It depends.
So what I'm indicating is that there is a new public formulation. It's a troubling one. It's one that we indicated is counter-productive. It's one we're going to raise with the Chinese. But I don't think people should, at the same time, draw dramatic conclusions because they've said similar things in the past privately about not wanting to wait indefinitely. And so, in response to one of your colleague's questions, I indicated I wouldn't expect this to be a decisive factor in a military decision about a particular weapons system which we would base on a variety of factors, including the strategic balance and a number of other calculations.
QUESTION: May I ask one more question, if I could?
MR. RUBIN: Sure.
QUESTION: You know, there are three "ifs" in that White Paper. One of the "ifs" is if Taiwan refuses indefinitely to negotiate with the Chinese --
MR. RUBIN: That's the one we've been referring to.
QUESTION: Okay. They would take, as they put it, drastic measures, including the use of force.
MR. RUBIN: That's the new formulation that I've been referring to.
QUESTION: Okay. My question to you is: Does that if - you know, that iffy position - make the US feel the pressure to put even more pressure, greater pressure, on Taiwan to restart this dialogue which has been in suspense for quite a while?
MR. RUBIN: I think I've spent at least 20 minutes now trying my best to explain what the significance of that sentence is and what we view its significance as and what we intend to do about it, and I just don't know how to go beyond what I've said.
QUESTION: There's a bunch of angry truck drivers on Capitol Hill today wanting to know what the US Government is doing about excessively high diesel fuel prices. What would your answer be to them?
MR. RUBIN: I think Secretary of Energy Richardson has been traveling with the intent of trying to make clear our long-standing opposition to cartel behavior to limit production and so he will be making those views known. And we certainly share their frustration at the reason why the Secretary of Energy has taken this trip.
QUESTION: In light of the forthcoming OPEC meeting in Vienna in March, is the United States, is the State Department specifically, making any representations to the various governments involved?
MR. RUBIN: I think that's what the Secretary of Energy is doing, is talking about our views about OPEC to the OPEC countries, among others.
QUESTION: My question is specifically about the State Department and its representatives around the world. Are they --
MR. RUBIN: Certainly senior State Department officials have been making clear to OPEC countries our concern about cartel behavior and its effect on the supply of oil.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction, the Russian soldiers' human rights violations against the Chechens?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say with respect to that, that we understand that Acting President Putin promoted several senior Russian officers on the eve of the Russian holiday Fatherland Defenders Day. The irony of these promotions coinciding with the anniversary of Stalin ordering the mass displacement of ethnic Chechens on February 23, 1944, has not escaped the notice of commentators in Russia.
Now that Russia's military commanders are claiming victory, it is time for Russian political leaders to address the core causes of the conflict. This is what Secretary of State Albright urged Acting President Putin to do, in expressing our concern about the welfare of the many civilians whose lives have been disrupted by the fighting and in her urging for them to take meaningful steps towards a political solution.
We share the deep concern about the human rights situation in Chechnya expressed by Human Rights Watch and other international observers. Secretary Albright pointed out the need to investigate reports of human rights violations during her meetings with Acting President Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov in Moscow. She reiterated this in her meeting with Security Council Secretary Sergey Ivanov last week.
The Russian Government has a clear obligation to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of the numerous credible reports of civilian killings and alleged misconduct by its soldiers without delay. Simply dismissing all such reports as propaganda is not a credible position for the Russian Government. Prompt Russian action would demonstrate its responsibility and intent to adhere to international commitments and obligations regarding the treatment of noncombatants. Russia has a responsibility to investigate credible allegations of abuse by its forces in Chechnya, and we believe that this investigation should be as thorough and transparent as possible.
QUESTION: On that, Jamie, seeing as you're obviously trying to win more points than you already have with the Russian foreign ministry, does your statement mean that the United States - that the Stalin anniversary did not escape the notice of the United States as well?
MR. RUBIN: Correct. We noticed that it was noticed.
QUESTION: And what do you think about that? Oh, you noticed - no, I mean, I'm saying did you notice the anniversary by yourselves?
MR. RUBIN: We noticed that it was taken note of by the Russian press.
QUESTION: And do you think that this means anything? I mean, was there any symbolic --
MR. RUBIN: I think I've said all I really can about that. With respect to the Russian foreign ministry on this subject, let me say that the very issues they complained about me articulating last week were sent in a letter by the Secretary of State to Foreign Minister Ivanov during that same period.
QUESTION: Following the visit by Sergey Ivanov last week, can you flesh out any more of what the United States' interpretation of the new regime in Moscow is?
MR. RUBIN: Well, this is a temporary regime and there is going to be an election in a matter of a month so, pending the outcome of that election, I don't really see the point of analyzing it further. I mean, we've all done our own analysis, outsiders have done their analysis. We've done our analysis. What really matters here is what happens, what actions are taken. And certainly as I think my comments indicated, some of the actions that have been taken have been deeply troubling to us.
QUESTION: Did Sergey Ivanov give any further reassurances about Moscow's intentions in terms of investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya?
MR. RUBIN: Our view of the - I think saying that dismissing this all as propaganda is not a credible position, which is what we think the bulk of their commentary has been, is something I said today and not something I repeated today and I wouldn't have repeated it if we thought everything was going to be investigated in a thorough and transparent manner.
QUESTION: Can I ask one last about Ivanov's visit?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: One interpretation following a meeting with reporters at the Russian Embassy of his visit was that Russia had opened the door to a compromise on the ABM Treaty. Is that correct?
MR. RUBIN: I think those of you who were with us in Moscow would know that the comments that Acting President Putin made to the Secretary suggested to her that the Russians were keeping an open mind about the importance of a common assessment and a common response to the threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands and ballistic missiles proliferating around the world, on the one hand, and the fundamental principles of the ABM Treaty on the other hand.
We regarded that as an approach that we want to continue to work on at the expert technical level, and we find the fact that there isn't a simple rejection of the threat from countries around the world who might develop and test and deploy long-range missiles is encouraging. But we have a long, long way to go, and I think we made very, very clear in Moscow that this is by no means an indication that Russia is going to agree to the amendments that we have proposed.
But it is the kind of issue that requires a lengthy dialogue and that isn't going to be resolved overnight, and we are committed to continuing to discuss the matter. In Secretary Albright's discussions with Sergey Ivanov and some of his other discussions, we have continued that effort.
QUESTION: On the other Ivanov, that would be Igor, the foreign minister, do you know anything about him coming to the States in April?
MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that but I can check for you. Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, please. Do you have anything about the Egyptian president's visit to Lebanon and the Israeli reaction and the atmosphere created over there about back-and-forth rhetoric?
MR. RUBIN: Well, Ambassador Ross is in the region right now. He is going to be meeting with a variety of leaders in the region. We certainly are urging restraint on all concerned so that we can avoid the kind of interference in the peace process that Hizballah obviously tried to create. Ambassador Ross met with Prime Minister Barak yesterday and will be meeting with Chairman Arafat today. Clearly, there are difficulties on the Palestinian track but both sides remain committed to working the issue.
On the Syrian track, we continue to encourage an effort to flesh out some of the specific issues that remain, and we continue to urge restraint and maximum restraint on the part of Lebanon, Syria as well as Israel and Lebanon.
QUESTION: What about like anger which is in the region, specifically in Lebanon against the Embassy? Do you have anything to --
MR. RUBIN: All I can say is I am aware of feelings that have developed. I just hope that in some quarter, in some way, the people of Lebanon and the people of the Middle East will be told by either the journalists or their governments that the provoker, the cause of this problem, the harm to the peace process, by design and intent was Hizballah. And we recognize that they have expressed some concern about US opinions. We've made clear our concern about the fact that we think it would be a mistake for Israel to respond against civilian targets and that that won't solve the problem.
But the problem is Hizballah, who are trying to kill peace for the people of Lebanon, kill peace for the people of the Middle East, who only care about building up their own roles and their own interests and don't care at all about the people of Lebanon who suffer when they conduct these kind of cynical, provocative attacks.
QUESTION: Back to my first question, with the visit, at the end of the visit there was a statement which was somehow, to a great extent, sympathetic with whatever Hizballah is doing. Do you have any reaction to that? Have you had any diplomatic contact regarding this issue with Egypt, for example?
MR. RUBIN: We don't think it is wise to be supportive of the enemies of peace. And Hizballah have stated and, by action and word, trying to kill the peace process and we don't think that they should be supported.
QUESTION: Two things really briefly. Do you have anything - I don't even know if they've begun yet. The talks in Hawaii, the North Korea - I mean, talks between the US and South Korea in Hawaii?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. On that, as part of a regular schedule of bilateral consultations, a US delegation led by Ambassador Kartman will meet with Republic of Korea counterparts in Honolulu February 21st - yesterday - through the 23rd. They will review a wide range of Korean peninsula issues including the recent US-North Korea dialogue, ongoing preparations for a high-level visit and their respective approaches to the four-party talks.
QUESTION: But you don't have anything on the first day of the --
MR. RUBIN: I think these are the kind of consultations that don't normally yield a public statement.
QUESTION: The second thing is that I noted with great interest - I doubt anyone else did, but I did - the Secretary's meeting with the foreign minister of Mongolia this morning. I just was wondering if you had any idea what they were talking about?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. They had a very useful and friendly meeting in which they discussed a number of bilateral and regional issues. We are a strong supporter of Mongolia's peaceful transformation from a one-party Communist state with a centrally planned economy to a democracy committed to market-oriented reforms.
The Secretary visited Mongolia in the spring of 1998 and has been following developments there. Since the foreign minister will have a number of meetings -- is now at a lunch hosted by Assistant Secretary Roth, she will be meeting with officials from USAID, the Defense Department -- and maybe as the day goes on we can try to get you a readout of what the specifics were that were discussed.
QUESTION: Okay. Mongolians have, for the first time - are participating in a UN operation. They are sending two or three people to East Timor. I am wondering if you have any --
MR. RUBIN: We certainly would praise any country, especially a country with limited resources in this kind of area, that would participate in UN operations, especially ones where the need is so great, like East Timor. And I suspect the Secretary probably praised them for that particular contribution.
(The briefing concluded at 1:35 p.m.)