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US State Dept Briefing, March 2, 2001

US State Dept Briefing, March 2, 2001

Transcript: State Department Noon Briefing, March 2, 2001

Ukraine, Austria, Syria/Iraq, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Brazil, Japan, Mideast

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed.

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Friday, March 2, 2001

BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman

UKRAINE -- Department Meetings with Ukrainian Opposition Leader

AUSTRIA -- Nazi-Era Restitution Agreement/Recent Lawsuit

SYRIA/IRAQ -- Free Trade Zone Agreement/Sanctions

NORTH KOREA -- Framework Agreement/Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

SOUTH KOREA -- Korea's Relations with Russia/President Putin's Trip to South Korea -- U.S. Relations with South Korea/Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- President Kim Dae Jung's Visit to the U.S.

RUSSIA -- Russia's Relations with South Korea/President Putin's Trip to South Korea -- Arrest of American Citizen Mr. Tobin

TURKEY -- Economic Problems/U.S. Assistance

IRAQ -- UN Report on Chemical and Biological Weapons/Weapons of Mass Destruction

BRAZIL -- Secretary Powell's Meeting with Foreign Minister Lafer

JAPAN -- Families of Victims of Submarine Incident

MIDDLE EAST -- Secretary Powell's Visit to the Region



MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here, and I'd be glad to take your questions.

(No response.)

MR. BOUCHER: If that's it, then I'm glad to leave, too.


QUESTION: Anything on the visit by the Ukrainian opposition leader Aleksander Moroz?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular for you. I think he's having meetings with people in the Bureau of Newly Independent States, so he'll be meeting with people in the Bureau today. Today? Right, yes.

Q: I have a question concerning Austria. There has been an agreement between the US and the Austrian Government in January on Holocaust restitution issues, and now recently lawsuits have been filed. So the authority of the United States Government is now challenged to do what it has promised, to issue statements of interest before the courts in order to grant legal peace. So I would like to know if the US Government will do that, or how this will work.

And second question, some people say that in search for a quick solution the old Administration rushed through this agreement, so there are lawyers or victims who would like to renegotiate some parts of this agreement. So we would like to know if the United States will stand by this agreement in the new Administration.

MR. BOUCHER: We remain committed to the agreement and to carrying out our part of the agreement. The agreement, as most people know, sets up this general settlement fund. It also obligates us to file statements of interest, and we will do that once the agreement goes into effect. And I actually don't know exactly when that is, but once the agreement goes into effect, we are obligated to file statements of interest recommending dismissal of existing and future lawsuits. That's described in the agreement. We'll do that once it's in effect.

We haven't actually had a chance yet to study the lawsuit that was filed on February 23rd, so I can't get into that one in particular. We did expect new claims to be filed after the agreement, and the commitment was designed to deal with that eventuality.

On the question of how it was handled, I think this is an agreement that stands -- it is one that was done by following all the appropriate procedures and obtaining our authority to negotiate and to execute the agreement. As you know, we have similar agreements with Germany, with France. There is an earlier agreement on labor with Austria. All these agreements address Nazi-era injustices. And the parties believe that the January 2001 agreement with Austria, like those previously concluded, was fair, and that it will bring measures of justice to the Nazi victims and their heirs, and therefore we will support them.

Q: You're not going to renegotiate anything?

MR. BOUCHER: The agreement is done. We plan to put it in effect and carry out our part.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Do you have any comments on Syria and Iraq's newly-signed free trade zone, and calls by Syria for increased economic cooperation? I can't tell from the piece I read whether there is any questionable elements in the deal that would require UN approval or not.

MR. BOUCHER: We have seen some reports about this, and the agreement that was approved by the parliament would look to establish some kind of free trade zone between Syria and Iraq by the year 2007. So we really don't have any details of it, but we, in the Sanctions Committee, would look at it, make sure it is consistent with the sanctions regime, as we have said I think several times during the meeting with President Bashar al-Assad. He assured the Secretary that Syria wished to be in compliance with UN practices and that they did not intend to violate UN sanctions.

Q: What I'm reading says there is planned an all-Arab free trade zone by 2007, but it indicates that this deal is just one step on that path, but certainly not that they would wait till 2007 to enforce it.

MR. BOUCHER: My understanding from our people who follow this is that it would establish free trade by 2007. That is the target date. It may coincide with something else. I'll have people double-check, but that is our read of it.

Q: On North Korea, can you update me on where things stand with the Framework Agreement? There are some lawmakers, I guess with the occasion of a new Administration, who are kind of renewing their expressions of concerns about the Framework Agreement. And I wonder whether the Bush Administration policy is to simply continue with it and carry it out in due course, or whether it is being reviewed, one of the things that's being reviewed or examined?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm trying to remember when the Secretary said it. We have certainly made quite clear that we stand by the Framework Agreement. Secretary Powell has made clear that he wants to work on the basis of the understandings, agreements and work that had been done in the past. I don't have any new announcements on where we go from here. But in terms of the agreements that are being concluded and are operating, we remain committed to carrying them out, and we are continuing to do that. That kind of discussion with the North Koreans does indeed continue.

Q: Is the issue of future elements of the agreement, such as the providing of the reactors, which I guess is the big part of the agreement, is that essentially automatic, or does there continue to be a whole series of, you know, conditions and hurdles that have to be cleared for the agreement to be carried out?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven't actually read the details of the agreement so I don't know what the hurdles are or the steps along the way or how the process might be mutually enforcing, but our intention is to carry through these agreements completely and fully.

Q: South Korea, same peninsula. Mr. Putin and Mr. Kim seem to be making kissy-face a little bit, and I wondered if the State Department has any observations about South Korea's apparently increased interest in Moscow. And also, whether they're not on the money that if you could get away from the -- if you could do something about the North Korean missile threat, maybe you don't have to go into this futuristic defense system.

Could you try mostly what you think of the Kim-Putin relationship --

MR. BOUCHER: Which is fine by us.

Q: -- which is geared partly to undoing your missile defense plan?

MR. BOUCHER: We have a very strong alliance with the South Koreans. We work very closely with them in all manner of things. We discuss things very closely with them. We have relations with Russia. They have relations in Russia. So do all our friends around the world. There shouldn't be anything unusual in that. Those involve the occasional visit. I think we're quite confident in our alliance with the South Koreans and are confident in the things that we do together. So the fact that Mr. Putin comes to visit doesn't really bother us one way or the other.

Q: How about their affirmation of the sanctity of the ABM Treaty and the notion that if you could somehow -- not only you-- but if North Korea could be persuaded to stop worrying the world about its missile programs, then maybe you wouldn't have to go ahead with this dream you all have.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, these are two different notions, and I can assure you, Barry, it's not a dream.

Q: So far it is. It has never worked yet. The technology doesn't work, so it's dream.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, you can be the Pentagon correspondent and I'll be the State Department Spokesman.

The question that you raised about the South Koreans and the ABM Treaty, I think they have said various things about it since the communiqué was issued, and I would refer you back to their statements. Obviously we'll have a chance to discuss the new environment, the new situation with regard to missile defense, with President Kim Dae Jung when he comes to visit next week to the White House.

Q: Is there a separate session with the Secretary?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if the Secretary is having a separate session. I'm sure he'll participate in the White House meetings. So they have discussed their position in advance and obviously will talk to them about missile defense when they get here.

I think they have recognized that we face a new era. We face a new threat of proliferation in the world and that we need to do something about it. And that is something that we will obviously want to discuss with them, because they are such a close ally. Next week.

Second of all, I don't know that I can deal completely and thoroughly in the time allotted with the premise that somehow diplomacy vis-à-vis the North, elimination of the missile threat in the North, would obviate the need for missile defenses. We all know that the threat of proliferation in the world these days is not just from one location; and, therefore, as the Secretary has said, we need to work on offensive weapons, we need to work on nonproliferation, we need to work on diplomacy and we need to work on defense. And that an up-to-date and modern strategic concept needs to include all those elements, and it surely will.

Q: Just to let it go, but the first phase was to worry about North Korea; the second phase was Iran. They were five years apart. Korea was perceived, at least by the past Administration, as being the most worrisome rogue state out there. And I just thought if some way was reached to eliminate that worry, maybe you could defer or relax this --

MR. BOUCHER: If you think that, I'd just say that's fine. You can think what you want, but that's not what the Administration thinks.

Q: So it's not geared to North Korea particularly?

MR. BOUCHER: The North Korean threat is obviously of concern, but there are other threats out there. And the whole prospect of the way the world has changed in terms of proliferation has made it quite clear to people in this Administration that we need a missile defense, and we will move forward when the technology is there to protect ourselves.

Q: There is a Tass wire story that seems to indicate that the Russians are continuing to say that they did not know that Mr. Tobin had gone to the Monterey Language School, that they said that it wasn't on his rundown of his past experience.

Is this sort of Russian propaganda or --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure it is. I haven't seen the statement. I think there have been four or five contradictory statements in recent days. I don't think it's a material fact, I guess is what I would say. Obviously there are many ways of learning Russian in the United States; one of them is through government military schools. People do that often. That doesn't have that much to do with what they pursue in their later lives. So this is an exchange scholar who is caught up in a legal matter, and we are visiting with him and working with him.

Q: Did you see him this week? Did the State Department visit him?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I have the timing of when we might have visited him. No, I don't have it with me, but it was in the last few days. Last week, I think. And there is a tentative visit scheduled for next week. A visit is scheduled tentatively for next week.

Q: The Financial Times had a story today about Turkey and varying opinions in the Administration about how to deal with Turkey's problems. Do you have anything enlightening to say about that?

MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you that the stories are just not true.

Q: The discord, you mean?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, the policy -- I think there was one, I'm not sure if it's that article. Some other article referred to a phone call that the Secretary supposedly made to the President last Friday, which he didn't make. As you all know, he was out of town last Friday.

The Department of State, Department of Treasury, and other US Government agencies have been in regular, frequent contact since this crisis began to unfold last week. There has been extensive coordination within the Administration of Treasury Secretary O'Neill's statement in support of the Turkish Government's decision to float its currency, President Bush's call to Prime Minister Ecevit last week, and his letter to President Sezer this week. We have also welcomed the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund's support of the Turkish Government decision to float its currency.

Q: There is another story in the same newspaper, The Financial Times today, saying -- quoting a UN secret document claiming that Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons, and also SCUD rockets or SCUD missiles to launch them.

Can you confirm?

MR. BOUCHER: The report in question, whatever it may say, is a restricted distribution report of the UN Monitoring Inspection and Verification Commission, so I am not in a position to talk about its contents.

The general judgment that is reported that Iraq has not disarmed is fully consistent with our views. Iraq, in our terms, is not meeting its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions to disarm and to demonstrate to UN inspectors that its weapons declarations are in fact true. In fact, Iraq has done very little to try to demonstrate that any of its declarations are true on this subject.

Secretary Powell has said that if Iraq does not comply with its obligations, Saddam will remain trapped in the situation and the jail that he has built for himself. And that remains the case. But I think the general tenor of the article that Iraq has not lived up to its obligations, that Iraq is still hiding programs, and that Iraq is not fully disarmed, is quite consistent with what we know.

Q: I'd like to ask you one on Brazil. Could you just tell us a little about how Secretary Powell's meeting this morning went and whether we should take this as the beginning of a grand new strategic partnership between the two countries?

MR. BOUCHER: Indeed, the Secretary and the Brazilian Foreign Minister talked about the relationship, about the possibilities of expanding and enhancing the relationship to make it a broader cooperation on many issues. So to that extent, yes, it is, we hope, the beginning of an expansion and enhancement of our cooperation and our relationship.

They talked about ways to deepen what they both characterized as already excellent bilateral ties. They discussed hemispheric issues, such as the preparations for the Summit of the Americas, such as questions involving Colombia and how to support the anti-narcotics efforts in the region. They both expressed their commitment to dealing with the regional dimension of counter-narcotics, and we look forward to cooperating with Brazil in these and many other areas.

Q: Can I go back to Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's just finish. We've got a question over there, too.

Q: You said Iraq has not disarmed. Could you flesh that out? What do you think they have?

MR. BOUCHER: I think -- I don't want to stand up here and try to make it up on the top of my head, but if you look at the Defense Department Proliferation Report that was put out in January, I think the CIA just recently did an unclassified report on proliferation, you'll see plenty of indications there that Iraq is still interested in weapons of mass destruction.

What is absolutely clear is that Iraq has not demonstrated to the world that their declarations are true. Iraq has not demonstrated to the world that its assertions that they have disarmed are true. And the burden rests with Iraq to demonstrate that. If they want to show us that they are somehow clean, let them try. But they are not even trying.

Q: Is there any further plan, such as aid plan to the Japanese families who lost their lives last month?

MR. BOUCHER: Any further plans such as what?

Q: Such as aid plan to those Japanese families.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, I don't quite understand. Such as what kind of plan?

Q: Aid. You know, provide some aid to those --

Q: Money.

Q: Yes, thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Oh, you mean like money -- like compensation money?

Q: Something like that.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything like that at this point. I would just say that we are continuing to work with the Japanese. We are continuing to make clear that we want the facts to come to light as much as we can. Admiral Fallon has met with the families on Thursday. He has met with local government officials. We hope that both nations can move forward from the tragedy.

As far as how we continue to work and relate to the families, I think that is something that we will see in coming days.

Q: Can I just ask you if you're going to have one of your famous off-the-record briefings as a result of the trip to the Middle East, either by Walker or Miller or someone else?

MR. BOUCHER: We have talked extensively during the trip and after the trip about the trip, so I don't think there is that much more to say now. I'm sure the Secretary will talk about it again when he goes up to the Hill next week for congressional hearings.

Q: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

(end transcript)


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