State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 9, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, July 9, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
~ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY~ ^1-5, 11^ Timing of Ceasefire / Security Meetings / Targeted Killings
~YEMEN~ ^4^ Ambassador Burns Visit
~IRAQ~ ^5-6^ Iraqi Troop Movement in Kurdish Area
~NORTH KOREA~ ^6-7^ Response to American Proposals / Application to IMF / Ministerial Talks
~CHINA~ ^7-9,11-12^ Payment for EP-3 Plane Recovery / Port Call by US Ship to Hong Kong / Report on Hong Kong / Detained Scholars / Licensing of Satellite Exports
~BOLIVIA~ ^10^ Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with the Foreign Minister
~ARMS CONTROL~ ^10^ Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
~AFRICA~ ^10^ Summit Meeting in Lusaka
~MACEDONIA~ ^11-12^ Ceasefire
~CROATIA~ ^12^ Transfer of Indictees to ICTY
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DPB # 96
MONDAY, JULY 9, 2001 1:37 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: All right, ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry I'm late today. I do not have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: Somebody at the White House said or asked the question suggesting that Secretary Powell has told Prime Minister Sharon that the countdown has started, the seven-day countdown. Do you know anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: The seven days start when we see it is quiet for some sustained period. We certainly hope that that kind of improvements that we saw for some period last week would be restored and sustained. But I will remind you the Mitchell Committee Report starts with an unconditional cessation of violence and our view is we haven't seen that yet.
QUESTION: Going to North Korea -- I guess that was not really profitable? The North Koreans are --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it could be, if you keep going. I mean, do you want me to say everything I have to say about the Middle East? All right, let's do the Middle East first. I think we're going to get there. And then we will come back. When it is time to change subjects, George can do North Korea.
QUESTION: Does the State Department still believe that it is up to Prime Minister Sharon to decide when that period of calm has begun?
MR. BOUCHER: We believe that the parties have to decide when they are going to carry out the Mitchell Committee recommendations. They have decided to do so. They have agreed on the mechanism for getting there. They have agreed on some of the mechanisms with George Tenet to stop the violence. But the parties have to exert the effort to stop the violence.
We have been following developments out there very, very closely. We want to see the kind of improvement that we saw last week sustained and restored. But it is critical that the parties take the steps. It is critical that the Palestinian Authority exert maximum efforts to bring the violence to a halt and that the Israelis and the Palestinians bring the violence -- take the steps to sustain and improve their coordination on security issues and avoid provocative actions that make the restoration of trust and confidence more difficult.
We saw, as I said, relatively improved -- you know, some improvement last week. And now we are really -- I would say we are deeply troubled over the upsurge in violence over the weekend, including a roadside bombing that occurred earlier today and killed an Israeli soldier. We particularly deplore the tragedy of the death of an 11-year-old boy on Saturday.
On that one, we have been in touch with the Israeli Government. They have told us that they will conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of this tragic death. But as I said, we are looking to get back to a sustained effort of coordination and maximum efforts on the both of both parties, but particularly the Palestinians, to stop the violence the way people are committed to do so in the Mitchell process.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but that wasn't the answer that I was sort of looking for. The question had to do with who it is that would decide - -
MR. BOUCHER: And nothing has changed. I said right at the beginning of the answer, nothing has changed on that, that it is up to the parties to enter into the process of doing the Mitchell Report. And to do that, there needs to be the first criteria of the Mitchell Report, which is the unconditional cessation of violence.
Obviously we are going to follow the situation very closely. We have continued to do that. They will follow it closely, you will follow it closely and report on it. And when we see the period of quiet that we are all looking for, then we would hope the parties would be prepared to move into the rest of the full implementation of Mitchell.
QUESTION: So is it still up to Prime Minister Sharon and his government to decide if in fact that period has begun? Or are you saying it is up to the parties?
MR. BOUCHER: It is up to the parties, one of which is Prime Minister Sharon and his government. I don't think I am trying to contradict anything in particular, but we have seen a situation where the parties need to do everything they can, and then they need to agree, they need each to be willing to enter into the Mitchell Committee recommendations to start carrying out that entire package of steps.
QUESTION: Richard, can you give us any update on the status of the security meetings between the Palestinians' security forces and the Israelis?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to check on when the last one was, but there have been several in the last week or so, and I think those are very important, and we want them to continue.
QUESTION: And can I follow up? Did the issue of the targeted killings, which the State Department and you have said you opposed, come up in those meetings, and as alternatives in terms of what the Israelis feel they need to do, in terms of dealing with terrorism, come up in that? I mean, can you talk a little bit about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Those meetings, meaning the trilateral meetings with the Israelis and the Palestinians?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on security, and the Israelis say that they need to occasionally kill certain people that are going to be plotting terrorist --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I am not going to report on everything that comes up in such meetings. Second of all, I would find that to be a rather unusual thought to discuss in a trilateral meeting, a policy that we don't agree with, and I'm sure the Palestinians don't agree with either. Third of all, I would say that one of the things that is discussed in these meetings, one of the important parts of security cooperation is to take steps together to prevent acts of violence from occurring. And that is why we continue to stress the importance of these meetings, the importance of cooperation to stop the acts of terrorism from occurring.
QUESTION: President Mubarak of Egypt today has condemned the Israeli policy of targeted killings of Palestinian activists as a form of thuggery. Your closest allies in the areas are very worried about this policy, the peoples of the area are very worried about it, including the Palestinians.
Can you speak more frankly concerning this policy? I mean, can you address it in a -- and are you sending any more representatives to the area, besides the new representatives to the area?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything more to say. Our views on the policy of targeted killings are very, very well known, have been widely reported, and I am sure have been the occasion for many questions from others to ask other governments what do they think about this. We have been quite clear; we have not changed our minds.
Second of all, our representatives in the region continue to be very, very active. I would not measure US policy by whether we are putting somebody else on an airplane. Bill Burns has just been through the region. He, in fact, returns to Washington tonight. But our representatives in the region are very active working with the parties and we will continue to work in that manner, and send people out as need be.
QUESTION: Can I follow on that? We understand your views on targeted killings, but are you getting anywhere with the Israelis? I mean, are they heeding your advice on the subject? Because it's very concerning to the peoples in the area, as you might appreciate.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it is a great concern to us as well, and we follow developments very, very closely in that regard, and we state our views, I think, clearly and repeatedly.
Middle East, or is it time for George?
QUESTION: Still the same region. Can you tell us anything more about Ambassador Burns' visit to Yemen? And did they discuss the return of the FBI investigators while he was there, with the government?
MR. BOUCHER: He was in Yemen -- I think it was yesterday. I'm trying to look and see. I guess I do not have the itinerary here, other than to say he is on his way back.
The goal of Ambassador Burns in making these visits was to stop in all the countries, or in as many countries as possible of the region that he is going to be responsible for back here in Washington. He is Assistant Secretary for the entire region, and I think we have talked to you before about the need we see to take a regional approach in our relations with these governments and to take seriously the bilateral issues and the agenda that we have with each individual country.
In Yemen, obviously, he is going to discuss the status of the investigation, the importance of making that continue, the status of the security out there. And we certainly all hope that we can work to a point where the FBI feels comfortable going back, if that is necessary to pursue their investigation. So that is our goal, that is what we want to work with them on and with the Yemeni government on. So we will keep working on that.
QUESTION: You just don't have an actual update of what he discussed with them while he was there, I guess, right?
MR. BOUCHER: No. He went through the whole agenda in each of these countries. I am sure security, I am sure FBI, I am sure the Cole investigation all came up in Yemen because those are important issues to us in Yemen, and that is what our Embassy and our Ambassador are out there working on.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
QUESTION: Can I have another question? Sorry.
Has it always been your position that it's up to the party to decide when the cease-fire starts, or has it been a change in your policy? Has it always been like that?
MR. BOUCHER: If you look at what Secretary Powell said during his trip, if you look at the position that we have always taken, it is up to the parties to do this. We can tell them what we think they should do, we can tell them we can help them with trilateral security meetings with the presence of Mr. Tenet or whatever.
But the parties accepted the Mitchell Committee recommendations, said they were willing to carry out these steps. They said that that includes the unconditional cessation of violence. That is where the whole process starts. So that is what we are looking for. And we have worked in various ways to try to get that to start.
But ultimately, we have used the analogy of the door and the keys and the locks and the rooms. They have got to walk through the door. And they are going to have to be willing to take that step to get started with this process. And it is a package, and it is a package that we are looking for full implementation. But the parties have to be willing to do it.
Now, in the past we have seen that one of the parties was willing to start right away. And another one was not willing to start until he saw seven days of quiet. It is, actually, originally we said more than that. So what was agreed by both sides during the Secretary's visit was, if there was seven days of real quiet, that they would both start implementing the Mitchell Committee recommendations. One side said they wanted that, and the other side said they could do that. And that is still what we are looking for, the unconditional cessation of the violence.
QUESTION: Richard, how can we have seven days of quiet if there is a policy of targeted killings that is still existing and is still carried on?
MR. BOUCHER: Both sides, we have said, need to take steps, need to avoid provocative actions, need to take steps in terms of cooperation to bring about that period of quiet. We expect that of both sides, and we have been quite clear when we think they haven't done that.
But it requires 100 percent effort, as we have said before. And frankly, we are still looking for that.
QUESTION: And you mentioned that you have been in touch with the Israeli Government about -- and they had promised an investigation into the killing of the boy. Can you tell us what level that was at?
And also, have you talked to the Palestinians to find out about the Israeli accusation that this suicide bomber, that they had given the Palestinians information about him and they had failed to act?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information on that at this point. I know our representatives in the region have been in touch, close touch, with the parties, but I don't know what exact level and specifics of those conversations.
QUESTION: That applies to both?
MR. BOUCHER: That applies to both parts of your question.
We're going to do Iraq first.
QUESTION: Thank you. Several weeks ago there were reports that the Iraqis were moving troops north towards the Kurdish areas of Iraq. Over the weekend, there was an Iraqi newspaper that is reported to have said that the Iraqis were going to take back the Kurdish areas of their country.
Do you have any reaction to this? Do you know anything more about troops movements and whether they are in any threatening posture?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check and see if there is anything new on troop movements. I haven't checked on that for a while. I would say that our policy remains the same, our commitment remains strong. We have operations, northern and southern watch, that prevent the Baghdad regime from using airpower to repress their people. This also provides a deterrent against Iraqi action and a warning should any action be considered. And you will remember that we have made quite clear, so- called red lines, one of which would be an Iraqi move towards the north.
So none of that has changed, and we have been quite clear on our policies on those points.
QUESTION: I just want to clarify. So if ground troops attacked Kurdish targets in the north, then US planes would strike the Iraqi troops?
MR. BOUCHER: Eli, I didn't give you an, "if A, and B, then C." It's not formulaic in that manner. We have made quite clear that we have capabilities and we have options and that should Iraq do certain things, we would respond as we determined appropriate at a time and place of our choosing.
QUESTION: On North Korea, there was a media release in North Korea suggesting that the conditions imposed by the President are unacceptable to the North Koreans. And I was just wondering if you had a response?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We have avoided trying to respond to any particular stories in the North Korean media. I think we have seen a bit of commentary here and there. But, frankly, we have not heard back officially from the North Koreans, as of about noon today was the last time we checked, we had not heard back officially and we are still waiting for an official North Korean response to the suggestions and proposals that we made.
QUESTION: There are no meetings set up, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on North Korea. The IMF over the weekend said that they would be willing to look at a North Korean application. Does this also reflect US policy?
MR. BOUCHER: I did not see that; I do not have any particular statement on that.
QUESTION: You can -- all right, forget it --
MR. BOUCHER: I am not prepared to deal with the issue of North Korea and the IMF. Let's deal with the things we have to deal with first, and that is getting back from them a response and a willingness to discuss the issues that we have with North Korea.
QUESTION: Are you going to pay -- is the US going to pay the million dollar bill to China?
MR. BOUCHER: Our colleagues at the Department of Defense, I think they have received the bill from the Chinese, received a request for payment from the Chinese. They will be going over that carefully to determine what charges might be legitimate expenses concerning the return of the aircraft. After we have gone through that review, the United States will be responding to the Chinese appropriately. So, at this point, I cannot go much farther than that.
QUESTION: Are you going to do -- is the State Department going to do their own accounting on the expense?
MR. BOUCHER: We worked together on this one and our Defense colleagues will be the ones, I think, that have the most careful interest in reviewing the items that are claimed by the Chinese.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that one of the charges on the list is a landing charge?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I am not going to go into any particular detail on what the Chinese might have presented. It will be for them to try to explain or justify what they have presented to us. We will review this very carefully. The Defense Department is looking at it very carefully, and the United States will respond when our review is complete.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- minister talks between US and North Korea this month in Vietnam?
MR. BOUCHER: There is nothing scheduled at this point. It is possible, but there is nothing scheduled.
QUESTION: Did the issue of these charges come up in the negotiations for the EP-3 crew?
MR. BOUCHER: The correct answer is, I don't remember. Somewhere -- I think we have made quite clear along the way, and I do not remember if it was when we were talking about the crew or when we were talking about getting the airplane back. We made clear that we recognize that there were certain legitimate costs that might be involved in returning our airplane in particular, and I think we and our colleagues at Defense made clear that we were prepared to pay for legitimate expenses, legitimate costs of recovering the aircraft and moving it back from China.
I don't remember exactly what moment the issue came up, or when it was discussed with the Chinese, but I think there has been no problem from our side in saying that we would pay the costs associated with the recovery. The questions before us now is what are the legitimate costs associated with that operation.
QUESTION: Richard, also on China, did you see the story about the Chinese agreement to a port call in Hong Kong by a US vessel? Do you - - can you confirm that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Good news?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me get you something more elaborate on that. As I understand, the Chinese have approved several port calls by US ships. As you know, we see Hong Kong as an important port, and that US port calls -- US Navy ship port calls there -- represent an important sign of Hong Kong's openness.
So we are always happy to go there. It is a great place for our Navy. And we think it is important for Hong Kong to be open in that fashion.
QUESTION: Another on Hong Kong? Tung Chee-hwa is due here I think Wednesday, and he is visiting the White House.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us yet when the report on Hong Kong from the State Department will be released, and will you be sharing the information in it with him?
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to double-check to see if we have a date. I think previously we said mid-July. And it is getting close, isn't it? (Laughter.) I will double-check and see if we have it ready.
The Secretary will be seeing him on Wednesday -- morning; I don't remember exactly when.
QUESTION: Does that mean the US is concerned about Hong Kong? I mean, he is meeting the Secretary, he is meeting the President?
MR. BOUCHER: The US has always taken a very great interest in Hong Kong. We continue to take a very great interest in Hong Kong, and in particular in Hong Kong's autonomy under the provisions of the basic law.
QUESTION: Why? Why does the US have this interest in Hong Kong?
MR. BOUCHER: Because it is a great city.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more on the scholars that we didn't have last week?
MR. BOUCHER: What do we know? Let's see.
QUESTION: We have a date for one trial, but not for the other, as I remember.
MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have any new dates for trials. We have submitted a formal request for permission to send an officer to attend the trial of US legal permanent resident Gao Zhan. We will have to see how the Chinese respond to that.
We have repeatedly urged the Chinese to resolve these cases quickly. They have given us no indication of possible outcomes of the trials, so we would urge them once again to resolve the cases quickly so that detainees can be reunited with their families.
QUESTION: What is the current US policy toward a launching of satellites built in the United States, or containing US components, on Chinese rockets?
MR. BOUCHER: Those requests are processed by the State Department at this point. The applications come to the State Department, and we look at them and evaluate them on a case-by-case basis. I'm not sure I can say that there is much more policy than that. It is a question that is addressed each time in terms of the appropriateness of the launch and the kinds of satellites and the kinds of controls that are made on the important technologies.
QUESTION: Is there any progress on making it easier for US satellite companies to get export licenses? The reason I bring it up is, just this weekend, a US company, Loral, and a Hong Kong company, partially owned by the Chinese, APT Satellite, they had an agreement where a satellite export license was needed by July 8th, and they have agreed to some more time for this now. But the point is that when that contract was signed in January, there was great hope that within six months they could get it resolved. And apparently it hasn't been.
So really I was wondering, on that satellite, if you can update --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we will do everything possible to improve the processing times to handle the workload as well as we can. I know there has been some talk about State and Commerce, and frankly, even giving the increased workload that we have found here with some of the licensing requirements that we have, that we process licenses in about the same time as the Commerce Department does. We have recently increased staff to meet the workload that we have. The licensing of satellites, as you know, is sort of with us, and then at Commerce, and then back again. So as that workload increased, we have increased staff over here and try to continuously improve the performance and the handling of these licenses.
QUESTION: If I could move to Colombia? This may not be one for you, but I'll try anyway. Do you know anything about a report by the DEA saying that Colombian police had opened a FedEx package addressed to a DynCorp employee, which contained a heroin-laced liquid in it.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know anything about it.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I move on to Bolivia?
MR. BOUCHER: You can ask about Bolivia.
QUESTION: Do you have anything about -- can you tell us what Deputy Secretary Armitage is going to be discussing with the Foreign Minister, and will the case of Walter Poirier come up?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know about specifics. It is a chance to check in and discuss the broad range of bilateral relationships. So I will check with you -- maybe I can get you something afterwards on what they did discuss.
QUESTION: Could you kindly tell us where the Bush Administration stands on the Test Ban Treaty? Does it want to see the Test Ban Treaty die gradually, or is it time to persuade allies and supporters of the Test Ban Treaty that it is virtually dead?
MR. BOUCHER: As usual, let me not take your options but rather give mine. We are certainly looking at the issues that are related to the Test Ban Treaty, but we also have made quite clear that we have no plans to ask the Senate to reconsider its 1999 vote that refused consent to the treaty's ratification. So we are not going to ask the Senate to do anything with this treaty and at that point, that is where we stand.
QUESTION: African leaders today are meeting in Lusaka, I think to form an alternative to the OAU that disbanded last year. Does the US have a position on Qadafi's model for a new EU-like structure for African states?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, yes. Do we have a position? Yes. Do I remember what it is? No.
We talked about this at the time that the announcement was made, I think, that the organization, the OAU, would be moving to set up an organization with some new structure. I think generally we have supported the cause of cooperation among African states, supported African leaders who have been active in this cause. But, you know, it is up to them to decide how they want to go about it.
QUESTION: Is there a US representative there?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to check on that specific meeting.
QUESTION: Hong Kong, what's the topic that the Secretary is going to discuss with Tung Chee-hwa on Wednesday?
MR. BOUCHER: The state of affairs in Hong Kong, I don't know I can go more detailed than that. But certainly our interest in Hong Kong is economic, it has to do with Hong Kong's status, it has to do with Hong Kong's vibrancy and its future, and we will be discussing all those with the Chief Executive when he comes.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, on the risk of sounding repetitive, why doesn't the State Department --
MR. BOUCHER: You are supposed to sound inquisitive.
QUESTION: Inquisitive. Okay. Why doesn't the State Department come out and say it's up to Sharon to decide when the cease-fire start. Because when you say, it's up to the parties, and when you say one of the parties is willing to start straight away, Secretary of State Powell said in Cairo it's up to Sharon to decide, and that is what was reported. Why don't you come out and say it's up to Sharon to decide.
MR. BOUCHER: It is up to Sharon, it is up to Arafat. It is up to the people who are out there in the region to actually decide to start doing this. It is up to the Israeli Government to carry out its obligations under the Mitchell Report and to decide when it is going to start doing that. That is true of both parties.
I think the only point is -- what I am trying to say is, not to change any particular things that we have said in the past. Clearly, the Israeli Government, Prime Minister Sharon have to make a decision about this. They will have to decide when they are ready to go forward and implement this.
But what did happen during the Secretary's trip was that there was an understanding that we would make the unconditional cessation of violence actually occur, and that we would look for seven days of quiet. And the effort right now is to make that happen. And that requires a maximum effort of the parties.
If we see that kind of quiet, then we can argue about whose turn is it to walk through the door first. But until we see that kind of quiet, we know that we are not going to be able to get started on the Mitchell Committee recommendations. And we very much want to see those recommendations implemented by both parties in full, as a package.
QUESTION: A couple quick Balkan ones. The Albanian parties in Macedonia have reissued their demands for an international peace conference outside Macedonia, with participation of the EU and the United States, as I remember rightly. Can you just tell us what your position is on that, and then have one in Croatia if that was --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I had seen those particular -- that particular call. Our emphasis, I think today, is on continuing the political process that is under way in Macedonia. All the parties have agreed to a process, that they expect to move forward. We are working very hard with support, with the European Union, Envoy Mr. Leotard, and of course Ambassador Pardew is in Skopje working very hard on this.
The parties are holding talks today with experts to discuss their differences on specific issues. The talks build on ideas that were put forward by a former French constitutional court chairman, and they are outlined in a framework document that has been tabled by the international community. So there is considerable international involvement in this process at this point, but we look to the parties there, the political parties in Macedonia, to make the sustained efforts that are necessary to reach some progress in the coming days.
QUESTION: And also, in Croatia, the government there seems to be on the brink of something, because of these demands to have two --
MR. BOUCHER: We support something, and all that that implies.
QUESTION: -- indictees transferred to The Hague. Do you have any message of support for Mr. Racan at this time?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we very much support the government's carrying out its obligations to the international community to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes. So we think that is an important decision for each government to make. And in this case, we support the Croatian Government's decision to meet those obligations.
QUESTION: One more. Are you trying to work out a payment schedule before the Secretary's visit maybe back to China?
MR. BOUCHER: We will review the Chinese charges and get back to them as appropriate. I don't think there is any particular schedule for that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)