State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 26, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, July 26, 2001 BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker
IRAQ 1-2 Review of No-Fly Zone Policy / Recent Incident in Southern Iraq 2 Troop Movement on Kurdish Border
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 3 Whereabouts of Deputy Assistant Secretary David Satterfield 3-4 Current Efforts to Halt the Violence / Mitchell Committee Process 3-4 Possibility of US or International Monitors
CHINA 4-6 Release of Gao Zhan / Status of Other Detainees
NORTH KOREA 6 Proposed Dialogue with US
MACEDONIA 6-8 Security Situation at the US Embassy 7-10 Update on Ceasefire / Albanian Rebel Pullout 8-9 Allegations of Rebel Re-Arming With NATO Weapons
ARMS CONTROL 10 Proliferation of Ballistic Missiles to the Eastern Mediterranean
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
DPB # 107
THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2001, 1:07 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Welcome back everyone to the State Department this Thursday afternoon, our final briefing for this week. As you know, Secretary of State Powell is on his final night in Hanoi. Ambassador Boucher is accompanying him. Tomorrow, the party will depart for Seoul, South Korea, and then on to Beijing on Saturday, on to Canberra, Australia, Sunday and they will be home next Tuesday night.
I don't have any announcements. But I would like to welcome to the briefing today a group, part of our International Visitor Program, a group from Mongolia, here in the United States studying on the topic, "Responsibilities of the Media," and so we brought them here to the State Department for an opportunity to see some of the most responsible media in Washington. And so, with those words, let me go ahead and cut directly to your questions.
I believe Carol Giacomo would qualify as our senior wire reporter.
QUESTION: Iraq policy.
MR. REEKER: Iraq policy.
QUESTION: Where does the administration's review of the other components of the policy -- that is, you already acted on sanctions. My understanding was you were also looking at the no-fly zone and how you are going to handle the Iraqi opposition. And where does all that stand?
MR. REEKER: I don't think, Carol, I have a real update for you at this moment today. I would be happy to check into that and see if our bureau can give us an update on that. Obviously, with the Secretary overseas right now, I don't have anything new to announce.
In terms of the no-fly zones, of course, Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch continue to prevent the Baghdad regime from using air power to repress the Iraqi people, and make an important contribution to regional security by providing a deterrent against and early warning of Iraqi aggression. So we have been continuing that. But I will just have to check in and see where we stand on further policy review aspects.
QUESTION: This latest incident hasn't made you sort of pause or take new stock of --
MR. REEKER: By the "latest incident," you are referring to what I understand was a US aircraft participating in Operation Southern Watch activities over southern Iraq that was fired upon by Iraqi forces on Tuesday. And, for any specific comment on that, I would refer you to the Pentagon, obviously, that deals with operational aspects of that.
Every precaution, of course, is taken to protect coalition pilots operating in the no-fly zone, and our actions, as I indicated earlier, are intended to ensure the safety not only of the pilots but also the Iraqi people, in terms of continuing the operation there and maintaining the no-fly zones. So you might want to check with the Pentagon if they have anything further on that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from the State Department's point of view, what do you think Saddam is up to? What does this say to you about his, perhaps, inclination to be more aggressive?
MR. REEKER: I think everybody realizes, as the President said earlier, that Saddam Hussein is a menace. He remains a menace and that is why our policy has been focused on keeping him isolated, containing the threat that he has posed to his neighbors, to the region, to regional stability, and continues to pose. And that is why we have made Iraq policy a priority. We continue to review aspects of that, we continue to work at the United Nations in terms of the sanctions policy.
So I don't think we have any surprises here. We will continue our policies because they are in our interests and the interests of our allies and regional policies. And the President noted that he is analyzing the latest action by Saddam Hussein. But the Pentagon may be able to provide you some additional details on that.
But we will continue to operate those no-fly zones, to enforce those no-fly zones in the north and the south, and I will check for you to see if we can get anything on where we stand on the other aspects of policy review.
QUESTION: Has this government been able to verify that a large number of Iraqi troops moved towards northern Iraq, towards the Kurdish region?
MR. REEKER: I had not seen that. That was something we had looked into many, many weeks ago. But in terms of recent reports, I hadn't noticed anything new.
QUESTION: Do you know if you were ever able to verify that in fact these troops moved north?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I ever had anything on that that went into any detail. I would be happy to check back and see if we had had anything to say at that time.
Other aspects on Iraq or Middle East?
QUESTION: Well, off Iraq. Does anybody want to go to Iraq?
MR. REEKER: Elise? Go ahead, Ben.
QUESTION: No, it's Middle East.
MR. REEKER: Middle East, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I'm just wondering if we can get an update on the security talks between the two sides, and the efforts of -- is Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield still there?
MR. REEKER: No, in fact, I think we reported a few days ago that he had returned to Washington.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: But senior officials here and in the region are in continuous contact with the parties in an effort to reduce violence, and as we have said so many times before, to move as quickly as possible into the next phase of the Mitchell Committee process. I would say once again that both sides continue to have an obligation to exert maximum effort to try to halt the ongoing tragedy, to try to stop and break the cycle of violence, avoid any escalation and desist from provocation and incitement.
So we are heavily engaged with the parties, and we will remain so, to try to get them to move forward in the process as expeditiously as possible. As you know, we have, and continue to emphasize the importance of enhancing the bilateral security cooperation between the two sides as the key to bringing down the violence. There were trilateral security meetings that we think represent important opportunities to enhance this coordination and foster trust and confidence and work towards developing the environment I suggested, and improving the situation on the ground.
So we are encouraging both sides to utilize the meetings to advance their common interests and bring an end to the violence.
QUESTION: Are we helping to facilitate the -- is the US still facilitating the meetings?
MR. REEKER: We continue to play a facilitative role in the trilateral security process to bring the two sides together, because we think this is so important.
I don't have a breakdown or a specific readout of when those meetings take place exactly, and I am just not going to have details of the exchanges. But it is an important process that we will continue to encourage and continue to facilitate there in the region.
QUESTION: Do you have anything new about a possible monitoring mission in this region?
MR. REEKER: I don't think there is any movement or change in the situation on that from what we have talked about before.
QUESTION: Today, Gao Zhan was released, as well as the man who was also sentenced the same day she was, although he has decided to stay in China. There are other Americans who are in jail in China that seem to be on the same sort of -- most of them, actually -- on the same sort of grounds.
Can you say what is happening in their cases?
MR. REEKER: Let me say first of all, and I think the Secretary has already commented on this from Hanoi, that we are pleased the Chinese authorities released both Ms. Gao Zhan and, of course, yesterday released Mr. Li Shaomin, who was able to return to the United States yesterday and be reunited with his family. We understand that he is currently spending time with his family.
And we also understand that Ms. Gao arrived in Detroit this morning, was met by her husband. There was also a State Department official there in Detroit to assist with her entry into the United States and her reunion with her family. We understand that she will be arriving in the Washington area later today, but I would have to refer you to her family and her lawyer for any details on that.
In terms of Qin or Tan Guangguang, we understand that he was also released on humanitarian grounds today, but we have no further information on his current status. We are seeking direct contact with him in Beijing, Mr. Qin being a legal permanent resident of the United States. We are also aware of reports that his wife had her Chinese passport and US green card confiscated. We can't confirm that report that some of you had raised earlier, but we have raised that with Chinese authorities and are awaiting a response on that.
In terms of other cases, we have urged the Chinese Government at every level to resolve promptly the cases of those who have been similarly detained, including US citizen Wu Jianmin, who is the other American citizen who is detained in China.
We have also urged that US permanent resident Liu Yaping, who is held on criminal charges in Inner Mongolia and suffering from health problems, urged that he be released for medical treatment, and that legal permanent resident Teng Chunyan, who was sentenced to three years for collecting information about abuses of Falun Gong adherents in mental hospitals, that she also be released on humanitarian grounds, and allowed to join her family in the United States.
So I think, as Secretary Powell has indicated, our concern is broader than just these individual cases. And while we remain very actively engaged on those cases, we have long urged the Chinese Government to release any persons detained or imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of personal political or religious views and to address systemic reforms that would bring China closer to international standards for the protection of individual rights.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary specifically raise those other cases in his meeting with the Foreign Minister?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I don't have a specific readout on his meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister. I know we have raised these cases at all levels over a long period of time, but I would have to refer you out to the traveling party to get any readouts from his meetings.
QUESTION: And on Mr. Qin, so his wife is still in China with him as near as you know?
MR. REEKER: That is my understanding. Again --
QUESTION: And her passport was lifted?
MR. REEKER: That was a report that we had received. We have not been able to confirm that report. But some people had raised that, some reporters had asked us about that report. We have raised it with the Chinese authorities and are awaiting a response. Of course, now it is a little late for Beijing, but we will continue to follow that case.
QUESTION: So is it your understanding that his wife then can't leave the country? There's no --
MR. REEKER: I just don't have a firm understanding on that, Carol, because I have seen reports, but she is, again, a legal permanent resident, but they are on a Chinese passport, as is Mr. Qin, or Tan, Guangguang.
QUESTION: Are you going to do a debriefing of Ms. Gao?
MR. REEKER: I know that, as I said, we had someone in Detroit that met her plane and helped her enter the United States and be reunited with her family, and now she is traveling here to Washington. I am not aware of any particular meetings that are scheduled in that sense. I think the important thing now is that she get back to her family, to her young son and her husband and be able to move on with her life. So I am not aware of any particular meetings that are scheduled.
QUESTION: And beyond that, the arresting of these people, and then releasing them just prior to Mr. Powell's visit -- I mean, how do you see that? Is that a kind of a cynical manipulation?
MR. REEKER: I think the Secretary has addressed the issue, and I would really refer you to his remarks as he has traveled to Asia. It is a subject we have talked about for a long time, and we have urged and been actively involved in pressing the Chinese to expedite dealing with all of these cases, to ensure a quick and speedy resolution of the cases. And we wanted to see these people reunited with their families. And that is what we will continue to urge on all of those cases, and of course, raise our broad human rights concerns, as we do in our dialogue with China all the time.
QUESTION: But I mean, do you think that they are specifically arresting these people so that they can release them to improve relations?
MR. REEKER: I just would have to ask you to talk to them about their reasons for arresting the people.
QUESTION: Well, it looks like --
MR. REEKER: Well, I'll let you write your stories, Ben.
QUESTION: Can I ask another question now? Can we move on to Korea?
MR. REEKER: Korea.
QUESTION: The leader of North Korea is on a train now in Russia. I'm wondering if you have any comments about his trip. I would also like to point out that he -- the North Korean officials said in Hanoi that they were looking for an equal dialogue with the United States. And I just wondered whether the United States is looking for an equal dialogue with North Korea, and why we don't have it?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think we have made quite clear, in terms of what the President announced, our desire to move ahead on a dialogue, our offer of dialogue with North Korea. We are awaiting a response from the North Koreans on that. There are no preconditions to that dialogue. The Secretary spoke to this today from Hanoi, so I would refer you to his remarks. I don't think I have anything particular to say about the travel of individual North Koreans, the North Korean leader to Russia. It is obviously his trip, not ours.
MR. REEKER: Macedonia.
QUESTION: We know that the Marines are on the ground there now, but if you could just talk about the security situation around the embassy, and whether you know at this point if the embassy will remain closed tomorrow?
MR. REEKER: I don't know at this point. I think the embassy is officially open. It remained -- let me find it here -- embassy operations have continued, with the exception of some visa services. Most visa services had been curtailed today, but of course they continue to provide emergency services for American citizens, and the embassy will continue to take all necessary actions to ensure the security of its personnel and to keep American citizens there in Macedonia informed of developments affecting the security situation. But, again, the embassy is open and operating, just some public services have been curtailed.
In terms of the security, you mentioned a US Marine Corps Fleet Anti- Terrorist Support team, a FAST team, arrived in Skopje I believe yesterday to provide additional protection for the embassy to augment security there, which is a fairly standard step we would take. As you know, and you have seen in the travel advisory, the public announcement that we have issued, travel warning, the embassy has been on an authorized departure since June 26. A number of official US personnel have already departed voluntarily and we expect some additional personnel may depart following the recent events there.
In terms of the broader issue of Macedonia, we certainly welcome the cease-fire agreement, the return to the cease-fire that went into effect this morning local time. We understand that the extremists have begun to withdraw from villages near Tetovo, as agreed. We expect their full compliance with the terms of this agreement. And again, as we discussed yesterday, we call on all sides to respect the cease-fire agreement they signed and exercise restraint, because there is no military solution to this. That can only lead to making it more difficult to pursuing the political dialogue, which is so necessary to resolve the problems in Macedonia.
So we are very pleased to see just recently announcements that the political dialogue will continue. The Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson, Javier Solana of the European Union, are in Skopje, and have made some comments just recently talking about our satisfaction in seeing that dialogue move ahead.
Our special advisor for the Balkans, Ambassador Jim Pardew, also of course remains in Skopje, along with the OSCE Chairman in office--- Geoana, and Mr. Leotard of the European Union. So we have continued to urge the Macedonian Government and all the party leaders, all the parties from all the various multi-ethnic parties in Macedonia, to seize this initiative for peace and to continue the dialogue and press forward negotiations.
The international community, of course, remains committed to this close engagement with the Macedonian Government at the highest levels to help them achieve a political solution.
QUESTION: I am sure you don't have this number right now, but if you could take the question of how many US employees are at the embassy?
MR. REEKER: I won't answer that question because, for security reasons, we don't give specifics on number.
QUESTION: Can you say how many left?
MR. REEKER: No.
QUESTION: Can you say how many Marines arrived?
MR. REEKER: I think I would have to send you to DOD for that.
QUESTION: On Macedonia again, there is information that displaced ethnic Macedonians from Tetovo villages will be escorted by EU, by OSCE monitoring missions and NATO to guarantee their safe return to their homes. Can you confirm that or add something?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I have the specifics on that. But I do know the cease-fire agreement that I just discussed calls for the return to their homes by everyone, particularly ethnic Macedonians who were pushed out of their homes and villages near Tetovo in the recent days in the fighting that took place there. We have certainly seen the press reports that ethnic Albanian armed groups had forced ethnic Macedonians to leave areas around Tetovo, and those reports we find deeply disturbing.
So under the terms of the cease-fire I just mentioned, the extremists are to withdraw from some of those villages and allow residents to return to their homes. And we will certainly be monitoring closely their compliance with that agreement.
QUESTION: And about the embassy. As you mentioned, announced -- the US Embassy in Macedonia announced that due to a lack of personnel, temporarily suspends all services in connection to visa issuing. So that means only for Macedonian citizens?
MR. REEKER: I don't follow your --
QUESTION: That means only for Macedonian citizens about the visa issuing?
MR. REEKER: Well, if they are not issuing visas, I don't think they would be issuing visas to any other citizens, Macedonians or others, from the embassy in Skopje. That public service is temporarily suspended.
MR. REEKER: But I'm sure if somebody has an emergency situation, they should contact the embassy.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
MR. REEKER: By normal methods.
QUESTION: Mr. Reeker, despite your recent strong statements for the opposite, NATO forces are still continuing to re-supply Albanian extremists up to the (inaudible) from Kosovo, all the way to Tetovo (inaudible). Are you in a position to give an explanation, since your government fully supports the NATO activities?
MR. REEKER: My explanation, Mr. Lambros, is that you are wrong. You are absolutely wrong. You and your reports that you are citing are absolutely wrong, and they are irresponsible. And perpetuating that type of irresponsible reporting is exactly the type of thing I am talking about. It is not necessary.
As I have said before, we do not support armed ethnic Albanian extremists. We don't support armed extremists of any type. There needs to be a peaceful solution to this process. And I am tired of hearing those types of irresponsible reports repeated. They have no basis in fact. They are absolutely wrong. And as I said yesterday, this is not the time for those types of ridiculous Balkan conspiracy theories. We do not support any sort of greater Albania, just as we did not support a greater Serbia or a greater Kosovo or a greater anything else. The only greater thing we support is greater peace and greater prosperity for all the people of Macedonia.
So I am not going to address those types of ridiculous stories anymore.
QUESTION: A follow-up. Harry Dinella, policy advisor of Western Policy Center, which is an American think-tank here in Washington, just returned from (inaudible) and circulated today a paper saying, inter alia, that nobody can defeat the Albanian rebels, the NLA is trying to unify Kosovo and (inaudible) with tactical victories, and NATO will send 3,000 troops and it would never fight the Albanian rebels.
How do you respond to this?
MR. REEKER: I don't even bother. I have talked about this at great length over a great period. You know what our positions are. You know what the international community is doing to try to support a peaceful dialogue to find a solution to the problems in Macedonia. The United States has been the greatest friend to Macedonia since its independence over a decade ago, and we will continue to support the legitimate political leaders in Macedonia as they find a solution out of this.
Let's move on.
QUESTION: One more on Macedonia. Is there a timeline for the cease- fire, when the disarmament of the rebels could begin? Has there been one --
MR. REEKER: I don't know that the cease-fire has ever had a timeline. It has always been an open-ended thing, because the importance is moving forward with the peace agreement. That is what is necessary. And once there is a peace agreement, as you know, NATO is standing by and ready to participate in the disarmament by the armed ethnic Albanian extremists, in terms of collecting and destroying those weapons.
So the important thing is that the cease-fire continue. Those breakouts and violence like we saw in the last couple of days only make it more difficult to pursue the political dialogue, and as President Trajkovski has said and certainly we have all said, the international community has been very strong in noting that there is only a peaceful solution to this problem.
Anything else? I don't know, Mr. Lambros. Go ahead. Another subject?
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. Ian Lesser, an analyst of Western Policy Center and of RAND Corporation --
MR. REEKER: You've got to get out more. You really have to --
QUESTION: No, no. It is very important for you. He circulated today a paper saying that the spread of ballistic missiles are targeting now the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus (inaudible), all the way to the Balkans, Western Europe, but more specifically, the Aegean Sea.
As the US Government, do you believe that such a possibility exists?
MR. REEKER: I think we have talked a lot about our concerns about missile proliferation. It is something we deal with in a lot of our bilateral and multilateral discussions around the world. It is something of concern to us. The existence, of course, of rogue states and states that may attempt to develop missile capability to threaten us is the reason that we are pursuing a missile defense system. And so that is something that we continue to watch. I don't have anything to talk about specifically on that report. But I do suggest you get out and read a broader array of material.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)