State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 6, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, August 6, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
NORTH KOREA / RUSSIA 1-2 Kim Jon Il's Visit to Moscow / Resumption of North/South Dialogue
ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS 2-5 U.S. Policy / Mitchell Report Recommendations
MIDDLE EAST 10 Monitoring the Egyptian Acquisition of Advanced Ballistic Missile Technology
SOUTH ASIA 5-6 Assistant Secretary Rocca's Travel
CHINA / PAKISTAN 5-9 Transfer of Missiles and Missile Technology Development
AFGHANISTAN 9-10 Arrest of AID workers
NORTHERN IRELAND 10 Statement by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
MACEDONIA 11-12 Political Talks / Agreement on Police Issue
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 111
MONDAY, AUGUST 6, 2001 12:35 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I would be glad to take your questions. Mr. Gedda?
QUESTION: Do you have any observations to make about Kim Jong Il's visit to Moscow?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the first thing to say is we have always welcomed the international engagement of North Korea with other nations, and in that context, we have watched this visit to Moscow -- to Russia -- with great interest. We do note with pleasure that the Russian President stressed to Chairman Kim the importance of making a visit to South Korea and resuming the North-South dialogue. I think that is an important factor that we have stressed.
As you remember, Chairman Kim agreed, following the historic June 2000 visit to Pyongyang by Kim Dae Jung, that Chairman Kim would reciprocate with a visit to South Korea this year, and we hope they will proceed with that, and this is one of the points the Secretary made when we were in Asia. He made it both in Seoul, but also to the people at ASEAN, including the North Korean representative there.
As for our own part, we are prepared to undertake serious discussions with the North Koreans without preconditions, as we have said repeatedly. So we will look forward to seeing what they say about that eventually.
QUESTION: The Secretary said that -- in Seoul, I think it was -- that the Russians could play a useful role -- possibly play a useful role in bringing North Korea back to talks with South Korea and with the United States. Did your pleasure at the statements made in Russia -- does that amount to you thinking that Russia has played a useful role?
And secondly, do you have -- have you had any feedback from the Russians on the meetings?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have had a debrief from the Russians yet on the meetings, and without knowing the complete details of the conversations, I don't know that I would characterize the Russian role in any particular way at this point. But one of the elements that we had encouraged them to do was to raise this issue of resuming the North-South dialogue. We are pleased to see that they did that, and we see that as something useful that they did.
QUESTION: Just to clarify. You said you encouraged them to raise this issue. Did you do it in just the public way, or were there private calls or something like that?
MR. BOUCHER: I would have to double-check on the private -- how we did it privately, whether we did it through our embassy or whether the Secretary raised it in one of his phone calls.
QUESTION: If it's a taken question, can we get what officials contacted what officials?
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe. Don't count on it.
QUESTION: Richard, can you say what the US is doing now on the Middle East? Is the US reevaluating its policy? Are you sending people out there? Has the Secretary had phone calls?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary had a number of discussions last week with Europeans, Arabs, others who are as interested as we are in implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations. He talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov on Friday. He talked to Mr. Solana a couple times last week about Macedonia and about the Middle East, and various other European foreign ministers.
We are consistently urging the parties to take the steps that can lead to the implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects. We have been active on the ground. Senior officials in the region, as well as senior officials here, have been continuing the contact with the parties. We are trying to reduce the violence. We are trying to get the parties to make an effort, to make the maximum effort, so that we can help them in moving the Mitchell process forward as soon as possible.
QUESTION: But is there anything else besides the steps you have taken that you are considering?
MR. BOUCHER: We are always considering what more we can do. We are always considering how to move this process forward. But we are always aware of the fact that it takes the parties. It takes the parties to make the decisions, it takes the parties to cooperate, to establish security that works for both of them, and that is the only way we are going to move the overall process forward, and that's the point we keep making and the points we keep trying to encourage.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that Arab states in the region do not see the US as an honest broker anymore in this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we are happy to let our actions speak for themselves, that we have worked what we think is with consistent direction. We have heard from other Arab states in the region that they support the Mitchell Committee recommendations, that they agree with us that that is the way to go, that they agree with us that that is the best way forward for both the parties. So I think we have a fair amount of consistency of views on that.
The issue of how to get the Mitchell process started is the one that is the problem right now, and we continue to work in that direction. I think it is recognized that we are doing that.
QUESTION: Getting the Mitchell process started -- at this point, does the State Department believe that it is time to pressure the Israelis to desist more from actions that could provoke, continue the cycle of violence in a way that, say, would be more forceful than what you have already said?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have been quite clear that the violence, especially in the last few days, is deeply troubling, that we have looked to both sides to not go down the path of escalation or retaliation, that we have looked to both sides to make maximum efforts. And I think we have made that quite clear, that there are things that both sides should be doing to get us into this process of implementation of Mitchell, to get the kind of quiet that people are looking for.
QUESTION: What is our assessment of what is happening? I mean, these are the things we would like them to do, but are we any further than we were before the Secretary's last trip, when we thought there was maybe a cease-fire?
MR. BOUCHER: The continuation of the violence is troubling, and the fact is, we are trying to get the violence to stop. We are trying to get the parties to take more steps. That doesn't change the direction, it doesn't change the necessity of doing it, it doesn't change the mechanisms that we have available for them to do it. But we have been very consistent and very active in trying to get this process started, and we will continue to be.
QUESTION: But do we see them doing it?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen them -- I think you have seen this sort of on-again-off-again cooperation. You have seen on-again-off-again steps. You have seen actions and retaliations take place that threaten to re-escalate the situation. Certainly we will continue to make every possible effort to decrease the violence and get on with Mitchell.
QUESTION: You have said from this podium numerous times, other officials from this building have said that you are against the practice of targeted killings by the Israelis. Late last week -- we didn't have a briefing on Friday, but I think it was Thursday -- the Vice President said that some of these targeted killings are justified.
So just -- is there a split between the White House and the State Department on whether this is an appropriate action, and what is the US policy on targeted killings?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Our policy remains the same. We are against targeted killings. There is no split between the White House and the State Department. I agree 100 percent with Ari Fleischer's briefing on Friday on this subject, and I will refer you to that.
QUESTION: Richard, Prime Minister Sharon has been here a couple of times. Would it be useful -- I know it's not the State Department that would extend an invitation -- but do you see it useful if Chairman Arafat also came to the United States for discussions?
MR. BOUCHER: We appreciate the suggestions. At this point, I don't think there is anything scheduled. You would have to check with the White House if something were to be scheduled.
QUESTION: Same topic. What is your understanding now of how Israel and Sharon stand on the possibility of US monitors?
MR. BOUCHER: I would leave it to them to describe where they stand. We haven't tried to speak on their behalf. Our position is the same, that third party monitoring could be useful as part of the implementation of Mitchell, but we are not at that stage yet. And it would have to be accepted by the parties.
QUESTION: We are not actively talking about sending them in anytime soon, since we don't have agreement with the parties?
MR. BOUCHER: What we have talked about is third party monitoring accepted by the parties in the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations. We are neither here nor there with that at this point.
QUESTION: Given this recent line on third party monitoring, that it could be useful but it would be a discussion for the, I guess, confidence-building negotiations, do you think that that may create a situation where there's a poison pill? Because the Israelis have been traditionally resistant to third party monitoring, and the Mitchell report itself says it is something that only could be discussed if both sides agreed.
By sort of changing the rhetoric with regard to that, do you think it might make it harder to get into actually those negotiations, which would cover a wider area of issues?
MR. BOUCHER: Interesting theory, Eli. If it had any foundation in fact, it would be even more interesting. The Mitchell Committee Report, as you emphasize, says that third party monitoring could be useful as part of its implementation. That is the position that we have stated all along, that is the position that was stated when Secretary Powell stood up next to Prime Minister Sharon and they discussed the subject several months ago. That is the position we took with the G-8. That is a position I have taken consistently at this podium from the beginning of the Administration, that the Secretary has taken consistently from the beginning of the Administration.
So, third party monitoring accepted by the parties, and then when Mitchell came along we said as part of Mitchell implementation. It just rolls off the tongue together, because that is the way we have always said it.
QUESTION: Anything about the Chinese missile technology transfers?
MR. BOUCHER: These guys want to change the subject first. So we will go back.
QUESTION: Are you still calling it a cease-fire?
MR. BOUCHER: Calling what a cease-fire?
QUESTION: In the Israeli-Palestinian --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we ever actually tried to characterize it that much. We are certainly looking for -- we are looking for the cessation of violence, which is what Mitchell asked for, and we have been trying to work for that. We have been looking for calm, we have been looking for quiet. And that is what we are still trying to work towards.
QUESTION: Do you think what is going on right now constitutes a cease- fire?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the parties have called it a cease-fire, but there has been shooting. So you can either look at it by what they say or what they do. But in the end, what really matters is whether people are getting shot, whether people are getting hurt, whether people are getting killed. And we are quite aware of the fact that people are getting shot, hurt and killed, and we want it to stop and we keep working to try to stop it.
QUESTION: Just for the record on the Middle East, am I correct that you have never gotten to day one of the seven-day quiet period?
MR. BOUCHER: We have never tried to count, tried to express any particular number of days. We have had periods when it was quieter; we have had periods when it was not quiet. And for the moment, we are not in a position to say how many days.
QUESTION: The Secretary just came back from China and Ms. Christina Rocca was in Pakistan. One, on her visit -- if you have anything -- to South Asia. She skipped Bangladesh. But also, at the same time, China is still selling missiles and other military equipment to Pakistan. And the same question I asked you last year, then again earlier this year, and again today. And the CIA is saying the same thing, that they had been selling the weapons and missile technology to Pakistan and you said that "we are watching." Now, what are you doing now? Don't you think it's time to punish China and Pakistan because of violation of the US agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let's try to dissect all this. On Assistant Secretary Rocca's visit, I'm afraid I don't have anything new for you. She made a number of stops in the region. Obviously, it is not possible to go everywhere on every trip. We have been working, we think, positively in Bangladesh and will continue to do that.
On the issue of Chinese transfers of missiles, I am not in a position - - because of the kind of information we have -- I am not in a position to tell you about any specific transfers or any specific countries or any specific companies. What I can tell you is that we have been watching very closely the issue of Chinese missile transfers. We reached agreement with the Chinese in November of 2000 that they would not assist any country in any way with missiles and missile technology development. We expect the Chinese to abide by that agreement. We intend to do our part of that agreement if we know that the Chinese are doing their part.
And so we have had a number of discussions with the Chinese over time about specific transactions, about the kind of "mixed results" -- was the phrase the Secretary used -- in terms of that agreement, and we will continue to do that. When the Secretary was in Beijing, we announced that we would be holding experts' talks with the Chinese on the topic of missile transfers and proliferation in general, and we will be doing that. We have not set a date yet, but we expect to do that in the near future.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, the missile technology, military technology to Pakistan, increased, as well as the shellings on the Indo-Pak borders, after the India-Pakistan summit talks failed. And it looks like some people think Pakistan may be preparing a war against India. So, I mean, any comments on this, that because of Chinese interest?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not going to create some grand theory of the universe at this point. I think that we follow developments in the region carefully, we work closely with the countries of the region. And certainly we are not in any position to ascribe to theories such as you might have.
QUESTION: Would you distinguish between the Chinese government and Chinese firms? In the past, the State Department has spoken of Chinese firms doing things wrong. In a sense, to be candid with you, it sort of stretches credibility that in a regime like that, that Chinese companies have any real freedom to do what they want, so far as selling technology. But forget the obiter dictum.
MR. BOUCHER: I will.
QUESTION: Okay, when you say "mixed results" -- I want to cover a lot of ground here, and I can do it in one question or three -- mixed results, are the results mixed so far as Pakistan is concerned, or are you speaking generically?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't said anything about any specific country.
QUESTION: Fine. And when you say the Chinese mixed results, is the Chinese Government keeping its word but Chinese firms are not? Whose results are mixed?
MR. BOUCHER: Mixed results in terms of China's implementation of the agreement. The agreement was that the Chinese Government would keep Chinese terms and entities from selling certain things. And our view is that the results on that pledge have been mixed.
QUESTION: Currently mixed? The Secretary was there just a couple of weeks ago, but still mixed?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't get into any particular timing. But we are dealing with the situation since last November.
QUESTION: And would you like to address, as we all are in a way, The Washington Times' report?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Would you say it's wrong?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not -- even by saying right or wrong -- going to get into any questions of specific countries, companies or timing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: I can't do that because of the way we get our information and the type of information we have.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and what really happens to the agreement is not abided by? It's a bit obvious from the missile sales that the agreement is not being fully implemented or whatever. And what happens? Are there any sanctions involved in this?
MR. BOUCHER: The laws involved have sanctions against entities that engaged in certain transfers. That is certainly not our preferred course, although we would certainly follow US law if it came to that. But first and foremost, what we want to see is the Chinese abide by this agreement and implement their new system of controls effectively. They told us when we were in Beijing that they were serious about doing that, that they were engaged in the process of establishing a new system of export controls, and we look forward to experts' talks with the Chinese to clarify that and to work on this issue.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? Is there a difference in the way in which the Bush Administration approaches the way a determination is made, whether China -- Chinese firms are involved in selling missile and missile components to Pakistan, or for that matter in any other country?
MR. BOUCHER: The law is the law. We follow the law, and that has not changed. So I don't think there is any difference in the way the process proceeds in that regard. What we are trying to do here is to work with the Chinese to get full implementation of an agreement that would stop the Chinese. The Chinese would stop sales and assistance to missile programs in other governments, in other countries. That is an important policy goal. That is something that we think the Chinese have an interest in; it is something we think we have an interest in. So the goal is to get a better, firmer international regime that prevents missile transfers.
QUESTION: Can you just say, Richard, if China is selling missile technology to Pakistan under the table or not?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't say.
QUESTION: When Secretary Powell says the record is mixed, that would certainly imply that they are doing some things, that China has done some things that are in the direction of the November 2000 agreement. Can you give us an idea as to what, in fact, they have done that would show good-faith effort to implement it?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it is really more for the Chinese to describe their efforts. What they told us about were efforts to put in place missile controls, an export control system, efforts to inform the companies of their requirements, things like that. But it is up to them, really, to describe it.
We look forward to expert talks where we can get together with the Chinese, hear from them what they have done, hear from them what they are doing, and hear from them about some of the specific transactions that have caused concern.
QUESTION: What do you mean by "efforts"? Does that mean the intention to, or have they actually put things on paper?
MR. BOUCHER: "Efforts" means doing things, doing things to put in place a system of export controls.
QUESTION: When do you expect the expert talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Is the reason you haven't agreed a date yet for expert talks because you are waiting for more concrete progress on missile export controls?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Why haven't you agreed a date then?
MR. BOUCHER: Because we just -- it was, what, a week or 10 days ago when we left China and we just haven't set up a date yet.
QUESTION: In these expert talks, do you plan on sharing information that the Chinese Foreign Ministry or the Chinese Government may not have about some of these corporations, similar to our assistance to the Russian Government with regards to, I guess, shipments to Iran? And have they been helpful in earlier assistance from the United States in this regard?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: There is a report in a newspaper about companies -- about Chinese companies -- that you are not going to comment on. But has the Chinese Government, when you've brought this up -- or not this particular issue. Have they been helpful in terms of, have they been interested in checking these sorts of things out? Is it possible that the government may not know about what other entities within China defense industry is doing?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to speculate on what particular entities of the Chinese Government may know about particular entities within the Chinese apparatus. We look forward to experts' talks. We are going to hear from them about what they are doing to put in place a system of controls, and where we can hear from them about some of the specific transactions that have caused concern.
QUESTION: In Afghanistan, can you say anything about some aid workers that were arrested for preaching Christianity and any Americans that are involved with this?
MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you what we know so far, which is mostly from the group that these people work for. We have seen the reports in the media and elsewhere that the Taliban arrested 24 Afghan and foreign workers from the Shelter Now Assistance organization on charges of proselytizing. The Taliban say the detainees are well but have not allowed anyone to contact them.
We have been in touch with Taliban officials in Islamabad about this reported arrest of Americans. The Taliban officials in Islamabad tell us they have queried the Taliban in Kabul, but so far we haven't received any information, nor have they. We have also been in touch with Shelter Now. We have been able to confirm from them that two US citizens are, in fact, among the individuals arrested. We will continue our efforts to obtain information about the welfare of these Americans.
We can't provide you with any more information because of Privacy Act considerations. But I would say that we are working to try to secure a swift resolution of these issues.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? Is the -- Taliban officials in Islamabad, is that your primary way of communicating with the Taliban? And do you see any hindrance from the fact that you have closed the Taliban offices here, that it's more difficult to get messages to and from Kabul?
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a number of ways of communicating with the Taliban when we felt it appropriate, necessary. The channel in Islamabad has been one of the ones that we have used most frequently, and it seems to be a good place to pass such messages, so I wouldn't draw any conclusions about communications. I think we are able to communicate. The question is what we hear back and what we are able to achieve in this case regarding the welfare of these American citizens.
QUESTION: Richard, do you care to comment on the arrests? I believe that this charge in Afghanistan carries a potential death sentence. How concerned is the US Government that these Americans might be facing a death penalty?
MR. BOUCHER: I can't speculate on that at this point. We are certainly concerned about their welfare and we will be doing everything we can to see to their welfare.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the IRA statement, and do you think it is time for David Trimble to return to government?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we welcome the statement that was made by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. We do see this as a significant step toward the Good Friday Agreement's agreed goal of putting paramilitary weapons completely and verifiably beyond use. We look forward to further progress on this issue, along with other issues in implementing the Good Friday agreement. We urge all parties to consider the Commission's statement carefully, as they review the proposals put forward by the British and Irish governments last week. I will stop with that.
QUESTION: And the second half of my question?
MR. BOUCHER: We urge everybody to consider the statement carefully as they decide how to respond. That is about as far as I want to go.
QUESTION: New topic? The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday that the United States was working on a new mechanism to monitor the Egyptian acquisition of advanced ballistic missile technology, with regards to recent concerns about North Korean cooperation with the Egyptians on this. Can you verify the report or tell us anything about it?
MR. BOUCHER: I will look into it and see what I can say.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the US Navy rescuing Iraqi smugglers in the Persian Gulf?
MR. BOUCHER: No, but I think the Navy would.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: How close is the actual signing of the political agreement in Macedonia? Any comment from this stage on the progress made in Ohrid?
MR. BOUCHER: How close are we to actually signing a political agreement? I would hesitate to predict. We would hope it would be soon. We would hope the parties can come rapidly to closure on these issues.
We do think that yesterday's agreement on the police issue is a significant step forward. It is one of many complicated and sensitive issues on which the parties have indeed been able to compromise. So we welcome the visit yesterday by the European High Representative Solana. We are out there with the European Envoy Leotard and Ambassador Pardew, who are deeply engaged in this process. And we hope that they can reach closure on this soon. But exactly when, we don't know, but we are following this and working it very intensively.
QUESTION: There were some more reports today that now the Macedonians are asking for new demands after the agreement was already reached, and some diplomats in the region are voicing concern about this. Are you confident that the Macedonians are negotiating in good faith?
MR. BOUCHER: I think there have been demands, charges and counter- charges throughout this process, but we have seen the parties, including the Macedonian Government, work constructively in this process. We've seen them be able to reach agreements based on compromise on some very important issues, and we think that will continue.
QUESTION: My question is in a similar vein but, in fact, Ambassador Pardew's comment on this development was that he was shocked. And I wondered if you were in a position to expand in any way on that.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the comment was about one particular statement, that somehow NATO should deploy before the political arrangement. And indeed, as Ambassador Pardew I think said, the understanding has always been that when there was a general political agreement, which is what we are working towards, that NATO would deploy in support of this and carry out the action of voluntary disarmament by the ethnic Albanian insurgents. That remains the NATO plan and we are not changing it.
QUESTION: Richard, what is the State Department's position on the new proposal from the Democrats in the Congress that every illegal person in this country, not only Mexicans, should be given permanent status; or whatever Mexicans will get, everybody should get the same treatment, no matter where they come from? But President Bush has proposed only for the Mexicans.
MR. BOUCHER: President Bush hasn't made his proposal, so I am not yet in a position to explain what the implications might be for others in this country in addition to Mexicans. We will be meeting with the Mexicans this week and talking more about immigration matters with them. And perhaps we will have a little more to say at that time. But I think, overall, I would caution you against jumping to conclusions at this stage.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)