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State Dept. Briefing - Russia, Timor, Pakistan (1)


Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

CHINA 1 $500,000 US Flood Assistance to Aid Relief Efforts in China

INDIA/PAKISTAN 1-3 Downed Pakistani Plane/Diplomatic Contacts Regarding Incident 4-7 Travel Warning to Pakistan/Security Concerns/Threats to Americans

NORTH KOREA 7-9 Conclusion of Four Party Talks in Geneva 7-8 Ambassador Kartman's Meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan 16 Dr. Perry's Report/Proposals

BANGLADESH 9 Agreement on Commercial Transit

INDONESIA 9-12 Reported US Plan to Deploy 15,000 Troops in East Timor

COLOMBIA 12-13 Secretary Albright's Editorial on Colombia / Need for Regional Cooperation

VENEZUELA 13-14 Under Secretary Pickering's Trip to Venezuela/Agenda

CHINA/TAIWAN 14 Taiwan Strait Situation/ Military Sorties by China and Taiwan 14-15 Congressional Delegation Travel to Taiwan

RUSSIA 15-16 Situation in Dagestan


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing on this Tuesday. We have posted a statement earlier today about the $500,000 of assistance we are providing to China to aid in relief efforts following recent flooding; that statement was posted earlier today. With that point, let me go to your questions.

QUESTION: What do you have on the latest on the conflict between India and Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: We have seen a number of reports that a Pakistani naval reconnaissance aircraft flew over Indian territory near the Arabian Sea and was shot down. We have asked our embassies to work to try to ascertain the facts in this situation and to look into it.

I can say that such incidents, regardless of the precise details of how it occurred, illustrate the continued high state of tension between India and Pakistan; the need for the two countries to resolve their difference through dialogue. We certainly hope that with respect to this incident, the appropriate officials are in contact from the two governments so that restraint can be the order of the day.

QUESTION: There are reports that in the Kargil sector, Pakistan is still hoping to -- (inaudible). That situation has not resolved itself. And also, the Prime Minister of India requests specifically that before we can enter dialogue, Pakistan has got to dismantle the structure of terrorism in Pakistan -- (inaudible) - and arm the militants, send them across the border. Almost every day now people have been killed by the militants sent from across the border. How do you expect a dialogue to take place under these circumstances?

MR. RUBIN: We do believe that a dialogue should take place; we believe that very strongly. We believe that the only way to resolve issues between India and Pakistan is through dialogue. We believe that the commitments made by Prime Minister Sharif have been met with respect to the Kargil situation. We do not believe that the Kashmir situation in general has been resolved. You're describing reasons why that is true, and we agree that the situation hasn't been resolved.

But we believe that the best way to resolve these problems between India and Pakistan - a whole host of problems -- including the Kashmir problem - is for the two sides to talk to each other pursuant to the Lahore process that began some months ago.

QUESTION: Is there a role for the US to play in helping this situation not to escalate further? Has the Secretary of State been on the phone at all with her counterparts and does she plan such a phone call?

MR. RUBIN: No, not at this time. Right now the appropriate thing to do is to get the facts, and we don't have all the facts. We certainly, in talking to both India and Pakistan through our embassies, which we believe at this point is the right level to deal with this situation, will be urging restraint and urging the two parties to talk to each other.

More broadly, we have said that we want to be helpful where we can be helpful and where both parties want us to be helpful. We think we were quite helpful in the most recent situation, with respect to Kargil. Clearly, the United States played a critical role in ensuring that the situation didn't spin out of control. But each situation is different; and for now, with respect to this reported shoot-down, we think the first step is to get the facts.

QUESTION: When you have the facts, will the State Department consider it wise or will the State Department, in a practical sense, announce the facts it has found, or would you consider that something that might hurt an attempt to do some quiet mediation? I mean, there's a dispute -- did the plane intrude into Indian airspace or not? Now, you folks still don't know, hours after the plane was shot down, presumably. But if you did know, would you tell everybody, would you say something publicly, which would be a way of coming down on one side or the other?

MR. RUBIN: Well, sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. It depends on the circumstances; it depends on the situation. We will act commensurate with what we believe to be the best way to promote our national security by avoiding escalation of tensions in the region. Every situation is different.

QUESTION: On that point, does the US Government have any means of knowing now which side of the border the plane was when it was shot down?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not in a position to describe for you our intelligence methods and capabilities around the world in any specific case. That's never been my practice. If you would like to know what our means are to know things like that, I'd suggest you address that question to the appropriate authorities in other agencies.

QUESTION: No, the question wouldn't go to - we don't have to ask. To answer the question, you don't have to disclose --

MR. RUBIN: If I say that we're seeking the facts, usually that means we don't have the facts. If we had the facts, we wouldn't be seeking the facts.

QUESTION: If a Pakistan plane intruded into India airspace, the US Government could say that, couldn't it, if it found that to be so, without revealing any secret methods of detecting things?

MR. RUBIN: That wasn't the question.

QUESTION: I think that was the question.

MR. RUBIN: The question was whether we knew --

QUESTION: No, the question was (inaudible) precisely, does the United States have the capability of knowing?

MR. RUBIN: So in defense of your defense of your colleague, your colleague was asking precisely the question that I was reluctant to answer.

QUESTION: I would think eyeballs are sufficient capability to know if a plane intrudes --

MR. RUBIN: Well, assuming you have human beings all over India and Pakistan to know everything in real time.

QUESTION: I'm not thinking about secret codes. I mean, if Pakistan intruded into India airspace, I would hope that the US Government has the wherewithal to know that and would have the courage to say so, without revealing any state secrets.

MR. RUBIN: Your hope may exceed the capabilities of any technical ability to know everything at all times. The idea that the United States or anybody would be guaranteed and confident that it would know where any aircraft is at any given time is not borne out by the technical capabilities that exist in this world.

QUESTION: When you say you're still waiting for the facts, surely you accept the fact that the plane has been shot down, yes?

MR. RUBIN: There are different accounts that have been put forward by some. I've seen reports that suggested it wasn't shot down.

QUESTION: A plane is down.

MR. RUBIN: A plane is down. We have no reason to dispute that.

QUESTION: Apart from trying to ascertain the facts, have you already urged restraint in any way, through any channels? Have you called the ambassadors here, for example?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe there has been anything done here. I believe at this point, right now the best way to deal with it is - it's late, but we are talking to the parties in India and in Pakistan, trying to ascertain the facts. In ascertaining the facts, the message that we will be sending - and probably have sent by now - is to urge restraint because we don't want to see the situation grow and we want the two sides to resolve their differences through dialogue.

QUESTION: Can we put a couple of questions on the travel warning, which I hope you've seen, just distributed a few minutes ago?

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Several things - it speaks of gathering growing information that terrorists may strike at US interests in Pakistan. Could interests be elaborated at all - people, buildings, embassy; or is it as vague as that - that the threats -- (inaudible) --

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say what is new about the travel warning first, before we go try to examine and analyze the normal language that's in this travel warning. What's new about the travel warning is that our embassy in Islamabad decided to defer all official travel to the tribal areas of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, areas which lie outside the normal jurisdiction of the Government of Pakistan. These are areas under Pakistani law that are governed by local, traditional, tribal authorities not by the national government. We've decided to defer official travel to those areas. That is what is new about it.

It is not related to the latest incidence, and either the false report about what was going on in Qatar yesterday, or the suggestion or the events of today with regard to the plane.

As you know, in recent days, certain leaders of radical Islamic political parties and factions in Pakistan have made speeches praising Usama Bin Laden and threatening Americans because of our case against Bin Laden. Most recently, the head of the Jumiat Ulema-I- Islam Party renewed such threats following a meeting with a US Embassy official. We take such threats seriously - this was just last week - and asked for the meeting to raise our concerns about irresponsible remarks by him and others that can heighten the danger to Americans in Pakistan. We try to make these judgments as best we can and be as vigilant as possible with respect to security and safety.

With respect to how to define the word "interests," American interests can be broadly defined. They could be property; they could be the interests of commercial businesses associated with the United States; they could be official Americans. It depends on how the wide the terrorist wants to define it. We've seen cases around the world where to kill private Americans is somehow deemed to - or non-official Americans or just plain old Americans - has deemed to be, illogically, some benefit to somebody.

QUESTION: One more thing. You pointed out what's new about this, but this sentence is written in the present tense and the word "growing" is used. It says, "US Government continues to receive a growing body of information." A statement dated August 10 that says that - to give words their normal meaning - means that you have more information now than you had yesterday or maybe a week ago or the last time a travel warning was issued. So there is continual accumulating evidence. You also say flatly in this - the State Department says -- that Usama Bin Laden is in Afghanistan. There's no reported, believed to be; you know he's there.

MR. RUBIN: I think Mr. Sheehan confirmed that at this very podium about a week ago.

QUESTION: So is there material - given this growing information, is there cause --

MR. RUBIN: I should say Ambassador Sheehan confirmed that about a week ago.

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MR. RUBIN: Newly confirmed.

QUESTION: So taking all that into account, is there cause for action now by the US Government? If you know this and you know where he is, what do you do? Do you wait for him to hit, or do you have a basis for going after him?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think that it would of help to our policy to bring to justice Usama Bin Laden and the others responsible for the embassy bombings to speculate in public about what we will do or won't do, or when we will or won't do anything. Usama Bin Laden and the others indicted should know that this country will not rest until they are brought to justice; and the less they sleep knowing that, the better I feel.

QUESTION: Specifically the threat that's caused the embassy to defer travel to the Northwest Frontier - is that related to Bin Laden or is that something separate?

MR. RUBIN: What I'm prepared to say - for the purposes of you all understanding today's events - is that this travel warning bears no relation to the plane being shot down -- let me tell you what I can say and then what I can't say -- the plane being shot down; the false report yesterday about American soldiers arriving in Qatar. What I cannot say is - or was it Oman? A report by Qatar TV - zero, which had that false report.

What I can say is that this travel warning does not relate to that. What I cannot say is to parse for you the reasons and the rationales for every single security decision that is made by our embassy and our Diplomatic Security officials. I will not be in a position, as a matter of practice, to describe for you a particular group's threats and the particular effects it has as a matter of policy. That is something our security people do not want me to do.

QUESTION: I don't understand why this is such a difficult question for you to answer. I mean, it --

QUESTION: Can I put it another way? Has something changed in the tribal areas of the Northwest Frontier Province in the last week? I mean, these areas have always been rather unruly.

MR. RUBIN: Right, and so one has to make judgment calls. The security business is not a perfect business. One doesn't have perfect knowledge and one doesn't have perfect defense against knowledge that one has. So one makes judgments.

Based on recent threats against US citizens in Pakistan, including the one I just read to you, by particular political leaders praising Usama Bin Laden's threats against Americans - including those - we have made a judgment. The judgment is that these particular places we will not send official travel to.

It doesn't necessarily mean that there is a person in those places who has threatened us. It may mean that in those places, it is harder to secure official Americans because there is not Pakistani authority there. So making these connections that you often - I understand how you have to make because you're trying to figure out how to write the sentence - is very different from those of us who are trying to protect our people.

QUESTION: Jamie, these various hard-line Islamic groups that have been now issuing these recent threats, is it due to new - can you explain why it is, because we've been building a case against UBL for some months now, why it is that we believe they're heightening their attacks against US officials - excuse me, Americans - now?

MR. RUBIN: I can't answer that. It's beyond us to understand the logic of anyone threatening terrorism to kill innocent Americans. We are careful to observe what it is that they're doing; to listen carefully to those who would pose threats to Americans or support those who would and we respond as appropriate. As far as devining their evil reasons for threatening innocent civilians through terrorism, I don't have any ability to do that.

If the question is are we doing something that is making them more or less concerned, let me say to you as I did in response to Barry, which is this government will not rest until Usama Bin Laden and the people connected with him are brought to justice. We are determined to see that happen. But as far as being more specific about that, we think that would be a mistake.

QUESTION: How large an organization is this? How many people are we talking about that would be threatening US citizens?

MR. RUBIN: The political party is a radical Islamic political party that has made a political statement praising Usama Bin Laden and threatening Americans because of our case against Bin Laden.

What we're concerned about in a case like that - not that this party may be a large or a small party or may or not have followers who are armed and dangerous -- but that they will feed the idea that this a good thing to do rather than an evil thing to do, which is what it is. So we don't have a new amount of people joining some battle. This is a phony battle; there is no battle between Islam and the United States. There is an attempt by a very small but very determined group of evil men to kill innocent Americans and innocent Kenyans and innocent Tanzanians through mass murder through the bombing of these two embassies and other activities. That's what I can say about it.

QUESTION: Just one other thing. Is this group called the Harakat ul-Ansar? Is that the same?

MR. RUBIN: This group is --

QUESTION: Or previously known as?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know what they were previously known as and --

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if they're the same group that's upset about the fact that Pakistan or at least --

MR. RUBIN: I'll check the genealogy of their current name; but as I understand it the current name is Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam.

QUESTION: Change of subject? The Four Party Talks in Geneva have come to an end. Can you say anything beyond the rather terse material that came out of Geneva earlier today?

MR. RUBIN: With respect to the Four Party Talks, let me say that we, along with the other participants, worked very hard to put the mechanisms of the two subcommittees in place so that substantive work on the goals of tension reduction on the Korean Peninsula and replacing the Armistice with a peace regime could begin in earnest.

We had hoped to see some concrete result of that hard work. We note that a number of substantive issues were discussed in depth and that some of the delegations made very constructive proposals, including several concrete ideas in the area of tension reductions. We were encouraged by that and by the willingness of some of the delegations to table concrete ideas for a new peace regime.

We were disappointed that we were not able to achieve a consensus on any of the concrete proposals at this round. We remain committed to seek concrete first steps that could be taken to reduce tensions on the peninsula. The Four Party process, in our view, is a long-term one and we know it will take more hard work to accomplish its goals.

On the margins of that meeting, we did have another meeting with - between Ambassador Kartman and his North Korean counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Guan, last night after the close of the talks. This was the third such bilateral meeting on the margins of the Four Party Talks. Ambassador Kartman had a good exchange with Vice Foreign Minister Kim. We use these meetings to continue our discussions on the many issues we discuss with North Korea. We continue to use such encounters to stress to North Korea the advantages of taking steps to improve its relations with the United States and the international community based on the ideas discussed by former Secretary Perry in his trip to North Korea.

We also use these meetings to reiterate the concerns we have raised on many occasions about another long range missile launch. We hope to continue our dialogue with North Korea on this and other subjects in the coming weeks. We have not established a schedule for that, but we hope to be able to have such talks.

QUESTION: You didn't quite say that you reiterated your concern at yesterday's meeting; can you say that?

MR. RUBIN: We did reiterate in the last set of these three meetings our concern about a long range missile launch. We do have such concern and we regularly reiterate that concern in each of the meetings that we have with North Korea.

QUESTION: Including yesterday's meetings?

MR. RUBIN: Including yesterday's meetings.

QUESTION: And can you say whether the North Koreans - Mr. Kim - made a new response to this -- (inaudible) --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I would prefer not to publicly discuss their reaction; that will be up to them. This is a process. We hope to schedule missile talks soon to further discuss this issue.

QUESTION: Can we conclude that the party which was not particularly constructive and didn't make particularly constructive suggestions is North Korea? Would you dispute a story that said that?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think I'd come down too hard on that.

QUESTION: So basically, then, you cannot convey any read-out as to whether we are happier after these Four Party Talks and these on-the-margin talks about the Korean missile program, or we have not changed our mood, or we are less happy; or can you say?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I usually don't, in the foreign policy business, ever get happy. We have concerns that we resolve and then we work on new concerns and try to resolve them. So there's rarely a day I can remember of ever being happy here at the podium.


QUESTION: You seem to be at the moment. Substitute progress toward resolution, if we're having any.

MR. RUBIN: When and if we are ready to talk about progress on the missile issue, we will do so. For now I have said that what we did in these meetings was stress the benefits to North Korea of a regime in which they foreswear further testing and we improve our relationships, as opposed to a situation where a further test occurs with the consequences we have previously described.

QUESTION: Let me try that a slightly different way. You said that in the Four Party Talks, you were encouraged by some parties' willingness to come forward with these concrete proposals. Can you say, was there anything to be encouraged about after the bilat, or do you prefer to leave it just exactly as what --

MR. RUBIN: I prefer to leave it exactly as I left it.

QUESTION: No reason for encouragement.

QUESTION: Two out of four?

QUESTION: Jamie, a question on Bangladesh. The recent happenings of road transit that the Bangladesh Government has accepted for India raised some very serious questions both inside and outside parliament -- in the Bangladesh Parliament. What is the United States' policy as far as this situation, which is quite unique by its own situation and which may even lead further to another tension - not in the foreseeable future - but definitely in the future, because the people are getting really restless about this move by their government to India at a situation when already the South Asia is almost in an explosive situation with Kashmir?

MR. RUBIN: I think we have some views on that that I would be in a position to share with you after the briefing, but I will get those to you as soon as practicable.

QUESTION: Maybe I've missed something; I've been away for awhile. I thought you gave the impression these two subcommittees have never actually met because they can't agree on the parameters for the arrangements; is that right? I thought they met some time ago.

MR. RUBIN: No, what I said was they discussed some issues in depth. Some of the delegations made constructive proposals, but we didn't achieve consensus in the subcommittees.

QUESTION: On the subcommittees?

MR. RUBIN: Let me just check that; that's my best understanding of that. Yes, we didn't achieve a consensus on any of the concrete proposals for tension reduction that were put forward.

QUESTION: You don't want to talk about what the tension reduction proposals were?

MR. RUBIN: Not at this time.

In response to your question, we understand that the Government of Bangladesh has agreed in principle to commercial transit of Indian goods through Bangladesh. We support actions by the two countries to improve the well-being of their people through greater regional economic cooperation. We certainly do not question the right of sovereign governments to negotiate bilateral agreements.

QUESTION: In view of the State Department denials this morning concerning the discussions to deploy 15,000 troops in East Timor following the independence vote there, does the State Department believe that the current UN police and military liaison force, which is due to be put in place after the August 31 independence vote, will be large enough and sufficiently armed to prevent widespread violence after that vote? And number two, does the US have any options if widespread violence does break out after that vote and the UN force is overwhelmed?

MR. RUBIN: Right. First of all, let me say that the report that the United States plans to send a force of 15,000 Marines to East Timor is false; it is simply wrong. Somebody got their facts mixed up.

The United States is working closely with the UN mission in East Timor and with other interested parties, including the Government of Indonesia, to support a free and fair consultation in East Timor on August 30. Any decision to send additional UN personnel to Indonesia either before or after August 30 will be made by the Security Council in consultation with the interested parties, including the Government of Indonesia. We would be willing to consider participation in further UN activities in East Timor in support of this process, but we are not considering US action outside of the UN context. So any suggestion that we have some massive plan along these lines is a crossing of wires by well-intentioned people who made a mistake.

QUESTION: The Australian Foreign Minister has, however, confirmed in the parliament that there were discussions between senior US military personnel in Hawaii and Australian military officials about this force. Was the State Department never informed?

MR. RUBIN: No, that's not what he said. I was just told this morning that he specifically denied that he had ever heard anything like that.

QUESTION: No, he went in the parliament late last night and reversed that position and stated that he was aware of these discussions between US forces and Australian forces.

MR. RUBIN: Right, I don't know how many different ways I can say it. We, the United States, did not and do not have a plan to send 15,000 Marines to East Timor. That's wrong.

QUESTION: Was this discussed, however; was this discussed?

MR. RUBIN: Wrong - and we don't have a plan and we didn't discuss a plan to send 15,000 troops to East Timor as part of the UN operation to provide security for East Timor or any other part. You can keep parsing it and keep thinking you've found the pot of gold, but you will end up empty-handed.

QUESTION: Concerning Secretary Albright's op-ed on Colombia? Two questions - one --

MR. RUBIN: You want to - you're enjoying this too much to let it go, right?

QUESTION: Exactly - no, no. You seem to be very specific on the no plan to send 15,000 troops. Are you planning to send any number of troops?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to answer that.

QUESTION: That's not an answer.

MR. RUBIN: The military of our country has plans to do everything; that's what their job is -- to have plans. I am not going to be in a position to comment on anybody's hypothetical plan that the US military has.

The reports coming out in the Australian press are false. The United States is not considering to deploy 15,000 troops to bring peace to East Timor. I don't know how many different ways we can say it.

QUESTION: The reports didn't say they were going to deploy the forces. What they said was that there was discussions between senior US military personnel in Hawaii and --

MR. RUBIN: About deploying 15,000 troops to make peace.

QUESTION: -- about an option, about an option.

MR. RUBIN: We're not considering that. It's wrong; we're not considering it. We don't have a plan, we don't have a option to send 15,000 troops to bring peace to East Timor. A mistake was made; a garbled translation must've occurred. The game of telephone can be very complicated and people should be more careful before they print wrong stories.

QUESTION: Clarification on this lady's point. She says that it was revealed by the Prime Minister of Australia that US military planners met with Australian military planners in Hawaii and discussed East Timor. Is that accurate?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know; you'd have to check at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Okay, you don't know if that's accurate?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. But everybody should know planners plan; planners meet; options always exist, plans always exist. What happens - our military would be making a mistake, as a global power, if it didn't have numerous contingency plans for a whole panoply of situations all over the world. What happens is somebody finds out that a contingency plan exists and then they think that that is consideration.

Contingency plans are supposed to exist. They do exist. I'm not saying that a contingency plan exists along the lines that you're just describing. I see you're writing what I'm saying so you must be misunderstanding me.


What I'm saying is that there are contingency --

QUESTION: Is completely useless.


(See Next Story For Continuation...)

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