Press Briefing at Thurmont Elementary School
Released by the Office of the Spokesman
Thurmont, Maryland, July 12, 2000
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Let's see. First thing, I'm not in a position to deal with any Middle Eastern issues, anything involving the talks, so anybody who boarded the wrong airplane, this is your chance to deplane. This plane ain't going to the Middle East.
All right. We're as ready as we are. I'm just going to mention Phil is putting out a statement on the Pakistan sea turtle conservation and shrimp import quota. I can read you every word slowly if you'd like.
QUESTION: Richard, how about Peru?
MR. BOUCHER: How about Peru.
QUESTION: Senator Coverdale has introduced legislation to affect foreign aid to Peru based on their lack of movement toward democracy. You've got wire reports from Mr. Schweid today, he is not moving forward very quickly toward his promises of democracy.
QUESTION: Did he promise?
QUESTION: He promises to take steps.
QUESTION: Promised to consider them.
QUESTION: Anyway, more of the focus on the Coverdell legislation.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a position for you on the Coverdell legislation, per se. I do want to say that the Peruvian Government did agree to a dialogue and our position continues to be one of urging all the parties in Peru in the political process to work cooperatively on a dialogue about reform. We are pleased to note there has been the appointment of a Dominican Foreign Minister, Eduardo Latorre on July 11, as the permanent secretary to the OAS mission in Peru. And he is going to oversee the process of dialogue and reform. He is a distinguished expert on international affairs. We look forward to his contributions.
QUESTION: So are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the case?
MR. BOUCHER: We are continuing to press for a dialogue and we think this is the chance to have it.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have anything on the talks breaking down in Malaysia --
QUESTION: Breaking down is not a word we use.
QUESTION: They've demanded a billion dollars. Unless you guys are prepared to give it, I would call that a breakdown.
QUESTION: Would you characterize it as ballistic blackmail?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I think it's important to make very clear that we think the North Koreans should not be compensated for agreeing to stop conducting activities that they shouldn't be conducting in the first place. Our long-standing policy that stems from the Agreed Framework of 1994 as well as the Perry Report, has been that we are prepared to pursue a step by step improvement in our relations with North Korea towards full economic and political normalization. Naturally, in that process, there would be some tangible benefits for North Korea. But we are prepared to discuss this kind of normalization only in the context of North Korea addressing issues that are of concern to the United States.
One of the issues of critical concern to the United States is North Korea's missile activities. So as North Korea addresses these concerns and deals with the missile question, we're prepared to continue along the path of normalization. And, as I said, that will in the process involve benefits to North Korea. But we are not in a position, we are not prepared to take compensation to get them to stop doing something that they shouldn't be doing in the first place.
QUESTION: How about the other related issue now that they are also talking about compensation for the Quito slowdown. Anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: What does this do the prospects for the Secretary meeting --
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry. On Quito, we remain committed to making that work.
QUESTION: What does this do to the prospects of a meeting between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister of ASEAN?
MR. BOUCHER: To quote the Secretary, stay tuned.
QUESTION: Stay tuned? It won't be a jovial meeting, will it?
QUESTION: Richard, can you give us what was earlier given on background on Bashar's election, the referendum? Can you give it on the record?
QUESTION: Tell us about free and fair elections.
MR. BOUCHER: They have completed the referendum. They overwhelmingly ratified the candidacy of Bashar Assad. As we all know, the parliament had earlier unanimously approved his nomination.
These are the procedures spelled out in the Syrian constitution. And we expect he will take the oath of office shortly.
As for our relationships, it's what the Secretary said when she was in Damascus. She was impressed with his commitment to the peace process and she observed that he seems poised and ready to assume his duties, is what she said. So we look forward to discussing the peace process once he has been inaugurated as president.
QUESTION: Apparently there is a rumor percolating that the US and Vietnam have agreed in principle to normalize trade ties. Do you know anything about this?
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's not something I have anything on USTR. You might check with USTR on that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Bahraini princess? I understand that you do.
MR. BOUCHER: Merely to tell you that it's a matter in the hands of the Immigration Service. It concerns a pending hearing before a judge and the case is in the purview of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
QUESTION: Have there been any talks between the State Department and the Bahrain Government?
MR. BOUCHER: The only thing I can do is refer you to immigration on this. I don't have anything to add.
QUESTION: But, Richard, back to Bashar for a second, has the Secretary or has any official from the State Department called to say anything?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Can we go to another individual case? The -
MR. BOUCHER: Let me check. I know the Secretary hasn't but let me check if there is anything in Washington.
QUESTION: Anything about our grandmother in Kabul who was released by the Taliban?
MR. BOUCHER: The Taliban has made an announcement and our Embassy in Islamabad has been able to confirm it. American citizen, Mary MacMakin and her employees have been released by Taliban authorities. Ms. MacMakin has been ordered to leave Afghanistan within 24 hours. We expect she will arrive in Peshawar, Pakistan tomorrow. She has been accused of spying and making anti-state propaganda.
First of all, we welcome her release. We believe the Taliban's charges against her are ridiculous and that she should be allowed to continue her important work in Afghanistan if she wants to. She has been very active for years in assisting the Afghan people, affiliated with a prominent non-government organization called PARSA, which is the Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support for Afghanistan.
Our Embassy in Islamabad and State Department officials are continuing to follow the case closely. Secretary Albright is personally concerned with this matter and she is staying closely informed. And our Embassy in Islamabad or consulate in Peshawar will take appropriate action to assist her when she gets there.
QUESTION: Was there any readout of the meeting to the State Department of UN officials and the Taliban in Kabul? They were supposed to brief the State Department after the meeting.
MR. BOUCHER: That's not something I can comment on.
QUESTION: The Holum visit, the Chinese say they want real assurances that the United States National Missile Defense is not going to affect their strategic deterrent.
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the statement. I think Under Secretary Holum - Senior Advisor Holum, he talked about it when he left. Now, Secretary Cohen is in Beijing, too.
QUESTION: Right, that was from the Cohen visit.
MR. BOUCHER: I am sure he will be addressing those issues.
QUESTION: That was what the Chinese have continued to say, they want a real assurance -
MR. BOUCHER: If there is any more detail on what they mean, I would expect they will give it. They might talk about it with Secretary Cohen. But at this stage, we've made quite clear the missile defense program is not directed against China or Russia and it's we don't think an issue that should affect the strategic stability that we have existing now.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction yet from Beijing about the PHALCON decision?
MR. BOUCHER: Three hours ago? Not that I've heard.
QUESTION: Can you - on PHALCON --
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Is that one of the off-limit - is this a summit issue?
MR. BOUCHER: It was addressed this morning by Joe Lockhart.
QUESTION: But we still don't have an answer on whether it's a permanent agreement to not - or whether it's a suspension.
MR. BOUCHER: That's a question he said we should ask the Israelis.
QUESTION: I assume he will also get to it for the later briefing? He said he would try to get more clarification on that.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the only thing he said he might look into is exactly when we were told, if I remember correctly.
QUESTION: Can you describe sort of as specifically as you can what it is that the US was concerned about in terms of the capability that China would get --
MR. BOUCHER: I really don't want to go beyond what Joe said this morning.
QUESTION: How about this one which you may not also be - Iran's refusal to recognize the judgment yesterday - was it yesterday - the 320 something --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the Iranian statement. But I think I can make clear that we were very sympathetic to the families of Mr. Eisenfeld and Ms. Ducker and any others who have suffered so cruelly at the hands of the state, of state-sponsored terrorism. We have demonstrated, I think, to the world our unwavering commitment to combat international terrorism. We are trying everything we can consistent with the foreign policy interests of our country to help these victims, to satisfy the judgments that they've obtained. We're working also with members of Congress that will satisfy the demands of justice without setting precedent that could endanger vital American interests.
QUESTION: Does that mean that - is there anything in what the Secretary announced in terms of the revisions and the policy that would affect plans to compensate people who have been awarded these - this kind of judgment?
MR. BOUCHER: Funny you should - you would probably find some parallel to the language I just used. In her speech on March 17th, the Secretary said, "We are working with Congress to find a solution that will satisfy the demands of justice without setting a precedent that could endanger U.S. interests in the treatment of diplomatic and other property or that would destroy prospects for a successful dialogue with Iran."
So we don't see those as incompatible. She mentioned that in the same speech where she announced the easing of some of the embargoes.
QUESTION: Can you give a readout on the missile talks with North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: It really just parallels exactly what Einhorn said. He did a detailed readout. But I'll give you the basics. Do we have a transcript of Einhorn?
MR. ERELI: We'll get one.
MR. BOUCHER: We can get you that if you want to go through it in more detail.
QUESTION: I thought I already asked this question. Did I not?
MR. BOUCHER: You asked about the billion dollars. On the actual discussion --
MR. BOUCHER: We believe the talks were very useful. Remember, these talks come after a 16-month hiatus and really no one was expecting major breakthroughs. The three days in Kuala Lumpur gave us an opportunity to exchange detailed views on our respective positions, to discuss proposals that the US has put on the table regarding North Korea's missile exports and its indigenous capabilities and to begin laying the groundwork for hopefully making significant progress in the period ahead. So we believe the discussions were very worthwhile.
QUESTION: Did the North Koreans say anything that you know about, Mr. Boucher, with regard to not stemming their exports of missiles as long as the United States was developing its National Missile Defense? Did that come out of there, or do you know?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize the North Korean position, except to say that they did want to discuss export issues and export issues are very important. As I mentioned, we discussed those as well as very important issues that we have regarding North Korea's indigenous missile capabilities and the threat that those capabilities pose to North Korea's neighbors. So we talked about both missile exports and also about the indigenous missile capability.
QUESTION: And testing?
MR. BOUCHER: That falls into the indigenous missile capabilities. They reconfirmed their moratorium on testing.
QUESTION: Anything on the OAU summit ending with this kind of call for a United States of Africa? I guess not.
How about on the release of the hostages in Fiji or of the nine hostages?
MR. BOUCHER: Release of the hostages. Well, we understand nine hostages have been released from the parliamentary compound. There are still 18 hostages still being held captive. So we continue to call for immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages.
There was also the Turtle Island resort issues and all 15 Americans have safely departed the Turtle Island and are now on Viti Levu Island and they are being assisted by the American Embassy. These 15 Americans are expected to depart Fiji on Thursday or Friday.
QUESTION: What about the Americans that burned in the balloon? In Kenya?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry to hear about it but I don't know anything about it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the US apparently joining the call for more restrictions on the diamond trade out of Sierra Leone?
MR. BOUCHER: We have been working with the United Nations on the resolution. I'm not exactly sure where it stands.
QUESTION: I think - (inaudible) - is now getting behind it but that doesn't mean you'd have anything.
QUESTION: Holbrooke testified today --
MR. BOUCHER: Holbrooke testified this morning. We're working on a number of resolutions on Sierra Leone and I can't remember if that's the one that passed or if that's still --
QUESTION: Are you sponsoring it?
MR. BOUCHER: We can get something for you on that. We've been working on it. And I think you know that our position has been that the UN forces need to be capable of disrupting rebel operations in the diamond fields and that will require a larger force size and a new mandate for the UN mission and so we're going to seek recommendations on force size and mandate necessary to accomplish the task and that's something we're also discussing with UN Security Council members.
QUESTION: Is the US sponsoring that resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: The diamond one? I'll double check on that.
QUESTION: It's British.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we're co-sponsoring it as well. I think we may have been part of it.
QUESTION: Thank you. Briefing tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, tomorrow we'll do it a little differently, I think. Tomorrow, I'll be doing the Middle East briefing. Tomorrow's Thursday, right?
QUESTION: Oh, that's right, Joe goes off --
MR. BOUCHER: Joe's said everything he has to say, so he's going to split.
QUESTION: Can you say at least background on the Middle East?
MR. BOUCHER: No. Joe will be here in an hour or two.
QUESTION: An hour or two?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. He was talking 4 o'clock.
QUESTION: So you're going to do something in the morning?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm going to try to do the same thing tomorrow, something in the morning, something in the afternoon. And then at one of those occasions, we'll just slip back here and talk about other issues.
QUESTION: Can we just ask you today about her schedule? Is her schedule going to be blocked out through next week or how is that --
MR. BOUCHER: She's full time.
QUESTION: Through next week?
QUESTION: Through the summit.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Have you gleaned anything osmosis about when Clinton's leaving in terms of tonight or tomorrow?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I've heard it both ways, frankly. So Joe will have that pinned down by the time he gets back --
QUESTION: Is the weekend picture getting any clearer yet?
MR. BOUCHER: You mean like what we do Saturday?
QUESTION: Like next weekend, Saturday off? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: The President is here through the 18th. So we'll see if we can try and get things wrapped up and worked out by then.
QUESTION: You will be doing other issues here?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, we do other issues back here. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 3:40 p.m.)
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