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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


15,16 Missile Program / U.S. Military Deployments


DPB # 78
THURSDAY, JUNE 17, 1999 1:25 P.M.


QUESTION: Could you comment at all on the reports of North Korea planning to test fire a second missile later this summer?

MR. FOLEY: We've seen press reports on a possible upcoming North Korean missile launch. The United States views the North Korean missile program as a serious threat to the region and to our non-proliferation interests. We continue to press North Korea to cease all production, deployment, testing and export of missiles and missile technology. We continue to consult very closely with our South Korean, Japanese allies on the full range of North Korean issues.

QUESTION: In turns out that the Clinton Administration has decided to seriously bolster its naval forces in the Yellow Sea. There's an aircraft carrier that will be getting there in four or five weeks; there's two guided missile cruisers that are in the region and on their way. Can you comment on the kind of message you're trying to send to the North Koreans as a result of that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I believe that the Pentagon has put out information in that respect about deployments.

QUESTION: But I'm talking about -

MR. FOLEY: I've seen some release but I don't have it at my fingertips, so I can't comment on the specifics. That's for the Pentagon to talk about, in any case. But I think we've stated all along, from the beginning of those naval confrontations, that the United States, in close coordination with our South Korean allies, have remained very vigilant. It's obviously been a flash point in the Korean Peninsula for many decades, and there are points in which the tension rises. But even when there's no tension, the fact is that we are present and vigilant in a military and security sense. So this is no exception. But in terms of the specifics you were asking me yesterday, I'd refer you to Captain Doubleday at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: I know the specifics, but the political message that sends - I mean, that's - sending the aircraft carrier is a significant political message, as it was when you sent one - not you, but the Administration sent one to the Taiwan Straits during the military exercises.

MR. FOLEY: Well, look, it's hazardous for me to venture into the issue of military deployment, so I'm going to refer you to Captain Doubleday. My understanding, though, is that at the time of the beginning of the air campaign, over Serbia and Kosovo, that an aircraft carrier was removed from the Pacific, and now one is returning. I think that is part of our normal pattern of deployments, but I refer you to the Pentagon for the details, for confirmation.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that the place where the exchange of fire between the North and South Korea took place belonged to international waters, and the South Korean Government seems to think -

MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that. I was asked a question and I spoke to my understanding; but I did not give an official authoritative --

QUESTION: So that's not the official viewpoint of the US Government on this issue?

MR. FOLEY: What I can tell you about that subject is that, as I indicated yesterday and Mr. Rubin did on previous occasions, that the Northern Limit Line was and still is demarcated by the UN command as a practical way to separate forces. We were talking about this yesterday. We believe it's been an effective means to prevent military tension between North and South Korean military forces for 46 years, since 1953. So it's served a useful purpose that has benefited both sides.

We continue to urge the DPRK to recognize this practicality by keeping its craft north of the line. In 1953, the area was a zone of conflict, you'll recall - a war zone; and territorial jurisdictions, they remain in dispute today. Therefore, we believe this is a practical measure, or a practical mechanism that has allowed there to be a reduction in tensions or the means of diffusing tensions. We continue to urge the DPRK to keep its naval craft north of that line for practical reasons.

QUESTION: You may have misspoken, but you did say yesterday that this was in international waters.

MR. FOLEY: No, I did not make that statement. You made a statement and I said that was my understanding.

QUESTION: But that's not the case?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I've checked, because I needed to check on something like that; and I did not make an affirmative statement stating our policy. And having checked, what I'm told is really what I just said - that there are territories, jurisdictions that remain in dispute today in that area. I'd have to refer you to the UN command which, after all, as I said, it's the UN command there that demarcated this line as a practical way to separate forces. It goes back to '53; it has worked. We think it's a practical mechanism that has helped diffuse tensions, and that's how we look upon it. In terms of authoritative views on its meaning and impact and significance, I'd refer you to the UN command.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:15 P.M.)


[end of document]

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