|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Briefing with Ambassador Wendy Sherman
October 12, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. BOUCHER: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The Secretary of State will come in. She'll have a brief statement and be able to take a few of your questions. As you can imagine, she is extraordinarily busy this morning, and so she'll take some of your questions and then we'll turn it over to Ambassador Sherman to continue with the questions on Korea.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Good morning. My plan was to discuss the Korea visit, which I will do in a minute, but first I want to express my deep sorrow at the explosion involving the US Naval vessel COLE in Yemen. My prayers are with the families of those killed and injured, and with all the brave men and women in uniform who serve our country every day around the world.
Rest assured that the United States will seek, with all our resources, to determine the facts surrounding this tragedy. We will continue taking every step we can to protect our troops, our diplomats, but we will not retreat from our responsibilities. If it turns out, as it appears, to have been a terrorist act, we will hold those who committed it accountable and take appropriate steps.
I also wanted to say how deeply distressed the United States is at the murder this morning of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. I express my condolences to their families and to the loved ones of all, both Palestinian and Israeli, who have been victimized by the terrible violence that has occurred in recent days, and especially the children whose hopes for peace, so recently raised, have been dashed.
I call upon the entire international community to join the United States in urging Chairman Arafat to take the steps necessary to bring this senseless and destructive cycle of fighting to an end. No matter how justified they feel at the mob violence against their soldiers, we are calling on the Israelis to bring an immediate end to the current operations by the IDF. Now is the time for leadership. There needs to be a cease-fire by both sides. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians can gain from further killing. Both gain from the silencing of guns, a cooling of tempers, and a resumption of serious and constructive talks. The future of the Middle East must be decided at the negotiating table, not in the streets.
Finally, during the past two days, as you know, I have been pleased to host a delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The delegation was headed by Chairman Kim Jong Il's Special Envoy Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, and First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju. Never before have our two governments met at this high a level. On Tuesday, the Special Envoy delivered a letter from Chairman Kim to President Clinton. On Wednesday, we had meetings here at the Department of State, and the Special Envoy met with Secretary of Defense Cohen at the Pentagon. And we also took turns hosting dinner.
Our expectations for this week were realistic. The differences that have existed between the United States and the DPRK are extensive, and of long standing. They will not be erased overnight. Our policy has been to explore, through our diplomacy, whether it is possible to remove, over time, the obstacles to a better and normal relationship. This is important to our own security and to that of friends throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and it supports the engagement policy of our ally in Seoul, including President Kim Dae Jung's bold vision of a Korea moving toward permanent reconciliation and peace.
Our discussions with the DPRK representatives reflected the serious approach that both sides brought to the table, and during these two days, we took a very substantial step away from the frozen and distant relations of the past. This progress is evidenced by the joint communiqué the United States and the DPRK are releasing today, and that communiqué outlines agreement on a number of key points.
These include the importance of the North-South dialogue, a mutual declaration of no hostile intent, an affirmation of the DPRK's moratorium on the testing of longer-range missiles will continue. And as the communiqué reflects, our two countries are moving in a positive direction, and we are on the right road but, as both sides recognize, we still have far to go.
Accordingly, the Government of North Korea has invited me to visit Pyongyang in the near future, and I have accepted. The purpose of my trip will be to explore opportunities for further progress on a range of regional and bilateral issues. I will also be making preparations for a possible visit to North Korea by President Clinton.
The steps cited in the communiqué issued today have been coordinated closely with our South Korean and Japanese allies. These measure represent a continuation of the policy developed with them and presented formally in the report issued by former Secretary of Defense William Perry a year ago.
In the days ahead, as in days past, we will be in close and regular consultation with our allies in Seoul and Tokyo, and our unity and coordination has been critical to the steps that have been taken toward a more stable Korean Peninsula. The Special Envoy's visit to Washington has moved us closer to the improved relationship with North Korea that we have sought contingent on concrete progress toward resolving the important problems that have separated us. The United States is committed to making further gains, and we will continue to work hard to that end.
Thank you. I now will take some of your questions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, please, on the ramming of the Navy ship, is there any knowledge, any information, on who may have done it? Has anybody claimed responsibility? And, in a larger sense, is the US under some sort of calculated attack because of its support for Israel? Is the US at large now being targeted, US citizens and such, because of the stand it has taken in the Middle East conflict?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that we are in the process of investigating the facts on what happened to the COLE. I had a conversation about an hour ago with the president of Yemen, and they are being very cooperative in the investigative process. The president of Yemen told me that he had been to the hospital to visit the casualties, and obviously he offered his condolences.
And we will continue to investigate this. And as far as I know, Barry, nobody has claimed anything. And as I said, if it appears to be an act of terrorism, we will pursue it and hold those accountable. But we have not heard anything more beyond the investigative aspect of this, and we are going to be sending some teams in and doing everything we can.
On the second part of the question, I think that clearly we have been concerned for some time about what is happening and threats of terrorism. We have talked about that for a long time. It is one of the priority issues of this Administration is to deal with that problem. We have taken a variety of steps to ensure that our diplomats are secure, and the Ambassadors on the ground are the ones that are going to be making that decision, I think, as to how to deal with their own diplomats and the Americans that are in each respective country.
I think we are in a very sad and difficult period. We have all spent a great deal of time on the peace process and have believed that it is an important endeavor, and we will continue to do everything we can. The President and I are deeply involved and will continue to pursue the peace process. But what has to happen is we have to get the violence to stop. There has to be a cease-fire and there has to be a road back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I was reading the description of Yemen in our latest terrorist report, and I am wondering why this country was ever taken off the terrorist list when there are groups like the Islamic Jihad; HAMAS has an office there, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. All of these apparently still have a presence there. Usama bin Laden has a presence there.
Why was this country removed or not put back on the list of terrorist-sponsoring states, when a country like North Korea, which has no terrorists, as far as I know, is still on the list?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as you know, we are very careful in determining how that list is put together. And there are a variety of considerations in it, and we obviously felt that there was a reason to. But I think that we first have to be very careful here to make an assessment of the facts, and I think it's very important that we know what happened and why it was caused. And we obviously will keep looking at the situation.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I would like to pick up on Barry's question. Could you please share with us whether or not you have a heightened concern, greater concern, after this latest attack in Yemen, not just about anti-Israeli sentiment within the Arab world, but anti-American sentiment, and whether or not you think it's appropriate to renew that Embassy closing that you had initiated last week.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I really caution you all not to jump to conclusions here. We have ourselves been talking about it all morning, and the investigation is going on. And I just think it's important -- you know, it's a great tragedy that four Americans died and that 30 are injured. I think there are two Yemeni nationals among those. And it is a great tragedy and we are obviously doing everything that we can. And as I said, if it does appear -- if it is a terrorist attack, we obviously will take appropriate steps. But I just urge a little bit of caution.
On the second point, I think, you know, the answer is yes. Obviously there are demonstrations going on in a variety of places. We are watching everything very carefully, and we are -- I believe -- taking the responsible action as far as our Embassies are concerned. Everybody -- we're all in contact and people are very watchful.
But let me just say this: The United States is not going to stop doing what we have to do. We have responsibilities. We have national interests. We are operating in a world that is filled with a variety of threats, but that doesn't mean that we can crawl into a ostrich-like mode. We are eagles, and I think that it is very important that the United States stay involved, that we understand the threats, and we will continue to do what we have to do.
QUESTION: Thank you. I just want to clarify with you, Madame Secretary, you said presidential visit about a presidential visit to Pyongyang. You said visit by President Clinton. But this statement said possible visit by the President of the United States. So does this mean -- do you mean that President Clinton is supposed to visit Pyongyang at the earliest possible, by the end of year? And next question is, when do you expect you go to Pyongyang?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Believe me, I don't make commitments on behalf of the next President of the United States. (Laughter.) So, yes. And, you know, I will be going very soon, by the end of the month probably, and then President Clinton -- I think he hopes to go. We're going to work very hard to make it possible. And if we assess that we can make some serious progress on our key issues, this will proceed. But no date has been scheduled for him, and it's important that I go. I'm very pleased that the Vice Marshal proffered an invitation, and I will, as I said, try to go by the end of the month.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I'll be glad to try to answer any other questions that people might have on this. Anybody? You want to go right quickly about other things?
QUESTION: Okay. So it's down to some positive discussions. What do you think were the best or the most interesting conclusions, as far as you're concerned, having been at this for a long time?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think that what has occurred over the last two days is the continuation of a process, as the Secretary said, that began with the Secretary and the President asking Bill Perry to undertake a review of our policy. We developed that policy. We laid out for everyone what our objectives were. We clearly are continuing to pursue those objectives and believe, based on the discussions that we've had over the last two and a half days, that there is enough evident to us that makes a trip by the Secretary of State appropriate, and to work to prepare for a possible trip by the President.
QUESTION: Is there any more food aid planned, or was there any more food aid or humanitarian aid pledged? And was there any more progress made on opening offices in each other's capitals?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We continue to do what Americans are known for, and that is being generous in our response to the World Food Program's appeals. We have always done so when people are hungry, and we will continue to do so with North Korea in the way that we have in the past. We will continue to do so.
And your second question was on the liaison offices?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We had discussions about diplomatic representation. We felt we made some progress in those discussions, and I expect that they will continue.
QUESTION: At this point, can you say exactly what the North Koreans would need to do to get off the terrorism list? And as a follow-up to that, could you say what being on the terrorism list prevents the US to do at this point in terms of its relationship with North Korea?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: The discussions that Ambassador Sheehan, our Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, and Ambassador Kartman, our overall negotiator, had with North Korea have been very positive. They have resulted in the issuance of a statement about a week and a half ago, I guess -- or I've totally lost time, not quite a week ago, I guess now, last Friday -- where both sides agreed that it was important foreswear international terrorism and to undertake those responsibilities of member states of the United Nations. There are still some steps that North Korea must take for the President to begin the process of removing them from the terrorism list. They know what those steps are. They are in response to the law, which is quite clear, and we hope to continue to make progress in that regard.
And in terms of what they lose, I think that many of you have already reported that by being on the US terrorism list, there are several things, but one of the most key is that we cannot support them for membership if they meet eligibility requirements to international financial institutions, so the economic doors for multilateral support, at least with any US assistance, remain closed.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, will there – is the US still saying that the North Koreans need to hand over the, I guess, four remaining members of the Red Army?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We have been very clear with them about what steps they need to take.
QUESTION: Is that still a condition at this point?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We have been very clear with them about what steps they need to take, sir.
QUESTION: Madame Ambassador, joint communiqué is usually announced at the same time, but North Koreans announced at 4:00 a.m. today, and you announced it later. Was there an understanding between the two?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: What the understanding was is that we would each be free to release the communiqué as they left this morning. And, quite frankly, we didn't think to wake you all up at 4:00 a.m. this morning, and knew the Secretary was having a press conference this morning and that it would be delivered to you during normal business hours. But we're perfectly comfortable with how things have proceeded.
QUESTION: The Secretary intends to go as early as by the end of the month. She wouldn't be going to a designated terrorist state. The North Koreans, I believe, must have made some kind of pledge as to when they would dispose of the Red Army terrorists, and how they would take care of the other steps they need to do?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I would note for you that the Secretary of State, and for that matter, the President of the United States, have been to Syria, which remains on the US terrorism list, so it is not a bar to a visit.
QUESTION: One of the things that the United States has been looking for is a demonstration of North Korea's sincerity about improving security in Northeast Asia, is a redeployment, a redisposition of its troops along the DMZ . I'm wondering if you have received any -- as part of this, as part of the non-hostilities declaration, that you are going to see, that we are going to see, some kind of redeployment of North Korean forces, including the thousands of artillery pieces that are within range of Seoul? Have they undertaken to make that kind of redeployment?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I would make two comments in regard to your question. First, nothing in this communiqué changes our security alliance with the ROK, with Japan, with our other allies and security alliances in the region or in the world. Nothing will change.
Secondly, I believe there are ongoing discussions which started a few days ago between the North and the South, between their defense ministers, to look at military confidence-building measures and other things that might reduce tensions on the Peninsula. And we will do what we can to support that effort, as is appropriate to the security of our forces and the region.
QUESTION: Is there any - just a follow-up. One of the things that the North Koreans were looking for was assistance in locating and disposing of mines that are preventing the opening of a railway link between North and South Korea. Has the United States given -- as part of this, is the United States willing, or have you given any undertaking that we will in fact give that kind of assistance to North Korea, given what has happened over the last couple of days?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: There have been ongoing operational discussions with our commander in the ROK and his role as head of the UNC to talk about how in fact to clear mines within the context of the armistice for the project to reconnect the railroad. And those operational discussions are going, I think, quite well, and the US military will play its appropriate role in supporting this effort to reconnect the railroad.
QUESTION: What is the current status of diplomatic normalization between the US and North Korea? Is it the full-scale normalization, or partial normalization?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Well, I think we said in the Perry Report that we hope to accelerate the process of normalization of our relations as our concerns were met, and those concerns are well-known and well-listed in the Perry Report. And so, therefore, this is a step-by-step process. The Secretary of State visiting North Korea is certainly a step on that path, but we obviously need to continue to see more progress in the areas of deepest concern to the United States.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you had any response to the comment by Vice Marshal Jo during his toast at dinner, and what he said that Kim Jong Il would proceed quickly with normalization of ties once he receives security guarantees about the territorial integrity of North Korea.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: They have said to us privately what they said publicly last night, which is that they are looking for assurances about our recognizing their sovereignty and their right to exist, and to have a country that conducts affairs in the ways that other countries in the world do. And we will study further the conversations we have had. We have additional conversations to be had, including very significant ones that the Secretary of State will have, not only with the Vice Marshal, but with Chairman Kim Jong Il himself, when she visits North Korea. So we have much more work to do.
QUESTION: And is the timing - is the reason you haven't announced a date yet for the trip because of the Middle East? Is there an issue here of working out when she can go?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: No, no, no. We told the North Koreans that we would try to schedule this before the end of the month. That is our intention, and the only reason we don't have specific dates yet is because all of this just happened, and we have to sit down and we have to figure it out.
QUESTION: I guess a follow-up to that, and then also I have a question about the missile - the offer of the missile program. Is the reason that you're scheduling this for the end of the month that you got a lot of momentum out of this visit, and you want to continue that, or is it specifically so you have enough time for a presidential visit before the end of his term?
And then, also, how intensive were the discussions about Kim Jong Il's offer to President Putin of Russia about the missile program, and are there any concrete plans for US involvement in such a project?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: In terms of scheduling, there are many considerations to scheduling, including of course if you have momentum in a diplomatic process. But I think fundamentally we take the steps in a step-by-step process as we make progress on the issues of concern to us in consultation with our allies, and I am very appreciative of the strong support by the ROK and Japan this morning for the Secretary's visit and for the progress that we have made.
On the second point, on the Putin question, we believe, based on the discussions that we had, that there is validity to this idea. We expect to have further discussions.
QUESTION: I'm wondering, based on the series of discussions with General Jo, if you got any clear vision or clear idea about what, like, Kim Jong Il's remark about the missile program during his conversation with Russian President Putin?
And also, could you - if possible at this point, could you elaborate a little bit further on the content of the letter from Kim Jong Il to President Clinton?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: In terms of the Putin idea -- the Kim Jong Il idea presented to Putin, based on the discussions we had, we believe there is validity to this concept, and we expect to have further discussions. And I have no more detail to offer at this point, because we are in the midst of ongoing discussions.
On your second point -- sorry?
QUESTION: The contents of the letter from Kim Jong Il to the President.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: It is a diplomatic correspondence, so obviously I am not going to elaborate the details of the letter. But it was a letter that one would expect from one leader to another, that both introduces the Special Envoy that he is sending, and also tries to define the hopes and the vision that he has for an improved relationship between our two countries.
QUESTION: I want to make sure, for double check about the timing of the possible visit of President Clinton. And how about, can we expect after the APEC meeting summit meeting?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: One of the things I absolutely will never presume to do is to schedule the President of the United States. We know that the Secretary will go by the end of the month. We would hope that if things continue to go positively that the President will visit soon thereafter, but you would have to turn to the White House in terms of specific scheduling matters.
QUESTION: In the joint communiqué it says that both sides have agreed on the desirability of greater transparency in carrying out obligations under the Agreed Framework. Could you elaborate a little bit on that? And is this to say that, at this point, we don't necessarily have a full -- or we don't have full inspectors looking at the North Korean nuclear program?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We have 24-hour inspectors at the site that came under an issue of the development of the Agreed Framework, so the IAEA remains 24 hours a day. What this refers to is that Ambassador Kartman's fine negotiations with North Korea resulted in access to Kumchang Ni. We have acknowledged in this communiqué that it creates a model for the kinds of transparency that we will continue to discuss with them and move toward in our relationship.
QUESTION: I mean what - just to follow up - what do we know at this point, what do we not know in terms of our ability to check on North Korea's nuclear program? I mean, do we feel confident that we know of all their sites at this point?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think that you are getting into matters of what we know and how we know it, and I think that's probably not appropriate for a press conference. Let me suffice to say that I think that we have very direct and straightforward discussions with the North Koreans about concerns we have. Ambassador Kartman has discussions with the North on these matters on a regular basis, and we feel, based on the Kumchang Ni experience, and as reflected in this communiqué that we have a good model and a good frame for discussing any concerns that might come up in the future.
QUESTION: Are there any specific conditions placed on North Korea regarding the possible visit of the President, given that the North Korean media and Kim Jong Il are likely to use this as an attempt to show that the regime is legitimized by the rest of the world -- you know, the leader of the free world coming to North Korea -- and obviously given the fact that most of the world considers that Kim Jong Il is responsible for at least severely repressing his population and condemning many of them to starvation?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think the Secretary put it best when she said that if we continue believe, building on the discussions that we have had over the last two and a half days, and actually over the last many months, that we will make serious progress on some of the issues of particular concern to the United States, that taking the step-by-step process that would lead to a summit between the President of the United States and Chairman Kim Jong Il, we will go forward to such a summit. The President is hopeful that we will be able to do this, and so we are undertaking -- and have been undertaking -- all of the work that would make such a summit necessary for it to succeed.
QUESTION: Is that, then, a tacit statement that of course the United States disagrees very much with North Korea's political situation and whatever, but the issues here are so important that, for a time at least, they may have to be put on one side just because it's such a --
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We don't put any issue on one side. During the time that this delegation was here, we covered the range of issues, not just the ones you would expect that are most serious security concern to us like missiles, but we also discussed human rights and religious freedom; we discussed transnational issues like counterfeiting and law enforcement activities. We discussed our concern for our missing from the Korean War and actually thanked the North Koreans and hoped for their continued cooperation to try to locate and recover all of the remains. We discussed an incredible range of issues, because they are all on our agenda and we are very concerned about that whole range of issues.
There is no question, however, that there are some priorities for immediate resolution, and those obviously would be ones of security interest to us.
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