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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Conference
Washington, D.C., May 23, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

Blue Bar

11:47 A.M.

MR. BURNS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The Secretary of State is here for one of her regular random appearances before the State Department Press Corps. She has a very short opening statement. After that, she would be glad to take your questions.
If you would be so kind as to look at me and let me identify the questioners, we'll start, of course, with Barry and Carol. Then we'll go from there. Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. I want to begin by saying on this day in diplomatic history, as far as we can tell, nothing of consequence ever happened. I have been on the job for about four months. We don't keep score in foreign policy, but if we did I would say that at this point, on the whole, we would be somewhat closer to Roger Clemens' Blue Jays than to Nick Burns' Red Sox.
(Laughter.)
For example, I am encouraged by the progress on NATO enlargement and in our relations with Russia; pleased with approval of the CWC; proud of the reorganization plan we have developed; satisfied that we have made the right decision on Burma sanctions; and confident that our effort to re-energize the Bosnia peace implementation process will bear fruit.
I have also been very gratified by the response to our efforts of public diplomacy here in the United States, and by our progress in gaining bipartisan congressional support for our policies and for our budget. Clearly, there have also been disappointments - the lack of progress in the Middle East being the most prominent, while the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains of serious concern.
Now, before taking questions, I would like to make two brief announcements. First, I am pleased that Dick Beattie, our former Special Emissary to Cyprus, has agreed to serve as my Senior Advisor for Reorganization Issues. Second, immediately prior to my arrival in Hong Kong at the end of June, I will be stopping off in Hanoi and Phnom Penh. We have significant bilateral issues with each, including POW-MIA, economic, human rights and refugee matters in Vietnam, and the status of democratic institutions in Cambodia. I hope many of you will be coming along on that trip.
Finally, let me say that I have enjoyed working with all of you so far -- (laughter) -- and I hope to have many more of these regular random sessions in the months to come to come. So now let's go for questions. Fire away.
QUESTION: Well, Madame Secretary, you started off on a positive note, so why don't we - about Russia. But at the same time, Mr. Yeltsin has shaken up his cabinet again. However his remarks were interpreted, he clearly isn't pleased with the NATO expansion program. Then again, the new acting defense minister seems to be an advocate of START II, so could you kindly give us your current assessment of the comfort level, so to speak, of the U.S.-Russian relationship? Should something be done to foster more economic and political integration while you are working, the U.S. is working, the military angle?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that I think that we have made great strides in the U.S.-Russian relationship and, obviously, in the NATO-Russian relationship -- a sign of which will be the signature in Paris in a couple of days, a few days. We believe that President Yeltsin is pursing his reform agenda and that he wants, I think, to see some changes in the way that the economy is managed and that reforms go forward in Russia.
I have said - we have all said - that he does not, and the Russians do not, like NATO enlargement. We don't expect that they will change on that. However, the NATO Russia Founding Act, I think, does do what we have wanted it to do and what NATO has wanted to do, which is to secure Russia within Europe.
On the economic front, there will be additional discussion of that relation at the Summit of the Eight in Denver -- again, I think a very important step in terms of working towards the economic reform and integration of Russia within the system.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you didn't mention China in your opening remarks. How is it that a controlled communist system like China can have companies that sell precursor chemicals to Iran without the government knowing? And how do you interpret the fact that China has not acted on your request to halt these transfers? And, finally, if China is as committed to better relations with the U.S., as the Clinton Administration appears to be with Beijing, why has there been no progress on these and other arms issues?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, on the first part, I do believe that there are entities within China that are exactly that, entities and individuals, that are taking actions that the United States has not liked and, therefore, we followed the law and put in the sanctions.
We have, in fact, made our views very clear to the government about how we have felt in terms of them following out on issues of concern to us and various aspects of the proliferation points. We do discuss these subjects at all times with the Chinese and they know of our concern, and they have, in fact, in certain areas changed their behavior. So we are heartened in some areas and disheartened in others. But it is -- obviously we are going to be having discussions with them about matters of concern to us in terms of the transfer of various kinds of technology that we don't want to see happening.
QUESTION: If I could follow up, though, the Chinese themselves in a statement today reiterated that they have put in process an export control system that is effective. If they say that their export control system is in place, then certainly it would belie the fact that they didn't know about these companies and individuals and what they were doing with Iran.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, they have stated publicly their commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention. We have said that they need to tighten up their export controls, and we hope that they will do that. But I think that - I am not going to go into a discussion as to how much they control or knew about their various entities - or the companies themselves, which we describe as entities. I think our assessment was that these were companies and individuals that needed to be sanctioned, and we followed out the law in the way that we applied those sanctions that go towards entities and companies.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on your rededication to bringing peace and order to Bosnia, could that possibly include a continued military presence by the United States and or NATO after June 1998 in another role with another mandate than S-FOR now has?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have made clear that S-FOR will end in June 1998, and that that mission will be completed. We hope - in fact, what my speech was about yesterday was to make clear that we would like to see a reinvigorated civilian implementation in close cooperation with the military. We envision that civilian assistance and an international presence will be required after June 1998, but there are no plans for any American forces to be in Bosnia after June 1998.
QUESTION: Are you flat ruling something like that out in case the situation could get worse?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: S-FOR ends June 1998. We have made very clear, and we have no plans for any lengthening of the role of American forces.
QUESTION: A follow up, Madame Secretary -- if you had your 'druthers', would you like to see the military in the meantime doing more? Taking on new mandates, new initiatives beyond what the Pentagon sees their role as?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, there is not a disagreement between me and the Pentagon. What we are doing here is looking at how the military - let me go back on something. We have believed and continue to believe that the military has done a brilliant job in Bosnia during its mandate.
We have also - we as the Administration - believe that the civilian implementation has been lagging. What we, as a result of a very careful review led by the President, we have determined that we need to invigorate the civilian implementation and the cooperation between the civilian and the military within the mandate that the military has to provide a secure environment for the civilian implementation tasks to go forward.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Senator Thompson writes in a letter to you today, I have a copy, asking for our personal attention in a matter regarding his Government Affairs Committee and its attempt to send staff to Asia to do interviews there, apparently on its investigation of campaign financing. And he says in his letter that the State Department has not been cooperative in arranging for interviews for his staff in Asia and asks, in conclusion, that you give your personal attention to it.
I was wondering if you could respond to his concerns expressed in this letter.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I have not received the letter and I obviously will respond to his concerns. I am not aware of the request.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you announced the package yesterday of initiatives on Bosnia, which indicates an increased level of political will to get the job done. At the same time, Carl Bildt's replacement as the high representative is a little-known Spanish diplomat who, to most people's knowledge, has almost no experience in Bosnia. Doesn't that make a statement of going in completely the opposite direction?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say, you get mail before I do, you know things about replacements before they have been made.
(Laughter.)
A decision has not been made and I think that as we consider Carl Bildt's replacement that we will want to be looking for someone that has the respect of the players within Bosnia; that has the respect of those who are assisting in the implementation; who has negotiating skills. So when the decision is made, it is our belief that such a person will, in fact, fulfill those requirements. But, Tyler, there has been no decision.
QUESTION: Very shortly you will be meeting with the South Korean foreign minister Yoo and I understand you will be discussing the four-party peace proposal. While the U.S. discusses this four-party talks with its East Asian allies whenever it gets a chance, it seems that for a long time the U.S. position has not changed; that is, our proposals are on the table and the North Koreans can take it or leave it.
Will you be discussing anything new today, bringing any new ideas to the table to try to kick-start these talks?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that while maybe our proposal per se has not changed, I do think that in the last months there has been some positive reaction to them -- that in the talks that took place in New York there had been agreement in principle to have these talks and now there has been a delay in finding the time. I would say that we are very much on the right track and that it is a matter of seeing what the conditions are to make sure that those talks do, in fact, take place.
Obviously, we are going to be talking about this. This is an issue of concern both to the South Koreans and to us because, ultimately, what both countries are looking for is stability in the Korean Peninsula. So we are just going to be, I think, discussing specifically how one can take advantage of the agreement in principle to have the talks.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Israeli government yesterday announced the construction of several thousand housing units for Palestinians - something you all have been pushing them to do. Is that, in your opinion, the Administration's opinion, enough now to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table with the Israelis?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have obviously, as have the Palestinians, been concerned about their housing - the amount of housing that is available to them. If this housing does in fact go forward, we think it is a positive step in terms of alleviating what has been seen as a housing shortage for the Palestinians.
The parties themselves, I think, will have to judge how this fits into our desire to have the peace process come back together, or to have there be a way to get the peace process back on track. We have been pushing very much the following fact, which is that while the United States plays, obviously, a very important role, it is up to the parties on the ground to make the decisions about putting the peace process back together. We cannot make decisions for them that they are not willing to make for themselves. So the critical issue here is for the parties to make the decisions to put the peace process back.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can you tell us how you see your own role in the Middle East as different from that of some of your predecessors who shuttled to the region frequently, and got deeply engaged in the nitty gritty of negotiations there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that I have taken a deep interest, obviously, in the Middle East peace process. It is a high priority for the Administration, for the President and obviously for me, also. As you said, people have gone to the region in the past. I would draw your attention to the fact that the region has come here; that we have had, since January, a whole series of meetings with the leaders from the region, with Prime Minister Netanyahu being here twice, Chairman Arafat being here, President Mubarak, King Hussein.
I met with Minister Mordechai. I met with Foreign Minister Levy last week. I'm on the phone constantly with a variety of Arab leaders. So I have been deeply involved. I think the judgment that has to be made is the value of going personally to the region at a given time. As I said, the important point here is that the parties on the ground have to make the hard decisions, and have to come to the point where they see the value of getting the peace process back on track. Whether I am there or here, the bottom line is the parties must make these decisions to put it back.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, concerning the reports about the massacres, the mass graves that were found in Zaire, and continual reports regarding the massacres of civilians during the time that Kabila's forces were moving through Zaire, is the United States prepared to hold Mr. Kabila accountable for whatever happened on his watch? And secondly, is there a thought of bringing these incidents to the war crimes tribunal for consideration there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we have expressed concern a number of times about what we heard about some of the very serious human rights abuses and problems about the way people were dealt with in Zaire, as it was known at that time. We are going to be looking into this very carefully.
We are concerned generally, as I said in my opening statement, about what is going on in the Congo now, looking towards what I would call a work in progress -- Mr. Kabila's putting together of his cabinet and, from our perspective, the importance of having a cabinet and a government that is inclusive of others than just his alliance; making sure that there is a rule of law; that they are moving towards democratic elections; and that there is reconciliation and that some of these very bad - I always hate to use the word "incidents" - these very bad events are, in fact, dealt with.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, U.S. talks with Canada aimed at settling the West Coast salmon dispute have broken down and British Columbia is considering some type of unilateral retaliation against the U.S. One suggestion has been terminating the lease of the U.S. weapons testing facility at Nanoose Bay. I was wondering what your reaction to that scenario is.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have obviously wanted these talks to go forward in a way that the stakeholders there would feel that their rights have been looked at properly. I am going to be talking with Foreign Minister Axworthy about this issue. In fact, we were supposed to do it yesterday and I couldn't. But we obviously do not want it to reach the kinds of proportions that you are discussing.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, SLORC has recently arrested about 100 members of the NLD. Do you have any fears that now that the sanctions against Burma have been formalized that there is going to be a stepped-up effort on their parts to crack down on the NLD?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that when dealing with the SLORC they have decided - have taken the wrong decision in terms of how they think that the international community views their actions. I am very pleased, as I mentioned in my statement, that we took the decision to sanction them because of their lack of democracy and treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi and her people. I was concerned yesterday when I read about these additional arrests. They are harassing her. I think it only proves the fact that we made the right decision in sanctioning Burma, and we will make that point even more clearly to our friends because we believe that this is an evil regime that is not responding to Aung San Suu Kyi's - herself and her party's desire for dialogue.
MR. BURNS: We have time for two more questions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on Southeast Europe, do you have any specific and immediate plans for Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations? And also you announced that Mr. Beattie will become your advisor. Any replacement of Mr. Beattie?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, obviously this is, again, a priority issue for us. Even though the dispute has been on the books for a long time, we have felt that this was an important year in terms of trying to move the process forward. I am considering how to deal with this issue and whom to name, and we will have some announcement for you later.
QUESTION: On Greek-Turkish relations, and the movement we have right now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we have seen some fairly positive steps, I think, in terms of some improvement in Greek-Turkish relations. We hope very much that that trend continues because these are two very important NATO allies. We have great need and trust in both of them, and it is obviously much better when their relations are on a good track.
MR. BURNS: The final question.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, why are you going to Banja Luka, considering that Ms. Plavsic is not particularly moderate and she doesn't seem to have much power over the Bosnian Serb policies?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what we are trying to find is a way to signal that it is possible to find Bosnian Serbs that do, in fact, want to see some kind of a multi-ethnic state; that we would like to see better relationships going on within the overall country; and that it is essential for us to work with potential groups within Republika Srpska that see the value of reconciliation.
I think that it's very important for us not to totally weed them out. They are a part of the equation, and we are going to be working to persuade them of the value of working on communal projects and working together to invigorate the civilian implementation part of our plan.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

(The press conference ended at 12:11 P.M.)

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