Tuesday, March 11, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns

Q: On North Korea. The newspapers in Seoul are reporting that the United States and North Korea have reached agreement on Liaison Offices. Do you have anything on that? And do you have anything to say about Vice Foreign Minister Kim's visit in Washington?

BURNS: We have not reached an agreement with the North Korean Government to establish by a date certain the Liaison Offices. That remains an objective in our relationship but we've not yet reached that point.

Mr. Kim -- Kim Gye Gwan -- continues on his private visit to Washington. I know that Mark Minton, who is our Office Director for Korean Affairs, will be meeting with some of Mr. Kim's associates today -- in particular, Mr. Li Gun, who is the Deputy Director of the American Affairs Bureau in the North Korean Foreign Ministry. They'll be meeting this afternoon here at the State Department.

They will be discussing bilateral issues, including some of the technical issues related to the establishment of the Liaison Offices, but we've not made an agreement, as far as I know -- and I'm pretty sure about this -- with the North Koreans to establish these Liaison Offices on a certain date. It's an objective. We want to meet that objective, but other things have to happen first.

Q: So it's not a wholly private visit if some of his associates are meeting at the State Department.

BURNS: Excuse me?

Q: It's not a wholly private visit if some of his associates are meeting at the State Department?

BURNS: Oh, my goodness, you know, we had Secretary Rifkind here of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on a private visit. We had Foreign Minister Pangalos here on a private visit. They both saw the Secretary of State. There's nothing illegal in our Constitution about meeting foreign officials if they're on a private visit. Chuck Kartman had many, many hours of discussion with Mr. Kim Gye Gwan last week, and we see no reason to have further meetings this week. He's welcome in Washington on a private visit, but I think we'll be meeting with his associates, not him, on these particular issues.

Q: Would you talk more about the technical issues which blocked the opening of these offices?

BURNS: I'm not an expert on liaison offices. Perhaps I ought to become one. But, obviously, when you -- we don't have diplomatic relations with North Korea. We talk to them up at the U.N. We do want to establish these liaison offices. There are all sorts of issues that have to be resolved -- very practical issues -- about money and purchasing office space and observing city and federal regulations to do that, and it's that kind of thing that we talk about.

But I will tell you this. The ultimate agreement to establish the liaison offices is obviously going to be part of a broader picture, and that is how are we doing with the North Koreans on our agenda with them. Are we moving forward on the Four-Party Talks. Are we moving forward on other issues. Are we having a good discussion of all these issues.

Q: Would it be fair to say the U.S. is holding off on formally agreeing to liaison offices, using such technical quibbles as renting office space, until it sees that the peace talks are moving in a direction you want them to move? Can we turn this around and say one is being held hostage to the other?

BURNS: We're not holding anybody hostage here.

Q: You expect them to go apace, don't you?

BURNS: In general, I can say this: The development of our relationship with North Korea is going to be a function of the development of relations between South Korea and North Korea. So if relations between South Korea and North Korea do not proceed -- in fact, if they recede -- there are going to be problems in the U.S.-North Korean relationship. But if there's progress, on the one hand, there can be progress on the other, and I think that's very clear to the North Koreans. But no one's holding anyone hostage.

You buy an office or you rent an office, you've got to go through the paperwork . All of us have to do that in our own life.

Q: North and South Korean objectives -- bite my lip -- are not always entirely in sync, are they? So you're giving South Korea a veto, aren't you, on U.S.-North Korean relations?

BURNS: No, we're simply following the right policy here -- our policy -- which is we're trying to achieve the peaceful reunification of the Koreas. We're trying to maintain stability in the most heavily fortified military area in the world along the DMZ, and we're trying to work with the North Koreans to bring them along; to maintain the Agreed Framework, which is being maintained; to convince them to join peace talks to end the Korean War, to provide for stability in the peninsula; to make sure that we're responsive to the food problems in North Korea. That's our agenda with them.

Our agenda with South Korea is very different. We have a defense commitment to South Korea, and we almost always see eye-to-eye on the really big issues. We sometimes have minor disagreements, but we do with any country. So there's a very big difference in the two relationships, right?

Q: I know, but they have to be satisfied on the way the peace talks are going for the U.S. to move ahead and open and establish more formal diplomatic contact with North Korea.

BURNS: I don't want to speak specifically to make these linkages that you want me to make, but I can say in general again that the future of our relationship with North Korea -- the U.S. relationship -- will be dependent upon the future of South Korea's relationship with North Korea, but that makes sense. You wouldn't leave an ally out in the cold. We've always worked with South Korea. We met with the South Koreans, together with the North Koreans, last week. We always brief the South Koreans after any discussions with the North Koreans. We brief the Japanese as well. We're partners with the South Koreans and Japanese in this effort to bring stability to the Korean peninsula.

Q: The clearest indication, though, would be if they said to the Four-Party Talks, right?

BURNS: I'm not drawing any specific linkage here, and I'm not describing any hostage relationships. I'm just saying there's a fundamental principle here, and I've recited it three times, and we're going to continue to follow that principle.

Q: The clearest indication of contacts between North and South Korea would be if they took part in the Four-Party Talks, is that fair to say?

BURNS: That would be enormously positive. After the briefing last week, we think we made a very good proposal to the North Koreans. We hope that Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan will take this proposal back to his superiors in Pyongyang, and we hope very much that they'll accept this proposal. If they do, I think they'll find that there is positive development in the relationship with the United States.

Q: Did they ask for -- you said money is one of the issues -- technical issues. Were they a victim of sticker shock when they started looking around for properties here and asked for help?

BURNS: I think a lot of people are victims of sticker shock when they come back to Washington from living overseas -- not just North Koreans but Americans. It's a very expensive city in which to live, but, hey, that's the reality. You want to have a liaison office, you want to have an Embassy, another country, a consulate, you live in the United States, fairly high prices in Washington, D.C. Great city services, too.

Q: High rent.

BURNS: High rent. No roads. Potholes. I drove over a pothole today that my car could have been buried in that pothole. But that's not -- in Boston, Massachusetts, we don't have those problems where I come from anyway.

Q: They don't have a pitcher either.

BURNS: I'm just filibustering.

Q: Senior U.S. officials have described the main impediment to opening liaison offices as the North Koreans' unwillingness to allow us to resupply or to supply our mission in certain ways. The military is apparently insisting on certain routes for resupply. Is that something that's now been resolved with the North Koreans?

BURNS: There are a variety of issues. Obviously, the diplomatic -- the time-honored diplomatic principle of reciprocity is very important in the establishment of relations -- any kind of relations between countries, and reciprocity usually governs when you talk about these logistical arrangements.