U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing
Monday, April 14, 1997 Briefer: Nicholas Burns
Missile Talks w/North Korea in NYC on 5/12-13
World Food Program Appeal for North Korea
4/16 Trilateral Talks w/North & South Korea re: Four-Party Proposal
Bilateral Talks w/North Korea on 4/18
DPRK Reports of Missile Activities/Deployments
DPRK Agreed Framework
DPRK Food Situation
A couple of other issues of note - things that I have been asked about.
We have agreed now on the date and venue on our missile talks with the
North Koreans. The talks will be held in New York City on May 12th
ad 13th, and the focus will be on concerns of the United States regarding
North Korean missile-related activities.
The head of our delegation will be Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Bob Einhorn. This is a big week for Korea issues. As you know, the
United States is now finishing its international deliberations on the issue of
whether or not to respond to the augmented appeal of the World Food
Program for a greater level of food assistance for North Korea.
I would expect that within the next 24 hours that I'll have an
announcement to make on that issue, probably tomorrow and not today.
As you know, on Wednesday we begin our trilateral talks up in New
York City with the Republic of Korean and North Korea. And this is to
receive an answer from North Korea on our mutual proposal for a
four-party peace talks to conclude successfully --- well, to conclude the
negotiations concerning the end of the Korean War of 43 years ago, and
also to determine ways to promote stability - security stability on the
This is going to be an important set of talks. I talked to our chief delegate
Chuck Kartman this morning and he believes that these will be lengthy
discussions on Wednesday. It's not at all clear that we will have a final
response from the North Koreans on Wednesday, for those of you
hoping to cover it.
It may be we get that later in the week. We don't know yet. We'll just
have to see what happens. But there are bilateral talks scheduled for
Friday in New York. And I just wanted to make sure that all of you
knew they were two days of talks - and that I couldn't promise a
definitive statement on Wednesday. Perhaps we'll get it. Perhaps we
won't. We'll see. And that's how we approach that this week.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Has North Korea deployed the NoDong missile?
There is a report that it has recently deployed this weapon.
MR. BURNS: Carol, I can't confirm for you whether or not that
missile has been deployed, but I can tell you - you've seen some
statements out of Japan this morning, statements of concern about
that. We have concerns, not only about that missile but about
various missile-related activity of the North Koreans. And that is
why we have sought and have now achieved a scheduling of a
meeting with the North Koreans on the 12th and 13th of May to
discuss a variety of these concerns.
QUESTION: Why can't you confirm it? I mean, do you not
MR. BURNS: The United States normally does not put itself in
a position publicly to confirm events of that nature. You ought to
address yourself to the North Koreans. They have a website.
They'll be in New York. They do. Have any of you looked at the
website to see if the answer to the question is there? I'm trying
here, Carol. I'm trying to be forthcoming.
QUESTION: Not very successfully.
MR. BURNS: Well, we try. One hundred percent effort. That's
all you can ask of me, right?
QUESTION: If you say you are concerned, though, you're
concerned specifically about this?
MR. BURNS: We're concerned about a variety of
missile-related activities and various allegations that have been
made. And that is why we have sought these talks with the North
Koreans. I think we last spoke to them formally in April 1996, so
it is high time for another meeting.
QUESTION: In reports like this though, I mean, you talked last
week about the possibility of setting new talks with the North
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Did this report somehow make scheduling these
talks more urgent, or was this already - were you already
planning to announce this?
MR. BURNS: We have long had concerns about various
activities of the North Koreans, various missile-related activities.
What that is, Barry, is, you know, various allegations of sales and
transfers and developments. We see a lot of reports and we
believe we need to look into all of them and discuss them directly
with the North Koreans because they are very important.
Proliferation is one of our major global concerns. I can't be in a
position here of confirming launches of missiles or sales of missiles
until we have all the information at our disposal. What has to
happen first is, we have to meet with the North Koreans to get
their view of what has happened - very important talks led by
QUESTION: If the North Koreans agree to accept these peace
talks this week, what are the chances that the U.S. will move on
its commitment to ease sanctions, trade sanctions?
MR. BURNS: I simply don't want to get ahead of the story this
week. Let's see what the message is from the North Korean
delegation in New York this week. We hope it is positive. We
hope the North Koreans will accept our proposal for four-party
talks. We urge them to accept it. As the South Korean
government and the South Korean foreign minister said today,
this is a proposal that makes sense for the South Koreans and the
North Koreans and for stability in the Korean peninsula. A very
important proposal. Let's just take it one step at a time. If we get
a positive answer, we will obviously try to begin those talks with
the Chinese government and the others and see how relations
develop from there. But I don't want to predict what steps we
QUESTION: (Inaudible) your extreme concern that you have
voiced over the food situation in North Korea. What are the
chances that you will give more aid, greater than $10 million,
MR. BURNS: That's an interesting question. I can't announce
the U.S. response to the World Food Program appeal until
tomorrow. If I started saying, you know, bigger than a bread
basket then you would have a story to write today and not
tomorrow, and I think you need a story tomorrow. Today you
have enough stories. Don't you think so?
QUESTION: Well, maybe we would have a story today.
MR. BURNS: I can't talk about it until tomorrow.
QUESTION: Are you establishing some sort of linkage between
the food contribution and these other issues?
MR. BURNS: No, we have never had a linkage. We look at
the food requests on a humanitarian basis. We do not link the
food requests. We do not link the food requests to other issues in
QUESTION: Should we drag out the - I think I can almost
remember what was said by the Secretary when she was in
Korea in deciding on food shipments, we will look at their overall
behavior. And I don't want to misquote. She never specified what
she meant, but it suggested that I know this is a humanitarian
country and all that but I suspect that she was looking at a larger
picture too when she was speaking of food aid.
MR. BURNS: Barry, when the Secretary -
QUESTION: -- in South Korea announced their shipment, she
was talking about looking at the whole picture. I am sure those
quotes are there.
MR. BURNS: Barry, when the Secretary announced the initial
$10 million U.S. contribution, I believe that was in London before
we got to Asia...
QUESTION: All right, but on that trip.
MR. BURNS: The rationale that we put forward was that there
is no linkage. We've said that very consistently. I don't quite
remember what the Secretary said or didn't say in Seoul, when
we had that press conference that afternoon. But I can tell you
that longstanding U.S. policy is that we don't link.
QUESTION: You believe - you said you believe that the talk
will be lengthy. Does that mean you will be getting into the issues
of substance, such as agenda for four-way talks, venue, date, and
MR. BURNS: Well it will just depend on what message the
North Korean delegation brings to New York. We hope it's a
positive message of acceptance of the four-party proposal. I
really just was trying to give you heads up in terms of how you
cover this event, and what expectations you have. It may be we
have a very clean event on Wednesday - there's an answer, we
report that to you, and there's a story. It may be that we have -
we're going to have a second meeting, of course, a bilateral
meeting on Friday. It may be that we get an answer on Friday. I
just don't know.
I didn't want to commit us to producing a story for you, or an
answer for you, or have them produce an answer on one day.
We'll have to see how the talks go.
QUESTION: Are we still on North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Yes, still on North Korea?
QUESTION: Speaking Friday - Friday's meeting - what will be
the agenda of the meeting? The Liaison Office, or missile talks, or
MR. BURNS: No, the missile talks will be held in May. The
agenda for Friday's meeting are some of the issues that - all of the
issues that we work on with the North Koreans, from the agreed
framework to the issue of American Missing in Action, and
remains of Americans Missing in Action from the Korean War -
over 8100 cases that are -- very high national priority is placed
upon that issue. All the different issues that we deal with with the
QUESTION: What is your understanding of the Liaison Office?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: The Liaison Office, opening a Liaison Office?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I don't - I don't - I have nothing to say. We
continue to discuss that with the North Koreans, and I'm sure that
will be part of the agenda this week, but I have no
announcements to make on that.
QUESTION: Can I do Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I think we still have one more in Korea.
QUESTION: Just today the North Koreans have threatened to
pull out of the framework agreement. Any reaction to that
statement and how that might affect the --?
MR. BURNS: On the agreed framework?
QUESTION: That's right.
MR. BURNS: Phasing North Korea's nuclear program -
MR. BURNS: Didn't see that statement, don't believe it to be
an accurate reflection of North Korean behavior because, as of
today, North Korea is meeting all of its obligations to us and the
Koreans and the Japanese in the agreed framework. We are
monitoring their observance of that agreement, and it is
satisfactory. So let's look at the performance and the ground. I
don't think there's any reason to be concerned there.
QUESTION: Nick, (inaudible) on North Korea. Just go back
for a second. What I partly recalled was her statement that peace
talks - how fast they would go - could depend on how much the
North Koreans are hurting.
MR. BURNS: That's a different statement.
QUESTION: Meaning their economy, their ability to feed -
MR. BURNS: That's more of an analytical statement.
QUESTION: Sure, it's an analytical statement.
MR. BURNS: The description of the situation, as it is.
QUESTION: It's also entirely logical.
MR. BURNS: That's certainly not, in my mind - now that you
say it, I remember the exchange. That does not represent a
condition. It's more of an analytical statement.
QUESTION: Of course, it is. But it struck me as bad - in other
places, too, where there's poverty, where there are problems, in
some cases we're contributing to the low economic status of
countries by boycotts and such to force changes, to force
countries like Iraq to behave in a different way.
The clear inference here was that North Korea's -
MR. BURNS: I don't accept those premises.
QUESTION: You don't think that's why we're working on Cuba
and North Korea, and Iraq the way we do?
MR. BURNS: I don't accept that the United States, for
instance, is to blame for the economic problems of Cuba or Iraq
or North Korea; because that's the premise in your statement.
QUESTION: Look, there's an economic boycott the U.S. has
against Iraq, right?
MR. BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: And the economy -
MR. BURNS:The United Nations, actually, Barry, the United
QUESTION: Fine, but the United States is sometimes standing
alone, as Secretary Christopher said, for what they know will be
right, even if you didn't have support with the -
MR. BURNS: It's the right policy.
QUESTION: It's the right policy, (inaudible). All right, now the
point is that one of the unfortunate results of probably a brilliant
policy is that -
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- is that people suffer economically, and people
get very hungry. And you can understand that. If there's an
economic blockade, there isn't food - food isn't as readily
available in the country. What I thought she was doing in Seoul
was linking the appetite of the North Koreans to come to terms
on a settlement for North Korea - for the Peninsula - to how
badly they want to be accepted by the rest of the world. And one
of the ways you would know that they badly want to be accepted
is that they - is if they are having terrible problems feeding their
own people. That's all I meant. And it's probably what she meant,
I would think.
MR. BURNS: I think, analytically speaking, it's probably true
that because of the dire economic straits and problems in North
Korea, they are looking for broader - they're opening up to the
international community, to the World Food Program, the other
agencies of the U.N. They need help; there's no question about
But I must respond very briefly to at least one of the premises
that I heard in your question, Barry, and that is that Saddam
Hussein is responsible, in Iraq, for the fact that some people don't
have enough food because he chooses to spend the money they
have on palaces to himself; and that's undeniable. And in the case
of North Korea and Cuba, it's the failed economic policies of
Communism that have produced poverty. That was true of the
Soviet Union, and it's true of all Communist countries. It's a failed
system. You don't see this happening in much of the rest of the
world these days. You see it in Communist countries.
So I think it's important to note that the United States' policies of
containment, where are brought about for very good strategic
reasons are not to blame. In fact, those policies are a reflection of
the fact that Communism does exist in certain parts of the world
and should be contained.
QUESTION: So you never withhold food as a corrective
measure? You never use food, are you saying, as an instrument of
MR. BURNS: Well, I'd say this: in the case of Cuba, we
contributed more humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people in
the last year than the Cuban government. In the case of Iraq, we
facilitated the food-for-oil program so that food can be received
by the suffering Iraqi people. In the case of North Korea, we've
responded to every food request since 1995. We act out of
humanitarian principles. But if you're looking for the cause, the
underlying cause of these problems, it's the failure of these
countries to meet their responsibilities to their own people.
QUESTION: Speaking of the food situation in North Korea,
how do you assess their current situation, compared to five
weeks ago when you had the four-party briefing? Has the
situation become bad, has the situation becomes worse, or -
MR. BURNS: Well, the United States government itself does
not have a complete view of the food situation, but we rely on the
World Food Program, visiting Congressmen -- Tony Hall was
just back last week from a trip there. By all accounts, the
situation is worsening. It is dramatically worse than it was several
months ago, or even four or five weeks ago. At least our
assessment of it is dramatically worse, and that's cause for great
concern. That's why we've looked at this request by the World
Food Program with a great sense of urgency. And we'll have an
answer for you tomorrow on our response.