[EXCERPT] DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
BRIEFER: NICHOLAS BURNS TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 1997
Q: North Korea.
Q: What's the story with the talks? The South Koreans have left?
BURNS: Inconclusive is the word of the day. Yesterday the word was
muddle. Today the word is inconclusive.
Q: What is your strategy?
BURNS: Here's our strategy. Let me just tell you how I think things
went. We think that the United States and South Korea had useful talks
with the North Koreans over the past week on the four-party peace
proposal. As you know, we had hoped that the North Koreans would come
to New York and accept the proposal itself. That did not happen.
Differences remain between, on the one hand, the U.S. and South Korea;
on the other hand, North Korea.
Because those differences remain and apparently will not be closed
quickly, I understand that the head of the South Korean delegation has
left town. We are committed to continue to remain in New York at the
working level -- that is, the level of our own office director, Mark
Minton, a very important person in our policy. He will continue, the
three sides will continue to consult in New York to hope to resolve
the impasse, the remaining issues.
The important point for the North Koreans to understand is, our offer
of peace negotiations remains on the table. It's a North Korean
decision as to whether or not they want to pick up that offer and
accept it. So the ball's in their court, and the ball will remain
there until they tell us otherwise.
In the meantime, I can tell you that the North Koreans continue to
make clear to us the severity of the food situation, the need for
international assistance. We explained to the North Koreans that we
have contributed $25 million in the latest appeal by the World Food
Program, and that we will continue to consider other requests for
humanitarian assistance. But we cannot accept that the issue of food
should be a precondition for discussions on the issue of peace. That
wouldn't make sense from a North Korean perspective.
It's been 43 years since the Armistice was signed. If the peace talks
continue to go rather slowly, why in the world would we want to link
food aid to those talks, which will, we think, proceed in a plodding
fashion? It's on our interests and theirs to get the food aid there as
quickly as possible. That's one of the reasons that we don't link the
two. Now, I can tell you that in addition to remaining in New York
meeting at the working group level, we are having a meeting today on
our own, a bilateral meeting between the United States and North
Korea. We are being led by Mark Minton, our American foreign service
officer in that meeting.
We are discussing the search for the American remains from the Korean
War, the missile non-proliferation issues, technical problems involved
in the establishment of liaison offices between the United States and
North Korea. We also look forward now to the missile proliferation
talks, which we expect to have in just a couple of weeks. So we
continue to have a relationship with North Korea. We'll continue to
meet in New York; and the offer's on the table. It's their choice.
Q: A couple of follow-up questions. What was your rationale for going
ahead with the bilateral meeting, even though the North Koreans failed
to give you an unambiguous response on the peace talks?
BURNS: Because we've never tied issues like food assistance -- we
certainly wouldn't tie the American remains of the 8,100 missing in
action from the Korean War, or the agreed framework -- we wouldn't tie
any of that to the political talks.
We have fish to fry with the North Koreans. We've got business to do
-- agreed framework, remains of Americans, food assistance, other
issues that have an impact on stability in the Korean Peninsula. We re
going to go forward and continue talking. At the same time, our offer
is out there. If they want to take it, that's great.
Q: Actually, your officials have said in the past that the pace and
the sort of quality of the development of a relationship with North
Korea would, in fact, be dependent on a North-South dialogue. And so
it sounds to me as if you're -- in order to show good faith with the
North Koreans or to keep them talking on the peace talks, that you re
willing to go forward with this bilateral talk, even though maybe in
the past, you wouldn't have agreed to do that.
BURNS: No, that's not true in this sense. We have said that the pace
and scope and breadth of the relationship will be dependent on the
North's talks with South Korea. You see at what level we re talking --
we re talking in New York, not Washington -- we re talking at the
office director level, not the assistant secretary level, not,
needless to say, the secretary of state level. We do not have a normal
relationship. We don't have formal diplomatic relations. We don't have
missions in each other's countries, not bilateral missions.
So our relationship with North Korea will continue to be severely
circumscribed until they can demonstrate that they are interested in a
mature, responsible relationship with South Korea. But talking today
makes sense. We've been talking with the North Koreans for decades
about these issues.
Q: A few more questions. In order to get a firm, formal response from
Pyongyang now, will the South Koreans -- the senior negotiators from
South Korea have to come back and meet in New York? Or do you
anticipate that there would be something --
BURNS: At this point, whenever the North Koreans want to come forward
and accept the offer, as long as the United States and the Republic of
Korea are together. We never negotiate this issue without the Republic
of Korea. I'm sure we'll find out a way to arrange a meeting. That's
not he problem. The problem is not the shape of the table or who's
there. The problem is the North Koreans are not ready to pull the
trigger on the four-party talks.
Q: All right, so if the North Koreans walked in today and said to Mark
Minton and his South Korean counterpart, we are ready to accept the
talks, that would be an appropriate venue? And that would be it?
BURNS: I don't imagine that that's what they'd do. They seem to always
want to negotiate those high political issues at a higher political
level, at the level of deputy foreign minister. I imagine if they had
something to say definitively that had no pre-conditions to it, that
would probably happen at a higher level. But if it didn't, and if we
thought it was authoritative, of course, we would go forward. Process
is not the problem. The problem is getting a clear answer out of
Pyongyang. That's the problem. Betsy.
Q: Nick, might there be any way that this country could assist the
North Koreans in getting food that would allow them to go forward with
these talks? I mean, they seem to be saying, we -- you know, they are
holding out this carrot -- well, not really a carrot, I guess. They
are saying, we need more food. You are saying, it can't be linked. So
is there any other way that you all are looking into that could give
them a surety of food that they require, without linking it to these
talks? Any kinds of loans in international organizations? Any other
kinds of mechanisms that would allow this to go forward?
BURNS: You know, the North Koreans are just going to have to trust us
and the international community that we mean well here. We've already
responded to the food appeal by the United Nations World Food Program.
We are the leading country -- $25 million since February alone. We
have met every appeal over the last two years. Surely that is good
faith and evidence of good faith. But why would we want to link food
aid to talks that are moving at the speed of molasses? There is an
urgent humanitarian need to get the food there quickly. Our ships are
already on their way and will be arriving next week and the following
week, the first tranche of American aid.
Why in the world would we want to turn those ships around and say, no,
you can't dock at Nampo; you can't unload your food until the
four-party talks, or the agreement is consummated? That doesn't make
The North Koreans simply need to understand that we will come forward
with our food aid no matter what happens in the four-party talks. They
have not agreed to the four-party talks. The food aid is still coming.
That's evidence of good faith on the part of the United States.
Q: I'm not saying that they should be linked, Nick. I'm suggesting
that possibly the solution -- that we should maybe more directly
address the problem that they have with the food and try to enlarge
the places that they go to seek it, and seek other mechanisms to try
and get it, rather than simply through the UN and the United States.
BURNS: There is no problem in the amount of people, the number of
organizations, or the willingness of countries to help on the food
problem. There is a severe food shortage. A lot of people, a lot of
countries are willing to help, led by the United States. We re going
to prove our bona fides on the ground, and that is what the North
Koreans will see.
But we do not accept pre-conditions in these talks, nor should we.
That would not be a good idea. David.
Q: Do you have any comment on the reports from South Korea that Mr.
Hwang has indicated that North Korea has both missile and chemical
capability to reach Japan? And secondarily to that, could you bring us
a little bit up to date on the nonproliferation -- the missile
BURNS: I can't speak to Mr. Hwang's charges because I just haven't
heard him make them. I've just seen press reports. But in general, we
are concerned about the development of North Korean missiles which we
think could have a very, very negative impact on some of our neighbors
in North Asia. We have made that known publicly before and privately
to the North Koreans. That's why we are having missile talks in a
couple of weeks in New York.
We hope and trust that North Korea will decide to meet the
international guidelines that almost all countries agree to that
restrict the development and the use of missiles and missile
technology. It's very important if North Korea wants to be treated and
seen as a responsible member of the international community.
Q: Who's going to lead those missile talks in New York?
BURNS: The talks will be led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Bob Einhorn, who's our resident great expert on missile proliferation
Q: Do you have a firm date for those talks?
BURNS: I believe we announced them for May 16th. Isn't that right? May
BURNS: Excuse me? God bless us, did I say that? Well, whatever I said
stands. We can probably even check that in the course of this
briefing. We made the announcement last week.
Q: Have the North Koreans said they re going to show up?
BURNS: The North Koreans.
Q: They said they were going to show up Wednesday.
BURNS: You know, you have to say this for the North Koreans, they re
interesting. They re an interesting negotiating partner. You re never
quite sure who's going to be where. The North Koreans have told us
that they will be in New York, that they have agreed to these talks.
We fully expect them to be there.
Q: And they've told you that since these high-level talks were
BURNS: Well, we agreed on the proliferation talks before they even
arrived last week for the political talks. They've given us no
indication that they would not come to the missile talks. We re sure
they'll be there. Yes.
Q: The Japanese Government today, because of this drug shipment from
North Korea and also the kidnapping cases, has indicated that they may
not provide aid to North Korea. Any reaction to that?
BURNS: Well, I haven't seen the Japanese Government's statement. I
would rather see it first and read it and think about it before we
have a reaction. Of course, we have Prime Minister Hashimoto coming
later this week. There will be ample opportunity to comment on those